Every year the RAI welcomes Fellows-in-Residence to Oxford to conduct research on American history, politics, international relations, literature or culture. Read about the experiences of two of last year’s Fellows, Raphaël Lambert and Harriet Stilley Kelly, below.
I greatly benefitted from my year as an Associate Visiting Research Fellow at the RAI. I particularly enjoyed the vibrant and convivial interactions between professors, graduate students, fellows, and guests. I am grateful to Adam Smith for his kindness and support, and to Sonia Tycko, Raymond Lavertue, and Kevin Waite for many enriching conversations. I am also indebted to the staff for ensuring everything runs smoothly. The stimulating environment at the RAI helped me establish strong academic ties and forge meaningful and long-lasting friendships.
I came to the RAI with a new research project about the notion of property in slave and neo-slave narratives and thus spent my first weeks at the RAI exploiting the impressive resources at the Vere Harmsworth Library. I was a regular at the weekly morning coffee breaks on Tuesdays and attended many of the RAI talks and conferences.
At the beginning of the second term, the American Literature Research Seminar, run by Zachary Seager and Daniel Abdalla, allowed me to present and discuss my book Narrating the Slave Trade, Theorizing Community (2019). I am especially grateful to discussants Tessa Roynon and Kariann Yokota for their pertinent comments and questions, which compelled me to reflect on my argument. I enjoyed participating in the Hilary Term edition of RAI Open Friday, where I was the respondent in a conversation with Nicolas Buccola about his book, The Fire Is upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America (2019). At the end of the term, the Institute for Black Atlantic Research at UCLan-Preston invited me to give a talk about slave agency and Afro-pessimism.
In the last term, RAI activities went on despite the lockdown. To the satisfaction of everyone, Alice Kelly maintained an online version of the Tuesday morning coffee gatherings and also hosted The RAI Goes to the Movies—a weekly discussion group. I also joined Tara Stubbs’s New Yorker Short Fiction reading group. I gave an online talk for the American Studies Encounters series at the University of Warsaw, and I completed, in tandem with my colleague Michio Arimitsu, an ambitious piece for Global Ralph Ellison, an upcoming essay collection that Tessa Roynon is coediting with Marc C. Conner. I really enjoyed my time at the RAI, and I am already thinking of coming back.
Harriet Stilley Kelly
In Hilary term 2020 I was fortunate enough to come to Oxford as one of the RAI’s Fellows-in-Residence. I benefited from a large office overlooking the Institute’s garden, regular coffee mornings, and a host of seminars and public-facing events – which provided me with invaluable space, time, and inspiration to work on my forthcoming monograph on masculinity in contemporary Asian American crime fiction. This project is the first work to critically examine the interrelations between Asian American literature and masculinity in terms of the crime genre, and as such encourages critics not just to read familiar texts differently, but to read a variety of texts that do not currently rest easily within the rubric of ‘Asian American’ literature, thus destabilising the limits of canonical categorisation.
During my stay in Oxford, I completed the second chapter of this project, on Chinatown Noir and its power to critique the regulatory laws of genre over Asian American literary representation. My research was facilitated by exceptional collections on Asian American literature, history, and culture in the Vere Harmsworth Library Very few libraries outside America house materials relating to Asian America, and the significant advances I made with my monograph would not have been possible were it not for this unique fellowship opportunity. Thanks to the support of the RAI and its extensive resources, my research has since been recognized by the prestigious international Sisters in Crime organisation in the form of an Academic Research Grant. This award will enable me to continue to create fresh challenges for the field of Asian American studies in the UK, and to promote the ongoing advancement and recognition of minority crime writers.
Alongside my monograph, I am now in the process of guest editing a special issue of Crime Fiction Studies, and an essay series on Asian American solidarities in the age of COVID-19 for U.S. Studies Online. The ideas behind these collections were inspired by stimulating conversations with members of the RAI community. I am especially indebted to the co-convenors of the American Literature Research Seminar for inviting me to present my research. This offered a valuable opportunity to share my work with an audience of exceptional academics but, moreover, allowed me to thank the RAI for making this research possible, and for providing me with some of the most rewarding, productive, and enjoyable moments of my academic career so far.