Interview with Kumi Silva
Kumarini Silva is Associate Professor of Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill. Dr. Silva’s research is at the intersections of feminism, identity, immigration, post-colonial studies, and popular culture. She is the author of Brown Threat: Identification in the Security State (2016, University of Minnesota Press) and co-editor of Feminist Erasures: Challenging Backlash Culture (2015, Palgrave UK). Her work has appeared in Social Identities, South Asian Popular Culture, and Cultural Studies. Silva has also published book chapters on race, global media, and film.
Dr. Silva will be one of our featured speakers during the keynote panel at the 2017 Feminist Geography Conference.
How did you come to feminist research?
Feminism really crystalized as an academic discipline for me during the last two years of my undergraduate education. I came to it through critical race studies, and an interest in Asian American immigration/migration and diaspora, so feminist research, for me, has always been intertwined with questions of identity.
How does feminism change the questions you ask?
I’m not sure if I ‘change’ questions as much as generate questions that specifically interrogate the body as a construct of social practices and politics—which comes from a feminist sensibility about self. Feminism generates a complexity and layering that would otherwise be absent from the research (or rabbit holes!) I follow.
What recent trends or work in feminist scholarship do you find exciting?
I’m heartened by the way that feminism has become a framework for political intervention in current times. This may not quite count as ‘excitement’, but I’m intrigued in the ways that both white-centric feminisms, and intersectionality are making a concurrent come back in response to the political climate. I think these moments gesture toward a much needed conversation about feminisms and their centrality to socio-political life and ethics.
Can you identify anything that helped you get where you are today? Anything you wish you would have done differently in graduate school or earlier in your career?
I’ve taken a long and meandering path to this place. Some by my own doing, some because of circumstances out of my control. Because of this ying/yang of control, if I were to do this again, I’d be better about recognizing what I could control and what I couldn’t. But I do think hindsight is 20/20, and I’m not completely sure I could have done anything differently!
Are there any other activities or conversations outside of research and teaching that you are a part of on campus or in the community?
I try to meet up with friends for food, drink and conversation as often as possible! I’ve found that these spaces generate some of the most thoughtful and incisive conversations that inform both my research and political activism.