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Student of the Month: Kathy Chow

Kathy Chow (she/her) is a PhD candidate in Religious Studies at Yale University with a Certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Prior to Yale, she completed a Master’s in Systematic Theology at the University of Edinburgh and a Bachelor’s in Politics at Princeton University. She grew up in Australia and Taiwan, and she is currently based in Cambridge, MA.

What are you studying and why? How will you use that in your call?

I work at the intersections of political theology, gender studies, and critical ethnic studies. My dissertation takes up two concepts that emerge where sex, religion, and politics meet: love and submission. While love is often praised as a virtue, submission is to be avoided at all costs. I ask: how do prevailing ways in which political theologians think about love and submission implicitly or explicitly constrain our political imagination? Might thinking love and submission differently enable new political horizons? To answer these questions, I put theology, political theory, queer theory, and Asian American aesthetic production into conversation.

I select works of Asian American aesthetics because tropes of submission have been central in Asian American racialization. However, I do not presume to know in advance what “Asian Americanist critique” entails. Instead, I hope take on what it means to do Asian Americanist critique obliquely: the dissertation leads with the juxtaposition of Asian American aesthetics and theory to see where it might lead us.

What have you learned from your leadership experiences? What student activities have you been involved in/led?

I currently co-chair the Religion, Colonialism, and Postcolonialism Unit at the American Academy of Religion and the Religion Unit at the Association for Asian American Studies. I also serve on the board of the Society for Christian Ethics. Each of these roles has allowed me to gain a better grasp of the terrain of religious studies, theology, and Christian ethics: trends in the fields, areas of current interest, and lacunas to be filled. I’m especially enjoying pushing the boundaries of the various discourses that I am engaged in by staging new interdisciplinary conversations through these positions.

How would you describe yourself?

I am always drawn to the unexpected: surprising juxtapositions, novel readings of texts, and interesting sources. I occasionally write book reviews, specializing in contemporary literature. When I am not at my desk, you might find me trying vegetarian recipes, wandering the streets of Cambridge, or reading a novel in my bed.

What has been your greatest success so far? Your biggest learning experience?

I am really grateful for the network of mentors and friends I have built up across institutions to support my quirky interdisciplinary interests. Over the past few years, I’ve developed connections with a number of wonderful people at conferences, and I’m gratified to have a solid group that I can share my works in progress or random thoughts with…and that I can count on to let me rant.

What are you looking forward to most this year?

I’m praying for the opportunity to be with people again! Physically in person: debating ideas, sharing food, and dancing together.

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?

I’m starting as an assistant editor at The Yale Review this year, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about the world of literary publication. I also run an Asian American writing workshop (for both fiction and nonfiction) in Cambridge, and I am constantly inspired by the writers in the group!

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