Iyko Day Awarded Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship
Iyko Day's teaching and scholarship extend from English to Critical Social Thought, Film, Media, Theater, Gender Studies, Asian American Studies, Marxist Theory, Racial Capitalism, Settler Colonial Studies, and Queer of Color Critique.
If one were to consider the Mount Holyoke College faculty metaphorically as a single large classroom, one might say that the work and activities of Iyko Day, the Elizabeth C. Small Professor of English, have “set the bar high” for everyone else, or more realistically, “wrecked the grading curve”. She has—in the last two years alone – published some seven articles in journals, edited volumes, and magazines, appeared on three podcasts and television shows, edited two book series, served as an invited speaker no less than ten times, and begun two books. Her teaching and scholarship extend from English to Critical Social Thought, Film, Media, Theater, Gender Studies, Asian American Studies, Marxist Theory, Racial Capitalism, Settler Colonial Studies, and Queer of Color Critique. However, it may be that the most impressive aspect of the above, and her many, many other accomplishments, is that Professor Day, at the same time, served as Chair of the Program in Critical Social Thought in 2015-18, Co-Chair of the Five College Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program in 2014-19, Chair of both the Gender Studies and Critical Social Thought departments in 2021-2022, and is currently the Chair of the English and Critical Social Thought departments. She has been instrumental in the creation of the new Critical Race and Political Economy program. Clearly we are far beyond the classroom analogy and expanding our focus to the mythical and superhuman realms.
Her important and much-praised book, Alien Capital: Asian Racialization and the Logic of Settler Colonial Capitalism (Duke University Press in 2016), has become a vital foundation in the areas of Ethnic Studies, and Asian-American and American Studies. Day’s peers describe it effusively as “…a ‘must-cite’ text for any scholarship about racial capitalism”, “brilliant”, “widely cited”, and “groundbreaking” in its approach of analyzing literature, visual art, film and other media “to explore how the figure of the Asian migrant laborer and racialized Asians have been abstracted as capital in western settler colonialism”. Her research references these and other historical studies to address current issues and events, such as the tragic 2021 shooting spree at several Atlanta, GA spas which brought attention to increases in anti-Asian violence that began with the Covid-19 pandemic. In Alien Capital, Day – some three-to-four years before the start of the pandemic and its attendant paranoia and racism – places these sentiments in the larger context of the treatment of early Chinese immigrants to Georgia brought in as workers to lay the groundwork for structural growth in the state during Reconstruction; these workers were eventually treated only as part of the commerce, never recognized as human beings with their own cultural histories. She articulated this chronicle in an article published in Vanity Fair magazine which commemorated the one-year anniversary of the shootings, and, in similar fashion, she has become a frequent voice of informed historical and racial context in magazines such as Artforum, television programs such as Connecting Point on PBS, and several different podcasts, as well as in her numerous speaking engagements in more traditional academic forums such as various conferences – national and international – universities, symposia and community events numbering well over one hundred in the last twenty years, without exaggeration.
With this level of media attention, along with the important contemporary applications and discussion of her research, it would be fitting to refer to Iyko Day as the very paradigm of the twenty-first century public intellectual. But the value of her work goes so very much deeper than these descriptions, and feeble words; hers is active inquiry and exploration that seeks to illuminate, uplift, and address the present. We hope that the Meribeth E. Cameron Award for Faculty Scholarship, which she has been awarded, may convey to her how honored Mount Holyoke College is to call her Professor, Chair, and colleague.