Name: Ren-yo Hwang
Title: Assistant Professor
Areas of study: transgender- and queer-of-color critique and studies, critical ethnography, new social movement studies, community participatory research, transformative justice, community and state accountability.
Research focus: Ren-yo Hwang’s interdisciplinary teaching and research at Mount Holyoke College includes courses and scholarship in queer- and transgender-of-color critique, feminist-of-color anti-violence initiatives and genealogies, transformative justice and community accountability. Overall, Hwang centers questions concerning strategies and responses to intersectional state violence, incarceration and punishment by both social justice movements and reform-based partnerships of the late 20th century. Hwang’s first book, “Speculative Actuaries of Law,” offers a critical interdisciplinary study of the intersections of state anti-violence strategies — namely hate crimes policy and data — against queer- and transgender people-of-color survivor-based practices at the margins of mainstream politics.
What drew you to your area of study: I was brought to academia and these particular lines of inquiry through being trained and inspired by queer and transgender people of color — organizers, activists and cultural workers who resist and negotiate surviving and thriving in a harsh world with their bodies and spirits each and every day.
What appeals to you about being a professor at Mount Holyoke: I am excited that, particularly in this political moment and ongoing climate, Mount Holyoke is sharpening a practice and vision towards supporting scholarship that is oriented toward social justice and emerging interdisciplinary scholars who take on difficult, vexing and urgent questions of our times.
What do you like about teaching: I love exploring how teaching can be a collective praxis and process against a world of top-down oppressive hierarchies. Mount Holyoke strives to uplift the central importance of student-based classroom learning and innovative pedagogy, and so far it’s been such a joy to work with the students here.
What do you look forward to at Mount Holyoke: I look forward to learning about the deep and rich history surrounding this area, the community members and organizations that have existed and been impacted by the history of Mount Holyoke and South Hadley, both adversely or advantageously, so that I can be of service to the future of the College and the area. I look forward to being able to join and build bonds with a community of critical thinkers who will challenge and uplift the growth of my research projects and redefine the boundaries of knowledge production as we know it.
Favorite previous work/volunteer/research/teaching experiences: There are too many to name, but my time in Los Angeles working with organizations such as Dignity Power Now (Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in LA Jails) and California Coalition for Women Prisoners while in graduate school kept me grounded and focused as to why I continue to do the work I do in academia.
Favorite things about the campus and region so far: The trees! It’s incredibly green here. Community-supported agriculture and small farms. Coming from Los Angeles, it is such a simple joy to not have to look for parking, wait in lines at the post office, etc. — small town charms! I also love my office on campus. I have giant gothic glass windows.
What was your favorite class as an undergraduate: I had an extremely challenging expository writing class as a freshman at Parsons School of Design at the New School. It changed my life and introduced me to critical thinking and reading.
What do you like to do when you are not working: Learning about wild plants, fungi and gastropods, yoga and meditation, weight-training, biking, cooking for friends and experimental smoothies, film and art.
Favorite book, author, music, movie/TV: Some new books I am deeply moved by are Christina Sharpe’s “In the Wake: On Blackness and Being,” Ocean Vuong’s “Night Sky with Exit Wounds” and “Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds” by adrienne maree brown. For music, I’ve been listening to Laraaji, Kelela and Elysia Crampton. “Microcosmos” (1996) is one of my favorite films, as well as films from Tsai Ming-liang and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. “Schitt’s Creek” is very, very funny TV.
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