Dixon Li is first-year graduate student in English at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an interdisciplinary scholar with training as a continental philosopher, literary critic, poet, dancer, performance maker, healer (yoga & death doula), classical pianist, and critical race thinker. He graduated from Princeton University in 2014 with a BA in English (summa cum laude, phi beta kappa) and minors in African-American Studies & American Studies. From 2014-2016 he was a Marshall Scholar in London, UK where he completed an MA in Writing in the Modern Age from Queen Mary, University of London and an MA in Performance Making from Goldsmiths University. At Penn he is working on graduate certificates in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies; Africana Studies; & Cinema Studies.
He is interested in comparative critical race studies, feminist & queer theory, performance theory, literary theory, aesthetic theory, black critical theory, political theory, affect, spiritualities, histories of aesthetic craft, psychoanalysis, visual & sonic studies, choreography, dance, poetry, embodiment, ethnography, continental philosophy, medical humanities, practice-based research methodologies, pedagogy, and public humanities. His scholarly practice magpies knowledge from various fields to explore new ways of working with racial objects, bodies, and histories. He has a longstanding interest in writing's relationship to other art forms and non-analytic philosophies.
His dissertation explores the psychical dynamics that render race unspeakable in the contemporary. Working with psychoanalytic frames of unspeakability, he has a particular interest in how understanding racial silence and repression through the frame of family abuse begins to explain how discussions of racial grief and reparation get displaced from the legal, social, and political realms to the aesthetic. He works within a comparative ethnic framework with a special interest in querying why notions of moral obligation and reparation after colonialism focus primarily on Israel and the Holocaust with little attention paid to African, Asian, and American Indigenous populations.
As a critic, his work theorizes about how the practice of criticism operates as a political activity with a special focus on race criticism's role in the political left. As an aesthetic critic, he deals with objects, artworks, practices and phenomenon that provide insight into felt experiences of race. From these aesthetic intensifications of race's affective dimensions, he is interested in appreciating and retrieving historical modes of, and theorizing new practices of, political resistance, psychical survival, generative aesthetics, and relational ethics. Currently, he is interested in clumsiness, erotic texture, chiaroscuro, corrosion, refusal, accident, rhythm, corporeality, and object choice in 20th and 21st century aesthetics.
A second project thinks about transnational dying and mourning at a distance. What is it about dying that scares yet fascinates us so much? Does thinking about dying bring us closer or farther away from life's disappearence--our own as well as others? What does it mean to hold space terestrially or psychically for a good death, or even death at all, in a world of migration and digitization? How does the work of mourning, or the disavowal of mourning's necessity, structure the experience of time, space, language, the self, & others? How do we mourn, and mourn in, disappearing ecologies? How do the racial politics and colonial agendas of Post-Holocaust global mourning determine how we mourn and whose death gets remembered?
His interest in a diverse set of critical approaches and areas of study reflects an overaching commitment to theorizing, and identifying, more ethical and accountable ways of practicing relational human-ness and understanding the unusual loci of their emergence.
Previous writing projects have included a study of skin in the works of Toni Morrison, Theresa Cha, & Beyoncé Knowles; Larry Eigner & architecture; corporeal rhetoric and poetics in Israel/Palestine; entanglement as ethics and method in performance making; and genres of desire. Most recently he has performed in OpenFlr (Florence, 2016), The Master's Festival Goldsmiths University (London, 2016), Festival Danse Directe Butoh (Normandy, 2015), and Claudia Castellucci's 'Essercitazione Ritmiche' in the Venice Biennale (Venice, 2015).