What Jina Kim is Thinking About Now

Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America

A core component of CSREA’s mission is supporting faculty and advanced students in the development of cutting-edge, collaborative intellectual work. The “What I Am Thinking About Now” series provides a collegial, productive workshop space for faculty and graduate students to present and discuss recently published work and work in progress. Scholars test ideas and receive feedback from a diverse and supportive group of scholars on Mondays throughout the semester. 


Cripping the Welfare Queen: The Radical Potential of Disability Politics

Jina Kim, CSREA Faculty Fellow

This talk offers a literary-cultural reframing of the welfare queen in light of critical discourses of disability. It does so by taking up the state-authored discourse of dependency that cast racialized, low-income, and disabled populations as drains on the state, re-framing this discourse as a potential site of coalition between anti-racist, anti-capitalist, and feminist disability politics. To imagine the welfare mother as a site for re-envisioning dependency, this talk draws upon the “ruptural possibilities” of minority literary forms, to use Roderick Ferguson’s coinage, and places Sapphire’s 1996 novel Push in conversation with Jesmyn Ward’s 2011 novel Salvage the Bones. Whereas anti-welfare policy often cast independence and self-ownership as national ideals, my literary analysis of the welfare mother elaborates a version of disability and women-of-color feminism that not only takes dependency as a given, but mines the term for its transformative potential.


Jina B. Kim is Assistant Professor of English and the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College. She teaches and writes about critical disability studies, feminist- and queer-of-color critique, and contemporary ethnic American literature. She is currently at work on a book manuscript titled Dreaming of Infrastructure: Crip-of-Color Imaginaries after the US Welfare State, which examines women- and queer-of-color writing in the afterlife of 1996 U.S. welfare reform. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Signs, Social Text, MELUS, American Quarterly, Disability Studies Quarterly, The South Atlantic Quarterly, and The Asian American Literary Review