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CarrollAmy Sara Carroll

Associate Professor

Department of Literature

Amy Sara Carroll received an AB in anthropology and creative writing (Poetry) from Princeton University (1990), a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Chicago (1993), an MFA in creative writing (Poetry) from Cornell University (1995), and a Ph.D. in literature from Duke University (2004). At Duke she also received certificates in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Women’s Studies.

Carroll was a 2005-2006 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Latino Studies at Northwestern University; a Summer 2006 recipient of a Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship; a 2011 NEH Summer Seminar participant; the Summer 2015 Poet in Residence at the University of Mississippi; a 2017-2018 Fellow in Cornell’s Society for the Humanities and a 2018-2019 Fellow in the University of Texas at Austin’s Latino Research Initiative.

Her books include “Secession” (Hyperbole Books, 2012), winner of the University of Michigan’s 2013 Louis I. Bredvold Prize for Scholarly or Creative Publication and the 2013 Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) Poetry Award;  “Fannie + Freddie: The Sentimentality of Post-9/11 Pornography” (Fordham UP, 2013), chosen by Claudia Rankine for Fordham University’s 2012 Poets Out Loud Prize; and “REMEX: Toward an Art History of the NAFTA Era” (University of Texas Press, 2017), which received honorable mention for the 2017 Modern Language Association Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize, honorable mention for the 2018 Latin American Studies Association Mexico Section Best Book in the Humanities, honorable mention for the 2019 Association for Latin American Art-Arvey Foundation Book Award, and was shortlisted for the 2018 Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present Book Prize.

Since 2008, she has been a member of Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0, coproducing the Transborder Immigrant Tool. The project has been exhibited in various venues including the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Francisco’s Galería de la Raza; ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, Queens Museum of Art, and the 2010 California Biennial.

She coauthored with other members of EDT 2.0 several plays and [({   })] The Desert Survival Series/La serie de sobrevivencia del desierto (Office of Net Assessment/University of Michigan Digital Environments Cluster Publishing Series, 2014). Published under a Creative Commons license, the volume has been digitally redistributed by CTheory Books (2015), the  Electronic Literature Collection 3 (2016), CONACULTA E-Literatura/Centro de Cultura Digital (2016), and HemiPress (2017). Since Summer 2010, Carroll has participated in Mexico City’s alternative arts space SOMA.

Her teaching interests include: creative writing (poetry, creative non-fiction, performance, visual and e-literatures, cross-genre writing); 20th and 21st century Latin/x American art, literature, and cinema; transnational American and border studies; critical theory; cultural studies; ethnic studies; and gender and sexuality studies.


What excites you most about coming to UC San Diego?

I am thrilled to join UC San Diego’s Literature department for myriad reasons. I was trained as both a poet and scholar. In the mid-1990s, I did my MFA in creative writing at Cornell. “Ithaca is gorges,” as the saying goes; I cherished my time there.

Cornell’s MFA was more traditionally organized than UC San Diego’s, requiring students to specialize in either poetry or fiction. This requirement impacted formal and thematic choices I made in my practice, e.g., I only began to work in earnest on two series of linoleum block prints, which I’d begun during my MFA years, after I completed my degree.

My work continues to be in sync with the cross-genre commitments of Literature’s Writing section. The promise of the program: A student — or faculty member — unencumbered by the arbitrariness of the poetry/fiction binary, might or could be empowered to work across genres, to connect their writing to other forms of making in the arts, humanities, and (social) sciences.

The generosity of this philosophy follows Literature’s organization. According to its website, Literature is “neither a department of English nor a department of Comparative Literature” and is unique within the UC system.

Of course, Literature’s design is not without parallel. I completed my Ph.D. in the mid-2000s in Duke’s Literature Program. The unit’s organization not coincidentally (another story) bears a strong resemblance to UC San Diego’s. Suffice it to say, UC San Diego’s Literature Department feels “familiar” to me. What sets UC San Diego (Lit) apart from Duke (Lit) and most other U.S. universities also feels familiar.

A third of my critical monograph “REMEX: Toward an Art History of the NAFTA Era” considers Mexico-U.S. border art. I focus in particular on the latter’s post-1984 impetus in the San Diego-Tijuana corridor. At one juncture in the book’s composition, I wondered aloud if I was also writing a secret history of UC San Diego’s Visual Arts Department.

I look forward to collaborating with colleagues in Literature, Visual Arts and many other departments on campus. I also look forward to further engaging and contributing to the region’s past, present and future border arts communities.

Finally, I am delighted to be here for not only professional, but also personal reasons: My partner and longtime collaborator (on both “The Transborder Immigrant Tool” and *particle group*), who teaches in Visual Arts, our son and I have been commuting for nearly a decade and a half. In the face of everything happening in the world right now, the three of us feel fortunate to finally live in one place together.

Why did you choose your field of study?

A few years ago, I participated in a literary reading entitled “Hybrid Genres.” In a brief Q&A following the reading, an audience member asked me, “After you’re done experimenting, what genre do you call ‘home’?”

The question sounds antagonistic — and perhaps it was — but it also felt “genuinely clarifying.” I haven’t chosen a single genre, discipline, or field of study. If, expansively speaking, our pasts, presents, futures are hybrid, variegated, multi-dimensional, should our fields of study — in the plural — be imagineered as anything less?

What advice do you have for students who choose to major in arts and humanities?

I’m not a fan of giving or receiving advice so what follows probably dodges your question. In the current moment of Covid-19, economic crisis, job loss and dramatic reconfigurations of the workplace (including those of the university), accelerated climate change — against the backdrop of longstanding national and planetary injustices — I recognize that many undergraduates feel increasing pressure to choose “practical” majors and to outperform themselves.

I’d encourage students of the arts, humanities, and/or otherwise, at every stage of their lives/work, whenever possible to use their time and energy to think outside the box, to take intellectual risks, and to forgive themselves for their combined successes-failures. (Note: I’m also talking to myself here.)

How do you view your role relative to the greater regional community?

See the close of my response to your first question to which I’d add: I view my role relative to Bajalta California as collaborative. Which is to say, paraphrasing Evie Shockley on Fred Moten’s “B. Jenkins,” I feel “a little (less) lonely” in a region that’s resolutely transnational, of Greater Mexico and the Pacific Rim. I am invested in learning more about and continuing to participate in the area’s artivist networks. My hope: to contribute in some small way to multi-generational efforts that prioritize and activate education — broadly defined — as a public good without borders.

Tell us something about yourself that is not normally mentioned in your bio.

Two things:

1) Sequenced studio workshops in ceramics with Toshiko Takaezu in my undergraduate years were absolutely formative to my thinking. Toshiko will always be one of my favorite teachers. Known for literally trashing students’ work, she also had an uncanny ability to home in on the strengths of our efforts. On the one hand, Toshiko was clear that I could not throw a pass-able bowl with a potter’s pedal wheel. On the other hand, she tirelessly encouraged me to experiment with clay. In her courses, I began to consciously reckon with the materiality of language, to synaetheticize languages, to build poetry.

2) I cherish the time I spend with my 14-year-old son Zé — riding our bicycles (formerly around Lower Manhattan… Austin, Texas… Ithaca, New York… Ann Arbor, Michigan), perfecting homemade pizza, walking and talking about literature, film, politics, our respective writing processes… my current book project attests to his and my shared love of Guillermo del Toro’s enchantment-saturated sense of the cinematic. For the record, I also appreciate the off-kilter, dramatic flair of Zé’s forgiving photograph of me included here.