You might be thinking, “Hey! There’s quite a lot of typos in this person’s website. Can’t she spell her own name properly? She’s an academic after all.”
After struggling internally, i have made the conscious decision to resist capitalization in reference to my name and to the first-person pronoun “I” for two main reasons.
- i am not the first person to alter their name’s stylistic representation. bell hooks, john a. powell, and danah boyd all decided to lowercase their names, albeit for varying purposes. bell hooks and john a. powell, two thinkers whom i admire greatly, wanted to remove ego from their writings and from their position in the universe, respectively. The decision to lowercase my name is a mechanism for equalizing myself with the arguments i am making or the ideas i grapple with throughout my writings. It is also a reminder that i am the sum of the ideas and motivations of a great many people; that my being is not for just myself or because of just myself. When we capitalize words, we claim their importance over others. This is my practice in de-centering myself, even if symbolically.
- i am Asian American. i claim this proudly and without hesitation. But, being an Asian American makes me acutely aware of how white supremacy, racial oppression, and xenophobia alters my relationship to my ancestry & culture in ways that are particularly painful. When my mother came to the United States, she was 11. Her Chinese language education stopped at the end of primary school. When she married my father, also a Chinese American (but one who did not speak Cantonese fluently), her Chinese language skills were confined to speaking with her mother and siblings. My brother and i were raised in a monolingual, English-speaking household. My paternal grandparents only spoke English to us and to their children (my father and his siblings). i have no doubts that xenophobia is what robbed me (and my brother) of knowing fully our ancestral language, and of a relationship with my mother’s mother (who only spoke Toisanese/Taishanese). In Chinese dialects (and most Asian languages), there is no signifier for capitalization. We do not bold the first stroke of a character. People’s names, places, holidays…they’re all written in the same manner as any other word. Lowercasing my name and personal pronouns is a way for me to consciously decouple myself from the normativity of eurocentrism, of white supremacy that forces Asian immigrants to assimilate “or else”. It is also a way for me to elucidate discomfort and subsequent learning from those (including myself) who are so used to the ways that the romance languages shape our existence.
While i have engaged in this practice of lowercasing on a personal level for some time, it has been harder for me to enact this in professional settings out of fear that people will not take me seriously or assume i am too lazy to spell-check my correspondences and academic writings. But, the academy is an institution that readily upholds white supremacy, eurocentrism, and elitism. This is my small attempt at resisting it in my asserting how i want to be named and presented in an increasingly neoliberal social system that regularly squashes dissent. It may not be much, but it is important to me.