- Queer and feminist theory
- Disability theory
- Critical animal studies
- Materiality studies
- Cultural politics of race, sexuality, ability, and immigration
- Critical linguistics
- Paradigms of inter- and transdisciplinarity
Mel Y. Chen is Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at U.C. Berkeley and Director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture. Mel is also an affiliate of the Center for Race and Gender, the Institute for Cognitive and Behavioral Science, the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society, and the Haas Disability Studies and LGBTQ Citizenship Research Clusters.
Their research and teaching interests include queer and gender theory, animal studies, critical race theory and Asian American studies, disability studies, science studies, and critical linguistics. Chen’s 2012 book, Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Duke University Press, winner of Alan Bray Award from Modern Language Association’s GL/Q Caucus), explores questions of racialization, queering, disability, and affective economies in animate and inanimate “life” through the extended concept of “animacy.” A second book project concerns the relationships among the conceptual territories of “toxicity” and “intoxication” and their involvement in histories of the shared interanimation of race and disability. Further writing on topics such as cognitive disability and method, animal gendering in film, the racialization of pollution, and queer intimacies can be found in the journals Women’s Studies Quarterly, GLQ, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, Transgender Studies Quarterly, Discourse, Women in Performance, Australian Feminist Studies, Amerasia, Worldviews, and Medical Humanities (forthcoming). A co-edited special issue (with Dana Luciano) of GLQ on “Queer Inhumanisms” appeared in early 2015. With Jasbir K. Puar, Chen coedits a book series entitled “Anima,” highlighting scholarship in critical race and disability post/in/humanisms at Duke University Press. Chen served a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the Society for Disability Studies, ending in 2016.
In the Fall of 2009, Mel convened “Species Spectacles”, a U.C. Humanities Research Institute Residential Research Group focused on animality, sexuality and race. Chen’s short film, Local Grown Corn (2007), explores interweavings of immigration, childhood, illness and friendship; it has played in both asian and queer film festivals.