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Session Submission Type: Non-Paper Session: Dialogue Format
This roundtable would continue the dialogue initiated by the “Asian/American (Anti-)Bodies” series at Post45: Contemporaries. The series launched in November, 2015. In addition to bringing together some of the series’ original contributors, the roundtable would add Rachel C. Lee (UCLA), whose recent book The Exquisite Corpse of Asian American Studies (2015) inspired many of the ideas behind the series.
The aim of the series, and of the roundtable, is to present a transmedial, cross-disciplinary set of perspectives on the body vis-à-vis Asian/American racialization, as a way to address conflicts and overlaps between poststructuralism and posthumanism in Asian American theory and critical race theory more broadly. The series has explored topics including the techno-Orientalist conflation of Asian bodies with Japanese cars; the dissection of the subaltern Indian body as a fantasy of capitalist desire; the poetic depiction of racism’s neurological existence; and how the contradictions underlying US-led neoimperial human rights regimes are unraveled by revelations of North Korean humanity.
These topics will serve as provocations rather than destinations for our discussion. Our discussion will focus on two groups of questions: the first concerning Asian American racial form as a privileged lens for thinking thorough the implications of biotechnology and posthumanism, and the second with the body in Asian American cultural politics.
In Asian American studies, poststructuralist critiques of the field’s strategic essentialism have produced discursive theories and methodologies that avoid biologism and privilege history and material theories of racial formation. However, scientific and geopolitical developments over the past two decades have forced the issue of biologism. An example in African American studies would be Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s controversial exploration of African American genealogy via DNA sequencing. Meanwhile, differential bioethical regimes between Asian states conducting genetic research (China and South Korea most especially) and Western states -- that is, between more permissive sites of experimentation, and less permissive ones -- has further complicated the relation between Orientalism and the human. If critical race theory has succeeded in falsifying the link between race and biology, then that link will not remain false for much longer.
In regard to Asian American cultural politics, we will consider how the increasing unavoidability of the body forces Asian American critics to come to terms with the field’s grounding in a logic of racial grievance that requires the constant production of bodies in pain. This logic has led critics like erin Ninh to argue that Asian Americanist refutations of the model minority myth hinge upon the permanent indigence of certain Asian American communities -- especially Southeast Asian communities. How might the field’s poststructuralist gains of the past two decades, which have succeeded at reconciling such contradictions, be preserved if we are forced to acknowledge the reality of the racialized body?