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The Making and Unmaking of the Asian Body

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Organizer: Anna Cheng

Co-Organizer: Xiaoqiao Xu

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The Making and Unmaking of the Asian Body

Mask-wearing for entering indoor aeras, symptom monitoring every day, and self-testing every seven days—all these extreme procedures have become the new norms of our daily life. The pandemic has redefined the relationships between the world and us, our bodies in particular. As a simultaneous political, social, and economic entity, the body is now the focal point for all the “connections and codes, flows of energy, segments and strata” (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari). In understanding the open, multiple, and unstable articulations of the body, this seminar proposes to study the historical and contemporary conception of the body. 

Elain Scarry interprets the human experience of bodily pain through the destruction/unmaking of the world during torture and war, the making of the world through projection (the presence of the human body in artifact) and the reciprocation (the remaking of the human body into an artifact) in her 1985 book The Body in Pain. Similar to Scarry’s torture room and battleground, the contemporary context of the body has been imposed new understanding onto the body, especially to Asian bodies, during the pandemic. Karl Marx also writes that “material making is a recreation of the body and the body is itself recreated in that activity,” and simultaneously the body is projected out into the artifice and the human body itself becomes an artifice (qtd. in Scarry 256). Through the examination of the making of unmaking of Asian subjects in historical and contemporary cultural productions, the seminar explores the construction of identity and the technology of governance over the bodies, especially the Asian bodies, the “yellow peril” in the nineteenth century, and the “China virus” under the pandemic. 

The general question we want to ask is how Asian bodies, especially those are voiceless and invisible, were/are “made” socially, culturally, and politically through various technologies of governance, and meanwhile, the possible destruction/resistance which brings new light in understanding the relations between individual and nation/state? Are there any differences between historical and contemporary representations of the Asian bodies as well as technologies of governance over the Asian bodies? How did Asian bodies cope with historical anti-Asian campaigns? How do they deal with post-pandemic marginalization and subordination within current interracial conflicts? We look for papers analyzing both the historical and contemporary making and unmaking of Asian subjects, and we look forward to discussing various technologies of governance over the Asian bodies, like race, gender, class, sexuality, politics, etc. with you.
 

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