Reconsidering Oriental Inscrutability: Racialized, Queer Asiatic Unfeeling Amidst Antiblackness and Settler Colonialism
Oriental inscrutability is perhaps the most coherent racialized mode of unfeeling, its nameability indicative of a structurally pervasive but still addressable phenomena in the American cultural imagination. However, in my reading of the early Chinese diasporic writer Edith Maude Eaton/Sui Sin Far, I suspend the usual gesture to rehabilitate the stereotype into a claim for the legitimacy of Asiatic feelings – instead, I linger with the counterintuitive and possibly dangerously counteractive implications towards insurgent solidarities. This derided queer, racialized mode of unfeeling obscures the colonial politics of recognition, casting into doubt the desirability of fantasies of inclusion into the antiBlack settler colonial state as a corrective stand-in for justice.
Dr. Xine Yao is Lecturer in American Literature to 1900 at University College London. Their first book is Disaffected: The Cultural Politics of Unfeeling in Nineteenth-Century America which has won Duke University Press’s Scholars of Color First Book Award (November 2021). Her honours include the American Studies Association’s Yasuo Sakakibara Essay Prize and their research has been supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She is a BBC Radio 3/AHRC New Generation Thinker and the co-host of PhDivas Podcast.