Xine Yao, The Cultural Politics of Unfeeling: Considering Race and Affect From Below (Critical Race Studies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives)

Critical Race Studies, Race, Ethics + Power

The Cultural Politics of Unfeeling: Considering Race and Affect From Below

Dominant cultural fantasies of justice still depend upon reformed models of sympathy to recognize minoritized feelings. What if we considered unfeeling not as a strategy from above, but as a tactic from below? In my forthcoming book Disaffected: The Cultural Politics of Unfeeling in Nineteenth Century America (Duke University Press) I take an antisocial approach to affect theory. According to theorist Denise Ferreira da Silva, “affectability” is constructed as the intrinsic property of non-white others. Drawing from queer of colour critique, I refuse the usual move to recuperate unfeeling as legible feeling; instead I stress how unfeeling indexes disaffection in the political, causal, and affective senses. Unfeeling is a means of survival and a catalyst for the emergence of alternative structures of feeling. For my talk I will discuss Oriental inscrutability as a queer, racialized mode of unfeeling in its potential for what I call insurgent counterintimacies with the intertwined struggles of Black and Indigenous peoples. By discussing writings by early Black nationalist Martin R. Delany and the first Asian North American woman writer Edith Maude Eaton/Sui Sin Far, I hope to model how Asian diasporic settlers like myself should refuse the colonial politics of recognition toward the hard work of BIPOC solidarity.

This is an online event. It will be live streamed on the Centre for Ethics YouTube Channel on Thursday, October 1. Channel subscribers will receive a notification at the start of the live stream. For other events in the series, and to subscribe, visit For information on the Centre for Ethics, including upcoming events, visit

Xine Yao
University College London

Thu, Oct 1, 2020
12:30 PM - 01:45 PM
Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto
200 Larkin