Job Talk by Summer Kim Lee
Where: Zoom Meeting https://ucla.zoom.us/j/315065985
Summer Kim Lee, Mellon Faculty Fellow, English and Creative Writing, Dartmouth College
Talk Title: “Cold Leftovers: Touching Asian Femininity’s Material Remains”
This talk engages with iterations of exoticized, hypersexualized Asian femininity in David Henry Hwang’s play M. Butterfly (1988), filmmaker and scholar Mila Zuo’s short film Carnal Orient (2016), and artist Alison Kuo’s durational performance Bone Bath (2017). Together, these objects render Asian femininity not as the provenance of political subjecthood, but as political subjecthood’s cold leftovers—as its visceral, material remains. While recent scholarship has understood Asian femininity to be synthetic and inorganic, the matter of the feminized Asian body still remains: a fleshy, feeling form with the desire to at times touch and be touched by another. How does a turn to sense and sensation, coursing underneath the privileged, primary realms of the textual and visual, shift the political and aesthetic stakes of how a body in its material difference encounters another? Contrary to the notion that coldness signals disaffection and inscrutability, here it expresses the fraught, sensuous life of racialized, feminized materiality and its ambivalent want for touch, as a potential source of pleasure, intimacy, and care, but also of harm, injury, and consumption. This talk stages encounters with Asian femininity in order to reinvest in feminist accounts of the gendered, racialized body as matter to be handled in the everyday challenges of living in relation to others.