David Eng, AMES Distinguished Keynote Lecture: (Gay) Panic Attack: Coming Out in a Colorblind Age
David Eng, the Richard L. Fisher Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania is the Distinguished Keynote Lecturer for the 2019 AMES and APIA Capstone Conference. Prof. Eng is the author of The Feeling of Kinship: Queer Liberalism and the Racialization of Intimacy (Duke, 2010) and the pioneering Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America (Duke, 2001). He is co-editor with David Kazanjian of Loss: The Politics of Mourning (California, 2003) and co-editor with Alice Y. Hom of Q & A: Queer in Asian America (Temple University Press, 1998 and winner of a Lambda Literary Award and Association of Asian American Studies Book Award).
Drawing from his forthcoming book, Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation: On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans (Duke University Press), co-authored with psychotherapist Shinhee Han, Professor David Eng explores the changing history of the (racial) subject in relation to the subject of (racial) history over the course of 20 years. For Eng and Han, the spaces of the classroom and clinic have allowed them to witness first-hand the shifting demographics, as well as remarkable psychic transformations, of their Asian American students and patients from Generation X to Generation Y, in an era defined by the politics of colorblindness in U.S. society and by a rising Asia under neoliberalism and globalization.
"(Gay) Panic Attack" presents a series of case histories and commentaries on academically accomplished "parachute children" (children who migrate from different parts of Asia to countries in the West for educational opportunities), all of whom are male and identify as gay. What is striking about their life narratives is not just the self-determination that motivates them but also their common goal of living freely - however they define it - as gay men in the West. Yet what remains perplexing in the case histories of these driven undergraduate and graduate students is the fact that sexuality remains largely tangential to their self-understandings of their psychic predicaments. All sought therapy because of debilitating panic attacks - high levels of anxiety and stress that rendered them incapacitated, depressed, and dissociated. While they view sexual orientation as key factor in their desires to immigrate, they do not regard homophobia - or racism - as significant sites of conflict or related to their panic attacks. What, then, is all the panic about? To answer this question, this talk explores among other issues the psychic structures of colorblindness among millennials today.
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