White Society Colloquium: Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation: On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans
Presenters: David Eng, PhD and Shinhee Han, PhD
Moderator: Michelle Stephens, PhD
In this talk, critic David L. Eng and psychotherapist Shinhee Han present from their new book, Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation: On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans (Duke UP, 2018). The project draws on case histories from the mid-1990s to the present to explore the social and psychic predicaments of Asian American young adults from Generation X to Generation Y. Combining critical race theory with several strands of psychoanalytic thought, Eng and Han develop the concepts of racial melancholia and racial dissociation to investigate changing processes of loss associated with immigration, displacement, diaspora, and assimilation. These case studies of first- and second-generation Asian Americans deal with a range of difficulties, from depression, suicide, and the politics of coming out to broader issues of the model minority stereotype, transnational adoption, parachute children, colorblind discourses in the United States, and the rise of Asia under globalization. Throughout, Eng and Han link psychoanalysis to larger structural and historical phenomena, illuminating how the study of psychic processes of individuals can inform investigations of race, sexuality, and immigration while creating a more sustained conversation about the social lives of Asian Americans and Asians in the diaspora.
David L. Eng is Richard L. Fisher Professor and Graduate Chair of English at the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his BA in English from Columbia University and his PhD in comparative literature from the University of California at Berkeley, he taught at Columbia and Rutgers before joining Penn in 2007. Eng has held visiting professorships at the University of Bergen (Norway), King's College London, Harvard University, and the University of Hong Kong. He is the recipient of research fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, and the Mellon Foundation, among others. Eng is author and editor of several books and collections, most recently, The Feeling of Kinship: Queer Liberalism and the Racialization of Intimacy (Duke UP, 2010). His current book project, "Reparations and the Human," investigates the relationship between political and psychic genealogies of reparation in Asia during the Cold War. In 2016, Eng was elected an honorary member of the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR) in New York City.
Shinhee Han, PhD, is a psychotherapist at the New School as well as in private practice in New York City. In addition, she is an adjunct professor in the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University, where she teaches courses on Asian Americans, race, and psychoanalysis. Dr. Han is a founding member of the Asian Women Giving Circle, a philanthropic organization in New York City that funds Asian of women artists creating social activism and change. Previously, she worked in counseling and psychological services at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Barnard College, and Columbia University. Born in Seoul, Korea, she immigrated to Minnesota with her family at age 13.