Northwestern Events Calendar


"Racial Disintegration: Biomedical Futurity at the Environmental Limit"

When: Monday, May 4, 2020
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM  

Where: University Hall, Hagstrum - 201, 1897 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: FREE

Contact: Janet Hundrieser   847.491.3525

Group: Science in Human Culture Program - Klopsteg Lecture Series

150 Years of Women

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Speaker - Michelle Huang, Northwestern University, English,

Abstract - This talk examines how the privatization of biomedicine and the deregulation of environmental protections are both subtended by race. The unfettered development of “personalized medicine”—meaning patient-tailored preventative, diagnostic, and therapeutic medical interventions—justifies the diversion of both funding and public interest from the environment degradation that disproportionately affects black and brown populations. Put polemically, an emphasis on individualized health solutions excuses environmental racism. To illuminate how biomedical capital invests in white and Asian American populations while divesting from black and brown surplus populations, this talk argues recent Asian American speculative fiction provides a crucial case study through which to analyze futurities where biomedical infrastructures intensify racial inequality under terms that do not include race at all. It does so by examining two post-Occupy Asian American dystopian novels—Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea (2014) and Rachel Heng’s Suicide Club (2018). The racial logics of these future worlds are defined not by individual embodiment but by populational access to medical treatment, and they present an evolving challenge to update notions of comparative racialization in a moment of accelerating social and environmental disintegration.

Biography - Professor Huang (Ph.D. English and Women’s Studies, Pennsylvania State University), is jointly appointed in the English Department and in the Asian American Studies Program, and has research and teaching interests in contemporary Asian American literature, posthumanism, and feminist science studies. Her current project, “Molecular Aesthetics: Race, Form, and Matter in Contemporary Asian American Literature,” examines posthumanist aesthetics in post-1965 Asian American literature to trace racial formation at the molecular scale. Through analyses of works by Ruth Ozeki, Larissa Lai, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Julie Otsuka, and Jeffrey Yang, among others, “Molecular Aesthetics” argues that a rapprochement with scientific discourse is necessary to fully grasp how the formal and aesthetic qualities of Asian American literature unsettle sedimented structures of racial formation. Michelle’s work appears in Twentieth-Century Literature, Journal of Asian American Studies, Amerasia, and Post 45: Contemporaries, among other venues.

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