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Frigid femmes. Inscrutable Orientals. How might these queer and racialized accusations of withholding and distancing operate as modes of dissent from expectations of expressive and responsive affective labour according to sentimental biopolitics? Drawing upon Black feminist philosophers Sylvia Wynter and Denise Ferreira da Silva, I propose “unfeeling” as the term towards a methodology that refuses the demand for the marginalized to prove their affective interiorities as evidence of their humanity. In doing so, I follow from queer of colour theorist Martin Manalansan IV’s figuration of disaffection in its causal, affective, and political senses. The negativity of “unfeeling” registers how minoritarian affects are occluded in the culture of sentiment; instead, I take this demonization of affective tactics of survival and resistance as indicative of the insurgent potential of alternative structures of feeling.

In this paper I sketch how queer frigidity and Oriental inscrutability offer ways of tracking particular social, aesthetic, and political genealogies of refusal in nineteenth century America which continue to have significance for queer women and femmes and East Asian peoples today. I share how “unfeeling” brings together conversations about refusal and dissatisfaction with the universal human and belonging from Black, Asian American, and Indigenous studies informed by feminist and queer of color critique.


All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but advance registration is required.