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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Posthuman Difference: Traveling to Utopia with Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries


This essay puts into conversation two rarely conjunctive discourses: posthumanism, which focuses on how technological mediation forces a reconsideration of the very categories of “subject,” “object,” and “literature”; and Asian American literary criticism, which seeks to continually interrogate how Asian American subjects are produced, reproduced, and represented. Putting these two discourses into conversation yields several important results: for one, posthumanist theory allows for a more complex understanding of the shift, within Asian American criticism, from nation-bound models to transnational frameworks. Moreover, posthumanism’s emphasis on technological mediation provides an important new theoretical framework for Asian American literary criticism, particularly in terms of the way that subjects are produced and reproduced in conjunction with technological objects. At the same time, Asian American literary criticism’s focus on the material effects of cultural productions pinpoints and illuminates a critical aporia in posthuman theory: its uncertain and equivocal treatment of race and ethnicity. The essay concludes with a reading of Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ Traveling to Utopia: With a Brief History of the Technology. Considered together, the form and content of the piece enact an aesthetics of “posthuman difference,” which both highlights the limits, and requires the strengths, of posthumanist and Asian Americanist discourse.

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