XINE yao, Disaffected: The Cultural Politics of Unfeeling in Nineteenth-Century America

Duke University Press, November 2021, $ 27,95

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In Disaffected Xine Yao explores the racial and sexual politics of unfeeling—affects that are not recognized as feeling—as a means of survival and refusal in nineteenth-century America. She positions unfeeling beyond sentimentalism’s paradigm of universal feeling. Yao traces how works by Herman Melville, Martin R. Delany, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and Sui Sin Far engaged major sociopolitical issues in ways that resisted the weaponization of white sentimentalism against the lives of people of color. Exploring variously pathologized, racialized, queer, and gendered affective modes like unsympathetic Blackness, queer female frigidity, and Oriental inscrutability, these authors departed from the values that undergird the politics of recognition and the liberal project of inclusion. By theorizing feeling otherwise as an antisocial affect, form of dissent, and mode of care, Yao suggests that unfeeling can serve as a contemporary political strategy for people of color to survive in the face of continuing racism and white fragility.
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Xine Yao is Lecturer in American Literature to 1900 at University College London.

Table of Contents
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. Disaffected from the Culture of Sentiment  1
1. The Babo Problem: White Sentimentalism and Unsympathetic Blackness in Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno  29
2. Feeling Otherwise: Martin R. Delany, Black-Indigenous Counterintimacies, and the Possibility of a New World  70
3. The Queer Frigidity of Professionalism: White Women Doctors, the Struggle for Rights, and the Marriage Plot  107
4. Objective Passionless: Black Women Doctors and Dispassionate Strategies of Uplifting Love  138
5. Oriental Inscrutability: Sui Sin Far, Chinese Faces, and the Modern Apparatuses of U.S. Immigration  171
Coda. Notes toward a Disaffected Manifesto beyond Survival  208
Notes  211
Bibliography  243
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1483-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1389-1