Synopses & Reviews
, Mel Y. Chen draws on recent debates about sexuality, race, and affect to examine how matter that is considered insensate, immobile, or deathly animates cultural lives. Toward that end, Chen investigates the blurry division between the living and the dead, or that which is beyond the human or animal. Within the field of linguistics, animacy has been described variously as a quality of agency, awareness, mobility, sentience, or liveness. Chen turns to cognitive linguistics to stress how language habitually differentiates the animate and the inanimate. Expanding this construct, Chen argues that animacy undergirds much that is pressing and indeed volatile in contemporary culture, from animal rights debates to biosecurity concerns.
Chen's book is the first to bring the concept of animacy together with queer of color scholarship, critical animal studies, and disability theory. Through analyses of dehumanizing insults, the meanings of queerness, animal protagonists in recent Asian/American art and film, the lead in toys panic in 2007, and the social lives of environmental illness, Animacies illuminates a hierarchical politics infused by race, sexuality, and ability. In this groundbreaking book, Chen rethinks the criteria governing agency and receptivity, health and toxicity, productivity and stillnessandmdash;and demonstrates how attention to the affective charge of matter challenges commonsense orderings of the world.
andquot;Animacies is a book about and#39;reworldings,and#39; as Mel Y. Chen traces the myriad ways that objects and affects move through and reshape zones of possibility for political transformation and queer resistance to neoliberal biopolitics. At the same time, Animacies itself generates such transformations: grounded in a generous, expansive understanding of queer of color and disability/crip critique, Chenand#39;s study reworlds or reorients disability studies, gender and sexuality studies, critical race theory, animal studies, affect studies, and linguistics. In all of these critical spaces, Animacies might be described as the breathtaking and revivifying book we have been waiting for.andquot;
andquot;This ambitious transdisciplinary analysis of the relations between humans, nonhuman animals, and matter charts a compelling and innovative rethinking of the biopolitics of and#39;animacy.and#39; Mel Y. Chen animates animacy, a concept of sentience hierarchy derived in linguistics, to offer a far-ranging critique that implicates disability studies, queer of color critique, and postcolonial theory. The generative result is a timely and crucial intervention that foregrounds the oft-occluded import of race and sex in the rapidly growing fields of posthumanist theory, new materialisms, and animal studies.andquot;
andldquo;This work is a bricolage demonstrating the dexterity of cultural studies today in its explorations of the limits of live- liness. Although the work speaks primarily to queer theory and Asian American studies, it will stir anthropologists of multiple subfields.andrdquo;
andldquo;To read Mel Chenandrsquo;s book Animacies is both a challenge and a pleasure andhellip; [it] offers critical positions that will be of interest to Asian Americanists.andrdquo;
andldquo;Chenandrsquo;s book touches upon many topics in Animacies and provides channels for further investigation and expansion for those who wish to study linguistics, disability studies, race, animal studies, gender, and sexuality studies.andrdquo;
andquot;Animacies provides us with fresh, provocative insights into the queer possibilities of kinship and intimacies with some of the most overlooked forms of material existence. Readers will find much to admire in this book.andquot;
andquot; . . . the lucidity of Chenand#39;s histories of each of the intersecting fields of study makes these [first] chapters worth reading and teaching. The latter half . . . stands out as innovative work that advances new potentialities for cultural studies sensitive to the multivalent dimensions of relationality.andquot;
andldquo;Chenandrsquo;s prose is animate; it leaps off the page and sparks in the reader both respect in Chenandrsquo;s outstanding linguistic ability and wonder in the flow of her prose, her mastery of theoretical sources, and the flux of her intense, immense subject. . . . Animacies is a significant addition to disability theory, gender theory, linguistic theory, queer theory, cultural theory, postcolonial studies, and feminist theory, and is the first book, in my mind, to perform a transnational, transhistorical, and interdisciplinary investigation into the concept of animacy. It is a work that would be at home in both the undergraduate and the graduate classroom (certain chapters, at least), and should be read by any scholar of feminist, queer, disability, linguistic, or postcolonial bent. In this book, Chen has perfected the impossible art of writing a book that is, somehow, all things to all peopleandmdash;or at least, it should be. There is something for everyone here. Animacies is a groundbreaking work of interstitial scholarship. . .andrdquo;
and#160;andldquo;Throughout the book, Chen interweaves the topics and implications of society, race, biopolitics, sexuality, disability, and queer studies as it relates to linguistics, animacy, and animacy hierarchy. Chen utilizes an immense amount of examples through pictures, historical events, and theories to cover a large amount of material. Chenandrsquo;s book touches upon many topics in Animacies and provides channels for further investigation and expansion for those who wish to study linguistics, disability studies, race, animal studies, gender, and sexuality studies.andrdquo;
andquot;Animacies is an erudite mapping of the coerciveness of cosmological hierarchies of being, of the ontological classifications that deny life to the people, phenomena, and things that they sort into impossible solitudes.andquot;
Mel Y. Chen draws on studies of sexuality, race, and affect to consider how matter that is considered insensate, immobile, deathly, or otherwise "wrong," animates cultural life in important ways.
About the Author
Mel Y. Chen is Assistant Professor of Gender and Womenand#39;s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Animating Animacy 1
Part I. Words
1. Language and Mattering Humans 23
2. Queer Animation 57
Part II. Animals
3. Queer Animality 89
4. Animals, Sex, and Transsubstantiation 127
Part III. Metals
5. Lead's Racial Matters 159
6. Following Mercurial Affect 189
Afterword: The Spill and the Sea 223