Body histories and the limits of life in Asian Canadian literature
Banwait, Ranbir Kaur
Histories of racialization in Canada are closely tied to the development of eugenics and racial hygiene movements, but also to broader concerns, expressed throughout Western modernity, regarding the “health” of nation states and their subjects. This dissertation analyses books by Velma Demerson, Hiromi Goto, David Chariandy, Rita Wong, Roy Miki and Larissa Lai to argue that Asian Canadian literature reveals, in heightened critical terms, how the politics of racial difference has consistently been articulated through the language of bodily health, life, and feeling. Building upon existing debates in Asian Canadian literary studies, and drawing from interdisciplinary scholarship in biopolitics and affect theory, the dissertation reveals how the discourse of “life” and “health” has served as the rationale for practices such as internment, sterilization, and unauthorized medical experiments, but also how the literature and theory of the feeling body, including its memories, symptoms, and conceptual limits, can promote awareness both of historical injustice and of the new terms informing the cultural politics of race today.