What might the imaginative and affective conditions for revolution look like? In this presentation Xine will undertake a three-part discussion of how this question undergirds her research, teaching, and outreach via the iTunes podcast PhDivas. In the first part, Xine’s research in early and nineteenth-century America is driven by the imperatives of present-day activism and violences like Black Lives Matter. Here she will read Blake, the only novel written by 19th century African American activist Martin Delany, for how imagining otherwise is predicated upon feeling otherwise. Against the narratives of inclusion by antislavery peers such as Frederick Douglass, Delany’s novel argues for a transnational revolution to overthrow the injustices of America. Written in part as a critique of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the American sentimental novel par excellence, Blake constructs new modes of sympathetic feeling that diverge from the constraints of white, domestic sentimentality. The titular protagonist Blake sows the seeds of rebellion across the United States, Canada, West Africa, and Cuba – a transnational network that Xine argues mirrors the affective coalition he builds between different marginalized peoples. For Delany, the truest legislative basis for a world order must come from a reimagining of relations between peoples; as one of the first Black men accepted into Harvard Medical School, he reworks racist polygenetic race science to assert the connections between peoples of color as both literal biology and as political metaphor.
Xine will take up these ideas about coalition-building and the possibility of a better world in her pedagogical practices and public outreach. She will discuss how she structured her advanced seminar “Black Power Yellow Peril” and share some of the digital humanities assignments she designed to help her students integrate old texts with present-day popular culture and activism. Finally, Xine shall present on her podcast PhDivas about academia, culture, and social justice across the STEM/humanities divide. Xine co-hosts the podcast with her dear friend Liz Wayne, a Black biomedical scientist from Mississippi. As they approach their 50th episode, Xine and Liz use the podcast to highlight the amazing work across disciplines within and beyond the academy, to build intersectional coalition, and to provide support for a better, kinder culture in academia with a focus on women and people of color. As Liz puts it, “Academia won’t be the space that was provided for me, but one that I create – not the one I dreamed of, but one I build.” In this talk, Xine hopes to share their dream with you.
Christine “Xine” Yao is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the UBC Department of English. She graduated as PhD degree marshal from Cornell University and obtained previous degrees from the University of Toronto and Dalhousie University. She hails from Toronto and has been compared to a great white shark. For more on her work please see www.christineyao.com