The "comfort" of critical consolidation: Pedagogy, ethical alienation, and Asian American literary studies

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This article proposes ethical alienation as a critical pedagogical practice by analyzing the neoteric critical consolidation of Asian American literary and cultural studies, a consolidation marked by the recent (and near simultaneous) publication of four major compendiums-The Routledge Companion to Asian American and Pacific Islander Literature (Lee 2014), Keywords for Asian American Studies (Schlund-Vials, Vo, and Wong 2015), The Cambridge Companion to Asian American Literature (Parikh and Kim 2015), and The Cambridge History of Asian American Literature (Srikanth and Song 2015). The publication of these four compendiums within the span of a year signals a pivotal moment in Asian American literary and cultural studies, one that both recognizes the institutional gains of the field and addresses the (in)compatibilities between the field's theoretical developments and its pedagogical practices. This article considers the centrality of ethics to a postidentity Asian American studies, suggesting how ethical alienation-signaled both by the figuration of "comfort women"/military sex slaves/halmoni and our own estrangement from it-can create productive classroom and metapedagogical practices in the study of Asian American literature. By attending to the field's consolidations around a set of pedagogical and scholarly imperatives and analyzing that critical solidification in relation to "comfort women"/military sex slaves/halmoni both as a figuration of "complex per-sonhood" (Gordon 1997, 4-5) and as an interdisciplinary "term of analysis and history rather than personhood" (Chuh 2003a, 9), this article argues that ethical alienation as pedagogical practice can lead us to a differently ordered set of disciplinary priorities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-354
Number of pages24
JournalAmerican Literature
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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