Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation

On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: Published: February 2019

Asian American Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

In Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation critic David L. Eng and psychotherapist Shinhee Han draw on case histories from the mid-1990s to the present to explore the social and psychic predicaments of Asian American young adults from Generation X to Generation Y. Combining critical race theory with several strands of psychoanalytic thought, they develop the concepts of racial melancholia and racial dissociation to investigate changing processes of loss associated with immigration, displacement, diaspora, and assimilation. These case studies of first- and second-generation Asian Americans deal with a range of difficulties, from depression, suicide, and the politics of coming out to broader issues of the model minority stereotype, transnational adoption, parachute children, colorblind discourses in the United States, and the rise of Asia under globalization. Throughout, Eng and Han link psychoanalysis to larger structural and historical phenomena, illuminating how the study of psychic processes of individuals can inform investigations of race, sexuality, and immigration while creating a more sustained conversation about the social lives of Asian Americans and Asians in the diaspora.


"Intentionally answering the call for interdisciplinary scholarship, this innovative work will be valuable for clinicians as well as scholars of race. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals." — J. deGuzman, Choice

"One of the most striking aspects of Eng and Han’s book is the relative ease with which it toggles back and forth between psychoanalytic case studies of people in various stages of suffering and characters in novels who were created to embody themes of beauty and triumph, suffering and fracture. . . . There’s a power in being able to recognize our struggles as the result of paradoxes we live within rather than seeing them as purely private failings. It’s a step toward imagining lives that we might be the authors of, with endings that we write ourselves." — Hua Hsu, The New Yorker

"Eng and Han push conversations in important new directions through their interpersonal/structural engagement with the most practical and therapeutic aspects of trauma theory." — Anjali Vats, Quarterly Journal of Speech

"Accessibly written and powerfully argued, Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation is an excellent resource for any scholar thinking about race and psychoanalysis and, specifically, who are thinking critically about the use of psychoanalytic paradigms like mourning, loss, melancholia, infantile development, reparation, or transitional objects in relation to questions of the lived experiences of racial oppression." — Christopher Bennett, Journal of Critical Race Inquiry

"Eng and Han—a literature professor and a psychotherapist, respectively—demonstrate how to understand the entanglements of history, culture, and psychoanalysis for Asian Americans. . . . This is an unusual social justice project, for it imagines a collective politics that is grounded in the intimate—and highly individualized—work of therapeutic repair." — Amy R. Wong, Public Books

“Seamlessly and effectively integrating clinical case histories with psychoanalysis, critical race theory, and the tortured history of racial integration and segregation, this book offers a compelling analysis of race as relation, whiteness as property, and the history of Asian American social exclusion in the United States.” — Hirokazu Yoshikawa, author of Immigrants Raising Citizens: Undocumented Parents and their Young Children

“David L. Eng and Shinhee Han's boldly ambitious and learned book accomplishes what few other authors have even attempted: the integration of critical racial and cultural theory with clinical psychoanalysis. Eng and Han challenge us to confront afresh the pervasive and painful consequences of the cumulative trauma bred in a racialized social order. Readers from both the clinical and academic worlds will welcome Eng and Han's stunning insights and powerful narratives.” — Jessica Benjamin, author of Beyond Doer and Done To: Recognition Theory, Intersubjectivity and the Third

“A most illuminating and productive dialogue about the dark side of the model minority stereotype, where theory meets practice, the social meets the personal, and the material meets the psychic. David L. Eng and Shinhee Han have given us new ways to think about the problems facing Asian American students, including their disturbing rate of suicide on college campuses.” — Mae Ngai, Columbia University


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

David L. Eng is Richard L. Fisher Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.

Shinhee Han is a psychotherapist at The New School and in private practice in New York City.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  vii
Introduction: The History of the (Racial) Subject and the Subject of (Racial) History  1
Part I: Racial Melancholia
1. Racial Melancholia: Model Minorities, Depression, and Suicide  33
2. Desegregating Love: Transnational Adoption, Racial Reparation, and Racial Transnational Objects  66
Part II. Racial Dissociation
3. Racial Dissociation: Parachute Children and Psychic Nowhere  101
4. (Gay) Panic Attack: Coming Out in a Colorblind Age  141
Epilogue  174
Notes  181
Bibliography  203
Index  213
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0160-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0125-6
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