Hsuan L. Hsu
- University of California, Davis
This is the first book-length study of Mark Twain’s responses to transpacific historical phenomena such as Chinese immigration, diplomatic relations with China, the annexation of Hawai’i, and the U.S. regime in the Philippines. Twain’s interest in these topics spanned his career, from early newspaper reports on arrests of “Chinamen” in San Francisco and Virginia City, Nevada, to the yellowface play he co-authored with Bret Harte; from his long-forgotten article on the 1868 Burlingame Treaty to his better-known polemics against the U.S. war of aggression in the Philippines. This project develops a broad sense of Twain's anti-imperialism and anti-racist politics by reading his fictions of slavery and the South in the context of comparative racialization.
While smell has long been marginalized in Western aesthetics as a chemical sense that is more embodied and immersive than sight and sound, this project argues that these very qualities make it ideal for staging the dynamics of transcorporeality in contexts of environmental injustice. “The Smell of Risk” traces cultural deployments of olfaction during a historical period that it terms differential deodorization: while odor has been eradicated or carefully designed in some civilized, bourgeois spaces, bad air has been redistributed to racialized geographies within and outside of the United States in the form of smog, pesticides, and a range of other externalities. Drawing on Peter Sloterdijk’s concept of “air conditioning”—which denotes how air is manipulated, and also how air conditions humans’ bodies, minds, and moods—the book project analyzes fiction, olfactory art, occupational law cases, transpacific discourses of “atmo-Orientalism,” and the use of olfactory weapons in mass protests.