Annotation: Mimi Nguyen’s “Queer Cyborgs and New Mutants” (2003)

Peer-Review: 0

Nguyen, Mimi. “Queer Cyborgs and New Mutants: Race, Sexuality, and Prosthetic Sociality in Digital Space.” AsianAmerica.Net: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Cyberspace. Eds. Rachel C. Lee and Sau-Ling Cynthia Wong. New York: Routledge, 2003. 281-305. Print.

In her article Nguyen critiques the uncritical celebration of the cyborg as a “transcendent figure of the technological sublime” (284). She admits that cyborgs do help denaturalize essentialist notions of identity as fixed to a rigid material body. Nguyen writes, cyborgs have been popularly depicted as able to “generate new bodies and design new selves in the choosing and fusing of new parts in a potentially endless process of consumption and self-invention” (286). Cyborgs therefore support a concept of identity as fluid and flexible. The ease with which cyborgs can replace or alter parts of their material body also suggests that one’s interiority is not necessarily tied to one’s flesh. Nguyen accentuates that this disjunction can also be understood with respect to people who have queer sexual identities such as those who identify themselves as transgender or engage in drag. But rather than sanguinely glorifying the power of these queer cyborgs to reconfigure their bodies and endlessly reinvent themselves, Nguyen stresses the need to analyze what it means to be a queer cyborg and to engage in “cybernetic drag” in specific social and political contexts.

She offers the example of Karma, a Vietnamese cyborg in the New Mutants series of Marvel comics. Nguyen asserts that Karma’s mutant state recalls the traumatic history of the Vietnam War where the United States used biochemical weapons such as napalm. She emphasizes that this causal history should not be ignored in the celebration of Karma’s mutant powers. Nguyen further elucidates Karma’s vexed position as a cyborg who must masquerade as a normal human being or be otherwise marked as a freak, yet her Vietnamese-ness already distinguishes her as “foreign” and “freak-ish.” Nguyen ultimately encourages her readers to not merely entertain the fantasy of a cybernetic existence but rather what it means to be a cyborg in a specific historical, social, political context and all the discrimination that may come along with that.

Site Update: Chat Closed, but Emergent Discourses still Open

Hi all,

I just wanted to  let everyone know that we decided to close the chat since it wasn’t getting any traffic… probably because it was this small hidden link on our sidebar. But rather than getting rid of this discussion space completely, we thought it would be more helpful to allow members to post threads on the homepage of the blog- these can be about anything from questions regarding Emergentia or your own research to some nerdy insight into our contemporary world. Rather than the other formal writing on the site, i.e. annotations, abstracts, etc., we want these discussions to be unstructured and hopefully fun and interesting. Only members can post threads, but visitors are definitely welcome to provide their own perspectives in the comments section.

Now, for some formal details about posting a discussion thread. As with the other elements of the blog, the title of your thread should be headed with an identifying phrase, which in this case should be “Emergent Discourse:” Then you can follow the colon with any title you would like- the more eye-catching and absurd the better 🙂 Also, don’t forget when posting your thread to check off the “Emergent Discourses” category. This information will be updated on the blog’s About page shortly for future visitors.

Protected: Annotation: Matthew Pratt Guterl’s “Introduction” to American Mediterranean (2008)

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