Performing ManChyna: Unmapping Promissory Exaltation, Multicultural Eugenics, and the New Whiteness (Or, “Call Me Dr. ManChyna”)
Lee, A. W.
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Creating art and performing as ManChyna collectively function as my entry into an autoethnographic mapping of mobility and space within liberal multiculturalism. I introduce the research creative method of autoethnographic creatography, because creation and performance are my interventions into and tools for analyzing social space. My parody of queer Asian racialization upends liberal multiculturalism’s promise of incorporation, or promissory exaltation (invoking Sunera Thobani’s, “racial exaltation”), which instrumentally disciplines and includes putative model minorities and homonorms alike. Thus, assimilation into a queer liberal multiculturalism is my primary theoretical target. Building on José Muñoz’s idea of disidentification, I introduce the notion of disassimilation as a performative embodiment of critical analysis and theory. How can individuals articulate the current contours of liberal ideology? How can one counter an ever-shifting dominant culture from a ‘minor’ point of view when one crucial aim of the latter’s evasive energy is the incorporation of that minor gaze? And how does the minoritarian subject represent her critical navigation of majority codes when the picture is complicated by her desire to assimilate into them? The theories of disidentification and disassimilation extend to my uprooting of rural space as supposedly settler land. Using my excessive queer Asianness, I dance on the supposed whiteness of rural Canada, mocking it, and connecting my limited incorporation into queer liberal multiculturalism with ongoing histories of racial exploitation and Indigenous erasure; ultimately, the aim is recognition of rightful Indigenous belonging, existence, and authority of the land. Creatography leads me, via ManChyna’s performance, to encounter intimate modes of racial and sexual discipline within the promises of assimilation and exaltation. ManChyna’s non-Black deployment of rap and humour connects my project to cross-racial political consciousness and alliance. ManChyna serves as a confluence of cultural pathologies, connecting maligned and (paradoxically) celebrated Asian and Black motherhoods with queer deviance. While the dichotomous construction of model and not-so-model minorities work to reiterate the instrumental opposition of minorities against each other, ManChyna’s creations and performances dialogue with other cultural texts that emerge as contradictory navigations of the inherently paradoxical “new whiteness” of queer settler multiculturalism; together, we map its evasive contours.