Enough fiction; back to the theory.

Today I read the introduction to David L. Eng's Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America, a text that, I think, will prove incredibly useful in my future work.

Eng's purpose is to make use of psychoanalytic theory in the study of Asian American male subjectivity. This is completely new terrain for me as a student of theory. I had, until today, written off psychoanalytic theory as something inherently homophobic, sexist and racist, and therefore not terribly useful to narratives of transcontinental migration, diasporic nostalgia, and subject-formation of American queers of color.

David Eng is a very convincing writer, one completely invested in the resurrection of psychoanalysis in studies of intersecting and mutually constitutive notions of race and sexuality--moving away from strict sociological study to a more thorough inquiry into the effects of institutional racism and emasculation on the Asian American male psyche.

In his reading of David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, Eng argues that Gallimard's inability to see Song as a man works as a revisionist example of Freud's notion of fetishism:

In his 1927 essay 'Fetishism,' Freud states that the man, traumatized by the sight of female difference--of castration--creates a fetish--a surrogate penis--and projects it onto the female body in the guise of a substitute object: a plait of hair, an undergarment, a shoe. From a slightly different perspective, fetishism describes a psychic process whereby the man attempts to obviate the trauma of sexual difference by seeing at the site of the female body a penis that is not there to see.

A psychoanalytic reading of M. Butterfly would seem, then, to insist upon an analysis of the drama through the logic of fetishism. While Gallimard's misrecognition of Song's anatomy indicates the white diplomat's abiding psychic investment in the protocols of the fetish, Hwang's drama also resists, reverses, and ultimately revises Freud's traditional paradigm by opening it upon a social terrain marked not by singular difference but by multiple differences. That is, rather than seeing at the site of the female body a penis that is not there to see, Gallimard refuses to see at the site of the Asian male body, a penis that is there to see. The white diplomat's 'racial castration' of Song thus suggests that the trauma being negotiated in this particular scenario is not just sexual but racial difference. As such, Gallimard's psychic reworking of fetishism challenges our conventional interpretation of the Freudian model by delineating a crossing of race with what is traditionally seen only as a paradigm of (hetero)sexual difference.

Through this racial castration, Gallimard need not see Song as anything other than a woman. Through this distinct refashioning of fetishism, Oriental 'could never be completely a man.' And through this elaborate exercise of mental gymnastics Gallimard can strive to maintain the tenuous boundaries of his own assaulted white male (hetero)sexuality. Hence, in Gallimard's orientalist world fetishism cannot be understood as a scandalous perversion of the social order. Indeed, fetishism is naturalized, functioning as a normative psychic mechanism by means of which a ubiquitous sexualized and racialized vision of the feminized Asian American male emerges and takes hold.

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