After idealism and difference : subjects of yellow feelings and sentimental narratives of migration

Abstract: After Idealism and Difference is a critical and ethical project of reading the postcolonial other. Taking a void from postcolonial and poststructuralist feminist critique, my thesis aims to deconstruct the privilege of the “marginalia” as the beloved object of feminist scholarship. I hope to open up a different account of feminist ethics and politics that can move beyond moralism and identitarianism. Empirically, through a critically unlicensed reading of the narratives of Vietnamese migrant women who have been in intimate relationships with Swedish men, I seek to analyze the structure of feelings and power of the Asiatic migrant subjects, which I term “yellow feelings,” after the moralizing idealism of otherness and after identity-based difference, in which “yellow feelings” such as love, gratitude, mimetic desire, endurance will be unbenevolently scrutinized, de-idealized, and universalized.The thesis consists of four chapters. Chapter One offers a critical review of the treatment of the native image in the field of feminist and postcolonial studies in which I argue for an ethics of reading the other after idealism and difference. I maintain that Vietnamese ethnic subjects must be read as universal subjects while their particularistic yellow feelings must not be premised upon an antinormativity or an oppositional difference to dominant feelings, despite their occasional disavowal of and resistance to dominant feelings. In Chapter Two, I examine yellow feelings through the notions of agency, resistance, and mimetic desire in the racialized “third-world” other. I argue that this feeling agency is convoluted, whereas resistance cannot always be read in opposition to disposability, susceptibility, and complicity. I propose to read the “third-world” desire as mimetic desire in a triangular mode, rather than in a binary framework. In Chapter Three, I analyze yellow feelings of gratitude and the mechanisms of power by which the Vietnamese-Asiatic subjects are obliged to be thankful. I argue that the power of gratitude, although violating, is also enabling, and because of this enablement, it makes the dismissal of power become forever exhausting and awkward. In Chapter Four, I examine the power structure of yellow feelings as endurance under the force of monolingualism. I maintain that while the monolingualism exploits the bad faith of the self-disciplinary Vietnamese subjects, it is also a power to substitute and preserve the loss that the subjects have endured.