Shiu-Yin Sharon Yam, "Inconvenient Strangers: Transnational Subjects and the Politics of Citizenship" (Ohio State UP, 2019)

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On this episode of the New Books Network, Lee Pierce (s/t interviews Shiu-Yin Sharon Yam of University of Kentucky on the new book, Inconvenient Strangers: Transnational Subjects and the Politics of Citizenship (Ohio State University Press, 2019), which explores how intersecting networks of power—particularly race and ethnicity, gender, and social class—marginalize transnational subjects who find themselves outside a dominant citizenship that privileges familiarity and socioeconomic and racial superiority. In this study of how neoliberal ideas limit citizenship for marginalized populations in Hong Kong, Shui-yin Sharon Yam examines how three transnational groups—mainland Chinese maternal tourists, Southeast Asian migrant domestic workers, and South Asian permanent residents—engage with the existing citizenry and gain recognition through circulating personal narratives.

Coupling transnational feminist studies with research on emotions, Yam analyzes court cases, interviews, social media discourse, and the personal narratives of Hong Kong’s marginalized groups to develop the concept of deliberative empathy—critical empathy that prompts an audience to consider the structural sources of another’s suffering while deliberating one’s own complicity in it. Yam argues that storytelling and familial narratives can promote deliberative empathy among the audience as both a political and ethical response—carrying the affective power to jolt the dominant citizenry out of their usual xenophobic attitudes and ultimately prompt them to critically consider the human conditions they share with the marginalized and move them toward more ethical coalitions.

I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed chatting with Sharon about this fascinating book. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for interview previews, the best book selfies, and new episode alerts.

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