In Intoxicated Mel Y. Chen explores the ongoing imperial relationship between race, sexuality, and disability. They focus on nineteenth-century biopolitical archives in England and Australia to show how mutual entanglements of race and disability take form through toxicity. Examining English scientist John Langdon Down's characterization of white intellectual disability as Asian interiority and Queensland's racialization and targeting of Aboriginal peoples through its ostensible concern with black opium, Chen explores how the colonial administration of race and disability gives rise to "intoxicated" subjects often shadowed by slowness. Chen charts the ongoing reverberations of these chemical entanglements in art and contemporary moments of political and economic conflict or agitation. Although intoxicated subjects may be affected by ongoing pollution or discredited as agents of failure, Chen affirmatively identifies queer/crip forms of unlearning and worldmaking under imperialism. Exemplifying an undisciplined thinking that resists linear or accretive methods of inquiry, Chen unsettles conventional understandings of slowness and agitation, intellectual method, and the toxic ordinary.
Publication Date: 
December 8, 2023