Illness, Memoir, and the Ends of the Model MinorityJames Kyung-Jin Lee
The pressures Asian Americans feel to be socially and economically exceptional include an unspoken mandate to always be healthy. Nowhere is this more evident than in the expectation for Asian Americans to enter the field of medicine, principally as providers of care rather than those who require care. Pedagogies of Woundedness explores what happens when those considered model minorities critically engage with illness and medicine whether as patients or physicians.
James Kyung-Jin Lee considers how popular culture often positions Asian Americans as medical authorities and what that racial characterization means. Addressing the recent trend of writing about sickness, disability, and death, Lee shows how this investment in Asian American health via the model minority is itself a response to older racial forms that characterize Asian American bodies as diseased. Moreover, he pays attention to what happens when academics get sick and how illness becomes both methodology and an archive for scholars.
Pedagogies of Woundedness also explores the limits of biomedical “care,” the rise of physician chaplaincy, and the impact of COVID. Throughout his book and these case studies, Lee shows the social, ethical, and political consequences of these common (mis)conceptions that often define Asian Americans in regard to health and illness.
“James Kyung-Jin Lee’s Pedagogies of Woundedness is a poignant and moving work of criticism about illness and mortality. Beginning with a remarkable connection between the seeming invulnerability of Asian Americans as a model minority and their prevalence in the medical profession, Lee proceeds to explore the many ways that Asian Americans have written about bodies, health, and death. One comes away from his insights wiser and braver about what we all must face.”
—Viet Thanh Nguyen, University Professor at the University of Southern California, and author of Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War
“Living in an Asian/American body is a contradiction of model achievement and the presumption of carrying a deadly virus, especially during this pandemic. Lee reads the memoirs of physicians and patients to take apart the assumption of health, the unacceptability of showing weakness, and the hubris of curing the sick in a community that hides unhealth, disability, mental illness, and the inevitability of death. Everyone going into medicine, especially Asian Americans, should read Pedagogies of Woundedness .”
—Karen Tei Yamashita, Professor Emerita of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the author of I-Hotel and Letters to Memory
Dis/Color, edited by Nirmala Erevelles, Julie Avril Minich, and Cynthia Wu, highlights innovative books that reveal the intersections among racism, ableism, and other unequal structures and practices in U.S. and transnational contexts. The editors seek manuscripts grounded in disciplinary and transdisciplinary scholarship in the humanities and qualitative social sciences. Manuscripts may include those that address the lived experiences of people of color, those that broach theoretically informed claims, and those that involve empirically grounded perspectives about the regulatory and intersectional regimes of racial and ableist structures that shape human experience in the United States and globally.