Mel Y. Chen, “Intoxication, Disability and the Question of Indistinction”

Black and white headshot of Mel Y. Chen.

Event Description

This will be a two-part talk that hopes to be conversational in its invitation. The ensemble is meant to invoke modalities of feeling and thought that Mel Y. Chen aims to attach to questions of method. Rather than being centered firmly on a “we” that projects fantasied rational practitioners of thought, Chen will work questions of intoxication with and around art that engages/indicts colonial racial schemes of intoxication, as well as with disabled and trans/transspecies being that, for better and worse, becomes targeted in the perception of challenges to normative reproductive schemes — both in discourse, and within changing climates. Ultimately, the talk inquires about the place of indistinction for knowledge or worldmaking, and the challenges therein.


Mel Y. Chen (they/them/ta+) is Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and Director for the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture at the University of California, Berkeley. Previously, they served as Robert Sterling Clark Visiting Professor of Art History at Williams College, and the Matthiessen Visiting Professor of Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University. Their 2012 book, Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Duke UP), won the MLA GL/Q Caucus Alan Bray Award. Chen’s forthcoming second book, Intoxicated: Race, Disability, and Chemical Intimacy Across Empire (2023, Duke), concerns the involvement of scenarios of opium intoxication in 19th century archival histories of the interanimation of race and disability. Their writing on the racialization and transing of pollution, cognitive disability and method, trans media, gender pronouns, animality and more can be found in diverse journals, arts catalogues and scholarly anthologies. Chen coedits a Duke University Press book series entitled “Anima,” highlighting scholarship in critical race and disability post/in/humanisms. They are a board member of the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project and part of a small and sustaining queer/trans of color arts collective in the SF Bay Area.

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].