Photography matters, writes Jerry Thompson, because of how it works—not only as an artistic medium but also as a way of knowing. With this provocative observation, Thompson begins a wide-ranging and lucid meditation on why photography is unique among the picture-making arts. He constructs an argument that moves with natural logic from Thomas Pynchon (and why we read him for his vision and not his command of miscellaneous facts) to Jonathan Swift to Plato to Emily Dickinson (who wrote “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant”) to detailed readings of photographs by Eugène Atget, Garry Winogrand, Marcia Due, Walker Evans, and Robert Frank. Forcefully and persuasively, he argues for photography as a medium whose business is not constructing fantasies pleasing to the eye or imagination, but describing the world in the toughest and deepest way.
Eng develops the concept of “queer diasporas” as a critical response to queer liberalism. A methodology drawing attention to new forms of family and kinship, accounts of subjects and subjectivities, and relations of affect and desire, the concept differs from the traditional notions of diaspora, theories of the nation-state, and principles of neoliberal capitalism upon which queer liberalism thrives. Eng analyzes films, documentaries, and literature by Asian and Asian American artists including Wong Kar-wai, Monique Truong, Deann Borshay Liem, and Rea Tajiri, as well as a psychoanalytic case history of a transnational adoptee from Korea. In so doing, he demonstrates how queer Asian migrant labor, transnational adoption from Asia, and the political and psychic legacies of Japanese internment underwrite narratives of racial forgetting and queer freedom in the present. A focus on queer diasporas also highlights the need for a poststructuralist account of family and kinship, one offering psychic alternatives to Oedipal paradigms. The Feeling of Kinship makes a major contribution to American studies, Asian American studies, diaspora studies, psychoanalysis, and queer theory.