The Difference Aesthetics Makes

On the Humanities “After Man”

Book Pages: 192 Illustrations: 2 illustrations Published: April 2019

Author: Kandice Chuh

American Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

In The Difference Aesthetics Makes cultural critic Kandice Chuh asks what the humanities might be and do if organized around what she calls “illiberal humanism” instead of around the Western European tradition of liberal humanism that undergirds the humanities in their received form. Recognizing that the liberal humanities contribute to the reproduction of the subjugation that accompanies liberalism's definition of the human, Chuh argues that instead of defending the humanities, as has been widely called for in recent years, we should radically remake them. Chuh proposes that the work of artists and writers like Lan Samantha Chang, Carrie Mae Weems, Langston Hughes, Leslie Marmon Silko, Allan deSouza, Monique Truong, and others brings to bear ways of being and knowing that delegitimize liberal humanism in favor of more robust, capacious, and worldly senses of the human and the humanities. Chuh presents the aesthetics of illiberal humanism as vital to the creation of sensibilities and worlds capable of making life and lives flourish.


The Difference Aesthetics Makes reconsiders the centrality of aesthetics to the humanities and elaborates an aesthetics of ‘illiberal’ humanism that emerges from relations of difference, not identity; from dissensus, not consensus. This timely and significant book will be of crucial importance for readers in English, American studies, ethnic studies, anthropology, art history, and beyond.” — Lisa Lowe, author of The Intimacies of Four Continents

“Reading various texts to demonstrate how minority literature presents itself as the productive other to dominant articulations of the aesthetic, Kandice Chuh makes significant interventions in inquiries around the relationship between politics and aesthetics, the humanities as a site of critical alternatives, and the role that minority discourse plays in those inquiries. An exciting and ambitious book.” — Roderick A. Ferguson, author of One-Dimensional Queer


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kandice Chuh is Professor of English and American Studies at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, author of Imagine Otherwise: On Asian Americanist Critique, and coeditor of Orientations: Mapping Studies in the Asian Diaspora, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  xi
Introduction. The Difference Aesthetics Makes  1
1. Knowledge under Cover  26
2. Pedagogies of Liberal Humanism  51
3. Making Sense Otherwise  74
4. Mis/Taken Universals  89
Conclusion. On the Humanities "After Man"  122
Postscript  126
Notes  131
Bibliography  159
Index  175
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0092-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0070-9
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