Feeling Sideways: Shani Mootoo and Kai Cheng Thom’s Sustainable Affects
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionUniversity of Toronto quarterly. 2020, 89 (1), 88-106. https://doi.org/10.3138/utq.89.1.06
Drawing on feminist, queer, trans, and anti-racist theory, this article examines the transmission of affect between racialized trans subjects as a mode of what I call feeling sideways. With this formulation, I seek to spark a discussion about the need to dislodge affect not only from gender and racial normative systems of power but also from linear understandings of growth and temporality. I here follow Stockton’s theories of sideways growth (2009) and Love’s notion of backward feelings (2009) to unravel modes of feeling sideways as a potential form of what I call sustainable affect. As case studies, I put two transCanadian works beside each other: Shani Mootoo’s novel Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab (2014) and Kai Cheng Thom’s poetry collection, a place called No Homeland (2017). In different but related ways, these texts illustrate the various ways in which shame, anger, and empathy can become sustainable affects through touch and storytelling, with important ethical repercussions.