Pembroke Center

Melanie Abeygunawardana

Shauna M. Stark '76, P'10 Postdoctoral Fellow

Biography

Ph.D. English, University of Pennsylvania, 2022

Dissertation: “Dissenting Flesh: Racial Feeling in an Age of Colorblindness” 

Melanie Abeygunawardana, the 2021-22 Shauna M. Stark '76, P'10 Postdoctoral Fellow, is a scholar of contemporary Asian American and African American literature working at the intersection of affect studies, critical race theory, and literary studies. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania in 2022 with a certificate in Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies. Her current book project examines how Black and Asian authors in the United States engage liberalism’s failures to remediate structural racism in the post-Civil Rights era. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Representations, n+1, and the Routledge Companion to Queer Literary Studies. 

In the fall of 2022, Dr. Abeygunawardana is teaching the GNSS course Feeling Race. This seminar examines how emotion factors into a longer history of race, racism, and resistance in the United States. Using the critical tools of affect studies, ethnic studies, queer theory, and American literature and film, this course explores the racial politics of feeling, both as a noun and as a verb. Students will query how emotion has been used to create racialized subjects and to racialize whole populations; what emotions like rage, melancholy, shame, and irritation, as well as states of unfeeling or disaffection, afford for subjects marginalized by their race, gender, and sexuality; and how feelings include or exclude people of color, especially queer people of color, from projects of U.S. nation-building.