Using the case study of Lee Maracle’s short story “Yin Chin” (1990) and its uptake in literary criticism on the topic of Asian/Indigenous relation, I argue that a predominant methodological approach in the field—reading characters and plot events as stand-ins for racial positions and histories—is one of the effects of neoliberal deprivation in today’s university, which demands representations of difference while denying us time and space for sustained attention to language. Against the backdrop of these institutional constraints, I look to the anti-essentialist genealogies of feminist literature, theory, and activism to piece together a deconstructive reading of intertextual traces and absences across Maracle’s story and the political scene that produced it. I use these examples to argue for a renewed critical commitment to speculative practices of reading that demand creativity, contingency, and risk, and that counter the institutional appropriation of difference with the irreducibility of literary critique.
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