Alumna honored with BBC award

Christine “Xine” Yao, M.A. '13, Ph.D. '16, was named one of the 2020 BBC Radio 3/AHRC New Generation Thinkers. The program, now in its 10th year, affords early career academics a platform to share their ideas via BBC Radio 3 and other outlets. 

“It is an amazing opportunity to work with the BBC to share my expertise and hopefully provoke different ways of understanding the world,” Yao said.

Yao is currently a lecturer in early and 19th century American literature at University College London. Her research focus is on the “racial and sexual politics of unfeeling,” as she challenges current assumptions that the “right feelings are necessary for the right politics.” She examines this dynamic through political struggles such as abolition, women’s rights and Chinese exclusion.

“Personally, as part of the Chinese diaspora like (the first Asian North American woman writer) Sui Sin Far, I believe my work is more important than ever in this era of rising anti-Chinese sentiments akin to when she was writing,” Yao said. “We need nuance beyond ‘good’ and ‘bad’ representations.” 

Yao started the podcast PhDivas while studying at Cornell, with her friend Elizabeth Wayne. Wayne now works as a professor of biomedical and chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. The podcast is “about academic, culture and social justice across the STEM/humanities divide,” according to Yao. Several years after its founding, the podcast is still going strong. 

“Cornell was where I realized the kind of scholar I wanted to be: the praxis of my academic research meant extensive engagement with organizing on campus that connected me with many different communities and disciplines,” Yao said. 

Yao is currently working on her first book “Disaffected: the Cultural Politics of Unfeeling in Nineteenth-Century America.” The book will be published by Duke University Press.

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 Ph.D.  alumna Dr. Christine "Xine" Yao