The Breath of Empire. Breathing with Historical Trauma in Anglo-Chinese Relations

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Abstract / Description of output

This Palgrave Pivot combines anthropological, biographical and autoethnographic perspectives onto imperial intimacies, the transgenerational transmission of colonial and familial trauma, and violence in two kinds of household: the Chinese family in British Hong Kong and wider imperial Asia, and the Anglo-Chinese family in England. Conjoining approaches from literary anthropology, the historiography of Anglo-Chinese relations, and perspectives on colonial trauma, it highlights the relative neglect of women’s stories in customary Chinese readings, colonial accounts, and an ancestral family record from 1800 to the present. Offering an alternative view of family history, this book links the body as a dwelling for assaults on the ability to breathe—through tuberculosis, opium smoking, asthma, and panic—with the physical home that is assaulted in turn by bombs, killing, intimate betrayals, and fatal respiratory illness. The COVID-19 “pandemic of breathlessness” serves as mnemonic both for state repression, and for the reprisal of historical fears of suffocation and dying. These phenomena converge under an analytic concept the author calls respiratory politics.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-17690-6
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2022

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Literary Anthropology (


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