The Melancholy of Race Revisited

Lecture and Book Discussion


Anne Anlin Cheng, PhD

Thursday, December 9, 2021

7:00 pm - 8:30 pm Central time

Live Zoom Presentation


Register for Zoom invitation (link will be emailed the day of the event)

Recent escalation in anti-Asian sentiment and hate crimes in this country have given rise to vitriolic speech and unprovoked acts of violence targeting Asians in public places. How do we understand this phenomenon against the stereotype of Asian-Americans as the “model minority” in the U.S.? Anne Anlin Cheng will contextualize these alarming events within the long history of Asians in the U.S., as well as the larger history of American racial landscape. She will explore what psychoanalytic theory can teach us about the intersection of material history with the psychical and affective life of racism, what she calls America’s racial melancholia. She will thus revisit concepts from her groundbreaking interdisciplinary study, The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation, and Hidden Grief (2001), which has become a contemporary classic on the topic. In this text, she argues for the importance of distinguishing racial grief from racial grievance, and she asserts that racial grief is not only the result of racism, but also the foundation for racial identity. Drawing from psychoanalytic theories of mourning and melancholia, she suggests that the racial minority and dominant American culture both suffer from racial melancholia. According to Dr. Cheng, this insight is crucial to a productive reimagining of progressive politics. Together we will consider steps forward.

Learning Objectives

Describe the context of the current escalation of anti-Asian sentiment and hate crimes in the U.S.

Define racial melancholia, including ways that psychoanalytic theory contributes to the concept.

Identify steps that might be taken to help reduce racial prejudice and violence.

Presenter: Anne Anlin Cheng, PhD

Anne Anlin Cheng, PhD is Professor of English, and affiliated faculty in the Program in American Studies, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the Committee on Film Studies at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. She is an interdisciplinary race scholar who focuses on the intersection between politics and aesthetics, drawing from literary theory, race and gender studies, film and architectural theory, legal studies, psychoanalysis, and critical food studies.

In addition to The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation, and Hidden Grief (2001), Dr. Cheng is author of Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface (2013) and, most recently, Ornamentalism (2021). Her work has appeared in journals such as Critical Inquiry, Representations, PMLA, Camera Obscura, Differences, among others. Dr. Cheng is also a contributor to New York Times, The Atlantic, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Huffington Post.


Abraham, N. & Torok, M. (1994). The Shell and the Kernel: Renewals of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 1. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Butler, J. (1995). Melancholy Gender—Refused Identification. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 5(2):165-180.

Cheng, A. A. (2001). The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation, and Hidden Grief. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fanon. F. (1952/2008). Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove Press.

Freud, S. (1917/1977). Mourning and Melancholia. In J. Strachey, Ed., Standard Edition, 14: 243-258.

Lasche, C. (1979). The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. New York: Norton.

Morrison, T. (1994). Playing in the Dark. New York: Plume.

Ngai, M. (2014). Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Rogin, M. (1996). Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Steele, Claude M. (1999). Thin Ice: ‘Stereotype Threat’ and Black College Students. Atlantic Monthly, 284. 2(August): 44-45.


$20 CFPS Faculty, HPS Member and Alumni Group Members * $15 CFPS Candidates ,Trainees, Alumni Student Member * $40 Non-members

Continuing Education Accreditation

This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of American Psychoanalytic Association and Center for Psychoanalytic Studies. The American Psychoanalytic Association is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The American Psychoanalytic Association designates this Live Activity for a maximum of [number of credits] AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

The Center for Psychoanalytic Studies (sponsor number CS1391) is approved by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Social Worker Examiners to offer continuing education units to the social workers.

The Center for Psychoanalytic Studies (CE Provider Number 379) is approved by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors to offer continuing education credit to licensed professional counselors.

The Center for Psychoanalytic Studies (Continuing Education Provider Number 340) is approved by the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists to provide continuing education activities for marriage and family therapists.

The Center for Psychoanalytic Studies maintains responsibility for the program.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE INFORMATION FOR ALL LEARNERS: None of the planners and presenters for this educational activity have relevant financial relationship(s)* to disclose with ineligible companies* whose primary business is producing, marketing, selling, re-selling, or distributing healthcare products used by or on patients.

*Financial relationships are relevant if the educational content an individual can control is related to the business lines or products of the ineligible company.

Updated July 2021