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The Formation of Race and Disability in
Philip Kan Gotanda’s I Dream of Chang and Eng



Sohag University, Egypt


Philip Kan Gotanda’s I Dream of Chang and Eng (2011)is a fictional imagining of the lives of the conjoined Siamese twins Chang and Eng who lived in the United States in the nineteenth century (1811-1874). The play dramatizes the twins’ ascent from monstrosity to social acceptance. Gotanda draws on the transformation of the twins’ status from the exotic poor aliens to the naturalized Americans who own plantations and black slaves and are married to white women at a time in which naturalization of ethnic immigrants was prohibited and interracial marriage was a taboo. This study utilizes Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s racial formation theory and a disability studies framework to analyze Gotanda’s play, proposing that the mutation of the image of Chang and Eng and the redefinition of their disability provide early examples of America’s paradoxical treatment of race and body to serve cultural, national, and political tendencies. The intersection between race and disability in the case of Chang and Eng questions, disturbs, and alters racial and body hierarchies, and confirms that both race and disability are social constructs that take different shapes and meanings in different socio-political contexts.


Asian-American theatre, Philip Kan Gotanda, I Dream of Chang and Eng, disability, race, racial formation theory.