“Trafficking in Seeds”: War Bride, Biopolitics, and Asian American Spectrality in Ruth Ozeki’s All Over Creation

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Hsiu-chuan Lee

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Taking a cue from Pheng Cheah’s discussion of nationalism’s paradoxical relation to life and death and his invocation of the idea of spectral haunting (in light of the Deleuzian “nonorganic vitalism”) as the genuine source of life in postcolonial cultures, this article conceives a life-begetting Asian American ethno-politics via a reading of the ethno- and biopolitics represented in Ruth Ozeki’s novel All Over Creation. I argue that All Over Creation intervenes in the discussion of Asian American ethno-politics of life and death not simply because it engages with food politics and advocates agricultural biodiversity, but also because it creates narrative linkages between biodiversity and ethno-diversity. First, by telling the story of a Japanese war bride, All Over Creation brings to the fore Japanese war brides to emphasize their significance as the “ghostly figures”—or “random seedlings”—occupying the margins of both Asian American and white communities. Moreover, the novel introduces “seed-dissemination” as a(n) (agri)cultural logic that makes “Asian American” less a category of hereditary permanence than an avenue for one to generate and become others. All Over Creation spells out affirmative life forces that sprawl from the migratory trajectories of people and seeds (or “people as seeds”)—trajectories that bring disorganizing force to the inherited logic or vertical continuity of both agricultural and ethnic cultural productions with lateral networking and changeable relationships.