Hsuan L. Hsu

Hsuan L. Hsu is a Professor of English at UC Davis and the author of Geography and the Production of Space in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Cambridge, 2010) and Sitting in Darkness: Mark Twain’s Asia and Comparative Racialization (NYU, 2015). He is currently working on a book entitled The Smell of Risk: Atmospheric Disparities and Olfactory Aesthetics.


Smelling Setting

In Terror from the Air, Peter Sloterdijk characterizes Western modernity as a series of experiments with “air conditioning.”[1] Sloterdijk’s key example, the use of gas weapons in World War I, illustrates the two senses of his term: by engineering breathable atmospheres and moving them around, humans condition the air that in turn conditions human embodiment, cognition, and affect. Sloterdijk argues that, over the last century, the wartime production of fatal atmospheres was reintroduced in more mundane forms across an increasingly fragmented field of everyday spaces.