A dozen shades slid by. There was sooty black, shiny black, taupe, mahogany, bronze, copper, gold, orange, yellow, peach, ivory, pinky white, pastry white. There was yellow hair, brown hair, black hair; straight hair, straightened hair, curly hair, woolly hair. She saw black eyes in white faces, brown eyes in yellow faces, gray eyes in brown faces, blue eyes in tan faces.
(Nella Larsen, Quicksand)
This chapter continues the discussions of time which informed the previous chapter by exploring the roles of postmodernist theories and debates about racial identities and migration. The argument focuses more particularly on British contexts in order to revisit the journeys invoked in the slave narratives and to examine the impact of ‘new’ Caribbean migrations to Britain.
The chapter develops the analyses of Black migrant identities from the previous chapters by exploring how race is figured in representations of the body and sexuality. Each of the preceding chapters has inquired into constructions of race as ethnographic, cultural and nationalist discourses, placing narratives of Black identity within or against conceptions of history and geography that are continually re-visited and re-articulated.
I analyse two texts that return to the territories of Heart of Darkness and A Bend in the River (discussed in Chapter 1), and I attend to the way in which the images and metaphors of colonial narratives are redeployed in African texts. These images of Africa and racial difference, which are exploited in the symbiotic texts of Conrad and Naipaul, reappear in the textual ironies of Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North and Ama Ata Aidoo’s Our Sister Killjoy. The migrations figured in these novels from Africa to the West also act as an ironic commentary on the enlightenment narratives of pan-Africanist exiles, which are discussed in Chapter 2, and on their investigative, evangelist journeys ‘back’ to Africa. The playful and more serious interrogations into the links between sexuality and race in these texts are taken up and read through two texts by White authors that, through the novel form and through journalistic autobiography, investigate the meanings of race and sexuality approached by Salih and Aidoo.
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Publication information: Book title: African Identities:Race, Nation, and Culture in Ethnography, Pan-Africanism, and Black Literatures. Contributors: Kadiatu Kanneh - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 136.
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