Dislocating the Color Line: Identity, Hybridity, and Singularity in African-American Narrative

Dislocating the Color Line: Identity, Hybridity, and Singularity in African-American Narrative

Dislocating the Color Line: Identity, Hybridity, and Singularity in African-American Narrative

Dislocating the Color Line: Identity, Hybridity, and Singularity in African-American Narrative

Synopsis

This book provides a historical context for the recent resurgence of racial division by tracing the path of the color line as it appears in the narrative writings of African-Americans in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In readings of slave narratives, "passing novels", and the writings of Charles Chesnutt and Zora Neale Hurston, the author asks: What is the work of division? How does division work? The history of the color line in the United States is coeval with that of the nation. The author suggests that throughout this history, the color line has not functioned simply to name biological or cultural difference, but more important, it has served as a principle of division, classification, and order. This book seeks not only to understand, but also to bring critical pressure on the interpretations, practices, and assumptions that correspond to and buttress representations of racial difference.

Excerpt

This is the story of the boundaries and borders of race in the United States -- boundaries and borders that penetrate to the depths of the subject and reach through every level of society. The borders or boundaries of racial difference have been manifested in different ways throughout the nation's history. There is nevertheless a certain continuity in this history, the continuity of what I will call the "color line." By going back to the color line, by plunging into the space of the boundary, this book aims not to efface or go beyond race but to use the paradoxical persistence of the color line against itself. Dislocating the color line is thus neither a refutation nor a celebration of the idea of race or of racial difference but rather a critical pressure brought to bear on the interpretations, practices, and assumptions that correspond to and buttress representations of racial difference. The work of dislocating the color line lies in uncovering the uncertainty, the incoherency, and the discontinuity that the common sense of the color line serves to mask while at the same time elucidating the pressures that transform the contingent relations and formations of the color line into common sense.

I begin by taking stock of the color line as it continues to be represented in contemporary American life. In Chapter 1, I suggest a framework for thinking about the history of the color line with particular reference to a currently attractive alternative metaphor for difference, that of hybridity. Chapter 2 picks up where the real story of the color line begins, which is also of course where the story of race in America begins -- with slavery.

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