Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

BECOMING BLACK: Creating Identity in the African Diaspora

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

BECOMING BLACK: Creating Identity in the African Diaspora

Article excerpt

BECOMING BLACK: Creating Identity in the African Diaspora Michelle M. Wright Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2004; 280pp.

The introductory chapter in Michelle Wright's Becoming Black: Creating Identity in the African Diaspora begins with the assertion that "Black identity has been produced in contradiction" (p. 1). For Wright, however, "unlike Black Africans, who ultimately define themselves through shared histories, languages, and cultural values, Blacks in the diaspora possess an intimidating array of different historical, cultural, national, ethnic, religious, and ancestral origins and influences" (p. 2). This differentiation is based on the fact that "for people of African descent living in majority-white nations in the West, the harmful and the healing potential of Black self-consciousness, or subjectivity, [is] quite clear and quite real" (p. 2).

Utilizing Balibar's work on racism and the production of different Others, the first chapter examines how the Black diasporic subject is continuously in a state of Other-from-within or Other-from-without in Western discourses, focussing on works by Hegel, Gobineau and Thomas Jefferson. Wright then examines the counterdiscourses of W.E.B. Du Bois, Leopold Senghor and Aimé Césaire. In her third chapter, Wright begins with an examination of Fanon's "Black Skin, White Mask." Doing a comparative analysis of Fanon in relation to the three previous theorists, Wright asserts that, "whereas Du Bois, Senghor, and Césaire all tend to privilege the speech aspects of counterdiscourse" (p. 120), for Fanon, "the disruption from this dismal dialectic must begin with action, not words" (p. 121). Drawing on McClintock (1995), Wright posits that these four theorists, in "drawing on the gender discourse of the white woman as nation, the white male as her citizen, and the Black male as the interloper" (p. 129), negate or silence Black women. I somewhat disagree with Wright's later assertion that McClintock does not attend to the clear distinction between white and Black women. McClintock's work demonstrates that productive and reproductive labour served to clearly demarcate the lines between white female respectability and Black female degeneracy. …

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