Or, What African American Literature Is
Observing neoliberalism’s paradoxically simultaneous commitment to diversity and colorblindness, chapter three investigates new forms of racial thinking that refuse to ask what race means, represents, or indexes. I locate one such approach in the novels of Colson Whitehead and Percival Everett, each of whom develops an object-based understanding of race. That is, each imagines race as a thing that variously does or does not connect to and interact with other things in the world. This allows race to be substantial and significant (or not), but only as an object in the world, not as a sign or symbol requiring interpretation. This chapter situates Whitehead’s and Everett’s work in the context of Kenneth Warren’s provocative claims about the end of African American literature, suggesting that Whitehead and Everett chart a new ontological path for twenty-first-century black writers in the United States.
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