The White African American Body: A Cultural and Literary Exploration; Passing and the Rise of the African American Novel

The White African American Body: A Cultural and Literary Exploration; Passing and the Rise of the... Book Reviews 889 men, women, and children suffering from vitiligo and albinism. Passive objects of fascinated white attentions more often than self-determined actors, such white Negroes—grotesquely splotched in the former case, eerily too white in the latter—haunted American culture from the early colonial period through the Civil War and beyond, troubling the white racial imaginary, casting into doubt both the immutability of racial difference and the rightness of race-based slavery. White Negroes such as Eko and Iko (the dreadlocked albino ‘‘Ambassadors from Mars’’), Spotted Child, and, in our own day, Michael Jackson, forced skeptical American audiences to think outside the bun, as it were, of essentialized whiteness and blackness. Paraded about in taverns and saloons, exhibited alongside the more familiar sort of norm-reinforcing ‘‘freaks,’’ subjected to the scrutiny (and scalpels) of medical professionals as evidence for racialist theories, the white Negro has been, Martin argues convincingly, ‘‘a central cultural figure, one produced out of our continuing struggles to contend with the failures of representative democracy.’’ For Revolutionary-era abolitionists, the spreading white blotches of black vitiligo sufferers like Henry Moss served as an unlikely engine of political hope by allowing a ‘‘fantasy of racial transformation. . . . If http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png American Literature Duke University Press

The White African American Body: A Cultural and Literary Exploration; Passing and the Rise of the African American Novel

American Literature, Volume 75 (4) – Dec 1, 2003

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2003 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0002-9831
eISSN
1527-2117
DOI
10.1215/00029831-75-4-888
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Book Reviews 889 men, women, and children suffering from vitiligo and albinism. Passive objects of fascinated white attentions more often than self-determined actors, such white Negroes—grotesquely splotched in the former case, eerily too white in the latter—haunted American culture from the early colonial period through the Civil War and beyond, troubling the white racial imaginary, casting into doubt both the immutability of racial difference and the rightness of race-based slavery. White Negroes such as Eko and Iko (the dreadlocked albino ‘‘Ambassadors from Mars’’), Spotted Child, and, in our own day, Michael Jackson, forced skeptical American audiences to think outside the bun, as it were, of essentialized whiteness and blackness. Paraded about in taverns and saloons, exhibited alongside the more familiar sort of norm-reinforcing ‘‘freaks,’’ subjected to the scrutiny (and scalpels) of medical professionals as evidence for racialist theories, the white Negro has been, Martin argues convincingly, ‘‘a central cultural figure, one produced out of our continuing struggles to contend with the failures of representative democracy.’’ For Revolutionary-era abolitionists, the spreading white blotches of black vitiligo sufferers like Henry Moss served as an unlikely engine of political hope by allowing a ‘‘fantasy of racial transformation. . . . If

Journal

American LiteratureDuke University Press

Published: Dec 1, 2003

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