Passing and the Fictions of Identity

Passing and the Fictions of Identity

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 6 illustrations Published: April 1996

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

Passing refers to the process whereby a person of one race, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation adopts the guise of another. Historically, this has often involved black slaves passing as white in order to gain their freedom. More generally, it has served as a way for women and people of color to access male or white privilege. In their examination of this practice of crossing boundaries, the contributors to this volume offer a unique perspective for studying the construction and meaning of personal and cultural identities.
These essays consider a wide range of texts and moments from colonial times to the present that raise significant questions about the political motivations inherent in the origins and maintenance of identity categories and boundaries. Through discussions of such literary works as Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, The Autobiography of an Ex–Coloured Man, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Hidden Hand, Black Like Me, and Giovanni’s Room, the authors examine issues of power and privilege and ways in which passing might challenge the often rigid structures of identity politics. Their interrogation of the semiotics of behavior, dress, language, and the body itself contributes significantly to an understanding of national, racial, gender, and sexual identity in American literature and culture.
Contextualizing and building on the theoretical work of such scholars as Judith Butler, Diana Fuss, Marjorie Garber, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., Passing and the Fictions of Identity will be of value to students and scholars working in the areas of race, gender, and identity theory, as well as U.S. history and literature.

Contributors. Martha Cutter, Katharine Nicholson Ings, Samira Kawash, Adrian Piper, Valerie Rohy, Marion Rust, Julia Stern, Gayle Wald, Ellen M. Weinauer, Elizabeth Young


Passing and the Fictions of Identity is useful not only as a historical and textual re-examination of ‘passing’ as a trope and a practice, but also for the suggestions it provides for reframing debates about identity and identity politics.” — Kate Kruckemeyer , American Studies International

“[A] useful and welcome collection because its effect will be to hasten the expansion of the literary canon, for many of the texts examined here are little discussed and even less taught.” — Peter Dempsey , Immigrants & Minorities

Passing and the Fictions of Identity is timely in its interrogation of the construction of racial identity, sophisticated in its uses of contemporary theoretical formulations, and insightful in its analysis of provocative, often relatively little discussed novels, memoirs, and textual moments which explore the crossing of racial boundaries.” — Michael Awkward, University of Michigan

“By pulling together analyses of race/gender/nation/sexuality ‘passing,’ and taking up extended treatments of a range of texts, Passing and the Fictions of Identity makes an important statement about U. S. identity formation.” — Dana Nelson, University of Kentucky


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