Worlding Race in Minority U.S. Fiction

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Worlding Race in Minority U.S. Fiction reads encounters with foreignness as a definitive mode of representation deployed in minority U.S. literature. “Foreign” may mark a character’s actual encounter with a foreigner but could also suggest the presence of something unfamiliar, dangerous, and prohibited at home and abroad. Lisa Lowe’s expansive theorization of various forms of intimacies that arise across four continents has been crucial to thinking about race globally. My project shifts the scale of these intimacies by focusing on personal relationships forged between minority subjects: the “little intimacies” that arise from globalization. I argue that when minority subjects interact with each other, what emerges is an opportunity for a more expansive, global understanding of race and minority subjectivity while also paying close attention to the particular ways an individual uses those understandings to imaginatively navigate their various worlds and the people who inhabit those worlds, an ongoing process that I call a worlding of race.

My dissertation engages and expands transnational American literary studies by examining various minority characters’ encounters with the foreign. In exploring the myriad ways in which discomfort transforms a literary character’s understanding of the foreign from one of difference to one of solidarity, I show how these characters discover the need to forge alliances across race, class, gender, sexuality and nationality. In particular, literature provides an ideal avenue for such moments through its capacity for expanding the imagination, a worlding of how we understand minority identity. Worlding race entails being more inclusive—taking into account other axes of identity such as gender, sexuality, class, and ethnicity—but also looking beyond the U.S. and to the world, both as a geographical space expanding outward from the nation and also as the imaginative potential of those at the margins. My project of worlding race makes two gestures: the first is to bring other marginalized identities inward to the center as a means of recognizing how they intersect with understandings of race and the second is to expand our understanding outward by considering how racial formations are constituted, altered, and challenged when we begin thinking beyond the nation.