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Race & Gender, though treated as discrete aspects of social identity, have become the central aspect of feminist critiques of today’s time. Race and gender, most of the time, intersect to inform experience.
The study will examine women’s awareness of the intersection of gender & race and issues pertaining to identity politics.
Cecilia Menjivar in “Migration and Refugees” talks about the increasing trends of globalization which resulted in the gendered nature of migration. The political & economic dislocations generate large population movements punctuated by gender differences. Gender exerts influence on the experience of immigrants, as men’s & women’s motivations and reasons for migrating and situations at resettlement are different as can be seen in the case of African women.
The African American writers were forced to live in a state where they explicitly could not express their view points. They were forced to adopt white man’s language. Henry Louis Gates, Jr writes –
“The problem, for us, can perhaps be usefully stated in the irony implicit in the attempt to posit a “black self” in the very western languages in which blackness itself is a figure of absence, a negation. Ethnocentrism and logocentrism are profoundly interrelated in western disclosure as old as the Phaedrus of plato, in which one finds one of the earliest figures of blackness as an absence, a figure of negation.”
Timothy & Powell has represented this struggle of African American writers of depicting the black figure on the white page. The challenge for them was to de center the white logos, and to create a world where blackness no longer represent negation, evil or absence. They struggled to lift he black self so that meaning can be affirmed, not by using the white’s language and henceforth to come up with a black text, whose margins are not ruled by white logos.
This has been successfully accomplished by Tony Morrision as she tried to affirm blackness as valuable. The identifiable qualities of Blackness that her novels reveal are based on the amalgamation of west and central African tradition. La Vinia Delois Jennings in “Toni Morrison & the idea of Africa” talks about the fundamental role of African traditional religious symbols in Morrision’s works. She interprets African themes, culture and images and reveals how Morrision uses those in her novels. Jennings writes –
“Morrison’s fiction exposes an African palimpsest upon which European-American culture superimposes itself. Lying latent under that suoerimposition, and at times commingled with interpolations from indigenous people’s beliefs, are decipherable, identifiable black, traditional cosmological inscriptions thought lost to the North American experience. To evolve their presence Morrision turns to the most discernible African symbol in the Americas, the cross within a circle, which survived the middle passage and the transatlantic slave trade. She uses it as the substructure for her literary landscapes and interior spaces, and as a geometric figure performed by or inscribed on the bodies of her characters.”
The other chapters the book discuss about the notion of African Americans surviving evil and Morrison’s assertion that these people do not annihilate evil rather survive it. Jennings in her book also examines a rise in witchcraft lore due to slave trade in America because African women were mainly accused of witchcraft. In the concluding chapter, Jennings discusses how Morrison, in almost all her work, writing about African culture has relied completely on her recollections.
In an interview with Bessie W. Jones & Audrey Vinson in 1985, Morrison states that her writings drew from her memory as the information has needed was at that time unwritten.
Wilfred D. Samuels and Clenosa Hudson-Weems in the book “Toni Morrison” states that as a writer, Morrison was basically concerned with the importance of history, myth, place, presence and essence. She wanted to interpret these elements in black culture and that is what is visible in almost all her words.
In “Playing in the Dark – Whiteness and the Literary Imagination”, Toni Morrison confesses that when she began writing, she always wondered how free she can be as an African American to voice her feelings in a radicalized gendered society. She writes – “My work requires me to think about how free I can be as an African-American Woman writer in my genderized, sexualized wholly radicalized world. To think about (and wrestle with) the full implications of my situation leads me to consider what happens when other writers work in a highly and historically racialized society. For them, as for me, imagining is merely looking or looking at; nor is it taking oneself intact into the other. It is, for the purposes of the work, becoming.”
In all the three chapters of this book, Morrison discusses the ways in which blackness and whiteness are constructed by different American authors in their works. She is of the view point that for both, American and African American writers, who live in a racialized society, there is no escape from racially inflected language. She further explores the role of black characters in American fiction by discussing writers like Henry James’s “What Maisie Knew”, willa Cather’s “Sapphira and the Slave girl”, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Narrature of Arthur Gordon Pym” and Ernest Hemingway’s “To Have and Have Not”. She writes about the American Writers-
“Some powerful literary critics in United States have never read, & are proud to say so, any African-American text. It seems to have done them no harm, presented them with no discernible limitations in the scope of their work or influence.”
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