Despite claims that we have arrived at a post-race era, many signs indicate that Americans are as invested in racial difference as ever. In recent years, this inconsistency has focused largely on the material body. At the same time that we are being told that our first African American president embodies the transcendence of older, divisive categories of race, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s website, AfricanDNA, is selling YDNA and mtDNA tests that purportedly trace African American customers’ roots “back to Africa.” <br/>
The foundational argument of this dissertation is that literature offers another perspective onto these historical incongruities that the cultural conversations, largely limited by their allegiance to a black/white racial binary or the experiences of men, have often overlooked. This dissertation turns to four contemporary ethnic American novels that respond to the pressures of these contradictions by grappling with and reconfiguring earlier notions of the body as a vessel of genetically transmitted ethnic difference: Danzy Senna’s Caucasia (1998), Myla Goldberg’s Bee Season (2000), Susan Choi’s American Woman (2003), and Ruth Ozeki’s All Over Creation (2003). Despite their diverse, sometimes opposing stances, the four novels have in common two strategies that demonstrate the contemporary salience of returning to earlier notions of the ethnic body: first, their nuanced accounts of the physiological, day-to-day processes of navigating and articulating identity that are particular to the bodies of female subjects; and second, their depiction of biological father-daughter relationships. <br/>
While much of poststructuralist scholarship has tended to elevate hybrid, illegible identities as a panacea to essentialism, these writers are constructing a new politics of identity by recasting corporeal, ethnic “essence” as politically relevant and even progressive. My project creates an alternative paradigm to illuminate these writers’ engagement with the ethnically legible body and thereby demonstrates how these novels reconfigure ethnic female agency and feminism for the twenty-first century. <br/>
Katz, Deborah Koto,
"Bodies Unbound: Race, Gender, and Embodied Identity Politics in Recent Ethnic American Fiction"
English Theses and Dissertations.
Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.