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by Tavia Nyong'o

At a time when the idea of a postracial society has entered public discourse, The Amalgamation Waltz investigates the practices that conjoined blackness and whiteness in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Scrutinizing widely diverse texts—archival, musical, visual, and theatrical—Tavia Nyong’o traces the genealogy of racial hybridity, analyzing how key events in the nineteenth century spawned a debate about interracialism that lives on today. Deeply interested in how discussions of racial hybridity have portrayed the hybrid as the recurring hope for a distant raceless future, Nyong’o is concerned with the ways this discourse deploys the figure of the racial hybrid as an alibi for a nationalism that reinvents the racist logics it claims to have broken with. As Nyong’o demonstrates, the rise of a pervasive image of racially anomalous bodies responded to the appearance of an independent black public sphere and organized politics of black uplift. This newfound mobility was apprehended in the political imaginary as a bodily and sexual scandal, and the resultant amalgamation discourse, he argues, must be recognized as one of the earliest and most enduring national dialogues on sex and sexuality. Nyong’o tracks the emergence of the concept of the racial hybrid as an ideological modernization of the older concept of the mongrel and shows how this revision brought race-thinking in line with new understandings of sex and gender, providing a racial context for the shift toward modern heterosexuality, the discourse on which postracial metaphors so frequently rely. A timely rebuttal to our contemporary fascination with racial hybridity, The Amalgamation Waltz questions the vision of a national future without racial difference or conflict.
Download The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory epub
ISBN: 0816656126
ISBN13: 978-0816656127
Category: Other
Subcategory: Humanities
Author: Tavia Nyong'o
Language: English
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; 1 edition (May 14, 2009)
Pages: 248 pages
ePUB size: 1894 kb
FB2 size: 1393 kb
Rating: 4.8
Votes: 760
Other Formats: doc lrf mobi mbr

This book is symptomatic of a trend towards loose, uncritical scholarship in the field of Performance Studies. By this I specifically mean an over-reliance on secondary and tertiary critical sources without reference to the primary texts. The conceptual fulcrum of Nyong'o's argument is the "National Thing" from Slavoj Zizek's 1998 book, The Plague of Fantasies (The Essential Zizek). Readers, however, will mostly have to guess for themselves what Nyong'o means by "National Thing", since he seemingly takes Zizek's theorization as a familiar staple in the critical argot. Thus, you will not learn that Zizek's National Thing is in fact his own interpretive reading of Jacques Lacan's theory of das Ding from The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis (Vol. Book VII) (Seminar of Jacques Lacan (Paperback)); nor will you know that Lacan's theory of das Ding derives from his reading of various texts by Freud, including the "Project for a Scientific Psychology." While it is not true that every idea must be tracked to its sources (and let us note that this book is a valiant attack on "source," though valiance is not enough to merit success), it becomes clear that in transforming Zizek's "National Thing" into a stand-alone concept, Nyong'o permits himself to argue conclusions that are in fact rather anti-psychoanalytic in thought and stature; moreover, if there were ever a challenge to Zizek's highly speculative reading of Lacan's even more speculative reading of Freud, it is not clear how Nyong'o's work would survive, since it does not perform the difficult labor of anchoring and freeing itself from its sources. Now, the tendency to dismiss primary sources is endemic to Performance Studies, scholars of which tend to eschew questions about what things are for what they can do or what can be done with them. In that sense, this work, like many others, may justly be seen as a work of performative scholarship. As a performance, perhaps it work. But it is still not successful as scholarship, where one not only expects but needs historical and critical awareness regarding the concepts one deploys. As it stands, Nyong'o's book borrows a patina from psychoanalytic theory and critical philosophy to dress up culturalist and political arguments-- and again, this may be fine as far as it goes-- but it does not repay its citations, and for this reason I would encourage readers interested in these topics to search elsewhere.
Very well researched.