At Home and Abroad
Historicizing Twentieth-Century Whiteness in Literature and Performance
Featuring new critical essays by scholars from Europe, South America, and the United States, At Home and Abroad presents a wide-ranging look at how whiteness-defined in terms of race or ethnicity-forms a category toward which people strive in order to gain power and privilege. Collectively these pieces treat global spaces whose nation building and identity formation have turned on biological and genealogical exigencies to whiten themselves.
Drawing upon racialized, national practices implemented prior to and during the twentieth century, each of the essays enlists literature or performance to reflect the sociopolitical imperatives that secured whiteness in the respective locations they study. They range from examinations of whiteness in the literature of Appalachia and contemporary Argentinean poetry to an analysis of performances memorializing the colonial experience in Italy and an exploration into the white rap music of Eminem and contemporary multiracial passing.
As the contributors show, literary and performance representations have the power to chronicle histories that reflect the behaviors and lived realities of our selves. Whether whiteness, in addition to its physical manifestation, presents itself as identity, symbol, racism, culture, social formation, political imposition, legal imposition, or pathology, it has been outed into the visible, even in national spaces where the term “whiteness” has yet to be translated and entered into the official lexicon.
The ten essays collected here provide powerful insights into where and how the race for biological and genealogical whiteness persists in various geopolitical realms and the ways in which Nordic whites, as well as ethnic whites and nonwhites, resecure its ascendance.
La Vinia Delois Jennings is professor of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her recent critical study Toni Morrison and the Idea of Africa won the 2008 Toni Morrison Society Prize for Best Single-Authored Book on the Nobel laureate and Pulitzer-Prize winning author.