The Trauma of Race, the Race of Trauma: American Culture between Racial Segregation and "Political Correctness".
Date of Graduation
My dissertation aligns history, trauma, and race studies to shape a conceptual basis for the race trauma inquiry in order to explore the effects of U.S. racial history on both individuals and communities. I argue that the social, political, and psychological mechanisms by which racism, racial exploitation and exclusion function have a traumatic effect on individuals as well as cultures. This project seeks to map the extent to which race identification, racialized life experience, and racism can be traumatic. By the trauma of race I refer to the psychological, somatic, and cultural effects that individuals and groups suffer as a consequence of their being ascribed to a race. The race of trauma refers to the dissimilar impact that historical trauma has had on individuals and groups "belonging" to different races. My critical approach groups literary texts that exemplify several aspects of the race of trauma and the trauma of race. Gayl Jones's Corregidora, Ernest Gaines's A Gathering of Old Men, and Anthony Grooms's Bombingham demonstrate the mutual transfer between communal and individual trauma. The postmodern narratives of J. E. Wideman's The Cattle Killing, Charles Johnson's Oxherding Tale, and Ishmael Reed's Flight to Canada propose metaphysical modeling of race trauma through baroque fantasies, pastiche, and magical realism. In terms of the politics of representation, such texts are concerned with representations of race trauma and also with the difficulty of freely discussing the past under the scrutiny of the white audience, a traumatic encounter in itself. I examine how the instability of the "betwixt and between" racial identity and the enduring belief in racial atavism point to the multiplicity of the trauma of race that stems from the race of trauma. Through Gregory H. Williams's autobiography, Life on the Color Line, Philip Roth's The Human Stain, and Bliss Broyard's memoir, One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life, I discuss the pertinence of the race of trauma as a lived experience and as literary signifier. Specifically focusing on issues of literary representation of the trauma of race I turn to William Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner and Percival Everett's Erasure to examine how cross-representations of race trauma should and can rise above merely masquerading the racial other through racial/racist stereotypes. This project responds to the insufficient collaboration between race and trauma studies and initiates an epistemology of literary representation focused on particulars in the trauma of race variations synchronically and diachronically. In the ever changing U.S. political and social environment regarding racial definitions, race relations, and racialized discourses, this dissertation assesses the relevance of the race trauma nowadays and provokes fresh examinations of its cultural and literary representations.
Dragulescu, Luminita M., "The Trauma of Race, the Race of Trauma: American Culture between Racial Segregation and "Political Correctness"." (2011). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 8782.