This dissertation argues that colonial and postcolonial theories of racial difference and identity can be more productively understood as discourses attempting to manage and contain crises of desire. Although neither colonial nor postcolonial theoretical texts acknowledge it, the woman of color poses a grave danger to the primacy of the subject's racial identity. As the (impossible) subject of desire, she squanders her own desire, while luring the racial subject after her; as the object of desire, she distracts the racial subject from his proper target---the future nation. Representations of the woman of color in colonial and postcolonial texts, however, reveal that these texts' elaborate accounts of how racial difference inevitably determines identity negotiate not so much the crisis of conflicting identities but rather the unruly and multiple desires that shape the racial identities. In J.C. Carother's The African Mind in Health and Disease, Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks, and Homi Bhabha's The Location of Culture , psychoanalytic discourse rationalizes the postcolonial subject's cultural and political recalcitrance as it simultaneously channels the implicitly and necessarily masculine subject's diverging desires towards an acceptable object. In translating psychoanalysis into an account of racial (rather than sexual) difference, however, the figure of the woman of color becomes the site where racial difference produces identity. As a consequence, gender difference ceases to produce identity, and she is excluded from subjectivity. In representations of women of color struggling with multiple identities and multiple desires, Bessie Head's A Question of Power, Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory, and Carolivia Herron's Thereafter Johnnie and Gayl Jones' Corregidora provide nuanced alternatives to colonial and postcolonial visions of subjectivity. Actively engaging psychoanalytic discourse, these texts center women of color as subjects who desire in order to consider the conditions imposed on their national participation. Interrogating what subjects desire---and what they cannot desire---the novels explore the varying and uneven determinants of identity that do not function in any geometric or predictable way. These novels together upset the hierarchy of theory and fiction by performing their own complex theoretical interventions in psychoanalytic discourses of identity and desire.Although I do not extensively address Breath, Eyes, Memorya#39;s use of the figure of Erzulie, I do think Dayana#39;s essay is instructive in both the historical continuity that it finds in the single figure of Erzulie and its recognition of the representation asanbsp;...
|Title||:||The figure of woman and the distractions of desire: Psychoanalysis, postcolonial theory and the translation of difference|
|Author||:||Clare Counihan, University of Michigan|