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At Home and Abroad: Historicizing Twentieth-Century Whiteness in Literature and Performance, Edited and Introduced by La Vinia Delois Jennings

At Home and Abroad: Historicizing Twentieth-Century Whiteness in Literature and Performance, edited and with an introduction by  La Vinia Delois Jennings, was published in 2009 by the University of Tennessee Press as Volume 44 of its Tennessee Studies in Literature.

Featuring new critical essays by scholars from Europe, South America, and the United States, the collection 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.

“Jennings goes beyond previous scholarship by placing whiteness studies firmly in the context of postcolonial, postnational cultural studies, and she does so by offering sophisticated analyses of diverse texts and specific historical contexts.” Choice.  G. Jay, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

“There is no doubt that the  . . .  work raises more questions about whiteness in literature, and future study in other areas of performance, not just music and film.” Callaloo.  Nalda Báez Ferrer, University of Texas, Pan American.


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