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The Race for America: Blackness, Belonging, and Empire in the Transamerican Nineteenth Century

Drawing on writings from the US, Cuba, Trinidad, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Liberia, my dissertation examines how ideas and experiences of racial categorization changed as Black individuals voluntarily crossed national borders in unprecedented numbers. I argue that race more broadly and Blackness in particular help chart the geopolitical formation of the Americas in two important ways. First, these terms index how fiction and nonfiction writings about Black migration normalized the exclusion of Black bodies from national geographies. Through narrative appeals to History (writ large), the texts I examine underwrote the idea that the Americas were destined to be the dominion of a transnational âwhiteâ race. Secondly, by reading racialized bodies through multiple, locally-defined definitions of Blackness, The Race for America illuminates how the collisions of contradictory racial epistemologies provided migratory people of color with opportunities to redefine their identities. Taking advantage of more slippery and capacious racial categories in the Caribbean or West Africa, many African Americans who left the USA secured political subjectivity for themselves where it was otherwise inaccessible. By shifting between local and transnational definitions of Blackness, The Race for America reveals how more flexible understandings of race can unravel the narratives of USAmerican exceptionalism, and provide critics with new tools for theorizing the hemisphereâs development.

Identiferoai:union.ndltd.org:VANDERBILT/oai:VANDERBILTETD:etd-07222016-115405
Date01 August 2016
CreatorsBoutelle, Russell Joseph
ContributorsRuth Hill, Ifeoma C.K. Nwankwo, Teresa Goddu, Vera M. Kutzinski
PublisherVANDERBILT
Source SetsVanderbilt University Theses
LanguageEnglish
Detected LanguageEnglish
Typetext
Formatapplication/pdf
Sourcehttp://etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-07222016-115405/
Rightsrestricted, I hereby certify that, if appropriate, I have obtained and attached hereto a written permission statement from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my thesis, dissertation, or project report, allowing distribution as specified below. I certify that the version I submitted is the same as that approved by my advisory committee. I hereby grant to Vanderbilt University or its agents the non-exclusive license to archive and make accessible, under the conditions specified below, my thesis, dissertation, or project report in whole or in part in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. I retain all other ownership rights to the copyright of the thesis, dissertation or project report. I also retain the right to use in future works (such as articles or books) all or part of this thesis, dissertation, or project report.

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