Transatlantic Relations: Race, Labor, and Sexuality in the Afro-Asian Diaspora
Transatlantic Relations: Race, Labor, and Sexuality in the Afro-Asian Diaspora is a comparative and interdisciplinary study that examines literary and cultural representations of the East Indian worker within twentieth century literature produced by black intellectuals struggling to articulate anti-imperialist and transracial narratives of freedom, liberty, and justice. I contend that Pauline E. Hopkins, Claude McKay, C.L.R. James, and Peter Abrahams rearticulated the political dynamics of colonial and imperial power in order to critique dominant narratives of progress, development, and self-governance found in western modernity. In doing so, they mobilized the highly redemptive figure of the racially liminal and sexually deviant East Indian worker to illustrate the weaknesses of black and creole nationalist projects, imagine alternative reorganizations of society produced from multiple histories of East Indian migration and African slavery, and defy parochial but potent pervasions of British liberalism that pitted and defined Africans and Asians against each other. Their figurings of East Indian workers or subjects, I argue, are both ambivalent and affective, nurturing the desire for producing developmental narratives of national inclusion while battling the fermentation of nationalist fervor. While the East Indian worker, who occupies a pivotal and incendiary role in their narratives, helps to consolidate black intellectuals’ claims to national inclusion, national integration, and self-government by reconfiguring black female sexuality or black masculinity as productive and generative, this subject also functions to undermine those very categories of identification, of subject formation, and personhood. The contradictions in their narratives particularly illuminate the tension between striving for citizenship, for freedom, for community, and rearticulating and reimagining those very same ideologies in alternative modes that require unification and integration.
Race and Labor