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Re-imagining the contact zone: Ethnic theory and the fiction of Clarence Major, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ana Castillo, and Gerald Vizenor

Benjamin D Carson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

My dissertation undertakes a comparative analysis of the intersections of fiction and theory in African American, Chinese American, Chicana, and Native American writing. I examine the conjunctions and disjunctions between discourses of fiction and theory within what I call an “internal ‘contact zone.’” While Mary Louise Pratt's conception of “the contact zone” imagines contact and conflict with an “Other,” I conceive the “internal ‘contact zone’” as the dialogically agitated space within particular ethnic discourses. I look at the fiction of Clarence Major, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ana Castillo, and Gerald Vizenor alongside theorists like Ann DuCille, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and bell hooks, Rey Chow and David Palumbo-Liu, Chela Sandoval, Emma Pérez, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, and Gloria Anzaldúa, and Craig Womack, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn and Robert Warrior, respectively. The most contested issue that emerges from these critical analyses concerns the authenticity and integrity of the ethnic subject. Whereas Kingston and Castillo reinscribe essentialist notions of ethnic selfhood, theorists like Chow and Sandoval complicate and resist static definitions of subjectivity. Major and Vizenor, conversely, deconstruct ethnic identity and racial representation, while theorists like DuCille and Womack retain race and ethnicity as the central constitutive factors in identity formation. My work shows that the discourses of ethnicity within these contact zones are not homogenous, as some might claim, but highly variegated. Also, I argue that the nature of the encounter between fiction and theory within these “internal ‘contact zones’” is determined largely by how each ethnic discourse is positioned with respect to dominant culture. For example, Native American critics oppose the critique of the subject because they regard it as an academic version of Western colonialism. By re-imagining the contact zone as the space within ethnic discourse, my work seeks to illuminate the internal dynamics of four ethnic American discursive fields and their complex relationship with dominant culture. ^

Subject Area

Black Studies|Literature, American|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Carson, Benjamin D, "Re-imagining the contact zone: Ethnic theory and the fiction of Clarence Major, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ana Castillo, and Gerald Vizenor" (2005). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3176772.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3176772

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