American Anatomies

Theorizing Race and Gender

American Anatomies

New Americanists

More about this series

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: Published: April 1995

Author: Robyn Wiegman

Subjects
American Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

In this brilliantly combative study, Robyn Wiegman challenges contemporary clichés about race and gender, a formulation that is itself a cliché in need of questioning. As part of what she calls her "feminist disloyalty," she turns a critical, even skeptical, eye on current debates about multiculturalism and "difference" while simultaneously exposing the many ways in which white racial supremacy has been reconfigured since the institutional demise of segregation. Most of all, she examines the hypocrisy and contradictoriness of over a century of narratives that posit Anglo-Americans as heroic agents of racism’s decline. Whether assessing Uncle Tom’s Cabin, lynching, Leslie Fiedler’s racialist mapping of the American novel, the Black Power movement of the 60s, 80s buddy films, or the novels of Richard Wright and Toni Morrison, Wiegman unflinchingly confronts the paradoxes of both racism and antiracist agendas, including those advanced from a feminist perspective.
American Anatomies takes the long view: What epistemological frameworks allowed the West, from the Renaissance forward, to schematize racial and gender differences and to create social hierarchies based on these differences? How have those epistemological regimes changed—and not changed—over time? Where are we now? With painstaking care, political passion, and intellectual daring, Wiegman analyzes the biological and cultural bases of racial and gender bias in order to reinvigorate the discussion of identity politics. She concludes that, for very different reasons, identity proves to be dangerous to minority and majority alike.

Praise

“A vibrant, perceptive insight into the quest to understand the social hierarchies based on race and gender, the crossroads at which they interact, and the degree to which they influence social climates.” — Frances Richardson Keller, American Historical Review

"Ignore this book at your peril! Robyn Wiegman challenges us to re-examine our most cherished platitudes about race-and-gender, including the kind of identity politics that not only leave out African American women but also reinscribe a pernicious politics of "separate but equal" through the celebration of difference. This as a stunning account of racial/gender infusions and confusions in nineteenth- and twentieth-century U. S. culture. Controversial, brilliant, provocative." — Cathy Davidson, Duke University

"Wiegman goes well beyond current discussions in working out the theoretical challenges and cultural logics of rethinking difference within the postmodern condition, and she correctly pinpoints the overlap of race and gender within feminist theory as a decisive zone of critical articulation between postmodernism and oppositional politics." — Steven Mailloux, University of California, Irvine

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