PJAS 12 Spring-12

Klara Szmańko
Defamiliarizing Blackness and Whiteness in Gloria Naylor’s Linden Hills
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 12 (Spring 2018) pp. 169-184


Gloria Naylor defamiliarizes in Linden Hills (1985) both white and non-white racial categories, in this case blackness and whiteness, both of which emerge as largely performable identities. The defamiliarization of blackness is fairly direct, unfolding mostly through the predominantly negative portrayal of Linden Hills residents and the male line of the Nedeed dynasty, especially Luther Nedeed IV. The defamiliarization of whiteness is mostly indirect, taking place primarily through the exposure of Linden Hills residents imitation of whiteness, in particular, the pursuit of what is presented as the negative paradigm of the white materialistic success and the disastrous consequences that stem from it. Upper class African Americans from the well-off neighborhood of Linden Hills are of ethnographic interest to less prosperous African Americans, many of whom envy Linden Hills residents and some of whom look down on them as presumable sell-outs and traitors of black people. Much of the defamiliarization of prosperous black residents of Linden Hills by lower class African Americans happens through visual exchanges between both groups. While whiteness is not on most occasions a part of these exchanges, it is still alluded to time and again as a pivotal factor that comes into play and that determines the rules of the game.

Keywords: blackness, whiteness, defamiliarization and construction of racial categories, mimicry, vision

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.12/1/2018.12

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