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Race and Sex across the French Atlantic: The Color of Black in Literary, Philosophical and Theater Discourse

Overview

Jean Genet's masterpiece Les Nègres was first published in 1958, in the midst of the Algerian war, and first performed at the Théâtre de Lutèce in Paris in October 1959. Yet even though the play is more than 50 years old, it remains a fundamental contribution to critical race theory, as Genet unequivocally posits that no matter what a black person does or doesn't do, simply to be black in our times is itself a tragedy. Placing Genet in the context of Negritude movement, Race and Sex across the French Atlantic ...

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Race and Sex across the French Atlantic: The Color of Black in Literary, Philosophical and Theater Discourse

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Overview

Jean Genet's masterpiece Les Nègres was first published in 1958, in the midst of the Algerian war, and first performed at the Théâtre de Lutèce in Paris in October 1959. Yet even though the play is more than 50 years old, it remains a fundamental contribution to critical race theory, as Genet unequivocally posits that no matter what a black person does or doesn't do, simply to be black in our times is itself a tragedy. Placing Genet in the context of Negritude movement, Race and Sex across the French Atlantic equally reveals and examines blackness within the African-American dialogue with a white French author's provocative questions about race: "Is a black man always black?" and even more fundamentally, "What is blackness?" Within this framework, to question "blackness," therefore, is to set out on an ontological quest, as "blackness" has become a real, living thing in its own right within European ideology, social theory, and historical consciousness, even as Les Nègres has taken its place as a major text in the francophone and philosophical tradition of writing on race. In essence, this book concentrates on the way in which language-particularly the French language-has shaped ideas about race within transatlantic discourses, and, with its companion, continental philosophy, has also shaped the historical understanding of discourse on race. It navigates between multiple readings of race within the French Atlantic using Lorraine Hansberry's play Les Blancs; Dany Laferrière's Comment faire l'amour avec un Nègre sans se fatiguer; Genet's dialogue with the Black Panthers; and different conceptions of the so-called N word. Race and Sex across the French Atlantic thus explores how Les Nègres offered a groundbreaking reading of how race functioned-and continues to function-as an all-pervasive discourse that provides a central principle around which society in general is organized. The play stages a deeply self-reflexive and critical examination of the very essence of

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Editorial Reviews

Research In African Literatures

Ekotto makes a compelling argument for a trans-Atlantic approach, and skillfully illustrates how literary texts in French critique Western philosophy.
Lynne Huffer
Incisive, provocative, and utterly persuasive, Race and Sex across the French Atlantic carefully traces a complex system of exchange that helped to define modern understandings of race and sex beyond the boundaries of nation. Linking such disparate figures and events as Jean Genet, the Négritude movement, the African American Civil Rights movement, and the 2005 uprisings in the Parisian suburbs, Ekotto argues that race and sex serve different epistemological functions across various temporal and spatial sites of the francophone African diaspora. This important new book brilliantly reframes our thinking about race, sex, postcoloniality, and black subjectivity in startling and unforgettable ways.
Elias K. Bongmba
Frieda Ekotto in Race and Sex across the French Atlantic, provides an engaging and intertextual critical analysis of the work of Jean Genet highlighting the human themes, realities, inventions, and imaginations that permeate the transatlantic discourse, performance, and the affirmation and dismissal of color, and race. This interdisciplinary tour de force invites readers into the theatre, and also provides a provocative reflection on what color is black, issues that remain fundamental to our humanity even in the age of Obama. Ekotto offers a candid and refreshing philosophical analysis of color, race, and the art of writing and performing color and race. It is a must read for everyone interested in these questions.
Ralph Heyndels
This splendid essay is an intellectual event as Jean Genet's work and interventions on so called "black" and "race" issues have never before been critically inscribed in discursive, political and ethical locations such as the French Atlantic and the North-American African diaspora movements of thought. From Genet, Frieda Ekotto has gained a significant lesson: that to be provocative is the true way of thinking and writing. Acute intelligence, innovation and singularity, and elegance of style do the rest: it is all there in Race and Sex Across the French Atlantic
Mamadou Diouf
Frieda Ekotto's book confronts the discourses and performances about race, sexuality and the modern Black subject in the French Atlantic. She reads provocatively Jean Genet's Les Nègres and Nègritude intellectuals and artists to reconstruct the historical and philosophical framework of the distinctive French/Francophone space that shaped ideas about race, culture and civilization. This well researched and elegantly written book is a major addition to the growing literature on the Atlantic World. It obliges us to pay more attention to its diversity and to the role played by languages and the philosophical and literary traditions they are associated with. Race and Sex across the French Atlantic is bound to reshape the scholarship on both Genet and Atlantic World.
Research in African Literatures
Ekotto makes a compelling argument for a trans-Atlantic approach, and skillfully illustrates how literary texts in French critique Western philosophy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739141144
  • Publisher: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc
  • Publication date: 12/27/2010
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Frieda Ekotto is professor of French and Francophone Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction Chapter 2 Chapter One: The Blacks and the Whites: A Transatlantic Dialogue on Race between Lorraine Hansberry and Jean Genet Chapter 3 Chapter Two: Categorical Reason and Empire: Genet's Use of the N Word Chapter 4 Chapter 3: It's About the N Word Chapter 5 Chapter 4: Eroshima: The Meeting of the Black Man and the White Woman Chapter 6 Conclusion: The Angel of History

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