If the Black Is a Subject,
Can the Subaltern Speak?
I have tried here to show how, at least since the twentieth century,
African diasporic thinkers have engaged with the racist discourse that
produced them as Other and have responded with sophisticated cri-
tiques underscoring the combination of malevolent fantasy and brutal
practice that attended the original construction of their alterity. At the
same time, as I have traced both the ideal and material changes in these
counterdiscourses over the generations, I have tried to show how at-
tempts to impose a homogeneous and/or heteropatriarchal norm onto
Black subjectivity returns us to the same unyielding and theoretically
suspect discourses that first produced Black Others. More specifically, I
have argued that race cannot operate in a vacuum, divorced from those
other subject categories—gender, sexuality, and class—that are always
already part and parcel of any subject status but especially that of the
subaltern, who is often implicitly asked to hide or ignore those aspects of
identity that do not conform to the heteronormative.
On the whole, the tradition that this book maps moves from less
inclusive to more inclusive models of the subject, but these increasingly
complex models do not—at least not now—reflect the textual politics of
most African diasporic fiction today. Like their white counterparts,
many Blacks in the diaspora prefer formations that, whether explicitly
enunciating ‘‘nation’’ or ‘‘diaspora,’’ implicitly embrace nationalist dis-
course’s call for an enforced heteropatriarchal homogeneity through
which ‘‘authentic’’ Blackness comes into being.
White communities have also passively supported these heteropa-
Previous Page Next Page