Relative Races: Genealogies of Interracial Kinship in Nineteenth-Century America

Relative Races: Genealogies of Interracial Kinship in Nineteenth-Century America

Duke University Press
October 2020
328 pages
25 illustrations
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1115-6
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1010-4

Brigitte Fielder, Associate Professor, College of Letters & Science
University of Wisconsin, Madison

In Relative Races, Brigitte Fielder presents an alternative theory of how race is ascribed. Contrary to notions of genealogies by which race is transmitted from parents to children, the examples Fielder discusses from nineteenth-century literature, history, and popular culture show how race can follow other directions: Desdemona becomes less than fully white when she is smudged with Othello’s blackface, a white woman becomes Native American when she is adopted by a Seneca family, and a mixed-race baby casts doubt on the whiteness of his mother. Fielder shows that the genealogies of race are especially visible in the racialization of white women, whose whiteness often depends on their ability to reproduce white family and white supremacy. Using black feminist and queer theories, Fielder presents readings of personal narratives, novels, plays, stories, poems, and images to illustrate how interracial kinship follows non-heteronormative, non-biological, and non-patrilineal models of inheritance in nineteenth-century literary culture.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction. Genealogies of Interracial Kinship 1
  • Part I. Romance. Sexual Kinship
    • 1. Blackface Desdemona, or, the White Woman “Begrimed” 29
    • 2. “Almost Eliza”: Reading and Racialization 55
  • Part II. Reproduction. Genealogies of (Re)racialization
    • 3. Mothers and Mammies: Racial Maternity and Matriliny 85
    • 4. Kinfullness: Mama’s Baby, Racial Futures 119
  • Part III. Residency Domestic. Racial Relations
    • 5. Mary Jemison’s Cabin: Domestic Spaces of Racialization 161
    • 6. Racial (Re)Construction: Interracial Kinship and the Interracial Nation 195
  • Conclusion. “Minus Bloodlines”: White Womanhood and Failures of Interracial Kinship 229
  • Notes 245
  • Bibliography 283
  • Index

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