The “inter” land: Mixing autobiography and sociology for a better understanding of twenty-first century mixed-race

Posted in Barack Obama, Dissertations, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2011-07-22 03:31Z by Steven

The “inter” land: Mixing autobiography and sociology for a better understanding of twenty-first century mixed-race

Villanova University
October 2009
105 pages
Publication Number: AAT 1462397
ISBN: 9781109073102

Felicia Maria Camacho

A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Department of English Villanova University In Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in English

In contemporary autobiographies by black/white biracial Americans, personal identity is a major source of conflict. The proposed study will address topics that are key to an understanding of biracial subjectivity and identity as presented in these autobiographies. The first chapter addresses the physicality of biracial people, paying special attention to such topics as family resemblance in interracial families, and the trope of “biracial hair” which is used as a metaphor for a distinct biracial identity that is neither black nor white. The second chapter examines another identity choice for black/white biracial subjects: singular black identity. It shows how biracial individuals can turn on its head the traditional notion of the “tragic mulatto” who is forced by the one-drop rule to accept his/her blackness. By exploring and honestly acknowledging the social experiences of both parents, the biracial individual can come to assert a healthy black identity. The final chapter links black/white biracial identity with intrinsically multiracial Latino identity. Do ethnicity, nationalism, and language suggest a way to avoid the black/white binarism of American society?

While examining these issues of biracial identity, this study will engage in a commentary on the relationships between and among various academic disciplines. When analyzing literature about race, critics often turn to race theory for secondary material. However, contemporary race theory does not do much to engage and illuminate these autobiographies of biracialism. Interestingly, sociological texts speak more directly to the “biracial phenomenon.” Therefore each chapter of this study shows how sociology and autobiography complement one another and provide a fuller, more informed picture of biracial identity.

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: The Roots of Biracialism: Physical Appearance, Inheritance, and Identity in the Autobiographies of Elliott Lewis, Angela Nissel, and June Cross
  • Chapter Two: The End of Tragedy: The New Biracial Subject, Self-Exploration, and Singular Black Identity in the Autobiographies of James McBride and Barack Obama
  • Chapter Three: Finding the Third Space: Jews, Latinos, and Black/White Biracialism in the Autobiographies of Rebecca Walker, Elliott Lewis, and Angela Nissel
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited

Purchase the dissertation here.

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