Legal Fictions: Constituting Race, Composing Literature

Posted in Books, Law, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2013-12-17 22:41Z by Steven

Legal Fictions: Constituting Race, Composing Literature

Duke University Press
January 2014
176 pages
3 photographs
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-5595-3
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5581-6

Karla FC Holloway, James B. Duke Professor of English; Professor of Law; Professor of Women’s Studies
Duke University

In Legal Fictions, Karla FC Holloway both argues that U.S. racial identity is the creation of U.S. law and demonstrates how black authors of literary fiction have engaged with the law’s constructions of race since the era of slavery. Exploring the resonance between U.S. literature and U.S. jurisprudence, Holloway reveals Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage as stories about personhood and property, David Bradley’s The Chaneysville Incident and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man as structured by evidence law, and Nella Larsen’s Passing as intimately related to contract law. Holloway engages the intentional, contradictory, and capricious constructions of race embedded in the law with the same energy that she brings to her masterful interpretations of fiction by U.S. writers. Her readings shed new light on the many ways that black U.S. authors have reframed fundamental questions about racial identity, personhood, and the law from the nineteenth into the twenty-first centuries. Legal Fictions is a bold declaration that the black body is thoroughly bound by law and an unflinching look at the implications of that claim.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Introduction: Bound by Law
    • Intimate Intersectionalities—Scalar Reflections
    • Public Fictions, Private Facts
    • Simile as Precedent
    • Property, Contract, and Evidentiary Values
  • 1. The Claims of Property: On Being and Belonging
    • The Capital in Question
    • Imagined Liberalism
    • Mapping Racial Reason
    • Being in Place: Landscape, Never Inscape
  • 2. Bodies as Evidence (of Things Not Seen)
    • Secondhand Tales and Hearsay
    • Black Legibility—Can I Get a Witness?
    • Trying to Read Me
  • 3. Composing Contract
    • “A novel-like tenor”
    • Passing and Protection
    • A Secluded Colored Neighborhood
  • Epilogue. When and Where “All the Dark-Glass Boys” Enter
  • A Contagion of Madness
  • Notes
  • References
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
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“Vulnerable” Populations—Medicine, Race, and Presumptions of Identity

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-09-09 22:00Z by Steven

“Vulnerable” Populations—Medicine, Race, and Presumptions of Identity
Virtual Mentor: American Medical Association Journal of Ethics
Volume 13, Number 2 (February 2011)
pages 124-127

Karla F. C. Holloway, Ph.D., MLS, James B. Duke Professor of English and Professor of Law
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

At the beginning of the twentieth century, renowned sociologist William E. B. Du Bois warned that “the problem of the twentieth century” would be “the problem of the color line”. I suspect that Du Bois would not have imagined that this color line would be as enigmatic and troubling in the twenty-first century. But the fact is that today’s issues of race and identity reveal an arguably more complicated terrain. To illustrate this point, consider the background of the following patients.

  • Ms. A’s father is Nigerian and her mother is British.
  • Ms. B’s mother and father are both from Jamaica. She has lived in the United States since birth.
  • Ms. C’s parents were both born in the United States. Her father is from Detroit’s inner-city and her mother is white.
  • Ms. D’s parents were born in Ghana and South Africa.
  • Ms. E, who has curly blond hair, fair skin and green eyes, has checked the box for “black or African-American” on her medical history form. She was adopted at birth.

In fact, each of these patients has checked that same box—“black or African American”—on their patient history forms. What does this tell us?…

…The black folk whose souls Du Bois worried over in 1903 had a peculiar history of visibility and vulnerability. It is a history replete with narratives about medical care of lesser quality and exploitation sutured to institutionalized racial biases and stereotypes. When contemporary medicine takes up the category of race as a biologic rather than a social indicator, it ignores the complexity that is resident in “African American communities.” A community-based medicine or research ethic cannot escape this history of identity and vulnerability and the significant variables that accompany the experience of race. This is not an occasion when new and good intentions erase the impact of past bad acts. Language has a habit of entanglement…

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