The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation, and Hidden Grief

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Oxford University Press, Nov 30, 2000 - Literary Criticism - 288 pages
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In this groundbreaking, interdisciplinary study Anne Anlin Cheng argues that we have to understand racial grief not only as the result of racism but also as a foundation for racial identity. The Melancholy of Race proposes that racial identification is itself already a melancholic act--a social category that is imaginatively supported through a dynamic of loss and compensation, by which the racial other is at once rejected and retained. Using psychoanalytic theories on mourning and melancholia as inroads into her subject, Cheng offers a closely observed and carefully reasoned account of the minority experience as expressed in works of art by, and about, Asian-Americans and African-Americans. She argues that the racial minority and dominant American culture both suffer from racial melancholia and that this insight is crucial to a productive reimagining of progressive politics. Her discussion ranges from "Flower Drum Song" to "M. Butterfly," Brown v. Board of Education to Anna Deavere Smith's "Twilight," and Invisible Man to The Woman Warrior, in the process demonstrating that racial melancholia permeates our fantasies of citizenship, assimilation, and social health. Her investigations reveal the common interests that social, legal, and literary histories of race have always shared with psychoanalysis, and situates Asian-American and African-American identities in relation to one another within the larger process of American racialization. A provocative look at a timely subject, this study is essential reading for anyone interested in race studies, critical theory, or psychoanalysis.

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The Melancholy of Race
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A Fable of Exquisite Corpses Maxine Hong Kingston Assimilation and the Hypochondriacal Response
Fantasys Repulsion and Investment David Henry Hwang and Ralph Ellison
History inagainst the Fragment Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
Difficult Loves Anna Deavere Smith and the Politics of Grief
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Page 4 - Such considerations apply with added force to children in grade and high schools. To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.
Page 4 - We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities?
Page 4 - Our decision, therefore, cannot turn on merely a comparison of these tangible factors in the Negro and white schools involved in each of the cases. We must look instead to the effect of segregation itself on public education.

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About the author (2000)

Anne Anlin Cheng is Associate Professor of English and American Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.

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