Race Writing in the Internet Age
“Race Writing in the Internet Age” argues that the intensified forms of global economic integration made possible by Internet technologies have defined contemporary “postrace” narratives—narratives that, in turn, both formally embody and thematically challenge the racial ideologies that subtend this integration. The Japanese coders, South Asian hackers, “cyber coolies,” African-American app designers, Korean- and Taiwanese-American social media addicts, and Nigerian “yahoo boys” who populate the contemporary American novel elaborate key contradictions between the “postracial” world of social technology and the global wage differentials that attend and make possible the Internet itself. In novels by Teju Cole, Bharati Mukherjee, Ruth Ozeki, Ed Park, Ishmael Reed, Gary Shteyngart, Colson Whitehead, and others, race disappears into a colorblind Web run through apparently abstract software algorithms, only to reappear in the wage gap between developed and undeveloped nations. However, these novels do not simply construct race in accordance with capitalist imperatives: they also sublimate technology into form, in ways that must change inherited understandings of the contemporary novel’s relation to the information and communication technologies alongside which it came of age. Reading the “postrace” novel in light of new interdisciplinary research on the cultural implications of software systems and computer code, fresh interest in formalist analysis, and ongoing work on global political economy, “Race Writing in the Internet Age” discovers a range of contemporary writers turning to algorithmic forms—computational techniques for market forecasting, models of viral transmission and social networking, the underlying principles of Web browsing and search—as a way of illustrating race’s reconfiguration within the tech-integrated global market.