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Cultural Nationalism, Orientalism, Imperial Ambivalence: The Colored American Magazine and Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins

Abstract

This essay examines African American novelist Pauline Hopkins’s deployment of the trope of respectable domesticity to contest black disenfranchisement in the context of African Americans’ ambivalent relationship to late-nineteenth-century US imperial expansion in the Asia Pacific. This essay analyzes Contending Forces (1900) in relation to two crucial yet underexplored contexts: first, Hopkins’s commentaries on international race relations; second, African American intellectuals’ commentaries on US imperial ventures in the Asia Pacific and on Chinese immigration in the Colored American Magazine, where Hopkins’s fictional works were serialized. Situated within these contexts of comparative racialization, Hopkins’s works offer critical responses to the masculine nationalist representations of black–Asian relations, illuminating the divisive effects of nationalist identification on differentially racialized subjects, the uneven effects of marriage on the black community, and this institution’s structural ties to imperialism and to the color-based class hierarchy within the imagined black community—all of which call for radical reimagining of race relations beyond the nation form.

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