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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Unsettling Racial Capitalism: Horror in African American and Native American Fiction

  • Author(s): Saylor, Colton Scott
  • Advisor(s): Batiste, Stephanie
  • et al.

“Unsettling Racial Capitalism: Horror in African American and Native American Fiction” develops a critical analysis of race and late capitalism through the reading of twentieth and twenty-first century African American and Native American literature and culture. I examine ‘horror’ as a hermeneutic through which these artists interpret and deconstruct the terms of order by which power rationalizes issues of race beginning in the late twentieth century. The Black and Native literary traditions hinge on oral narratives and non-Western ontologies that critique contemporary forms of what Cedric Robinson calls “racial capitalism”—a theory of power in which racial ideology and capitalism develop and continue to inform one another. The moments of horror brought to fruition in these texts, from scenes of graphic violence to instances of bodily terror, induce deconstructions of state-informed racial categories used to maintain the fixed stability of hegemonic discourse. At the same time, these ruptures create opportunities for Black and Native epistemologies to re-emerge as principal forms of knowledge.

Black and Native artists use horror’s affective foci to unpack what as of yet has gone unlooked by recent scholarship: the subject of color’s experience of racial capitalism. Relying on what bell hooks refers to as the “authority of experience,” the chapters unmask the mechanisms of racial capitalism via different experiential modes: time, embodiment, and space. The final chapter builds on the work of the previous three by re-reading violent, radical race narratives through a critical horror framework.

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