Whiteness, Otherness and the Individualism Paradox from Huck to Punk

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9781403976147: Whiteness, Otherness and the Individualism Paradox from Huck to Punk

Traber reexamines the practice of self-marginalization in Euro-American literature and popular culture that depict whites adopting varied markers of otherness to disengage from the dominant culture. He draws on critical theory, whiteness and cultural studies to counter an eager correlation between marginality and agency. The nonconformist cultural politics of these border crossings implode since the transgressive identity the protagonists desire relies upon, is built from, the center's values and definitions. An orthodox notion of individualism underpins each act of sovereignty as it rationalizes exploiting stereotypes of an Other constructed by the center. The work closes by positing a theory of identity based on Jean-Luc Nancy's concept of the emptied self. In recognizing the already mixed quality of being, identity is made a vacuous concept as the standards for determining self and difference become too slippery to hold.

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About the Author:

DANIEL S. TRABER is Assistant Professor of English at Texas A&M University, Galveston, USA.


"How does the marginalized individual become the national type? Through a series of nuanced readings of key American texts, Daniel Traber expertly traces the ambiguous cultural politics where outlaws confirm mainstream culture, and otherness is re-appropriated and reconfigured as the heart of the national project. A deft and discerning application of recent cultural theory - itself implicated in the romanticization and neutralization of otherness - this book has telling consequences for American and literary studies, as well as for the fields of cultural studies and whiteness studies." - Nick Mansfield, Macquarie University; Author of Subjectivity: Theories of the Self from Freud to Haraway

'This book makes a very clear, and even relentless, argument about the long history of literatures which present instances of White characters 'evading whiteness' and seeking common ground elsewhere (amongst Native Americans, African Americans, the rural and urban poor, etc.). Not only are some of the largest theoretical names of the last thirty years front and center, but Traber has successfully understood these works to the point where he can offer critiques and new insights of them. I love the reach of this book: each and every chapter has been carefully researched on its own, and made to fit within the parameters of the broader idea. It is as if a hidden America has been revealed in these pages.' - Scott Michaelsen, Michigan State University; Author of The Limits of Multiculturalism: Interrogating the Origins of American Anthropology

'Through trenchant readings of celebrated American narratives from Mark Twains Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Alex Cox's Repo Man, Traber traces the paradoxical power of liberal individualism, an ideology that celebrates autonomy and individuality even as it serves as the grounds for conformity. Traber shows how writers and thinkers who attempt to dramatize alternatives to individualist ideology often find the ground of resistance shifted out from under them by US culture's uncanny ability to incorporate otherness and marginality. Traber's study offers a cautionary tale to those critics and theorists who would celebrate the power of hybridity and marginality without sufficiently acknowledging the continuing cultural efficacy of individualist modes of thought and representation." - Cyrus R. K. Patell, New York University; Author of Negative Liberties: Morrison, Pynchon, and the Problem of Liberal Ideology

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