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The labors of difference: Race, citizenship, and the transformations of legal and literary forms

Posted on:2005-05-25Degree:Ph.DType:Dissertation
University:University of California, BerkeleyCandidate:Phan, Hoang GiaFull Text:PDF
The Labors of Difference. Race, Citizenship, and the Transformations of Legal and Literary Forms examines how debates over U.S. citizenship and nationhood affected the development of narrative conventions and rules within the increasing formalisms of legal and literary-aesthetic culture. Chapter one studies the interdependence of what labor historian Christopher Tomlins calls the "rise of the rule of a position of supreme imaginative authority," and the rise of the novel as a literary-aesthetic mode of cultural legitimation. Reading the shared epistemological forms and narrative structures of texts such as James Wilson's Lectures on Law , Charles Brockden Brown's Arthur Mervyn, and Enlightenment theories of evidence, I show how legal theorists relied upon the apparently distinct realm of aesthetic judgment to ascertain the truths of legal matters of fact. Chapter two focuses upon legal ratiocination, and the narrative innovations occasioned by the problem of representing historical causality. Reading texts such as Rousseau's Second Discourse, Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, and Poe's detective fiction, I argue that even as blackness becomes identified with slavery during the rise of free labor ideology, "race," paradoxically, begins to be disarticulated from the political economy of coercive labor relations. Analyzing the narrative forms of Scottish "conjectural history" as the were reemployed in American legal and literary-aesthetic texts, I explore the increasing aestheticization of "race," and its projection as a reified classificatory term into the imagined prior realms of nature and society. In chapter three, I elaborate the historical and theoretical implications of comparative racialization for the 19th-century legal inscription of "freedom" as possible only through citizenship and wage labor. Through readings of the status of the Chinese migrant laborer, in the Slaughterhouse Cases (1873), the Chinese Exclusion Case (1889), and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), I show how the legal construction of a civic identity between black and white men after the Civil War depended upon the invention of a radical racial alterity, in the form of the Asiatic. This chapter highlights the ways in which citizenship, as legal form and cultural concept, relies on a demand for assimilation, whose logic codes race as culture.
Keywords/Search Tags:Legal, Race, Citizenship, Labor, Forms
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