American literature, Utopian Studies

The Racial Horizon of Utopia published

Chan cover«Edward Chan reclaims the human desire to imagine something better than our unequal, multi-racial present. His analysis stages encounters between racism and the hope for racial equality, and turns to the subjective to explore how race shapes personal, public and sexual possibilities. The ‘racialized horizon’ of utopia impacts the present and shatters our racialized subjectivities and preconceptions. Chan insists that utopia can provoke images of racial justice in unexpected ways and move us forward.»
(Jeanne Pfaelzer, University of Delaware, author of The Utopian Novel in America: The Politics of Form and Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans)

«How might race function in a utopian society? This is the driving question behind Edward Chan’s trenchant interrogation of race in utopian fiction. I was blown away by Chan’s multivalent analyses of writers who attempt to imagine beyond the problems of race and racism in America. At the racial horizon of utopia, hybrid identities challenge race politics and disrupt democratic ideologies. This accessible and trailblazing effort will be indispensable to the study of race, utopian literature and science fiction.»
(Isiah Lavender III, Louisiana State University, author of Race in American Science Fiction and editor of Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction)

«Edward Chan’s assertions of race as a meaningful category to utopian studies and of the body to our understandings of race and democracy are convincing, timely and theoretically astute; they inform his book’s insightful interpretations, whether celebratory or critical, of key texts in late twentieth-century utopian literature.»
(Jeffrey Allen Tucker, University of Rochester, author of A Sense of Wonder: Race, Identity, and Difference and co-editor of Race Consciousness: African-American Studies for the New Century)

Race and utopia have been fundamental features of US American culture since the origins of the country. However, racial ideology has often contradicted the ideals of social and political equality in the United States. This book surveys reimaginings of race in major late twentieth-century US American utopian novels from the 1970s to the 1990s. Dorothy Bryant, Marge Piercy, Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler and Kim Stanley Robinson all present radical new configurations of race in a more ideal society, yet continually encounter an ideological blockage as the horizon beyond which we cannot rethink race. Nevertheless, these novels create productive strains of thinking to grapple with the question of race in US American culture. Drawing on feminist theory and critiques of democracy, the author argues that our utopian dreams cannot be furthered unless we come to terms with the phenomenology of race and the impasse of the individual in liberal humanist democracy.

Available for purchase here.

Edward K. Chan is Associate Professor of American Studies at Aichi University in Nagoya, Japan. His research and teaching interests include twentieth-century US American literary, film and popular culture, with a special emphasis on race and transnational perspectives on US American culture.

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