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Palgrave Macmillan

Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature

Coloring Outside the (Black and White) Lines

ISBN 9781137364920
Publication Date November 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

America's new millennial interest in multiraciality coincides with South Africa's postapartheid push towards greater visibility as the Rainbow Nation. Here, Diana Adesola Mafe argues that the recent celebration of the mulatto as an avatar of positive change for multiracial nations like South Africa and the United States overlooks the complex global trajectories that resulted in this watershed moment. Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature examines the popular literary stereotype, the tragic mulatto, from a comparative perspective. Mafe considers the ways in which specific South African and American writers have used this controversial literary character to challenge the logic of racial categorization. The result is a transnational dialogue between these respective national literatures, both of which use tragic mulatto fiction as a locus for broader questions about race and belonging.

Diana Adesola Mafe is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Denison University, USA. She teaches courses in postcolonial, gender, and black studies and has published articles in Research in African Literatures, Camera Obscura, Safundi, Frontiers, English Academy Review, American Drama, and the anthology African Women Writing Resistance.

Introduction: Tainted Blood: The 'Tragic Mulatto' Tradition
1. God's Stepchildren: The 'Tragedy of Being a Halfbreed' in South African Literature
2. 'An Unlovely Woman': Bessie Head's Mulatta (re)Vision
3. 'A Little Yellow Bastard Boy': Arthur Nortje's Mulatto Manhood
4. Tragic to Magic?: Achmat Dangor's Bitter Fruit
Conclusion: Playing in the Light


"Mafe's book is a smart and timely transnational renegotiation of the American trope of the tragic mulatto. Mafe not only argues for the significance of the narrative history of mixed race representation in South African fiction and poetry, but also maps how this later body of work transforms what has become a cultural stereotype. Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature offers a rich comparative analysis that asks students and scholars of African, African American, and especially African diaspora literature to rethink their framing - and teaching - of Black cultural studies across national and continental borders." - Samantha Pinto, Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University, USA, and Author of Difficult Diasporas: The Transnational Feminist Aesthetic of the Black Atlantic
"Diana Adesola Mafe's work is both useful and timely, filling a gap in the literary study of colouredness and the transnational study of mixed race literature. Through her close readings of the tragic mulatto in South African and American literature, Mafe illustrates the transnational significance of this literary figure and the common ways writers have adopted it to explore both personal and national questions of being and belonging." - Research in African Literatures
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