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Abstract

Like most nostalgic recreations of the past, the myth of the Old South depended on the performance of certain stereotyped roles. The performative quality at the heart of this myth primarily set in the antebellum period still shaped race relations in the white homes of the Jim Crow South, where the presence of African American domestic workers represented a relative disruption of the otherwise pervasive demand of racial separation in the new southern context. Forced to wear the stereotypical mammy mask, these African American women were expected to contribute to the education of her white charges by promoting the established ideology of white male supremacy, which in the case of white girls meant their training to perform the role of southern ladies in adulthood. This paper analyzes how three twentieth century southern women writers have depicted the contribution of African American domestics to the body formation and the psychological development of their white female charges in literary works which recreate the difficult experience of tomboyish characters growing up in traditional southern communities. Though apparently performing their mammy role to perfection, black domestic workers such as Katherine Anne Porter’s Aunt Nanny, Harper Lee’s Calpurnia, and Kathryn Stockett’s Aibileen and Constantine, condition their white charges’ upbringing by silently inspiring in them an inquiring attitude which definitely hinders their assumption of their role as southern ladies in adulthood.

In: Performative Identities in Culture

Abstract

The purpose of this work is to discuss how Football Twitter (a football fandom subculture located on the social media platform X), through a shared use of imagery and language, allows social media users to construct a sense of self based upon how much engagement their social media use generates. This is not only significant in demonstrating how football fandom has changed but also how social media platforms enable a form of identity construction via their mechanics which track and quantify engagement. I argue that when the Football Twitter user performs their identity they are making use of the quantifiable engagement mechanics provided by the social media platform, allowing them to demonstrate that the performance has been worthwhile. Performance operates under a dual meaning in relation to Football Twitter; the ideology of neoliberalism motivates the individual to optimise what they have and what they do (performativity), and the user also performs (performance) an idea of fandom that encourages the most extreme form of action.

In: Performative Identities in Culture

Abstract

Henry James’s interest in the question of American identity was indisputably connected with his expatriation and ambiguous national affiliation. While the writer successfully actualized his ideal of Americanness as a synthesis of local values with various national models of the world, this conception of cosmopolitan identity posed a serious challenge to his characters. Subsequent representations in James’s fiction of Americans confronted with other customs and values illustrate the difficulty of embracing the cosmopolitan, critical stance while remaining rooted in American culture. The writer’s twentieth-century works in particular, such as The Ambassadors, The American Scene, and “The Jolly Corner,” feature characters who inadvertently embrace conventional Americanness, their behaviors bearing the marks of performance—unreflective enactment of socially constructed and approved conventions and practices. Those fictional performances of national identity may be illuminated by Judith Butler’s conception of performativity, which refers primarily to the construction of gender but is equally applicable to wider processes of identity formation. Alongside the characters whose conventional and uniform Americanness is constituted and solidified through repeated performances on the American scene and beyond, even those who seem to embody alternative national identities, constructed against Theodore Roosevelt’s narrowly nationalistic rhetoric, are shown by James as unwittingly performing the Americanness—commercial and gendered—which James himself defied and subverted in his life and art.

In: Performative Identities in Culture

Abstract

African American children’s literature frequently features young characters as political agents of change. The protagonists overcome racial barriers imposed on them by older generations and look at the historical past from a different perspective. The article explores Jacqueline Woodson’s children’s picturebooks Show Way, This is the Rope and The Other Side, in which young Black girls are brought to their family’s past by means of material objects they inherited—the quilt, the rope, and the fence that separates Black and white neighborhoods. The children’s performance with the material objects detaches them from one context and moves into another. Playing with the objects they make sense of the past and find their place in the family history. The article analyzes the verbal and the visual narratives of the books focusing on the relations between the text and the illustrations, as well as on the ways these elements convey the meaning of the stories. It also discusses the concept of child agency and explains how it relates to the issue of promoting a positive image of blackness.

In: Performative Identities in Culture

Abstract

The subject of this paper is the largest gathering of Native Americans in the USA in the past hundred years on the Standing Rock Reservation, a site of active resistance from April 2016 to February 2017. The gathering was carried out by The Sioux nation protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (The DAPL) with the help of many allied groups, among them other Native American tribes, representatives of indigenous peoples from all over the world and other supporters. This paper examines the protest as a performance as defined by a Polish scholar Dariusz Kosiński after Richard Schechner and Jon McKenzie. It analyzes the course, structure, actors, functions, and results of the performance in order to highlight which actions and speeches observed during the protests were examples of restored behavior, and what myths and elements they restored from the past and why. The paper posits that all the actions mentioned in the paper, such as negotiations, clashes, and attitude towards each other echoed similar encounters between the two groups in the past. Besides, the garments and accessories worn by the participants of the conflict as well as involvement of Native Women, or life in the encampments served to affirm the Native American identity as an indigenous identity to endorse the presence of Native Americans and their values in American and global society. This conflict reminded non-native Americans of the Native American attitude to land, resources, and their sovereign status in the United States.

In: Performative Identities in Culture

Abstract

The paper discusses identity in the context of Wales based on selected works in English. The analysis includes two novels: Richard Llewellyn’s How Green was My Valley, Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, and Jill Craigie’s movie Blue Scar. The material examined in this chapter shows how identity is performed in the changing legal, social and cultural context. Special attention is given to the manifestations of identity marginalized by the “dominant” culture. The paper implements Erving Goffman’s theory presented in his The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1956).

In: Performative Identities in Culture
In: Performative Identities in Culture
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Abstract

Ellen Wood (1814–1887) and Amy Levy (1861–1889) both direct attention to women’s yet restricted options in nineteenth-century society in their novels. Through their self-reliant conduct, the female protagonists in Wood’s East Lynne (1860–1861) and Levy’s The Romance of a Shop (1888) subvert women’s supposed inferiority. Both titles, prominent examples of sensation fiction and the New Woman novel respectively, focus on their female protagonists’ character development. Considering these characters alongside 1859 conduct manual Self-Help by Samuel Smiles, this article argues that women writers used the performative notion of self-improvement promoted by conduct book authors such as Smiles to refashion their female protagonists as agents of their own lives.

In: Performative Identities in Culture