“What’s Become of Our Bliss”? The politics of recognition: Reconsidered transracialism and transfiguration in Ralph Ellison’s Juneteenth

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Gregory Stephens


How do we create a true politics of inclusion, what Nelson Mandela has called a "non-racial democracy"? This essay argues for the importance of artistic repre­sentations of a "multiracial imagined community" in helping us to imagine a more attractive alternative to the "diseased imagination" of racialism. Ralph Ellison was an Oklahoma writer who emphasized our cultural inter-relatedness as a means of helping achieve a more inclusive politics. His novel Juneteenth illustrates the role of the arts in articulating a moral philosophy which can help create the change in consciousness which is a necessary precondition of reconstructive social move­ments. All reform requires coalitions, and coalitions require new vision: new para­digms to facilitate social and cultural awakening. Juneteenth critiques the root paradigm of racialism, and challenges the pieties of identity politics regarding how to create a new pattern. This essay concludes by applying the novel's complex dramatization of "the true inter-relatedness of blackness and whiteness" to con­temporary identity politics, such as racialized commentary about controversial Caucasian rap artist Eminem.

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