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ESS042.pdf

Article Title : The Performativity of Racial Identity in Andrea Levy's Small Island
Author(s) : Jing Cong
Corresponding Author : Jing Cong
Keywords : Performativity; Racial Identity; Small Island.
PDF : http://download.BCPub.org/proceedings/2021/ESS2021/ESS042.pdf
Abstract

Set in the immediate aftermath of World War II, Andrea Levy's polyphonic novel, Small Island, tells of the multicultural encounter of the four main characters. Like many post-colonial writings, the immigrants’racial identity is a major theme in Small Island. Inspired by Judith Butler's theory of gender performativity, this essay argues that the racial identity in Small Island is performative, a repetition and a ritual that is largely performed by means of food and language. However, such performativity does not always conform to the expectations of the mainstream culture. Although Gilbert and Hortense are sometimes obliged to act according to racial stereotypes to avoid troubles or imitate the English people to integrate into the English culture, their racial performativity can also be subversive, in that it is capable of modifying, adjusting, and even subverting the racial stereotypes established by the white culture. The performativity of racial identity thus becomes a way of undermining white supremacy and resisting hegemony and racism.

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