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Oana Cogeanu

Abstract

This paper starts from the premise that norm, in the sense of a prescriptive tradition based on a set of standards deriving from past practices and regulating future ones, is the result of an initial creative gesture; in other words, first there was creativity and creativity became the norm. Based on this premise, the paper looks at some of the earliest African-American pieces of writing to trace the itinerary from creativity to norm, thus witnessing the birth of the African-American literary tradition. To this end, the paper analyses the first published Black narrative and identifies the trope of the talking book as illustrating that original gesture which, by creatively incorporating the norm, marks the beginning of a new tradition. Then the paper follows subsequent early Black narratives and identifies the creative transgression of the norm illustrated by the Middle Passage as the process by which the new norm is established.

Open access

Oana Cogeanu

Abstract

Prompted by the observations of a European scholar in African-American studies living in South-East Asia, this article addresses the ideological value of whiteness with a view to understanding its apparently global aesthetic fascination and societal power. To this purpose, the article traces the European, American and Asian conceptualization and employment of the signs of whiteness. The first section investigates the correlated philosophical and scientific construction of whiteness as a racial signifier in Europe. The second section focuses on social and cultural practices of white vs. black identification and the critique thereof in the United States. The third section highlights the appeal of whiteness as a status signifier in Asia. Whiteness is commonly employed as a sign of superiority, assumed by the self or assigned to the other (within): the article suggests that such power derives from a common mystical symbolism, upheld by philosophy, sanctioned by science, implemented by social policy and marketed by corporations.