This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book's main themes. This book explores the disavowed claims of the past on the present through a group of cultural productions—literature, drama, and film—focused on racialized subject-formations and cultural formations. Investigating the intersection of categories of social difference, nation making, and buried social memory, it uncovers a host of hidden dialogues for the purpose of dismantling the legacy effects of historical racial subjugation and inequality. The book brings psychoanalytic paradigms of mourning and melancholia and discussions of race and performance by W. E. B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Julian Carter, Diana Taylor, and Kimberly Benton into conversation with literary work on post-Emancipation America's everyday life and ritual practice to challenge scholarship that calls for the clinical separation of ethnic studies and psychoanalysis as well as the divorce of psychoanalysis and socioeconomic history, and presumes that this disengagement is central to American nationhood's continued relationship with unresolved racial grievances. This study develops a theory of “cultural melancholy” that uncovers the ideological and psychical claims of the history of slavery and ongoing racial subjugation on contemporary racialized subject-formations and dominant American culture.
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