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Cultural MelancholyReadings of Race, Impossible Mourning, and African American Ritual$
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Jermaine Singleton

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039621

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039621.001.0001

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A Clearing beyond the Melancholic Haze

A Clearing beyond the Melancholic Haze

Staging Racial Grieving in Suzan-Lori Parks’s Venus and Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change

(p.99) 5 A Clearing beyond the Melancholic Haze
Cultural Melancholy

Jermaine Singleton

University of Illinois Press

Through an analysis of Suzan-Lori Parks's Venus and Tony Kushner's Caroline, or Change, this chapter contemplates how cultural practice might be used to cut through and deactivate the unresolved grief that consolidates the racial divide in interracial community. It builds on a short theoretical account of the sexual and cultural underpinnings of the discourse of racial difference to consider the unique role contemporary theater might play in exhuming and mourning the social loss it has consolidated. To that end, the analysis draws on the racial scene and unseen to situate the plays as art of profound cultural change. Parks' and Kushner's plays enact racial conflict to unearth disavowed social losses and assign them ideological origins. The plays uniquely allow spectators to explore what Kobena Mercer calls “those messy spaces in-between” black and white and acknowledge the culturally embedded web of gender, sexual, economic, and religious anxieties and prohibitions that discreetly underpin the discourse of racial difference and contemporary racial grievances. In doing so, the plays summon and neutralize the disavowed social loss and hidden affect that structure our racial identifications to engender a coalition of racial grieving.

Keywords:   unresolved racial grief, Suzan-Lori Parks, Venus, Tony Kushner, Caroline, or Change, racial difference, racial conflict, cultural practice, social loss

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