Skip navigation

Contesting ideologies: Deconstructing racism in African-American fiction

Contesting ideologies: Deconstructing racism in African-American fiction

Baillie, Justine ORCID: 0000-0002-0056-9155 (2003) Contesting ideologies: Deconstructing racism in African-American fiction. Women: A Cultural Review, 14 (1):2. pp. 20-37. ISSN 0957-4042 (Print), 1470-1367 (Online) (doi:

[img] PDF (Scan of Article)
17992_BAILLIE_Contesting_Ideologies_2003.pdf - Published Version
Restricted to Registered users only

Download (2MB) | Request a copy


Baillie's article is concerned with how African-American fiction seeks to define and shape an aesthetic in opposition to racial ideologies as diffused through science, education and popular culture. In an examination of Count Joseph de Gobineau's Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines (1853-5), it traces the construction of racialized discourse in nineteenth-century America. Baillie examines Toni Morrison's first novel The Bluest Eye (1970) in terms of Morrison's engagement with nineteenth-century racial theory and its implicit presence within ideologies of beauty and American popular culture of the 1930s. Through the figure of Shirley Temple, Morrison shows how the African-American community's internalization of cinematic images of beauty can lead to a psychosis that leaves identity fractured and the racial self all but erased. As well as reading The Bluest Eye as both a critique of scientific racism and as an historical novel in sustained debate with the cultural hegemony of the 1930s, Baillie examines its significance as a text in dialogue with the social and political milieu in which it was written. Here, The Bluest Eye becomes an intervention into the affirmative aesthetic of 1960s Black Power politics and its extreme proclamations of racial pride rooted firmly in black lower-class expression. She discusses the Black Power movement's appropriation of Frantz Fanon's theories and argues that Morrison's own articulation of a black identity eschews the nationalism of Black Power, and instead finds its focus in the political contestation of ideologies through the expression of African-American art forms. The Bluest Eye is an oppositional narrative that draws on western forms and yet privileges African-American vernacular as a counter-balance to language as a vehicle for ideologies of beauty and scientific racism.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: The Bluest Eye, 1930s Popular Culture, Scientific Racism, Toni Morrison
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS)
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2017 17:35

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics