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The Racial Horizon of Utopia

Unthinking the Future of Race in Late Twentieth-Century American Utopian Novels


Edward K. Chan

Race and utopia have been fundamental features of US American culture since the origins of the country. However, racial ideology has often contradicted the ideals of social and political equality in the United States. This book surveys reimaginings of race in major late twentieth-century US American utopian novels from the 1970s to the 1990s. Dorothy Bryant, Marge Piercy, Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler and Kim Stanley Robinson all present radical new configurations of race in a more ideal society, yet continually encounter an ideological blockage as the horizon beyond which we cannot rethink race. Nevertheless, these novels create productive strains of thinking to grapple with the question of race in US American culture. Drawing on feminist theory and critiques of democracy, the author argues that our utopian dreams cannot be furthered unless we come to terms with the phenomenology of race and the impasse of the individual in liberal humanist democracy.
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Where to begin? Perhaps with my parents who enabled me to pursue graduate study in such a ‘nonpractical’ field of study. John Michael and Jeffrey Tucker oversaw the original manifestation of this project and guided me in numerous ways at the University of Rochester. A reading group sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies was also invaluable for critique and support in early stages of the project. To my colleagues and friends at Kennesaw State University and Aichi University, thanks for creating a collegial space within which to work. Many thanks to the Ralahine Utopian Studies book series and especially Tom Moylan and Raffaella Baccolini for supporting this publication, and Tom for indefatigable enthusiasm for the project and pushing me to improve my thinking and writing. Naomi Jacobs was incredible for her copyediting but also her invaluable advice on the content as well. Thanks also to Christabel Scaife, Jasmin Allousch, and all the staff at Peter Lang for their patience and support. Finally, my wife Yuri Hashimoto endured and took care of me during the final stages of the project.

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Excerpt(s) from Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy, © 1976 by Middlemarsh, Inc. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. ← vii | viii →

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