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The Racial Horizon of Utopia

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

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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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Chapter 3: Accounting for the Remainder in the Imagination of the 1970s Utopian Subject

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CHAPTER 3

Accounting for the Remainder in the Imagination of the 1970s Utopian Subject

As US politics plunges to the right, as the aspirations of the activists and adherents of the 1960s movements are forsaken, as indeed the legacy of those struggles is twisted and tortured into service as an obstacle to the achievement of real social and racial justice, the attempt to imagine a greater and more robust democracy, racially inclusive as well as substantially egalitarian, seems almost utopian. Still, I submit that it is precisely that task which most cries out for thought and action today. Those who wish to halt the gallop to the right need to be able to envision a convincing political alternative, if the cause of racial justice, and indeed of radical democracy, is ever to resume its advance.

— HOWARD WINANT1

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