This article considers Claude McKay’s Romance in Marseille through two emerging fields of study: “Afropessimism” and anthropological theories of the “liminal hotspot.” It suggests that McKay’s novel functions as a critique of positive Harlem Renaissance images of diasporic movement by highlighting how racial “Blackness” functions as a system for rejecting people of color from the benefits of modernity and sovereign rights-bearing status in an expanded temporal and spatial frame. To explore this hypothesis, the article turns to new anthropological work on the liminal hotspot as a site of sustained, unresolved transition, reading the affectivity of diaspora as a negative one in McKay’s work that places an unsustainable pressure on ritual and performative stylizations and renders them untenable as forms for cultivating a sovereign condition.

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