Early on in her rich, cogent, and eminently readable book, Aviva Briefel asks a deceptively simple question: what would the “imperial story” look like if told through the hand? This might seem like a bizarre approach: is the hand not part of the raced body? Yet while Briefel points to the ways in which the hand (and especially the figure of the detached hand) was seen as the site of authentic knowledge about identity, it turns out that the “one vital identity category that resisted the capacities of hand analysis” was race (16). Read through the hand, the absence of racial meaning might change how we imagine the relationship of race, identity, and the body; it “might signal that race was not inscribed on the surfaces of the body, or that it might not be an essential marker of identity after all”...
The Extremities of Racial Meaning
daniel a. novak is associate professor of English at the University of Mississippi. He is author of Realism, Photography, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction (2008) and coeditor with James Catano of Masculinity Lessons: Rethinking Men's and Women's Studies (2011). He is currently at work on two book projects: “Victoria's Accursed Race” and “Specters of Wilde.”
Daniel A. Novak; The Extremities of Racial Meaning. Novel 1 November 2016; 49 (3): 537–541. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-3651420
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