Ellen Samuels' Fantasies of Identification is about attempts since the mid-nineteenth century to establish legal identity on some scientific, empirical basis as part of a national, biopolitical imperative. In this regard, the book contributes to the intersection of US literary history, disability, gender, queer, and critical race studies. Samuels chronicles a range of methods that were developed to regularize identity and naturalize the belief that identity could be read on the body. Examples include finger printing, the infamous one-drop rule for persons of African descent, current DNA testing for disabilities, blood quantum rules to establish Native American tribal identity, and myriad techniques of sex testing to verify legal gender within binary frameworks. Samuels observes that every attempt to ground identity in blood, genes, or appearance founders on the unstable nature of the very categories it hopes to stabilize: race, sex, gender, and...
Crossing Gender, Fantasizing Bodies
Michael Davidson is distinguished professor of literature at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of five books of criticism and the editor of The New Collected Poems of George Oppen. His most recent book is Outskirts of Form: Practicing Cultural Poetics.
Michael Davidson; Crossing Gender, Fantasizing Bodies. TSQ 1 November 2015; 2 (4): 717–719. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/23289252-3151664
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