Beyond the Color Line: W.E.B. Du Bois and Postcolonial Studies Open Access

Risam, Roopika (2013)

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In his final novel Worlds of Color (1961), W.E.B. Du Bois offers a powerful vision of oppressed people of "black and brown and yellow" redeeming a world shattered by war and colonial domination. These individuals represent global solidarity in the world of color, the first step in a worldwide reconstruction beyond the color line. Yet, scholarly treatment of the novel reflects a troubling trend in Du Bois scholarship: the separation of African American concerns from those of the decolonizing world in the body of his work. Accordingly, scholarship on Du Bois has given rise to a narrative of his life that isolates his anti-imperialist work on global emancipation from his studies of African American experience in the United States. As such, it misleadingly articulates two distinct paths of Du Bois's life: an early career dedicated to African American emancipation and a later one that addresses freedom for oppressed people of color around the world.

Situated at the intersections of African American and postcolonial studies, "Beyond the Color Line: W.E.B. Du Bois and Postcolonial Studies" traces global trends throughout Du Bois's literary career. Examining The Quest of the Silver Fleece (1910), Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil (1920), Dark Princess (1928), and Worlds of Color (1961), I propose that Du Bois's work offers a model for theorizing race, capitalism, and imperialism for African Americans and colonial subjects. Juxtaposing Du Bois's writing with literary texts from the postcolonial world, including Aime Cesaire's A Tempest (1969), Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things (1997), Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies (2008), and Andrea Levy's Small Island (2004), I argue that Du Bois must be read as a progenitor for both postcolonial and African American studies. In doing so, we may engage meaningfully with race across disciplinary formations that often inhibit productive conversations across scholarly, national, and intellectual borders and attend to forms of international cooperation that transcend these divisions. Through such tasks I suggest, we will be better equipped to identify methodologies, sources, and vocabularies for politically engaged studies of imperialism.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction: In Search of the Postcolonial Du Bois 1

Chapter 1: Colonial Education, Colonial Labor: Freedom

Struggles in W.E.B. Du Bois's The Quest of the Silver

Fleece and Aime Cesaire's A Tempest 34

Chapter 2: Religion, Colonial Color Lines, and Caste in

W.E.B. Du Bois's Darkwater and Arundhati Roy's The

God of Small Things 69

Chapter 3: Thicker than Water, Thicker than Blood:

Kinship in W.E.B. Du Bois's Dark Princess and Amitav

Ghosh's Sea of Poppies 105

Chapter 4: Out of the Ashes: Ruin and Solidarity in

W.E.B. Du Bois's Worlds of Color and Andrea Levy's

Small Island 136

Conclusion: Towards Oceanic Readings 174

Works Cited 179

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