Displaced memory: Oscar Micheaux, Carlos Bulosan, and the process of United States decolonization
AuthorPierce, Linda M.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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Abstract"Displaced Memory: Oscar Micheaux, Carlos Bulosan, and the Process of U.S. Decolonization," uses new applications for existing colonial and postcolonial theories in order to explain common incongruities in ethnic minority autobiographies in early twentieth-century America. Using Carlos Bulosan (1914-1956) and Oscar Micheaux's (1894-1951) "fictional autobiographies" as case studies, I argue that the seemingly contradictory coexistence of assimilationist and subversive narratives can be explained when understood as textual representations of the process of decolonization. Reading these narrators as postcolonial subjects, however, would require both a radical rethinking of colonial and postcolonial theory and careful revaluation of early American mythology. While recognizing the United States as a former (or neo-) colonial power poses no insuperable problem for scholars in Philippine American studies, analyzing other disenfranchised ethnic communities in terms of a U.S. colonial context is more problematic. My project addresses precisely this problem: part one begins with the Philippine context and asks why even this overt example of colonization remains unacknowledged within U.S. cultural memory. The answer to this question is grounded in the literary, political and ideological national foundations emergent during nascent U.S. development. In the second part of my project, I stress the necessity of comparing multi-ethnic experiences within parallel historical trajectories, addressing questions about how a U.S. postcolonial theory would become complicated when applied to slavery and its aftermath. I argue that the unique position of displaced colonials occupied by African slaves and the colonial memory instilled in their offspring suggest the applicability of postcolonial theory to the African American community. Questions of U.S. postcoloniality are invariably tethered to multiple perspectives from early literature, from captivity to emancipation and reconstruction. Thus, understanding the ways in which African Americans have been colonized is important not only for re-reading African American literature like that of Micheaux, but for revising American ideological holdovers from the seventeenth century to the present. Read together within the postcolonial context, Bulosan's and Micheaux's views on nation, race, masculinity and women take on new significance.
Degree ProgramGraduate College