Cover of The Peculiar Afterlife of Slavery by Caroline H. Yang
The Peculiar Afterlife of Slavery
The Chinese Worker and the Minstrel Form
Caroline H. Yang

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April 2020
304 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9781503610378
Paper ISBN: 9781503612051

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The Peculiar Afterlife of Slavery explores how antiblack racism lived on through the figure of the Chinese worker in US literature after emancipation. Drawing out the connections between this liminal figure and the formal aesthetics of blackface minstrelsy in literature of the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction eras, Caroline H. Yang reveals the ways antiblackness structured US cultural production during a crucial moment of reconstructing and re-narrating US empire after the Civil War.

Examining texts by major American writers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Bret Harte, Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Sui Sin Far, and Charles Chesnutt—Yang traces the intertwined histories of blackface minstrelsy and Chinese labor. Her bold rereading of these authors' contradictory positions on race and labor sees the figure of the Chinese worker as both hiding and making visible the legacy of slavery and antiblackness. Ultimately, The Peculiar Afterlife of Slavery shows how the Chinese worker manifests the inextricable links between US literature, slavery, and empire, as well as the indispensable role of antiblackness as a cultural form in the United States.

About the author

Caroline H. Yang is Assistant Professor of English at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.