Against Historicism: James D. Corrothers and Speculations on Our Racial Futures
The conclusion returns to and critically recasts the Chinese invasion subgenre studied at length in Chapter 3. Serialized in the NAACP’s Crisis magazine, the African American writer James D. Corrothers’s two-part tale “A Man They Didn’t Know” (1913–14) turned “Yellow Peril” anti-Chinese propaganda on its head, revealing its buried racial histories and ideological forms. Corrothers’s speculative fiction pushed the counterfactual imaginary of Chinese invasion to its limit, plying the disruptive potential of an Asiatic threat to America in his efforts to challenge the meaning of whiteness and existing racial hierarchies in a world reshaped by Plessy v. Ferguson and the global diffusion of white supremacist ideologies. Corrother’s tale suggests that our racial paradigms must move beyond the internal opposition of white and nonwhite to include racial minorities outside the nation-state, as new immigrants and class divisions within minoritized groups facilitate new and unexpected global realignments of race and racialization.
Keywords: speculative fiction, counterfactual history, race relations, comparative racialization, invasion narrative, white supremacy, immigration law, racial segregation, James D. Corrothers, Crisis magazine
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