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Precarious PassagesThe Diasporic Imagination in Contemporary Black Anglophone Fiction$
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Tuire Valkeakari

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780813062471

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813062471.001.0001

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An African American Journey to Black Diasporic Consciousness

An African American Journey to Black Diasporic Consciousness

Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage

(p.33) 1 An African American Journey to Black Diasporic Consciousness
Precarious Passages

Tuire Valkeakari

University Press of Florida

This chapter demonstrates that Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage participates in the ongoing construction of black diasporic identity or consciousness by offering a philosophically and spiritually informed thematic narrative of the formation of a black diasporic subject. By the novel’s end, the protagonist arrives at an analytically and emotionally processed awareness of his identity position as a member of the African diaspora, recognizes that both rupture and connection characterize his relationship with Africanity, and acknowledges the necessity of an ever-continuing existential journey. This chapter also reveals that transformed/liberated perception and transformed/liberated consciousness are inextricably intertwined in Middle Passage. Owing to this connection, Johnson bolsters his narrative of the formation of diasporic subjectivity (a narrative of the formation of one type of transformed/liberated consciousness) by conversing with the role of perception in Melville’s Benito Cereno, in phenomenology, and in Buddhism. Finally, this chapter emphasizes that Johnson’s phenomenologically and Buddhistically informed emphasis on the malleability of black diasporic identity offers a counterargument to black cultural nationalistic positions, which he sees as propagating fixed, static notions of blackness.

Keywords:   Africanity, African diaspora, consciousness, Charles Johnson, Middle Passage, Buddhism, Melville, Benito Cereno, phenomenology, nationalism

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