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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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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 21 September 2021

War, Trauma, Displacement, Diaspora

War, Trauma, Displacement, Diaspora

Toni Morrison’s and Caryl Phillips’s African American Soldiers

(p.99) 3 War, Trauma, Displacement, Diaspora
Precarious Passages

Tuire Valkeakari

University Press of Florida

This chapter examines Toni Morrison’s and Caryl Phillips’s portraits of African American troops in World War I, World War II, and Vietnam. These authors’ stories of African American soldiers and veterans bring together two topic areas that may, at first glance, seem to have little to do with each other: war and diaspora. This chapter interrogates the complex relationship between diasporic subjectivity and national citizenship. Utilizing Caruthian trauma theory, it reveals how Morrison, in Sulaand Tar Baby, and Phillips, in Crossing the River, subtly link their narratives of temporary traumatic displacement on foreign battlefields with the historical ur-trauma of diasporic dislocation. In these novels, the wounds that the Middle Passage and slavery inflicted on black diasporic bodies and psyches metaphorically bleed into, and coalesce with, traumas and post-traumatic conditions resulting from black participation in modern warfare—participation that both Morrison and Phillips depict in terms of young black men being sent abroad to fight destructive and traumatizing wars that are not theirs to fight. The literal and metaphorical connections that Morrison and Phillips forge between war and diaspora in various ways call attention to the greed and large-scale violence that have all too often accompanied the Western project of modernity.

Keywords:   Toni Morrison, Sula, Tar Baby, Caryl Phillips, Crossing the River, trauma, modernity, World War I, World War II, Vietnam

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