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"I am Black", he said. "I am Black!": New African Diasporas, Indeterminacies, and the Process of Transformation in The Virgin of Flames by Chris Abani

Abstract : This paper focuses on Chris Abani’s Los Angeles novel, The Virgin of Flames (2007) that portrays a tormented artist of Nigerian and Salvadorian descent who falls in love with a Mexican transsexual and wishes to become a woman. Renamed “Black” by his Latina mother and obsessed with his origins and ancestry, the racialized protagonist tries to find his place in multiethnic America and keeps reinventing himself through multiple, ambivalent identities. This on-going rearticulation of ‘self’ and ‘other’ in a diasporic context disrupts the normative constructions of identity through race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Deviance, displacement, difference, and pluralism generate conflicting views and problematic indeterminacies that may be perceived as potentially liberating. We will examine through in-depth textual analysis in what ways and to what purpose Chris Abani exposes the uncertainties of his shape-shifting character. We will study how the novelist – who himself is a biracial and transnational artist – revises the fictional representation of the African Diaspora in the United States. Black’s desperate quest, his constant becoming and sense of ‘unbelonging’ serve to question rigid social categories. Abani addresses timely issues on identity politics and self-identification through a diasporic character that is emblematic of a rapidly changing and globalized world.
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Conference papers
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https://hal.univ-reunion.fr/hal-01157720
Contributor : Nicolas Alarcon <>
Submitted on : Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 2:45:57 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, March 28, 2019 - 11:24:14 AM

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  • HAL Id : hal-01157720, version 1

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Corinne Duboin. "I am Black", he said. "I am Black!": New African Diasporas, Indeterminacies, and the Process of Transformation in The Virgin of Flames by Chris Abani. International conference : "Diasporas and 'Race"", Wake Forest University, Oct 2012, Winston-Salem, United States. ⟨hal-01157720⟩

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