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Bestial TracesRace, Sexuality, Animality$
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Christopher Peterson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823245208

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823245208.001.0001

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Autoimmunity and Ante-Racism

Autoimmunity and Ante-Racism

Philip Roth's The Human Stain

(p.74) 3 Autoimmunity and Ante-Racism
Bestial Traces

Christopher Peterson

Fordham University Press

This chapter explores the nexus of race and sexuality in Philip Roth's The Human Stain. It shows how the novel exploits the multiple and contradictory meanings of “stain” in order to reconceptualize the human as fundamentally haunted by the bestial traces it disavows. In addition to race, animality, and sexuality, “stain” also marks the discrimination that inheres in all social relations. Indeed, the abjection of Coleman Silk both for his perceived racism and for his sexual activities mirrors the exclusionary violence it aims to denounce. It constructs him as a rogue threat to the ideals of equality and inclusivity, even though such principles are always already undermined by what Derrida describes as the autoimmunitary character of democracy--its failure to materialize the ideals of inclusivity that it champions. That all aspirations to universal inclusivity necessarily fall short of achieving their ideals attests to the autoimmunitary response inherent in various forms of community, kinship, and belonging, which inevitably produce “beasts” notwithstanding our apparent desire for nonviolence.

Keywords:   Philip Roth, Jacques Derrida, Race, Sexuality, Postracialism, Animality, Autoimmunity

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