Judith Butler’s notion of performativity has been criticized because of its overemphasis on the individual’s performance, while it remains questionable how it changes heteronormativity. In the same way that drag performance challenges the man/woman binary, racial passing challenges the White/Black binary. However, whether passing alters the societal perception of race remains debatable. Analyzing the tropes of acting and passing in Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half, I argue that the novel delineates a tension between a liberal mind-set, according to which passing exemplifies the performativity of identity and a close-minded perspective, according to which one cannot choose one’s racial identity. While the novel unsettles the line between acting and being authentic, and, analogously, the line between an original racial identity and an adopted one, it depicts most of its characters as refusing to accept racial transformations. Likewise, the novel presents gender identity as performative, but not in the eyes of society.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Literature and Literary Theory