On Violence, Race and the Defiance of Traditional Gender Roles in Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman
The construction of gender and the resultant ‘roles’ that it plays or is meant to play in a semiotic system has garnered much challenging vistas of critical investigation in feminist and queer theory. Following Butler’s famous remark that “gender is performative” and does not have a pristine, transcendental identity of its own, much of the debate lies on the ‘porous’ areas that outline gender. Thus to be aggressive is masculine and docility being a hallmark of feminine charm is no longer tenable. Following this cue, this proposed paper would try to critically investigate this act of “straddling” across gender and sexual ‘norms’ from the vantage point of Amiri Baraka’s acclaimed play Dutchman (1964). Racially oriented, and having a somewhat Pinteresque setting, the play shows two characters, the white female seductress Lula and the black victim Clay engaged in a game of power and the gradual effort to wrest a territory of their own, that reverses the traditional notions of gender performativity. Lula would go to any limits to be as aggressive as she can be, to the point of being a white murderess as the play shows, while Clay would initially be more concerned saving his petite, middle class bourgeoisie image and would resort to violence on a mere verbal level only in the last resort. The play is interesting not only because it portrays race relations in the then racist America, but also because the characters while beleaguered by questions of race and ethnicity perform their gender specific ‘roles’ in a way that may be of interest to feminists and queer theorists who would increasingly refuse to assign a defining ‘center’ to these terms.
Keywords: Gender, Performative, Behavioral, Role.
Copyright (c) 2016 Arnab Chatterjee
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