Volume 16, 2010

   Volume 5, December 2004

Volume 15, 2010

Volume 14, 2010
Volume 13, 2009
Volume 12, 2009
Volume 11, 2008
Volume 10, 2008
Volume 9, 2007

Volume 8, 2007
Volume 7, 2006
Volume 6, 2005
Volume 5, 2004
Volume 4, 2001
Volume 3, 2000
Volume 2, 1999
Volume 1, 1999


Ethnic – Postethnic – Transethnic? Black Identity in Contemporary African American Life Writing


Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany

This article takes as its point of departure David Hollinger’s concept of postethnicity and applies the concept to contemporary African American autobiographies. The texts by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; Barack Obama; and Jennifer Baszile serve to illustrate ways of constructing black identity in the United States today along the lines of ethnicity, postethnicity, and transethnicity. The article looks at how the authors engage with the advantages and drawbacks of ethnic group affiliation and how new concepts of post- and transethnicity can show up new possibilities for group identification. In all three examples black identity is shown to rest on two pillars: identification with black cultural accomplishments and identification with black people in general. Furthermore, this racial-cultural identification is represented as indispensible for individual identity formation. Therefore, the negation of ideas of ethnic or cultural identity leads to a void that needs to be filled with new concepts. One such concept is that of postethnicity, which takes group identification beyond the racial-cultural border. Questions of “ethnic” identity seem to be getting more and more complicated today. Groups and their designations are in a constant flux. Because of those are imminent questions life narratives such as the ones analyzed in this article can help us understand the meaning of “ethnic” group affiliations in the global and transnational world that we encounter in the twenty-first century.

Keywords: ethnicity, postethnicity, transethnicity, identity, African American, life writing, autobiography, globalization, group affiliation


 Webmasters: Neic Răzvan and Crăciun Bogdan