Abstract

With the title character in Kim (1901), Rudyard Kipling creatively articulates a unique and durable ideal of (specifically white) racial identity, which can best be understood through the conceptual lens of Lacanian misrecognition. Within Kipling's formulation of whiteness, the process of misrecognition becomes a source of intense pleasure rather than anxiety. To be white as Kim is white requires the ecstatic embrace of the fracture inherent in any act of identification. Kipling constructs an ideal of white identity that is based on extracting pleasure from the ontological inconsistency of the (racial) self. This ideal is fundamentally performative and, at the same time, profoundly racist, for within Kipling's India only whites can engage in this process, while all ethnic others are confined within their essential Indian being. Kim therefore demonstrates that complex notions of performativity have been utilized within imperial discourse to reinforce racial hierarchy.

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