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BECOMING RASTA: RECENTERING WHITE MASCULINITY IN THE ERA OF TRANSNATIONALISM Wendy Somerson In a 1995 speech President CUnton asked, When the President ofMexico comes here in a few days and we talk about drug problems, are we talking about domestic problems or foreign problems ? [. . J Ifwe talk about NAFTA and trade, is it their foreign policies or our domestic economies? [. . J When you think about the world and the way we live in it, you readily see that the foreign-domestic distinction begins to evaporate in so many profound ways. And we must learn to speak about it in different ways. (733) During Clinton's presidency the boundaries of the United States have grown increasingly permeable, transnational capital has rapidly expanded , and the importance ofthe United States in the world market has declined. Coinciding with these poUtical and economic shifts is the occurrence of US narratives, generaUy by and about white men, that recenter the position of the white male citizen-subject, as weU as that of the nation. At a time when their futures seem uncertain, white North American writers have begun to construct narratives in which Uteral or metaphoric father-son relationships are central, and white patriarchal famüy history is reconstructed to incorporate an impure racial genealogy that constructs white men as cultural hybrids. Popular US narratives, such as Richard DooUng's novel White Man's Grave (1994), RusseU Banks's novel Rule of the Bone (1995), director John Sayles's film Lone Star (1996), and even director Barry Sonnenfeld's summer blockbuster Men in Black (1997), all use race to color-in white lineage and ensure a pivotal role for white male subjects in the global future. Bolstering the nuclear famüy through the incorporation of racial, cultural, and/or national difference, these narratives position the white male US citizensubject as a "borderland being," so that his central importance, both in other nations and within the United States, is reaffirmed. As opposed to the angry white male narratives, which cast the white male subject as a victim ofidentity poUtics, these narratives appropriate the Uberai discourse ofthe borderlands and thus customarily appear supportive of progressive social movements. In "The Sadomasochist in the Closet," David Savran convincingly argues that the angry white male phenomenon, exemplified by Timothy McVeigh and the "Patriot Movement ," can be seen as an attempt by white men "to recoup the perceived losses of the past twenty years" (128). While these attempts take new guises in the nineties, Savran argues that white male anxieties began to surface in the seventies in response to the feminist movement, the civil rights movement, lesbian and gay rights activism, the perceived loss of Vietnam, and, most importantly, "the end ofthe post-World War II economic boom and a resultant and steady decUne in the income of white Vol 23 (1999): 128 ??? COHPAnATIST working- and lower-middle-class men" (128). A new, white-male "fantasmatic " emerged that responded to these changes "by encouraging the white male subject's simultaneous embrace and disavowal of the role of victim" (128). Reading this voluntary victimization as reflexive sadomasochism , Savran argues that the white male subject spUts his subjectivity into a sadistic and masochistic half. On the one hand, he takes up the "feminized positionaUty" of the victim, but on the other, he enacts fantasies of "hypermascuhnized heroism" to compensate for his misplaced virility (129). Performing this contradiction, the white male as victim—as exempUfied by Rambo—puts himself through tortuous ordeals in order to prove his mascuUnity, and thus he plays the parts of both "aggressor and victim, active and passive, mascuUnized and feminized" (129). Using this dual identification, the white male subject can both claim victimization and assert his aggressive mascuUnity through a continual battle that is ultimately waged within himsetf. As opposed to proposals by psychoanalytic critics Kaja SUverman and Leo Bersani that this spUt subjectivity radicaUy chaUenges the coherence ofthe traditional white male subject, Savran argues that reflexive sadomasochism functions in the service of conservative ideology to consoUdate and preserve white masculinity. WhUe Savran presents a convincing account ofthe general phenomenon of the angry-white-(US)-male-as-victim narrative in the past twenty years, I am arguing that a...


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pp. 128-140
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