This essay situates Cynthia Kadohata’s 1992 novel In the Heart of the Valley of Love alongside the 1968 Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission Report) to explore the afterlife and the counterlives of US Cold War racial politics. Scholars have argued that the Cold War was characterized by a marked interest from the emerging liberal state to address an ongoing racial crisis, most notably signaled by the 1960s urban riots. Rather than simply approach the Kerner Report as state policy that resolved urban crisis, this essay reads the report as a dystopian text that cultivated an antiracist mode of perception through an affect of fear that fixed acts of “seeing” race through bodily difference and urban space. Subsequently, I study how In the Heart’s critical dystopia provides alternative modes of perception to engage with the vexed role of visibility as a regulative and emancipatory force. By positioning Kadohata’s critical dystopia against the logics of the Kerner Report, I rethink the genre to invigorate the politics of visuality and hope for retheorizing urban insurrection, cross-racial solidarity, and antiblack racism.


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pp. 883-906
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