Invisible presence: Toward a theory of African-American subjectivity

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Michael Echeruo


African-American, Subjectivity, Marxism, Race, Henry Louis Gates, Cornell West, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright

Subject Categories

African American Studies | American Literature


In this dissertation I engage the question of race, and I argue for a class theory of race. In elaborating upon my position, I situate my account within existing theories of race. Specifically I critically engage postmodern linguistic accounts of race, as offered by theorists such as Henry Louis Gates and Cornell West, as well as the cultural inscription of race within fictional works of Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, and Richard Wright. What is missing from these two accounts is the role of class in shaping African-American subjectivity. In foregrounding class dimension of African-American identity, I argue that the African-American subject is marked by invisibility, an "invisible presence." By invisible presence I mean that African-American invisibility is necessary for the illusion of presence for dominant subjects. Furthermore, the presence of dominant subjects is ideologically related to the logic of the free market. African-American subjects are (ideologically) invisible and yet provide presence for dominant subjects.


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