Against “a Place Without History”: Contemporary Racism and Utopian Dynamism in Mat Johnson’s Pym
Fiorelli contributes to the critical work on Mat Johnson’s 2011 novel Pym by foregrounding its assessment of utopianism’s ability to work through historical problems of race. Pym satirically examines America’s long-held obsession with the Black-white binary and the flexibility of global capitalists and “post-racial” neoliberals and conservatives to both profit from and obfuscate continuing racial oppression. The novel adopts several polyvocal means of critique, illuminating racial complexities. Taken together, these serve in the spirit of the critical utopia, supporting utopian desire while faulting utopianism that fails to recognize its own contingency. The novel’s critique of the myopia of contemporary American society within the context of racial history and a globalized world yields not to pessimism or anti-utopianism, but sustains an embattled desire for something better.
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