Acts of Separation: Shaping Communal Bodies

  • Jeffrey Jerome Cohen
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Critical race theory is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of what are (to the medievalist) recent collective identities: African American, Hispanic, white, and so on. Drawing from the analysis of law and culture as well as literature and history, this school of criticism stresses that even though race is typically assumed to be stable, enduring, and biological, in fact the contours and substance of race are subject to constant flux. Even if it is socially constructed rather than a pregiven fact, however, race is too intertwined with embodiment to be discarded or cavalierly dismissed.1 Forces beyond the control of any particular individual circumscribe the limits of collective identities, imbuing them with their relative cultural value and engendering a paradox. Identity, whether personal or collective, is at once solid and—especially over long periods of time—mutable. Race, like gender, is susceptible to change; yet race (like gender) has an undeniable materiality.


British Isle Collective Identity Twelfth Century Critical Race Theory Communal Body 
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© Jeffrey Jerome Cohen 2006

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  • Jeffrey Jerome Cohen

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