Disgrace Analysis

1637 words - 7 pages

Racist Modes of Representation in J.M Coetzee's Novel DisgraceIdeology, a term first introduced by Louis Althusser, refers to a governing system of values and beliefs that favors a certain group of people and enables them to manipulate people subordinate to them. Through the view of colonies, ideology helps colonizers construct inferior identities for the colonized and compartmentalize the latter for their own pleasure. As a result, the racial, gender, and sexual oppression tends to be internalized and accepted as true. Even though laws are simple to rewrite, racist modes of representation are actually much harder to change. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, through stereotypes of South Africa as primitive and morally weak, women as powerless and dependent on men, and the racist depictions of black and white characters, reproduces racist modes of representation. This facet of the novel becomes particularly lucid after examining the principles of intersectionality outlined by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw in an article entitled "Mapping The Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color". Essentially, Coetzee reinforces and reproduces conventionally racist modes of representation and repression.The two rape scenes are very clear: in one case, a white man rapes a "black" woman while in another three black men rape a white woman. Yet, when contrasting the two sexual assaults, a dense network of sexual, gender and racial exploitation that involves parties with multiple identities comes to surface. Two seemingly non-related incidents, while on the surface appear to be only about physical violence, as a matter of fact alludes to a kind of ideological violence that is barely visible. The two rape scenes serve to stereotype South Africa as primitive and morally weak and women as powerless and dependent on men, thus securing the upward and noble status of the whites, in that Lurie, while a rapist himself, is able to justify his own actions and be eligible enough to narrate another rape scene and give criticism. On the other hand, Melanie and Lucy, the two victims, are to remain silent and remain vulnerable to sexual violations.Deconstruction of the 52-year-old professor's sexual relationships with two women of color effectively corroborates this viewpoint. He has reckless sexual encounters with young, exotic prostitutes to counteract the issues of aging and not being able to be sexually dominant. However, after Soraya, the prostitute, avoids him and asks that he harass her no more, Lurie seduces and even rapes Melanie for "damage control." One thing to highlight is that although Melanie's actual ethnicity is not overtly stated in Disgrace, Lurie racializes her and fantasizes her as being foreign, as he describes her as "small and thin" and having "wide, almost having Chinese cheekbones" (Coetzee 11), and refers to her as "Melani: the dark one" (Coetzee 18). Whether or not Melanie is white no longer matter, so long as in Luri...

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