Disgrace Analysis

Essay by sophiebigalkeCollege, UndergraduateB+, April 2012

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Racist Modes of Representation in J.M Coetzee's Novel Disgrace

Ideology, 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...