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‘Identity Trouble’ in Naomi Wallace’s In the Heart of America: National Ideology and Disidentification

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2014, 27(2), pp.5-31
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Yungduk Kim 1

1경북대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Naomi Wallace’s political theatre has been an ongoing pursuit of social change, combining socio-political critique and inquiry into history. In her 1994 play In the Heart of America, Wallace delves into the interlocking network of violence, war, homophobia, and racism. Tracing the identity quest of Remzi, an Palestinian-American soldier who is beaten to death by fellow soldiers during the Gulf War of the early 1990s, the play presents scenes of violence in which racist and homophobic hate crimes victimize racial and sexual minorities. These minorities are, in the words of Boxler who speaks for the national ideology of freedom and American foreign policy, the “enemies” of the nation. They are discursively constituted for the ideological purpose of justifying imperialist wars overseas. In order to problematize their disidentificatory relations with American national ideology, Wallace’s play focuses on representing Medina’s notion of “identity trouble” these minority characters experience. Dramatizing Medina’s familial notion of identity that all identity categories are intrinsically heterogeneous and unstable, Wallace presents characters of hyphenated and queer identities fighting in Iraq who feel that they don’t quite belong to America, who feel ill at ease with American national ideology. Remzi witnesses violence in “the heart of America” and then in the U.S. military camp, and accordingly moves from identification to disidentification with America, finally reclaiming his Arab roots as a Palestinian. Craver similarly stands “uneasy” under the master signifer of America, but he maintains his disidentificatory relation with the nation. He resists the national ideology by citing and appropriating its language to re-signify its meaning and reconstitute his identity.

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