Local and Global Scales of Racial Neoliberalism in _Where the Line Bleeds_

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Notwithstanding growing scholarly attention to Jesmyn Ward’s writing, her debut novel _Where the Line Bleeds_ (2008) remains relatively understudied. This chapter proposes that _Where the Line Bleeds_ is particularly valuable for its attention to both racialised exploitation long associated with the US South and the more contemporary reality of economic globalisation. Ward dramatises how these overlapping social and economic forces, operating across temporal and geographic scales, impact upon the poor Black denizens of Bois Sauvage, a majority-Black small town near Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. While _Where the Line Bleeds_ takes place almost entirely in or near Bois Sauvage, Ward dramatises how neoliberal globalisation renders disposable young Black men like the novel’s central characters, the twins Joshua and Christophe DeLisle. If such disposability is disturbingly resonant of slavery and its legacies in the U.S. South, it results too from the recent outsourcing overseas of blue-collar jobs. _Where the Line Bleeds_ examines this racialised and neoliberalised disposability at the intimate scale of the twins’ interpersonal relationship. Joshua secures an increasingly rare blue-collar job while Christophe, unsuccessful in seeking legal work, begins to deal weed and then crack cocaine. The twins’ close bond becomes riven by the language of ‘choice’—a loaded word within the novel’s drama and, as David Harvey and Wendy Brown have demonstrated, within neoliberal discourse. The twins’ close but tense relationship is tested too by the reappearance of their long absent father Samuel, an unemployed drug addict known as Sandman. Sandman is repeatedly associated with dirt and waste, again recalling the regional history of black labouring lives and bodies being exploited and dispensed with—what Achille Mbembe terms necropolitics—as well as the ‘biopolitics of disposability’ that critics such as Henry Giroux have attributed to neoliberalism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication_Jesmyn Ward_ New Critical Essays_
EditorsSheri-Marie Harrison, Arin Keeble, Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo
Number of pages16
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Publication date2023
ISBN (Print) 9781399510615
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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