Julia S. Charles

Nov 9, 2020

That Middle World

Race, Performance, and the Politics of Passing

University of North Carolina Press 2020

purchase at bookshop.org

In this chronologically and thematically ambitious study of racial passing literature, Julia Charles highlights how mixed-race subjects invent cultural spaces for themselves—a place she terms that middle world. Charles, an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Auburn University, focuses on the construction and performance of racial identity in works by writers from the antebellum period through Reconstruction, connecting these passing or crossing narratives to more contemporary examples of racial performativity - including Rachel Dolezal and her Black-passing controversy, the FX show Atlanta, and the musical Show Boat.

Provocative and theoretically innovative, Charles’s That Middle World: Race, Performance, and the Politics of Passing (UNC Press, 2020) offers a nuanced approach to African American passing literature and examines how mixed-race performers articulated their sense of selfhood and communal belonging in both past and present.


James West is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in History at Northumbria University, UK. He is the author of Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett Jr.: Popular Black History in Postwar America (University of Illinois Press, 2020)

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