ABSTRACT

Postracial utopias in twentieth- and twenty-first-century American culture are marked by paradoxes in which racial categories continue to signify, as many scholars have observed. Extending these approaches to late eighteenth-century France, when utopian thinkers dreamed of abolishing categories of “color” and “blood,” this article focuses on the 1798 play Tenais and Zeliska. A utopian vision of a South Asian kingdom in which phenotype and lineage no longer serve as markers of identity, and in which prejudice has been nearly eliminated, the play is nevertheless marked by ambiguities that have been seen as characteristic of present-day postracial utopias. The figure of the racially mixed subject, in particular, becomes a site of contradiction. Read by others as an embodiment of discrete and shifting physical signs that link her to diverse identities, the character of Zeliska signals the tensions within utopian fantasies of a future without prejudice.

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