Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

"Race" and the Displacement of Affect: Subject Formation in Fugard's 'Master Harold' . . . and the Boys"

Dr. Uzoma Esonwanne.

Ever since it was first staged in 1982, Athol Fugard's _"Master Harold" . . . and the Boys_ (MH) has been read as a dramatic expose, inspired by an event that occurred in the playwright's youth, of "the psychosis" of racism or "the psychopathology of apartheid." Critics argue that the racist system that prohibits violence against the "white" father but sanctions its use against non-white subalterns obliges Hally, who is embroiled in an Oedipal conflict with his crippled "white" father, to redirect his ambivalent (love/hate) affects toward Sam, his "black" surrogate father. Furthermore, they perceive incidents in which Sam endures abjection as pivotal events that usher Hally into manhood. Central to these interpretations, then, is the suggestions that in MH "race" is not only implicated in Hally's pathological behaviour but, perhaps more significantly, it is implicated in his constitution as a "white" subject. But how, precisely, is "race" implicated in this process? To answer this question, we must re-examine Hally's relationship with Sam. More specifically, we must explain what role, if any, "race" plays in displacing the affects referred to above. Drawing upon psychoanalysis and MH, we must provide a schematic account of of the process by which the individual becomes racialized as "white" in racial states. Without this account, we cannot place ourselves in the positiion necessary for taking stock of what Fugard calls "the profoundly damaging" effects of racist practices on Hally. More importantly, we cannot explain Hally's interpellation as subject in racist discourse, a process that seems to require affirmation from Sam, the "black" subaltern. "Race," I argue, is crucial to Hally's constitution as subject precisely because it seems to be inscribed in his unconscious as the paradigmatic form of difference, on which basis the young boy is hailed or denied access to a "white" identity defined by mastery or its lack.


Dr. Uzoma Esonwanne  (Canada)
Associate Professor
Department of English Faculty of Arts and Science
University of Toronto

Born in Nigeria, I now reside in Toronto, Canada. I obtained my undergraduate education at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and my graduate education at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton. Since completing my Ph.D., I have taught at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Saint Mary's University, Halifax.

  • Subjectivity
  • Race
Person as Subject
  • Sigmund Freud Frantz Fanon Louis Althusser Judith Butler

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)