American Studies ETDs

Publication Date



Despite the fact that nineteenth and twentieth century biologist and Social Darwinists theories of race have been dispelled, the social residue of white supremacist ideologies continue to have social and political implications throughout American society. America's racial hierarchy, and whiteness as a social and racial construct instantiated within it, against which every other group of people has been relationally situated, has helped not only to define non-white racial subjects in inferior terms, it has also guaranteed a perpetuation of race-based structural and social inequalities in United States of America. African American Studies, Critical Race Theory, Whiteness Studies, and most recently a body of Normalcy scholarship have examined not only the immensity and reach of power that "whiteness" has a construct in American society, but the ability of this construct to operate in society as an invisible and largely un-interrogated force. This is because of how whiteness is often represented as neutral, disinterested, and normal. This dissertation examines three early twentieth century African American cultural producers who deployed representations of normativity as acts of artistic expression, political critique and social resistance. This dissertation argues that The Lincoln Motion Picture Company (1916-1923), writer Nella Larsen (1891-1964), and painter Allan Rohan Crite (1910-2007) used narrative forms to construct "a politics of normativity" through which they critiqued U.S. racial politics and challenged racist discourses aimed at African Americans in the early twentieth century. These artists deployed representations of "normativity" as an antiracist strategy through which to respond to U.S. racial hierarchies in the public realm, which persistently represented African Americans as non-normative, inferior and social deviant subjects. This dissertation joins ongoing discussions by scholars in the fields of American Studies, African American Studies, Women's Studies, Cultural Studies and Visual Culture and Literary Studies investigating strategies of representations, as forms of resistance, and what these strategies reveal about social, cultural and political negotiations made by marginalized subjects in U.S. national culture.

Project Sponsors

"Andrew W. Mellon Foundation American Association of University Women, Santa Fe Chapter"




Normative, Race

Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Advisor

Lubin, Alexander S.

First Committee Member (Chair)

Schreiber, Rebecca M.

Second Committee Member

Buick, Kirsten P.

Third Committee Member

Lopez, Nancy