'In the same boat now': peoples of the African diaspora and/as immigrants: the politics of race, migration, and nation in twentieth-century American literature

Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2010

Access Restrictions

Access restricted to UI faculty, staff and students.

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Harilaos Stecopoulos

First Committee Member

Claire Fox

Second Committee Member

Linda Bolton

Third Committee Member

Corey Creekmur

Fourth Committee Member

Aimee Carrillo-Rowe


In this dissertation, I take seriously Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assertion that even though non-indigenous peoples in America "may have come over on different ships," they are all, in spite of and in the face of their particular ethnic, racial, gender, class, tribal, or national identities, nevertheless together "in the same boat now." In particular, in this project I reconstruct and reinterpret the process of migration, assimilation, and the realization of full sociopolitical participation in the United States in terms of the relationship between peoples of African descent--who were compelled to migrate as slaves across the Middle Passage, and who also voluntarily immigrated from various localities within the Black Atlantic--and select groups of immigrants from other locations around the globe. In my thesis, I concentrate on novels by William Faulkner, Paule Marshall, James Baldwin, Gayl Jones, and cartoonist Chris Ware, and examine closely how these authors, in their respective texts, work to restructure, reimagine, and thereby challenge the enshrined American narratives of national belonging and acculturation through literary constructions of the identities and experiences of peoples of African descent, as migrants themselves, in tandem with their social, political, economic, sexual, racial, and cultural engagements with other immigrants to the nation-state. In the introduction to my text, I survey and carefully synthesize diverse literary, historical, sociological, postcolonial, and feminist approaches to and theories of the problems of race, immigration, and nationalization, and formulate a new critical interdisciplinary framework for the mutual (de)construction of peoples of African descent as immigrants among immigrants in America.


baldwin, faulkner, immigration, marshall, race, ware


x, 355 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 327-355).


Copyright 2010 Joanna Christine Davis-McElligatt