The Arresting Eye

The Arresting Eye: Race and the Anxiety of Detection

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Arresting Eye
    Book Description:

    In her reading of detective fiction and passing narratives from the end of the nineteenth century forward, Jinny Huh investigates anxieties about race and detection. Adopting an interdisciplinary and comparative approach, she examines the racial formations of African Americans and Asian Americans not only in detective fiction (from Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan to the works of Pauline Hopkins) but also in narratives centered on detection itself (such as Winnifred Eaton's rhetoric of undetection in her Japanese romances). In explicating the literary depictions of race-detection anxiety, Huh demonstrates how cultural, legal, and scientific discourses across diverse racial groups were also struggling with demands for racial decipherability. Anxieties of detection and undetection, she concludes, are not mutually exclusive but mutually dependent on each other's construction and formation in American history and culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3703-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VII)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. VIII-VIII)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. IX-XIV)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    On July 22, 2005, police shot and killed Jean Charles de Menezes, a twenty-seven-year-old electrician living in London, in Stockwell Station in South London because they incorrectly identified him as the suspected terrorist Hussain Osman. The police shot Menezes repeatedly in the head in front of horrified passengers aboard a subway train. The shooting occurred on the day following a failed terrorist attempt in London and two weeks after the bombings (known as the 7/7 bombings) that resulted in fifty-two civilian deaths; London was on high alert. A statement by London’s Metropolitan Police revealed that “the man who was shot...

  6. 1 Whispers of Norbury: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Modernist Crisis of Racial (Un)Detection
    (pp. 23-52)

    One of this study’s underlying premises is that we are all culturally, socially, and legally groomed to be race detectors. Notwithstanding the absence of the title “detective,” everyday citizens are expected to know (and sometimes adamantly claim to know) the difference between white and nonwhite. This ability to discern racial difference is especially important in moments when knowing the difference determines access to white privilege. Before examining the literary examples of race detective anxiety, I offer a brief legal reexamination of the recourse to “common knowledge” detection by focusing on Jim Crow segregation laws as well as anti-Asian immigration practices...

  7. 2 Intuitive Faculties and Racial Clairvoyance: Pauline Hopkins and the Emergence of Multiethnic Detective Fiction
    (pp. 53-82)

    In Nella Larsen’s 1929 novelPassing, Irene Redfield ponders the consequences of Clare Kendry’s race passing and its potential discovery by her white husband: “What if Bellew should divorce Clare? Could he? There was the Rhinelander case” (228). This brief and mysterious reference to the Rhinelander trial, we quickly discover, embodies the stakes of race passing for Larsen’s protagonists. Larsen’s tale is a passing narrative–turned–crime drama in which light-skinned Clare Kendry dupes her white husband by passing for white and dies (is killed?) shortly after the discovery of her concealed racial identity. Similarly, the case ofRhinelander v....

  8. 3 Detecting Winnifred Eaton
    (pp. 83-103)

    The story of Winnifred Eaton is full of detective anxieties. By now, students and critics familiar with Asian American literary history are also well acquainted with the debate surrounding Edith and Winnifred Eaton’s status as pioneers of the Asian American literary canon. Rediscovered in the 1970s and remaining a focal point in academic studies, Edith and Winnifred are generally acknowledged as foremothers of Asian American literary history. I do not wish to revive the controversy over the Eaton sisters’ standing within Asian American studies; many scholars, including Viet Nguyen, Tomo Hattori, Dominika Ferens, and Karen Skinazi, among others, have recently...

  9. 4 Jaundiced Eyes: The Case of Charlie Chan and the Mysterious Disappearance of a Detective Hero
    (pp. 104-143)

    In 1942, the United States Army published and distributed an “educational” pamphlet for military personnel titledA Pocket Guide to China. The seventy-five-page guide was distributed to the U.S. Army and Navy during their stay in China during World War II. It included translations of English phrases into Chinese (such as “Who are you?,” “What do you want?,” “I am an American soldier,” and “I am your friend”). The guide also included a ten-page comic called “How to Spot a Jap” illustrated by Martin Caniff. The goal of the comic was to illustrate the differences between the Chinese allies and...

  10. 5 Race Detection in a Color-Blind Era: Musings on the New Millennium
    (pp. 144-170)

    Changing direction from earlier chapters, I conclude this study by reflecting on our current state of race detection panic via multiple “texts” ranging from print media, art installations, speculative narratives, transracial adoption, and reproductive biotechnology. Some of the examples reveal this study’s anxiety of detection immediately and obviously; others may not be so transparent. Some may already be the subject of several critical studies; others may have until now been overlooked. Either way, I bring them together here to emphasize that while their impact may not fully resonate if seen individually, as a collective, they expose a relevant, integrated link...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 171-186)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-202)
  13. Index
    (pp. 203-208)