Skin colour, surveillance and subjectivity

Deconstructing race in Jan Mark's Useful Idiots

Victoria Flanagan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Although discussions of race in children's literature tend to focus on realist narrative fictions, fantasy has rich potential for critically examining the concept of racial difference. Useful Idiots (2004), a young adult novel by British author Jan Mark, acts as the focus of my analysis because it is a fantasy novel that offers readers a highly innovative and unconventional exploration of the social discourses that construct and perpetuate racial hierarchies. Using David Lyon's theories about modern surveillance, whiteness studies and Bakhtin's concept of grotesque realism as a theoretical framework, this article argues that Mark inventively interrogates numerous assumptions that underpin race in modern society by depicting a character who, throughout the course of the narrative, gradually becomes a racialised subject. The portrayal of this process constitutes a highly effective and original representation of what it means to be considered 'the other'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-179
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Research in Children's Literature
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011

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