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Contesting Boundaries: Race, Gender and Transnationalism in Toni Morrison's "Tar Baby"

Sandra C. Duvivier


Toni Morrison’s under-considered novel Tar Baby(1981) explores the precarious relationship between black women, racial/cultural identity, and (trans)national spaces. These spaces contain restrictive constructions of black womanhood predicated on black nationalist tenets regarding black racialized identity: that is, women’s circumscribed roles primarily as biological or metaphorical mothers, cultural nurturers and maintainers of a proud black community; and, to a degree, sexual “property” of men. Analyzing protagonist Jadine Childs, this essay explores not only her tenuous relationship to community and essentialized constructions of “blackness,” but also the ways her contestation of limited gendered roles within various transnational settings inevitably account for her displacement and physical/metaphorical “homelessness” in Tar Baby.


Toni Morrison; Tar Baby; Women in Literature; African American Women Writers; The Caribbean

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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