Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Theory and Criticism


Vanderheide, John


In 2010, Wayde Compton proposed, as an experiment, replacing the term ‘passing’ with ‘phehenticizing’ in relation to critical race theory and in conjunction with the manner in which we interpret the relationship racialized subjects possess with agents of the state. Pheneticizing, co-opted as a theoretical term from the branch of taxonomy called phenetics, when it comes to human interaction, has been demonstrated from a Eurocentric position of power from the time of European colonial expansion; through the era of the African slave trade of Europe and the Americas; into the time of American reconstruction; and persists within our current reality. In the expansion of this theory, this paper gives consideration to William Wilberforce’s attempt to restructure the labour force of a capitalist market; Louis Althusser’s position on Marxist-Leninist structure and the subjectified relationships to both the ideological and repressive state apparatuses; and the role of the subject within interpellation as the subjectified ‘other’ by those in positions of power. In addition to a historical and theoretical look at pheneticizing as a practice of human interaction, this paper considers the presence of pheneticization within the works of both black and white authors, typically considered as ‘passing’ literature. These works, stretching from Twain in the 19th century to Senna in the late 20th century, take on greater depth within the new theoretical diagnostic of pheneticizing, further illustrating the relationship between the phenetized subject in his relationship to elite capitalist power structures and the need for a reproducing labour force in order for those structure to survive.