“They Made us into a Race. We Made Ourselves into a People”: A Corpus Study of Contemporary Black American Group Identity in the Non‑Fictional Writings of Ta‑Nehisi Coates
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonCorpus Pragmatics, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41701-021-00101-8
This article examines representations of contemporary Black American identity in the non-fictional writings of Ta-Nehisi Coates. The dataset is a self-compiled specialized corpus of Coates’s non-fictional writings from 1996 until 2018 (350 texts; 468,899 words). The study utilizes an interdisciplinary approach combining corpus linguistics and corpus pragmatics. Frequencies of five identity-related terms in the corpus (African(–)Americans, blacks, black people, black America/Americans and black community/communities) are compared diachronically; then the pragmatic prosody of the terms is analyzed via the notion of control. The findings suggest that Coates’s representation of Black American group identity has shifted over time. Specifically, the terms African Americans and black America are replaced by the terms blacks and black people. The study’s empirical findings, considered through the theoretical framework on Black solidarity, suggest a shift in representation of group identity in Coates’s writings from an identity based on cultural and ethnic commonalities to an identity based on the shared experiences of anti-Black racism.