Johannes Kohrs

PhD Candidate

Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin



PhD Candidate at the Graduate School of North American Studies, John-F.-Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie University Berlin, GER


Magister Artium (M.A.) Goethe University Frankfurt, GER

Majors: American Studies and German Studies

Literary Sciences, Linguistics, Cultural Sciences

Graduation summa cum laude (1,0)


Thesis: „Resistance to the Black Church in the Tradition of Black Intellectuals: Richard Wright and James Baldwin“



"Chautauqua-Prize" for best master thesis 2013

awarded by the Goethe University American Studies

alumni association - the “Calliopean Society e.V.”




American Literature Association 26th Annual Conference: Signifying the New Black Aesthetic in Percival Everett’s Fiction (Organized by the Percival Everett International Society

Presenter: “From Black Complexion to Black Complexity – A New Black Aesthetic in the Era of Post-Race: Percival Everett”

From Complexion to Complexity – Race and Recognition in Percival Everett’s Satiric Novels


When in 2009, in light of Barack Obama’s presidency, the African American author Colson Whitehead proclaimed a new era of “post-raciality”, he did so by means of satire. His polemical panegyric on the putative socio-cultural transition in African American identity exemplifies the prevalent attempt to transfer the debate on racial formations into the 21st century. My dissertation project focuses on the significance of satiric forms prevalent in the discursive paradigm of “post-race” with specific regard to Percival Everett’s aesthetic agenda.


Challenging preconceived notions of a consistent African American cultural condition, Everett exemplifies a remarkable instance of literary diversification. The novelist, poet, painter and professor (USC) ventures into various themes, genres and conventions, inspiring a persisting debate on his artistic (self-) marginalization within the field of African American literature. Everett’s position relates to the tragicomical mode of satire (and other modes of humour), that, despite its prevalence in the forms of the trickster or playing the dozens, is marginalized within the realm of African American cultural practice, where the dominant receptive registers, preliminarily put, are either tragical (as in slave or passing narratives) or melodramatic (most prominently exemplified by Beecher Stowe’s ascription). I seek to investigate why today, subsumed under the header “post-race”, satire, along with irony and parody, seems to show a significant rise in the African American literary field. That satire and its reception seem to be linked to a predominantly male conceptualization of authorship, from George S. Schuyler to Ishmael Reed and Percival Everett, to name but a few, further underlines its discursive significance (regarding the cultural fear of the black male).


With this analytical framework my project is centered on a comparative analysis of Erasure (2001), A History of the African-American People (proposed) by Strom Thurmond as told to Percival Everett and James Kincaid (2004) and I Am Not Sidney Poitier (2009). These satiric novels not only address race and ethnic representativeness in the “post-racial” cultural paradigm but experiment in a remarkable way with variegating conceptualizations of (fictionalized) authorship, challenging consistent conceptions of (racially codified) identity. “Post-race”, as one might conceive of it with regard to Everett’s work, could, if anything, designate a shift in perspective of America’s cultural agenda: from complexion to complexity. Significantly, the term shows an intrinsic ambivalence, as it can be read both as noun (post-race) and as verb (to post race), thus implying both transcending (noun) and proclaiming (verb) race as a mode of representation. I seek to investigate in what ways Everett’s fiction can be considered an updated instance of the African American tradition of satire as a tragicomical mode of critique of a socio-cultural reality that is yet far from being being “post” race.

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft