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Contagions of EmpireScientific Racism, Sexuality, and Black Military Workers Abroad, 1898-1948$
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Khary Oronde Polk

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469655505

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469655505.001.0001

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Communicable Subjects

Communicable Subjects

African American Soldiers Trip the Global Color Line

Chapter:
(p.166) Chapter Five Communicable Subjects
Source:
Contagions of Empire
Author(s):

Khary Oronde Polk

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469655505.003.0006

This chapter follows the segregated mobilization of Black military workers across the expanded playing fields of the second World War, showing how the Black body was once again rendered into a subaltern, contagious, and communicable subject of American militarism. Sex remained an important commodity traded within the economies of pleasure created through U.S. foreign military intervention, and the stigma of venereal disease once again justified the experimental use of prophylaxis drugs upon and within the bodies of African American soldiers. Representations of Black troops in military training films vacillated from heroic to lecherous, and even enlisted notable “race men” like Paul Robeson to shame soldiers into sexual abstinence. Yet Black troops encountered a world globalized through technological advances in communication, medicine, travel, and warfare, and this in turn shaped their own ideas about race, sexuality, and citizenship. Their experiences during the war and later in occupied Berlin enabled them to map the contours of a global color line through their military travels, increasing their transnational awareness of colonial policies in allied countries, and granting them a political kinship with the darker peoples of the world.

Keywords:   communicable, stigma, sex, venereal disease, prophylaxis, Paul Robeson, color line, Berlin, occupied, experimental

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