Individual Work
Textural Textuality: a personal exploration of critical race theory

Published in the spring 2002 as a part of a special issue of Kairos on the topic of disability, Joyce R Walker’s “web-text” is neither a stand-alone piece of electronic literature nor a self-sufficient critical article. Rather, as the title of this piece indicates, “Textural Textuality” is both a meditative reflection and web-based exploration of the complexities of racial identity. Like many of the web-texts published by Kairos, it offers an intriguing nexus of creative writing, critical analysis, cultural studies, and pedagogical practice.

The work opens with a black splash page and six images that load consecutively of a city transit bus in the process of arriving and departing, seen from the perspective of someone who watches the bus without boarding it.

Once all six images are loaded, several paragraphs appear, which explain the site’s navigation. The webtext is a fairly straightforward hypertext/javascript blend, but the navigation tips are helpful in that they indicate that the links that signal different reading pathways are—not surprisingly in a text about race—color-coded. There are six different colors available, representing six different entry points to thinking about the complexities of race and identity politics: orange/miscellaneous, blue/complications, red/stories and reflection, green/textual structures, purple/critical race theory, and gold/intertexts. The reader can choose to follow different pathways as the text presents them, or she can make use of the color coding and read all the pages in any one category. Regardless of which way she proceeds, every page provides a small visual abstraction in the upper left corner that shows which links are available, and the reader can toggle easily between the central text and the site map. The entire web text is comprised of meditations, personal reflections, confrontations, conversations, reactions, news clips, student responses, and excerpts from critical theory about race. Accordingly, the work also raises issues about authorship, collaboration, and the ethics of citation.

While some moments in the text seem a bit overt—such as the switch from white to black and the color-coding of the navigation, as well as the repeated images of a bus, so laden with racial history in the United States—the site overall demonstrates admirable restraint, both in terms of its simple and streamlined design, as well as in its style of writing, which offers earnest and insightful reflection. It offer access to a fraught topic on its own term; as such, it is well-positioned to succeed as a pedagogical tool in a broad range of courses, including those about race, writing, web design, and identity politics.