The End and Continuation of History: Zadie Smith’s Critique of Francis Fukuyama in White Teeth

Leander Møller Gøttcke*

*Kontaktforfatter for dette arbejde

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Zadie Smith’s novel White Teeth has generally been read through the lens of postcolonialism: as a critique of nationalism and as an attempt to give literary form to an emerging multicultural Englishness. Yet postcolonial readings tend to overlook the extent to which the novel’s characters are dysfunctional and struggle with themselves and with each other. Moreover, the extensive focus on multiculturalism has meant that critics have paid little attention to the novel’s rejection of overly optimistic views of history. Throughout the novel, Smith’s narrator mocks characters, time and again, for believing that History (with a capital H) can arrive at a happy ending. Tellingly, however, almost no critics have noted that the novel makes direct reference to Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man. The present essay sets out to show how White Teeth develops a subtle and nuanced critique of Fukuyama’s progressive view of history. It thus presents an overview of Fukuyama’s main hypotheses followed by a close reading of White Teeth. Finally, the article aims to illustrate how Smith’s critique of Fukuyama has turned out to be remarkably prescient, since the identity struggles depicted in White Teeth have anticipated the current crisis of liberal democracy.

TidsskriftCritique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)219-235
StatusUdgivet - 14. mar. 2020

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