Philip Gentry’s What Will I Be is a book that takes on some very big questions in a compact way. In his introduction Gentry outlines the stakes of his project, announcing his interest in nothing less than a historicization of the concept of “identity” as it was construed during the critical years of the Cold War, which in this context means the immediate era following World War II from the late 1940s to the end of the 1950s. Gentry artfully posits the period as a time when thinking about identity gained significant currency unto itself, drawing together political discourses tied to McCarthyism and the U.S. position on the global stage, civil rights discourses on race, and social scientific and psychoanalytic studies that sought to understand the self in relation to society. Using performance studies as a methodological framework, Gentry leads the reader through four disparate case studies on African American...

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