On Slave Ownership, Privilege and One Drop

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2015-04-25 23:09Z by Steven

On Slave Ownership, Privilege and One Drop

One Drop of Love: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father’s Racial Approval
2015-04-21

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, Writer, Performer and co-Producer

For just a little over two years I have traveled across the United States performing the one-woman show I wrote and produce, One Drop of Love. One Drop is about history and family, race, class, gender, privilege. One of the central themes – which I express decisively in the closing monologue – is the importance of having the courage to confront painful pasts in order to heal, and to help make real change in the present.

One of the reasons I’m invited to perform across the country – besides that One Drop resonates with a large cross-section of people – is that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are also producers. I met both when we were young (Matt in elementary school and Ben in high school), and we became fast friends because we shared a strong interest in theater. We spent many hours after school and on summer vacations in rehearsals and performing together. They have supported me – and many people from our community and others – in pursuing dreams, and sharing our interests and skills with others.

My heart sank when I learned of the leaked Sony e-mail revealing Ben’s actions upon learning of his family’s history of slave ownership…

Read the entire article here.

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Being Maori-Chinese: Mixed Identities

Posted in Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania on 2015-04-24 20:23Z by Steven

Being Maori-Chinese: Mixed Identities

Auckland University Press
January 2008
238 pages
Illustrations
210 x 148 mm
Paperback ISBN: 9781869403997

Manying Ip, Professor of Asian Studies
University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Being Maori-Chinese uses extensive interviews with seven different families to explore historical and contemporary relations between Māori and Chinese, a subject which has never been given serious study before. A full chapter is given to each family which is explored in depth often in the voices of the protagonists themselves.

This detailed and personal approach shows how in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Māori and Chinese, both relegated to the fringes of society, often had warm and congenial bonds, with intermarriage and large Māori-Chinese families. However in recent times the relationship between these two rapidly growing groups has shown tension as Māori have gained confidence in their identity and as increased Asian immigration has become a political issue. Being Maori-Chinese provides a unique and fascinating insight into cross-cultural alliances between Asian and indigenous peoples, revealing a resilience which has endured persecution, ridicule and neglect and offering a picture of New Zealand society which challenges the usual Pākehā-dominated perspective.

Today’s Māori-Chinese, especially younger members, are increasingly reaffirming their multiple roots and, with a growing confidence in the cultural advantages they possess, are playing important roles in New Zealand society.

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My body is not an apology: Race, Representation & Beauty by Emma Dabiri

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive on 2015-04-24 20:05Z by Steven

My body is not an apology: Race, Representation & Beauty by Emma Dabiri

Thandie Kay
2015-04-19

Emma Dabiri, Teaching Fellow
Africa Department, School of African and Oriental Studies, London
Visual Sociology Ph.D. Researcher, Goldsmiths University of London


Emma Dabiri

Emma Dabiri is an Irish-Nigerian PhD researcher in Goldsmiths, and teaching fellow in the Africa Department at The School of Oriental African Studies. She also works as a commercial model. Thandie encountered her when she read an article Emma wrote for The New Statesman earlier this year. They struck up a Twitter chat, and the rest is history – as written by @TheDiasporaDiva. Welcome to her 21st century world.

I recently got caught up in an online debate about a black celebrity who has completely transformed her face, arguably to make it look more European. While the jury was out as to whether or not she should have had plastic surgery, the conversation was largely framed around whether or not the surgery was successful. Ultimately this was judged by whether or not she had achieved that elusive, subjective, and most coveted of assets, “beauty”.

I was struck by the sensation that something was very wrong with the whole picture. Why do we continue to allow our options to be constrained within such a tyrannical framework, whereby a woman’s worth is calculated by the way she looks? Why don’t we push for a redefinition of what is important?

Regardless of the outcome of the surgery, I think it is unlikely this celeb will be satisfied. Insecurities are rarely vanquished by indulging the processes responsible for creating them; If anything they are multiplied…

In my early teens I was very much the awkward black girl. I was always overlooked for my white, skinny, mousey brown-haired friends. Nobody asked me to dance at discos. When playing spin the bottle I willed the bottle never to land on me. I couldn’t bear the shame I felt for the poor misfortunate who might be dared to kiss a creature as monstrous as me.

In addition to the usual pressures on a teenage girl, mine were compounded by race. My hair – goodness my hair

…So it was complex. I wanted to be seen as pretty, I craved the validation (an empty and shallow place to barter for your humanity, but how many of us succumb to it?) yet at the same time I was incredibly uncomfortable with the attention I got. I was always made to feel conspicuous; under scrutiny, an object to be examined. In his famous train passage, Fanon explores the psychological effects of subjection to the white gaze, upon the black subject-

“Look, a Negro…Look at the nigger!…Mama, a Negro!”(1986:112).

I remember, vividly, a flood of grateful relief upon first encountering these words. As an isolated, ‘mixed-race’ or black individual, in a predominantly white environment, you become a cipher, a representation of a coming anarchy. The barbarians have breached the gates, and you are the manifestation of all the images, fantasies, fears and desires that have been absorbed by a population fed a steady diet of racist discourse. You are constantly under surveillance. You become achingly aware of your every gesture; your movements, your very posture, are at all times under analysis. Mundane details, the minutiae of your daily routine, are a performance for public consumption. While, I could not articulate this at the time, I experienced the suffocating weight of such an existence deeply…

Read the entire article here.

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Don’t portray this state I love as a hotbed of racial discontent

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-24 15:01Z by Steven

Don’t portray this state I love as a hotbed of racial discontent

The Bangor Daily News
Bangor, Maine
2015-04-20

Trish Callahan, Special to the BDN

When I played high school basketball, we travelled up to The County to play a couple times. Because of the distance we would stay with host families, and we attended social events. Even though I had to be one of the only dark-skinned people to cross the threshold of some of those doors in the mid-1980s, I was treated like all the other players.

I did foul out of every game I played up there. My father and I would bet on whether I’d foul out in the end of the third or beginning of the fourth quarter. In the referee’s defense, we did play a more physical game than was the norm for girl’s ball, myself especially, so there’s no evidence that fouling out was race-related.

And that about sums up my experience as a mixed-race person in Maine since 1973: At the worst I might sense some slight surprise at the sight of someone different, but most Mainers treat me just fine.

Mainers are so polite; I can tell the ones who show that slight surprise are uncomfortable with their own reaction. I usually throw down a gentle good-natured poke at the whole race thing, and the discomfort becomes laughter. I like that about Mainers, and I don’t want that to change in light of the current and necessary discussion about race in our state and across the nation.

I also don’t want Mainers portrayed as racist because that just hasn’t been the majority of my experience. While I appreciate the sentiments of the protesters in Portland, I kind of resent the fervor reaching such a pitch that people outside our state might perceive Maine as some racial hotbed…

Read the entire article here.

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Fast Talking PI

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Oceania, Poetry on 2015-04-24 13:35Z by Steven

Fast Talking PI

Arc Publications
July 2012
80 pages
216 x 138 mm (paperback), 223 x 145 mm (hardback)
Paperback ISBN: 978-1904614-35-7
Hardback ISBN: 978-1904614-77-7

Selina Tusitala Marsh, Senior Lecturer of English Drama and Writing Studies
University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Fast Talking PI (pronounced pee-eye) reflects the poet’s focus on issues affecting Pacific communities in New Zealand, and indigenous peoples around the world including the challenges and triumphs of being afakasi [mixed race]. The book is structured in three sections, Tusitala (personal), Talkback (political and historical) and Fast Talking PIs (dialogue). She writes as a calabash breaker, smashing stereotypes and challenging historic injustices; also exploring the idea of the calabash as the honoured vessel for identity and story. Her aesthetics and indigenous politics meld marvellously together.

List of Contents

  • TUSITALA
    • Googling Tusitala
    • Not Another Nafanua Poem
    • Afakasi
    • Calabash Breakers
    • Hone Said
    • Things on Thursdays
    • Song for Terry
    • Langston’s Mother
    • Cardboard Crowns
    • The Sum of Mum
    • Wild Horses
    • Three to Four
    • Le Amataga
    • The Beginning
    • Spare the Rod
    • A Samoan Star-chant for Matariki
    • Circle of Stones
  • TALKBACK
    • Guys like Gauguin
    • Nails for Sex
    • Mutiny on Pitcairn
    • Two Nudes on a Tahitian Beach, 1894
    • Venus in Transit
    • Realpolitik
    • Contact 101
    • Has the whole tribe come out from England?
    • What’s Sarong With This?
    • The Curator
    • Hawai’i: Prelude to a Journey
    • Touring Hawaii and Its People
    • Alice’s Billboard
  • FAST TALKING PIS
    • Fast Talkin’ PI
    • Acronym
    • Outcast
  • Acknowledgements
  • Notes
  • Biographical Note
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Fast Talking PI: A Reading by Selina Tusitala Marsh

Posted in Arts, Forthcoming Media, Live Events, Oceania, United States on 2015-04-24 13:18Z by Steven

Fast Talking PI: A Reading by Selina Tusitala Marsh

Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU
8 Washington Mews
New York, New York 10003
Monday, 2015-04-27, 16:00-18:00 EDT (Local Time)

Auckland-based poet and scholar Selina Tusitala Marsh reads from her award-winning collection, Fast Talking PI. NYU Performance Studies Graduate student and Indigeneous artist, facilitator, and organizer si dåko’ta alcantara-camacho introduces Dr. Marsh and guides the post-reading conversation.

Fast Talking PI and Dark Sparring: Poems, both by Selina Tusitala Marsh, will be available for purchase at a special 20% off discount following the program, courtesy of the NYU Bookstore.

For more information and to RSVP, click here.

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Visualizing Racial Mixture and Movement: Music, Notation, Illustration

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-23 00:40Z by Steven

Visualizing Racial Mixture and Movement: Music, Notation, Illustration

J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists
Volume 3, Number 1, Spring 2015
pages 146-155
DOI: 10.1353/jnc.2015.0009

Brigitte Fielder, Assistant Professor of English
University of Wisconsin, Madison

The archive of nineteenth-century visual culture abounds with illustrations of racial difference reflect anxieties about racial mixture and movement. Race extends beyond visual expression and detection, but racialized bodies have been continually represented by images meant to convey racial difference, often via racist caricatures. The piece I discuss here adds, to the depiction of racial difference, mixture and movement conveyed through the representation of sound, in written music (fig. 1). Layering illustrations of figures in dance atop the symbolic notation of the aural, the music conveys its narrative of race via musical rather than literary genres: the waltz and the march. In this brief essay I will begin to unpack this particular representation of racialized bodies as visualized in a remarkable, and remarkably little-known, piece of sheet music distributed by George P. Reed, a Boston music store owner and seller of musical instruments, instruction books, and sheet music during the 1830s and 1840s.

Racial representation has often been confined by the media used to depict its complexity—from language that describes race via metaphors of color to the technology of racial representation in black-and-white that obscures nondualistic racial gradation. Written music, like the written word, is a technology of representation. The visual representation of music and the visual representation of race are similar in that they are not mimetic but symbolic. Just as quarter and half notes stand in for certain pitches and durations that might be interpreted through variations such as instrumentation and style, the presence and absence of black ink represents racial difference that in reality is nuanced by gradations in complexion, historical contexts, and cultural resonances of racialization.

Music here implies the aural, but also the movement of dance; the waltz and the march produce bodies in motion. The movement of racialized bodies through geopolitical spaces and with relation to one another hints at race’s fluidity. In the two genres on this single sheet, we see what might be understood as different methodological frames for understanding their respective narratives of race. The waltz’s male and female pairing of partners suggests heterosexuality. The march denotes a different kind of movement, not simply interpersonal but movement through geopolitical spaces and in militaristic endeavors.

The limitations of the musical form for representing race correspond to other limitations of racial representation in metaphors of color, racialized value, and racial distinctions that forgo complexity in favor of legibility. The extent to which race becomes legible through musical notation is admittedly limited. This sheet music is, in many ways, difficult to read. The stick-figure drawings crowd the notes, making one wonder at the practicality of playing the musical annotation. In this respect, the sheet is poised to function less as legible musical notation and more as a visual showpiece. Notwithstanding its visuality, the flatness of stick-figure characters obscures the political import that is clearer in other racial/racist caricatures. Nevertheless, these juxtapositions of the movement of racialized bodies and the movement of music thematize relations of race within musical form, marking race as always in motion, unfixed, and progressing through a specific, readable generic narrative.

Amalgamation Waltz

In nineteenth-century America, the image of a racially integrated dance was a popular site for American anxieties about race relations. Illustrations of integrated dances appeared throughout the antebellum period, in Amalgamation Waltz from Edward Williams Clay’s 1839 “Practical Amalgamation” series of lithographs, his 1845 Amalgamation Polka, and the 1864 political caricature The Miscegenation Ball. The underlying movement of music composes a compelling backdrop for understanding popular depictions of and reactions to racial mixture in nineteenth-century America. Illustrations of dance, movement, and music signal the similarly fluid notions of race that permeated antebellum discourse. While Clay’s Amalgamation Waltz is emphatic in its illustrated pairings of black men and white women, the musical notation of Reed’s music literalizes these juxtapositions of racial integration within the music itself. The three-beat measure of the waltz is composed of stick-figure illustrations, mostly of pairings of black men and white…

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Racial Reflections

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-04-23 00:28Z by Steven

Racial Reflections

American Book Review
Volume 36, Number 2, January/February 2015
page 13
DOI: 10.1353/abr.2015.0007

Ben Railton, Associate Professor of English
Fitchburg State University, Fitchburg, Massachusetts

Hobbs, Allyson, A Chosen Exile: History of Racial Passing in American Life (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014)

Even without a back-cover blurb from Isabel Wilkerson, it seems inevitable that Allyson Hobbs’s A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in America would be compared to Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (2010). Both books focus on an American history with which we’re all vaguely familiar but know far too little of its specifics and complexities. Both works use the individual, intimate stories of American lives, families, and communities to consider these sweeping cultural and historical issues. And both are entirely successful in bringing their readers into those stories and histories, helping them understand American identities and communities in a way that perhaps no prior work has accomplished.

However, Hobbs’s most fundamental choice to structure each of her chapters around a different time period differentiates her book from Wilkerson’s in an important way. That is, most of the collective narratives of passing have focused on the same late nineteenth–through mid–twentieth–century time period that comprised the Great Migration—the period between, let’s say, Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars (1900) and the 1950s version of the film Imitation of Life (1959; a remake of the 1934 original), with James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) and Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929) marking significant stages along the way. Hobbs’s third and fourth chapters also focus on this period, but through her extended attention to all the aforementioned works and figures and many others (such as the pioneering turn of the century sociologist E. Franklin Frazier, who both analyzed and experienced these issues of identity; or the Harlem Renaissance poet and novelist Jean Toomer, whose writings and life complement each other to provide a rounded picture of passing in 1920s and 1930s), she urges the reader to better understand breadth and depth of the era.

But by the time Hobbs brings her readers to those chapters and that new look at a somewhat familiar time period, she has already provided an even more striking shift in our perspectives on passing through her first and second chapters. In those chapters, she narrates and analyzes the far different yet still interconnected histories and stories of passing in the pre-Civil War and Reconstruction periods, convincingly portraying the issue as one that has persisted and evolved alongside American society and culture throughout the centuries. Indeed, these earlier chapters expanded and challenged some of my most basic understandings of passing: it’s impossible to think of it as simply a choice between different possible identities and communities, for example, when considering the case of William and Ellen Craft, the fugitive slaves who used both racial and gender passing as a conjoined strategy to gain their freedom. Is passing a choice if it is necessary for freedom and even survival? If not, might that also help us see the necessities and even at times inevitabilities of twentieth-century acts of passing as well? Such are the kinds of questions prompted by Hobbs’s Chapter 1 investigation of antebellum passing.

These striking earlier chapters have another, corollary effect: they also force us to reexamine the time periods under consideration through the new lens provided by the issue of passing. Ever since Frederick Douglass highlighted in the first chapter of his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) the prevalence of master-slave rape and thus miscegenation on plantations, we’ve had at least some collective sense of how arbitrary the racial categories and definitions by which the slave system was divided were—of why Douglass was defined as an African American slave while his father’s other children were free white men and women. But what Hobbs’s stories and analyses remind us is that, thanks to such racial mixing as well as many other factors, race was also a slippery, liminal category in the era—one that could be manipulated and altered in the right moments and circumstances. Successful manipulations were, no doubt, as rare as escapes such as Douglass’s, but, still, the existence of slave passing at all underscores the instability of race and other identity markers in…

Read the entire review here.

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“Almost Eliza”: Genre, Racialization, and Reading Mary King as the Mixed-Race Heroine of William G. Allen’s The American Prejudice Against Color

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-23 00:06Z by Steven

“Almost Eliza”: Genre, Racialization, and Reading Mary King as the Mixed-Race Heroine of William G. Allen’s The American Prejudice Against Color

Studies in American Fiction
Volume 40, Issue 1, Spring 2013
pages 1-25

Brigitte Nicole Fielder, Assistant Professor of English
University of Wisconsin, Madison

In 1853, Mary King, the white daughter of abolitionists, was engaged to marry William G. Allen, the “Coloured Professor” of New York Central College at McGrawville. The engagement stirred their upstate New York community into a popular controversy, inciting letters of family disapproval, newspaper commentary, and mob violence leading to their forced, though temporary, separation. Alongside his personal account of their engagement and marriage, in The American Prejudice Against Color: An Authentic Narrative, Showing How Easily the Nation Got into an Uproar (1853), Allen also reprinted various letters and newspaper articles both in support of and in opposition to his and King’s marriage. This array of accounts show how Mary King’s white womanhood becomes a function of genre: in the various stories of her relation to Allen, King’s race and sexuality are constructed according to the practices of reading her as either the white damsel of the captivity narrative or the mixed-race heroine of abolitionist fiction.

In a letter to Mary King written during the week before she and William Allen were secretly married, the couple’s friend John Porter wrote, “Your flight is a flight for freedom, and I can almost call you Eliza,” referencing the well-known mixed-race heroine of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Unlike Stowe’s Eliza, Allen and King were not fleeing literal enslavement, but the racial prejudice of people who had attempted to prevent their marriage. Thus, Porter’s evocation of abolitionist literature to explain King’s situation is intriguing not only because it refuses to perform the more obvious slippage of simply relegating prejudice against the African American William Allen (who was born to a free mixed-race woman and was never enslaved) to the discourse of slavery, but because it chooses the white woman as its subject and re-figures her in one of abolitionism’s most popular tropes of enslavement, the mixed-race heroine. Not merely an equation of all race-related persecution with slavery, Porter’s comparison of Mary King to Stowe’s Eliza Harris displaces the racist rhetoric of the couple’s forced separation, by which some newspaper commentators rendered King a “damsel” in need of white male protection from Allen, which the mob purported to give her. Instead, Porter’s reading of King places her in the abolitionist literary tradition, where her and Allen’s story reads as a narrative of African American fugitivity rather than white captivity. Moreover, Porter’s characterization of King as “almost . . . Eliza” emphasizes a close generic proximity to the figure of the mixed-race heroine, recognizing the interracial allegiance of King and Allen’s proposed kinship, and a re-racialization of the figure of the white woman along lines of her participation in interracial sexual relations and reproduction.

My analysis takes up Porter’s comparison of Mary King to Eliza Harris and reads King as the mixed-race heroine of The American Prejudice Against Color. In the private and public discourse surrounding Allen and King’s engagement and marriage, I examine themes of “amalgamation” and fugitivity in order to discuss how Mary King is figured according to different generic constructions of racialized womanhood in the two primary versions of the story Allen reproduces—that told by Allen, King, and their allies, and the version supporting the racist mob that separated the couple. First, I discuss the racist rhetorics by which Mary King is read in the tradition of what I call “anti-amalgamation” literature—a sub-genre of the body of writing that emerges in response to abolitionist literature, which has its roots in the American captivity narrative.

Read the entire article in HTML or PDF format.

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Laura Kina

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Media Archive on 2015-04-22 20:22Z by Steven

Laura Kina

Fused Society
2015-04-16

Laura Kina, Vincent de Paul professor of Art, Media, & Design
DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois

Meet today’s Fused Society contributor, the accomplished Laura Kina!

“Laura Kina is a multiracial Asian American artist based in Chicago who identifies as “hapa, yonsei, and Unchinanchu” (mixed race, 4th generation Japanese American, and part of the Okinawan diaspora). Her father is Okinawan from Hawaiʻi and her mother is Anglo American (Spanish/Basque and French, English, Scottish, Irish, Dutch) from the Pacific Northwest. Kina’s artwork, scholarly research and activism center on themes of distance and belonging. She focuses on the fluidity of cultural difference and the slipperiness of identity. Asian American history and mixed race representations are subjects that run through her work.

Kina is a Vincent de Paul professor of Art, Media, & Design at DePaul University. She is the coeditor, along with Wei Ming Dariotis, of War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2013); cofounder of the DePaul biennial Critical Mixed Race Studies conference; and cofounder and consulting editor of the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies and reviews editor for the Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas

Read the entire article here.

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