Why Not Pass?

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2022-05-20 15:21Z by Steven

Why Not Pass?

Yes!
2022-05-18

Gila K. Berryman

Illustration by Fran Murphy/YES! Media

The Vanishing Half” deals with the theme of racial “passing” in the 1950s. Passing is different today, but still presents a choice between safety and authenticity

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett was one of the most popular novels of the last few years—a bestseller on multiple “best book” lists. The story begins in 1954, when identical twins Stella and Desiree, aged 16, run away from home and their Southern town of light-skinned Black folks. In a year, the twins will go their separate ways, “their lives splitting as evenly as their shared egg,” when Stella crosses over to pass as White—she disappears, marries her White employer, and doesn’t look back.

American Whiteness exacts a high price in exchange for its safety and privilege. In order to pass, Stella severs every connection to her previous life so she can hide her true identity, even from her husband. As a result, she can never completely let her guard down around White people, and she refuses to have anything to do with Black people for fear that they might recognize some vestige of her Blackness…

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Sovereign Joy: Afro-Mexican Kings and Queens, 1539-1640

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Mexico, Monographs, Religion on 2022-05-16 22:13Z by Steven

Sovereign Joy: Afro-Mexican Kings and Queens, 1539-1640

Cambridge University Press
August 2022
Hardback ISBN: 9781316514382
eBook ISBN: 9781009086905

Miguel A. Valerio, Assistant Professor of Spanish
Washington University, St Louis, Missouri

Sovereign Joy explores the performance of festive black kings and queens among Afro-Mexicans between 1539 and 1640. This fascinating study illustrates how the first African and Afro-creole people in colonial Mexico transformed their ancestral culture into a shared identity among Afro-Mexicans, with particular focus on how public festival participation expressed their culture and subjectivities, as well as redefined their colonial condition and social standing. By analyzing this hitherto understudied aspect of Afro-Mexican Catholic confraternities in both literary texts and visual culture, Miguel A. Valerio teases out the deeply ambivalent and contradictory meanings behind these public processions and festivities that often re-inscribed structures of race and hierarchy. Were they markers of Catholic subjecthood, and what sort of corporate structures did they create to project standing and respectability? Sovereign Joy examines many of these possibilities, and in the process highlights the central place occupied by Africans and their descendants in colonial culture. Through performance, Afro-Mexicans affirmed their being: the sovereignty of joy, and the joy of sovereignty.

Table of Contents

  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction: Sovereign Joy
  • 1. ‘With their king and queen’: Early Colonial Mexico, the Origins of Festive Black Kings and Queens, and the Birth of the Black Atlantic
  • 2. ‘Rebel Black Kings (and Queens)’?: Race, Colonial Psychosis, and Afro-Mexican Kings and Queens
  • 3. ‘Savage Kings’ and Baroque Festival Culture: Afro-Mexicans in the Celebration of the Beatification of Ignatius of Loyola
  • 4. ‘Black and Beautiful’: Afro-Mexican Women Performing Creole Identity
  • Conclusion: Where did the black court go?
  • Appendix
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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The Burdened Virtue of Racial Passing

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2022-05-16 19:38Z by Steven

The Burdened Virtue of Racial Passing

The Boston Review
2022-05-13

Meena Krishnamurthy, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

A still from Rebecca Hall’s film Passing, based on the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen. Image: Netflix

Though a means of escaping and undermining racial injustice, the practice comes with own set of costs and sacrifices.

In Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing, adapted by Rebecca Hall and distributed on Netfli­x last fall, Clare Kendry—a light-skinned Black woman—decides to pass as white. Clare grows up poor in Chicago; after her alcoholic father dies, she is taken in by her racist white aunts. When she turns eighteen she marries a rich white man who assumes she is white. Clare makes a clean escape until, some years later, she runs into her childhood friend, Irene Redfield, at a whites-only hotel; Irene, it turns out, sometimes passes herself, in this case to escape the summer heat. The storyline traces their complex relationship after this reunion and ends in tragedy for Clare.

Hall’s film adaptation joins several other recent representations that dramatize the lived experience of passing. The protagonist of Brit Bennett’s best-selling novel The Vanishing Half (2020), for example, decides to start passing as white in the 1950s at age sixteen after responding to a listing in the newspaper for secretarial work in a New Orleans department store. Much to her surprise, after excelling at the typing test, Stella is offered the position; her boss assumes she is white. Initially Stella keeps up the ruse just to support her and her sister, but passing also becomes a way for her to escape the trauma of her father’s lynching and the prospect of her own…

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Intermarriage and the Friendship of Peoples: Ethnic Mixing in Soviet Central Asia

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Europe, Family/Parenting, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2022-05-16 18:28Z by Steven

Intermarriage and the Friendship of Peoples: Ethnic Mixing in Soviet Central Asia

Cornell University Press
2022-05-15
300 pages
6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN13: 9781501762949
Hardcover ISBN10: 150176294X

Adrienne Edgar, Professor of History
University of California, Santa Barbara

Intermarriage and the Friendship of Peoples examines the racialization of identities and its impact on mixed couples and families in Soviet Central Asia. In marked contrast to its Cold War rivals, the Soviet Union celebrated mixed marriages among its diverse ethnic groups as a sign of the unbreakable friendship of peoples and the imminent emergence of a single “Soviet people.” Yet the official Soviet view of ethnic nationality became increasingly primordial and even racialized in the USSR’s final decades. In this context, Adrienne Edgar argues, mixed families and individuals found it impossible to transcend ethnicity, fully embrace their complex identities, and become simply “Soviet.”

Looking back on their lives in the Soviet Union, ethnically mixed people often reported that the “official” nationality in their identity documents did not match their subjective feelings of identity, that they were unable to speak “their own” native language, and that their ambiguous physical appearance prevented them from claiming the nationality with which they most identified. In all these ways, mixed couples and families were acutely and painfully affected by the growth of ethnic primordialism and by the tensions between the national and supranational projects in the Soviet Union.

Intermarriage and the Friendship of Peoples is based on more than eighty in-depth oral history interviews with members of mixed families in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, along with published and unpublished Soviet documents, scholarly and popular articles from the Soviet press, memoirs and films, and interviews with Soviet-era sociologists and ethnographers.

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Abolition Democracy’s Forgotten Founder

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2022-05-06 00:38Z by Steven

Abolition Democracy’s Forgotten Founder

Boston Review
2022-04-19

Robin D. G. Kelley, Gary B. Nash Professor of American History
University of California, Los Angeles

T. Thomas Fortune. Image: NYPL

While W. E. B. Du Bois praised an expanding penitentiary system, T. Thomas Fortune called for investment in education and a multiracial, working-class movement.

Nearly every activist I encounter these days identifies as an abolitionist. To be sure, movements to abolish prisons and police have been around for decades, popularizing the idea that caging and terrorizing people makes us unsafe. However, the Black Spring rebellions revealed that the obscene costs of state violence can and should be reallocated for things that do keep us safe: housing, universal healthcare, living wage jobs, universal basic income, green energy, and a system of restorative justice. As abolition recently became the new watchword, everyone scrambled to understand its historical roots. Reading groups popped up everywhere to discuss W. E. B. Du Bois’s classic, Black Reconstruction in America (1935), since he was the one to coin the phrase “abolition democracy,” which Angela Y. Davis revived for her indispensable book of the same title.

I happily participated in Black Reconstruction study groups and public forums meant to divine wisdom for our current movements. But I often wondered why no one was scrambling to resurrect T. Thomas Fortune’s Black and White: Land, Labor, and Politics in the South, published in 1884. After all, it was Fortune who wrote: “The South must spend less money on penitentiaries and more money on schools; she must use less powder and buckshot and more law and equity; she must pay less attention to politics and more attention to the development of her magnificent resources.” Du Bois, on the other hand, praised Reconstruction efforts to establish and improve the penitentiary system in what proved to be a futile effort to eliminate the convict lease. Much shorter but no less powerful, Fortune’s Black and White anticipates Du Bois’s critique of federal complicity in undermining Black freedom, but sharply diverges by declaring Reconstruction a miserable failure. He argues that the South’s problems can be traced to the federal government allowing the slaveholding rebels to return to power and hold the monopoly of land, stripping Black people of their short-lived citizenship rights, and refusing to compensate freed people for generations of unpaid labor. The result was a new kind of slavery: “the United States took the slave and left the thing which gave birth to chattel slavery and which is now fast giving birth to industrial slavery.” Du Bois echoes Fortune, but adds that white labor’s investment in white supremacy ensured “a system of industry which ruined democracy.”…

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Ethnic Positioning in Southwestern Mixed Heritage Writing

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2022-04-21 19:53Z by Steven

Ethnic Positioning in Southwestern Mixed Heritage Writing

Lexington Books (an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield)
April 2022
228 pages
Trim: 6½ x 9
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-7936-0790-4
eBook ISBN: 978-1-7936-0791-1

Judit Ágnes Kádár, Director of International Relations
Hungarian University of Sport Science, Budapest, Hungary

Ethnic Positioning in Southwestern Mixed Heritage Writing explores how Southwestern writers and visual artists provide an opportunity to turn a stigmatized identity into a self-conscious holder of valuable assets, cultural attitudes, and memories. The problem of mixed ethno-cultural heritage is a relevant feature of North American populations, faced by millions. Narratives on blended heritage show how mixed-race authors utilize their multiple ethnic experiences, knowledge archives, and sensibilities. They explore how individuals attempt to cope with the cognitive anxiety, stigmas, and perceptions that are intertwined in their blended ethnic heritage, family and social dynamics, and the renegotiation of their ethnic identity. The Southwest is a region riddled by Eurocentric and Colonial concepts of identity, yet at the same time highly treasured in the Frontier experiences of physical mobility and mental and spiritual journeys and transformations. Judit Ágnes Kádár argues that the process of ethnic positioning is a choice made by mixed heritage people that results in renegotiated identities, leading to more complex and engaging concepts of themselves.

  • Preface
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2 Multiracial Identity and the Southwest
    • 2.1 “Core and Confluence”: The Geo-Cultural Context of Mixedblood Writing
    • 2.2 From “Halfbreed” to “Crossblood”
    • 2.3 Southwestern Authors and Artists of Mixed Heritage: An Overview
  • Chapter 3: Identity Negotiation in Southwestern Mixedblood Poetry: A Complementary Scope
  • Chapter 4: “Blood Trails,” Hidden Histories
    • 4.1 The Beginning of Mixed Heritage Fictional Biographies: From Memoir to Postcolonial Storytelling
    • 4.2 Laguna Pueblo Postcolonial Life-Writing and The Followers: Southwestern Mixed Heritage Autobiographies
  • Chapter 5: Multiracial Identity and its Narrative Formulation
    • 5.1 Four Decades of Mixed-Race Writing: Altering Visions in Selected Prose Texts
    • 5.2 A Psychological Insight into Blended Heritage Identity Construction
    • 5.3 Cultural Identity Formulation in Multiracial Narratives
    • 5.4 Narrative Identity: From Object to Subject
    • 5.5 Nanabush’s “Pandora’s Box of Possibilities”: Humor in Contemporary Multiracial Writing
  • Chapter 6: Some Interesting Cognitive Patterns
    • 6.1 Grave Concerns and Nightwalkers
    • 6.2 Sharpening Sights
    • 6.3 “Restore me!”
    • 6.4 “Indigenous Shapes of Water” in Mixedblood Writing
  • Chapter 7: Conclusion
  • Bibliography
    • 8.1 Primary Sources
    • 8.2 Secondary Sources
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Romance and Race: Coloring the Past

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing on 2022-04-14 22:12Z by Steven

Romance and Race: Coloring the Past

ACMRS Press
April 2022
160 pages
6″ x 9″
Hardcover ISBN: 9780866986946
Paperback ISBN: 9780866986595

Margo Hendricks, Professor Emerita
University of California, Santa Cruz

This study brings race and the literary tradition of romance into dialogue.

Romance and Race: Coloring the Past explores the literary and cultural genealogy of colorism, white passing, and white presenting in the romance genre. The scope of the study ranges from Heliodorus’ Aithiopika to the short novels of Aphra Behn, to the modern romance novel Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins. This analysis engages with the troublesome racecraft of “passing” and the instability of racial identity and its formation from the premodern to the present. The study also looks at the significance of white settler colonialism to early modern romance narratives. A bridge between studies of early modern romance and scholarship on twenty-first-century romance novels, this book is well-suited for those interested in the romance genre.

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Performance and Identity in Adrian Piper’s Work

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2022-04-01 03:02Z by Steven

Performance and Identity in Adrian Piper’s Work

InMedia: The French Journal of Media Studies
Volume 8, Number 2 (2020)
DOI: 10.4000/inmedia.2754
17 pages

Antonia Rigaud, Associate Professor of American Studies
Sorbonne Nouvelle University, Paris France

Lorna Simpson
Head On Ice #3
2016
Ink and screenprint on gessoed fiberglass
Unique
67 x 50 x 1 3/8 in (170.2 x 127 x 3.5 cm)
©Lorna Simpson
Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
Photo: James Wang

Adrian Piper’s career which spans close to 60 years illustrates the passage in American art from conceptualism to performance art at the turn of the 1970s. She uses the language of conceptualism to interrogate, through performance, the notion of identity in American culture. Confronting her viewers with racial stereotypes, or presenting strategies of retreat, her performances suggest that identity is a fluctuating notion, one which can only exist in dialogue between artist and audience. Her critique of essentialism is at the heart of artworks which are to be construed as social contracts binding artist and audiences together in the definition of the self.

Contents

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Foreshadowing Failure: Mulatto and Black Oral Discourse and the Upending of The Western Design in Thomas Gage’s A New Survey (1648)

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2022-03-31 23:19Z by Steven

Foreshadowing Failure: Mulatto and Black Oral Discourse and the Upending of The Western Design in Thomas Gage’s A New Survey (1648)

Hispania
Volume 102, Number 4, December 2019
pages 583-600
DOI: 10.1353/hpn.2019.0105

Monica Styles, Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish
Colby College, Waterville, Maine

Thomas Gage wrote A New Survey of the West Indies or, The English American his Travel by Sea and Land (1648) with the aim to convince Oliver Cromwell that the English could successfully invade Spanish held American territories. The English attempt to invade the Spanish colonies in 1655 would not garner non-Whites’ unwavering aid, which is a decisive factor in the Western Design’s failure. Although subalterns in the region rebelled against Spanish hegemony, they were by no means in constant revolt as Gage suggested. They had also carved out an integral place within Spanish American society and culture. Mulattos are subaltern agents whose defining role in the Western Design’s collapse has not been considered sufficiently. Though they were Afro-descendants, Mulattos were racially ambiguous tricksters who disturbed hierarchies. Mulattos sought autonomy by forming alliances with Europeans—be they Spanish, English, French or Dutch—as well as with Amerindian communities, to the extent that these relationships afforded them relative autonomy within hierarchical colonial power structures. Mulattos’ oral and embodied discourses within Gage’s text exemplify their agency and shifting alliances.

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James Weldon Johnson’s Feminization of Biraciality

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2022-03-29 01:53Z by Steven

James Weldon Johnson’s Feminization of Biraciality

Twentieth-Century Literature
Volume 67, Number 4, December 2021
pages 385-406

Rafael Walker, Assistant Professor of English
Baruch College, City University of New York

In considering fictions centered on characters of mixed Black-and-white parentage, critics tend to assimilate these stories into African American literary paradigms—in much the same way that, in real life, America considers biracial people as simply black. Working against this reductive reflex, this essay reads James Weldon Johnson’s 1912 novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man as a serious exploration of biracial identity and experience. Specifically, the article argues that Johnson draws on early twentieth-century conceptions of femininity as a vehicle for rendering mainly three facets of the lives of many biracial men: (1) hypervisibility (in a world obsessed with skin color), (2) sexuality (when identification is distorted), and (3) self-determination (where a racial hierarchy appears to eliminate agency). In its conclusion, the article suggests that the prevailing tendencies among readers of the novel to condemn the ex-colored man stems from an investment in the trope of the “tragic mulatto“—a plot device that at once sentimentalizes the fates of biracial characters and links those fates inextricably to biology rather than ideology.

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