Building new selves: identity, “Passing,” and intertextuality in Zoë Wicomb’s Playing in the Light

Posted in Africa, Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, South Africa on 2018-04-13 23:53Z by Steven

Building new selves: identity, “Passing,” and intertextuality in Zoë Wicomb’s Playing in the Light

Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies
Published online: 2018-04-03
DOI: 10.1080/17533171.2018.1453977

David Hoegberg, Associate Professor of English; Africana Studies
Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis

This article examines Zoë Wicomb’s wide-ranging use of intertextuality in the novel Playing in the Light to explore the links between identity construction and postcolonial authorship. Focusing on the characters as intertextual agents, I argue that the three coloured women on whom the novel focuses – Helen, Marion, and Brenda – use texts in distinctive ways that illuminate their struggles to position themselves in South Africa’s complex and changing racial landscape. Racial “passing” is one form of a larger pattern in the novel of the use of citation and imitation to achieve specific ends. By embedding the citations of Helen and Marion within the citation-rich narrative of Brenda, Wicomb lays bare the mechanisms of identity construction within a work that stages and highlights its own intertextual practices.

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Searching For A Motherland As A Black Latina

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2018-04-02 02:36Z by Steven

Searching For A Motherland As A Black Latina

The Huffington Post
2018-03-30

Maria V. Luna, Associate Lecturer
Goldsmiths University of London


Author Maria V. Luna in the Dominican Republic on her way to celebrate carnival in 2011.
Maria V. Luna

For Black Latinx in the U.S., bicultural, bilingual ― if they are lucky ― and born to immigrant parents, there is no motherland.

Though 25 percent of U.S. Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, we are not always made to feel at home in our own country. To be Latinx in the U.S. is to encounter xenophobic rhetoric from the top of our nation’s political leadership down to its base. To be black Latinx is to discover that xenophobia layered with anti-black rhetoric brews even among our own ethnic group.

Scholars Miriam Jiménez Román and the late Juan Flores consider W.E.B. Du Bois when describing the experience of the Afro-Latino in the U.S. as a triple consciousness — an awareness of being black, Latino and American. It is an elastic awareness, a way of moving in the world that has been woefully underexplored in America and in Spanish-language media and entertainment.

As an Afro-Latina, I often wondered: Where are my people? Where are those who crave mangú for breakfast, a Cuban sandwich for lunch and tres leches dessert? Where are those who love the “One Day at a Time” reboot with a Latin cast but winced when Lydia, played by Rita Moreno, repeats with conviction, “Cubans are white!” Didn’t abuela dance to Celia Cruz every morning as she made breakfast?

As soon as I could, I journeyed far from New Jersey to find my people. I looked for my kindred in the Dominican Republic, in Brazil, in Spain and in the maternal monolith I once imagined Africa to be.

I was looking for that mythical interstitial place where my blackness and Latinidad could peacefully coexist. This is what I found…

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Africanus Princeps? The Emperor Caracalla and the Question of His African Heritage

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2018-03-20 02:25Z by Steven

Africanus Princeps? The Emperor Caracalla and the Question of His African Heritage

Journal of Black Studies
First Published 2018-03-12
DOI: 10.1177/0021934718760219

Alex Imrie
University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

This article responds to a recent publication in the Journal of Black Studies regarding the emperor Caracalla, who ruled the Roman Empire between AD 211 and 217, following the murder of his younger brother, Geta. In addition to offering an exploration of his career, the recent essay attempts to investigate the importance of Caracalla’s African heritage to the historical portrait of him that survives into modernity, claiming that both ancient sources and modern scholars have downplayed the emperor’s origin and ancestry. Unfortunately, the publication is beset by factual errors that serve to undermine its case. This article addresses these shortcomings and attempts to explain the scholarly approach to Caracalla’s ethnicity, showing that there was some recognition of Caracalla’s African roots, even in antiquity. Furthermore, this article considers the question of modern Africa’s relationship with the emperor, noting the symbolism of the Severan family within Libya under the dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

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Interrogating the African Roman Emperor Caracalla: Claiming and Reclaiming an African Leader

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2018-03-20 02:10Z by Steven

Interrogating the African Roman Emperor Caracalla: Claiming and Reclaiming an African Leader

Journal of Black Studies
Volume 47, Issue 1, January 2016
pages 41–52
DOI: 10.1177/0021934715611376

Molefi Kete Asante, Professor of African American Studies
Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Shaza Ismail
Helwan University, Cairo, Egypt

This essay provides an interrogation into the historical and personal contradictions in the character of the Roman Emperor Caracalla. As an emperor of African origin who once ruled the world, the nature of his rule, in its political and social dimension, has not been adequately studied. In fact, the scholarly sources that focused on Caracalla as a powerful ruler hardly mention his African origin and in some cases outright deny the fact that he was African. On the other hand, many European writers who do understand his political significance refer to his military achievements ignoring his origin. This work seeks to place Caracalla in the historical setting that befits his adventure as emperor during the time of Rome’s incessant leadership crises. While we know that Caracalla’s life was a series of bold and cruel actions as well as creative achievements, this work discusses his life in the context of his humanity more than to itemize his imperial achievements. The idea is to reveal through the literature and history as much as we can of his complex character in amid the challenging circumstances that surrounded his life and career.

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There’s No Scientific Basis for Race—It’s a Made-Up Label

Posted in Africa, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive on 2018-03-13 18:09Z by Steven

There’s No Scientific Basis for Race—It’s a Made-Up Label

National Geographic
April 2018 (The Race Issue)

By Elizabeth Kolbert
Photographs by Robin Hammond


The four letters of the genetic code —A, C, G, and T—are projected onto Ryan Lingarmillar, a Ugandan. DNA reveals what skin color obscures: We all have African ancestors.

It’s been used to define and separate people for millennia. But the concept of race is not grounded in genetics.

In the first half of the 19th century, one of America’s most prominent scientists was a doctor named Samuel Morton. Morton lived in Philadelphia, and he collected skulls.

He wasn’t choosy about his suppliers. He accepted skulls scavenged from battlefields and snatched from catacombs. One of his most famous craniums belonged to an Irishman who’d been sent as a convict to Tasmania (and ultimately hanged for killing and eating other convicts). With each skull Morton performed the same procedure: He stuffed it with pepper seeds—later he switched to lead shot—which he then decanted to ascertain the volume of the braincase.

Morton believed that people could be divided into five races and that these represented separate acts of creation. The races had distinct characters, which corresponded to their place in a divinely determined hierarchy. Morton’s “craniometry” showed, he claimed, that whites, or “Caucasians,” were the most intelligent of the races. East Asians—Morton used the term “Mongolian”—though “ingenious” and “susceptible of cultivation,” were one step down. Next came Southeast Asians, followed by Native Americans. Blacks, or “Ethiopians,” were at the bottom. In the decades before the Civil War, Morton’s ideas were quickly taken up by the defenders of slavery…


Skulls from the collection of Samuel Morton, the father of scientific racism, illustrate his classification of people into five races—which arose, he claimed, from separate acts of creation. From left to right: a black woman and a white man, both American; an indigenous man from Mexico; a Chinese woman; and a Malaysian man.
Photograph by Robert Clark
PHOTOGRAPHED AT PENN MUSEUM

…By analyzing the genes of present-day Africans, researchers have concluded that the Khoe-San, who now live in southern Africa, represent one of the oldest branches of the human family tree. The Pygmies of central Africa also have a very long history as a distinct group. What this means is that the deepest splits in the human family aren’t between what are usually thought of as different races—whites, say, or blacks or Asians or Native Americans. They’re between African populations such as the Khoe-San and the Pygmies, who spent tens of thousands of years separated from one another even before humans left Africa

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Lupita Nyong’o To Star In ‘Born A Crime’ Based On Trevor Noah’s Memoir

Posted in Africa, Articles, Arts, Autobiography, Media Archive, South Africa on 2018-02-22 04:47Z by Steven

Lupita Nyong’o To Star In ‘Born A Crime’ Based On Trevor Noah’s Memoir

Deadline Hollywood
2018-02-21

Amanda N’Duka


REX/Shutterstock

EXCLUSIVE: Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, currently starring as Nakia in Disney/Marvel’s record-smashing, watershed hit Black Panther, has signed on to star in Born a Crime, the film adaptation of The Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s bestselling debut autobiography Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.

Nyong’o will play Noah’s mom, Patricia, who served as an important figure to her son in his formative years. She was shot in the head by his stepfather while returning from a church service in 2009, but survived.

Noah is producing the project through his Ark Angel Productions alongside Norman Aladjem, Derek Van Pelt and Sanaz Yamin of Mainstay Entertainment, and Nyong’o…

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New gene variants reveal the evolution of human skin color

Posted in Africa, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2018-02-20 00:53Z by Steven

New gene variants reveal the evolution of human skin color

Science
2017-11-12

Ann Gibbons, Contributing Correspondent


Researchers have identified genes that help create diverse skin tones, such as those seen in the Agaw (left) and Surma (right) peoples of Africa.
ALESSIA RANCIARO & DR. SIMON R. THOMPSON

Most people associate Africans with dark skin. But different groups of people in Africa have almost every skin color on the planet, from deepest black in the Dinka of South Sudan to beige in the San of South Africa. Now, researchers have discovered a handful of new gene variants responsible for this palette of tones.

The study, published online this week in Science, traces the evolution of these genes and how they traveled around the world. While the dark skin of some Pacific Islanders can be traced to Africa, gene variants from Eurasia also seem to have made their way back to Africa. And surprisingly, some of the mutations responsible for lighter skin in Europeans turn out to have an ancient African origin.

“This is really a landmark study of skin color diversity,” says geneticist Greg Barsh of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama.

Researchers agree that our early australopithecine ancestors in Africa probably had light skin beneath hairy pelts. “If you shave a chimpanzee, its skin is light,” says evolutionary geneticist Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania, the lead author of the new study. “If you have body hair, you don’t need dark skin to protect you from ultraviolet [UV] radiation.”

Until recently, researchers assumed that after human ancestors shed most body hair, sometime before 2 million years ago, they quickly evolved dark skin for protection from skin cancer and other harmful effects of UV radiation. Then, when humans migrated out of Africa and headed to the far north, they evolved lighter skin as an adaptation to limited sunlight. (Pale skin synthesizes more vitamin D when light is scarce.)…

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Being Black: Still a multi-front struggle

Posted in Africa, Articles, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2017-12-05 01:19Z by Steven

Being Black: Still a multi-front struggle

DW
2017-04-07


Theodor Wonja Michael

A particular excerpt of the DW documentary “Afro.Germany” went viral: the touching testimony of one of the oldest Afro-Germans born in Berlin. Here’s what can be learned from social media users’ hundreds of reactions.

“I am an African – I didn’t even know Cameroon and Togo were German colonies,” said one social media user, reacting to an online video clip about the life and times of Theodor Wonja Michael, one of Germany’s oldest contemporary witnesses.

The clip is an excerpt from “Afro.Germany,” a documentary project by Deutsche Welle, which aims to chronicle the diversity of Black experiences in Germany and challenge the historical amnesia surrounding Germany’s colonial past.

The video narrates Michael’s extraordinary experiences as a Black person in Germany.

Born in Berlin in 1925, Michael was forced to act in “human zoos” during his childhood. He survived the Nazi era and later became an actor and author

A further challenge: fluid identities

However, subsequent analysis by researchers such as E. P. Johnson, has drawn attention to the more troubling implications of Black identity politics.

Black pride can inadvertently promote the problematic notion of Black authenticity – that is to say, it can construct an image of the the “real Blacks” and the “real” Black experience, to which the individuals must conform and relate. This line of thinking can hinder efforts geared towards separating identity from race.

For example, one commentator insisted on referring to Michael as “mixed-race” and denounced the acceptance of “trans-racial crap.”

Race does not define us, but it does influence our experience of the world. Needless to say, “Black” includes a spectrum of peoples whose experience of race varies depending on the interaction of other factors, such as class, culture, gender, nationality, etc. For many people, race is not a black and white issue, but a multi-front struggle for inclusion in their “own” communities.

“My mother was French, my father was American […] Being light skinned, I fought blacks because I wasn’t dark enough. I fought whites because I was colored. Fought Spanish, Puerto Ricans because they said I was a ‘wanna be’ and fake,” said one commentator…

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Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken

Posted in Africa, Audio, Europe, History, Interviews, Media Archive on 2017-12-05 00:36Z by Steven

Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken

The New Book Network
2017-02-04

Black Germany: The Making and Unmaking of a Diaspora Community, 1884-1960 (Cambridge University Press 2015)

“There were black Germans?”

My students are always surprised to learn that there were and are a community of African immigrants and Afro-Germans that dates back to the nineteenth century (and sometimes earlier), and that this community has at times had an influence on German culture, society, and racial thinking that belied its small size.

Germany’s role in colonizing Africa has received increased attention lately, with an exhibit on German colonialism appearing at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in October and recent headway on a deal for Germany to pay reparations to the descendants of Herero and Nama genocide victims in Namibia. In Black Germany: The Making and Unmaking of a Disapora Community, 1884-1960 (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken supply a part of the colonial story that gets even less attention than that of Germans in Africa: what about Africans in Germany? Focusing primarily on a community of West-African-born black Germans and their families, Rosenhaft and Aitken trace the groups evolution in the nineteenth century through its persecutions by the Nazi state and postwar existence.

Download the interview (00:25:27) here.

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Why Is Skin Color Different? Huge Genetic Study Reveals Prevailing Theory of Pigmentation is Wrong

Posted in Africa, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2017-12-04 04:20Z by Steven

Why Is Skin Color Different? Huge Genetic Study Reveals Prevailing Theory of Pigmentation is Wrong

Newsweek
2017-11-30

Kastalia Medrano, Staff Writer


These are South African individuals in a household that exemplify the substantial skin pigmentation variability in the Khomani and Nama populations.
Brenna Henn

Scientists used to think that the same small handful of genes accounted for about half of all pigment variation in human skin. A new study shows the genetic picture behind skin color is far more complex.

Research supporting the prior, simpler conclusion was skewed by Eurocentrism. Because it focused almost exclusively on Northern Eurasian populations from higher latitudes, the data missed a huge swath of the globe. Now, scientists have factored in people of color living in lower latitudes—and found that the prevailing theory is wrong.

Scientists from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Stanford University, and Stony Brook University worked with groups of indigenous southern African peoples called the KhoeSan, notable to some for their use of “click” language. They interviewed them, measured their respective heights and weights, and used a tool called a reflectometer to measure their skin pigmentation.

After seven years of research, and data gathered from about 400 individuals, the researchers realized that the closer a population lives to the equator, the greater the number of genes play a part in determining skin pigmentation. A paper describing the research was published November 30 in the scientific journal Cell.

“Previous work has shown the biomedical consequences of ethnically biased studies. Over the past 10 years, approximately 80 percent of genetic association studies were performed in European-descent groups,” Alicia Martin, a postdoctoral scientist in the lab of Broad Institute member Mark Daly, told Newsweek by email. “What we find here is that the biology of pigmentation or ‘architecture’ can be very different in Africans.” Martin says the findings emphasize the need to fund more genetic work in diverse populations…

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