Hollywood Fantasies of Miscegenation: Spectacular Narratives of Gender and Race

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2009-10-19 02:13Z by Steven

Hollywood Fantasies of Miscegenation: Spectacular Narratives of Gender and Race

Princeton University Press
376 pages
6 x 9, 142 halftones.
Paperback ISBN: 9780691113050

Susan Courtney, Associate Professor of English and Film Studies
University of South Carolina

Hollywood Fantasies of Miscegenation analyzes white fantasies of interracial desire in the history of popular American film.  From the first interracial screen kiss of 1903, through the [Motion Picture] Production Code‘s nearly thirty-year ban on depictions of “miscegenation,” to the contemplation of mixed marriage in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), this book demonstrates a long, popular, yet underexamined record of cultural fantasy at the movies.

With ambitious new readings of well-known films like D.W. Griffith‘s 1915 epic The Birth of a Nation and of key forgotten films and censorship documents, Susan Courtney argues that dominant fantasies of miscegenation have had a profound impact on the form and content of American cinema.

What does it mean, Courtney asks, that the image of the black rapist became a virtual cliché, while the sexual exploitation of black women by white men under slavery was perpetually repressed? What has this popular film legacy invited spectators to remember and forget? How has it shaped our conceptions of, and relationships to, race and gender?

Richly illustrated with more than 140 images, Hollywood Fantasies of Miscegenation carefully attends to cinematic detail, revising theories of identity and spectatorship as it expands critical histories of race, sex, and film. Courtney’s new research on the Production Code’s miscegenation clause also makes an important contribution, inviting us to consider how that clause was routinely interpreted and applied, and with what effects.

Read the introduction in HTML or PDF format.

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Black and White and Read All Over: If you’re mixed-race, they never stop asking ‘What are you?’

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2009-10-19 01:21Z by Steven

Black and White and Read All Over: If you’re mixed-race, they never stop asking ‘What are you?’

Village Voice
Tuesday, 2006-01-24
Naomi Pabst, Assistant Professor of African American Studies and American Studies
Yale University

It’s back in the ’90s in San Francisco. I’m undergoing a wisdom tooth extraction, hovering happily in nitrous oxide–land, when I vaguely hear a voice beam in. The dentist has asked me something. I attempt to focus—has my blissed-out fog really been penetrated by that question, that dreaded demand of the racially ambiguous: “What are you”?.

“Ummm, uhhhh,” I mumble in universal dental garble. “Well, one thing I am is not so high anymore.”

As the product of extensive mixing and moving, I hardly know where to begin or end in alleviating people’s curiosity (even yours, dear reader). Let’s just say that if you appear racially indeterminable, you are read all over. As in from head to toe, as in wherever you go. Like any other unstraightforward or indecipherable text, ambiguous bodies are given a close reading, between the lines. And if that fails to clarify matters, any serious reader will consult a primary source: you. You become an informant, other people’s resource for more information. It’s an intervention into your everyday existence that can happen anyplace, anytime, by anyone. You are interpreted, your body a sign, forever decoded and discerned…

…But what exactly is this so-called “Generation Mix” and this would-be “mixed-heritage baby boom”? Kelley suggests that while there have of course been mixed-race people for as long as different races have resided together, we now see the first critical mass of adamantly multiracial people in America—teens and twentysomethings like these. I agree that race mixing, and not just in the well-known crime of white-on-black rape, has been more prevalent than is generally acknowledged, and that at first glance mixing seems to be a common enough occurrence these days. It is true that intermixing is on the rise, especially in places like New England and more so on the West Coast. But once talk turns to population “booms” and “generations,” we need to note that the numbers remain much smaller than one might think.

This is especially true for black and white mixing. Currently, approximately 5 percent of all American marriages are between people of different races. And since 1967, the year the Supreme Court legalized marriage between blacks and whites, rates of black-white intermarriage have jumped radically indeed, from 1 percent to around 5 percent of all marriages involving a black person. The relatively small numbers don’t take away from the social significance of race mixing, but rather add to it. That the overwhelming majority of people still stick to “their own” makes the exceptions stand out and seem more common than they actually are, while also exacerbating the widespread fetishization of all things interracial…

Read the entire article here.

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Black (un)like me: scholar Pabst dismantles stereotypes

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2009-10-19 01:00Z by Steven

Black (un)like me: scholar Pabst dismantles stereotypes

University of Minnesota
College of Liberal Arts Today
Spring 2002

Judy Woodward

Naomi Pabst (B.A. ’93 summa cum laude, English & African-American Studies) is the intellectual enemy of the stereotype, the easy generalization, and the sweeping statement. As a newly-minted scholar of African-American studies and the history of consciousness, she defines her subject loosely as “what people think of when they say the word ‘black.’”…

…What engages Pabst is what she finds on the margins of the black experience.

It’s a territory that she knows fairly well from personal experience. Although the 33-year-old scholar insists, “I don’t want to reduce what I do to my own experience of marginality,” nevertheless she concedes that, as a biracial child growing up in Canada and Germany, her experience was not typical of conventional definitions of black culture.

But then, her point is that many African-Americans—including black cultural icons—did not have “typical” experiences…

Read the entire article here.

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