The Passion of Tiger Woods: An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2011-11-30 06:05Z by Steven

The Passion of Tiger Woods: An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal

Duke University Press
November 2011
160 pages
20 illustrations
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-5210-5
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5199-3

Orin Starn, Professor of Cultural Anthropology
Duke University

Perhaps the best golfer ever, Tiger Woods rocketed to the top of a once whites-only sport. Endorsements made him a global brand and the world’s richest athlete. The child of a multiracial marriage, Woods and his blond, blue-eyed wife, Elin Nordegren, seemed to represent a new postracial America. Then, in late 2009, Woods became embroiled in a sex scandal that made headlines worldwide. In this concise yet far-reaching analysis, Orin Starn brings an anthropologist’s perspective to bear on Tigergate. He explores our modern media obsession with celebrity scandals and their tawdry ritualized drama, yet he offers much more than the usual banal moralizing about the rich and famous. Starn explains how Tiger’s travails and the culture of golf reflect broader American anxieties—about race and sex, scapegoating and betrayal, and the role of the sports hero. The Passion of Tiger Woods is required reading for all those interested in the high-stakes world of professional golf, the politics of sports and celebrity, and the myths and realities surrounding the flawed yet riveting figure who remains among the most famous athletes of our time.

Table of Contents

  • Prologue
  • 1. Golf Backward Spells “Flog”
  • 2. The Tiger Woods Revolution
  • 3. Tigergate, Celebrity Scandal, and the Apology Society
  • 4. Internet Wars, Sex Addiction, and the Crucifixion of Tiger Woods
  • 5. Postracial Fantasies, Racial Realpolitik
  • 6. Tiger’s Penis
  • 7. Out of the Woods?
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

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Stuck at the border of the reserve: Self-identity and authentic identity amongst mixed race First Nations women

Posted in Canada, Dissertations, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Women on 2011-11-30 03:44Z by Steven

Stuck at the border of the reserve: Self-identity and authentic identity amongst mixed race First Nations women

University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
January 2010
330 pages
Publication Number: AAT NR64501
ISBN: 9780494645017

Jaime Mishibinijima Miller

A Thesis Presented to The Faculty of Graduate Studies of The University of Guelph by for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

The lowered self-esteem of First Nations people is evident in the disparities in health that exist in comparison with the rest of the Canadian population. High risk behaviors such as alcohol and drug use, and poor decisions relating to health and wellness are the outcome of decades of negative perceptions of self brought on by the lateral violence of colonialism. This research demonstrates how different determinants of First Nations identity (legal and policy based, social and culturally based definitions, and the self-identification ideology) interplay and influence a sense of authenticity which informs self-worth and the ability to realize health and wellness for twelve First Nations women on Manitoulin Island. First Nations identity is multi-layered and for women who only have one First Nations parent, and who often have Bill C-31 Indian status, identity becomes complicated and painful. Using life histories, the research participants demonstrate that an authentic identity is difficult to navigate because of the stigmatization they feel by non First Nations people for being a First Nations woman, and also the lateral violence they experience in their communities for being “bi-racial”, not growing up on their reserve, not knowing language and culture, and often having either Bill C-31 Indian status or no status at all. The medicine wheel is used to explore this topic and a Nanabush story provides the context to understand it.

Purchase the dissertation here.

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Racial, Religious, and Civic Creole Identity in Colonial Spanish America

Posted in Articles, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico, Religion on 2011-11-30 03:17Z by Steven

Racial, Religious, and Civic Creole Identity in Colonial Spanish America

The Journal of American History
Volume 17, Issue 3 (Fall 2005)
pages 420-437
DOI: 10.1093/alh/aji024

Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History
University of Texas, Austin

Patrocinio de la Virgen de Guadalupe sobre el Reino de Nueva España (“Auspices of Our Lady of Guadalupe over the Kingdom of New Spain”) (Fig. 1) is an eighteenth-century canvass by an anonymous Mexican painter that rather vividly captures Creole discourses in colonial Mexico. A garlanded Our Lady of Guadalupe stands on top of a fountain from which four kneeling nobles, two indigenous, two Hispanic, drink.

Fountains had long been associated with salvation and purity in Christian discourse. For example, in their 1596 Ghent altarpiece, Fountain of Life and Mercy, Gerard Horenbout (1467–1540) and his son Lucas Horenbout (d. 1544) have the community of the pious drink of a fountain whose source is the body of Christ (Fig. 2). Believers eucharistically partake of the blood of Christ, whose wounds refill the well. Some princes and clerics, including a turbaned potentate and a tonsured friar, who stand for the Turks and Luther, respectively, turn their backs on the fountain as they gather to worship Dame World. To reinforce the Counter-Reformation message, the Flemish Horenbouts have angels hovering over the pious and demons over the infidels and heretics.

The same theological and compositional principles organize the Mexican painting, but the fountain’s spring is Our Lady of Guadalupe and both natives and Hispanics kneel to drink from the well. Using this virgin as the source of the “fountain of life and mercy” came naturally to those who thought of Our Lady of Guadalupe as an immaculate conception, for some of the imagery underlying the belief in the immaculate conception came from the Song of Songs, one of the strangest books of the Old Testament. According to Christian theology, the Song of Songs prefigures the mystery of St. Mary’s conception by describing a woman, the lover of God, as a walled garden (hortus conclusus) and a fountain (“You are like a private garden, my treasure, my bride! You are like a spring that no one can drink from, a fountain of my own” [Song of Solomon 4.12]). The most striking difference between the Mexican painting and Horenbout’s is that in the former no party turns its back on the fountain: both Indians and Europeans belong in the same community of the pious…

…I have chosen the painting Patrocinio de la Virgen de Guadalupe sobre el Reino deNueva España to introduce this essay because it summarizes much of what I believe to be distinct about Creole discourse in colonial Spanish America: Creoles saw their lands to be equally rooted in the indigenous and Hispanic pasts. In their imagination, colonial Spanish American societies were kingdoms, ancien regime societies made up of social estates and corporate privileges, with deep, ancient dynastic roots in both the New World and Spain. For heuristic purposes, I have divided this essay to coincide with the compositional elements of the painting: Creoles and Indians; Creoles and religion, particularly Our Lady of Guadalupe: and Creoles and Spain. But before turning to my tripartite analysis, we need first to clarify who the Creoles were.

1. Criollos

The self-styled Criollos or Creoles were local elites who presided over racially mixed colonial societies of Indians, blacks, Spaniards, and castas (mixed bloods). Creoles felt entitled to rule over these racially and culturally heterogeneous societies, as part of a loosely held Catholic composite monarchy whose center was back in Madrid. By and large they succeeded in their efforts to obtain autonomy vis-a-vis Spain, but their rule over these local “kingdoms” was always precarious and negotiated. Although Peninsular newcomers, including representatives of the sprawling lay and religious bureaucracies that the crown created in Spanish America, were usually marshaled into serving Creole interests either through bribes or marriage, Creoles felt voiceless and discriminated against. To be sure, they were right to complain. Back in Spain, the Indies were seen as corrupting, degenerating environments: frontier societies where one could get rich but sorely lacking in sophistication and culture. Upon arrival in the Indies. Peninsulares felt naturally entitled to hold political, religious, and economic power, and Creoles resented such pretensions…

2. Creole and Indians

How could an ancien regime society where social and racial estates overlapped produce a painting like Patrocinio de la Virgen de Guadalupe sobre el Reino de Nueva España, in which both Indians and Hispanic nobilities are held to be equal participants in the ideal Christian commonwealth? The answer lies precisely in the very nature of the ancien regime the Creole elites envisioned. Creoles saw themselves as the product of the biological, racial amalgamation of Indian and Spanish elites that took place during the first years of colonization.

Clerical writers considered the miscegenation of Spaniards and Indians appropriate only when it brought elites together. The initial colonial sexual embrace of Indian elites and Spanish conquerors was. therefore, welcomed and praised. The type of “vulgar” miscegenation that brought later commoners of different races together was another matter. The vulgar mestizaje was seen as a threat to the existence of idealized hierarchical polities. Mestizos were consistently portrayed as evil, out-of-control individuals responsible for bringing sinful lifestyles, including a culture of lies and deception, into Indian communities that the clergy sought to keep unsoiled…

Read the entire article here.

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Cultural identities of people of “mixed” backgrounds: racial, ethnic and national meanings in negotiation

Posted in Canada, Dissertations, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive on 2011-11-30 01:47Z by Steven

Cultural identities of people of “mixed” backgrounds: racial, ethnic and national meanings in negotiation

McGill University, Montreal

Sahira Iqbal

A thesis submitted to McGill University in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree ofMasters of Arts in Culture and Values in Education.

This qualitative study aims to describe and understand the cultural identities of people of “mixed” backgrounds whose mother comes from one racial, ethnic or national background and whose father comes from another background. In-depth, individual interviews were conducted with nine people of “mixed” backgrounds in order to understand the meanings that particular racial, ethnic or national labels have for them and how those meanings are constructed. My analysis is shaped by the works of Hall (1996, 2003), Taylor (1989, 1992) and Bourdieu (1986, 1990) among others. The participants claimed multiple labels in ambivalent ways. They spoke about what they know or do not know about the culture, connections to people and places, languages and customs, physical features and values. They take on various positionings depending on the discourses that are available and the meanings that they negotiate in their daily encounters. I conclude with the implications the findings may have for policymakers, identity politics and educators and with future research directions.

Read the entire thesis here.

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Le métissage dans l’œuvre indochinoise de Marguerite Duras

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Canada, Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Philosophy, Women on 2011-11-30 01:38Z by Steven

Le métissage dans l’œuvre indochinoise de Marguerite Duras

McGill University, Montreal
106 pages

Elisabeth Desaulniers

Mémoire soumis à l’Université McGill en vue de l’obtention du grade de Maître ès arts (MA) en langue et littérature françaises

This dissertation focuses on the issue of hybridity in Marguerite Duras’ corpus of Indochinese texts, as well as on the meeting of identities in the colonial realm. In order to identify the problematics of colonial coexistence, we will address the themes of the encounter between the Orient and the Occident, the use of hybrid discourse and the role of memory in the process of rewriting. Edward Said’s Orientalism theory as well as Homi Bhabha’s concept of ambivalence in colonial discourse will serve as the basis for the analysis of the Indochinese cycle. Far from being a totalizing experience, hybridity will reveal itself as being a harrowing dichotomy.

Read the entire thesis (in French) here.

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Post-Raciality or a Re-Imagining of Whiteness: an Interview with Clarence E. Walker

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Communications/Media Studies, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-11-28 05:12Z by Steven

Post-Raciality or a Re-Imagining of Whiteness: an Interview with Clarence E. Walker

Platform: Journal of Media and Communication
Volume 3, Issue 1, Media and “Race” (April 2011)
pages 26-34
ISSN: 1836-5132

Sandy Watson, University of Melbourne, Australia

Clarence Walker is recognised as one of the leading historians of American race relations, and is noted for his advocacy of critical historical analysis of race relations and discourses as a way of understanding the present. Walker has written widely on issues relating to black American history, including five books covering variously race and politics (2009), race and the national imaginary (2010); Afrocentrism and discourses of black Africanism (2001, 1999) and the history of nineteenth century black religion (1982).


Walker’s most recent work, with Gregory Smithers, explores the emergence of discourses of post-raciality during the 2008 United States election campaign (Walker and Smithers 2009) where Walker argued that the historical superficiality of journalism exacerbates racial tensions rather than creating greater cultural understanding on racial issues (2009, p. 39). In this interview, he discusses the applicability of what he describes as reactionary discourses (that of post-raciality, colour blindness and colour neutrality) in the context of shifting media usage and tensions arising from perceived challenges to the dominant, white-centred national imaginary.

The critique of white-centred accounts of history has been central to Walker’s recent work, and was the subject of his compelling book Mongrel Nation (2010), in which he argues for the need to recognise the interracial founding of the United States. The book contextualises the controversy surrounding 1990s claims that Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s Founding Fathers, had one or more children in an interracial relationship with a slave girl called Sally Heming. These accounts were refuted heatedly by segments of academia who pointed to Jefferson’s documented concern about the dangers of amalgamation as an indication of the unlikely nature of his having an interracial affair. Walker argues persuasively and with historical force that such refutations need to be contextualised as reactionary discourses within a history of white-centred historicising and imagining of the national identity in the United States…

PLATFORM: The idea that American society is post-racial gained renewed ascendancy with Barack Obama’s election as the first (self-identifying) black President of the United States. However, narratives of post-race have been circulating in the US since the Civil Rights Act (1964). Can you elaborate on the nuances between narratives such as post-raciality, colour-blindness and race neutrality as a basis for informing analysis of their presence in political and media debates over the past two years?

Clarence Walker: In my view these are all reactionary movements. They are constructed around an attempt to efface race as a site of conflict in the American past and present. To say that one is colour-blind rather than colour-conscious is to say that you see something in someone that you don’t want to see, that is their colour. It’s also to say that you think that these issues are somewhat superficial and that if we want to wish them away we can. You can see this in the whole construction of Asians as some kind of model minority here because they’re successful academically and economically, at least in some sectors of the population. You can also see it in the hysteria over immigration with the arrival of large numbers of Spanish-speaking people over recent years.

It is the case in America that most white people do not want to talk about race. They prefer to think that the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has effaced the racial problem, and that if there is a racial problem here it is because black people are basically angry or have refused to accept this new reality in which race is no longer a problem. But if race is no longer a problem, then why are there so many young black men between the ages of 18 and 25 including Mexicans also in American prisons? They constitute approximately one and a half million of two million people in American prisons.

Yet the Obama election was very much a racial election, despite these discourses of post-raciality. It was racial in the sense that it required white people to overcome their historical animosity towards the idea of a successful black candidate. I tend to think that up until the leaking to the media of the sermons of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, as Gregory Smithers and I discuss in The Preacher and The Politician, there was little attention to the fact on the part of many white Americans that Barack Obama was black. In the case of black Americans there was great suspicion of him because he was not associated with the two historically defining moments of black American history, one being of course the question of slavery and Jim Crow, the other being the Civil Rights Movement. It was only when Jeremiah Wright’s comments were leaked and it came out that Obama was associated with this Church which was part of a Christian black nationalist movement, a particular congregation that was Afro-centric and black nationalist, that attention started to be paid to the fact that Obama was black. This led to speculation about whether Obama therefore might have a subtext of black militancy that he wasn’t talking about. This was one of the signature moments in terms of race becoming part of the election debate.

The Obama presidency has if not reignited the other being the issues about race and colour then certainly shown that they haven’t gone away. In many ways the emergence of this black man as the President of the United States is comparable to the emergence of prominent Jews in France and Germany and the political and cultural life of those countries in the nineteenth century. There were elements in those societies who were opposed to Jewish civil and political equality just as there are elements in this country who feared the election of Obama or any black person as the President of the United States.

The discourse of post-racialism which emerged in relation to the 2008 campaign was itself really a product of the chattering classes, by that I mean the media commentators and academics who talked about the ‘Obama moment’ as the post-racial moment. For example, I teach a course called the History of Race in America here at the University of California and I have just finished teaching 80 undergraduates. I have talked about this subject in the way I have done for the 37 years of my career in that I don’t mince words and I am very direct about what I want to say. Many of my students find this very disturbing because their views have been shaped by the media and some of them were very resistant to the notion that this in fact was not a post-racial society because we had a black president and that because he was of mixed race nobody talked about the fact that he had a white mother. I said to my students, “How would his history have been different if his mother was black and his father white rather than the other way around?” It had never occurred to them that this would have created a different historical narrative and a different historical actor, and one whom many white people in this country would never have voted for because his cultural experience rather than being that of a white working class family would have been that of a black family…

PLATFORM: I’d like to return to a consistent theme in your work, that of the argument that a critical appraisal of historiography is vital in understanding contemporary debates and discourses on race. In Mongrel Nation you particularly emphasised the resistance of historians and others to the notion of an interracial founding of America rather than the dominant constructions of whiteness that have underpinned renderings of history in the US. This was in relation to claims that Thomas Jefferson fathered one or more children in an interracial relationship with Sally Hemings. How can this historical perspective inform our understanding of the role of discourses such as post-racialism?

CW: In the national imaginary up until recently the United States was historically imagined by historians as purely a white nation. This is changing with the work of the very distinguished historian Annette Gordon Reed and others, as well as in my work, where you see a rethinking of the American past that is more in line with what the country was like in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and what it is like today. The resistance to this arises out of the fact that it is very hard for some people, older people in particular, to think of the United States as anything other than ‘whiteland’ or ‘whitetopia’ and the fact that they refuse to come to grips with this. You see this most clearly in their hostility to Barack Obama. His election is something that is contrary to fact. If this is a white nation then what is it doing with a “coloured” president? And if this is a white nation, then what does it mean for the future? It means that we will have an Asian president, it means that we may even have a Muslim president, we may even have a woman president, and I hope we do. It’s not just that every generation writes history according to its own desires but that there has to be a recognition in the United States that although it was the product of white colonial settlers that the country did not remain white very long…

Read the entire interview here.

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Eugenics and Mongrelization [Letter and Response]

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Letters, Media Archive, United States on 2011-11-28 03:57Z by Steven

Eugenics and Mongrelization [Letter and Response]

The Eugenics Review
Volume 32, Number 1 (April 1940)
pages 28-30

To the Editor, Eugenics Review

SIR, In order that the eugenics movement shall advance successfully, the eugenics organizations must dissociate their endeavours from the widespread propaganda for race amalgamation and mongrelization. There is little wisdom in breeding selectively among individuals if the results are to be nullified by indiscriminate mixing of the races. Nearly all the arguments against the existence of different races are coming from spokesmen for races that desire admixture to, and absorption by the white race, or Aryan race, using the name in the newer adapted sense. The arguments have utterly failed to change the truth that there are at least three great races-the whites, or Aryans; the Mongolians; and the Negroes. The Jews may be regarded as a sub-race that in some degree, or at least in some countries, may be absorbed by other races.

There has been vastly less race mixture in the northern hemisphere than the amalgamation exponents contend. The United States is not a nation of mixed races, as some writers allege. There has been a small admixture of American Indian and Mexican in some of the western states, and a small admixture of Jews in some of the cities. There are about twelve million Negroes, who have a small fraction of widely diffused white blood, due mainly to miscegnation on the southern plantations before the Civil War. But there is practically no Negro blood in the one hundred and ten million whites, who are almost purely of European descent and have absolutely no intention of amalgamating with the Negroes.

The white race is unquestionably uniquely beautiful and is in many respects of superior intelligence. To mix the white features with other races would destroy the white beauty for ever. The white race should maintain its purity and should further develop its characteristics…

…The mixing of races would produce mongrels lacking the distinctive qualities and values of all races. Eugenics means, not only breeding from the superior and eliminating the unfit among individuals, but also similar procedure as between the races. The white race idealizes a pure white race and further development of its characteristics. There can be no idealization of a mongrel humanity, except among races that desire admixture with whites and thus acknowledge a belief in their own inferiority. This has been the almost universal attitude of the white race, at least in the United States. The cruel persecution of the Jews in Germany caused a temporary reaction in favour of race solidarity, but with the adjustment of the Jewish problem in some manner, the real attitude of the white race will become more outspoken and unmistakable. The eugenics organizations must act along these lines, else their efforts will fail and new organizations will be formed to strive for the true eugenic ideals.

1510 Lincoln Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio, U.S.A.

[Response from the Editor]

Some of the statements in the above letter must not be allowed to pass without comment. The implication in the first sentence, that the eugenics movement associates its endeavours with “propaganda for race amalgamation and mongrelization” is, as far as this country is concerned, a travesty of the facts. We should be much surprised to learn that it is true of the eugenics movement in any country. The views of this Society, as set forth in its Statement of Aims and Objects, is  “that further knowledge of the results of such crosses is needed in order to distinguish between the effects of unfavourable hereditary and environmental influences and to frame a practical eugenic policy.” This does not mean that we do not share Mr. Eshleman’s disquietude at the “indiscriminate mixing of the races,” but we should regard it as a nice question whether that is any more undesirable than the indiscriminate mating of persons belonging to the same race.

The assumption in the second paragraph would almost certainly be rejected by most competent anthropologists to-day. The plain fact that there is no such thing as an Aryan race is in no way altered by the device of using “Aryan” in its ” newly adapted sense.” The only assemblage of human beings to which this purely linguistic term may be applied is the heterogenous body of ethnic and national groups who share the common peculiarity of speaking the Aryan or Indo-European languages. The “great white race” represents in fact a somewhat elastic conception, but however arbitrarily its limits are defined it is difficult to see how they could exclude the majority of Jews. The fact, however, that they would certainly not include the indigenous Jewish communities which exist in both Abyssinia and China is an indication of how far-to quote Huxley and Haddon—”the term Jew is valid more as a socio-religious or pseudonational description than as an ethnic term in any genetic sense.”

The claim that “there has been vastly less race mixture in the northern hemisphere” than is sometimes alleged, may be questioned in the light of some data which have been submitted to us for publication by Mr. J. C. Trevor, formerly one of the Eugenics Society’s Darwin Research Fellows and now University Lecturer in Anthropology at Cambridge. In Mr. Trevor’s paper, for which we hope to find room in our next issue, the ratio of mixed bloods (i.e. persons of partly European and partly non-European stock) to the total population of the United States is given as slightly over 7 per cent, Admittedly this figure can at best be only an approximation, but including as it does in its basis Kuczynski’s statement that to count 6o per cent of the negro inhabitants of that country as mulatto would be “a most conservative estimate,” it is more likely to understate the facts than overstate them. It is noteworthy that according to an eminent American scholar, the number of negroes of full blood was unduly exaggerated in the 1920 U.S. census, the last in which an attempt was made to assess the mulatto element by itself. And it need hardly be added that the familiar phenomenon of “passing for white,” with its inevitable consequences, must not be overlooked in examining the contention that “there is practically no negro blood in the one hundred and ten million whites.”…

Read the entire letter and response here.

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Multiracial Identity: New Models and Frameworks for Describing and Understanding the Experience of Race and Identity

Posted in Forthcoming Media, Identity Development/Psychology, Papers/Presentations, United States on 2011-11-28 00:11Z by Steven

Multiracial Identity: New Models and Frameworks for Describing and Understanding the Experience of Race and Identity

National Conference on Race & Ethnicity (NCORE) 2012
New York, New York
2012-05-29 through 2012-06-02
Date & Time To Be Determined

Charmaine L. Wijeyesinghe, Ed.D, Consultant in Organizational Development and Social Justice Education

For two decades, research on Multiracial people has challenged, advanced, and re-framed how we view race and identity in the United States.  The impact of foundational, as well as new models of Multiracial identity is evident in the content of emerging perspectives on social identity, including Intersectionality. This highly interactive session includes a brief review of ways Multiracial identity has been framed over the past 20 years, including key issues that both support and challenge traditional theories of racial identity development.  A new model of multiracial identity that incorporates aspects of intersectionality is presented and demonstrated as a learning and programming tool.  Interactive discussion allows participants to examine questions often raised by the topic of Multiracial identity on campus, such as: to what extent is racial identity chosen as opposed to assigned? Do racial groups embody aspects of culture, and if so, what is Multiracial culture? To what extent should institutional policies and practices change to accommodate Multiracial people? and What interventions and programs have been successful in meeting the needs of Multiracial students, and what can we learn from our mistakes?

For more information, click here.

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Transnational Crossroads: Remapping the Americas and the Pacific

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2011-11-27 21:56Z by Steven

Transnational Crossroads: Remapping the Americas and the Pacific

University of Nebraska Press
504 pages
1 illustration
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8032-3795-7

Edited by:

Camilla Fojas, Associate Professor and Director of Latin American and Latino Studies
DePaul University

Rudy P. Guevarra, Jr., Assistant Professor, Asian Pacific American Studies, School of Social Transformation, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Arizona State University, Tempe

The twentieth century was a time of unprecedented migration and interaction for Asian, Latin American, and Pacific Islander cultures in the Americas and the American Pacific. Some of these ethnic groups already had historic ties, but technology, migration, and globalization during the twentieth century brought them into even closer contact. Transnational Crossroads explores and triangulates for the first time the interactions and contacts among these three cultural groups that were brought together by the expanding American empire from 1867 to 1950.

Through a comparative framework, this volume weaves together narratives of U.S. and Spanish empire, globalization, resistance, and identity, as well as social, labor, and political movements. Contributors examine multiethnic celebrities and key figures, migratory paths, cultural productions, and social and political formations among these three groups. Engaging multiple disciplines and methodologies, these studies of Asian American, Latin American, and Pacific Islander cultural interactions explode traditional notions of ethnic studies and introduce new approaches to transnational and comparative studies of the Americas and the American Pacific.

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Bridgetower – Black Musicians and British Culture, 1807-2007

Posted in Arts, History, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2011-11-27 02:58Z by Steven

Bridgetower – Black Musicians and British Culture, 1807-2007

Gresham College

Mike Phillips, Professor of Music
Gresham College

George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, the son of an Abyssinian slave, was hailed as a musical prodigy in the eighteenth century. Taught by Haydn, his appearance at the court in Windsor to play in front of George III led to his subsequent ‘adoption’ by the Prince Regent. Friends with Beethoven—Bridgetower was the original dedicatee of the Kreutzer Sonata and they gave the first performance together—his life offers a powerful symbolism for the creation and establishment of a black British community which has its roots in the 18th century importation and migration of slaves and ex-slaves.

Professor Mike Phillips is the librettist for the newly-commissioned opera, Bridgetower – A Fable of 1807, to be given its premier as a part of the City of London Festival on the 5th of July. He will be discussing the role of black musicians in British culture in the two hundred years since the Abolition of the Slave Trade act.

I must begin by making it clear that I am not an academic researcher or an expert on slavery or an expert on the culture and customs of the Caribbean or Africa, and I have not spent many years in the British Library digging up obscure facts about this topic.  So I am not going to get into arcane disputes about the precise number of black musicians who lived in Southwark or how often they did their laundry!  But I have read a considerable amount about the topic.  I am a novelist and a curator and I have written an exhausting number of words about the history of black people in Britain.  This is not a talk about urban rioting or reggae or calypso or gospel music or jazz, although these forms dominate the experience of recent years.  I am telling you this partly because I am going to end at the end of the 19th Century, because I only have an hour, and if I got on to the 20th Century, I would be here all night!  But in fact, because of the subject of the new opera Bridgetower, a Fable of 1807, and because in general this part of the City of London Festival has focused on the 18th Century and the early 19th Century, I will be dealing roughly with those years.

The other point is that, in general, we tend to talk about black people in Britain, or about the multiracial nature of the population, as if it was an exclusively 20th Century phenomenon.  We talk about the respective cultures as if they existed behind barriers, and we talk as if the colour of people’s skins defines their cultural prospects and abilities, a tendency which is an exact match for the strictures of 18th Century racial science, with its appalling attempts to categorise human beings in line with a preordained network of characteristics.

Even now, in this country, young black musicians still face a series of nudges in the direction of what everyone will describe as ‘their culture’, meaning steel bands and rapping.  Young black musicians who lean towards classical forms will be more or less guaranteed a difficult time—it would be easier if they wanted to do percussion.  Historically, that has meant that, by and large, black musicians in Europe have been written out of the narrative of the very landscape that they helped to shape, and we find ourselves obliged to rediscover figures like the Chevalier de Saint-George or Samuel Coleridge-Taylor—people who were household names in their own time.

In that context, one of the most illuminating and reassuring aspects of looking at the lives of black cultural figures in Britain and Europe is that if you go back between the 16th Century and the 20th Century, you encounter black artists, poets, novelists and musicians who had no problems nor inhibitions in engaging in the cultural environment in which they found themselves.  In the process, they tended to affect the culture in which they lived in various specific ways.

I mentioned the 19th Century, but as far back as 1505 we have an African drummer working for James IV in Edinburgh, arranging a dance with dancers in black and white costumes for the Shrove Tuesday festivities.  Black musicians are repeatedly mentioned in pageants, fairs and at least one tournament from the 16th Century onwards.

If you come to the 18th Century, they’re relatively well-known—black musicians like Cato, who ended up as a head gamekeeper to the Prince of Wales around about 1740, and who was reputed to blow the best French horn and trumpet in his time.  In the 18th Century, Londoners were already dancing in what were called black hops, where 12 pence would get you admission…

…But I will go on to talk about George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower.  Bridgetower is an interesting person, not simply because he was born in the Esterhazy household; not simply because he was black; not because he was a child protégé, but all those things together, at the time when he arrived in Britain and during his career, had a particular kind of significance…

Read the lecture here.
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