Half and Half

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Campus Life, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2012-03-28 23:11Z by Steven

Half and Half

The Cornell Daily Sun
Ithaca, New York

Rebecca Lee

Just about the only thing I am looking forward to about graduation is finally being able to meet all of my best friends’ parents.  In high school, we knew our friends’ parents almost as well as our own, calling them by their first names, even dropping a playful “Mom” now and then.   Au contraire, we go through college barely having met the creators of the people with whom we share everything, from our rooms to our nights to our secrets.  Meeting a friend’s parents is an “aha” moment in which you are almost in awe of the physical representation of genetics in front of you.

Ah, genetics.  It’s where I get my mom’s smile and idealism, my dad’s olive skin and innate quietude.  It’s why I can both wear a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” shirt on St. Patrick’s Day and send out Chinese New Year cards when my family misses the traditional holiday season.  It’s why some people think I’m adopted.  It’s why I proudly refer to myself as a halfie.

In all honesty, my Chinese dad grew up in Great Neck and I am not even that good at using chopsticks.   But even though I am thoroughly Americanized, I still feel close to my distinct Chinese heritage.  For one, I am perceptibly Asian, whereas the other half of my genes are a little more, well, recessive. I even spent the first seven years of my life in Chinatown, at a public kindergarten where I was the only kid who didn’t know how to speak Chinese. But I have to wonder whether I would feel as close a connection to my Asian heritage if my last name wasn’t Lee, if my hair wasn’t naturally dark and stick straight, if I didn’t grow up knowing my Chinese grandparents…

…When people say that they only want to be with someone of their same race or religion, I take it as somewhat of a personal offense, since my own mixed-race existence was in such clear defiance of those beliefs.  I used to think it was closed minded of my Catholic friends to only follow up on Catholic advances.  I used to think it was cruel and unusual for my Indian friends to have to only date other Indians.   I used to see it as a kind of discrimination, even.  I used to protest, caught up by a combination of romantic whimsy and defensiveness — Give everyone a fair chance! You can’t help who you fall in love with! People are people!

And it’s true, people are people, but people are also products of their cultures and beliefs.  Is it really discrimination to prefer to be with people who share those things with you?…

Read the entire article here.

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Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians out of Existence in New England

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2012-03-28 15:35Z by Steven

Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians out of Existence in New England

University of Minnesota Press
296 pages
25 b&w photos, 2 tables
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8166-6578-5
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8166-6577-8

Jean M. O’Brien, (White Earth Ojibwe) Professor of History
University of Minnesota

Across nineteenth-century New England, antiquarians and community leaders wrote hundreds of local histories about the founding and growth of their cities and towns. Ranging from pamphlets to multivolume treatments, these narratives shared a preoccupation with establishing the region as the cradle of an Anglo-Saxon nation and the center of a modern American culture. They also insisted, often in mournful tones, that New England’s original inhabitants, the Indians, had become extinct, even though many Indians still lived in the very towns being chronicled.

In Firsting and Lasting, Jean M. O’Brien argues that local histories became a primary means by which European Americans asserted their own modernity while denying it to Indian peoples. Erasing and then memorializing Indian peoples also served a more pragmatic colonial goal: refuting Indian claims to land and rights. Drawing on more than six hundred local histories from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island written between 1820 and 1880, as well as censuses, monuments, and accounts of historical pageants and commemorations, O’Brien explores how these narratives inculcated the myth of Indian extinction, a myth that has stubbornly remained in the American consciousness.

In order to convince themselves that the Indians had vanished despite their continued presence, O’Brien finds that local historians and their readers embraced notions of racial purity rooted in the century’s scientific racism and saw living Indians as “mixed” and therefore no longer truly Indian. Adaptation to modern life on the part of Indian peoples was used as further evidence of their demise. Indians did not—and have not—accepted this effacement, and O’Brien details how Indians have resisted their erasure through narratives of their own. These debates and the rich and surprising history uncovered in O’Brien’s work continue to have a profound influence on discourses about race and indigenous rights.

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Facts of Blackness: Brazil is not Quite the United States… and Racial Politics in Brazil?

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2012-03-28 14:30Z by Steven

Facts of Blackness: Brazil is not Quite the United States… and Racial Politics in Brazil?

Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture
Volume 4, Issue 2, 1998
pages 201-234
DOI: 10.1080/13504639851807

Denise Ferreira Da Silva, Professor in Ethics
Queen Mary University of London

Studies of racial subordination in Brazil usually stress the puzzling co-existence of racial inequality with Brazil’s self-image as a ‘racial democracy’. Frequently, they identify the absence of racial conflict and a clear white-black distinction as explanations for the low level of black political mobilisation. In doing this, these studies (unreflectedly) take the United Sates as a universal model of racial subordination of which Brazilian difference is a mere variation. What seems to escape these analysts is that the Brazilian construction of race was set against the view that ‘racial differences’ identify distinct groups, a view which still prevails in the United States and in sociological constructions of race. Actually, an analysisof writings on Brazilian subjectivity suggests that the texts which write blackness do so by deploying various modern categories of ‘being’ (race, nation, gender, and class) both in the narratives—which have produced blacks as subordinate subjects in modernity and in the texts which aim to foster black emancipation.

October, 1995, After three years living in the United States, during which time I had followed the unfolding of three episodes which placed race at the centre of the political debate (the L.A. riots, O.J. Simpson’s trial and the Million Man March), I was very excited by the timing of my second trip back home. I would have the opportunity to participate in an event which seemed (finally) to place race at the centre of the political debate in Brazil: the 300th anniversary of the death of Zumbi dos Palmares, the last leader of the most lasting (one hundred year) community of runaway slaves in Brazil, Quilombo dos Palmares. Over the past 20 years, the black movement has chosen Zumbi as the symbol of a separate identity and has declared 20 November (the supposed date of his death) as the national day of black consciousness.

In 1995, however, Zumbi was at risk of being captured by the dominant racial discourse, as a national hero—as Palmares reconstructed by academics and politicians as an initial experience of racial democracy in Brazil. Throughout the year, city, state and federal administration promoted several events (conferences, parties, and political activities) to celebrate the third centennial of Zumbi’s death. Black movement organisations, on the other hand, seized the opportunity (once again) to denounce the ‘myth of racial democracy’ and the continuing subordination of blacks in Brazilian society. Excited about the…

Read or purchase the article here.

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From blanqueamiento to reindigenización: Paradoxes of mestizaje and multiculturalism in contemporary Colombia

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2012-03-28 02:55Z by Steven

From blanqueamiento to reindigenización: Paradoxes of mestizaje and multiculturalism in contemporary Colombia

European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Number 80, (April 2006) Constructing Ethnic Labels
pages 5-23

Margarita Chaves, Researcher
Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia (ICANH), Bogotá

Marta Zambrano, Associate Professor of Historical Anthropology
Universidad Nacional Colombia, Bogotá

During the past two decades Latin American projects of nationhood have experienced an unexpected shift towards multiculturalism. This move, accompanied by the reconfiguration of local and translocal ethnicities and constitutional reforms recognizing cultural diversity, has produced a surge of recent and provocative academic research (Gros 2000a; Kymlicka 1996; Van Cott 2000; Wieviorka 1997; Zapata 2001). Earlier, and from a different perspective, the role of ideologies and practices of mestizaje has also provoked sustained scholarly inquiry and political debate. Erstwhile cast within polar approaches that highlighted either the inclusive or the exclusive consequences of hegemonic ideologies of racial mixing, in the past years the debate has shifted focus to include a plurality of discourses and practices.

This article interweaves these two key threads of investigation. We argue that academic discussions about pluralism and multiculturalism in Latin America have paid little attention to mestizaje as a crucial dimension of nation-making projects. Following a critical examination of the pluralist as well as the neoliberal inclination towards ‘la nación mestiza’ linking cultural recognition with rising social inequalities, we examine recent cases of indigenous resurgence and strategies of reindigenización of subaltern groups in Colombia. We explore the current pluralist turn of the Colombian imagined national community to ponder the shifting political and social elements of mestizaje, understood as a multifaceted and conflicting terrain. We argue that while in the recent past mestizaje promised a secure but ambiguous avenue to becoming white (blanqueamiento), it has now become an equally muddled path to becoming indigenous again (reindigenización).

Read the entire article here.

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Beyond the Pale: Unsettling “Race” and Womanhood in the Novels of Harper, Hopkins, Fauset and Larsen

Posted in Dissertations, Law, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2012-03-28 01:44Z by Steven

Beyond the Pale: Unsettling “Race” and Womanhood in the Novels of Harper, Hopkins, Fauset and Larsen

McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
December 1996
303 pages

Teresa Christine Zackodnik, Professor of English
University of Alberta, Canada

A thesis Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor Of Philosophy

This dissertation proposes that writers like Frances Harper, Pauline Hopkins, Jessie Fauset, and Nella Larsen “talk out both sides” of their mouths, parodying the values of the black bourgeoisie, racialized notions of womanhood, and understandings of racial difference popular at the turn into the twentieth century. Using complex modes of address, these authors have written novels that in all likelihood were read in different directions by their white and African American readerships. I contend that these narratives would have placated their white readership with familiar forms, while simultaneously forging a sense of community with their African American readers in novels of a highly political nature which questioned and subverted definitions of womanhood and “race”. These “tragic mulatta” and “passing” novels, published from 1892 to 1931 are contextualized with an analysis of three cultural efforts to consolidate turn-of-the-century American beliefs regarding race and gender: legal statutes codifying racial identities, theories of racial difference, and notions of gender identity disseminated through the cult of domesticity. Because the mulatto is neither white nor black, her ambivalent identity and experience make parody a significant trope with which these authors interrogate identity. In order to “pass” for “true women” or for white, these mulatto characters utilize and parody the very qualities designed to ensure the “purity” of whiteness and womanhood. This study argues that such parodies access an African American tradition of parodic performance that played to and on white notions of “blackness” and constructions of white identity. Moving from a consideration of such “signifyin(g)” acts as a challenge to gender and racial identities represented by heroines who pass for “true women,” the study concludes with a consideration of how race, as a political category of description, is destabilized through the representation of heroines who choose to pass for white.


  • CHAPTER 1: Codifying and Quantifying “Race” in Turn-of-the-Century America
  • CHAPTER 2: Unsettling “Race” and Womanhood in Tum-of-the-Century America: Frances Harper’s Iola Leroy and Pauline Hopkins’s Contending Forces
  • CHAPTER 3: Policing the Bounds of Race: Jessie Fauset’s The Chinaberry Tree and Nella Larsen’s Quicksand
  • CHAPTER 4: Transgressions and Excess: Passing as Parodic Performance in Jessie Fauset’s Plum Bun and Nella Larsen’s Passing
  • CONCLUSION: New Trajectories of Self-Definition

Read the entire thesis here.

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Passing and the figure of the Europeanized American in Edith Wharton’s fiction

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2012-03-28 00:15Z by Steven

Passing and the figure of the Europeanized American in Edith Wharton’s fiction

Purdue University
216 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3210795
ISBN: 97805425959510

Jasmina Starcevic

A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of Purdue University by Jasmina Starcevic In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

This dissertation traces the evolution of the Europeanized American as a passing figure in five works by Edith WhartonThe House of Mirth (1905), The Custom of the Country (1913), The Age of Innocence (1920), The Old Maid (1924), and The Mother’s Recompense (1925). By reading Wharton’s major fiction through the lens of the passing narrative, I show that the Europeanized American emerges as a vehicle of mediation and the expression of the relationship between the cultures of Europe and America, crucial for exploring the issues of gender, class, race and nationality. I argue that Wharton invests the Europeanized American with the characteristics of the passing subject, thus deploying an ostensibly white figure as the trope of racial difference. Stripped of their fitness for self-government, Europeanized Americans figure as undesirable, unfit, or traitorous subjects vying for the social privileges of the white establishment in the face of psychological persecutions, marginalization, and even death. In order to secure acceptance in the white hegemony, the Europeanized American must engage in a form of passing. Unlike Americans of European descent (or European Americans), Europeanized Americans embody “Europeaness” as an indiscernible trait, not simply visible on the surface of the subject’s body. This important distinction allows Wharton to portray Europeanized Americans as culturally and racially more complex than their European or American “cousins.”

The body of historical and theoretical work on passing produced by prominent social, political, literary and cultural theorists provides the theoretical framework for my analysis of passing in Wharton’s fiction. In Wharton’s major works, passing denotes both psychological and performative aspects of the struggle to acquire social visibility and secure place within the national cultural matrix, and it is directly related to the production of whiteness and American identity. This study establishes the Europeanized American as a passing figure and explores the significance of the figure in Wharton’s major works.


  • INTRODUCTION: Passing in Edith Wharton’s Fiction
  • CHAPTER ONE: Passing Through the House of Mirth: The Figure of the Europeanized American in Wharton’s Early Fiction
  • CHAPTER TWO: The “Cool Security” of Class: Cross-Racial Theater and Upward Mobility in The Custom of the Country
  • CHAPTER THREE: Marriage, Race, and Nation: Passing in The Age of Innocence
  • CHAPTER FOUR: Old World Mothers and New World Daughters: Motherhood and Passing in The Old Maid and The Mother’s Recompense
  • VITA

Purchase the dissertation here.

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