The Hypocrisy of the “Pigmentocracy”

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2012-05-23 19:01Z by Steven

The Hypocrisy of the “Pigmentocracy”

Trotter Review
Volume 7, Issue 2 (1993) A Special Issue on the Political and Social Relations Between Communities of Color
Article 9
4 pages

Lucas Rivera
The City Sun

The following article is excerpted and reprinted with permission of the author and was originally published in two parts in the May 12—18 and 19—25 issues of The City Sun.

The question of race and skin color has haunted both the Latino and black communities, with far too many denying any ties to African ancestry—despite darker skin tones. But the choice many Latinos face—as to whether they should call themselves black or white—may be feeding into the hands of strategists, who may be making economic determinations based on the number of people of color.

The choice and how it impacts on society has befuddled the minds of many social researchers and is not unlike the problem of color that blacks in America confront. “My sense is that it hasn’t changed much,” explained Dr. Samuel Betances, a sociology professor at Chicago University who wrote a manifesto on the “Prejudice of Not Having Prejudice.”

“Puerto Ricans and Latinos have a fear of admitting that they are racially mixed. We don’t want to admit we are part of an African legacy. If you ask a Puerto Rican how he would describe himself, as black or white, he would claim he had Indian blood,” Betances said…

A Drop of White Blood in Latin America Classifies One as White

Jordan claimed that in Latin America and the Caribbean, the racial parody worked in reverse. “Part of the problem is misunderstanding,” he said. “Racial definitions in Latin America versus the United States are different, in the United States, if you have a drop of black blood, you’re black. in Latin America. if you have a drop of white blood, you’re defined as white, which is often referred to as the blancamiento, meaning ‘whitening.’ Jordan further asserted that “these two definitions clash because when people from Latin America come here, they operate under the rules of Latin America. So people clash because they see racial identifications differently through a prism. The other part is exacerbated by racism within the Latino community. Whereas Latinos pretend there’s no racism in our culture.”…

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Shoshanna Weinberger: What Makes My Hottentot So Hot

Posted in Arts, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2012-05-23 03:14Z by Steven

Shoshanna Weinberger: What Makes My Hottentot So Hot

Solo(s) Project House: Creative Spaces in Downtown Newark, New Jersey
2012-01-27 through 2012-03-02

Weinberger presents a body of work that is driven by the history of exposé, beauty and form inspired by the real-life story of Saartjie Baartman the “Hottentot Venus.”
“I find Baartman’s life both captivating and horrific; living as a specimen perpetuating the myth of “otherness” that can still be found today fascinates me as a woman and an artist.”
Weinberger identifies with Baartman physiologically and politically, making personal connections of awkwardness as a female growing-up in a society obsessed with attaining beauty result in imagery that depicts this as distorted excess. Malformed and decapitated bodies, with long cornrow braids, un-kept locks, and pigtails, mutations of multiple-mouths, nipples, breasts, and buttocks, create a sense of familiarity, confusion, humor and tension.
Contemporary connections of Baartman’s subjugation are found in references to modern-day strip-club dancers, West-Indian Dancehall performers, cultural stereotypes, Hollywood icons, prostitutes and circus sideshow freaks to name a few. These figures are tangled, hogtied and suffocated with props associated with femininity such as thongs, bras, high-heels and jewelry. Forms are placed on a scallop shell akin to the mythological Birth of Venus story. Incorporating Botticelli’s Birth of Venus scallop shell into a new psychology of presenting the birth of femininity found in bars and graffiti stalls declaring love found or lost. These drawings allude to the psychology of coexisting in human and animal form as well as forms grotesque and sexualized.
Weinberger was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to Jamaican-mother and American-father. She currently resides in Newark, New Jersey. She completed her undergrad degree at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received a masters degree from Yale University, Yale School of Art. Exhibiting for the past decade, Weinberger’s work has been glorified across the country at the Spertus Museum in Chicago, Illinois; The Jones Center for Contemporary Art in Austin, Texas; and Carol Jazzar Contemporary Art in Miami, Florida just to name a few. She has also been featured in the National Biennial Exhibition National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston in 2006 and 2008.

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Passing: Race, Identification and Desire

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2012-05-23 01:42Z by Steven

Passing: Race, Identification and Desire

Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts
Volume 45,  Number 4 (Fall 2003)
pages 435-52

Catherine Rottenberg, Assistant Professor
Department of Foreign Literatures and Linguistics and the Gender Studies Program
Ben-Gurion University, Beer-Sheva, Israel

IN THE SECOND HALF of the nineteenth century, African-American writers such as William Wells Brown and Frances Harper began invoking the phenomenon of passing in their texts as a way of investigating the complexities and contradictions of the category of race in the United States. The light-enough-to-pass Negro (but usually Negress) would play a central role in the imagination of African-American writers for the next fifty years. Charles Chesnutt’s The House behind the Cedars, Jessie Faucet’s Plum Bun, and James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man are perhaps the best-known examples. Nella Larsen’s 1929 novella, Passing, the text under discussion in this essay, can thus be seen as inheritor and perpetuator of a long tradition of such narratives. In recent years, Larsen’s text has become the most celebrated instance of a story about passing in African-American literature, eclipsing the tradition that preceded it. This is not coincidental, for Larsen is a master of ambiguity and intrigue, and the enigmatic finale of her novella has generated heated debates and countless interpretations.

Many analyses have attempted to determine whether or not Larsen’s use of passing can be seen as a subversive strategy, that is, whether the narrative serves to reinforce hegemonic norms of race or whether it ultimately posits passing as a viable survival strategy, which has the potential to disrupt “the enclosures of a unitary identity.” While this question still informs several critiques, in the past few years commentators have been concentrating more and more on how passing interrogates and problematizes the ontology of identity categories and their construction. Rather than trying to place passing in a subversive recuperative binary, these articles and books use passing as a point of entry into questions of identity and identity categories more generally.

In this essay I contend that Larsen’s text can assist critics in understanding the specific and, as I will argue, irreducible features of race performativity. That is, the novella can help us begin mapping out the differences between gender and race norms since it uncovers the way in which regulatory ideals of race produce a specific modality of performativity. Passing is especially conducive to interrogating the modality of race performativity because, unlike other passing narratives of the period, Larsen’s presents us with two protagonists who can pass for white; yet only Clare “passes over” into the white world. The depiction and juxtaposition of these two characters reveal the complexities and intricacies of the category of race. While Irene can be seen to represent the subject who appropriates and internalizes the hegemonic norms of race, Clare’s trajectory dramatizes how dominant norms can be misappropriated and how disidentification is always possible.

This essay commences with a theoretical discussion of race. Although much has been written on the constructed nature of the category of race, very few analyses have offered a convincing and rigorous account of how race might be conceived of as performative reiteration. The second section offers a reading of “passing” scenes from the novella in an attempt to unravel some of the distinctive mechanisms through which race norms operate. On the one hand, the novella suggests that race in the United States operates through an economy of optics, and the assumption of whiteness is one of the consequences of this economy. On the other hand, the novella reveals that skin color (i.e., optics) does not really constitute the “truth” of race.

Invoking Homi Bhabha’s notion of mimicry as a supplement to Butler’s concept of gender performativity in the third section, I interrogate and theorize the ways in which the definitional contradiction of race (“can be seen” versus “cannot be seen”) produces race as performative reiteration. While there are two idealized genders under regimes of compulsory heterosexuality, albeit with a very great power differential between them, there has historically been only one hegemonic and ideal race under racist regimes. This difference, I argue, has far-reaching implications, one of which is the need to rethink the desire/identification nexus, a nexus that operates differently in race and in gender. Understanding the particular relationship between desire and identification in the novella also helps us begin to gauge the critical question of disidentification.

At least one clarification is needed at this point, however. This essay focuses on the ways in which power—in the Foucauldian and Butlerian sense—operates on the hegemonic level and does not make a claim about the multiplicity of social practices per se. Hegemony, though, as we will see in the last section, is never complete, indicating that there are always counterdiscourses and alternative norms circulating within any given society…

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