Anatole Broyard’s Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir

Anatole Broyard’s Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir

Journal of American Ethnic History
Volume 32, Number 1 (Fall 2012)
pages 95-100
DOI: 10.5406/jamerethnhist.32.1.0095

Greg Carter, Associate Professor of History
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

I DESIGNED MY FIRST COURSE, Mixed Race Identity in American Culture, an elective surveying the history of racial mixing in the United States, as a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. Four sections of the class have convened at two universities since then. During the first sessions, I always introduce undergraduates to the analytic lenses of race (and ethnicity), class, and gender, emphasizing that their meanings shift across time and place. From there, Gary Nash’s essay, “The Hidden History of Mestizo America” presents interracial intimacy of many configurations, privileging no particular combination (i.e., black and white). In addition to equipping students with the tools they will need throughout the term, these first two weeks emphasize that the class is historical, going from first contact to the present moment.

However, the class is also interdisciplinary, drawing from popular culture, sociological texts, feature articles, and scientific tracts. Along with helping students contextualize ideas around racial mixing, sampling various discourses addresses complex themes from different perspectives. Anti-intermarriage laws in colonial Virginia introduce students to the gradual development of the one-drop rule in the seventeenth century. Through antebellum ethnological and literary writings, they see the beginnings of hybrid degeneracy notions that follow racially mixed people well past the nineteenth century. An introduction to blackface minstrelsy shows that, in addition to deploying a hateful set of stereotypes, this mainstay of American popular culture involves a sort of racial mixing on the bodies of the actors. Later they see much of the same in the yellowface minstrelsy that targeted Asians in the United States.

I also present students with positive notions regarding racial mixing in the United States, from the Pocahontas myth to Thomas Jefferson’s policy of civilization and assimilation to some of the radical abolitionists’ visions of a post-Civil War racial democracy. In the unit immediately before the two weeks we focus on racial passing, we analyze the birth of the melting…

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