A Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race, and Sex in Colonial Jamaica

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2018-07-19 03:41Z by Steven

A Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race, and Sex in Colonial Jamaica

Yale University Press
2018-08-28
352 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4
25 b/w illus.
Hardcover ISBN: 9780300225556

Brooke N. Newman, Associate Professor of History; Associate Director of the Humanities Research Center
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia

Focusing on Jamaica, Britain’s most valuable colony in the Americas by the mid-eighteenth century, Brooke Newman explores the relationship between racial classifications and the inherited rights and privileges associated with British subject status. Weaving together a diverse range of sources, she shows how colonial racial ideologies rooted in fictions of blood ancestry at once justified permanent, hereditary slavery for Africans and barred members of certain marginalized groups from laying claim to British liberties on the basis of hereditary status.

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Black-Asian Counterintimacies: Reading Sui Sin Far in Jamaica

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Passing, Women on 2018-05-22 02:17Z by Steven

Black-Asian Counterintimacies: Reading Sui Sin Far in Jamaica

J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists
Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 2018
pages 197-204
DOI: 10.1353/jnc.2018.0015

Christine “Xine” Yao, SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of English
University of British Columbia

In “Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of a Eurasian,” Edith Maude Eaton, writing as Sui Sin Far, reflects on her time in Jamaica as a white-passing mixed-race woman.1 Rumor of her Chinese ancestry provokes a white English naval officer to seek her out for sexual favors, a scenario still all too familiar to women, particularly women of color, today: a predatory conversation sheathed in friendly euphemisms. At first Far believes his visit has to do with her work as a journalist, but his repeated “silly and offensive laugh” suggests otherwise.2 When she attempts to dismiss him, he laughs again, “There’s always plenty of time for good times. That’s what I am here for.”3 After commenting on her “nice little body,” he invites her to sail with him where “I will tell you all about the sweet little Chinese girls I met when we were at Hong Kong. They’re not so shy!”4 The officer’s framing of her presumed affective and sexual availability, and the foregrounding of his own sexual and social prerogative, are an everyday life manifestation of what Lisa Lowe names a “‘political economy’ of intimacy … a particular calculus governing the production, distribution, and possession of intimacy” predicated on empire and settler colonialism.5 The man’s proposition to Far is a demand for her friendliness because those other Chinese girls in Hong Kong are “not so shy.” In her rejection of his desire for intimacy, she risks the dangerous backlash that attends injured white masculinity along with broader social consequences that could impact the relative privilege of her personal and professional life in the Caribbean. Still, instead of a “friendly” relationship to whiteness, Sui Sin Far seeks alternative intimacies. In the same section of her memoir she juxtaposes this incident with musings about her position as a white-passing mixed-race Chinese woman in relation to her observations about antiblackness in the West Indies. Despite the warnings of the English who tell her to fear the “‘brown boys’ of the island,” the writer considered the mother of Asian North American literature affirms a sense of transnational solidarity between peoples of color in her affective racial identifications. “I too am of the ‘brown people’ of the earth,” she confides to her readers, prefiguring, in this assertion, the anti-colonial alliance between African and Asian nations that would be formalized in 1955 at the Bandung Conference in Indonesia.6

Intimacy operates, here, as a heuristic for understanding how the racialized and gendered pressures of domesticity, sentimentality, and sexuality are imbricated with the projects of empire. These exploitative relations undergird the transnational violences of settler colonialism, slavery, and indentured servitude—systems which, as Lowe argues, enable the liberal fictions of white Western individuals, who are able to claim intimacy as one of the privileges associated with the private sphere, as a property of their citizenship in modern civil society. In the shift from the late nineteenth-century threatening “Yellow Peril” to modern-day deserving “model minority,” Asian Americans, particularly those of East Asian descent, are lured by false promises of inclusion into this liberal fiction on the basis of intimate affiliation with whiteness. Among the processes of comparative racialization that emerge from transnational intimacies, Ellen Wu traces how Asian Americans were complicit in the anti-black creation of the “model minority” category in the American cultural imaginary.7 Nonetheless, the solidarity work of activists like Grace Lee Boggs and Yuri Kochiyama, along with studies of earlier black-Asian cultural and political engagements by scholars like Edlie Wong and Julia H. Lee, indicates an alternative genealogy of counterintimacies that disrupts those aligned with the afterlife of imperial exploitation.8 In defiance of the coercive pressures made manifest through sexual violence and emotional labor, the mixed-race Asian and black women of Sui Sin Far’s fiction and nonfiction writings reorient these indices of transnational power relations away from their focus on whiteness and toward the possibility of resistance through affective connections that center peoples of color.

In Far’s rediscovered Jamaican stories and journalism…

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A Furious Voice, Forged In The ‘Fire’ Of Prejudice

Posted in Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2018-04-25 21:38Z by Steven

A Furious Voice, Forged In The ‘Fire’ Of Prejudice

Book Review
National Public Radio
2008-10-10

Jessa Crispin, Founder and Editor
Bookslut.com

If I Could Write This in Fire
By Michelle Cliff
Hardcover, 104 pages
University of Minnesota Press
List price: $21.95

While on a tour of the University of Virginia, Jamaican-American novelist and short-story writer Michelle Cliff is informed by a doctoral student that Thomas Jefferson never owned slaves. “‘Villagers,’ as they’re affectionately known,” says the student, “built [this] university, Monticello, every rotunda, column and finial the great man dreamed of. They liked him so much they just pitched in, after their own chores are done.”

It’s one of many unsettling moments in If I Could Write This in Fire, a collection of essays that is Cliff’s first nonfiction book. Everywhere Cliff goes, she sees people treating history as if it were a story they could rewrite at will: women at cocktail parties uttering, “Pinochet was not so bad”; guests at a dinner party disbelieving that the blacks in Birth of a Nation were white actors in blackface.

Cliff, 61, has always been an outsider — a lesbian born on a homophobic Caribbean island, an immigrant in the U.K. (where she studied) and the U.S. (where she settled), a mixed-race intellectual trying to make sense of a black and white world…

Read the entire review here.

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If I Could Write This in Fire

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Gay & Lesbian, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Justice, United Kingdom, United States on 2018-04-24 14:08Z by Steven

If I Could Write This in Fire

University of Minnesota Press
2008
104 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Cloth/jacket ISBN: 978-0-8166-5474-1

Michelle Cliff (1942-2016)

A deeply personal meditation on history and memory, place and displacement by a major writer

Born in a Jamaica still under British rule, the acclaimed and influential writer Michelle Cliff embraced her many identities, shaped by her experiences with the forces of colonialism and oppression: a light-skinned Creole, a lesbian, an immigrant in both England and the United States. In her celebrated novels and short stories, she has probed the intersection of prejudice and oppression with a rare and striking lyricism.

In her first book-length collection of nonfiction, Cliff displays the same poetic intensity, interweaving reflections on her life in Jamaica, England, and the United States with a powerful and sustained critique of racism, homophobia, and social injustice. If I Could Write This in Fire begins by tracing her transatlantic journey from Jamaica to England, coalescing around a graceful, elliptical account of her childhood friendship with Zoe, who is dark-skinned and from an impoverished, rural background; the divergent life courses that each is forced to take; and the class and color tensions that shape their lives as adults. The personal is interspersed with fragments of Jamaica’s history and the plight of people of color living both under imperial rule and in contemporary Britain. In other essays and poems, Cliff writes about the discovery of her distinctive, diasporic literary voice, recalls her wild colonial girlhood and sexual awakening, and recounts traveling through an American landscape of racism, colonialism, and genocide—a history of violence embodied in seemingly innocuous souvenirs and tourist sites.

A profound meditation on place and displacement, If I Could Write This in Fire explores the complexities of identity as they meet with race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and the legacies of the Middle Passage and European imperialism.

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Writing in Fire: Honoring the Life & Legacy of Michelle Cliff

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2018-04-24 13:49Z by Steven

Writing in Fire: Honoring the Life & Legacy of Michelle Cliff

Yomaira C. Figueroa, Ph.D.
2017-06-28

Yomaira C. Figueroa, Assistant Professor of Global Diaspora Studies
Michigan State University

Michelle Cliff (Nov. 2, 1942-June 12, 2016) was an award-winning Jamaican novelist, essayist, critic, poet, scholar, and teacher. An influential author in Caribbean, feminist, and lesbian writings, some of her notable works include: Abeng, No Telephone to Heaven, Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise, Free Enterprise, If I Could Write This In Fire, and The Land of Look Behind. Cliff’s work reflected many parts of her identity, contemporary sociopolitical concerns stemming from colonialism, and a critical investment in the Caribbean and her diasporas. Her works examine the complexities of identity politics, lesbianism, colorism, colonialism/post-colonialism and revolution – both of the personal variety and the political. On June 22, 2017, we gathered at the Caribbean Philosophical Association Annual Meeting in NYC to honor her life and writing. This post includes the work of the roundtable participants. The roundtable, titled “‘Writing in Fire’: Honoring the Life & Legacy of Michelle Cliff” marked the second year that the Chair of Afro-Diasporic Literatures (me) and the Chair of the Initiative on Gender, Race, and Feminisms (Xhercis Mendez) joined together to propose roundtables to honor Caribbean women writers at the CPA (at the 2016 we celebrated the 10th/11th publication anniversary of M. Jacqui Alexander’s Pedagogies of Crossing). This year two Ph.D. students – Keishla Rivera (Rutgers Newark) and Briona Jones (Michigan State) – joined moderator Xhercis Mendez and I to reflect on the rich inheritance Michelle Cliff has left us. Below are excerpts from the reflections which engendered a powerful and generative dialogue across several topics, fields, and interests…

Read the entire article here.

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Q&A with Daniel Livesay, author of Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2018-04-20 20:40Z by Steven

Q&A with Daniel Livesay, author of Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833

The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History
2018-04-20

Christopher Jones, Visiting Assistant Professor of History
Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah


Daniel Livesay

Daniel Livesay is Associate Professor of History at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA. His research focuses on questions of race, slavery, and family in the colonial Atlantic World. His first book, Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833 was published in January 2018 by the University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute. Casey Schmitt reviewed it yesterday here at The Junto. Daniel’s research has been supported by an NEH postdoctoral fellowship at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, the Fulbright Foundation, the Institute of Historical Research, and the North American Conference on British Studies, as well as number of short-term fellowships. He is currently working on a book manuscript about enslaved individuals of advanced age in Virginia and Jamaica from 1776-1865 entitled, Endless Bondage: Old Age in New World Slavery. He graciously agreed to sit down and answer a few questions about his research.

JUNTO: Congratulations on the publication of your book, and thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about it for readers of The Junto. Let’s start with a broad question: Where did the idea for this book begin?

DANIEL LIVESAY: First off, thanks for inviting me to The Junto. I really enjoy the site, and I’m very excited to be part of it.

The idea for the book effectively landed at my feet. When I started graduate school at the University of Michigan in 2003, the Clements Library—which, as many readers know, is a stellar manuscripts archive at the University—had just purchased the papers of John Tailyour, who was a slave trader in Jamaica at the end of the eighteenth century. The library needed someone to do an initial catalog of the collection, and since I was interested in the history of slavery, I spent several months working through the papers. The collection is really a jewel of economic history because Tailyour took up so much space writing about slave trading in Kingston. But the thing I became obsessed with were his letters back to family in Britain. In particular, he was asking if his relatives could find boarding schools in England for his four mixed-race children whom he had with an enslaved woman named Polly Graham. I had certainly heard of white men manumitting their children, but I had never heard of those same men sending their offspring of color to expensive institutions in Britain. It seemed like a strange level of parental responsibility from a man who also sold thousands of Africans without the slightest hesitation. I felt that I had to know more about the motivations behind this, what the experiences of these migrants were, and what all of it meant for conceptions of race in the Atlantic World. So, I decided to write a graduate seminar paper on the Tailyour family. I went to Britain for a couple of months, found a few stray references to other migrants of color, but ultimately grew worried that it would be almost impossible to find more families who undertook the journey. I finished the seminar paper, and then put it all away thinking that I would need to find another project for my dissertation…

Read the entire interview here.

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Review: Atlantic Families, Race, and Empire

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2018-04-20 00:53Z by Steven

Review: Atlantic Families, Race, and Empire

The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History
2018-04-19

Casey Schmitt, Ph.D. Candidate in early American history
College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia

Daniel Livesay, Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 2018).

A central thread running through Daniel Livesay’s Children of Uncertain Fortune is deceptively simple: Atlantic families structured the development of ideologies surrounding race in the British empire during the long eighteenth century.1 Woven through the book, however, is a richly nuanced exploration of what terms like Atlantic, family, race, and empire meant and how understandings of those terms changed over a pivotal hundred-year period starting in the 1730s. Through institutional records and family papers produced on both sides of the Atlantic, Livesay identifies 360 mixed-race people from Jamaica and traces the lived experiences of a handful of them as they navigated their social and economic position within transatlantic kin networks. Those individual narratives reveal how Britons experienced empire through family ties in ways that shaped their perceptions of race, colonialism, and belonging…

Read the entire review here.

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Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, United Kingdom on 2018-01-22 01:58Z by Steven

Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833

University of North Carolina Press
2018-01-22
432 pages
12 halftones, 4 figs., 3 charts, 4 tables, notes, index
6.125 x 9.25
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3443-2

Daniel Livesay, Associate Professor of History
Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, California

Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia

By tracing the largely forgotten eighteenth-century migration of elite mixed-race individuals from Jamaica to Great Britain, Children of Uncertain Fortune reinterprets the evolution of British racial ideologies as a matter of negotiating family membership. Using wills, legal petitions, family correspondences, and inheritance lawsuits, Daniel Livesay is the first scholar to follow the hundreds of children born to white planters and Caribbean women of color who crossed the ocean for educational opportunities, professional apprenticeships, marriage prospects, or refuge from colonial prejudices.

The presence of these elite children of color in Britain pushed popular opinion in the British Atlantic world toward narrower conceptions of race and kinship. Members of Parliament, colonial assemblymen, merchant kings, and cultural arbiters–the very people who decided Britain’s colonial policies, debated abolition, passed marital laws, and arbitrated inheritance disputes–rubbed shoulders with these mixed-race Caribbean migrants in parlors and sitting rooms. Upper-class Britons also resented colonial transplants and coveted their inheritances; family intimacy gave way to racial exclusion. By the early nineteenth century, relatives had become strangers.

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Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism, and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton

Posted in Anthologies, Asian Diaspora, Books, Canada, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-09-06 03:43Z by Steven

Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism, and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton

McGill-Queen’s University Press
July 2016
352 pages
6 x 9
ISBN: 9780773547223

Edited by:

Mary Chapman, Professor of English
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Newly discovered works by one of the earliest Asian North American writers.

When her 1912 story collection, Mrs. Spring Fragrance, was rescued from obscurity in the 1990s, scholars were quick to celebrate Sui Sin Far as a pioneering chronicler of Asian American Chinatowns. Newly discovered works, however, reveal that Edith Eaton (1865-1914) published on a wide variety of subjects—and under numerous pseudonyms—in Canada and Jamaica for a decade before she began writing Chinatown fiction signed “Sui Sin Far” for US magazines. Born in England to a Chinese mother and a British father, and raised in Montreal, Edith Eaton is a complex transnational writer whose expanded oeuvre demands reconsideration.

Becoming Sui Sin Far collects and contextualizes seventy of Eaton’s early works, most of which have not been republished since they first appeared in turn-of-the-century periodicals. These works of fiction and journalism, in diverse styles and from a variety of perspectives, document Eaton’s early career as a short story writer, “stunt-girl” journalist, ethnographer, political commentator, and travel writer. Showcasing her playful humour, savage wit, and deep sympathy, the texts included in this volume assert a significant place for Eaton in North American literary history. Mary Chapman’s introduction provides an insightful and readable overview of Eaton’s transnational career. The volume also includes an expanded bibliography that lists over two hundred and sixty works attributed to Eaton, a detailed biographical timeline, and a newly discovered interview with Eaton from the year in which she first adopted the orientalist pseudonym for which she is best known.

Becoming Sui Sin Far significantly expands our understanding of the themes and topics that defined Eaton’s oeuvre and will interest scholars and students of Canadian, American, Asian North American, and ethnic literatures and history.

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Privileging Kinship: Family and Race in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Law, Media Archive, Slavery on 2017-05-12 02:36Z by Steven

Privileging Kinship: Family and Race in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica

Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Volume 14, Number 4, Fall 2016
pages 688-711
DOI: 10.1353/eam.2016.0025

Daniel Livesay, Assistant Professor of History
Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, California

During the long eighteenth century, elite free people of color in Jamaica petitioned the government for exemptions to some of the island’s laws against those with African ancestry. In making these appeals, they highlighted advanced social and financial positions that put them above the average Jamaican of color. But perhaps most important, these petitions noted familial relations to white men on the island. These kinship connections were central in determining if a free person of color was deserving enough to receive “privileged” rights. In bestowing these privileges, Jamaican officials demonstrated that one’s racial status on the island was determined, in part, by familial linkages to white colonists. Although only a fraction of mixed-race Jamaicans gained these legal exemptions, the practice nevertheless reveals how important family relation was in constructing racial identities, even in a place built on racialized oppression and slavery.

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