Kings for Three Days: The Play of Race and Gender in an Afro-Ecuadorian Festival

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Monographs on 2013-05-30 01:35Z by Steven

Kings for Three Days: The Play of Race and Gender in an Afro-Ecuadorian Festival

University of Illinois Press
May 2013
216 pages
6 x 9 in.
16 black & white photographs, 3 maps
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-03751-1
Paper ISBN: 978-0-252-07901-6

Jean Muteba Rahier, Associate Professor of Anthropology and African & African Diaspora Studies
Florida International University

A vibrant study of symbol and social significance in one of Ecuador’s black populations

With its rich mix of cultures, European influences, colonial tensions, and migration from bordering nations, Ecuador has long drawn the interest of ethnographers, historians, and political scientists. In this book, Jean Muteba Rahier delivers a highly detailed, thought-provoking examination of the racial, sexual, and social complexities of Afro-Ecuadorian culture, as revealed through the annual Festival of the Kings. During the Festival, the people of various villages and towns of Esmeraldas—Ecuador’s province most associated with blackness—engage in celebratory and parodic portrayals, often donning masks, cross-dressing, and disguising themselves as blacks, indigenous people, and whites, in an obvious critique of local, provincial, and national white, white-mestizo, and light-mulatto elites. Rahier shows that this festival, as performed in different locations, reveals each time a specific location’s perspective on the larger struggles over identity, class, and gender relations in the racial-spatial order of Esmeraldas and of the Ecuadorian nation in general.

Contents

  • List of Figures
  • Preface and Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Setting Up the Stage: Contextualizing the Afro-Esmeraldian Festival of the Kings
  • 2. The Village of Santo Domingo de Ă“nzole and the Period of Preparation of the Festival of the Kings: The Centrality of Sexual Dichotomy and Role Reversal
  • 3. The Festival of the Kings in Santo Domingo de Ă“nzole
  • 4. The Festival of the Kings in La Tola
  • 5. Race, Sexuality, and Gender as They Relate to the Festival of the Kings
  • 6. Performances and Contexts of the Play in January 2003
  • Conclusion: From the Centrality of Place in Esmeraldian Ethnography to Theoretical and Methodological Considerations for the Study of Festivities
  • Glossary of Esmeraldian Spanish Terms
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index
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Attempts at resolving the dilemma produced a series of contradictory policies, resulting in considerable ambiguity…

Posted in Africa, Excerpts/Quotes on 2012-01-06 05:03Z by Steven

The number of children born out of the widespread practice of sexual intimacy forced the colonial administration and the Belgian Parliament to debate what they termed the problème des métis, “the mulatto problem.” The issue was the treatment of the mulatto offspring of these unions: whether they should endure the same status as the rest of the Congolese population or whether they should be considered an intermediate group above the latter but beneath the Europeans. Attempts at resolving the dilemma produced a series of contradictory policies, resulting in considerable ambiguity. This ambiguity came to characterize the lives of the growing population of métis throughout the entire colonial period (Jeurissen 1999; Stoler 2002). Usually, the status of the metis depended upon the degree of recognition and acknowledgment of parenthood by their fathers. Those who were not recognized were often abandoned by their mothers because of the ostracism that they faced when returning to their native villages. The abandoned children usually ended up living in Catholic and Protestant missionary boarding schools, which were created for this purpose.

Jean Muteba Rahier, “MĂ©tis/Mulâtre, Mulato, Mulatto, Negro, Moreno, Mundele Kaki, Black,… The Wanderings and Meanderings of Identities” in Problematizing Blackness: Self Ethnographies by Black Immigrants to the United States, eds. Jean Muteba Rahier and Percey C. Hintzen, (London: Routledge, 2003): 86.

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MĂ©tis/Mulâtre, Mulato, Mulatto, Negro, Moreno, Mundele Kaki, Black,… The Wanderings and Meanderings of Identities

Posted in Africa, Autobiography, Books, Chapter, Media Archive on 2011-10-10 18:06Z by Steven

MĂ©tis/Mulâtre, Mulato, Mulatto, Negro, Moreno, Mundele Kaki, Black,… The Wanderings and Meanderings of Identities

Chapter in: Problematizing Blackness: Self Ethnographies by Black Immigrants to the United States
Routledge
2003-09-30
240 pages

Edited by

Jean Muteba Rahier, Associate Professor of Anthropology and African & African Diaspora Studies
Florida International University

Percey C. Hintzen, Professor of African American Studies
University of California, Berkeley

Chapter 6
pages 85-112

Jean Muteba Rahier, Associate Professor of Anthropology and African & African Diaspora Studies
Florida International University

I have no race except that which is forced upon me. I have no country except that to which I’m obliged to belong. I have no traditions. I’m free. I have only the future.

Richard Wright

I was born in 1959, in what was then the Belgian Congo, of a Congolese colonized mother and a Belgian colonial father. I grew up in Belgium.

Belgian Explorations: My Father’s Congo

The Congo Free State (C.F.S.) was created as a private property of the Belgian King Leopold II in 1884–85 at the Berlin Conference and lasted until 1908. It was succeeded by the Belgian Congo, which lasted from 1908 until 1960, when the country gained its independence (see Vangroenweghe 1986; Ndaywel è Nziem 1998; Hochschild 1998). During the short history of colonial rule, the organization and implementation of the colonial enterprise were conducted almost exclusively by males. There was a contingent development of the institution of the ménagères, wherein African women and the male colonizers developed relationships of sexual intimacy. These relations occurred between female “housekeepers” (the ménagères) and the male colonizers whom they were serving. These relationships developed within the context of the absence of European women—an absence legitimized by their supposed biological unsuitability for the African tropical climate (Habig 1944, 10–11; Stoler 2002). The practice of sexual relations between the male colonizers and the colonized African women was universal and widespread, particularly outside the most important urban centers of Leopoldville, Elisabethville, and Stanleyville. Once in the Congo, many agents of the state and many employees of private colonial companies looked for the companionship of African women, who provided them with housekeeping, affection, and sexual favors. Usually, Belgian men kept their ménagères with them until the end of their tour of duty.

State employees and agents of private companies were contractually employed for a three-year term. They would normally leave at the end of the term, usually spending six months’ vacation in Belgium, after which they had the option of returning to the colony for another three-year tour of service. This could continue indefinitely.Upon their return to the colony, it was customary for them either to retain the same ménagères in their “employ” or to choose another from among the “available African women.” Sometimes, the ménagères would become pregnant. If she did, she was typically sent back to her village with a small “financial indemnity” and material compensation. Usually, the colonial agent would then choose a new, young African woman to replace her in his house and in his bed.

The number of children born out of the widespread practice of sexual intimacy forced the colonial administration and the Belgian Parliament to debate what they termed the problème des métis, “the mulatto problem.” The issue was the treatment of the mulatto offspring of these unions: whether they should endure the same status as the rest of the Congolese population or whether they should be considered an intermediate group above the latter but beneath the Europeans. Attempts at resolving the dilemma produced a series of contradictory policies, resulting in considerable ambiguity. This ambiguity came to characterize the lives of the growing population of métis throughout the entire colonial period (Jeurissen 1999; Stoler 2002). Usually, the status of the métis depended upon the degree of recognition and acknowledgment of parenthood by their fathers. Those who were not recognized were often abandoned by their mothers because of the ostracism that they faced when returning to their native villages. The abandoned children usually ended up living in Catholic and Protestant missionary boarding schools, which were created for this purpose.

Read the entire chapter here

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