Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law

Posted in Books, Europe, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2017-03-07 01:51Z by Steven

Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law

Princeton University Press
March 2017
224 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
7 halftones
Hardcover ISBN: 9780691172422
eBook ISBN: 9781400884636

James Q. Whitman, Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law
Yale Law School

Nazism triumphed in Germany during the high era of Jim Crow laws in the United States. Did the American regime of racial oppression in any way inspire the Nazis? The unsettling answer is yes. In Hitler’s American Model, James Whitman presents a detailed investigation of the American impact on the notorious Nuremberg Laws, the centerpiece anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazi regime. Contrary to those who have insisted that there was no meaningful connection between American and German racial repression, Whitman demonstrates that the Nazis took a real, sustained, significant, and revealing interest in American race policies.

As Whitman shows, the Nuremberg Laws were crafted in an atmosphere of considerable attention to the precedents American race laws had to offer. German praise for American practices, already found in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, was continuous throughout the early 1930s, and the most radical Nazi lawyers were eager advocates of the use of American models. But while Jim Crow segregation was one aspect of American law that appealed to Nazi radicals, it was not the most consequential one. Rather, both American citizenship and antimiscegenation laws proved directly relevant to the two principal Nuremberg Laws—the Citizenship Law and the Blood Law. Whitman looks at the ultimate, ugly irony that when Nazis rejected American practices, it was sometimes not because they found them too enlightened, but too harsh.

Indelibly linking American race laws to the shaping of Nazi policies in Germany, Hitler’s American Model upends understandings of America’s influence on racist practices in the wider world.

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Reaping Something New: African American Transformations of Victorian Literature

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2016-11-02 20:55Z by Steven

Reaping Something New: African American Transformations of Victorian Literature

Princeton University Press
November 2016
304 pages
6 x 9
12 line illus.
Hardcover ISBN: 9780691169453
eBook ISBN: 9781400883745

Daniel Hack, Associate Professor of English
University of Michigan

Tackling fraught but fascinating issues of cultural borrowing and appropriation, this groundbreaking book reveals that Victorian literature was put to use in African American literature and print culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in much more intricate, sustained, and imaginative ways than previously suspected. From reprinting and reframing “The Charge of the Light Brigade” in an antislavery newspaper to reimagining David Copperfield and Jane Eyre as mixed-race youths in the antebellum South, writers and editors transposed and transformed works by the leading British writers of the day to depict the lives of African Americans and advance their causes. Central figures in African American literary and intellectual history—including Frederick Douglass, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Charles Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins, and W.E.B. Du Bois—leveraged Victorian literature and this history of engagement itself to claim a distinctive voice and construct their own literary tradition.

In bringing these transatlantic transfigurations to light, this book also provides strikingly new perspectives on both canonical and little-read works by Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and other Victorian authors. The recovery of these works’ African American afterlives illuminates their formal practices and ideological commitments, and forces a reassessment of their cultural impact and political potential. Bridging the gap between African American and Victorian literary studies, Reaping Something New changes our understanding of both fields and rewrites an important chapter of literary history.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The African Americanization of Victorian Literature
  • 1. Close Reading Bleak House at a Distance
  • 2. (Re-) Racializing “The Charge of the Light Brigade”
  • 3. Affiliating with George Eliot
  • 4. Racial Mixing and Textual Remixing: Charles Chesnutt
  • 5. Cultural Transmission and Transgression: Pauline Hopkins
  • 6. The Citational Soul of Black Folk: W.E.B. Du Bois
  • Afterword After Du Bois
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities

Posted in Books, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science on 2016-09-29 00:41Z by Steven

Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities

Princeton University Press
2016-09-27
256 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Hardcover ISBN: 9780691172354
eBook ISBN: 9781400883233

Rogers Brubaker, Professor of Sociology
University of California, Los Angeles

In the summer of 2015, shortly after Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender, the NAACP official and political activist Rachel Dolezal was “outed” by her parents as white, touching off a heated debate in the media about the fluidity of gender and race. If Jenner could legitimately identify as a woman, could Dolezal legitimately identify as black?

Taking the controversial pairing of “transgender” and “transracial” as his starting point, Rogers Brubaker shows how gender and race, long understood as stable, inborn, and unambiguous, have in the past few decades opened up—in different ways and to different degrees—to the forces of change and choice. Transgender identities have moved from the margins to the mainstream with dizzying speed, and ethnoracial boundaries have blurred. Paradoxically, while sex has a much deeper biological basis than race, choosing or changing one’s sex or gender is more widely accepted than choosing or changing one’s race. Yet while few accepted Dolezal’s claim to be black, racial identities are becoming more fluid as ancestry—increasingly understood as mixed—loses its authority over identity, and as race and ethnicity, like gender, come to be understood as something we do, not just something we have. By rethinking race and ethnicity through the multifaceted lens of the transgender experience—encompassing not just a movement from one category to another but positions between and beyond existing categories—Brubaker underscores the malleability, contingency, and arbitrariness of racial categories.

At a critical time when gender and race are being reimagined and reconstructed, Trans explores fruitful new paths for thinking about identity.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Part One: The Trans Moment
    • 1. Transgender, Transracial?
      • “Transgender” and “Transracial” before the Dolezal Affair
      • The Field of Argument
      • “If Jenner, Then Dolezal”: The Argument from Similarity
      • Boundary Work: The Argument from Difference
    • 2. Categories in Flux
      • Unsettled Identities
      • The Empire of Choice
      • The Policing of Identity Claims
      • The New Objectivism
  • Part Two: Thinking with Trans
    • 3. The Trans of Migration
      • Unidirectional Transgender Trajectories
      • Reconsidering “Transracial”
      • Transracial Trajectories, Past and Present
    • 4. The Trans of Between
      • Transgender Betweenness: Oscillation, Recombination, Gradation
      • Racial and Gender Betweenness
      • Recombinatory Racial Betweenness: Classification and Identification
      • Performing Betweenness
    • 5. The Trans of Beyond
      • Beyond Gender?
      • Beyond Race?
      • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Becoming Black Political Subjects: Movements and Ethno-Racial Rights in Colombia and Brazil

Posted in Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2016-06-19 02:02Z by Steven

Becoming Black Political Subjects: Movements and Ethno-Racial Rights in Colombia and Brazil

Princeton University Press
2016
328 pages
6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN: 9780691169385
eBook ISBN: 978140088107

Tianna S. Paschel, Assistant Professor of African American Studies
University of California, Berkeley

After decades of denying racism and underplaying cultural diversity, Latin American states began adopting transformative ethno-racial legislation in the late 1980s. In addition to symbolic recognition of indigenous peoples and black populations, governments in the region created a more pluralistic model of citizenship and made significant reforms in the areas of land, health, education, and development policy. Becoming Black Political Subjects explores this shift from color blindness to ethno-racial legislation in two of the most important cases in the region: Colombia and Brazil.

Drawing on archival and ethnographic research, Tianna Paschel shows how, over a short period, black movements and their claims went from being marginalized to become institutionalized into the law, state bureaucracies, and mainstream politics. The strategic actions of a small group of black activists—working in the context of domestic unrest and the international community’s growing interest in ethno-racial issues—successfully brought about change. Paschel also examines the consequences of these reforms, including the institutionalization of certain ideas of blackness, the reconfiguration of black movement organizations, and the unmaking of black rights in the face of reactionary movements.

Becoming Black Political Subjects offers important insights into the changing landscape of race and Latin American politics and provokes readers to adopt a more transnational and flexible understanding of social movements.

Table of Contents

  • List of Organizations
  • 1. Political Field Alignments
  • 2. Making Mestizajes
  • 3. Black Movements in Colorblind Fields
  • 4. The Multicultural Alignment
  • 5. The Racial Equality Alignment
  • 6. Navigating the Ethno-Racial State
  • 7. Unmaking Black Political Subjects
  • 8. Rethinking Race, Rethinking Movements
  • Methodological Appendix
  • Notes
  • References
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
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There are not three or four or five races, each in its own census box; there are multiple combinations, permutations, mixtures. Millions of young Americans know and accept this, and they are increasingly impatient with a census that isn’t better at recognizing it.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-08-14 22:21Z by Steven

Chapter 8 brings us closer to the present, introducing pressures that challenge the role of statistical races in today’s policy environment. One pressure is multiraciality as exemplified in the “mark one or more” census option introduced in 2000. This option is a profound criticism of two centuries of American racial counting. There are not three or four or five races, each in its own census box; there are multiple combinations, permutations, mixtures. Millions of young Americans know and accept this, and they are increasingly impatient with a census that isn’t better at recognizing it. A second pressure pulling in a similar direction is diversity as a policy goal, now widely embraced from the military to the corporation to the university. The complexities of the diversity agenda destabilize the racial classification. The third pressure is the color-blind movement. This is in response to the dilemma of recognition, a phrase indicating that making race groups beneficiaries of policy can itself intensify group identities. There is strong political sentiment that this contradicts basic American individualistic values—freedom, choice, mobility, and merit-earned rewards. In dismay over racial group–based policy, opponents are advancing color-blind proposals in law and politics.

Kenneth Prewitt, What Is Your Race? The Census and Our Flawed Efforts to Classify Americans, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013). 10-11.

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What Is Your Race? The Census and Our Flawed Efforts to Classify Americans

Posted in Books, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, United States on 2013-05-07 04:13Z by Steven

What Is Your Race? The Census and Our Flawed Efforts to Classify Americans

Princeton University Press
June 2013
296 pages
6 x 9; 5 line illus. 3 tables.
Cloth ISBN: 9780691157030
eBook ISBN: 9781400846795

Kenneth Prewitt, Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs
Columbia University
Also former director of the U.S. Census Bureau from 1998 to 2001

America is preoccupied with race statistics–perhaps more than any other nation. Do these statistics illuminate social reality and produce coherent social policy, or cloud that reality and confuse social policy? Does America still have a color line? Who is on which side? Does it have a different “race” line—the nativity line—separating the native born from the foreign born? You might expect to answer these and similar questions with the government’s “statistical races.” Not likely, observes Kenneth Prewitt, who shows why the way we count by race is flawed.

Prewitt calls for radical change. The nation needs to move beyond a race classification whose origins are in discredited eighteenth-century race-is-biology science, a classification that once defined Japanese and Chinese as separate races, but now combines them as a statistical “Asian race.” One that once tried to divide the “white race” into “good whites” and “bad whites,” and that today cannot distinguish descendants of Africans brought in chains four hundred years ago from children of Ethiopian parents who eagerly immigrated twenty years ago. Contrary to common sense, the classification says there are only two ethnicities in America—Hispanics and non-Hispanics. But if the old classification is cast aside, is there something better?

What Is Your Race? clearly lays out the steps that can take the nation from where it is to where it needs to be. It’s not an overnight task—particularly the explosive step of dropping today’s race question from the census—but Prewitt argues persuasively that radical change is technically and politically achievable, and morally necessary.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • List of Figures and Tables
  • Preface
  • Part I What Are Statistical Races?
  • Part II Policy, Statistics, and Science Join Forces
    • Chapter 3 The Compromise That Made the Republic and the Nation’s First Statistical Race
    • Chapter 4 Race Science Captures the Prize, the U.S. Census
    • Chapter 5 How Many White Races Are There?
  • Part III When You Have a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail
    • Chapter 6 Racial Justice Finds a Policy Tool
    • Chapter 7 When You Have a Hammer: Statistical Races Misused
  • Part IV The Statistical Races under Pressure, and a Fresh Rationale
    • Chapter 8 Pressures Mount
    • Chapter 9 The Problem of the Twenty-first Century Is the Problem of the Color Line as It Intersects the Nativity Line
  • Part V What We Have Is Not What We Need
    • Chapter 10 Where Are We Exactly?
    • Chapter 11 Getting from Where We Are to Where We Need to Be
  • Appendix: Perspectives from Abroad–Brazil, France, Israel
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Dropping Anchor, Setting Sail: Geographies of Race in Black Liverpool

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2013-02-21 19:47Z by Steven

Dropping Anchor, Setting Sail: Geographies of Race in Black Liverpool

Princeton University Press
2005
312 pages
6 x 9
ISBN: 978-1-4008-2641-4

Jacqueline Nassy Brown, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Hunter College of the City University of New York

The port city of Liverpool, England, is home to one of the oldest Black communities in Britain. Its members proudly date their history back at least as far as the nineteenth century, with the global wanderings and eventual settlement of colonial African seamen. Jacqueline Nassy Brown analyzes how this worldly origin story supports an avowedly local Black politic and identity—a theme that becomes a window onto British politics of race, place, and nation, and Liverpool’s own contentious origin story as a gloriously cosmopolitan port of world-historical import that was nonetheless central to British slave trading and imperialism.

This ethnography also examines the rise and consequent dilemmas of Black identity. It captures the contradictions of diaspora in postcolonial Liverpool, where African and Afro-Caribbean heritages and transnational linkages with Black America both contribute to and compete with the local as a basis for authentic racial identity. Crisscrossing historical periods, rhetorical modes, and academic genres, the book focuses singularly on “place,” enabling its most radical move: its analysis of Black racial politics as enactments of English cultural premises. The insistent focus on English culture implies a further twist. Just as Blacks are racialized through appeals to their assumed Afro-Caribbean and African cultures, so too has Liverpool–an Irish, working-class city whose expansive port faces the world beyond Britain–long been beyond the pale of dominant notions of authentic Englishness. Dropping Anchor, Setting Sail studies “race” through clashing constructions of “Liverpool.”

Read the entire first chapter for free here in HTML or PDF format.  Excerpts are below.

“TO UNDERSTAND Black people, you’ve got to understand Liverpool.” So argued my friend Scott, a sixty-year-old Black man born and raised in that city…

…In the midst of describing the center’s aims he stopped short, interrupting himself to say, “To understand Black people, you’ve got to understand Liverpool.” He explained that Stanley House was established by charitable White people.  But their charter referred to the children of African seamen and the White women to whom they were often married as “half-castes,” a much despised term now…

Variations of that question were being posed in seaports all over Britain and in the overlapping arenas of social work, philanthropy, and academia, which would, in the mid to late nineteenth century, include physical anthropology and ethnology.  In contrast to eighteenth-century British ideas about human variation, which considered religion and clothing as key indices of civilization and posited climate as an explanation of different human potentials, the 1840s saw the emergence of a more biological argument (Wheeler 2000; Hamer 1996).  Physical types, which were correlated with areas of geographic origin, became the basis of racial distinctions and served to explain differential human capacities. Classificatory schema abounded. In this respect, Brontë’s mysterious, somewhat monstrous representation of the racially ambiguous Heathcliff is intriguing; it accords with the fearful image of the half-caste conjured up in Gothic literature and other discursive contexts.  As H. L. Malchow provocatively explains, “[O]ne may define [the Gothic] genre by characteristics that resonate strongly with racial prejudice, imperial exploration and sensational anthropology—themes and images that are meant to shock and terrify, that emphasize chaos and excess, sexual taboo and barbarism, and a style grounded in techniques of suspense and threat” (1996: 102).  Just as the unpredictable and brooding Heathcliff posed an ever-present danger, so too were the “hundreds of half-caste children” in 1920s Cardiff said to have “vicious tendencies.” These children also confused the categories of science, exhibiting, according to the press, a “disharmony of physical traits and mental characteristics” (Rich 1986: 131). In an era when science had attained unprecedented legitimacy (Lorimer 1996), the racially ambiguous or mixed person was a threat to the social order. Again, Malchow writes, “The terms ‘half-breed’ and ‘half-caste’ are double, hyphenated constructions resonating with other linguistic inadequacies and incompletes—with ‘half-wit’ or ‘half-dead’, with ‘half-naked’ or ‘half-truth’, and of course with ‘half-civilized’” (1996: 104). The person of mixed race was a pathology to be studied from both literary and “scientific” points of view. Their sexuality was of particular concern. It was one thing to be born of immoral unions in immoral circumstances; but as freaks of nature themselves, what moral predilections would they reproduce? Could they reproduce? (Malchow 1996; Young 1995)…

…Into a milieu defined, at the very least, by the above-described dynamics of colonialism, race, nationality, place, sexuality, class, and gender entered one Muriel Fletcher, infamous in present-day Liverpool for a study she conducted in 1928 under the auspices of the Liverpool Association for the Welfare of Half- Caste Children. Fletcher was trained in social research at the Liverpool University School of Social Science, where her circle included eugenicist anthropologists (Rich 1986).  The subjects of Fletcher’s research were White women who were formerly involved with African men and their “half-caste” children. She published her conclusions in Report on an Investigation into the Colour Problem in Liverpool and Other Ports. Ultimately, the Fletcher Report, as it is commonly called, concludes that “the colour problem” in that city owed not to the racist structuring of British society, the ideologies promulgated by the British state and its institutions, nor those circulating within Liverpool’s social welfare establishment, nor to the everyday racism of White Liverpudlians who routinely subjected colored seamen to violence. Rather, Fletcher attributed the colour problem in Liverpool to African seamen. It would be hard to state emphatically enough how thoroughly racial politics in Liverpool/Britain reflect the legacy of the Fletcher Report….

…The African man creates the White woman’s problems, while they both create the myriad crises said to befall their “half-caste” children. Fletcher uses the term half-caste in various ways. At times she distinguishes between “Anglo-Negroid” and “Anglo-Chinese” children; yet both of these groups belong to the half-caste category. Fletcher remarks at the outset, however, that “Anglo-Chinese” children are quite well-adjusted.  Since they pose no problem, we need not hear anything more about them.  As well, in the early pages, Fletcher uses the term Anglo-Negroid for children of African men and White women.  In detailing the minute phenotypical features of “half-caste” children, the Fletcher Report marks some of them “English,” as in “30 per cent. had English eyes… A little over 50 per cent. had hair negroid in type and colour. 25 per cent. had English, while the remaining 25 per cent. exhibited some curious mixtures… About 12 per cent. had lips like the average English child” (27).   She refers to these children’s social characteristics in similar terms. While she does not suggest that biological inheritance is at work, the children nevertheless manifest a troubling duality, exhibiting the worst trait of each parent.  Here speaking about “half-caste” girls, Fletcher argues, “From her mother the half-caste girl is liable to inherit a certain slackness, and from her father a happy-go-lucky attitude towards life” (34). The problems of half-caste children are not of their own making, then. They are victims. They attend earnestly to their schoolwork and seem amiable enough. But the immorality that characterizes their home life, given the low character of both parents, cannot help but be reproduced in these hapless children….

Read the entire first chapter for free here in HTML or PDF format.

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Still a House Divided: Race and Politics in Obama’s America

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-09-27 03:44Z by Steven

Still a House Divided: Race and Politics in Obama’s America

Princeton University Press
2011
320 pages
6 x 9; 5 halftones; 36 tables
Cloth ISBN: 9780691142630
eBook ISBN: 9781400839766

Desmond S. King, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of American Government
University of Oxford

Rogers M. Smith, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania

Why have American policies failed to reduce the racial inequalities still pervasive throughout the nation? Has President Barack Obama defined new political approaches to race that might spur unity and progress? Still a House Divided examines the enduring divisions of American racial politics and how these conflicts have been shaped by distinct political alliances and their competing race policies. Combining deep historical knowledge with a detailed exploration of such issues as housing, employment, criminal justice, multiracial census categories, immigration, voting in majority-minority districts, and school vouchers, Desmond King and Rogers Smith assess the significance of President Obama’s election to the White House and the prospects for achieving constructive racial policies for America’s future.

Offering a fresh perspective on the networks of governing institutions, political groups, and political actors that influence the structure of American racial politics, King and Smith identify three distinct periods of opposing racial policy coalitions in American history. The authors investigate how today’s alliances pit color-blind and race-conscious approaches against one another, contributing to political polarization and distorted policymaking. Contending that President Obama has so far inadequately confronted partisan divisions over race, the authors call for all sides to recognize the need for a balance of policy measures if America is to ever cease being a nation divided.

Presenting a powerful account of American political alliances and their contending racial agendas, Still a House Divided sheds light on a policy path vital to the country’s future.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • List of Figures and Tables
  • Acknowledgments
  • PART ONE: Obama’s Inheritance
  • PART TWO: The Making and Unmaking of Racial Hierarchies
    • CHAPTER 2 “That is the last speech he will ever make”: The Antebellum Racial Alliances
    • CHAPTER 3 “We of the North were thoroughly wrong”: How Racial Alliances Mobilized Ideas and Law
  • PART THREE: The Trajectory of Racial Alliances
    • CHAPTER 4 “This backdrop of entrenched inequality”: Affirmative Action in Work
    • CHAPTER 5 To “affi rmatively further fair housing”: Enduring Racial Inequalities in American Homes and Mortgages
    • CHAPTER 6 “To Elect One of Their Own”: Racial Alliances and Majority-Minority Districts
    • CHAPTER 7 “Our goal is to have one classification-American” Vouchers for Schools and the Multiracial Census
    • CHAPTER 8 “We can take the people out of the slums, but we cannot take the slums out of the people”: How Today’s Racial Alliances Shape Laws on Crime and Immigration
  • PART FOUR: America’s Inheritance
    • CHAPTER 9 Prospects of the House Divided
  • Notes
  • Index
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Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race

Posted in Barack Obama, Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-05-26 23:07Z by Steven

Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race

Princeton University Press
2010
178 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Cloth ISBN: 9780691137308
eBook ISBN: 9781400834198

Thomas J. Sugrue, David Boies Professor of History and Professor of Sociology
University of Pennsylvania

Finalist, The 2010 Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change National Book Award, The University of Memphis

Barack Obama, in his acclaimed campaign speech discussing the troubling complexities of race in America today, quoted William Faulkner’s famous remark “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” In Not Even Past, award-winning historian Thomas Sugrue examines the paradox of race in Obama’s America and how President Obama intends to deal with it.

Obama’s journey to the White House undoubtedly marks a watershed in the history of race in America. Yet even in what is being hailed as the post-civil rights era, racial divisions–particularly between blacks and whites—remain deeply entrenched in American life. Sugrue traces Obama’s evolving understanding of race and racial inequality throughout his career, from his early days as a community organizer in Chicago, to his time as an attorney and scholar, to his spectacular rise to power as a charismatic and savvy politician, to his dramatic presidential campaign. Sugrue looks at Obama’s place in the contested history of the civil rights struggle; his views about the root causes of black poverty in America; and the incredible challenges confronting his historic presidency.

Does Obama’s presidency signal the end of race in American life? In Not Even Past, a leading historian of civil rights, race, and urban America offers a revealing and unflinchingly honest assessment of the culture and politics of race in the age of Obama, and of our prospects for a postracial America.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • CHAPTER I: “This Is My Story”: Obama, Civil Rights, and Memory
  • CHAPTER II: Obama and the Truly Disadvantaged: The Politics of Race and Class
  • CHAPTER III: “A More Perfect Union”? The Burden of Race in Obama’s America
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes

Introduction

It is now a commonplace that the election of Barack Obama marks the opening of a new period in America’s long racial history. The unlikely rise of a black man to the nation’s highest office—someone who was a mostly unknown state senator only five years before he was inaugurated president—confirms the view of many, especially whites, that the United States is a postracial society. At last, the shackles of discrimination have been broken and individual merit is rewarded, regardless of skin color. In this view, blackness—once the clearest marker of difference in American society—has lost some or all of its stigma. Barack Obama, in the most common formulation, transcends race; his ancestry fuses African and European into a new hybrid; his political vision of unity discredits those who cling bitterly to notions of racial superiority and, at the same time, rebukes those who harbor a divisive identity politics fueled by an exaggerated sense of racial grievance.

As with all interpretations of the relationship between the past and the present, the notion that Obama’s election marks an epochal change in racial dynamics is not without its critics. Obama himself offers a tempered view, suggesting that even if America has advanced considerably over the last forty years, some racial prejudices remain in place and some racial discrimination still exists. In his view, we have realized much, but not all, of the dream of racial equality. Other commentators, like Berkeley historian David Hollinger, suggest that Obama heralds the emergence of a new, multihued racial order, a majority-minority society where static notions of race are losing their purchase, and where race-specific remedies like affirmative action have outlived their usefulness. Many scholars and pundits further to the left, by contrast, are skeptical that much has changed at all. They point to the angry denunciations of Obama during his campaign and since his inauguration (Obama as Muslim, Obama as black man in whiteface, Obama as witch doctor, Obama as noncitizen) as evidence of a deep-seated racism that is inflamed by the discomfiting presence of a brown-hued man in the White House.

In the most dystopian vision, offered by Duke sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, the symbolism of an African-descended president obscures a deeper, more troubling reality: the “Latin Americanization” of the United States, namely, the emergence of a society where a tripartite system of color gradation will supplant the “one-drop rule” of racial classification, but where the darkest-skinned racial minorities remain concentrated at the bottom…

…To understand Obama’s life and times requires an examination of race and racial politics. It is safe to say that few domestic issues have been more controversial in late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century America. And few issues have generated more passion among scholars and journalists. Debates about civil rights, black power, race consciousness, and inequality are often couched in predictable and analytically problematic formulations that reflect the moral dualism that still shapes our understandings of race. The first binary—“race versus class”—inflects much scholarship and liberal journalism about race. Either race matters as a dominant force or it is a screen—or a form of false consciousness—that masks far deeper inequalities of class. This is a simplistic formulation that downplays the ways that racial and economic disadvantages are fundamentally intertwined, and fails to address how the American economy generates inequalities that affect people regardless of their background but are still disproportionatelyborne by people of color. A second binary—with special hold in public discourse—is “racism versus color blindness.” This contrasts a pathology and a principle, a flawed reality and an ideal. But it, too, does not stand up to close scrutiny. As legal scholar Richard Thompson Ford has argued, to hurl the invective “racist” loosely is to put too much weight on individual beliefs or values. And conversely, to proclaim color blindness is to overlook the ways that racial inequalities persist and sometimes harden regardless of the good intentions or the benign disposition of any single actor. There are stone-cold racists in America, and there are people who believe that they are wholly free of prejudice. Ultimately, the most enduring racial inequalities in the United States today are not the consequence of conspiracy or intention, or even the unconscious prejudice that neuropsychologists argue exists in the amygdala; rather they stem from the long-term institutional legacies of economic and public policies that have systematically disadvantaged African Americans and, when left unaltered, continue to do so in key realms of American life today. The third binary is “pessimism versus optimism.” Either America is still a profoundly racist society, or we have mostly overcome past racial injustices. Any clear-eyed examination of race in modern America must recognize the changes that have transformed the life chances of African Americans in the United States since the mid-twentieth century, and that enabled Barack Obama’s remarkable ascent through some of America’s most prestigious institutions and ultimately to the White House—most of them the result of grassroots activism, litigation, and public policy innovation. And it must also account for what even a cursory review of census data, opinion surveys, and health, educational, and housing statistics reveals: namely, that racial gaps are deep and persistent in American life. Those statistics, the way that Obama understands and interprets them, and the ways that Americans in general make sense of them, are at the heart of this book…

Read the entire Introduction here.

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The Life of Isamu Noguchi: Journey without Borders

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs on 2012-05-15 17:48Z by Steven

The Life of Isamu Noguchi: Journey without Borders

Princeton University Press
2004
440 pages
6 x 9
36 halftones
Paper ISBN: 9780691127828

Masayo Duus
Translated by Peter Duus

  • 2005 Non-fiction Finalist for the Kiriyama Prize, Pacific Rim Voices
  • One of Choice’s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2005

Isamu Noguchi, born in Los Angeles as the illegitimate son of an American mother and a Japanese poet father, was one of the most prolific yet enigmatic figures in the history of twentieth-century American art. Throughout his life, Noguchi (1904-1988) grappled with the ambiguity of his identity as an artist caught up in two cultures.

His personal struggles—as well as his many personal triumphs—are vividly chronicled in The Life of Isamu Noguchi, the first full-length biography of this remarkable artist. Published in connection with the centennial of the artist’s birth, the book draws on Noguchi’s letters, his reminiscences, and interviews with his friends and colleagues to cast new light on his youth, his creativity, and his relationships.

During his sixty-year career, there was hardly a genre that Noguchi failed to explore. He produced more than 2,500 works of sculpture, designed furniture, lamps, and stage sets, created dramatic public gardens all over the world, and pioneered the development of environmental art. After studying in Paris, where he befriended Alexander Calder and worked as an assistant to Constantin Brancusi, he became an ardent advocate for abstract sculpture.

Noguchi’s private life was no less passionate than his artistic career. The book describes his romances with many women, among them the dancer Ruth Page, the painter Frida Kahlo, and the writer Anaïs Nin.

Despite his fame, Noguchi always felt himself an outsider. “With my double nationality and my double upbringing, where was my home?” he once wrote. “Where were my affections? Where my identity?” Never entirely comfortable in the New York art world, he inevitably returned to his father’s homeland, where he had spent a troubled childhood. This prize-winning biography, first published in Japanese, traces Isamu Noguchi’s lifelong journey across these artistic and cultural borders in search of his personal identity.

Table of Contents

  • Prologue
  • Chapter One: Yone and Leonie
  • Chapter Two: His Mother’s Child
  • Chapter Three: All-American Boy
  • Chapter Four: Journey of Self-Discovery
  • Chapter Five: Becoming a Nisei
  • Chapter Six: The Song of a Small
  • Chapter Seven: Honeymoon with Japan
  • Chapter Eight: The World of Dreams
  • Chapter Nine: The Universe in a Garden
  • Chapter Ten: Encounter with a Stonecutter
  • Chapter Eleven: Farewell to s Dreamer
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
  • Photgraphy Credits
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