Quiet as its Kept: Passing Subjects, Contested Identities

Posted in Forthcoming Media, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2019-02-24 03:38Z by Steven

Quiet as its Kept: Passing Subjects, Contested Identities

Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, New York
Friday, 2019-04-05 through Sunday, 2019-04-07

Passing Beyond Passing

The phrase “passing for white” first appears in advertisements for the return of runaway slaves. Abolitionist fiction later adopts the phenomenon of racial passing (together with the figure of the “white slave”) as a major literary theme. The term continued to enjoy currency in literature in the postbellum era and during the Harlem Renaissance. Today, “passing” has various manifestations and applications. Not limited to race, the term may indicate subversions of gender, sexuality, religion, ability and class, among other identity coordinates.

This conference responds to renewed interest in passing that derives from the popularity of genetic genealogy tests, sensational cases of racial fraud (i.e., Rachel Dolezal), the idea of “realness” appropriated from ball culture, racial ambiguity in a surveillance state, public fascination with celebrities like Meghan Markle, and the construction (and manipulation) of online identities (i.e., catfishing and blackfishing). Interdisciplinary perspectives on passing, miscegenation, authenticity, sexuality, kinship, and racial ambiguity in the arts, law, memory, popular culture, and the racial state are invited. Themes may include betrayal, secrecy, dissimulation, subjectivity, masquerade, visibility/invisibility, surveillance, fraud, and belonging.

At Vassar College, interest in this topic has reemerged since the publication of Karin Tanabe’s novel The Gilded Years (2016), about Anita Hemmings’ experience as the first black woman known to attend the College. In 1900, poet, novelist, lyricist Paul Laurence Dunbar modeled one of his musical characters (Parthenia Jenkins in Uncle Eph’s Christmas) after Anita Hemmings. By placing a character with Hemmings’ stature in a farce, Dunbar lampoons class / caste based distinctions. More importantly, he associates Hemmings – a racial performer celebrated for her respectability – with less-respected, equally assertive performers of race. Hemmings’s story is currently being adapted into a film, A White Lie, starring Zendaya and produced by Reese Witherspoon and Zendaya. This conference provides an opportunity to reflect on Hemmings’ experience – and those of other black women – who integrated women’s colleges.

This conference is also an occasion to rethink identity categories that have long been naturalized or taken for granted. From critical race theorists, sociologists, and social psychologists like Cheryl I. Harris, George Lipsitz, and Claude Steele to labor historians and feminist scholars such as David Roediger and Ruth Frankenberg, many intellectuals have examined whiteness as a social formation to which disparate ethnic groups (i.e., Jewish, Italian, and Irish) have assimilated. This conference (and concomitant art show at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center) can facilitate careful rethinking of assumptions about identity formations and affiliations. All are welcome.

For more information, click here.

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Is That Your Child? Mothers Talk about Rearing Biracial Children

Posted in Books, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2009-10-13 17:15Z by Steven

Is That Your Child? Mothers Talk about Rearing Biracial Children

Lexington Books, imprint of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
November 2008
146pp
Cloth: 0-7391-2763-2 / 978-0-7391-2763-6 
Paper: 0-7391-2764-0 / 978-0-7391-2764-3 

By Marion Kilson and Florence Ladd

“Is That Your Child?” is a question that countless mothers of biracial children encounter whether they are African American or European American, rearing children today or a generation ago, living in the city or in the suburbs, are upper middle class or lower middle class. Social scientists Marion Kilson and Florence Ladd probe mothers’ responses to this query and other challenges that mothers of biracial children encounter.

Organized into four chapters, the book begins with Kilson and Ladd’s initial interview of one another, continues with an overview of the challenges and rewards of raising biracial children gleaned from their interviews with other mothers, presents profiles of mothers highlighting distinctive individual experiences of biracial parenting, and concludes with suggestions of positive biracial parenting strategies.

This book makes a unique contribution to the growing body of literature by and about biracial Americans. Although in the past twenty years biracial Americans like Rebecca Walker, June Cross, and James McBride have written of their person experiences and scholars like Kathleen Korgen, Maria Root, and Ruth Frankenberg have explored aspects of the biracial experience, none has focused on the experiences of a heterogeneous set of black and white mothers of different generations and socioeconomic circumstances as Kilson and Ladd do.

About the Authors
Marion Kilson is an anthropologist and the author of Claiming Place: Biracial Young Adults of the Post-Civil Rights Era (Bergin & Garvey 2000). Florence Ladd is a psychologist and won the Black Caucus of the American Library Association award for her novel, Sarah’s Psalm (Scribner 1997).

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • Chapter 1: The Back Story of Is That Your Child?
  • Chapter 2: Challenges and Rewards for Mothers of Biracial Children
  • Chapter 3: Profiles of Mothers of Biracial Children
  • Chapter 4: Nurturing Biracial Children: Some Lessons Learned
  • Appendix I: Interracial Marriages in the United States
  • Appendix II: Some Sociological Attributes of Mothers
  • Appendix III: Selected Multiracial Resources
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