Call for Proposals: Colors of Blood, Semantics of Race: Racial Categories and Social Representations: A Global Perspective (From the late Middle Ages to the 21st Century)

Posted in Europe, History, Wanted/Research Requests/Call for Papers on 2016-07-24 02:47Z by Steven

Call for Proposals: Colors of Blood, Semantics of Race: Racial Categories and Social Representations: A Global Perspective (From the late Middle Ages to the 21st Century)

Casa de Velázquez
Madrid, Spain
2016-12-15 through 2016-12-16

Toward the end of the Middle Ages, the outset of the European expansion considerably increased the contacts between culturally different peoples. Beginning in southern Europe, this process rapidly reached more distant regions of the globe which were increasingly falling under the Western sphere of influence. This phenomenon transformed the communities affected by that expansion, and even led to the formation of new ‘fractal’ societies. These were not only multi-ethnic communities in which “Old Christians” lived together with “New Christians” (as in the Iberian Peninsula), or European colonizers associating with indigenous colonized peoples (beyond the boundaries of the Old Continent), or elites of European descent with subaltern masses, but frequently also extremely miscegenated societies.

During the early modernity, the socio-racial relations were very much influenced by the medieval notion of “blood”, according to which the “quality” of individuals was strongly associated with their “honor”. Those relations were, in addition, influenced by a perception of “otherness” marked by religious intolerance, as well as by a racial perspective associated with the ethnic profile and the place of origin, or “nation”, of the individuals. These criteria rapidly adapted to the new realities, aiming to establish a hierarchic order following the ancient regimen’s model of society; a complex task considering the elevated levels of ethnic diversity, of illegitimate children, and of cultural and biological miscegenation.

The combination of all these elements, adapted to the particular socio-ethnic background of the local populations concerned and placed in relation to the local forms of production, generated a whole myriad of socio-racial categories, most of which were unprecedented. Severely regulated by the legislation of the time, and internalized from an identitary point of view by social actors, these categories gave specificity, both unique and common, to the societies that made use of them. Those categories mainly defined the racialized status of individuals, often adding linguistic complements in order to provide more specific definitions. Their sources of inspiration were very diverse: the color or the tonalities of the skin, the type or degree of biological miscegenation, the level of transculturation, the stereotyped appearance of other peoples, the features of certain animals, and words borrowed from non-Latin languages.

As the social transformations consolidated, other complements and semantic variations begin to appear. Following a simultaneous process of classification and creolisation, those linguistic aggregates mainly aimed to further underline the differences of status among individuals belonging to the same sectors and, at times, to give meaning to the “oddest” mixtures. There were also efforts to define the individuals who lived in the borderlands, as well as to categorize the workforce according to the “new” forms of servitude, the introduction of the ‘plantation complex’, the modernization of the slave and indentured systems, and the development of the transnational slave trade.

Since the 18th Century, and especially over the course of the 19th and much of the 20th, the democratic revolutions, the abolitions of slavery, the process of decolonization, the impact of scientific racism, the consolidation of skin color as a racial catalyser, the massive migrations, the expansion of U.S. popular culture, and the racialization of poverty and of criminality, among other phenomena, had an enormous impact on the systems of representation and, consequently, on the semantics of socio-racial categorization. Nowadays, in spite of the collapse of apartheids, of the seeming consecration of democracy as the dominant model of government worldwide, and of the fortunate downfall of the scientific paradigm of race, certain categories (mainly pejorative) have continued to be evoked in the former colonial and metropolitan territories, and even beyond, in other parts of the world. This amazing longevity seems to put in evidence the continuity over time of the socio-racial representations that began to take form more than five-hundred years ago, when Europe began expanding its perceptions of “otherness” throughout the world.

Taking as a starting point the Mediterranean and the Atlantic World in the late Middle Ages, and continuing with the colonial regions of the wider world during the modern age, and those territories in which socio-racial categories continue to be used in the contemporary period, the present colloquium aims to shed new light on the construction of these categories by studying them from a ‘longue durée’ perspective. Accordingly, we propose to focus on the perceptions developed by social actors within the different ‘spaces of experience’ in order to explain, on the one hand, the semantics that gave form to the categories that constitute our object of study and, on the other hand, the different sociocultural, socioeconomic and socio-cognitive dynamics that over time have contributed to the emergence, perpetuation and even to the disappearance of the representations that those same categories reflected. We will also be interested in studying the links of these variables with the different racialized notions of ‘self-identification’, as well as the appropriations, transmissions and semantic redefinitions between societies structured differently and/or culturally different. Attention will also be paid to ‘from below’ analytical approaches, in particular if they cover the perceptions of autochthonous and other marginalized populations, as well as those of the subaltern sectors, including slaves, in terms of identitary appropriation, of linguistic resistance and of their own categories/representations.

These lines of reflection are not exhaustive, as we will also consider proposals regarding other geo-historical contexts, or offering theoretical formulations that could enrich discussions from a trans-disciplinary perspective.

Those interested in attending should send their proposals in .doc or .pdf format to the following email address: Proposals should include name, contact details, institutional affiliation, a short CV, title, and an abstract not exceeding one page in length (about 350 words). The deadline for consideration is September 10th, 2016. Successful proposals will be announced in mid-September. There will be no inscription fees and the organizing committee will cover travel costs and accommodation for invited participants. Presentations of papers should not exceed 30 minutes. The languages of the workshop are English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. A selection of papers presented at the workshop will be published in a peer-reviewed edited volume.

For more information, click here.


Although I still experience this world as an African American woman, I am much more inclined to share my biracial identity and embrace the intricacies and complexities of my broader identity.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-07-24 02:33Z by Steven

Although I still experience this world as an African American woman, I am much more inclined to share my biracial identity and embrace the intricacies and complexities of my broader identity.

Jeanette Snider, “The Evolution of My Mixed Race Identity,” NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, July 11, 2016.

Tags: , ,

The Real Rebels: A Review of Free State of Jones with Reflections on Lost Causes

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-24 02:03Z by Steven

The Real Rebels: A Review of Free State of Jones with Reflections on Lost Causes

The Labor And Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA)

Mark Lause, Professor of History
University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

I can feel a certain sympathy for people who get hoodwinked into fighting for a Lost Cause that could never be worthy of the blood and treasure spent on its behalf. After all, as a child of the Cold War, my own closest brush with toting a gun to war came during Vietnam. In that conflict, the government, both political parties, the military, the media, the universities, the corporations, and the entire power structure insisted that the triumph of a Vietnamese effort to control of their own country would start toppling dominoes that would end in Anytown, U.S.A. By the end, most Americans actually doubted this. In hindsight, there’s no real issue as to whether the power structure of the people were correct, though some feel obligated to pretend otherwise.

Responses to the Free State of Jones by Gary Ross, and starring Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Mahershala Ali demonstrate that such denials of experience can last a long time. The movie offers a fictionalized version of the revolt of poor Southerners against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi. Newton Knight worked on medical duties at the front until his disgust with the war inspired his desertion and return home. “Captain” Knight held that title for his role as the leader of guerilla forces that successfully made parts of southern Mississippi a no-go zone for Confederate tax gatherers and conscript officers. It is based on Victoria E. Bynum’s superb historical account The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), and aims to be much more truthful than Hollywood’s first attempt at the subject in 1948, Tap Roots.

Free State of Jones directly confronts the issues of class and race that Tap Roots downplayed or avoided. This fact, in part, explains the mixed reviews.

A movie is not a documentary, of course. The page dedicated to Free State of Jones at “History vs. Hollywood” provides a useful corrective, and I would urge everybody who liked the movie to read Bynum’s book…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I occupy the uneasy limbo between exploiter and exploited. I, an African-American woman, am every bit as much a “debtor” to my “race” as any descendant of John C. Calhoun’s or indeed as Georgetown University itself.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-07-24 00:35Z by Steven

I live the paradox that though my brown skin has excluded me from so called white privilege, all my life I have benefited from the plunder of privileged whites. From the time I read Thackeray’s novel “Vanity Fair” as a teenager, I have been fascinated by the character of Rhoda Swartz, the “woolly-haired mulatto from St. Kitts,” a mixed race heiress to a lucrative plantation, and real-life figures like her. Now I know why: Their stories are mine, and like them, I occupy the uneasy limbo between exploiter and exploited. I, an African-American woman, am every bit as much a “debtor” to my “race” as any descendant of John C. Calhoun’s or indeed as Georgetown University itself.

Susan Fales-Hill, “I Named My Mixed-Race Daughter for a Slave-Trading Town,” The New York Times, July 16, 2016.

Tags: , ,

‘Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings’ reimagines difficult history

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-24 00:23Z by Steven

‘Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings’ reimagines difficult history

The Chicago Tribune

Meredith Maran

“Until the lions have their own historians,” says an African proverb, “the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” The proverb offers one answer to a question that has long plagued writers, activists and historians. Who gets to tell the stories of those who have been denied the right to tell their own?

Given that heterosexual white men still get the, um, lion’s share of book contracts, should straight people write books about the gay rights movement? Should men write about the struggle for women’s equality? And — as with Harriet Beecher Stowe’sUncle Tom’s Cabin,” Mark Twain’sAdventures of Huckleberry Finn,” William Styron’s Pulitzer-winning “Confessions of Nat Turner” and now Stephen O’Connor’s Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings” —should a white person write a book whose central dilemma is slavery?

“Anyone has the right to write about any subject available to be written about,” historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. has said. But the white person who writes a 624-page novel about the 37-year love affair between a white slave owner — who happens to be the third president of the United States and author of the phrase “All men are created equal” — and a mixed-race slave — whom he happens to own and who happens to give birth to six of his children — had better have the politics, the courage and, most importantly, the storytelling skills to get it right.

Fortunately, O’Connor manifests an abundance of these qualities in “Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings,” his debut novel. Ambitious doesn’t begin to describe the scope of the project O’Connor undertook. And successful doesn’t begin to describe the wildly imaginative techniques he used to realize his authorial goal, which is clearly to humanize — equalize, you might say — the two members of this passionate, conflicted couple: the lionized, hypocritical Jefferson, who railed against slavery while owning slaves, and the powerful yet complicit Hemings, who loved and loathed her owner…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , ,

The Evolution of My Mixed Race Identity

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Campus Life, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2016-07-24 00:08Z by Steven

The Evolution of My Mixed Race Identity

NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education

Jeanette Snider, Assistant Director in the Undergraduate Program
Robert H. Smith School of Business
University of Maryland

I recently took an intergroup dialogue-training course for administrators and graduate students interested in leading a related course offered at my university. We were ushered through a number of activities to explore our own life experiences and interrogate any biases we might bring to our class as facilitators. One of the exercises that particularly stood out to me during the training was the “Racialized Life Map” worksheet. We were asked to record the first 5 experiences we can recall in which we encountered or recognized ourselves as racialized beings.

As a Black biracial (African American and German American) woman several moments came to mind. I can remember in kindergarten, being asked if I was adopted by my classmates after my father came in for career day. I recall getting strange stares from my father’s coworkers on take-your-daughter-to-work-day or even being called the “N word” by a white classmate in 6th grade after school.

The memories continue…my first recollection of being tokenized by my middle school history teacher occurred when she asked me to speak on behalf of African Americans in class when the topics of slavery and the Civil Rights movement arose. As a high school senior, I vividly recall my guidance counselor telling me I had a strong chance of getting admitted to my top college choice, an elite, small public university in southern Virginia, because I am black. I was constantly socialized and treated as an African American woman. You see, in my mind, I didn’t have a choice to be biracial. Based on the aforementioned interactions along with a lifetime of experiences, I have identified as Black for most of my life. This, often conscious decision is based on people’s perceptions of my racial identity…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

Dido Belle: Britain’s first black aristocrat

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2016-07-23 23:58Z by Steven

Dido Belle: Britain’s first black aristocrat

The Telegraph

Nisha Lilia Diu

Amma Asante’s award-winning film Belle arrives on Netflix today. In this feature, first published in June 2014, Nisha Lilia Diu reveals the true story that inspired it

The amazing thing about Dido Elizabeth Belle is not that she was mixed-race. Who knows how many white men’s children were born to black slave women in the 18th century? It’s not even that her father was a wealthy English aristocrat – there were plenty of titled captains tearing around the Caribbean at that time, capturing French and Dutch schooners during the Seven Years’ War and making off with their sugar, coffee and other (often human) cargo. The extraordinary thing about Dido Belle is that her father, a 24-year-old Navy officer called John Lindsay, took her home to England and asked his extended family to raise her. And they did. They did it in some style, too.

Belle grew up in Kenwood House in north London. It was the palatial weekend retreat of Lindsay’s uncle, the first Earl of Mansfield, set in landscaped gardens with a view of St Paul’s Cathedral six miles away. Mansfield was Lord Chief Justice, and he made a number of landmark rulings on slavery that were among Britain’s first steps towards abolition. Did Belle’s presence in his home have anything to do with it? Plenty of his contemporaries thought so, and they didn’t admire him for it.

“Dido was very, very privileged,” says William Murray, a descendant of the earl and the son of the heir apparent. “She was in the top 5 per cent, perhaps the top 1 per cent, in terms of how she lived, her allowance, her dress, her education.” But Belle’s position was far from clear-cut…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

I Named My Mixed-Race Daughter for a Slave-Trading Town

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-23 17:55Z by Steven

I Named My Mixed-Race Daughter for a Slave-Trading Town

The New York Times

Susan Fales-Hill

An oil painting of Susan Fales-Hill’s great-great-great-grandfather hangs in her apartment in Manhattan. He turned out to be not as upstanding as she once thought. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

FOR nearly 20 years, my great-great-great-grandfather’s portrait has watched over me from my red dining room wall. With his high collar, ruffled cravat and black waistcoat, Samuel Fales, 1775-1848, is the very image of the upstanding 19th-century New England gentleman. An eminent merchant and alderman of Boston, he was the founder of the family’s shipping business. I’ve known his face and taken comfort in his smile since I was a child attending Sunday lunch at my grandmother’s in the 1960s.

Samuel Fales seemed utterly unperturbed by the changes the 20th century had wrought, among them his great-great-grandson’s unorthodox choice of bride: my mother, a black Haitian-American actress, and my brother and me, his mixed-race descendants. His portrait has stood as an emblem of our family’s pride in its history. “You have relatives on both sides of your family who fought in the American Revolution,” my mother would frequently remind me.

To honor my forebears, my husband and I named our only child Bristol, after the town in Rhode Island where some of the Faleses first settled in the 17th century. A year ago, I learned through new historical research that Bristol had in fact served as a main hub of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This gave me great pause. Had I done my daughter a dreadful disservice? Upon reflection, I decided that naming a multicultural African-American after a slave port was in fact redemptive, the ultimate act of reclamation.

It never occurred to me that my family might have participated in the port’s inhumane commerce…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Biography: ‘The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire,’ by Karl Jacoby

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, Texas, United States on 2016-07-22 18:41Z by Steven

Biography: ‘The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire,’ by Karl Jacoby

The Dallas Morning News

Karen M. Thomas, Professor of Journalism
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

From all accounts, Guillermo Enrique Eliseo commanded attention. The elegantly dressed Mexican-born Wall Street baron in Gilded Age Manhattan was known for his gold watch, fine taste and ability to strike business deals on both sides of the border. He also had a huge secret.

Eliseo began life not on a Mexican hacienda but across the border on a Texas plantation where he was born into slavery as William Henry Ellis. How he transformed himself into Eliseo is the topic of The Strange Career of William Ellis.

Karl Jacoby is a stellar researcher, and the topic is fascinating. He ferrets out Ellis’ tale of reinvention from historical documents, news accounts and Ellis’ personal material, including letters to his family. Where records are scarce, such as for the years Ellis was a slave on a Victoria plantation, Jacoby instead turns to what is known about American slavery itself. He describes Texas’ role in trying to keep cotton as king and what life was like in Victoria, a town close to the U.S. and Mexican borders, in the 1800s. By doing so, Jacoby is able to extrapolate Ellis’ experience, motivation and preparation for ultimately redefining his personal racial boundaries

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Early black lawyer, wife endured bigotry

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive on 2016-07-22 18:23Z by Steven

Early black lawyer, wife endured bigotry

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Curt Brown

Nellie and William Francis were doing so well in 1924 they decided to move four miles southwest in St. Paul — leaving their Rondo neighborhood for a house in the Groveland Park area near the Mississippi River.

The 1920 census listed the couple, married for 27 years, as “Mu” for mulatto. Skin color hadn’t deterred William Francis from becoming “prominent in religious, political, social and fraternal circles,” according to the Twin City Star newspaper.

He was a railroad lawyer and she was a suffragette and civic activist. But when they moved into their house at 2092 Sargent Av., just east of Cretin Avenue, their race would render them “direct victims of virulent racial hatred,” according to former law school dean Douglas Heidenreich’s 2000 article in William Mitchell magazine.

Nellie Griswold was born in 1874 in Nashville, but moved north in time to graduate from St. Paul Central High School in the 1890s and become president of the Minnesota State Federation of Colored Women in the early 20th Century.

As leader of the Everywoman Suffrage Club, she helped women earn the right to vote in 1920. The next year, she was credited with writing the state anti-lynching bill that allowed survivors to collect $7,500 in damages, nearly $100,000 in today’s dollars. The legislation — spawned by the 1920 lynching of three black circus workers in Duluth — also punished neglectful police who allowed lynchings under their watch. They could be fired for malfeasance.

In 1893, Nellie married William Francis — an Indiana native five years her senior. At 19, he had moved to Minnesota, where he graduated in 1904 from St. Paul College of Law (now Mitchell Hamline School of Law)…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,