The Complexities of Skin Color

Posted in Interviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2016-07-20 19:25Z by Steven

The Complexities of Skin Color

Black Issues Forum
UNC-TV
Raleigh, North Carolina
2016-05-01
Running Time: 00:26:46

Deborah Holt Noel, Host

Inspired by the casting of Latina actress Zoe Saldana to play Nina Simone, the performer and activist known for her pride in her dark skin, Deborah chats with professor Dr. Yaba Blay, filmmaker Eric Barstow, and undergraduate student Ayana Thompson to delve into why so many people still knowingly and unknowingly participate in colorism – the assertion that light is better.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Commodification of the Black Body, Sexual Objectification and Social Hierarchies during Slavery

Posted in Articles, Economics, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery, United States, Women on 2016-07-19 20:35Z by Steven

Commodification of the Black Body, Sexual Objectification and Social Hierarchies during Slavery

The Earlham Historical Journal: An Undergraduate Journal of Historical Inquiry
Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana
Volume VII: Issue II (Spring 2015)
pages 21-43

Iman Cooper

The horror of the institution of slavery during the late eighteenth century was not that it displaced millions of African people from their homes to the US, but rather that it laid the foundation for the commodification and dehumanization of the black body that was culturally, socially, and politically maintained for hundreds of years to come. This essay will first explore the commodification of African captives as the foundation of my analysis, in order to later examine the social and political ramifications of the sexual objectification that was rampant during the slavery era, through the analysis of Harriet Jacob‘s slave narrative. Slavery had long-reaching effects on the conceptualization of the black body, which is later depicted by the emergence of the mulatto class. White slave owners executed their perceived right under the creation of commoditized black bodies to sexually abuse their slaves, producing mixed race (mulatto) children. Social, religious, economic, and political factors allowed the sustained commodification of black bodies to occur. As a result of commodification, black bodies were rendered disciplined subjects; beholden to the will of white men. Simultaneously, white planters‘ wives were socially conditioned to remain publicly silent in the face of their husband‘s betrayal and abuse; hence they often executed their anger on the black slave, further rendering the black body an object to be claimed by others to enact their will upon. Commodification of the black body at the start of the era allowed for the objectification of the black female body to continue throughout slavery, as portrayed by the simultaneous abuse of the masters and the subsequent retribution of the master‘s wives, which were enacted on the black female body…

Fetishization of the Black Female Slave and Mulatto Children

Black women were both fetishized and regarded as impure, when seen in contrast to the modesty of white women; therefore at the height of slavery, relationships with slave women were decidedly culturally unacceptable. However, just because these relationships were frowned upon does not mean that men resisted crossing the line of this social taboo; they did. The violation of this boundary by slave-owners was sometimes shamelessly explicit, while other times they attempted to keep their affairs secretive, for fear of both the societal backlash and the anger of their wives. As a result, the mulatto class grew extensively during the slavery era, becoming a visible marker of the extensiveness of this issue in the society. The skin color of these children served as a visible reminder for the wives and the community of their husband‘s infidelity. Masters sometimes took care of their mulatto children and eventually freed them, but more often than not, children either worked on the plantation, or (at their wives‘ insistence) were put up for auction and sold into slavery. As the mistress of the plantation, wives held a degree of power that could either improve the lives of slaves on her plantation, or create further harm and devastating destruction…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

Barack Obama and the Rhetoric of Hope by Mark S. Ferrara (review) [Williamson]

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2016-07-19 01:23Z by Steven

Barack Obama and the Rhetoric of Hope by Mark S. Ferrara (review) [Williamson]

Rhetoric & Public Affairs
Vollume 18, Number 4, Winter 2015
pages 748-750

Jason G. Williamson
Department of Communication Studies
University of Georgia

Barack Obama and the Rhetoric of Hope. By Mark S. Ferrara. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2013; pp. 204. $45.00 paper.

In Barack Obama and the Rhetoric of Hope, Mark S. Ferrara attempts to piece together the historical, intellectual, and literary influences of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign rhetoric, primarily as the “rhetoric of hope” was constructed leading up to the 2008 campaign and employed during that campaign, as well as its reemergence for 2012. Ferrara defines the rhetoric of hope as “deliberately constructed political discourse that envisions social betterment brought about by the force of shared values and culminating in a promise of a ‘more perfect union’ in the future” (11). The utopian idealism that percolates throughout Obama’s campaign discourse is of particular interest to Ferrara, especially as American rhetorical tropes are employed to discursively construct Obama as a “quasi-prophetic” figure who possesses the leadership skills necessary to move the country closer to collective salvation (14–15). Ferrara repeatedly observes the rhetoric of hope relying on a dialectical tension between the ideal and the actual, promising to transform the current status quo into a salvific telos.

The book is primarily organized into two major sections, with the first half (chapters 1–5) dedicated to locating historical and literary influences of Obama’s rhetoric of hope and the second half (chapters 6–10) investigating the values and characteristics of this rhetoric, concluding with a comparison of Obama’s two presidential campaigns. The opening chapters outline the manner in which utopian tropes derived from Judeo-Christian thought (chapter 1) as well as the European Enlightenment (chapter 2) influence Obama’s rhetoric. In the three chapters that follow, Ferrara continues [End Page 748] pulling on individual threads, such as slave narratives (chapter 3); the presidential traditions of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt (chapter 4); and the influence of fiction, music, and popular culture (chapter 5), arguing that these threads, woven together, form Obama’s rhetoric of hope.

In the second half, Ferrara moves beyond the antecedents of the rhetoric of hope, presenting a reading of Obama’s campaign rhetoric as an amalgam of multiple influences. Chapter 6 analyzes the role of American values in the rhetoric of hope, culminating in Obama’s embodiment of the American Dream, a combination of individual determination and community awareness with a heavy emphasis on “work” as an operative term, a theme that the president continues in his second term, as evident in the most recent State of the Union address. Ferrara approaches Obama’s discourse with an Aristotelian conception of rhetoric and places a heavy emphasis on the deliberate decisions of the rhetor, highlighting Obama’s role as a writing subject constructing his own narrative persona in chapter 7. Ferrara, an assistant professor of English at State University of New York at Oneonta, reads Obama’s autobiographical narratives as an effort in which Obama “casts himself as a prophet of change situated by virtue of his unique American story to usher in a new global order” (135). Ferrara locates Obama within the tradition of political autobiographical works in American history “from John Smith to Benjamin Franklin to Malcolm X,” arguing that Obama intentionally constructs his own story in such a way as to build on American mythologies (125). The climax is perhaps seen in Obama’s 2008 tour of the Middle East and Europe (chapter 8), where his narrative positions Obama as a figure that can unite American ideals with a global, multicultural audience. The final two chapters track the continuation of the 2008 campaign themes in 2011 and 2012, underscoring the claim that “the rhetoric of hope contains a neat circularity that is the product of intentional design” (187). Whether by intent or not, the characteristics of the rhetoric of hope obviously manifest in Obama’s campaigns.

Throughout, Ferrara’s analysis casts light on many aspects of Obama’s rhetoric that the reader will find intuitive. Although his prose is occasionally too driven by quotations and not enough of the author’s own voice, the text and analysis is accessible for a wide audience. Readers who study presidential rhetoric will immediately note the pronounced absence…

Tags: , , , ,

Barack Obama and the Rhetoric of Hope by Mark S. Ferrara (review) [Ellis]

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, United States on 2016-07-19 00:24Z by Steven

Barack Obama and the Rhetoric of Hope by Mark S. Ferrara (review) [Ellis]

Utopian Studies
Volume 27, Number 2, 2016
pages 382-386

Cameron Ellis
Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

Mark S. Ferrara. Barack Obama and the Rhetoric of Hope, Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2013. 204 pp. Paper, $29.95, isbn 978-0-7864-6793-8

Mark S. Ferrara’s principle scholarly interests lie within the fields of religious studies and Asian philosophy, as indicated on his State University of New York–Oneonta English faculty page and demonstrated in his other books Between Noble and Humble: Cao Xueqin and the Dream of the Red Chamber (co-edited with Ronald R. Gray, Peter Lang, 2009) and Palace of Ashes: China and the Decline of American Higher Education (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015). However, it is his interests in rhetoric and political discourse, cultural studies, and world literature that make Barack Obama and the Rhetoric of Hope such an insightful and pleasant contribution to the commentary on and criticism of the outgoing president. Ferrara wastes no time using his resources to contextualize the significance his study of the president has—especially as of 2008, which saw Obama being elected for the first time—by citing a Chinese proverb: “chaotic times make heroes (shi shi zao ying xiong)” (19). Although not mentioned explicitly, this proverb alludes to Obama’s inheritance of an extremely precarious geopolitical situation left festering by the Bush administration. (In fact, even though I wanted him to “go there,” Ferrara steers clear of the dangerous intricacies entwining Obama’s legacy in terms of Bush’s. The first explicit mention of Bush does not even appear until page 99.) Not only is this book a wonderful contribution to the study of American history and political science, but also it is a decidedly welcome addition to utopian studies by way of its analysis of one of the most important figures to date.

The advantage that adopting a utopian analytic in such a case study as Obama is that Ferrara liberates the conversation he seeks to facilitate from regressing into polemics and partisan politics, the kind that one sees most negatively worked out in other works on the president such as Stanley Kurts’s Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism (Simon and Schuster, 2010), Dinesh D’souza’s Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream (Regnery Publishing, 2012), and Bob Thiel’s Barack Obama, Prophesy, and the Destruction of the United States (Nazarene Books, 2012), which read into the president signs and symptoms of America’s downfall. While it is quite clear that Ferrara is a champion of Obama, it never feels as though he is hitting his reader over the head with his views. Rather, Ferrara encourages his reader to recall that, regardless of one’s political alliance, Obama ran two successful campaigns on a positive message: hope. One of the greatest strengths of Ferrara’s book resides in his skill of presenting this aspect of the president while refraining from sentimentalism and nostalgia. Instead the reader is offered a well-researched piece of scholarly labor by one of the best in the field of rhetoric and political discourse.

I came to this book as an outsider to American history, but after reading it I feel as though I have a much-improved sense of the American tradition insofar as that tradition is one rooted in idealism. Ferrara helps his reader better understand how Obama captured this idealism and utilized it in terms of his political rhetoric. “Since this is a rhetorical study,” Ferrara writes early on, “… I am grateful to be spared the burden of aligning the word with reality—a task best left to the political pundits. My interest is specifically in the evocation of a better future toward which we progress gradually, one that offers a sort of collective salvation” (14–15). Drawing heavily on Obama’s own writings—namely, Dreams from My Father (2004) and The Audacity of Hope (2008)—Ferrara exercises academic rigor and resists needless sentimentalism by skillfully integrating these popular texts into the web of political speeches and interviews that flood the information highway. Starting in chapter 1 Ferrara grounds his study of Obama’s rhetoric of hope in the Judeo-Christian religious tradition: “Images of collectivist rebellion against the evils of…

Tags: , , ,

Barack Obama and the Rhetoric of Hope

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, United States on 2016-07-18 23:59Z by Steven

Barack Obama and the Rhetoric of Hope

McFarland
2013
204 pages
softcover (6 x 9)
Print ISBN: 978-0-7864-6793-8
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4766-0339-1

Mark S. Ferrara, Assistant Professor of English
State University of New York, Oneonta

The historical and literary antecedents of the President’s campaign rhetoric can be traced to the utopian traditions of the Western world. The “rhetoric of hope” is a form of political discourse characterized by a forward-looking vision of social progress brought about by collective effort and adherence to shared values (including discipline, temperance, a strong work ethic, self-reliance and service to the community).

By combining his own personal story (as the biracial son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya) with national mythologies like the American Dream, Obama creates a persona that embodies the moral values and cultural mythos of his implied audience. In doing so, he draws upon the Classical world, Judeo-Christianity, the European Enlightenment, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, the presidencies of Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR, slave narratives, the Black church, the civil rights movement and even popular culture.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • Introduction: Idealism and the American Mind
  • One–Judeo-Christianity and the Rational Utopia
  • Two–American Founding Documents
  • Three–Slave Narratives, the Black Church and Civil Rights
  • Four–The Legacy of Three Great Presidents
  • Five–The Force of Fiction, Music and Popular Culture
  • Six–Values and the Content of Character
  • Seven–Constructing the Narrative Persona
  • Eight–Universalism, Globalization and the Multicultural Utopia
  • Nine–Rhetoric and the Presidency
  • Ten–The 2012 Campaign
  • Chapter Notes
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Index
Tags: , ,

Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness

Posted in Books, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2016-07-16 15:06Z by Steven

Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness

Routledge
2016
224 pages
1 B/W Illus.

Helen Young, Honorary Associate
Department of English
University of Sydney

This book illuminates the racialized nature of twenty-first century Western popular culture by exploring how discourses of race circulate in the Fantasy genre. It examines not only major texts in the genre, but also the impact of franchises, industry, editorial and authorial practices, and fan engagements on race and representation. Approaching Fantasy as a significant element of popular culture, it visits the struggles over race, racism, and white privilege that are enacted within creative works across media and the communities which revolve around them. While scholars of Science Fiction have explored the genre’s racialized constructs of possible futures, this book is the first examination of Fantasy to take up the topic of race in depth. The book’s interdisciplinary approach, drawing on Literary, Cultural, Fan, and Whiteness Studies, offers a cultural history of the anxieties which haunt Western popular culture in a century eager to declare itself post-race. The beginnings of the Fantasy genre’s habits of whiteness in the twentieth century are examined, with an exploration of the continuing impact of older problematic works through franchising, adaptation, and imitation. Young also discusses the major twenty-first century sub-genres which both re-use and subvert Fantasy conventions. The final chapter explores debates and anti-racist praxis in authorial and fan communities. With its multi-pronged approach and innovative methodology, this book is an important and original contribution to studies of race, Fantasy, and twenty-first century popular culture.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Re-thinking Genre, Thinking About Race
  • 1. Founding Fantasy: J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard
  • 2. Forming Habits: Derivation, Imitation, and Adaptation
  • 3. The Real Middle Ages: Gritty Fantasy
  • 4. Orcs and Otherness: Monsters on Page and Screen
  • 5. Popular Culture Postcolonialism
  • 6. Relocating Roots: Urban Fantasy
  • 7. Breaking Habits and Digital Communication
  • Afterword
Tags: , ,

Making Jokes and History in An Octoroon

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-15 01:23Z by Steven

Making Jokes and History in An Octoroon

African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)
2016-06-25

Christopher Bonner, Assistant Professor of History
University of Maryland

Last weekend I saw a performance of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins‘ play An Octoroon, which is a reimagining of Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon, a popular 1859 melodrama set on a Louisiana plantation. There is a kind of humor inherent in using pieces of The Octoroon, with its excessive melodrama and absurd stereotypes, such as the moments when Zoe, the titular octoroon, wallows in the tragedy of her “mulattoness.” But what I found most interesting about the play are the ways that Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins finds and creates humor for his enslaved characters, especially Dido and Minnie, a mismatched pair of enslaved women who are truly the stars of An Octoroon. By imagining these women’s stories, Jacobs-Jenkins transforms a racist play with a minor critique of southern justice into an exploration of enduring problems of racism and injustice and the misremembering of American slavery…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

Soma Text: Living, Writing, and Staging Racial Hybridity

Posted in Books, Canada, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2016-07-10 20:42Z by Steven

Soma Text: Living, Writing, and Staging Racial Hybridity

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
January 2017
295 pages
ISBN13: 978-1-77112-240-5

Michelle La Flamme, Professor of English
University of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada

Canada’s history is bicultural, Indigenous, and multilingual, and these characteristics have given risen to a number of strategies used by our writers to code racially mixed characters. This book examines contemporary Canadian literature and drama in order to tease out some of those strategies and the social and cultural factors that inform them.

Racially hybrid characters in literature have served a matrix of needs. They are used as shorthand for interracial desire, signifiers of taboo love, images of impurity, symbols of degeneration, and examples of beauty and genetic perfection. Their fates have been used to suggest the futility of marrying across racial lines, or the revelation of their “one drop” signals a climactic downfall. Other narratives suggest mixed-race bodies are foundational to colonization and signify contact between colonial and Indigenous bodies.

Author Michelle LaFlamme approaches racial hybridity with a cross-generic and cross-racial approach, unusual in the field of hybridity studies, by analyzing characters with different racial mixes in autobiographies, fiction, and drama. Her analysis privileges literary texts and the voices of artists rather than sociological explanations of the mixed-race experience. The book suggests that the hyper-visualization of mixed-race bodies in mono-racial contexts creates a scopophilic interest in how those bodies look and perform race.

La Flamme’s term “soma text” draws attention to the constructed, performative aspects of this form of embodiment. The writers she examines witness that living in a racially hybrid and ambiguous body is a complex engagement that involves reading and decoding the body in sophisticated ways, involving both the multiracial body and the racialized gaze of the onlooker.

Tags: ,

“Yes We Can” Barack Obama’s Proverbial Rhetoric

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2016-07-09 19:44Z by Steven

“Yes We Can” Barack Obama’s Proverbial Rhetoric

Peter Lang Publishing
2009
352 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4331-0668-2
Softcover ISBN: 978-1-4331-0667

Wolfgang Mieder, Professor of German and Folklore
University of Vermont

As President Barack Obama outlined his promise for change during the presidential campaign, he made effective use of proverbs and proverbial phrases, and invented many quotable epithets that have all the makings of future proverbs. This book examines how Obama’s natural and authentic reliance on traditional metaphors enhances his impressive rhetoric, rather than reducing it to mere sound bites. Proverbs, with their often colorful metaphors, add expressiveness and emotion to his communications, giving people the opportunity to follow his pragmatic or philosophical arguments through common language. No matter the subject, Obama’s prose contains metaphorical language that makes his rhetoric and oratory universally accessible.

This book contains detailed analyses of the proverbial rhetoric in Obama’s books Dreams from My Father (1995) and The Audacity of Hope (2006). A section looks at his proverbial language in 229 speeches, news conferences, interviews, and radio addresses, and the final section presents in-depth studies of his seven most significant addresses. It includes a comprehensive contextualized index of 1714 proverbial texts found within the writings and speeches from Obama’s political beginnings to his memorable inaugural address.

Tags: ,

Paul Gilroy: Race and ‘Useful Violence’

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2016-07-09 15:22Z by Steven

Paul Gilroy: Race and ‘Useful Violence’

Public Seminar
2016-07-08

McKenzie Wark, Professor of Culture and Media in Liberal Studies
The New School for Social Research


#BLM passes The New School.

Aimé Césaire called it: the so-called west is a decaying civilization. In both the United States and Europe, where institutions are receding, a base level of race-talk and racial solidarity is revealed as metastasizing beneath them. In such dim times, I turn to the writings of Paul Gilroy as offering an anti-racist vision that is transnational and cosmopolitan, but which draws on popular and vernacular forms of hybridity rather than elite ones.

In Darker than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture (Harvard 2010), Gilroy offers a series of essays on the culture of what he has famously called the Black Atlantic (Verso 1993) as an alternative to race-talk but which is also outside of the various alternative nationalisms that flourish as a response. It is not reducible to liberalism, and it also attempts to fend off incorporation into the culture industry. That might be an urgent project for this “age of rendition.” (87) One in which in Judith Butler’s terms that which is grievable, or in Donna Haraway’s that which is killable, are respectively diminishing and expanding categories.

Gilroy is wary of responses to racism that borrow from it. He would probably strongly reject Chantal Mouffe’s understanding of all politics as necessarily based on a tangible equality of participation in a shared substance, which the necessarily excludes the other as unequal to us. Hence he is not any more inclined towards Black nationalism than towards any other. Instead, he builds upon the moral economies of the Black Atlantic, in which the struggle against slavery and racism pose the question of a trans-national belonging, or what I would call he problem of species-being. Just as EP Thompson saw the English working class as self-making, Gilroy is interested in the coming in to being of a people in struggle, but beyond Thompson’s rather provincial national frame. Along with others influenced by the cultural studies tradition such as Andrew Ross and Angela McRobbie, he is interested more in vernacular than elite cultural forms…

…Gilroy: “What answers does the mixed-race person give to the apostles of purity, who can be found in all communities?” (103) Marley borrowed from Jamaican rude boys, from Curtis Mayfield, but also from Black Power: ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ as a famous Marley song has it – but not the deputy. For Gilroy, Marley is a version of Blackness that can include, but is not reducible to, African-American culture. It borrows from the diasporic cult of Ethiopia but makes it more a symbolic than an actual homeland. From the Rastafarians it also takes a view of wage-work not as self-mastery but as an extension of slavery. From the discovery of swinging London it evolves into the ‘Kinky Reggae’ of the ‘Midnight Ravers’.

Where Marley had been an itinerant worker, Hendrix was a former soldier, who swapped the ‘Machine gun’ for the electric guitar, itself also bound up in curious ways with military technology. He produced an Afro-futurist sound that was, as Caetano Veloso put it, “half blues, half Stockhausen” (130) Gilroy: “Hendrix’s career tells us that by this point, black music could produce its own public world: a social corona that could nourish or host an alternative sensibility, a structure of feeling that might function to make wrongs and injustices more bearable in the short term but could also promote a sense of different possibilities, providing healing glimpses of an alternative moral, artistic, and political order.” (147)…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,