Respecting and Celebrating Black Writing and Storytelling presented by Dr Anita Heiss

Posted in Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, Native Americans/First Nation, Oceania on 2015-07-01 17:37Z by Steven

Respecting and Celebrating Black Writing and Storytelling presented by Dr Anita Heiss

Flinders University
182 Victoria Square
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
2015-07-09, 18:00-19:00 ACDT (Local Time)


Anita Heiss

A NAIDOC Week event co-hosted by Yunggorendi First Nations Centre with the School of Humanities and Creative Arts

Anita will address staff, students and members of the community for NAIDOC Week around this year’s theme: We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate.

This seminar will discuss the ways in which Aboriginal authors across genres write about concepts of space, respect for place and connection to country, and why we should be celebrating this new Australian literature…

For more information, click here.

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Review: Misty Copeland Debuts as Odette/Odile in ‘Swan Lake’

Posted in Arts, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-06-29 22:05Z by Steven

Review: Misty Copeland Debuts as Odette/Odile in ‘Swan Lake’

The New York Times
2015-06-25

Alastair Macaulay, Dance Critic


Misty Copeland and James Whiteside in “Swan Lake.” Julieta Cervantes for The New York Times

When Misty Copeland made her New York debut in the double role of Odette/Odile in “Swan Lake,” the most epic role in world ballet, two aspects of the performance on Wednesday afternoon proved marvelous. One: that it all happened successfully. Two: the curtain calls.

Let everyone know henceforth that an African-American ballerina has danced this exalted role with American Ballet Theater at the prestigious Metropolitan Opera House. Let everyone know that other African-American dancers, Raven Wilkinson (who danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1955-61) and Lauren Anderson (who, with the Houston Ballet, was the first African-American ballerina to become a principal of an American ballet company), brought her bouquets onstage. And let everyone know that her fellow dancers shared her applause with pride. (The enthusiasm and affection shown by James Whiteside, who partnered her as Prince Siegfried, was especially engaging.)

As Odette, the Swan Queen, Ms. Copeland has moments of courage and grandeur when you feel the heroic scale of Tchaikovsky’s celebrated drama. She runs boldly around the stage like a creature accustomed to vast space; she raises her arms with the epic sweep of mighty wings. In other respects, she’s admirable but without striking individuality. The substance of “Swan Lake” is there, but in potential. I hope she dances it again and reveals more in it…

Read the entire review here.

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White Womanhood Revised

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-06-16 02:08Z by Steven

White Womanhood Revised

Avidly: A Los Angeles Review of Books Channel
2015-06-15

Brigitte Fielder, Assistant Professor
Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Whatever else we might say about it, let’s not forget this: Rachel Dolezal’s story is a decidedly American one. Here, I refer not only to story of Dolezal’s racial passing, but also to how Dolezal’s story triggers and reveals America’s racial fascinations. Whatever Dolezal’s motives or ethics, our scrutiny of Dolezal’s race echoes a long history of parsing race in the United States more generally.

Much of the conversation about Dolezal proceeds within long-standing US assumptions about how race “works”: if her biological parents are “really” white people, then so is she, and therefore she cannot be black. While Dolezal is a member of an interracial family, she seems to have no mixed-race African American genealogy, and this is the single deciding factor about her own race. In effect, these assumptions tell us that there is no way for a woman who was born white (i.e., to white parents) to become black. For her to claim blackness, then, is a conscious act of deception.

But for all the clarity these assumptions provide, they are not the only American story about race and womanhood. Even as Americans want race to be simple and essentialist, American racial ideologies rarely allows it to be. Race, Dolezal’s story reminds us, is connected to the history of racial justice work and interracial collaboration, and complicated by relations of power and privilege. Her story also reminds us how race is connected to not only biological relationships, but also to social relationships. For a scholar of race and nineteenth-century literature like myself, Dolezal’s complex (and confusing) story calls to mind other stories of white womanhood revised.

Consider how Dolezal’s American Story aligns with this fictional one: Kate Chopin’s 1893 short story, “Désirée’s Baby.” In the story, Désirée, a woman of unknown parentage, is adopted into a respectable white family and marries the wealthy son of slaveholders, Armand Aubigny. When Désirée and Armand’’s baby begins to show signs of being mixed-race, Armand argues that, because the baby does not look white, it is not white. The appearance of Désirée’s baby calls Désirée’s race into question…

Read the entire article here.

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The Mulatta Concubine: Terror, Intimacy, Freedom, and Desire in the Black Transatlantic

Posted in Africa, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Slavery, United States, Women on 2015-06-14 16:51Z by Steven

The Mulatta Concubine: Terror, Intimacy, Freedom, and Desire in the Black Transatlantic

University of Georgia Press
2016-01-15
248 pages
8 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8203-4896-4
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8203-4897-1

Lisa Ze Winters, Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies
Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan

Exploring the geographies, genealogies, and concepts of race and gender of the African diaspora produced by the Atlantic slave trade

Popular and academic representations of the free mulatta concubine repeatedly depict women of mixed black African and white racial descent as defined by their sexual attachment to white men, and thus they offer evidence of the means to and dimensions of their freedom within Atlantic slave societies. In The Mulatta Concubine, Lisa Ze Winters contends that the uniformity of these representations conceals the figure’s centrality to the practices and production of diaspora.

Beginning with a meditation on what captive black subjects may have seen and remembered when encountering free women of color living in slave ports, the book traces the echo of the free mulatta concubine across the physical and imaginative landscapes of three Atlantic sites: Gorée Island, New Orleans, and Saint Domingue (Haiti). Ze Winters mines an archive that includes a 1789 political petition by free men of color, a 1737 letter by a free black mother on behalf of her daughter, antebellum newspaper reports, travelers’ narratives, ethnographies, and Haitian Vodou iconography. Attentive to the tenuousness of freedom, Ze Winters argues that the concubine figure’s manifestation as both historical subject and African diasporic goddess indicates her centrality to understanding how free and enslaved black subjects performed gender, theorized race and freedom, and produced their own diasporic identities.

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The Time of the Multiracial

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2015-06-01 22:20Z by Steven

The Time of the Multiracial

American Literary History
Published Online: 2015-06-01
DOI: 10.1093/alh/ajv026

Habiba Ibrahim, Associate Professor of English
University of Washington, Seattle

Habiba Ibrahim is the author of  Troubling the Family: The Promise of Personhood and the Rise of Multiracialism (2012). Her current book project, Oceanic Lifespans, examines how age and racial blackness have been mutually constituted.

These three recent studies all read how mixed racialism expresses and challenges the terms of US nationalism during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Collectively, they account for a period when the nation developed as a global force through a series of racializing projects, implemented through intra- and international war, imperialist expansion and conquest, and the consolidation of the color line at home. Tropes such as miscegenation, tragic mulatta, and genres of mixedness such as the “racial romance” (Sheffer 3) reveal a key aspect of the cultural imagination during the turbulent era that led up to and inaugurated the “American Century.” Figures of deviant intimacy—interracial sex, incest, same-sex filiation—and figures of gender, such as the mulatto/a, and the tragic muse revealed the cultural outcomes of the unfinished project of nation building. All of these studies take racial mixedness and its correlating categories as key analytical starting points for unmasking the neutrality or invisibility of state power. Thus, they bring to mind the urgency of the current moment: what analytics can interrupt the post-ness—postracialism, postfeminism, and postidentitarianism—of the present?

1. Neoliberalism, Postidentity

Twenty years ago, mixed racialism first appealed to literary scholars because it offered a critical space in which to explore the era’s political contradictions and transitions. During the heyday of the so-called multiracial movement, key developments in the cultural politics of identity were well under way. The culture wars were still raging with neoconservative moralists and left-of-center liberals vying for influence over social and political life. At the same time, neoconservatives…

Read or purchase the review of the three books here.

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Tony Williams’ “Wilderness” and Mixed-Race Identity through Jazz

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-05-27 02:31Z by Steven

Tony Williams’ “Wilderness” and Mixed-Race Identity through Jazz

Soundscapes and Such: Critical Thoughts on Sonic Subjects
2015-05-27

Shawn M. Higgins
University of Connecticut


Tony Williams (source: Wikipedia)

Why do song writers choose the song titles they do? Perhaps Herbie Hancock’s 1980 track “4 A.M.” was recorded at that exact time – or maybe finished then? The song isn’t sleepy and lethargic as I might connotatively connect with the before-dawn hour, but jazz musicians are infamously night owls, and the song’s rhythm suggests this might be the funkiest, most active hour of the cycle. The title of John Coltrane’s 1967 song “Stellar Regions”, through the frenzied, echoing cymbal work of Rashied Ali and Coltrane’s trilling, screaming saxophone, could serve in a Romantic sense to invoke feelings of a paean to the heavens. The listeners, upon closing their eyes, are sonically shot into space and flung around the cosmos through the combination of music and such a song title. And of course, one of Duke Ellington’s most famous songs, which is in turn an absolute standard of jazz today, was given a title by the composer Billy Strayhorn after Duke gave him directions to his house and told him to “Take the ‘A’ Train.” None of these songs at the time of their composure had any lyrics to support these titles either in a refrain or in any thematic way. Rather, the listener is encouraged to interpret the sounds alongside the title or through the title. What happens in this exchange between artist, product, and consumer is my primary interest, and I would like to point to one artist in particular who used his song titles as a conscious way of addressing his newly discovered mixed-race identity.

Tony Williams, the legendary jazz drummer who is credited with inventing the “blast beat” and who called legends like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and John McLaughlin his musical partners, candidly explained in a 1995 BET interview a recent revelation in his life. Williams had discovered at the age of roughly forty-nine that he was of a racially mixed ancestry – he was phenotypically African American but also of Chinese and Portuguese background…

Read the entire article here.

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Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature by Diana Adesola Mafe (review)

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, South Africa, United States on 2015-05-26 01:30Z by Steven

Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature by Diana Adesola Mafe (review)

Research in African Literatures
Volume 46, Number 2, Summer 2015
pages 166-168

Tru Leverette, Associate Professor of English
University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida

Mafe, Diana Adesola, Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature: Coloring Outside the (Black and White) Lines (New York, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

In her recently published study, Diana Adesola Mafe explores the literary trope of the tragic mulatto through a comparative analysis of American and South African novels. Her work is both useful and timely, filling a gap in the literary study of colouredness and the transnational study of mixed race literature. Through this transnational lens, Mafe argues that the advent of the “age of Obama” and the renewed celebration of race mixture in the United States coincide with South Africa’s post-apartheid efforts to imagine itself as a Rainbow Nation. This celebration in both nations, however, overlooks important historical realities that are often explored through the literary figure of the tragic mulatto. Acknowledging that mulattos have often been “called upon to embody historic national moments” (1), Mafe asserts “a reading of South African fictions alongside American counterparts reveals the ongoing relevance of the tragic mulatto, which functions not only as a dated cliché and cautionary tale but also as a radical embodiment of possibility and a vehicle for social critique” (2). Indeed, Mafe illustrates through her analysis that the tragic mulatto has long functioned as a trope through which American and South African writers have critiqued race, identity, national belonging, and state-sanctioned racism.

Mafe begins her study with the introduction “Tainted Blood: The ‘Tragic Mulatto’ Tradition,” wherein she introduces the celebration of mixture within the contemporary sociopolitical contexts of the United States and South Africa. She also begins to address the tragic mulatto as a historical type. Acknowledging that, in the United States, the tragic mulatto trope developed as an abolitionist tool, Mafe briefly explores its origins in antebellum and postbellum literature. Additionally, she presents a justification for her comparative study, arguing “the tragic mulatto is a provocative keystone for analyzing these American and South African texts, which might otherwise have little else in common. When read alongside each other, these fictions expose mutual histories of stigmatization and marginalization for the mulatto figure” (14).

In chapter one, “God’s Stepchildren: The ‘Tragedy of Being a Halfbreed’ in South African Literature,” Mafe offers a history of miscegenation in South Africa and the United States, allowing her to trace the origins of the coloured and mulatto populations, respectively, in each nation. Having delineated this history, Mafe then turns her attention to the use of colouredness in South African fiction, which, she asserts, was not offered in-depth characterization until the twentieth century: “This development is inextricable from the emergence of colouredness as a ‘new’ social identity, mounting national interest in race categorization, and a literary shift from exploring Anglo-Boer relations to exploring black-white relations” (34). Through analyses of Sarah Gertrude Millin’s eugenicist novel God’s Step-Children and Peter Abrahams’s The Path of Thunder, Mafe establishes the literary origins and original uses of the tragic mulatto trope in South African literature. Throughout, she draws parallels with and highlights divergences from the use of the trope in American literature, in particular Nella Larsen’s Quicksand and Passing and James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man.

In her next chapter, “‘An Unlovely Woman’: Bessie Head’s Mulatta (Re) Vision,” Mafe turns her analysis to the life and work of South African writer Bessie Head, specifically her novel A Question of Power, arguing “this text is a startling conceptualization of the mulatta that parallels but also challenges the efforts of earlier American writers” (59). Mafe explores the stereotype of the beautiful tragic mulatta and Head’s inversion of it through the presentation of an ugly protagonist, simultaneously exploring the novel’s ironic use of madness and its presentation of female sexuality. Since depictions of the tragic mulatta typically position her between the demands of white female respectability and the stereotype of black female passion, Head’s protagonist “destabilizes the exotic and erotic iconography of the mulatta, which is remarkably consistent in the American tradition” (63).

Turning from the tragic mulatta, in chapter three Mafe analyzes presentations of the mulatto man’s sexuality, again torn between “‘white’ propriety and ‘black’ passion” (86) and his filial relationship to his white father. In “‘A Little Yellow Bastard Boy’: Arthur Nortje’s Mulatto Manhood,” Mafe reads the father-son dynamic in…

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What’s Radical About “Mixed Race?”

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-05-19 19:29Z by Steven

What’s Radical About “Mixed Race?”

Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU
8 Washington Mews
New York, New York 10003
Phone: (212) 998-3700
Monday, 2015-04-20, 18:00-20:00 EDT (Local Time) | Free

Since the 1990s, mainstream media has heralded the growing population of self-identified “mixed race” people in the US and Canada as material proof of a post-racial era (a recent example: National Geographic‘s 2013 feature “The Changing Face of America,” whose title paraphrases a Time feature [at right] from two decades prior). Meanwhile, foundational multiracial activists and scholars like Maria Root claim a doubled oppression—racism via white supremacy and ostracizing from so-called “monoracial” people of color. A growing body of Critical Mixed Race Studies literature is challenging both positions, questioning the assumption that multiracial activism and scholarship is necessarily anti-racist.

Minelle Mahtani critically locates how an apolitical and ahistorical Canadian “model multiracial” upholds the multicultural claims of the Canadian settler state. Jared Sexton calls to task multiracial activists who leverage a mixed race identity in opposition to those who are “all black, all the time.”

Eschewing an apolitical “celebration” of mixed race, this panel examines the movement’s implications for multiracial coalition and the future of race in the US and Canada, asking: does the multiracial movement challenge—or actually reinforce—the logics of structural racism?…

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Two Takes on ‘Imitation of Life’: Exploitation in Eastmancolor

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-05-17 23:22Z by Steven

Two Takes on ‘Imitation of Life’: Exploitation in Eastmancolor

The New York Times
2015-05-14

J. Hoberman

“I would have made the picture just for the title,” Douglas Sirk said of his last Hollywood production, “Imitation of Life” (1959). But, newly released on Blu-ray by Universal, along with its original version, directed in 1934 by John M. Stahl, the movie is far more than an evocative turn of phrase.

This tale of two single mothers, one black and the other white — and of maternal love, exploitation and crossing the color line — is a magnificent social symptom. Both versions were taken from the 1933 best seller by Fannie Hurst, a generally maligned popular writer if one whose novels, the historian Ann Douglas notes in “Terrible Honesty,” her study of Jazz Age culture, constitute “a neglected source on the emergence of modern feminine sexuality.”

Mr. Stahl’s “Imitation of Life” movie was certainly the “shameless tear-jerker” that the New York Times reviewer Andre Sennwald called it, as well as a prime example of the melodramatic mode known in the Yiddish theater as “mama-drama.” But it was not without progressive intent and, released during the second year of the New Deal, addressed issues of race, class and gender almost head-on.

The white protagonist, Bea Pullman (Claudette Colbert), is a not-quite-self-made businesswoman; the most complex and sympathetic character, Peola Johnson (Fredi Washington), is a casualty of American racism, both institutionalized and internalized. Behind both is the self-effacing powerhouse known as Aunt Delilah (Louise Beavers), who is the light-skinned Peola’s black mother and the source of the secret recipe on which Bea founds her pancake empire — not to mention its smiling trademark.

Happily ripped off by her white partner for the rest of her life, Beavers embodies exploited African-American labor, something the movie acknowledges by giving her a funeral on the level of a state occasion. The real martyr, however, is Washington’s Peola. The film historian Donald Bogle called her “a character in search of a movie” — but the tragic mulatto is the only part Hollywood would allow this accomplished and politically aware actress to play. In effect, she dramatizes her own segregated condition on screen…

Read the entire article here.

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Transatlantic Spectacles of Race: The Tragic Mulatta and the Tragic Muse by Kimberly Snyder Manganelli (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2015-05-10 01:37Z by Steven

Transatlantic Spectacles of Race: The Tragic Mulatta and the Tragic Muse by Kimberly Snyder Manganelli (review)

Callaloo
Volume 38, Number 2, Spring 2015
pages 405-408

Justin Rogers-Cooper, Associate Professor of English
LaGuardia Community College/City University of New York, Long Island City, New York

Manganellia, Kimberly S., Transatlantic Spectacles of Race: The Tragic Mulatta and the Tragic Muse (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2012)

In her accessible and original book, Kimberly Synder Manganelli examines the circulation of two key figures in nineteenth-century culture and literature, the Tragic Mulatta and the Tragic Muse, by following their evolution over the course of the nineteenth century. The book’s novelty arises from its insistence that these “two crucial literary types” should be compared across national boundaries, and should be understood as complimentary cultural archetypes (6). On both counts she succeeds, though her discussions about the life-choices possible for these figures reveal much of the text’s power. Victorianists will mark Manganelli’s transnational methodology, and literary scholars may enjoy her parallel analysis of African American and Jewish characters. Feminist and women’s studies scholars will note her attention to the sexual politics of erotic commodification linked to the commercial circulation of these genre types. The general reader will follow how “mixed-race” female protagonists won social mobility and confronted male exploitation as they maneuvered the auction block, the public stage, and the home.

Manganelli’s introduction provides a general context for her themes. She notes the transnational cult of true womanhood in the nineteenth century, and how the figures of the Tragic Muse and Tragic Mulatta intersected and diverged from it. Relying on scholars such as Shawn Michelle Smith, Manganelli asserts that these two types upset codes of ideal womanhood, an idea structured around white women, by creating a “crisis of visibility in the public sphere” (9). Many narratives revolved around the vulnerability of mixed-race women to male predation. For the enslaved Tragic Mulatta, this danger was particularly acute, and often reduced her choices to sexual submission or death. The Tragic Muse, on the other hand, functioned somewhat differently. Her artistic prowess and magnetic sexuality often allowed her other options. Transatlantic Spectacles of Race emphasizes how both types of heroines attempted “to resist the conventional narratives” (16).

In her first chapter, Manganelli looks to British, French, and American travel narratives from Jamaica and Saint-Domingue to examine how “contradictory images of white and mixed-race Creoles . . . created the Transnational Mulatta, an imperial figure who preceded the imperiled Tragic Mulatta in the eighteenth-century transatlantic imaginary” (18). The mixed-race West Indian woman inspired fears that cycled throughout the nineteenth century: she might “threaten the purity of English blood,” in this case through intermarriages by families seeking her wealth and property (26). In turn, Manganelli turns to texts such as Laurette Ravinet’s Mémoires d’une Créole du Port-au-Prince (1844) to elaborate on the ways colonial societies tried to differentiate mixed-race and white women. She argues the Transnational Mulatta morphed from mistress to heiress in novels such as the anonymously published The Woman of Color (1808) and Leonara Samsay’s Zelica, the Creole (1820), a development that would see wider reproduction decades later in novels such as Jane Eyre (1847). She argues that the Saint-Domingue Revolution altered the depiction of mixed-race West Indian women for British and American authors, from a voiceless body of anxiety and fantasy into a domestic dependent.

The second chapter extends Manganelli’s inquiry into the formation of the Tragic Mulatta by looking at the practice of plaçage in antebellum New Orleans, where free women of color could arrange financial and sexual relationships with wealthy men. Manganelli maps their transformation from “self-marketing and self-commodification to the stereotypical Tragic Mulatta, who had no sexual agency and possessed no ownership of her body” (38). As in West Indian travel narratives, some in New Orleans showed concern over segregating free women of color from white women, and therefore were upset by integrated dancehalls and by the public display of wealth by beautiful placées. In the abolitionist era, though, she tells that writers romanticized placées more frequently as “victims of interracial marriage laws” (42). Although the relative autonomy of the placées gave them “a purchase on whiteness and a certain degree of protection and economic freedom,” they remained exposed to the “racial peril” of enslavement: auctions for fair-skinned “fancy girls” brought high prices (55). Rendered both “virtuous and wanton,” the placées inspired Joseph Ingraham’s sensation novel The Quadroone, or, St. Michael’s Day

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