Yes, the new ‘Daily Show’ host is black. And he’s spent his career making fun of African Americans.

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-01 18:05Z by Steven

Yes, the new ‘Daily Show’ host is black. And he’s spent his career making fun of African Americans.

The Washington Post

Wendy Todd, Social Media Coordinator
St. Louis Public Radio, St. Louis, Missouri

So much for that “fresh perspective” on race.

News that Trevor Noah would replace Jon Stewart as the new host of “The Daily Show” brought a collective round of applause for the South African comedian and his “fresh” perspective and “fresh takes on race.” Critics have long lamented the lack of color among late-night TV hosts, and now a black man has gotten one of the plum hosting gigs.

Noah might look like an enlightened choice, but his routines show he isn’t — his jokes often hinge on insulting African Americans.

Back in 2012, Noah made his first American appearance, on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” The bulk of his routine was composed of jokes about black Americans. The United States, he said, was not “the America he was promised,” and “America has the credit of a black man.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Blood Work: Imagining Race in American Literature, 1890-1940

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2015-03-29 20:12Z by Steven

Blood Work: Imagining Race in American Literature, 1890-1940

Louisiana State University Press
January 2015
240 pages
5.50 x 8.50 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780807157848

Shawn Salvant, Assistant Professor of English and African American
University of Connecticut

The invocation of blood—as both an image and a concept—has long been critical in the formation of American racism. In Blood Work, Shawn Salvant mines works from the American literary canon to explore the multitude of associations that race and blood held in the consciousness of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Americans.

Drawing upon race and metaphor theory, Salvant provides readings of four classic novels featuring themes of racial identity: Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894); Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood (1902); Frances Harper’s Iola Leroy (1892); and William Faulkner’s Light in August (1932). His expansive analysis of blood imagery uncovers far more than the merely biological connotations that dominate many studies of blood rhetoric: the racial discourses of blood in these novels encompass the anthropological and the legal, the violent and the religious. Penetrating and insightful, Blood Work illuminates the broad-ranging power of the blood metaphor to script distinctly American plots—real and literary—of racial identity.

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Tropics of Haiti: Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2015-03-29 20:01Z by Steven

Tropics of Haiti: Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865

Liverpool University Press
May 2015
848 pages
234 x 156mm
Hardback ISBN: 9781781381847
Paperback ISBN: 9781781381854

Marlene L. Daut, Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Studies
Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California

The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) was an event of monumental world-historical significance, and here, in the first systematic literary history of those events, Haiti’s war of independence is examined through the eyes of its actual and imagined participants, observers, survivors, and cultural descendants. The ‘transatlantic print culture of the Haitian Revolution’ that this literary history shows was created by novelists, poets, dramatists, memoirists, biographers, historians, journalists, and eye-witness observers, revealing enlightenment racial ‘science’ as the primary vehicle through which the Haitian Revolution was interpreted, historicized, memorialized, and fictionalized by nineteenth-century Haitians, Europeans, and U.S. Americans alike.

Through its author’s contention that the Haitian revolutionary wars were incessantly racialized by four constantly recurring racial tropes—the ‘monstrous hybrid’, the ‘tropical temptress’, the ‘tragic mulatto/a’, and the ‘mulatto legend of history’, Tropics of Haiti shows the ways in which the nineteenth-century tendency to understand Haiti’s revolution in primarily racial terms has affected present day demonizations of Haiti and Haitians. In the end, this new archive of Haitian revolutionary writing, much of which has until now remained unknown to the contemporary reading public, invites us to examine how nineteenth-century attempts to paint Haitian independence as the result of a racial revolution coincides with present-day desires to render insignificant and ‘unthinkable’ the second independent republic of the New World.


  • PRELUDE: On “Haitian Exceptionalism”
  • INTRODUCTION: From Enlightenment Literacy to Mulatto/a Vengeance
    • 1. Baron de Vastey, Colonial Discourse, and the Global “Scientific” Sphere
    • 2. Monstrous Testimony and Baron de Vastey in 19th-Century Historical Writing About Haiti
    • 3. Victor Hugo and the Rhetorical Possibilities of Monstrous Hybridity in Revolutionary Fiction
    • 4. Moreau de Saint-Méry’s Daughter and La Mulâtre comme il y a beaucoup de blanches (1803)
    • 5. “Born to Command:” Leonora Sansay and the Paradoxes of Female Resistance in Zelica; the Creole
    • 6. Theresa to the Rescue!: African American Women’s Resistance and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution
    • 7. “Sons of White Fathers”: The Tragic Mulatto/a and the Haitian Revolution in Victor Séjour’s “Le Mulâtre”
    • 8. Between the Family and the Nation: Toussaint L’Ouverture and The Interracial Family Romance of the Haitian Revolution
    • 9. Romance and the Republic: Eméric Bergeaud’s Ideal History of the Haitian Revolution
    • 10. The Color of History: The Transatlantic Abolitionist Movement and William Wells Brown’s “Never-to-be-forgiven-course-of the-mulattoes”
    • 11. Victor Schoelcher, “L’Imagination Jaune,” and the Francophone Geneaology of the “Mulatto Legend of History”
    • 12. “Let us Be Humane after the Victory: Pierre Faubert’s New Humanism
  • CODA : Today’s Haitian Exceptionalism
  • Works Cited
  • Index
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The Tragic Immigrant: Duality, Hybridity and the Discovery of Blackness in Mark Twain and James Weldon Johnson

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-20 20:13Z by Steven

The Tragic Immigrant: Duality, Hybridity and the Discovery of Blackness in Mark Twain and James Weldon Johnson

Volume 82, Number 1, Spring 2015
pages 211-249
DOI: 10.1353/elh.2015.0001

Richard Hardack

Around the turn of the twentieth-century, a number of American writers imagined that European culture could help them develop an external perspective with which to reinterpret racial double-consciousness in the United States. In Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, European culture winds affirmed the binaries of race in the American South; but in James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, published eighteen years later, European culture helps foster ideas of cultural and racial hybridity, though they cannot be transferred entirely to America. I explore the “discovery” of blackness and final rejection of European identity common to Twain’s and Johnson’s novels. In Twain’s novel, the familiar figure of “the tragic mulatto” is juxtaposed with, and temporarily supplanted by, the more unexpected figure of the tragic immigrant, an outsider who can never become an assimilated American. Johnson then recalibrates Twain’s configuration of racial duality by turning the external conflict between African American mulatto and European immigrant twins into an internal struggle of double consciousness.

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John Rollin Ridge’s Joaquín Murieta: Sensation, Hispanicism, and Cosmopolitanism

Posted in Articles, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-19 02:01Z by Steven

John Rollin Ridge’s Joaquín Murieta: Sensation, Hispanicism, and Cosmopolitanism

Western American Literature
Volume 49, Number 4, Winter 2015
pages 321-349
DOI: 10.1353/wal.2015.0008

John C. Havard, Assistant Professor
Department of English and Philosophy
Auburn University, Montgomery, Alabama

The mixed-race Cherokee poet, journalist, and novelist John Rollin Ridge’s The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit (1854) is a sensation novel about racial upheaval in 1850s California. The work has become prominent in the study of US ethnic literatures largely because it is the first novel authored by a Native American. Many thus read it as a commentary on Indian Removal politics, with Ridge allegorizing his experience as a Cherokee through Joaquín’s sufferings. Several factors support this reading. The byline features Ridge’s tribal name, Yellow Bird, instead of his Anglicized name. Moreover, the publisher’s preface emphasizes Ridge’s ancestry and the Cherokee Nation’s plight in the years following the Trail of Tears. These framing moves played upon the marketable curiosity of a Cherokee novelist. They also prompted readers to draw a parallel between Cherokee Removal and the novel’s more ostensible concern for the dispossession of Mexicans in California. Moreover, Ridge’s characterization of Murieta as dashing, romantic, and vengeful reflects Ridge’s own reputation and self-image. Finally, the Westernized Murieta embodies the Cherokee adoption of Western social and political structures, a process that Ridge followed his family in promoting.

Readings elaborating these connections reflect Indian literary identity politics, nationalism, and indigenism. According to the often-overlapping nationalist and indigenist positions, Native authors ought to view literature as a valuable medium through which to speak with subtlety and nuance for the concerns of particular Indian nations and for the general human dignity of Indigenous peoples. Critics, likewise, are exhorted to explicate the specifically national, Indigenous aspects of Indian literature. As advocate for this movement Simon J. Ortiz explains,

Too much is at stake for easy, convenient images to adequately and appropriately represent Indigenous people, much less to bring attention to conditions and circumstances that need to be brought to light. Indigenous writers and poets such as myself can undertake this task to the best of our abilities by creating and composing literature.

What is at stake here, of course, is Native America’s need to protect its cultural and legal sovereignty against the legacies of European colonialism. As Ortiz claims, that struggle “has given substance to what is authentic” in Native literatures, animating the Indigenous, national consciousness of the surge in Native literary production since the 1970s (“Towards” 9, 11–12). Although Louis Owens is known for a hybridist account of Indian identity that is frequently contrasted to nationalist perspectives, he echoes a basic element of Ortiz’s premise in claiming that “for the contemporary Indian novelist . . . [the question of tensions between US American and Native American] identit[ies] is the central issue and theme” (5). For many critics, including Owens, Ridge’s novel prefigures contemporary Indian fiction in its pursuit of this theme.

I offer a non–mutually exclusive alternative interpretation that elaborates the novel’s cosmopolitanism. This cosmopolitanism, I argue in my first subsection, takes shape in Joaquín Murieta’s form. Often considered inchoate, the novel is, in fact, purposefully organized. This becomes apparent if we read it as a sensation novel. That Ridge put sensation to cosmopolitan purposes may seem surprising. Sensation is often associated with racist cliché, particularly in contrast to late-nineteenth-century social realism, which was commonly used to combat racial prejudice. However, in Ridge’s formulation, whereas social realism tends to imagine the nation in terms of the particularity of typical national actors, the sensation novel imagines the commonality of the peoples who meet in a narrative. If much sensation relies on racialist conventions, Ridge cleverly manipulates such conventions to propound his cosmopolitanism to his readers. This cosmopolitanism informs a critique of what can be termed Hispanicism, the discourse by which US imperialists bound the United States to liberalism by contrasting Americans with illiberal Hispanophone peoples. Through this strategy US imperialists rejected Hispanic claims to national sovereignty on the basis of a supposed Hispanic aversion to social and economic progress, an aversion exhibited in a rejection of liberal, democratic self-government. As I formulate this point in my second subsection, Ridge contests Hispanicism’s discursive violence by characterizing Murieta as a good liberal in contrast to…

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Great Character: Sam White (“Dear White People”)

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-03-18 19:36Z by Steven

Great Character: Sam White (“Dear White People”)

Go Into the Story

Scott Myer

The Great Character theme for the month: Rebel. Today: Sam White from Dear White People (2014), written and directed by Justin Simien.

As a biracial gentleman, it has been blatantly clear to me my entire movie-going existence that my distinct mixed race experience must be just some fairytale figment of my imagination to those shining the greenlight in Hollywood. Characters of multiple ethnicities typically find their stories swept under the dirty rug to give the red carpet treatment to the “more relatable” struggles of the interracial couples that give birth to us instead.

Enter the bold, brave, brilliant voice of Justin Simian, an auteur screenwriter/director of African-American descent and gay sexual orientation, inspired by his own outsider college occurrences. With Simian’s slick, super smart 2014 debut being the racial satire Dear White People, we receive a nuanced black and white female protagonist played by a charismatic actress that has the added layer of understanding stemming from actually being of mixed heritage herself. Heavily armed with a movie camera, a radio mic and a public speaking voice, Sam White, superbly played by Tessa Thompson (Selma), puts a modern spin on black activist Angela Davis reimagined in a bohemian chic Denise Huxtable Lisa Bonet fashion sensibility.

SAM WHITE: Dear white people, the minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has just been raised to two. Sorry, but your weed man, Tyrone, does not count…

Read the entire article here.

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Finding Grafton Tyler Brown, African American Artist

Posted in Articles, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-12 20:31Z by Steven

Finding Grafton Tyler Brown, African American Artist

Keith Skinner: Writer: Renegade Image: Fiction, memoir, travel & essays

Keith Skinner

I had never heard of Grafton Tyler Brown before. I was just trying to develop a character for my historical novel-in-progress, The Relentless Harvest.

The Search for a Character

It all started with a desire to raise the level of conversation in the lumber camp scenes set in 19th century Albion, California. Much of the dialogue I had written for those scenes featured hardened men with little or no education, men who generally were aware of little else than life in camp. I considered tossing a writer into their midst but quickly discounted the idea. I needed someone who would interact with and leave an impression on the men, someone who would ignite their imaginations. A writer would only isolate himself and would be unable to share his work with the largely illiterate loggers. Then I remembered all the vintage lithographs and drawings I had examined for my San Francisco scenes. What if an artist came to the woods to chronicle the emerging lumber industry?…

Read the entire article here.

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Signifying without Specifying: Racial Discourse in the Age of Obama

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-03-10 15:20Z by Steven

Signifying without Specifying: Racial Discourse in the Age of Obama

Rutgers University Press
November 2011
218 Pages
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-5143-2
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8135-5144-9
eBook ISBN: 978-0-8135-5210-1

Stephanie Li, Professor of English
Indiana University, Bloomington

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama faced a difficult task—rallying African American voters while resisting his opponents’ attempts to frame him as “too black” to govern the nation as a whole. Obama’s solution was to employ what Toni Morrison calls “race-specific, race-free language,” avoiding open discussions of racial issues while using terms and references that carried a specific cultural resonance for African American voters.

Stephanie Li argues that American politicians and writers are using a new kind of language to speak about race. Challenging the notion that we have moved into a “post-racial” era, she suggests that we are in an uneasy moment where American public discourse demands that race be seen, but not heard. Analyzing contemporary political speech with nuanced readings of works by such authors as Toni Morrison, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Colson Whitehead, Li investigates how Americans of color have negotiated these tensions, inventing new ways to signal racial affiliations without violating taboos against open discussions of race.

Table Of Contents

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Violence and Toni Morrison’s Racist House
  • 2. Hiding the Invisble Hurt of Race
  • 3. The Unspeakable Language of Race and Fantasy in the Stories of Jhumpa Lahiri
  • 4. Performing Intimacy: “Race-Specific, Race-Free Language” in Political Discourse
  • Conclusion: The Demands of Precious
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Beyond The Chinese Connection: Contemporary Afro-Asian Cultural Production by Crystal S. Anderson (review)

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-02 20:40Z by Steven

Beyond The Chinese Connection: Contemporary Afro-Asian Cultural Production by Crystal S. Anderson (review)

Journal of Asian American Studies
Volume 18, Number 1, February 2015
pages 107-109
DOI: 10.1353/jaas.2015.0003

Edlie Wong, Associate Professor of English
University of Maryland

Anderson, Crystal S., Beyond The Chinese Connection: Contemporary Afro-Asian Cultural Production (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2013).

Afro-Asian comparative racialization studies have begun to change how we think about race and its multiple and contradictory meanings across different periods of U.S. history. Beyond The Chinese Connection: Contemporary Afro-Asian Cultural Production contributes to this important trend in thinking about comparative constructions of race and cross-racial antagonisms and alliances. Earlier work on Afro-Asian comparative racialization such as Vijay Prashad’s Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting (2001) and Bill Mullen’s Afro-Orientalism (2004) tended to emphasize the revolutionary—indeed, at times utopian—forms of anticolonial transpacific polyculturalism and political collaborations. Anderson’s volume explicitly builds upon and broadens this work. According to Anderson, Afro-Asian comparative racialization studies often favor anticapitalist critiques, taking the 1955 Bandung conference as the storied origins of the global alignment of the political struggles of African and Asian peoples. In contrast, her book offers a self-described cultural approach that emphasizes historical and ethnic specificity, disarticulating the homogenizing panethnicities implied in the term “Afro-Asian” to consider “the way the histories of individual ethnic groups may impact their interaction with one another” (37).

There is perhaps no more fitting figure for this study than the martial arts film star Bruce Lee, whose cross-racial and cross-ethnic appeal transformed him into an Afro-Asian cultural icon in the 1970s. Anderson’s volume stages a series of encounters between Lee’s signature films—one for each of the four chapters—and a range of post-1990s novels, films, and popular culture revealing the complexities of inter- and intraethnic Afro-Asian interactions. Anderson begins with the film Way of the Dragon (1972) and charts Lee’s emergence as a transnational and cross-cultural phenomenon. “Lee’s legacy,” she argues, “functions as a framework to interrogate the contemporary landscape” (5). In chapter 2, Lee’s Enter the Dragon (1973) facilitates an exploration of the limits and possibilities of interethnic male friendship in Frank Chin’s novel Gunga Din Highway (1994) and two mainstream Hollywood films, Rush Hour 2 (2001) and Unleashed (2005). In chapter 3, Lee’s The Chinese Connection (1972) allows Anderson to examine the theme of ethnic imperialism in Ishmael Reed’s satirical novel Japanese by Spring (1993) and the Japanese anime series Samurai Champloo (2004), while Lee’s The Big Boss (1971) frames the final chapter on intra- and interethnic conflict and solidarity in Paul Beatty’s novel White Boy Shuffle (1996) and the highly popular Matrix science fiction film trilogy (1999 (2003). These cultural case studies allow Anderson ample opportunity to engage in broader historical contextualization and considerations of Afro-Asian social dynamics. In the case of Rush Hour 2 and Unleashed, Anderson draws attention away from film reception to explore the historical underpinnings of their plots and characterizations, from Rush Hour 2’s eroticization of Chinese women and the 1875 Page Act equating all Chinese women with prostitutes to the economic exploitation of the Chinese coolie reformulated in Unleashed’s plot of human trafficking.

Anderson organizes these cultural readings according to how each work constructs Afro-Asian cross-cultural dynamics along a broad “continuum of intercultural interactions” (3). At one end of this spectrum lies what she identifies as “cultural emulsion.” A concept drawn from Homi K. Bhabha’s theory of hybridity, cultural emulsion designates those instances where “cultures come together but do not mix in response to pressures to reinforce ethnic or national boundaries” (3). Against this more limited form of cultural distancing, Anderson counterpoises the concept of “cultural translation,” which “uses one ethnic culture to interpret another ethnic culture” and “recognizes more complex combinations of cultures” across national boundaries (35). This framework of emulsion and translation lends a somewhat static quality to Anderson’s detailed readings, and the most compelling of the case studies predictably land on the cultural translation end of the spectrum. For example, Anderson explores how Samurai Champloo’s uses of African American hip-hop and graffiti aesthetics transform animated tales of eighteenth-century Japan into social commentaries aimed at urban Japanese youth culture. Her reading of White Boy Shuffle emphasizes Beatty’s experimentation with Japanese aesthetics and his encoding of African American political disillusionment in the subplot of ritual suicide and…

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Review: ‘An Octoroon,’ a Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Comedy About Race

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-02 01:18Z by Steven

Review: ‘An Octoroon,’ a Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Comedy About Race

The New York Times

Ben Brantley, Chief Theater Critic

Walking on a stage covered with cotton balls is a tricky business. It’s all too easy to slip into a pratfall. And forget about running or dancing or hopping like a bunny, as the characters sometimes unwisely attempt in “An Octoroon,” Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s coruscating comedy of unresolved history, which opened on Thursday night at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn.

But it feels right that the people occupying this production, first seen last year at Soho Rep, should be required to move on what might be called terra infirma. For Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins has deliberately built his play on slippery foundations, the kind likely to trip up any dramatist, performer or theatergoer.

“An Octoroon,” you see, is all about race in these United States, as it was and is and unfortunately probably shall be for a considerable time. That’s race as a subject that no one can get a comfortable hold on.

Directed by Sarah Benson, in a style that perfectly matches its mutating content, “An Octoroon” is a shrewdly awkward riff on Dion Boucicault’sThe Octoroon” (notice the change in article), a 19th-century chestnut about illicit interracial love. Boucicault’s melodrama was a great hit in its day but is now almost never performed, except possibly as a camp diversion for private amusement.

Read the entire review here.

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