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 2015-10-05 15:41Z by Steven

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

University of Georgia Press
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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‘One Drop of Love’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Autobiography, Census/Demographics, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-10-02 13:31Z by Steven

‘One Drop of Love’

The Sophian: The Independent Newspaper of Smith College
Northampton, Massachusetts

Eliza Going, Contributing Writer

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni performed her well-known one-woman play challenging the construct of race, “One Drop of Love,” on Sept. 18 and 19 in the Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre. In this show, she not only tells the story of her own experiences with race as a multicultural woman, but she also gives a taste of many different incidents experienced by people of varying ages, backgrounds and cultural identities through the ups and downs of their most intimate relationships.

The play is presented in two formats. In one, DiGiovanni plays a variety of different characters talking conversationally about their experience with race; in the other, she jumps through U.S. history as a census taker. A projector lights up a simple white screen with the year and race section of the corresponding census…

Tying the census into the play introduces a political component that connects the stories of racial injustice to a tangible account of the government’s inattention toward racial or cultural identity. Only in 2010 [2000] did it become possible to check more than one box on the census. “I’m glad she connected the personal and the political in this way because, to me, they’re inextricably linked, and one can’t talk about one without the other,” Elizabeth Haas ’17 said…

Read the entire review here.

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Obama and hip-hop: a breakup song

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Barack Obama, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2015-10-01 00:50Z by Steven

Obama and hip-hop: a breakup song

The Washington Post

Erik Nielson, Assistant Professor of Liberal Arts
University of Richmond

Travis L. Gosa, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Erik Nielson is an assistant professor of liberal arts at the University of Richmond. Travis L. Gosa is an assistant professor of Africana studies at Cornell University. Their book, “The Hip Hop & Obama Reader,” will be published in October.

In 2008, Barack Obama flipped the script on more than three decades of conventional wisdom when he openly embraced hip-hop — a genre typically viewed as politically radioactive because of its frequently controversial themes and anti-establishment ethos — in his campaign. Equally remarkable was the extent to which hip-hop artists and activists, often highly skeptical of national politicians, embraced him in return. As a result, for the first time it appeared we were witnessing a burgeoning relationship between hip-hop and national politics.

As we approach the 2016 election, however, this relationship is all but gone. Ironically, Obama — often called the first “hip-hop president” — largely is to blame.

This is especially disappointing in light of Obama’s 2008 run for office, when he encouraged artists such as Jay Z and Sean “Diddy” Combs to campaign for him, referenced rap music in his interviews and speeches, played rap at his events and openly contemplated a space for hip-hop in an Obama White House. In one of the lasting images of the campaign, Obama stood in front of an audience in Raleigh, N.C., and referenced Jay Z’s 2003 track “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” to raucous applause. In that moment, voters had every reason to believe that hip-hop indeed would have a seat at the table in an Obama administration…

Read the entire article here.

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Black No More? The Recent Recognition of Mixed-Race Identity

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-09-29 01:32Z by Steven

Black No More? The Recent Recognition of Mixed-Race Identity

Acta Philologica
Issue 45 (2014)
pages 78-84

Joanna Chojnowska, Assistant Professor
American Literature Section, Department of Modern Philology
University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland

Artykuł omawia relatywnie niedawną zmianę, jaka zaszła w kategoryzacji tożsamości rasowej w USA. Tradycyjnie postrzegani i identyfikujący się jako podgrupa Afroamerykanów zgodnie z zasadą „jednej kropli krwi”, dawni „Mulaci” zyskali w ciągu ostatnich dziesięcioleci nowe możliwości definiowania swej tożsamości rasowej dzięki teoriom postetniczności i hybrydowości, tożsamości „new mestiza” i wpływom świata latynoskiego. Jednocześnieujawniły się głosy krytyki wobec porzucenia esencjalistycznego postrzegania rasowości. Porównując przeciwstawne stanowiska w tej sprawie, artykuł przedstawia różne możliwości (auto)identyfikacji rasowej w USA.

For most of the history of the United States, the racial categorization of mixed black/white persons was illogical and often contradictory (Sollors, “Introduction” 6). Generally speaking, people with any percentage of black ancestry were most commonly classified simply as black (according to the “one-drop rule” imposed by whites), and, at times, recognized as a separate subgroup within this category. Interestingly, black and biracial people internalized the “one-drop” thinking, and by the 1920s people were unlikely to identify themselves as mulattoes (Pabst 199–200; Morton 116). This situation remained largely unchanged until the 1990s, which witnessed a noticeable shift towards acceptance and even celebration of mixedness (Hollinger 1370). This article aims to demonstrate how the new approaches to mixed race – postethnicity, hybridity and “mestizaje” – have complicated the traditional “either-or” racial division in the United States. It also argues that the long-established racial ideas – the “one drop” thinking and essentialism (albeit in a modified form) – are still strongly present in the American racial discourse. Comparing opposing stances on this matter, the article illustrates different possibilities of racial self-identification in the United States.

Since the 1990s, popular and academic interest in multiracialism has been growing (Elam xiii). For the first time since 1920, mixedness was also officially recognized by the state in the National Census 2000 (Zack 15). In the words of Patricia Morton, “American scholars are not only exploring the contemporary role of mulattoes, but also recognizing their historical existence and roots. [. . .] Americans of mixed black-white ancestry are no longer the most invisible ‘invisible man’ of American history” (122). Studies and anthologies on mixed race published in the last decade of the 20th century include such important works as: Racially Mixed People in America (1992) and The Multiracial Experience (1996) by Maria P. P. Root, Race and Mixed Race (1993) and American Mixed Race (1995) by Naomi Zack, as well as Neither Black nor White yet Both (1997) and Interracialism (2000) by Werner Sollors. The critical attention to the notion of mixed race continues unabated into the new millennium. Recent works include: Mixing It Up (2004) edited by SanSan Kwan and Kenneth Zack, Complicating Constructions (2007) edited by David Goldstein, The Souls of Mixed Folk (2011) by Michele Elam and Crossing B(l)ack (2013) by Sika A. Dagbovie-Mullins. Significantly, a growing body of such critical works is written by multiracial persons…

Read the entire article here.

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Between the World and Me: Empathy Is a Privilege

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-09-28 18:28Z by Steven

Between the World and Me: Empathy Is a Privilege

The Atlantic

John Paul Rollert, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science
University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Barack Obama and Ta-Nehisi Coates have made race and empathy central to their writing, but their conclusions point in radically different directions.

Don’t despair. According to Ta-Nehisi Coates, that’s what President Obama told him at the end of a White House meeting in 2013. Coates had criticized the president on his blog for favoring the rhetoric of black self-help over an honest conversation about structural racism. Having written and reflected extensively on race, Obama made it plain to Coates that he took exception to the critique, ending what must have been a tense conversation with his brief words of encouragement. The president reportedly took along Coates’s new book on his recent trip to Martha’s Vineyard. If he found time to read it, he knows the younger man didn’t take his advice to heart.

Obama is not an acknowledged interlocutor of Between the World and Me, but the book may be read as a skeptical reply to the putative power of empathy to transcend racial divisions—a leitmotif of Obama’s two books and a guiding conceit of his presidency. In The Audacity of Hope, the book Obama wrote in 2006 to test enthusiasm for a possible White House run, he describes empathy as both the “heart of my moral code” and a “guidepost for my politics.” Defining it succinctly as a successful attempt to “stand in somebody’s else’s shoes and see through their eyes,” Obama regards empathy not as an exceptional gesture but an organizing principle for ethical behavior and even a preferred way of being. By cultivating our capacity for empathy, he says, we are forced beyond “our limited vision.” We unburden ourselves of the trivial rigidities that divide us, allowing us to “find common ground” even in the face of our sharpest disagreements…

…Trauma is an irremediable fact of Coates’s work. “I am wounded,” he tells his son. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” The sentiment hints at another book Coates might have written, one that sees him transcend the crises of his youth for a new understanding in adulthood. That story is more or less the one Obama tells in Dreams of My Father, his first book and, like Coates’s, a lyrical memoir that presents the author’s life as an allegory for race in America. That the two men draw such divergent conclusions—Coates detects a “specious hope” in the picture of a white cop embracing a black boy after a Ferguson protest, whereas Obama considers the interracial harmony of his own family hope at its most audacious—is not merely the consequence of two very different sets of lived experience, but the lessons drawn from them and their implications for empathic transcendence.

Especially when juxtaposed with Between the World and Me, the chapters of Dreams of My Father that profile Obama’s adolescence are striking for the studied dispassion that has marked the president’s decisions in office and seems essential to his character. When he describes the racist episodes of his youth, it is not merely that they lack the “visceral” menace of Coates’s experience—he revealingly calls them a “ledger of slights”—they seem only to scratch him, they never scar…

Read the entire article here.

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The Passing Paradox: Writing, identity & publishing while black

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-09-23 23:51Z by Steven

The Passing Paradox: Writing, identity & publishing while black


Stacia L. Brown

A wife lives in constant fear that her husband will discover she’s not who she claims to be. A black aspiring architect is mistaken for an ethnicity other than his own and is offered a job he never would’ve accessed had he corrected the error. A pregnant mother prays nightly that her baby’s skin won’t betray a bit of brownness. Such are the predicaments of characters in the early 20th century “passing narratives” I’ve loved since my days as an undergraduate English major.

To “pass,” as African American writers in the early 1900s defined it, was to choose to escape from the violence and discrimination attendant to blackness — a privilege possible only for those whose skin was light enough to pull it off. Peaking in popularity by the 1930s, passing narratives were often melodramatic and cautionary, detailing the myriad dangers of abandoning one’s black identity in order to take cover amid the white communities that systemically oppressed black citizens.

The penalty for being caught passing could be as merciless as emotional and physical abandonment or as cruel as a violent death. In Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing, for instance, one of the story’s protagonists, Clare, either falls or is pushed from the top floor of a building during a party. Unbeknownst to her, her racist white husband has discovered her blackness through her light-skinned friend, Irene, who isn’t exactly passing. When he charges toward her stumbles out to her death.

Passing narratives not only interrogate the fluidity of racial identity and assess the stakes of racial allegiance, but also double as slow-burning thrillers: Race itself is the stalker, an implicit threat skulking in the backgrounds of seemingly contented, white identified lives…

Read the entire article here.

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Guadalupe and the Castas: The Power of a Singular Colonial Mexican Painting

Posted in Articles, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Mexico on 2015-09-23 14:33Z by Steven

Guadalupe and the Castas: The Power of a Singular Colonial Mexican Painting

Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos
Volume 31, Number 2
pages 218-247
DOI: 10.1525/mex.2015.31.2.218

Sarah Cline, Research Professor of History
University of California, Santa Barbara

A mid-eighteenth-century casta painting by Luis de Mena uniquely unites the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe and casta (mixed-race) groupings, along with scenes of everyday life in Mexico, and the natural abundance of New Spain. Reproduced multiple times, the painting has not been systematically analyzed. This article explores individual elements in their colonial context and the potential meanings of the painting in the modern era.

Una pintura de Luis de Mena sobre las castas, de mediados del siglo xviii, reúne de manera singular la imagen de la Virgen de Guadalupe, los agrupamientos de castas y escenas de la vida cotidiana en México, junto con la abundancia natural de Nueva España. Aunque reproducida en múltiples ocasiones, la pintura no ha sido analizada sistemáticamente. Este artículo explora sus elementos individuales en el contexto colonial y los significados potenciales de la pintura en la época moderna.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Difference of a Different Kind: Jewish Constructions of Race During the Long Eighteenth Century

Posted in Books, Europe, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Reports on 2015-09-21 01:01Z by Steven

Difference of a Different Kind: Jewish Constructions of Race During the Long Eighteenth Century

University of Pennsylvania Press
280 pages
6 x 9
12 illus.
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8122-4609-4
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8122-0970-9

Iris Idelson-Shein, Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow
Martin Buber Professur für Jüdische Religionsphilosophie
Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main

European Jews, argues Iris Idelson-Shein, occupied a particular place in the development of modern racial discourse during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Simultaneously inhabitants and outsiders in Europe, considered both foreign and familiar, Jews adopted a complex perspective on otherness and race. Often themselves the objects of anthropological scrutiny, they internalized, adapted, and revised the emerging discourse of racial difference to meet their own ends.

Difference of a Different Kind explores Jewish perceptions and representations of otherness during the formative period in the history of racial thought. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including philosophical and scientific works, halakhic literature, and folktales, Idelson-Shein unfolds the myriad ways in which eighteenth-century Jews imagined the “exotic Other” and how the evolving discourse of racial difference played into the construction of their own identities. Difference of a Different Kind offers an invaluable view into the ways new religious, cultural, and racial identities were imagined and formed at the outset of modernity.

Table of Contents

  • Note on Translations and Transliterations
  • Introduction
  • 1. An East Indian Encounter: Rape and Infanticide in the Memoirs of Glikl Bas Leib
  • 2. “And Let him Speak”: Noble and Ignoble Savages in Yehudah Horowitz’s Amudey beyt Yehudah
  • 3. Whitewashing Jewish Darkness: Baruch Lindau and the “Species” of Man
  • 4. Fantasies of Acculturation: Campe’s Savages in the Service of the Haskalah
  • Epilogue. A Terrible Tale: Some Final Thoughts on Jews and Race
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Acknowledgments
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AfroLatin@s in Action: Making a Difference through Research, Education & the Arts

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Forthcoming Media, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, United States on 2015-09-19 02:24Z by Steven

AfroLatin@s in Action: Making a Difference through Research, Education & the Arts

Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute
20 Cooper Square, 4th Floor
New York, New York 10012
Thursday, 2015-10-15, 18:30-20:30 EDT (Local Time)

Join us for a discussion led by AfroCuban author, bibliographer, and activist Tomás Fernandez Robaína on the crucial role of books in the advancement of Black advocacy movements throughout the Americas.

Learn about the Forum’s new projects aimed at increasing AfroLatin@ visibility and representation. These initiatives include raising the AfroLatin@ count in the 2020 census; developing a national network to promote and support AfroLatin@ Studies; and preparing a retrospective exhibition on the work of photographer Tony Gleaton. Find out how you can play a role in making a positive change. Come ready to take action!

Co-Sponsored by the Center for Caribbean and Latin American Studies and the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, both at NYU.

For more information, click here.

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Traveling Texts and the Work of Afro-Japanese Cultural Production: Two Haiku and a Microphone

Posted in Africa, Anthologies, Asian Diaspora, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2015-09-19 01:26Z by Steven

Traveling Texts and the Work of Afro-Japanese Cultural Production: Two Haiku and a Microphone

Lexington Books (an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield)
June 2015
302 pages
6 1/2 x 9 1/4
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-4985-0547-5
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4985-0548-2

Edited by:

William H. Bridges IV, Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies
University of California, Irvine

Nina Cornyetz, Associate Professor
Gallatin School of Individualized Study
New York University

Traveling Texts and the Work of Afro-Japanese Cultural Production analyzes the complex conversations taking place in texts of all sorts traveling between Africans, African Diasporas, and Japanese across disciplinary, geographic, racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural borders. Be it focused on the make-up of the blackface ganguro or the haiku of Richard Wright, Rastafari communities in Japan or the black enka singer Jero, the volume turns its attention away from questions of representation to ones concerning the generative aspects of transcultural production. The contributors are interested primarily in texts in motion—the contradictory motion within texts, the traveling of texts, and the action that such kinetic energy inspires in readers, viewers, listeners, and travelers. As our texts travel and travail, the originary nodal points that anchor them to set significations loosen and are transformed; the essays trace how, in the process of traveling, the bodies and subjectivities of those working to reimagine the text(s) in new sites moderate, accommodate, and transfigure both the texts and themselves.

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