Soma Text: Living, Writing, and Staging Racial Hybridity

Posted in Books, Canada, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2018-03-22 02:56Z by Steven

Soma Text: Living, Writing, and Staging Racial Hybridity

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
June 2019
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.

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EXCLUSIVE: Afro-Latina Slam Poet, Elizabeth Acevedo, Debuts First Novel ‘Poet X’

Posted in Articles, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-03-20 01:51Z by Steven

EXCLUSIVE: Afro-Latina Slam Poet, Elizabeth Acevedo, Debuts First Novel ‘Poet X’


Jenifer Calle, Politics and Culture Writer


Elizabeth Acevedo has been empowering Afro-Latinas for years by bringing attention to the various experiences of women of color through her powerful words in poetry.

As a Latina, you might remember a certain poem or a book that changed your life, a verse so precise it gave you chills. Acevedo’s debut novel, Poet X, will do just that with its raw emotions that are universal to all young girls, wrapped up in beautiful lyrical verses.

Poet X is a Young Adult novel that follows the story of an unapologetic 15-year-old girl, Xiomara Batista, growing up in Harlem. As a Dominican-American teen stepping into adulthood she takes to her journal to deal with the emotions and frustrations she feels at home and at school. In this three-part novel, Xiomara struggles with her conservative mother, an absent father, her faith in God, her sexuality, and much more. Xiomara’s awakening through slam poetry helps her find her voice but her journey of self-discovery doesn’t come easy…

Read the entire article here.

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Mandarin Brazil: Race, Representation, and Memory

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2018-03-16 02:47Z by Steven

Mandarin Brazil: Race, Representation, and Memory

Stanford University Press
August 2018
256 pages
Cloth ISBN: 9781503605046
Paper ISBN: 9781503606012

Ana Paulina Lee, Assistant Professor of Luso-Brazilian Studies
Columbia University, New York, New York

In Mandarin Brazil, Ana Paulina Lee explores the centrality of Chinese exclusion to the Brazilian nation-building project, tracing the role of cultural representation in producing racialized national categories. Lee considers depictions of Chineseness in Brazilian popular music, literature, and visual culture, as well as archival documents and Brazilian and Qing dynasty diplomatic correspondence about opening trade and immigration routes between Brazil and China. In so doing, she reveals how Asian racialization helped to shape Brazil’s image as a racial democracy.

Mandarin Brazil begins during the second half of the nineteenth century, during the transitional period when enslaved labor became unfree labor—an era when black slavery shifted to “yellow labor” and racial anxieties surged. Lee asks how colonial paradigms of racial labor became a part of Brazil’s nation-building project, which prioritized “whitening,” a fundamentally white supremacist ideology that intertwined the colonial racial caste system with new immigration labor schemes. By considering why Chinese laborers were excluded from Brazilian nation-building efforts while Japanese migrants were welcomed, Lee interrogates how Chinese and Japanese imperial ambitions and Asian ethnic supremacy reinforced Brazil’s whitening project. Mandarin Brazil contributes to a new conversation in Latin American and Asian American cultural studies, one that considers Asian diasporic histories and racial formation across the Americas.

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Neo-Passing: Performing Identity after Jim Crow

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-03-14 16:57Z by Steven

Neo-Passing: Performing Identity after Jim Crow

University of Illinois Press
March 2018
296 pages
6 x 9 in.
11 black & white photographs
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-04158-7
Paper ISBN: 978-0-252-08323-5
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-252-05024-4

Edited by:

Mollie Godfrey, Assistant Professor of English
James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Vershawn Ashanti Young, Associate Professor of Drama and Speech Communication
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Crossing old boundaries to create new identities

African Americans once passed as whites to escape the pains of racism. Today’s neo-passing has pushed the old idea of passing in extraordinary new directions. A white author uses an Asian pen name; heterosexuals live “out” as gay; and, irony of ironies, whites try to pass as black.

Mollie Godfrey and Vershawn Ashanti Young present essays that explore practices, performances, and texts of neo-passing in our supposedly postracial moment. The authors move from the postracial imagery of Angry Black White Boy and the issues of sexual orientation and race in ZZ Packer’s short fiction to the politics of Dave Chappelle’s skits as a black President George W. Bush. Together, the works reveal that the questions raised by neo-passing—questions about performing and contesting identity in relation to social norms—remain as relevant today as in the past.

Gale Wald offers a foreword and Michele Elam an afterword.

Contributors: Derek Adams, Christopher M. Brown, Martha J. Cutter, Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Alisha Gaines, Jennifer Glaser, Allyson Hobbs, Brandon J. Manning, Loran Marsan, Lara Narcisi, Eden Osucha, and Deborah Elizabeth Whaley

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Multicultural Cities in Frank Yerby

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2018-03-08 00:12Z by Steven

Multicultural Cities in Frank Yerby

Interminable Rambling

Matthew Teutsch, Instructor
Department of English
Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

Throughout his oeuvre, Frank Yerby works to deconstruct myths of the Old South and historical misinformation. Along with these goals, he also dismantles the dichotomy of Black and White; instead, he populates his works with individuals and scenes that defy a simplistic characterization. In this manner, Yerby shows that race is not a biological fact; rather, it is a social construct. One of the key ways that Yerby accomplishes this, especially in regard to the commingling of individuals, is through his descriptions of cities and the multitude of different people that populate the space. Today, I want to look at a couple of scenes where he does this from his first novel The Foxes of Harrow (1946) and his seventh novel The Saracen Blade (1952). I chose these two texts because the first takes place in antebellum New Orleans and the second occurs in thirteenth century Italy. Both, though, comment on issues of class and race during the mid-twentieth century.

Walking through the Vieux Carre to catch a glimpse of the Marquis de Lafayette in The Foxes of Harrow, Andre LeBlanc gives Stephen Fox an education in the rules, customs, and racial stratification of New Orleans, a stratification that does not fall easily into the dichotomy of Black and White…

Read the entire article here.

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What do Meghan Markle and Chicago woman who wrote ‘Passing’ have in common?

Posted in Articles, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2018-02-25 23:47Z by Steven

What do Meghan Markle and Chicago woman who wrote ‘Passing’ have in common?

The Chicago Tribune

Christopher Borrelli

Nella Larsen, author of “Passing.” (Carl Van Vechten)

Nella Larsen was a mystery in life, and a mystery after her death in 1964. According to biographers, when she died her half sister inherited the $35,000 that remained in Larsen’s savings, then said she didn’t know she had a half sister.

Which wasn’t true.

Yet, in many ways, it’s the response you expect.

Nella Larsen was born Nellie Walker in 1891, in Chicago.

Or Nella Larsen was born Nella Larsen, 1892, in Chicago.

Or Nella Larsen was born Nellye Larson, 1893, in Chicago.

Biographers have run across a few possibilities, and the agreed-upon details are this: Nella Larsen was born in 1891, in Chicago, as Nellie Walker. Larsen fudged her vitals on occasion, depending on who was asking and what form she was completing. She lived her life at times with a sort of concentrated vagueness — “in the shadows,” wrote George Hutchinson, one of her biographers. Just as her career was taking off, she broke ties with her closest friends, and she spent her last three decades working as a nurse, living in a relative, self-imposed anonymity. Which sounds melodramatic, yet Larsen — who had been a major star of the Harlem Renaissance after leaving Chicago (but never quite cast aside the rejection that she felt here) — lived a life that could fuel melodramas.

As it happens, she left great ones, slim novels that amount to 250 pages, combined. Indeed, “Quicksand” (1928) and “Passing” (1929) constitute most of her published work. Yet both are portraits of Chicago women who, like Larsen, navigated the blurriest of racial lines in the early 20th century, having been born to one black parent and one white parent. Both novels are about women who “passed” — that is, they presented themselves, day to day, as white. Her biographers say it’s unlikely Larsen herself did this, yet her protagonists are haunted by identity, frozen out by the black bourgeois, not at ease in white society, torn by the task of self-identifying in a binary-minded country…

Read the entire article here.

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“Making the Beast with two Backs” – Interracial Relationships in Early Modern England

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-02-15 19:51Z by Steven

“Making the Beast with two Backs” – Interracial Relationships in Early Modern England

Literature Compass
Volume 12, Issue 1, January 2015
Pages 22–37
DOI: 10.1111/lic3.12200

Miranda Kaufmann, Senior Research Fellow
Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study
University of London

Shakespeare’s tragedy of Othello and Desdemona has long attracted critics to consider the issues of interracial relationships and miscegenation in early modern England. More recently, other black characters have been found in Renaissance literature and an African presence in 16th and 17th century England has been demonstrated from archival sources. This article gives an overview of these developments and their implications for the study of interracial relationships in early modern literature. Evidence from the archives is brought to bear on different aspects of relationships both between black men and white women and between black women and white men. This new information about interracial marriages, as well as sexual intercourse or “fornication”, prostitution and the resulting mixed race children must be incorporated into the discussion of interracial relationships in Renaissance literature.

Read or purchase the article here.

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White Supremacy and the Dangerous Discourse of Liberal Tolerance

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States on 2018-02-15 02:06Z by Steven

White Supremacy and the Dangerous Discourse of Liberal Tolerance

The Paris Review

Ismail Muhammad
Oakland, California

A scene at the race disturbance in Wilmington, North Carolina. Originally published in Colliers Weekly, November 26, 1898.

Watching Donald Trump speak about the violent white-supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville last summer was a surreal experience. Not the first press conference where he referred to neo-Nazi protestors as “very fine people.” I mean the second time, when he repudiated those fine people. “Racism,” he intoned, clearly reading from a teleprompter, “is evil … white supremacists and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” Nobody could mistake his droning boredom for actual investment in the words he was speaking: his attempt to embrace the decorous discourse of liberal tolerance was baldly hypocritical.

As the summer ended and the fall semester began at U.C. Berkeley, where I study literature, far-right agitators descended along with the cool weather. A succession of activists and pundits—Ben Shapiro, Milo Yiannopoulos, and their ilk—made their way to campus. They brought the far-right protestors and threats of violence along with them, all the while invoking the language of tolerance and free speech. Berkeley’s former chancellor Nicholas Dirks even cited the campus community’s “values of tolerance” in defending Yiannopoulos’s appearance. The myriad ways in which people were deploying the word tolerance managed to drain the already-insufficient term of its content. All that was left was am empty concept that could accommodate any agenda. It was more clear than ever that the language of tolerance had become ineffective, just a mask behind which antipluralist demagogues could hide.

Admitting that Trump and the far right are capable of surprising me makes me feel unforgivably naive. At this point, to be surprised feels like a luxury, and I find myself bored with the chorus of outraged liberal critics who sound the alarm every time Trump breaks another democratic norm. But it’s worth inquiring why white supremacy continues to surprise us when white-race hatred is such an intractable aspect of American society. And how our shock perpetuates that violence.

In Charlottesville’s aftermath, I turned to Charles Chesnutt’s 1901 novel, The Marrow of Tradition. In his novel, Chesnutt—an impossibly industrious author, activist, lawyer, and educator—looks back at the wreckage of post-Reconstruction racial politics and attempts to answer these questions via historical fiction. Marrow is, among other things, an examination of how the genteel language of tolerance obscures and enables antiblack violence. In his focus on historical calamity—the Wilmington massacre narrowly and the collapse of Reconstruction more broadly—Chesnutt uses the form of the novel to examine how our shared language reinforces white supremacy’s grip on American society…

Read the entire article here.

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Kit de Waal: ‘Make room for working class writers’

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-02-11 20:15Z by Steven

Kit de Waal: ‘Make room for working class writers’

The Guardian

Kit de Waal

‘A writing career never entered my head.’ … Kit de Waal. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

When Kit de Waal was growing up in 1970s Birmingham, no one like her – poor, black and Irish – wrote books. Forty years on, the author asks, what has changed?

Reading at school was agony. A slow, child by child rotation around the class, six pages each. Great Expectations. Vanity Fair. The Mill on the bloody Floss. The boys with their flatline monotones. The girls, careful not to stumble and be humiliated. English was my best subject, so this process was painful. I wanted to race ahead and get to the end of the story. Yet the idea of taking that book home to read later and finish, that never occurred to me. Not when we owned the ultimate big novel: the Bible. We were Jehovah’s Witnesses and three times a week we’d sit in a draughty hall on the backstreets of Sparkbrook in Birmingham, wrapped around a paraffin heater discussing the 66 books that made up the Old and the New Testaments. I’ve read it cover to cover at least five times.

Leviticus and Numbers were hard going, all that counting and recounting, all those laws and exhortations, but there were very beautiful passages, too. The Song of Solomon, Psalms, Proverbs. The Gospels, too, four different takes on one big adventure. They had the ingredients of a good thriller with a hero, a call to arms, a savage tragedy. Without realising it, I was learning what you had to do to write well, how to characterise, how to keep your reader turning the page without the threat of eternal damnation as an incentive.

But writing as a career? That never entered my head. The only writers I knew were dead. And apart from Enid Blyton, they were dead men. And white. And posh. Even when I began to read widely in my 20s, it was still a case of: if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. No one from my background – poor, black and Irish – wrote books. It just wasn’t an option…

Read the entire article here.

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The Pedagogy and Politics of Racial Passing: Examining Media Literacy in Turn-of-the-Century Activist Periodicals

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-12-29 19:16Z by Steven

The Pedagogy and Politics of Racial Passing: Examining Media Literacy in Turn-of-the-Century Activist Periodicals

Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy
Volume 4, Issue 1 (Winter 2017)

Tara Propper, Senior Lecturer
Department of Literature and Languages
University of Texas, Tyler

This article explores how we can use African American activist media to theorize the role of pedagogy in the public sphere. Focusing on how racial passing stories expose the limiting (and often tropic) binaries through which racial identity is deciphered, this analysis further highlights the extent to which these binary constructions of identity are learned through media narration.

Using the December, 1912, issue of W.E.B. Du Bois’s Crisis Magazine as a touchstone for investigation, this analysis considers how pedagogy is taken up as both a theme and project in the magazine. Foregrounding the degree to which Crisis critiques and counternarrates the demeaning and derogatory portrayals of African American identity in early twentieth-century media, this article suggests that Du Bois’s magazine not only indicts dominant visual systems of seeing and evaluating African American identity but also reveals the extent to which such systems of seeing and interpreting blackness are learned and can be remediated through media intervention.

The ultimate aim of this article is to derive an interpretive framework that understands pedagogy as not simply a method for inscribing pre-existent dominant norms but rather as a means for intervening, questioning, and challenging dominant systems of representation and public articulation. Moreover, this analysis intends to reveal the hidden pedagogies within dominant cultural paraphernalia for the purposes of advancing an approach to media literacy that recognizes and endeavors to transform the tropes and archetypes applied to marginal and minority communities.

Read the entire article in PDF or HTML format.

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