Colouring the Caribbean: Race and the art of Agostino Brunias

Posted in Arts, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2017-10-17 02:38Z by Steven

Colouring the Caribbean: Race and the art of Agostino Brunias

Manchester University Press
December 2017
272 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-5261-2045-8
eBook ISBN: 978-1-5261-2047-2

Mia L. Bagneris, Jesse Poesch Junior Professor of Art History
Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana

Colouring the Caribbean offers the first comprehensive study of Agostino Brunias’s intriguing pictures of colonial West Indians of colour – so called ‘Red’ and ‘Black’ Caribs, dark-skinned Africans and Afro-Creoles, and people of mixed race – made for colonial officials and plantocratic elites during the late-eighteenth century. Although Brunias’s paintings have often been understood as straightforward documents of visual ethnography that functioned as field guides for reading race, this book investigates how the images both reflected and refracted ideas about race commonly held by eighteenth-century Britons, helping to construct racial categories while simultaneously exposing their constructedness and underscoring their contradictions. The book offers provocative new insights about Brunias’s work gleaned from a broad survey of his paintings, many of which are reproduced here for the first time.

Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Brunias’s tarred brush, or painting Indians black: race-ing the Carib divide
  • 2. Merry and contented slaves and other island myths: representing Africans and Afro-Creoles in the Anglxexo-American world
  • 3. Brown-skinned booty, or colonising Diana: mixed-race Venuses and Vixens as the fruits of imperial enterprise
  • 4. Can you find the white woman in this picture? Agostino Brunias’s ‘ladies’ of ambiguous race
  • Coda – Pushing Brunias’s buttons, or re-branding the plantocracy’s painter: the afterlife of Brunias’s imagery
  • Index
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Still Processing: Being Biracial

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2017-10-07 21:32Z by Steven

Still Processing: Being Biracial

Still Processing
The New York Times
2017-10-05

Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham


Rashida Jones as Santamonica, the sister of Tracee Ellis Ross’s character on ABC’s “Black-ish.”
Credit Kelsey McNeal/Getty Images

For months, the two of us have been trying to figure out a way to have a conversation about the experience of being biracial. This week we just go for it. First, we talk about the cultural and historical suspicion America still has of black-white interracial romantic relationships. It gives us an excuse to revisit the reason “Get Out” has been one of the year’s major movies: It articulates the previously inarticulable about race. Then we consider the offspring of interracial coupling — whether the possibility of occupying two identities (or more) is a choice, a luxury or a delusion; and what fears, doubts or envy nonbiracial black Americans might feel about biracial black Americans. We drop in on Spike Lee’sSchool Daze” and the sitcom “Black-ish.” We consider our feelings about Rashida Jones, Drake and Vin Diesel. We unpack the writings of Zadie Smith and Barack Obama. And we kind of have to ask: Aren’t we all a little bit mixed?

Read the entire article here.

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Half Breed, theatre review: Funny, gripping show packs a punch

Posted in Articles, Arts, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-09-29 02:52Z by Steven

Half Breed, theatre review: Funny, gripping show packs a punch

London Evening Standard
2017-08-14

Veronica Lee


Impassioned: Natasha Marshall performs in Half Breed Rebecca Need-Menear

Natasha Marshall gives an impassioned performance in a semi-autobiographical show, writes Veronica Lee

“I am that mixed-race kid, 50/50. I’m about as black as it goes round here,” 17-year-old Jaz says in Natasha Marshall’s semi-autobiographical piece about being the only non-white girl growing up in a small English village.

Jaz, who lives with her white grandmother in the West Country, dreams of going to drama school while her best friend, Brogan, whose main ambition in life is to have a baby, talks of London as if it were Mars.

But they’re tight, these two, kindred spirits brought together by both having spent time in the care system, and Brogan, despite not being able to fathom why her friend is doing it, is as determined as Jaz that her Shakespeare audition speech will be perfect…

Read the entire review here.

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Remembering Afro-German Intellectual May Ayim

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2017-09-08 15:10Z by Steven

Remembering Afro-German Intellectual May Ayim

Black Perspectives
2017-09-06

Tiffany Florvil, Assistant Professor of History
University of New Mexico


May Ayim (Photo: Orlanda Frauenverlag)

It has been almost twenty-one years since Black German activist, educator, writer, and public intellectual May Ayim died on August 9, 1996 at the age of 36. After facing some personal setbacks and a recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Ayim committed suicide by jumping from her apartment building in Berlin-Kreuzberg. She also suffered from depression, which was often exacerbated by the psychological toil that everyday German racism had on her. Even though Ayim was born and raised by adoptive parents in Germany, some white Germans, including her adoptive parents, continued to harbor racist views that denied her humanity as a Black German citizen in a post-Holocaust society.

Her death shocked her colleagues and friends near and far. From South Africa to the United States, people sent their tributes, in which they recognized how much she inspired them through her writing and spoken word performances. Much like her mentor Caribbean-American poet Audre Lorde, Ayim, too, believed in the “subversive power of lyrical language.”1 As a talented and well-known writer at home and abroad, her poetry and prose served as a form of intellectual activism and as a medium to incite socio-political change. In fact, Ayim derived a key source of political and emotional energy from her writing, which was a constitutive element of her activism.

May Ayim was not unlike other Black diasporic women such as Claudia Jones or the Nardal sisters, producing materials that shaped diasporic culture and politics and that promoted Black intellectualism and internationalism. She integrated diverse styles, such as the Blues, that reflected her wide-ranging interests in and ties to the transnational Black diaspora. Ayim even incorporated West African Adinkra symbols in her first poetry volume blues in schwarz weiss (Blues in Black White) – representing her Ghanaian roots. In the volume, poems such as “afro-deutsch I,” “afro-deutsch II,” “autumn in germany,” “community,” and “soul sister” tackled the themes of identity, difference, community, and marginalization, reflecting her (and other Black Germans’) experiences in Germany.2 She also used her writing to negotiate her Black Germanness and to write herself into German society and the Black diaspora…

Read the entire article here.

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Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial Reinvention: The Old Negro in New Negro Art

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2017-09-06 04:20Z by Steven

Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial Reinvention: The Old Negro in New Negro Art

University of Illinois Press
September 2017
248 pages
6 x 9 in.
8 color photographs, 34 black & white photographs

Phoebe Wolfskill, Assistant Professor
Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies
Indiana University, Bloomington

The painter’s struggle at the crossroads of artistic expression and social progress

An essential African American artist of his era, Archibald Motley Jr. created paintings of black Chicago that aligned him with the revisionist aims of the New Negro Renaissance. Yet Motley’s approach to constructing a New Negro–a dignified figure both accomplished and worthy of respect–reflected the challenges faced by African American artists working on the project of racial reinvention and uplift.

Phoebe Wolfskill demonstrates how Motley’s art embodied the tenuous nature of the Black Renaissance and the wide range of ideas that structured it. Focusing on key works in Motley’s oeuvre, Wolfskill reveals the artist’s complexity and the variety of influences that informed his work. Motley’s paintings suggest that the racist, problematic image of the Old Negro was not a relic of the past but an influence that pervaded the Black Renaissance. Exploring Motley in relation to works by notable black and non-black contemporaries, Wolfskill reinterprets Motley’s oeuvre as part of a broad effort to define American cultural identity through race, class, gender, religion, and regional affiliation…

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Edith Eaton’s Expanding Oeuvre

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Canada, Caribbean/Latin America, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-09-06 03:28Z by Steven

Edith Eaton’s Expanding Oeuvre

American Periodicals: A Journal of History & Criticism
Volume 27, Number 1, 2017
pages 6-10

Mary Chapman, Professor of English
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Since the early 1980s, when S. E. Solberg published a short checklist of twenty-two works of fiction and journalism by Chinese American author Sui Sin Far (Edith Eaton), our knowledge of her oeuvre has grown considerably. By 2007, through the efforts of Annette White-Parks and Amy Ling, as well as Dominika Ferens and Martha Cutter, Eaton’s oeuvre included about one hundred works of fiction, poetry, and journalism, many of which addressed the experiences of diasporic Chinese in North America. In the past ten years, I have discovered more than one hundred fifty texts by Eaton, some of which are collected in Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton.1 Eaton’s expanded oeuvre demonstrates that she was a much more complicated author than formerly believed, a writer who worked in a range of genres and styles, addressed numerous themes beyond the Chinese diaspora, and published in a wide assortment of turn-of-the-century magazines and newspapers in three national contexts: the United States, Canada, and Jamaica.

To locate uncollected works by Eaton, I took inspiration from the impressive detective work of White-Parks and Diana Birchall,2 who wrote biographies of Eaton and her sister Winnifred (Onoto Watanna), respectively, as well as from Ferens’s recovery of Eaton’s Jamaican journalism. To begin, I developed a list of periodicals and newspapers in which Eaton published or to which she submitted work, based on information about twenty-four periodicals provided in the acknowledgments of her only book, Mrs. Spring Fragrance (1912):

I have to thank the Editors of The Independent, Out West, Hampton’s, The Century, Delineator, Ladies’ Home Journal, Designer, New Idea, Short Stories, Traveler, Good Housekeeping, Housekeeper, Gentlewoman, New York Evening Post, Holland’s, Little Folks, American Motherhood, New England, Youth’s Companion, Montreal Witness, Children’s, Overland, Sunset, and Westerner magazines, who were kind enough to care for my children when I sent them out into the world, for permitting the dear ones to return to me to be grouped together within this volume.3

Inspired by Jean Lee Cole’s recovery of periodical works by Winnifred Eaton, I also scoured Eaton’s autobiographical writings, correspondence with editors, and reviews of and introductions to her periodical publications for any mention of publications to which she may have submitted work.4 Eaton’s reference in “Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian” to “local [Montreal] papers” that gave her a “number of assignments, including most of the local Chinese reporting,”5 for example, prompted me to consult late 1880s and 1890s issues of the Montreal Star, Montreal Witness, and Montreal Gazette. In “A Word from Miss Eaton” in the Westerner, Eaton mentions publishing in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.6 The literary editor of the Westerner also notes in his preamble to “A Word from Sui Sin Far” that Eaton’s works had appeared in Woman’s Home Companion.7 Eaton’s correspondence with Land of Sunshine editor Charles Lummis and Century editor Robert Underwood Johnson, as well as a letter that Los Angeles Express editor Samuel Clover wrote to Johnson, also mention periodicals to which Eaton submitted fiction.8 To this list of publications, I added Fly Leaf, Lotus, the Chautauquan, and the Boston Globe—publications in which White-Parks and Ling had located works by Eaton—as well as Metropolitan Magazine, Gall’s News Letter, and Leslie’s Weekly—periodicals in which Cutter, Ferens, and June Howard had located additional texts.9

I then searched as many issues of these publications as possible for relevant years, in either digitized or paper form. Given the brevity of Eaton’s career (twenty-six years between 1888 and her death in 1914), looking through bound volumes or tables of contents for key years of nondigitized (and sometimes short-lived) monthly magazines was not arduous. Comprehensive searches of nondigitized daily newspapers were more challenging, however, so I searched the Los Angeles Express, Montreal Star, Montreal Gazette, Montreal Witness, Chicago Evening Post, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and New York Evening Post for only particular periods during which Eaton was likely to…

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Talking the Talk: Linguistic Passing in Danzy Senna’s Caucasia

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-09-06 02:41Z by Steven

Talking the Talk: Linguistic Passing in Danzy Senna’s Caucasia

MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S.
Volume 42, Number 2, Summer 2017
pages 156-176

Melissa Dennihy, Assistant Professor of English
Queensborough Community College, City University of New York, Bayside, New York

Danzy Senna’s 1998 novel Caucasia, set in 1970s New England, follows the breakup of the mixed-race Lee family: African American father Deck, white mother Sandy, and biracial daughters Cole and Birdie. When Deck and Sandy separate following the latter’s involvement in a risky political plot, darker-skinned sister Cole moves with Deck to Brazil, while protagonist Birdie goes undercover with Sandy, passing as white to help her mother dodge the FBI. Birdie’s passing has led critics to categorize Caucasia as a contemporary passing novel, situated within a long tradition of US passing literature established by works such as James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) and Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929).1 However, white is not the only passing identity assumed by Caucasia’s protagonist, and the multiple forms of passing Birdie and other characters undertake throughout the novel suggest that racial identity—how one constructs one’s race and how one’s race is constructed by others—continuously shifts by context. Passing is not portrayed as a permanent crossing of the color line in this text but as an ongoing series of acts involving regular adjustments in one’s performance of racial identity. Characters pass not just for white but for multiple racial and ethnic identities, including different versions of Blackness and whiteness.

In this sense, Senna’s novel challenges views of passing as an act in which one gives up who one “really” is to “become” white. Instead, Caucasia portrays passing as a tool used when one has a specific goal or outcome in mind: passing for white is not a permanent adoption of whiteness but a performance of it, used to access privileges, opportunities, or advantages. This is an important point since, long after we have acknowledged that race is not biological but socially constructed, some recent scholarship continues to portray passing as a masking of one’s “true” self or race. Valerie Rohy writes, for example, that “the term passing designates a performance in which one presents oneself as what one is not” (219).2 The phrase “what one is not” suggests an originary self, whereas I use the term passing not to imply an authentic self hidden under a false identity but to suggest that racial identity is multifaceted and varied, involving continual reconstructions of the self in different contexts. To read Caucasia’s Birdie as a black girl who fakes it while passing as white overlooks the fact that Birdie must learn to pass for black as well as white; neither racial performance comes naturally to her. Learning to perform both whiteness and Blackness helps Birdie recognize the possibility of passing for both—and other—racial/ethnic identities: passing is not a singular transition from black to white but a series of multidirectional, continual crossings into and out of different racial identities as circumstances allow or require.

However, what is most notable about Senna’s passing story is not its multiple acts of passing in different directions but that they do not always depend solely or even primarily on physical appearance. Set in a post-civil rights United States no longer structured by the color line of the Jim Crow era, Senna’s novel presents racial identity as constructed through more than just the physical realm: the text’s protagonist learns to claim both Blackness and whiteness by modifying not only her appearance but also her use of language. The linguistic is a critical factor in facilitating successful passing in Caucasia, calling attention away from physical attributes in determining who can claim a certain racial identity. The novel’s portrayal of what I call linguistic passing—situationally altering one’s way of speaking, in addition to or instead of altering appearance, to pass as a member of or gain insider status within a particular racial group—broadens traditional understandings of passing by shifting emphasis from the physical and visual to the linguistic and audible. If one can talk the talk convincingly enough, Caucasia suggests, one can gain access to groups or opportunities one might otherwise be excluded from or…

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Jesmyn Ward, Heir to Faulkner, Probes the Specter of Race In the South

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Mississippi, United States on 2017-09-05 00:05Z by Steven

Jesmyn Ward, Heir to Faulkner, Probes the Specter of Race In the South

TIME
2017-08-24

Sarah Begley, staff writer


Ward, who teaches creative writing at Tulane, set her new novel in a coastal Mississippi town Beowulf Sheehan

“To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi” goes a line often attributed to William Faulkner. More than half a century later, Jesmyn Ward may be the newest bard of global wisdom.

The writer rocketed to literary fame in 2011 when she won the National Book Award for her second novel, Salvage the Bones, a lyrical Hurricane Katrina tale. As in her first novel, Where the Line Bleeds, the characters in Salvage live in the fictional Mississippi Gulf Coast hamlet of Bois Sauvage, which is based on Ward’s native DeLisle. Six years and two nonfiction books later, Ward has returned to fiction, and to Bois Sauvage, with Sing, Unburied, Sing, a mystical story about race, family and the long shadow of history.

Ward, 40, wrote her first two novels while moving around the country for writing programs and fellowships, but she has since returned home and started a family. Sing, Unburied, Sing is the first novel she’s written from there and the first she’s written as a mother. “The figurative language that I use is so informed by this place and by the things that I see and experience here,” she says, “that it helped me write Sing, because I’m able to observe and see these things and incorporate them into my writing.” Consider how nature relates to human behavior in this description of a grandfather on a difficult morning: “He matched the sky, which hung low, a silver colander full to leak.” Or when a mother watches her daughter cling to her son: “She sticks to him, sure as a burr: her arms and legs thorny and cleaving.”…

…Ward’s characters are informed of her own deep knowledge of a town like Bois Sauvage. For Sing, Ward asked herself what life would be like for a mixed-race boy like Jojo in contemporary Mississippi, a place where schools are still struggling with segregation and interracial dating has been a historic taboo. “I wanted to understand how he would navigate something of a coming of age in the modern South, where, yes, it is modern, but there are multiple waves of the past here,” she says…

Read the entire article here.

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Barack Obama and the Nommo Tradition of Afrocentric Orality

Posted in Africa, Articles, Barack Obama, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2017-08-26 23:40Z by Steven

Barack Obama and the Nommo Tradition of Afrocentric Orality

JSTOR Daily: Where News Meets Its Scholarly Match
2017-08-23

Shannon Luders-Manuel


President Obama delivers the State of the Union in 2011
via Flickr/White House

Black actors, entertainers, and everyday citizens often have a particular cadence to their voices that others can identify as “black,” whether or not the listeners can see the individual speaking. Popular culture seems to think that black men sound wise simply by their voices alone, leading to black actors narrating myriad commercials, including Dennis Haysbert for Allstate Insurance and Samuel L. Jackson for Capital One. In an article for Guernica, John McWhorter breaks down this speech pattern: “It differs from standard English’s sound in the same way that other dialects do, in certain shadings of vowels, aspects of intonation, and also that elusive thing known as timbre, most familiar to singers—degrees of breathiness, grain, huskiness, ‘space.’”

While sound influences dialect, black oration goes back much further, to the idea of nommo, which is rooted in West African tradition. Through both dialect and nommo, former President Barack Obama was able to inspire black and white audiences, altering his word choice and patterns accordingly…

Scholarship of nommo is wanting. However, in the Journal of Black Studies, Sheena C. Howard defines it in the following manner: “Nommo, the creative power of the word, is a delivery style that is unique to African Americans. Nommo is manifested in characteristics of African orality.” She focuses on four characteristics of nommo: rhythm, call and response, mythication, and repetition, and she analyzes their use in two of Obama’s speeches: one at Howard University and the other at Southern New Hampshire University, both in 2007…

Read the entire article here.

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The Harlem Renaissance’s Hidden Figure

Posted in Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Passing, United States on 2017-08-16 21:57Z by Steven

The Harlem Renaissance’s Hidden Figure

Ursinus College
English Summer Fellows Student Research
2017-07-21
23 pages

Jada A. Grice
Ursinus College, Collegeville, Pennsylvania

This project will seek to look at the Harlem Renaissance’s hidden figure, Jessie Fauset. Jessie Fauset was born to an A.M.E. minister and his wife as one of ten children in Camden County, New Jersey and raised in Philadelphia. From there she got her college degree and began teaching all over the country. She has written four novels, There is Confusion, Plum Bun, The Chinaberry Tree, and Comedy: American Style, all of which I have read this summer. Each novel focuses on the early twentieth century black family. I will be analyzing these novels under the four themes of passing, acceptance, romance, and Paris/escape. I will also be mapping the characters in the novel on a QGIS system in order to indicate where the majority of the novel takes place and to see if certain characters have more movement than others. I will finally map Jessie Fauset’s life in order to see if her life parallels with the lives of her characters. Mapping consists of a close reading of the novel, identifying locations in the book, creating an [Microsoft] Excel spreadsheet, and plotting the spreadsheet onto an online map on QGIS.

Read the entire paper here.

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