Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana

Posted in Africa, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, United Kingdom on 2015-07-02 15:50Z by Steven

Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana

Ohio University Press
October 2015
364 pages
11 illus., 3 maps
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8214-2179-6
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8214-2180-2
Electronic ISBN: 978-0-8214-4539-6

Carina E. Ray, Associate Professor of African and Afro- American Studies
Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts

Interracial sex mattered to the British colonial state in West Africa. In Crossing the Color Line, Carina E. Ray goes beyond this fact to reveal how Gold Coasters—their social practices, interests, and anxieties—shaped and defined these powerfully charged relations across racial lines. The interplay between African and European perspectives and practices, argues Ray, transformed these relationships into key sites for consolidating colonial rule and for contesting its racial and gendered hierarchies of power.

With rigorous methodology and innovative analyses, Ray brings Ghana and Britain into a single analytic frame by examining cases in both locales. Intimate relations between black men and white women in Britain’s port cities emerge as an influential part of the history of interracial sex and empire in ways that are connected to rather than eclipsed by relations between European men and African women in the colony.

Based on rich archival evidence and original interviews, the book moves across different registers, shifting from the micropolitics of individual disciplinary cases against colonial officers who “kept” local women to transatlantic networks of family, empire, and anticolonial resistance. In this way, Ray cuts to the heart of how interracial sex became a source of colonial anxiety and nationalist agitation during the first half of the twentieth century.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Devil that Danced on the Water: A Daughter’s Quest

Posted in Africa, Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs on 2015-06-05 14:33Z by Steven

The Devil that Danced on the Water: A Daughter’s Quest

HarperCollins
2002
416 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 0002570653
Paperback ISBN: 0006531261

Aminatta Forna

An evening in 1974 when she was ten years old, Aminatta Forna opened the door to two men, members of the state secret police, come to take her father. A year later he was killed. The Devil that Danced on the Water is Aminatta’s search for the truth of her father’s fate, moving and terrifying in turns, always compelling, it traces events leading to the moment of his arrest. And what happened after he was taken away.

Aminatta Forna’s luminous memoir is a vivid and passionate account of an African childhood, of an idyll which becomes the stuff of nightmares. As a child she witnessed the upheavals of post-colonial Africa, danger, flight, the bitterness of exile in Britain and the terrible consequences of her dissident father’s stand against tyranny.

Mohamed Forna was a man of unimpeachable integrity and great charisma, who quoted Alexander Pope: ‘Honour and shame from no condition arise: Act well your part for there the honour lies.’ As Sierra Leone faced its future as a fledgling democracy, he was a new star in the political firmament, a man who had been one of the first black students to come to Britain after the war. Already a political firebrand and a stylish dresser, he stole the heart of Aminatta’s mother to the dismay of her Scottish Presbyterian parents and returned home, one of those Wole Soyinka has called the ‘Renaissance generation.’ But as Aminatta Forna shows with compelling clarity, the old Africa was torn apart by the new ways of Western democracy, which gave birth only to dictatorships and corruption of hitherto undreamed of magnitude. It was not long before Mohamed Forna languished in jail as a prisoner of conscience and worse was to follow.

Aminatta’s search for the truth that shaped both her childhood and the nation’s destiny begins among the country’s elite and took her to the heart of rebel territory. Determined to break the silence surrounding her father’s fate, she ultimately uncovered a conspiracy that penetrated the highest reaches of government and forced the nations politicians to confront their guilt.

The Devil that Danced on the Water is a book of pain and anger and sorrow, written with tremendous dignity and beautiful precision: a remarkable story of a father, a family, a country and a continent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lopsided Afro

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, South Africa on 2015-05-04 18:17Z by Steven

Lopsided Afro

Mixed Humans ~ Reflections on occupying a space of inbetweenness. Persistently grappling with identity.
2015-05-04

Brian Kamanzi
Cape Town, South Africa

Self Determination.

I never realised how practical those words would become for my life until I started to explore the world beyond the safety of my University. Work spaces where the politics of what is considered respectable are carried out with almost total compliance without anyone mentioning a word, without anyone signing a single suggestion to law.

It was and is suffocating.

I must admit though, this moment revived memories of my childhood.
Being a child of the “colonies” our British style schools and accompanying rules really struggled to accommodate students who just didn’t quite fit the profile.

My hair was just a disaster unless kept short.
In fact, my Dad’s distate for men with anything like long hair rang in stark synchornisation with a reality and imagination that reinforced in my mind that the very hair that came out of my head was essentially…..

Read the entire article here.

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Trevor Noah’s World

Posted in Africa, Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, South Africa on 2015-04-27 22:17Z by Steven

Trevor Noah’s World

The Atlantic
2015-04-05

Douglas Foster, Associate Professor of Journalism
Medill School of Journalism
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

What makes The Daily Show’s new host unique—according to South African comics

CAPE TOWN, South Africa—When word circulated on Monday that standup comic Trevor Noah had been chosen to succeed Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show, South Africans hailed Noah in hyper-caffeinated terms as the country’s “next great export” after Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Charlize Theron. On that day, I happened to be in Johannesburg shepherding students through the newsroom of The Star, where the lineup of stories at the morning editorial conference included a series of firefights between gangsters and police on public highways, allegations of corruption at every level of government, and the teetering condition of the state-run utility company, which regularly plunges the country into rolling blackouts. It was no wonder that news of a major U.S. television show hiring a 31-year-old mixed-race South African phenom as anchor had proven so welcome.

By now, the basics about Trevor Noah are well-known. He’s the young, super-cool comedian with the cherubic face and itchy Twitter finger who, beginning in 2012, achieved global recognition by way of Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Jon Stewart. In a series of solo performances around the world over the last three years, he has blown up in ways that cultural figures from South Africa haven’t since the 1960s and 1970s, when musicians like Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba packed music halls during the height of racial oppression back home…

…What makes Noah’s comedy unique? “He’s slick as fuck!” Evans replied. “But also super charming,” added the young comic sitting next to him. He was a slight, Afrikaans-speaking man named Schalk Bezuidenhout, who sometimes opens for Noah when he’s performing in town. Only 22 years old—the same age as Noah when he jump-started his career as a comedian—Bezuidenhout had just come off stage after a set about the hazards of dating a flight attendant (“a non-smoking fuck”) and the unintended consequences of imposing a non-racial ideal on young people from South Africa’s 11 different language groups (“There’s nothing more messed up than a bunch of Afrikaans kids singing an African song”).

Both men said Noah distinguished himself from other comics by resisting labels and “genre-based comedy.” Bezuidenhout noted that Noah always identified himself as a mixed-race South African raised in straitened circumstances in Soweto without “using it as a crutch.” Contemporaries who have shared the stage with him say he’s unusually attuned to the audience, shifting direction based on the feel in the room, and Bezuidenhout has seen Noah drop chunks of material based on the city he’s performing in. This was a quality that a number of immigrants in South Africa had already mentioned to me. Omega Chembhere, a waiter, told me that when he had arrived from Zimbabwe 10 years earlier, much of South African pop culture had seemed inaccessible. “Trevor’s different, so good at it,” he said. “His strength is that everything springs from his experience in life, but you understand his reality because he makes an effort to explain.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Conjugal Rights: Marriage, Sexuality, and Urban Life in Colonial Libreville, Gabon

Posted in Africa, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs on 2015-04-21 01:05Z by Steven

Conjugal Rights: Marriage, Sexuality, and Urban Life in Colonial Libreville, Gabon

Ohio University Press
2014
336 pages
6 × 9 in., 7 b&w photos, 4 maps
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8214-2120-8
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8214-2119-2
Electronic ISBN: 978-0-8214-4503-7

Rachel Jean-Baptiste, Assistant Professor of African History
University of California, Davis

Conjugal Rights is a history of the role of marriage and other arrangements between men and women in Libreville, Gabon, during the French colonial era, from the mid–nineteenth century through 1960. Conventional historiography has depicted women as few in number and of limited influence in African colonial towns, but this book demonstrates that a sexual economy of emotional, social, legal, and physical relationships between men and women indelibly shaped urban life.

Bridewealth became a motor of African economic activity, as men and women promised, earned, borrowed, transferred, and absconded with money to facilitate interpersonal relationships. Colonial rule increased the fluidity of customary marriage law, as chiefs and colonial civil servants presided over multiple courts, and city residents strategically chose the legal arena in which to arbitrate a conjugal-sexual conflict. Sexual and domestic relationships with European men allowed some African women to achieve a greater degree of economic and social mobility. An eventual decline of marriage rates resulted in new sexual mores, as women and men sought to rebalance the roles of pleasure, respectability, and legality in having sex outside of kin-sanctioned marriage.

Rachel Jean-Baptiste expands the discourse on sexuality in Africa and challenges conventional understandings of urban history beyond the study of the built environment. Marriage and sexual relations determined how people defined themselves as urbanites and shaped the shifting physical landscape of Libreville. Conjugal Rights takes a fresh look at questions of the historical construction of race and ethnicity. Despite the efforts of the French colonial government and society to enforce boundaries between black and white, interracial sexual and domestic relationships persisted. Black and métisse women gained economic and social capital from these relationships, allowing some measure of freedom in the colonial capital city.

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The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, and Japan’s Miss Universe Reveal Biracial Realities

Posted in Africa, Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, South Africa, United States on 2015-04-16 15:08Z by Steven

The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, and Japan’s Miss Universe Reveal Biracial Realities

Will Wright: Cinéma, Style, Race and Politics Permeate Our Lives. That Fascinates Me.
2015-04-09

Will Wright

Thanks in part to the changing of the guard at The Daily Show, biracial experiences and related politics have made headlines, and snuck into our minds. South African, Trevor Noah, once a correspondent for The Daily Show, has been named to host it, succeeding Jon Stewart. His immediate family tree seems about as strange to Americans as Senator Obama’s did when he began running for president; Mr. Noah’s mom is a Xhosa South African and his father Swiss.

But his mixed heritage is not the only one being discussed. If you pay attention to headlines about mixed race folks (who doesn’t, right?) then you’ve felt shockwaves from Japan’s Miss Universe contestant…

Read the entire article here.

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The Trouble With Race

Posted in Africa, Articles, Europe, History, Law, Media Archive, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, South Africa, United States on 2015-04-13 00:38Z by Steven

The Trouble With Race

Foreign Affairs
March/April 2015

Gideon Rose, Editor

Everybody knows that racial tensions have been at the center of American political debate in recent months, but the story of racial and ethnic division is actually a global one, with a long and tortured history. For the lead package in the March/April issue, therefore, we decided to do a deep dive into racial issues in comparative and historical perspective.

Kwame Anthony Appiah kicks it off with a sweeping review of the rise and fall of race as a concept, tracing how late-nineteenth-century scientists and intellectuals built up the idea that races were biologically determined and politically significant, only to have their late-twentieth-century counterparts tear it down. Unfortunately, he concludes, recognizing that racial categories are socially constructed rather than innate doesn’t make racial problems easier to solve.

Fredrick Harris and Robert Lieberman explore the paradox of a United States in which stark racial inequalities persist even as official and individual-level racism have dramatically declined: a country that might be postracist but is hardly postracial. They point to the influence of historical legacies that baked the racism of previous eras into the cake of contemporary institutions and practices, from housing to finance to criminal justice…

Read the entire article here.

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The Culture of Curls: What Hair Really Means in Mixed Race Societies

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, South Africa on 2015-03-16 02:13Z by Steven

The Culture of Curls: What Hair Really Means in Mixed Race Societies

The Yale Globalist
2013-12-24

Isidora Stankovic
Timothy Dwight College
Yale University

Look through any fashion magazine and you might notice something puzzling. Almost without exception, models of every race have the same sleek, straightened hair. The message from these media sources seems clear: these painstakingly smooth hairstyles are simply better. Women around the world have taken this message to heart and adopted straightened hair as a beauty ideal, but for some women, hair texture means something more. In societies with large mixed race populations, hair extends beyond beauty and becomes a factor that reveals ethnic heritage and even socioeconomic background. According to Professor Roberto González Echevarría, Sterling Professor of Hispanic and Comparative Literatures at Yale University, “hair is a fashion statement as well as a statement of ethnicity.” Curls and kinky hair are loaded with stigma in many countries, in part because they represent the effects of historical interactions between different ethnic groups.

The legacy of European colonialism echoes strongly in Cuba, and has been influential in shaping race relations, social structure, and the identities of mixed-race individuals. Professor González Echevarría explains that Spaniards brought a relatively small number of African slaves to Cuba in the 16th century to replace the annihilated labor force. In the 19th century, the number of African slaves on the island grew as the country invested in the sugar industry. Interactions with white Europeans and black slaves created a significant mixed-race population, and the growth of this group has made it increasingly difficult to identify people as either black or white and produced a change in categorization of individuals. Thus, hair has become an important tool for labeling and social stratification. According to González Echevarría, “There are many gradations of mulatto in Cuba, and some are gauged by how kinky their hair is.” He adds that Cubans can be prejudiced against kinky hair, noting that to have kinky hair is to “tener pelo malo,” or “to have bad hair.” They may call the hair of black individuals “pasa,” and women of European origin even refer to their hair as “pasa” when they are having a bad hair day, often saying “tengo la pasa alborotada” (“I have messy/wild hair”)…

Read the entire article here.

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