Recovering the Afro-Metropolis Before Windrush

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-05-26 00:19Z by Steven

Recovering the Afro-Metropolis Before Windrush

Christian John Høgsbjerg
University of Leeds

Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal
Volume 13, Issue 1 (The Caribbean Radical Tradition)
May 2016

Marc Matera, Black London: The Imperial Metropolis and Decolonization in the Twentieth Century (Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2015), 410 pp.

In Black London, Marc Matera’s wide-ranging historical overview of the small but significant African and Afro-Caribbean presence in London from the 1920s to the 1940s, we have an important work which can take its place proudly alongside classic works such as Peter Fryer’s Staying Power and complementing more recent works such as John Belchem’s study of “black Liverpool,” Before the Windrush. Synthesizing scholarship both old and new in a sophisticated manner with an impressive level of archival research undertaken over a decade, Matera provides a powerful, indeed unanswerable, rebuttal to all those who would persist in seeing the arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948 as the critical watershed marking the birth of “black British history”. The range of themes explored in Black London – political anticolonial agitation, social questions around interracial sex, imperial metropolitan cultural themes around British film-making and portrayals of Africa on the big screen, and the counter-cultures of resistance forged by black women and a host of musicians from across the African diaspora – mean that the work will appeal and be appreciated by not only historical specialists but also a wider public and popular audience…

…Matera registers in passing how the interracial relationships and marriages often resulting in such working class communities transgressed racial boundaries and upset imperialist sensibilities, noting for example that John Harris, who headed up the Committee for the Welfare of Africans in Europe, proposed to the Home Office in 1936 the gradual repatriation of black seafarers in Britain and suggested “steps might be found for raising the standard” of their mixed offspring “to that of the white races rather than leave them to drift down to that of the black” (210). Yet Matera’s work tells us little for example about the more general institutional racism suffered by this group of workers at the hands of the British state and the ship-owners (sometimes in collusion with the official National Union of Seamen), and perhaps more needed to be said about the “colour bar” that operated more widely across London (and Britain generally), for example in housing. Incidentally, it is noted that black actors such as Orlando Martins and Robert Adams survived by part-time work as wrestlers, but the role of black wrestlers as an aspect of wider inter-war multiracial working class culture might have been usefully developed (though I only am able to write this after recently hearing Gemma Romain give a fascinating paper on this very subject). Speaking of actors, though Matera does briefly discuss black theatre in Britain, I felt he could have pushed a little further in this direction, for example, building on the recent excellent work Black and Asian Theatre in Britain by Colin Chambers…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , , ,

‘We are Iranians’: Rediscovering the history of African slavery in Iran

Posted in Anthropology, Arts, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2016-05-17 01:59Z by Steven

‘We are Iranians’: Rediscovering the history of African slavery in Iran

Middle East Eye

Jillian D’Amours

ST CATHARINES, CanadaBehnaz Mirzai’s students often say her office is like a museum.

With shards of ancient pottery recovered from the mountains of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province, colourful vases from Isfahan, and tribal masks from Zanzibar adorning the shelves, it is easy to see why.

Mirzai has spent nearly 20 years studying the origins of the African diaspora in Iran, including the history and eventual abolition of slavery in her native country.

It was a topic that few knew about in the late 1990s, when she began her research, and one that remains unfamiliar to many today.

“Living in Iran for all my life, we had never heard about slavery in Iran,” Mirzai told Middle East Eye from Brock University, where she now works as an associate professor of Middle Eastern history…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

“Marrying Out” for Love: Women’s Narratives of Polygyny and Alternative Marriage Choices in Contemporary Senegal

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Media Archive, Women on 2016-04-25 14:50Z by Steven

“Marrying Out” for Love: Women’s Narratives of Polygyny and Alternative Marriage Choices in Contemporary Senegal

African Studies Review
Volume 59, Number 1, April 2016
pages 155-174

Hélène Neveu Kringelbach, Lecturer in African Studies
University College London

This article examines the ways in which childhood and youth experiences of living in polygynous households shape the aspirations of middle-class Muslim Senegalese women to companionate marriage. Increasingly, such aspirations are fulfilled through marriage with European men. In contrast to an enduring popular discourse according to which women live happily with polygyny throughout the Senegambian region, this article shows how some middle-class women’s choice to “marry out” is explicitly linked to family narratives and personal experiences of suffering. In a context in which many of these women face strong familial opposition to marriage with non-Muslim European men, this article suggests that the women’s narratives provide moral legitimacy to their “alternative” choices.

Cet article examine comment et de quelles manières les expériences des enfants et des jeunes qui vivent dans des ménages polygames, façonnent les aspirations des femmes sénégalaises musulmanes de la classe moyenne au mariage de compagnonnage. De plus en plus, de telles aspirations sont satisfaites par le mariage avec des hommes européens. Contrairement à un discours populaire qui perdure selon lequel les femmes vivent heureuses dans la polygynie dans toute la région de Sénégambie, cet article montre comment le choix de certaines femmes de la classe moyenne à «se marier en dehors» est explicitement lié à des récits de famille et des expériences de souffrances personnelles. Cet article suggère que les récits des femmes assurent la légitimité morale à leurs choix “alternatifs” dans un contexte où beaucoup d’entre elles font face à une forte opposition familiale au mariage avec des hommes européens non-musulmans.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , , ,


Posted in Anthropology, Audio, History, Media Archive, Social Science on 2016-04-21 00:22Z by Steven


The Podcast
Stuff Mom Never Told You

Cristen Conger, Co-host

Caroline Ervin, Co-host

Why does lighter skin improve women’s chances of getting through school, getting a job and getting married? Cristen and Caroline explore the historical roots, repercussions and cross-cultural shades of colorism around the world.

Listen to the episode (00:48:48) here. Download the episode here.

Tags: , , ,

#BlackLivesMatter in Latin America: Race, Space and Consciousness

Posted in Anthropology, Caribbean/Latin America, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2016-04-17 23:54Z by Steven

#BlackLivesMatter in Latin America: Race, Space and Consciousness

New York University Department of Social & Cultural Analysis
20 Cooper Square
New York, New York 10003
Monday, 2016-04-18 18:30-20:00 EDT (Local Time)

The hashtag turned social movement, #blacklivesmatter, has thrust police brutality and institutionalized racism into the American consciousness. African descendants in Latin America are concurrently mobilizing around issues not unlike those faced by blacks in the U.S., drawing inspiration, in part, from #blacklivesmatter. What are the points of convergence in past and present Afro-Latin American and African American struggles to attain human rights? Join us for a multi-media panel discussion on #blacklivesmatter as a globalized from of protest, declaration of black pride and transnational solidarity throughout the Americas.


Dr. Arlene Davila, Professor of Anthropology, Social and Cultural Analysis
New York University


Carmen Perez, The Gathering for Justice
Johanna Fernandez, PhD, CUNY Faculty
Diana Palacios, DRECCA
Wendi Muse, PhD Candidate, NYU

Supported by:

Gallatin Dean’s Office Human Rights Fund
Center for Multicultural Education & Programs
Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies
Department of Social & Cultural Analysis
Department of Spanish & Portuguese
Afro-Latin@ Forum

For more information, click here.

Tags: , , , , ,

The Specter of Races: Latin American Anthropology and Literature between the Wars

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2016-04-14 02:16Z by Steven

The Specter of Races: Latin American Anthropology and Literature between the Wars

University of Virginia Press
April 2016
224 pages
6 x 9
Paper ISBN: 9780813938790
Cloth ISBN: 9780813938783
Ebook ISBN: 9780813938806

Anke Birkenmaier, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
Indiana University, Bloomington

Arguing that race has been the specter that has haunted many of the discussions about Latin American regional and national cultures today, Anke Birkenmaier shows how theories of race and culture in Latin America evolved dramatically in the period between the two world wars. In response to the rise of scientific racism in Europe and the American hemisphere in the early twentieth century, anthropologists joined numerous writers and artists in founding institutions, journals, and museums that actively pushed for an antiracist science of culture, questioning pseudoscientific theories of race and moving toward more broadly conceived notions of ethnicity and culture.

Birkenmaier surveys the work of key figures such as Cuban historian and anthropologist Fernando Ortiz, Haitian scholar and novelist Jacques Roumain, French anthropologist and museum director Paul Rivet, and Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre, focusing on the transnational networks of scholars in France, Spain, and the United States to which they were connected. Reviewing their essays, scientific publications, dictionaries, novels, poetry, and visual arts, the author traces the cultural study of Latin America back to these interdisciplinary discussions about the meaning of race and culture in Latin America, discussions that continue to provoke us today.

Tags: , , , , ,

Negotiating Identities: Mixed Race Individuals in China, Japan, and Korea

Posted in Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2016-04-14 02:11Z by Steven

Negotiating Identities: Mixed Race Individuals in China, Japan, and Korea

University of San Francisco
McLaren Complex – MC 250
2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, California 94117-1080
2016-04-14 through 2016-04-15

The University of San Francisco Center for Asia Pacific Studies is pleased to announce its spring symposium Negotiating Identities: Mixed-Race Individuals in China, Japan, and Korea, a conference to be held at the University of San Francisco on Thursday and Friday, April 14-15, 2016.

The highlight of the conference will be a keynote address by Emma Teng, Professor of History and Asian Civilizations, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

With this conference, the Center plans to provide a forum for academic discussions and the sharing of the latest research on the history and life experiences of mixed-race individuals in China, Japan, and Korea. The conference is designed to promote greater understanding of the cross-cultural encounters that led to the creation of interracial families and encourage research that examines how mixed-race individuals living in East Asia have negotiated their identities…

For more information and to register, click here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Becoming Melungeon: Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South by Melissa Schrift (review)

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2016-04-12 02:30Z by Steven

Becoming Melungeon: Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South by Melissa Schrift (review)

Journal of American Folklore
Volume 129, Number 511, Winter 2016
pages 102-103

Jim Clark

Melissa Schrift, Becoming Melungeon: Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013)

In the thorough but concise introduction to her book Becoming Melungeon: Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South, East Tennessee State University Anthropology Professor Melissa Schrift comes quickly to the following conclusion: “Thus, in my research, interviews with individuals living in Melungeon-related areas resulted in an overwhelming lack of oral history evidence that being Melungeon related to any kind of experiential reality distinct from being Appalachian” (p. 22). The archival material, as well, she says, reinforces the conclusion that “there is simply no evidence that Melungeons existed as a culturally bounded group of people” (p. 22). This being the case, and admitted so early on, one might wonder why she would bother to complete her book about Melungeon identity. Schrift’s purpose, as she states, is to examine the social construction of Melungeon identity especially through the complex and sometimes contradictory lenses of race and class. Specifically, Schrift claims:

In this book I argue that the contemporary revitalization of Melungeon identity borrows from the past to create a new white ethnicity that capitalizes on the cache [sic] of the cultural exotic while underplaying stigmatized aspects of heritage. I trace the ways in which individuals employ genealogy, blood metaphors, narratives of oppression, and physiological traits as they become Melungeon. In this way the process of becoming Melungeon reflects a kind of racial passing from a collectively imagined whiteness to a more desirable non-white, or, perhaps, off-white, otherness.

(p. 28)

In chapters 1 and 2, Schrift explores early media representations of the Melungeons, a mysterious, dark-skinned, presumably mixed-race people living in Hancock County, in northeast Tennessee. Schrift ties these writings, the earliest dating from about 1880, to the literary “local color” movement, an early, nationalistic phase of the progression toward literary realism that focused on the quaint, the atmospheric, the colorful, and the unusual, in language that typically featured large amounts of equally colorful and unusual dialect. “The effect of local color writing in Appalachia, and elsewhere,” Schrift writes, “was to create images of an exotic otherness” (p. 33). One of the earliest and most popular writers to depict the Melungeons was “a female Nashville reporter named Will Allen Dromgoole” who had indeed actually visited Hancock County and talked with the natives. “Dromgoole’s articles were sensationalistic and ethnocentric,” Schrift says, “producing a national template for future media coverage on Melungeons” (p. 38). Continuing in chapter 2 with an analysis of the media representation of Melungeons over the next 100 years, roughly speaking, Schrift reaches a startling conclusion:

A critical analysis of hundreds of Melungeon articles yields an incredible truth—the Melungeon story is a respindled yarn with little or no basis in ethnographic reality. As I examine the context in which the earliest Melungeon articles were written, I argue that the media manufactured a Melungeon legend that has little to do with any lived experiences of an identifiable group of people.

(p. 53)

Much like other perennial mysteries—UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot—the Melungeon legend is largely a socially constructed “media phantasm” (p. 68).

However, this is hardly the end of this fascinating story. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, an outdoor drama about the Melungeons, Walk Toward the Sunset, was produced in Hancock County. The brainchild of some members of the Hancock County Resource Development Committee, working with Carson Newman College Professors Gary Farley and Joe Mack High in 1966, the play was regionally popular. It was, however, somewhat controversial locally, especially owing to short-lived bus tours through Vardy Valley, in Hancock County, organized by local businessman and Development Committee member Claude Collins, during which it was suggested that tourists might be able to catch a glimpse of an actual Melungeon. Nevertheless, the impact of the drama on the Melungeon legend, as well as on Hancock County, was large. As Schrift points out: “With the drama, Melungeonness secured a public presence in the community for the first time, and the media gained a foothold to talk about Melungeons in a tangible way” (p. 69).

In chapters 4 and 5, Schrift shifts her focus “from media representations of Melungeons to social constructions of Melungeon identity vis-à-vis…

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , ,

Sacramento’s Mexican genealogists trace their roots to Aztec empire

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Mexico, United States on 2016-04-12 01:29Z by Steven

Sacramento’s Mexican genealogists trace their roots to Aztec empire

The Sacramento Bee
Sacramento, California

Stephen Magagnini


  • Mexican Americans use Catholic Church records, other documents to map family roots
  • Some trace family history to Aztecs, colonial Mexico
  • Interest in Mexican family histories is growing as Latinos become biggest group in California

Maria Cortez dug deep into Catholic Church records and family histories and struck gold.

The retired state-worker-turned-genealogist managed to trace her roots back to two of the most famous figures in Mexican history: Miguel Hidalgo, who declared independence from Spain in 1810 with “el grito de Dolores,” and the Aztec emperor Moctezuma II. “You’d be amazed; I think everyone has fascinating stories to be discovered,” said the 55-year-old, who co-founded the Sacramento-based Nueva Galicia Genealogical Society, thought to be the oldest Mexican genealogical club in California.

Cortez and 20 other Mexican Americans with roots in the states of Jalisco, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes gathered Saturday at the Sacramento Family History Center for the club’s quarterly meeting, scanning church records, Mexican census data and border-crossing information to excavate secrets of the past. Interest in exploring Mexican roots is surging, now that Latinos are the state’s largest ethnic group, genealogy TV shows are hot and DNA research is becoming more exact, Cortez said.

Mexican Americans can trace their DNA to as many as five continents, said Cortez, who was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco.

As thrilled as she was to learn that Hidalgo was her seventh cousin four times removed, and that evidence shows Moctezuma was her 12th-great-grandfather, Cortez was shocked to learn the blood of a dozen nations flows through her veins. She said DNA tests show she’s not only 41 percent Native American and 30 percent Iberian, but also 2 percent North African, a little less than 1 percent Bantu from southeastern Africa, 4 percent west Asian, 3 percent Middle Eastern, 1 percent European Jewish, 9 percent Greek and Italian, 5 percent Irish, another 5 percent from Great Britain, along with some roots in southern and central Asia and northwestern Russia.

“We’re the most mixed race in the world, and I’m a child of the world,” said Cortez, noting that other club members have made similar discoveries after researching their DNA. “In Mexico, you’re not taught about slavery, but slavery existed there. … They didn’t disappear. They married and mixed in with the rest of the population, so a lot of us have African ancestry.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

An Heir to a Tribe’s Culture Ensures Its Language Is Not Forgotten

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Oceania on 2016-04-11 02:11Z by Steven

An Heir to a Tribe’s Culture Ensures Its Language Is Not Forgotten

The Saturday Profile
The New York Times

Michelle Innis

Stan Grant, a Wiradjuri elder, at his home in Narrandera, Australia. Mr. Grant was an author of “A New Wiradjuri Dictionary,” after years of advocating to preserve the Wiradjuri language.
Credit Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

NARRANDERA, AustraliaStan Grant, crudely tattooed in a way that hints at the petty crime and drunken brawls of his youth, clasped gnarly hands across his round belly and murmured: “birrangbirrang, birrangbirrang.”

Mr. Grant had spotted a small kingfisher, or birrangbirrang in Wiradjuri, as it swooped low over the Murrumbidgee River in the oppressive summer heat, calling to its mate.

Slipping back into English, he spoke over the whirring of cicadas in the river red gum trees that line the sandy banks: “It is smaller than a kookaburra. Its mate will be nearby.”

Mr. Grant, 75, is an elder of Australia’s second-largest Aboriginal tribe, the Wiradjuri, who roamed most of central New South Wales before white farmers surged inland in the early 1800s.

Until recently, he was one of only a handful of people still speaking the tribal language, also called Wiradjuri (pronounced wi-RAD-jury), which nearly died out in the 20th century, when Aboriginals could be jailed for speaking their native tongue in public.

“You are nobody without language,” Mr. Grant said. “The world does not respect a person who does not have language.”…

…Mr. Grant was probably 8 or 9 years old the night a local policeman heard his grandfather, Wilfred Johnson, and locked him up. But he does not recall a sense of alarm.

“He was an elegant man,” he said of Mr. Johnson. “He was beautifully dressed, usually in a coat and hat. But he was black. So it wasn’t the first time he had spent the night in jail.”

After the arrest, Mr. Johnson, who spoke seven languages, refused to speak Wiradjuri in public…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,