Parsing Race and Blackness in Mexico

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2014-10-30 16:02Z by Steven

Parsing Race and Blackness in Mexico

Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews
Volume 43, Number 6 (November 2014)
pages 816-820
DOI: 10.1177/0094306114553216a

Enid Logan, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Minnesota

Land of the Cosmic Race: Race Mixture, Racism, and Blackness in Mexico, by Christina A. Sue  Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013. 234pp. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 9780199925506.

In Land of the Cosmic Race, Christina Sue offers an ambitious, data-rich ethnography set in the “blackest” area of Mexico: the port city of Veracruz. She asks how the local population understands and negotiates racial and national identity, and in particular, how they make sense of the tricky issue of blackness in Mexico. Sue is one of a comparatively small number of sociologists who study race relations in Latin America, as most scholarship in this area has come from the fields of anthropology and history. Though the study is grounded in Veracruz, Sue’s larger intent is to analyze racial dynamics in contemporary Mexico writ large.

Sue “centralizes the racial common sense” of Mexican mestizos, a population that she estimates to comprise up to 90 percent of the total (p. 6). Mestizo is a broad category including anyone of “mixed-race” ancestry: Spanish, indigenous, or African. And in large part because Mexico defines itself as a mestizo nation, almost everyone in Mexico identifies as mestizo as well. Within the broad racial category of mestizo, Sue states, there are crucial distinctions of color, which are too often ignored. She sets out to analyze these distinctions in her study.

She writes that Mexican mestizos negotiate the dynamics of race and color in “an ideological terrain littered with contradiction” (p. 18). While elite ideology asserts that racism in Mexico is non-existent, implies that there are no blacks in Mexico, and is officially celebratory of race-mixing (or mestizaje), the lived experiences of most Mexicans, Sue claims, are “replete” with contradictory attitudes and events (p. 5). Sue uncovers in her research a general distaste for intercolor relationships from the point of view of those whose racial capital they would degrade, a clear aesthetic preference for whiteness, and a wealth of strongly-held negative beliefs about blacks and…

Read or purchase the review here.

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Negro? Prieto? Moreno? A Question of Identity for Black Mexicans

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2014-10-26 17:33Z by Steven

Negro? Prieto? Moreno? A Question of Identity for Black Mexicans

The New York Times
2014-10-25

Randal C. Archibold, Bureau Chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean

JOSÉ MARÍA MORELOS, Mexico — Hernán Reyes calls himself “negro” — black — plain and simple.

After some thought, Elda Mayren decides she is “Afromexicana,” or African-Mexican.

Candido Escuen, a 58-year-old papaya farmer, is not quite sure what word to use, but he knows he is not mestizo, or mixed white and native Indian, which is how most Mexicans describe themselves.

“Prieto,” or dark, “is what a lot of people call me,” he said.

This isolated village is named for an independence hero, thought to have had black ancestors, who helped abolish slavery in Mexico. It lies in the rugged hills of southwestern Mexico, among a smattering of towns and hamlets that have long embraced a heritage from African slaves who were brought here to work in mines and on sugar plantations in the 16th century.

Just how many people are willing to share that pride may soon be put to the test as Mexico moves to do something it has not attempted in decades and never on its modern census: ask people if they consider themselves black.

Or Afromexican. Or “moreno,” “mascogo,” “jarocho,” or “costeño” — some of the other terms sometimes used to describe black Mexicans.

What term or terms to use is not just a matter of personal and societal debate, but a longstanding dilemma that the government is hoping finally to resolve…

Read the entire article and view the slide show here.

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Mixed Race Amnesia: Resisting the Romanticization of Multiraciality

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Canada, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science on 2014-10-24 20:16Z by Steven

Mixed Race Amnesia: Resisting the Romanticization of Multiraciality

University of British Columbia Press
2014-10-21
288 pages
6 x 9″
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-7748-2772-0
Library E-Book: ISBN: 978-0-7748-2774-4

Minelle Mahtani, Associate Professor in the Department of Human Geography and the Program in Journalism
University of Toronto, Scarborough

Mixed Race Amnesia is an ambitious and critical look at how multiraciality is experienced in the global north. Drawing on a series of interviews she conducted with twenty-four women of mixed race, acclaimed geographer Minelle Mahtani explores some of the assumptions and attitudes people have around multiraciality.

She discovers that, in Canada at least, people of mixed race are often romanticized as being the embodiment of a progressive, post-racial future—an ideal that is supported by government policy and often internalized by people of mixed race themselves. As Mahtani reveals, this superficial celebration of multiraciality is often done without any acknowledgment of the freight and legacy of historical racisms. Consequently, a strategic and collective amnesia is taking place—one where complex diasporic and family histories are being lost while Canada’s colonial legacy is being reinforced.

While noting that our “analytical vocabulary for describing the experience of multiraciality is not yet up to the task of telling a more complex story about whiteness, race, diasporic mobility, and grids of racial intelligibility in a white-settler society within what is understood as a multicultural liberal democracy,” Mahtani nevertheless undertakes to give us the tools we need to do this. The result is a book that takes critical race studies in new and exciting directions.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Disentangling Our Curious Affection with Mutiraciality
  • 1. Mixed Race Mythologies: Toward an Anticolonial Mixed Race Studies
  • 2. Mixed Race Narcissism? Thoughts on the Interview Experience
  • 3. The Model Multiracial: Propping Up Canadian Multiculturalism through Racial Impotency
  • 4. Beyond the Passing Narrative: Multiracial Whiteness
  • 5. Mongrels, Interpreters, Ambassadors, and Bridges? Mapping Liberal Affinities among Mixed Race Women
  • 6. Mixed Race Scanners: Performing Race
  • 7. Present Tense: The Future of Critical Mixed Race Studies
  • References
  • Index
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The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada by Joanne Rappaport (review) [Roland review]

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2014-10-20 17:50Z by Steven

The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada by Joanne Rappaport (review) [Roland review]

Journal of Latin American Geography
Volume 13, Number 3, 2014
pages 253-255
DOI: 10.1353/lag.2014.0045

L. Kaifa Roland, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies
University of Colorado, Boulder

Joanne Rappaport, The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014)

Joanne Rappaport’s The Disappearing Mestizo is an important interrogation of the sixteenth and seventeenth century archives in service of detailing the construction of an enduring socio-racial category encountered throughout Latin America. What is a mestizo, or as Rappaport challenges: when, where, and for whom was the mestizo category activated?

As students of Latin American race are aware, mestizaje is understood to describe the condition of racial mixture, usually involving European and indigenous parentage. However, Rappaport finds the question of “impure blood” that mestizaje seems to indicate moves in and out of focus at various times, depending on a variety of contexts. “But must we confine our understanding of mestizaje to the offspring of mixed unions? In the early modern period, mixture resulted not only from sexual encounters but also from other sorts of activities, both public and intimate in character. That is, mixing was not necessarily genealogical in nature” (p.18). She invokes the title trope of “the disappearing mestizo” to address the instability of the category, and expertly engages the archives to ethnographically portray several men and women to whom the contentious label was ascribed in court cases.

After introducing some of the “characters” readers will meet in the course of the book (also denoted in the appendix), Rappaport highlights her strong interdisciplinary approach, while acknowledging the limitations of working with archival data in her ethnographic construction of colonial history. She concedes that she only has information on her subjects for the fragments of time that they enter the legal archives, filling in other parts from available genealogical records in the region. Rather than forcing the evidence to fit the model, she interrogates the record and asks questions of gaps left in the wake of absent data.

The greatest strength of the book is in its storytelling and the sensitive portrayal of historic individuals labeled or contesting the label of mestizo who were encountered in the archives. In chapter one, Rappaport introduces a series of vignettes in order to dismiss the notion that the “disappearing mestizo” phenomenon is an attempt at “passing” from one racial category to another. Rather, she finds individuals contesting or reinforcing classifications associated with Spanishness or indigenousness using color, gender, religion, and status to make the case. Given this fluidity, it can be anticipated that the second chapter’s inquiry into whether mestizos constituted a community is answered in the negative. While mestizo men, in particular, often found themselves on the fringes of society given their exclusion from both Spanish and indigenous society, they often associated with other marginalized individuals—and thus became associated with marginal behaviors like assaults, rapes, and kidnapping (p.87).

While distinctions in gendered experiences are discussed throughout the book, chapter three stands out in the book for the way it highlights why it was often easier for women to transcend mestizaje than it was for men. Certainly, marriage provided mestiza-born women access to different forms of mobility than it did for men, but Rappaport also emphasizes the importance in colonial Spanish society of honor and reputation—especially so in the New World where noble lineages were established through more diverse means than in the Old World. Whereas women could largely be absorbed into Spanish or indigenous communities without upsetting the system too much, men had to be categorized by their particular role in the tribute system. In trying to determine why mestizo men found themselves excluded from sites of power, Rappaport may rely too much on the question of bloodline and biological relationships given her earlier arguments about how mestizaje also took account of issues of cultural mixture like how one comports oneself in public or marriage pairings.

Chapter four turns the attention from mestizos contending with their elite Spanish heritage, to mestizos fighting to be recognized among the chiefly indigenous cacique class. Rappaport introduces readers to two men who try to use their mestizo status to their advantage—arguing their Catholic religion and Spanish practices would help them better “civilize” their indigenous subjects. Their quest is complicated, however, by the position they take in defending the indigenous from unfair tributes, such that they find anti-mestizo opposition from the various groups who benefit from the tribute…

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The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs on 2014-10-20 15:18Z by Steven

The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada

Duke University Press
2014
368 pages
6 illustrations
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5629-5
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-5636-3

Joanne Rappaport, Professor of Anthropology, and Spanish and Portuguese
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

Much of the scholarship on difference in colonial Spanish America has been based on the “racial” categorizations of indigeneity, Africanness, and the eighteenth-century Mexican castas system. Adopting an alternative approach to the question of difference, Joanne Rappaport examines what it meant to be mestizo (of mixed parentage) in the early colonial era. She draws on lively vignettes culled from the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century archives of the New Kingdom of Granada (modern-day Colombia) to show that individuals classified as “mixed” were not members of coherent sociological groups. Rather, they slipped in and out of the mestizo category. Sometimes they were identified as mestizos, sometimes as Indians or Spaniards. In other instances, they identified themselves by attributes such as their status, the language that they spoke, or the place where they lived. The Disappearing Mestizo suggests that processes of identification in early colonial Spanish America were fluid and rooted in an epistemology entirely distinct from modern racial discourses.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Author’s Note on Transcriptions, Translations, Archives, and Spanish Naming Practices
  • Introduction
  • 1. Mischievous Lovers, Hidden Moors, and Cross-Dressers: Defining Race in the Colonial Era
  • 2. Mestizo Networks: Did “Mestizo” Constitute a Group?
  • 3. Hiding in Plain Sight: Gendering Mestizos
  • 4. Good Blood and Spanish Habits: The Making of a Mestizo Cacique
  • 5. “Asi lo Paresçe por su Aspeto”: Physiognomy and the Construction of Difference in Colonial Santafé
  • 6. The Problem of Caste Conclusion
  • Appendix: Cast of Characters
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
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Down Blige Road: Where There’s No Place Like Home

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States on 2014-10-14 13:13Z by Steven

Down Blige Road: Where There’s No Place Like Home

Richmond Hill Reflections
Richmond Hill, Georgia
Volume 10, Number 4 (September 2014)
pages 57-60

Leslie Ann Berg (Photos by Callie Beale Photography)

Richmond Hill’s history is engrained deep within the walls of its old buildings, street names, and its land. But there is another place where history runs deep in Richmond Hill. It is a living, breathing history that not only thrived centuries ago, but is still thriving today. It is a history that courses through the very veins of the Richmond Hill people: It is the history of bloodlines.

Some of us are military families that found our way to Richmond Hill because of our duty, others transferred here for a job, and still others came to Richmond Hill for its quiet, safe community and great schools. But there is a very real and permanent group of people who live in Richmond Hill because it is home in the deepest sense of the word: Richmond Hill is where their ancestors settled and where they choose to remain. This group of people is the Blige family.

Meeting a member of the Blige family is like meeting an old friend. They are warm, welcoming, and full of jovial conversation. As I sat around Albertha Blige’s dining room table with her cousin Francis, and her mother Dorothy, and Uncle Pete, both in their 80s, we discussed Blige family history, traditions, and folklore. The women were tight-lipped when it came to telling stories, but Uncle Pete opened up and let me in on who exactly the Bliges were and are.

The Bliges made their way to Richmond Hill after the Civil War in 1875, when three brothers, Andrew, Benjamin, and Rently Blige, migrated south from Charleston, South Carolina. All three bothers married and had eight, nine, and 11 children respectively and so began the large Blige family of Richmond Hill. The brothers worked for wages at the Ogeechee River plantations. As their children grew, the family purchased land from Thomas Savage Clay, a man who owned several plantations in the Richmond Hill area.

Owning land was monumental for the families of emancipated slaves like the Bliges, yet life wasn’t easy. Uncle Pete, Benjamin Blige’s grandson and one of 20 children, recalls what life was like when he was a boy: “[My father] worked about 60 miles from [Richmond Hill]. He left on Sunday evenings and didn’t come back for 2 weeks. My mother was here taking care of the farm. The kids worked… that’s why they had so many kids. Kids carried the farm and my mother did the housework and watched the kids.”…

…Uncle Pete’s accounts of his family may sound like a typical African American ancestral history in the southeastern United States, but beneath the commonalities lies a forgotten history, a history that never made its way into the history books.

The Blige’s African American ancestry is vibrant and evident, yet they are also of Cherokee Indian decent. African-Native Americans? Yes, and in fact, African-Native Americans made up a significant percentage of Native Americans living in the South in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Yet their existence is not widely accounted for in history.

The American history that most of us are familiar with is one that paints a picture of segregated ethnic groups, depicting Whites as slave owners, Africans as slaves, and Native Americans as tribe members. In most of our minds, all three groups were separate and played a very specific and hierarchical role in history. Yet, before North America was widely colonized, distinct segregation did not exist, and the interaction between Africans and Native Americans was somewhat frequent. Enslaved Africans escaped to Native American tribes (some tribes even hosted stops on the Underground Railroad), some Native Americans were enslaved by Europeans alongside Africans, and some Native Americans had African slaves. Often times, the two groups worked alongside each other, lived together, and shared recipes, myths, legends, and herbal remedies. Africans and Native Americans intermarried and had children. In fact, relations were so frequent that when a census was taken in the early 1800s, 10% of the Cherokee Nation was of African descent; 100 years later, this number increased to 50%.

As interaction between the Africans and Native Americans increased, colonists felt a need to break their alliance and issue laws that secured the land and property the Europeans had acquired. Once the American government was established and began to thrive, such laws were carried out. Only then did the rights ot slave owners gain tremendous strength, while the rights of Africans and Native Americans fell to the wayside. In order to enforce the new laws and segregate the two ethnic groups, a census was taken to categorize all individuals as African or Native American. Categorization was based solely on skin color; consequently, much of the African-Native American history, culture, and ancestral lines were erased. Fast forward 300 years and most Americans know very little, it anything, about this fascinating ethnic group.

The Blige family shares in this incredible story of the African-Native Americans. Their bloodline is unique and in many ways, we wall never truly uncover the rich culture ot the African-Native American due to the lack ot documentation. But the Blige family has main tained a connection to their African-Native American ancestors in their ability to live off the land and their lifelong practice olt faith and spirituality…

Read the entire article here.

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DANCE/CHANGE: The Mixed-Race Polynesian Body in Settler and Indigenous Performance

Posted in Anthropology, Live Events, Media Archive on 2014-10-05 21:53Z by Steven

DANCE/CHANGE: The Mixed-Race Polynesian Body in Settler and Indigenous Performance

University of California, Riverside
900 University Avenue
Riverside, California 92521
Athletics & Dance Building Dance Studio Theatre, ATHD 102
Tuesday, 2014-10-21, 16:10-18-00 PDT (Local Time)

Maile Arvin, UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Ethnic Studies
University of California, Riverside

The Mixed-Race Polynesian Body in Settler and Indigenous Performance

This talk examines the genealogy of settler images of the mixed-race, “almost white,” Polynesian body within early twentieth century eugenics. I look at why the idea that Polynesians used to be white, and are destined to be white again in the future, persists, and how it structures settler colonialism in Polynesia, with a particular focus on Hawaiʻi.

I also show how Indigenous artists work to decolonize categories of race and gender attributed to Polynesian bodies, reframing their own bodies within Indigenous frameworks and futures.

For more information, click here.

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Student Blog: Why questioning the existence of Afro-Mexicans is problematic

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2014-10-05 21:18Z by Steven

Student Blog: Why questioning the existence of Afro-Mexicans is problematic

Baker Institute Blog
Insight and analysis from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University
2014-08-25

Sharae DeWitt
Rice University, Houston, Texas

Race has been closely tied to Mexican identity since the Mexican Revolution in 1910. The national ideology is centered on mestizaje, referring to the mixing between Spaniards and indigenous peoples. According to this belief, true “Mexicanness” is linked to being mestizo, or someone who is exclusively of Spanish and indigenous descent. Some Mexicans believe in fact that racism in the country has been erased due to the mestizo heritage, but this belief overlooks the exclusion of African heritage and those of African descent living in Mexico from the country’s history and ideology.

Mexican society has all but ignored the historical presence and economic contributions of Africans, despite the fact that Mexico imported about 200,000 African slaves during the colonial period. Throughout Mexico’s history, Africans were viewed as the lowest race within the colonial caste system. Intellectuals and government leaders debated the economic merits and capabilities of Africans. In the end, Afro-Mexicans lost touch with their African roots as the ideal of mestizaje stipulated assimilation, and Mexico’s national identity was built around this concept. The black presence in Mexico was essentially written out of history after the war for independence and during the revolution, with the government only classifying people as white, Indian or mestizo…

Read the entire article here.

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Black and Belgian: Navigating Multiracial Identities in Ghent, Belguim

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Europe, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2014-10-05 20:03Z by Steven

Black and Belgian: Navigating Multiracial Identities in Ghent, Belguim

Afropean: Adventures in Afro Europe
2014-10-01

Walter Thompson-Hernandez

Introduction

What does it mean to be Black and multiracial in Belgium? How does sub-Saharan African culture and experiences impact the lives of multiracial people or Afropeans in Belgium? How influential is the U.S. Black experience in the formation of an Afropean identity rooted in Belgian and African cultures? These were some of the questions that I pondered, seven weeks ago, at the outset of this project – eight weeks later, I am still grappling with them. This past summer, I arrived in Ghent, Belgium – a city with a population of 100,000 people, located forty-five miles northwest of Brussels – with hopes of understanding and delving into the multiracial experience of five people with parents from a sub-Saharan African country and the Flanders region in Belgium. Through interviews, observational data, photography, and other methods, I compiled valuable information regarding their stories.

Motives

I was drawn to Belgium for various reasons. As the son of an African American father and a first generation immigrant mother from Mexico, I have always been intrigued by the ways in which immigrant-origin populations impact the racial and social fabric of receiving sites. In attempting to construct my own multiethnic and multilingual identity, I have navigated, and often struggled, to understand my role in my family and community, and the subsequent reactions of my relatives – on both sides of the border, on both sides of my family tree. In Belgium, I found similar experiences with people who had at least one parent from an African country. The feelings of marginalization that I came across were all too familiar: ‘People didn’t know how to treat me’ and ‘I felt like I didn’t belong in either Belgium or Africa’ were some of the feelings that were expressed. Often, as I learned, my respondent’s relatives were faced with the challenges of conceptualizing both an African heritage and a Belgian identity. For many of these relatives, as I was told, the idea of a Belgian identity was already complicated by the French-Dutch language divide manifested in the Wallonia and Flanders regions in Belgium. ‘Identity in Belgium is already complicated,’ one person told me. ‘Are we French speaking or are we Dutch speaking? You add race and national origin to that and it really makes things interesting.’ As opposed to many societies around the world, many regions in Belgium, exercise – amidst contentious debate – a French and Dutch multilingual reality that, often, exacerbates identity formation for people of multiracial backgrounds, so that not only does an Afropean, in the spirit of W.E.B. Dubois, have to navigate a “double consciousness” of being European and African, but also split identities pertaining to language.

Secondly, in the age of European “Super Diversity” – a term coined by social scientists to describe the high rates of immigrant inflows to European nations – I was curious about the ways in which second generation children (the children of first-generation immigrants) were constructing their identities in the context of shifting racial and demographic landscapes. In the United States, interracial mixing is, often, romanticized and harmonized in the framework of multicultural ideas dating back to the 1970s. While once seen as a social and racial aberration, evidenced by anti-miscegenation laws and eugenics, multiracial children and families today have in many regions in the U.S. become a normative aspect of society. In Belgium, however, I learned of tacit and explicit “rules and regulations” for interracial mixing…

Read the entire article here.

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The Race Myth, Racial Disparities in Health, and Why There Are So Few African American Evolutionists

Posted in Anthropology, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2014-10-02 01:11Z by Steven

The Race Myth, Racial Disparities in Health, and Why There Are So Few African American Evolutionists

Evolution: This View of Life
2012-02-24

David Sloan Wilson, Host and Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology
State University of New York, Binghamton

Joseph L. Graves, Professor & Associate Dean for Research (author of The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America)
Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering
North Carolina A&T State University & University of North Carolina, Greensboro

In honor of Black History month, we are pleased to present an interview with Joseph L. Graves, a distinguished evolutionist and the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology. Prof. Graves explains why race is a myth, despite the undeniable fact of local adaptation. He also discusses his own research on aging, how an evolution-savvy diet saved his life, and the surprising reason why African-Americans are even less well represented in evolutionary biology than they are in science.

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