Reading Rivalry, Race, and the Rise of a Southern Middle Class in Charles W. Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-30 17:26Z by Steven

Reading Rivalry, Race, and the Rise of a Southern Middle Class in Charles W. Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition

Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory
Volume 70, Number 3, Autumn 2014
pages 157-184
DOI: 10.1353/arq.2014.0018

Rachel A. Wise, Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of English
University of Texas, Austin

This essay argues that a sustained reading of the courtship plot and Lee Ellis’s role in Charles W. Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition allows us to see the novel as ultimately envisioning a New South in which racial loyalty still trumps middle-class and professional solidarity. It reads the novel’s romantic triangle as a dramatization of the rise of a white middle class whose professional capital overtakes the central role of a plantation-based aristocracy. In the process, this new class remakes a whiteness that fails to significantly challenge either the essential hierarchy of white over black or the bloody lynch law that enforces that hierarchy. Because Ellis, who initially seems one of the least prejudiced whites in the novel, succumbs to race loyalty, his romantic triumph over Tom suggests the hopelessness of any chances for solidarity, highlighting The Marrow of Tradition’s critique of black middle-class enculturation as a viable form of racial uplift.

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Exploring Identity: The Asian American Experience at Harvard

Posted in Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Campus Life, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-30 14:23Z by Steven

Exploring Identity: The Asian American Experience at Harvard

The Harvard Crimson: The University Daily since 1873
Harvard University
2014-09-25

Maia R. Silber, Crimson Staff Writer

While last year’s “I, Too, Am Harvard” focused on identity and belongingness on a multiracial campus, Harvard’s AAPI students will also examine these concepts within the context of their own community.

It is a Saturday night, and it is raining—two factors counting against attendance at the talk co-hosted by Harvard’s Asian American Brotherhood and Black Men’s Forum. But a surprising number of people have filtered through the double doors of Boylston Hall, filling the plush red chairs only vaguely oriented around an old-fashioned projector. Stragglers lean against the shade-less windows, their elbows forming perpendicular angles with the droplets pounding on the other side.

Really, it’s no surprise that neither weather nor the opportunity cost of missed social engagements has deterred the audience; the talk centers on the buzz-worthy issue of affirmative action. Both campus groups have invited an alumnus who’s an expert on the issue for two short presentations, to be followed by a Q&A.

Gregory D. Kristof ’15, the education and politics director of AAB, a campus organization whose mission statement cites dedication to brotherhood, service, and activism, introduces AAB’s alumnus. Kristof focuses on the third part of AAB’s mission—the group’s discussions of discrimination and race-relations.

“We can only make so much progress if we only discuss these issues among AAB—among Asian Americans,” he says.

As discussions about race and inclusiveness have moved to the forefront of campus life with the “I, Too, Am Harvard” campaign, many Asian American student organizations have launched their own dialogues about issues pertinent to their community. But the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community at Harvard—representing around 24 percent of the school’s population—encompasses individuals of dozens of different national, ethnic, linguistic, socioeconomic, and religious identities. It includes students born here and students born in Asia, biracial students and multiracial students. How can a unified political force emerge from such a diverse and multifaceted population? Is this even a goal to aspire to?…

…Many students remain unsure as to how to define their own identities. “Sometimes I think of myself as Asian, but sometimes I don’t,” said Jacob. “When I see an Asian collaboration happening, do I automatically think that we should be included? Not necessarily.”

“Asian American” identities are further complicated by biracial and multiracial heritages. Harvard’s Half Asian People’s Association holds an annual discussion called “So What Are You Anyway?”

“When we get together, people always ask, ‘Do you feel more Asian or more white?’” says outgoing HAPA president Allison W. Giebisch ’16, who is of half-Austrian and half-Chinese descent. “When I go to China, people don’t think I’m Chinese. In the U.S., people don’t think I’m American.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality by Michael J. Montoya (review) [Wentzell]

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Forthcoming Media, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-29 21:17Z by Steven

Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality by Michael J. Montoya (review) [Wentzell]

The Americas
Volume 71, Number 1, July 2014
pages 179-181
DOI: 10.1353/tam.2014.0105

Emily Wentzell, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Iowa

Montoya, Michael J., Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011)

Michael J. Montoya investigates U.S.-based genetic research and discourse asserting Mexican-American susceptibility to type 2 diabetes, to reveal “the role of genetic research in the persistent use of race to divide populations in society at large” (p. 12). Montoya makes the importance of this project clear, situating it in a sociocultural context where genetics suffuse our understandings of humanness, identity, and sickness, and where folk taxonomies of race—which Montoya understands as embodiments of group-based oppression—are simultaneously contested and enduring. His chapters follow blood samples and their use from donation, though abstraction into datasets and analyses, to market and the popular cultural deployment of the scientific claims they generate. Montoya reveals how each of these moments entails the construction of scientific objects, including the recasting of borderlands residents who cannot afford healthcare as humanist donors, the elision of folk taxonomies of race into bodily attributes on the population level, and the construction of “the Mexican American population” as a homogenously admixed ethno-racial group. These chapters also illustrate the process of what Montoya terms “bioethnic conscription,” in which “ethnicity comes to be construed as meaningful for scientific research,” supporting genetic or clinical claims (p. 26) and obscuring the social origins of human difference and sickness. Overall, this book reveals how broader contexts of oppression lead well-meaning researchers to further the biologization of inequality into ethno-racial categories, which pathologize and homogenize the oppressed while obscuring the material causes of sickness.

This work builds on the best foundations from anthropology and STS, wedding attention to the co-construction of society and science with an anthropological eye to material and social realities. Montoya’s resistance to dualities when investigating science-race relationships is at the same time a resistance to reductionist traditions. Avoiding oppositions between biology and society, he productively frames biology as part of society to understand how embodied inequality can come to look like racial disease susceptibility, and how broader social phenomena, like the existence of racial labels, filter into biological research.

He similarly complicates debates about the use of race in science. Pointing out that scientists are themselves wary of naturalizing race, Montoya sees that simply identifying their failures is a dead end. Instead, he investigates how even those seeking to avoid biologizing folk taxonomies of race participate in broader cultural assemblages that reinforce them. His claims draw authority from his impressive engagement with scientific practice and fluency in the language of genetics, which enable him to avoid critiquing a scientific straw man.

Such analysis draws on remarkable ethnography. Montoya conducted extensive participant observation in multiple sites of an international diabetes research consortium. This research yields data on geneticists’ daily practice in offices in Chicago, DNA sample collection along the U.S.-Mexico border, and diabetes research conferences, as well as the resulting documents such as grant proposals. Linking rich ethnography with equally rich analysis, Montoya shows readers how interactions in these sites illustrate widely varying uses and even critiques of ideas of race which ultimately, because of broader social forces, revivify ideas of human difference that perpetuate inequality. Montoya clearly situates himself in the work, discussing his intellectual and social background and its relationship to the development of his project; graduate students designing their own fieldwork will find this instructive.

This book is a must-read for scholars seeking an ethnographically grounded yet highly theoretical read on science, sickness, race and Mexicanness. It reveals relationships between race, science, and context that should be widely understood, and Montoya expresses hope that a broadly interdisciplinary readership might apply these insights. However, this aim of applicability might be thwarted by the book’s impressive but dizzying linkage of analyses to relevant theories from multiple disciplines, as well as its inclusion (especially in the introduction) of rafts of provocative questions that will not be explicitly answered. Somewhat ironically, given Montoya’s engaging discussion of a geneticist critiquing an ethnography of science’s emphasis on “philosophy shit” (p. 128), this work uses high-level theory in a way that will excite social scientists but overwhelm others. While excerpts (especially the engaging sections analyzing rich ethnography) would be useful for undergraduate classes on medical and cultural anthropology, race…

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Clotel or, The President’s Daughter

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2014-09-29 20:42Z by Steven

Clotel or, The President’s Daughter

Penguin Press
2003-12-30 (First published in December 1853)
320 Pages
Paperback ISBN: 9780142437728
ePub ISBN: 9781440626616

William Wells Brown (1814–1884)

Introduction by:

M. Giulia Fabi, Associate professor of American literature
University of Ferrara, Italy

First published in December 1853, Clotel was written amid then unconfirmed rumors that Thomas Jefferson had fathered children with one of his slaves. The story begins with the auction of his mistress, here called Currer, and their two daughters, Clotel and Althesa. The Virginian who buys Clotel falls in love with her, gets her pregnant, seems to promise marriage—then sells her. Escaping from the slave dealer, Clotel returns to Virginia disguised as a white man in order to rescue her daughter, Mary, a slave in her father’s house. A fast-paced and harrowing tale of slavery and freedom, of the hypocrisies of a nation founded on democratic principles, Clotel is more than a sensationalist novel. It is a founding text of the African American novelistic tradition, a brilliantly composed and richly detailed exploration of human relations in a new world in which race is a cultural construct.

  • First time in Penguin Classics
  • Published in time for African-American History Month
  • Includes appendices that show the different endings Brown created for the various later versions of Clotel, along with the author’s narrative of his “Life and Escape,” Introduction, suggested readings, and comprehensive explanatory notes
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Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2014-09-29 20:18Z by Steven

Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality

University of California Press
March 2011
282 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780520267305
Paperback ISBN: 9780520267312

Michael J. Montoya, Professor of Anthropology, Chicano/Latino Studies & Public Health
University of California, Irvine

This innovative ethnographic study animates the racial politics that underlie genomic research into type 2 diabetes, one of the most widespread chronic diseases and one that affects ethnic groups disproportionately. Michael J. Montoya follows blood donations from “Mexican-American” donors to laboratories that are searching out genetic contributions to diabetes. His analysis lays bare the politics and ethics of the research process, addressing the implicit contradiction of undertaking genetic research that reinscribes race’s importance even as it is being demonstrated to have little scientific validity. In placing DNA sampling, processing, data set sharing, and carefully crafted science into a broader social context, Making the Mexican Diabetic underscores the implications of geneticizing disease while illuminating the significance of type 2 diabetes research in American life.

Read chapter 1, “Biological or Social Allelic Variation and the Making of Race in Single Nucleotide Polymorphism– Based Research” here.

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Preview: Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni questions race and identity in “One Drop of Love”

Posted in Articles, Arts, Autobiography, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-09-29 19:35Z by Steven

Preview: Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni questions race and identity in “One Drop of Love”

ArtsATL: Atlanta’s source for arts news and reviews
2014-09-21

Kelundra Smith


Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni

As an MFA candidate in the Television, Film and Theatre program at California State University, Los Angeles, Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni originally set out to make a documentary about identity and race, using her Jamaican and white ancestry as the core of the story, as her thesis project. But since her concentration was on performance, a professor advised her to do a theater piece to showcase her acting chops. So she took her footage and research and transformed the documentary into a multimedia one-woman show called One Drop of Love. She is performing that show in the Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom tonight at 7 p.m.

The title derives from the U.S. Census “one drop rule,” which states that a person who has at least one parent of African descent is automatically considered black. The daughter of a Jamaican father (Winston Barrington Cox) and white mother (Trudy Cox), DiGiovanni spent her early years in Washington, D.C., until her parents divorced and she moved to Cambridge with her mom and brother Winston. She spent much of her life questioning and aligning herself with a strong black identity, but falling in love with a European man caused her to ponder that choice more intensely.

The blue-eyed, blonde-haired actor, writer and producer married her husband, Diego, in July 2006, and her father did not attend the wedding. His absence from her nuptials caused them not to speak for seven years. But One Drop of Love needed an ending, just as her relationship with her father needed reconciliation. Here DiGiovanni talks about her ethnic identity, the role race has played in her family and a chance encounter with one of the show’s producers, actor Ben Affleck.

ArtsATL: How do you ethnically identify?

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni: I am a culturally mixed woman searching for racial answers. That’s the best I can say, and I explore this in the show. I talk about how my ethnic identity has changed over the years, based on geography and relationships with my family. It is constantly changing. However, I got to the point politically where I had to educate myself about the way black people are treated in this country. As someone who may not look black or identify as black, I have a lot of privileges that people who don’t look like me — who aren’t light-skinned or have blue eyes — can’t take advantage of. Sometimes I think that calling myself black and aligning myself with that struggle does a disservice to people who are actively living that struggle, because they don’t have the same privileges…

…ArtsATL: In identifying as black, did that affect your relationship with your white mother?

DiGiovanni: Momma Trudy is a free spirit who loves everybody and cares deeply about justice and equality, and she was all for it. She encouraged my brother and me to attend historically black colleges. She encouraged us to identify as black. She was never hurt by my identity choices. She encouraged us to know her family, but she also shared stories about how her mother disinherited her after she married my father. She did us a great service, because she shared it all with us, including her understanding of justice and equality, especially knowing that my brother was going to move through life as an identifiable black man…

Read the entire interview here.

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William Wells Brown: An African American Life

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2014-09-29 19:13Z by Steven

William Wells Brown: An African American Life

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
October 2014
624 pages
6.6 × 9.6 in
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-24090-0

Ezra Greenspan, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of English
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

A groundbreaking biography of the most pioneering and accomplished African-American writer of the nineteenth century.

Born into slavery in Kentucky, raised on the Western frontier on the farm adjacent to Daniel Boone’s, “rented” out in adolescence to a succession of steamboat captains on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, the young man known as “Sandy” reinvented himself as “William Wells” Brown after escaping to freedom. He lifted himself out of illiteracy and soon became an innovative, widely admired, and hugely popular speaker on antislavery circuits (both American and British) and went on to write the earliest African American works in a plethora of genres: travelogue, novel (the now canonized Clotel), printed play, and history. He also practiced medicine, ran for office, and campaigned for black uplift, temperance, and civil rights.

Ezra Greenspan’s masterful work, elegantly written and rigorously researched, sets Brown’s life in the richly rendered context of his times, creating a fascinating portrait of an inventive writer who dared to challenge the racial orthodoxies and explore the racial complexities of nineteenth-century America.

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William Wells Brown: A Reader

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2014-09-29 19:04Z by Steven

William Wells Brown: A Reader

University of Georgia Press
2008-12-15
488 pages
6 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8203-3223-9
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8203-3224-6
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8203-3634-3

William Wells Brown (1814–1884)

Edited by:

Ezra Greenspan, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of English
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

Born into slavery in Kentucky, William Wells Brown (1814–1884) was kept functionally illiterate until after his escape at the age of nineteen. Remarkably, he became the most widely published and versatile African American writer of the nineteenth century as well as an important leader in the abolitionist and temperance movements.

Brown wrote extensively as a journalist but was also a pioneer in other literary genres. His many groundbreaking works include Clotel, the first African American novel; The Escape: or, A Leap for Freedom, the first published African American play; Three Years in Europe, the first African American European travelogue; and The Negro in the American Rebellion, the first history of African American military service in the Civil War. Brown also wrote one of the most important fugitive slave narratives and a striking array of subsequent self-narratives so inventively shifting in content, form, and textual presentation as to place him second only to Frederick Douglass among nineteenth-century African American autobiographers.

Ezra Greenspan has selected the best of Brown’s work in a range of fields including fiction, drama, history, politics, autobiography, and travel. The volume opens with an introductory essay that places Brown and his work in a cultural and political context. Each chapter begins with a detailed introductory headnote, and the contents are closely annotated; there is also a selected bibliography. This reader offers an introduction to the work of a major African American writer who was engaged in many of the important debates of his time.

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‘Alien Citizen’ delivers a raw, moving sociological odyssey

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-29 00:34Z by Steven

‘Alien Citizen’ delivers a raw, moving sociological odyssey

The Williams Record: The Independent Student Newspaper at WIlliams College since 1887
Williamstown, Massachusetts
2014-09-24

William Walker, Staff Writer

If there’s anything that students at the College love to think about, it’s identity. Indeed, the big questions about who we are, what we want to do and what we can (or in some cases should) become are some of the most fundamental, dynamic issues we grapple with, shaping the ways we think and interact. Which is why, at least for this Williams student, Elizabeth Liang’s one-woman show “Alien Citizen: An Earth Odyssey,” performed last Thursday at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance, strikes such a profound and memorable chord.

After all, the show deals with just that problem. Telling the largely auto-biographical story of Liang, “Alien Citizen” describes a girlhood spent travelling between Central America, North Africa, the Middle East and New England, a journey ever-complicated by Liang’s own biracial status. And, like any journey, there are certainly plenty of obstacles to overcome – obstacles, in this case, which include the threats of racism, classism, sexism and, obviously, alienation. Indeed, perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the journey Liang goes on is its profound sense of loneliness – as a self-described “Third Culture Kid,” Liang feels like a foreigner even in the places where she’s stayed the longest…

Read the entire review here.

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Slumming and Black-and-tan Saloons: Racial Intermingling and the Challenging of Color Lines

Posted in Articles, History, United States on 2014-09-29 00:15Z by Steven

Slumming and Black-and-tan Saloons: Racial Intermingling and the Challenging of Color Lines

Researching Greenwich Village History
Companion site to Creating Digital History (NYU GA HIST.2033)
2011-11-04

Janice Liao

The mere mention of saloons immediately conjures images of people satisfying their carnal desires by imbibing large quantities of alcohol amongst a rowdy scene of drunkards. Similar images have been popularized through the slumming accounts of journalists such as Jacob Riis and undercover detectives. These stories delivered to a wide range of audiences first hand accounts and initial exposure to an underground world of debauchery and racial intermingling. As a result of journalistic slumming, the black-and-tan saloons became a site of exotic curiosity for distant onlookers to project their imagination, as well as fears. Although there are several accounts that speak of the violence, prostitution and racial intermingling that occur within and surrounding the black-and-tan saloons, the negative casting of these spaces overshadows the community functions saloons fulfilled for ethnic minorities and the working class.

Black-and-tan saloons, also called black-and-tan dives, is precisely what the name connotes – an intermixing of the African-Americans and Caucasians, as well as those of mixed heritage and Asian races. Regarded as a “low establishment,” the name was derived from a concert hall that featured “scantily clad African American women dancing for the entertainment of its mostly white customers.” The racially charged term “Black-and-tan” was used repeatedly in news mediums. Such is the case with Jacob Riis, a muckracker journalist and social documentary photographer who spoke of his encounters with black-and-tan saloons in the chapter “The Color Line in New York,” of his famous book How the Other Half Lives:

“The moral turpitude of Thompson Street has been notorious for years, and the mingling of the three elements does not seem to have wrought any change for the better. The border-land where the white and black races meet in common debauch, the aptly-named black-and-tan saloon, has never been debatable ground from a moral stand-point. It has always been the worst of the desperately bad. Than this commingling of the utterly depraved of both sexes, white and black, on such ground, there can be no greater abomination.”…

…These portraits aroused great panic amongst the whites and New York City municipal authorities and urban reformers. They believed that “the existence of black-and-tan saloons not only permitted racial intermixing, but actively promoted it.” In 1914, a letter from the general secretary of Committee of Fourteen, Frederick H. Whitin to Progressive reform photographer Lewis Hine, suggested that the black-and-tan saloons were “catering to not only to whites, as well as blacks, stimulating a mixing of the races.” Chad. H. Heap points to the sexual connotation imbued in the language. Latent in the interpretations of black-and-tan saloons are creations of racial binaries; white is emblematic of “purity” and black as “immoral.” Thus logic suggests racial intermixing would result in contamination of the white race. To take the metaphor further, Heap suggests that “tan” represents a hybrid of the races, an offspring produced from intermixing. Other racial characterizations of slummers and frequenters of black-and-tan saloons reflected negatively on these ethnically diverse establishments. For instance, black prostitutes were exoticized as being “Amazon-like” in physique and were often blamed for robberies reported by white men. Thus, black women were thought of as being wildly untamed in behavior and deemed as a social threat. Even more dangerous in the mind of reformers was how these saloons encouraged activity that blurred the line between civil activity and acts of indecency that could lead to moral corruption…

Read the entire article here.

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