Olive Senior

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Women on 2014-10-21 21:33Z by Steven

Olive Senior

Olive Senior’s Gardening in the Tropics
2012

Hyacinth M. Simpson, Associate Professor of English
Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Olive Marjorie Senior was born in the parish of Trelawny on the Caribbean island of Jamaica on 23 December 1941. The seventh of ten children, she grew up in the shadow of the Cockpit Mountains and spent her formative years criss-crossing the adjoining western parishes of Westmoreland, Hanover, and St. James. As Velma Pollard points out, “[t]his environment—the topography and the people—is continually reflected in Senior’s poetry and prose” (479). Moreover, as the daughter of a small farmer and a stay-at-home mother, Senior grew up close to the land. Her vast knowledge of local plants, their history, their medicinal and culinary uses, and the rich folklore associated with them— which is evident in a number of poems in Gardening in the Tropics including “Guinep,” “Pineapple,’ “Starapple,” and “Mountain Pride”—is rooted in this early experience. So too are the intimate portraits she paints, in this collection and her other works, of the people whose survival depends on how well they navigate both the physical and social landscape.

In Senior’s immediate family, money was scarce. While not auto-biographical, the poem “My Father’s Blue Plantation” provides insight into the lives of small rural farming families like the one Senior was born in and the hard graft that defines such existence. Even though Senior, who is of mixed race heritage, was born with what Jamaicans term “light skin” and “good hair,” those usual markers of privilege did not set her, or her family, apart from their predominantly African-heritage neighbours in the village of Troy. Class, rather than race, as Senior explains in an interview with Anna Rutherford, was then and still is the main marker of difference in the complex web of Jamaica’s social hierarchy. Because they were poor like their neighbours, the Seniors “lived as a part of the village” (12-13).Troy was, like many other rural villages of the time, close knit. Everyone knew everyone else, and the Senior family was well integrated into their community. Village life was Senior’s first school. A world away from the “refinements” of the city and with no television or cinema and very little radio for distraction, members of the community found instruction and entertainment in the only likely/available source: the oral culture…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

The many meanings of the Haitian declaration of independence

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2014-10-21 21:05Z by Steven

The many meanings of the Haitian declaration of independence

OUPblog: Oxford University Press’s Academic Insights for the Thinking World
2014-01-03

Philippe R. Girard, Associate Professor of History
McNeese State University, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Two hundred and ten years ago, on 1 January 1804, Haiti formally declared its independence from France at the end of a bitter war against forces sent by Napoléon Bonaparte. This was only the second time, after the United States in 1776, that an American colony had declared independence, so the event called for pomp and circumstance. Haiti’s generals, led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, gathered in the western city of Gonaïves, where they listened to a public reading of the Declaration by the mixed-race secretary Louis Boisrond-Tonnerre. A handwritten original has yet to be found, but early imprints and manuscript copies have survived.

The declaration is well known to Haitians, who celebrate its passage every year on 1 January, Haiti’s national holiday. They mostly remember it for its fiery defiance. According the Haitian historian Thomas Madiou, its author Boisrond-Tonnerre got the assignment after promising Dessalines that he would use “the skin of a white man” as parchment, its “skull” as inkwell, and its “blood” as ink. “What do we have in common with this people of executioners [the French]?” he asked in the Declaration. “They are not our brothers, and never will be.”

But the Declaration, which historians are just beginning to study in depth, was actually a layered text whose multiple meanings were tailored for six different audiences: the French, Creoles, Anglo-Americans, Latin Americans, mixed-race Haitians, and black Haitians…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Gardening in the Tropics

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Poetry on 2014-10-21 20:23Z by Steven

Gardening in the Tropics

Insomniac Press
2005 (originally published in 1994)
144 pages
5″ x 8″
Paperback ISBN: 1-897178-00-X

Olive Senior

Gardening in the Tropics contains a rich Caribbean world in poems offered to readers everywhere. Olive Senior’s rich vein of humour can turn wry and then sharp in satire of colour-consciousness, class-consciousness and racism. But her predominant tone is the verbal equivalent of a pair of wide-open arms.

Tags: , , , ,

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…

Tags: , ,

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
Tags: , ,

Divergence or Convergence in the U.S. and Brazil: Understanding Race Relations Through White Family Reactions to Black-White Interracial Couples

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-10-16 19:25Z by Steven

Divergence or Convergence in the U.S. and Brazil: Understanding Race Relations Through White Family Reactions to Black-White Interracial Couples

Qualitative Sociology
March 2014, Volume 37, Issue 1
pages 93-115
DOI: 10.1007/s11133-013-9268-2

Chinyere Osuji, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

Different approaches to race mixture in the U.S. and Brazil have led to the notion that they are polar opposites in terms of race relations. However, the end of de jure segregation in the U.S., the acknowledgement of racial inequality, and subsequent implementation of affirmative action in Brazil have called into question the extent to which these societies are vastly different. By examining race mixture as a lived reality, this study offers a novel approach to understanding racial boundaries in these two contexts. I analyze 87 interviews with individuals in black-white couples in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro to examine the cultural repertoires and discursive traditions they draw on to understand white families’ reactions to black spouses. I find that U.S. couples employ “color-blindness” to understand opposition to Blacks marrying into the family. Brazilian couples perceive overt racism and the use of humor from white family members. Nevertheless, couples with black males experienced more hostility in both sites. In addition, white male autonomy was related to the lower hostility that black female-white male couples experienced in both societies. By examining contemporary race mixture as a lived reality, this study complicates simplistic understandings of race relations as similar or different in these two societies. Furthermore, with the increase of multiracial families in both societies, it reveals the family as an important site for redrawing and policing racial boundaries.

Tags: , , , , ,

Racial ‘Boundary-policing’: Perceptions of Black-White Interracial Couples in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-10-16 18:15Z by Steven

Racial ‘Boundary-policing’: Perceptions of Black-White Interracial Couples in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro

Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
Volume 10 / Issue 01 / Spring 2013
pages 179-203
DOI: 10.1017/S1742058X13000118

Chinyere K. Osuji, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

As people who cross racial boundaries in the family formation process, the experiences of interracial couples can actually reveal the nature of racial boundaries within and across societies. I draw on in-depth qualitative interviews with eighty-seven respondents in interracial Black and White couples in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro to compare perceptions of public stigmatization by outsiders, a term I call “boundary-policing.” I find that couples in Los Angeles perceive gendered, Black individuals as perpetrators of this boundary-policing. In Rio de Janeiro, couples perceive regionalized and classed, White perpetrators. These findings suggest that in the United States and Brazil, racial boundaries are intertwined with class and gender boundaries to shape negotiation of boundary-policing in the two contexts. This analysis builds on previous studies of ethnoracial boundaries by showing how individuals reinforce and negotiate them through interpersonal relations. It demonstrates the similarities and differences in the negotiation and reinforcement of racial boundaries in the two sites.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Confronting whitening in an era of black consciousness: racial ideology and black-white interracial marriages in Rio de Janeiro

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science on 2014-10-15 19:39Z by Steven

Confronting whitening in an era of black consciousness: racial ideology and black-white interracial marriages in Rio de Janeiro

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 36, Issue 10, 2013
Special Issue: Rethinking Race, Racism, Identity, and Ideology in Latin America
pages 1490-1506
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2013.783926

Chinyere Osuji, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

In Latin America, whitening is understood as a goal of darker-skinned individuals who marry whites to gain access to white social circles, increase their social status, and produce lighter offspring. However, in Brazil, increasing black consciousness and race-based policies are seemingly at odds with contemporary attempts to whiten. Drawing on qualitative interviews with forty-nine individuals in black–white couples, I examine how they make sense of whitening in their lives. I find that unlike in the past, respondents do not describe themselves engaged in whitening and either find it offensive or recognize admissions of whitening as stigmatized. Nevertheless, whitening is how friends, families and other outsiders give meaning to their relationships, depending on the gender of the respondent. In addition, I find evidence of some white women understanding their relationships as a way of darkening themselves. This study reveals a transformation in the meanings associated with whitening ideology in contemporary Brazil.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , ,

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.

Tags: , ,

Special report: Why Brazil’s would-be first black president trails among blacks

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2014-10-03 20:10Z by Steven

Special report: Why Brazil’s would-be first black president trails among blacks

Reuters
2014-10-03

Brian Winter, Chief Correspondent

SAO PAULO – Brazilians could make history this month by electing Marina Silva, the daughter of impoverished rubber tappers from the Amazon, as their first black president.

Yet Silva is trailing incumbent President Dilma Rousseff, who is white, among the half of voters who are of African descent.

That disadvantage, which contrasts with U.S. President Barack Obama’s overwhelming support from African-Americans in the 2008 and 2012 elections, could cost Silva victory in this extremely close election.

The reasons behind Silva’s struggles speak volumes about Brazil’s history, its complex relationship with race, and the recent social progress that has made Rousseff a slight favorite to win a second term despite a stagnant economy.

In recent weeks, Reuters interviewed two dozen Brazilians of color in three different cities. Many said they would be proud to see Silva win – especially in a country where people of color have historically been underrepresented in government, universities and elsewhere.

Yet they also said they were more focused on the economy than any other factor. Since taking power in 2003, Rousseff’s leftist Workers’ Party has made enormous strides in reducing poverty – especially among blacks.

“No one wants to go back to the past,” said Gustavo Leira, 71, a retired public servant in Brasilia. Silva’s race is important, he said, “but it’s not the most important thing.”…

…In 2008, Obama won 95 percent of the African-American vote. That advantage, plus his support from two-thirds of Hispanic voters, helped him overcome a 12 percentage point deficit among white voters. The margins were broadly similar when Obama won re-election in 2012.

While Obama did not make race a theme of his campaigns, he did address it at key moments – including a famous speech in March 2008 in which he discussed the anger felt by many in the black community, and what it was like to be the son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya.

Silva also comes from a mixed racial background – just like many, if not most, Brazilians…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,