Ethnicity does not define one’s character

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2016-05-22 22:12Z by Steven

Ethnicity does not define one’s character

The Royal Gazette
Hamilton, Bermuda
2016-04-15

Christopher Famous

There has been debate on social media recently about good hair vs bad hair, persons of mixed ethnicities, light skin vs dark skin.

After a conversation with someone deeply concerned with these issues, I decided to dig up a column I wrote in June last year:

We see a large proportion of Bermudians who are fair or light-skinned, with straight or semi-straight hair. Why is that, you ask? Let’s look at history to understand…

Read the entire article here.

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Mestizaje in the Age of Fascism: German and Q’eqchi’ Maya Interracial Unions in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Media Archive on 2016-05-20 21:30Z by Steven

Mestizaje in the Age of Fascism: German and Q’eqchi’ Maya Interracial Unions in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

German History
Volume 34, Issue 2 (June 2016)
pages 214-236
DOI: 10.1093/gerhis/ghw017

Julie Gibbings, Assistant Professor of History
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

In contemporary Guatemala, Q’eqchi’ Mayas of German descent are reclaiming identities as ‘the improved race’ (la raza mejorada), which allows them claim both tradition and authenticity as well as racial whiteness and modernity. While surprising to contemporary observers, these identities have longer histories, rooted in the interwar period, when Guatemalan urban intellectuals and statesmen looked to German-Maya sexual unions as the racial solution to Guatemala’s failure to forge a modern and homogenous nation. Like national racial mixing (mestizaje) projects found in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, Guatemalan intellectuals in the 1920s and 1930s argued that racial mixing with Anglo-Saxons led not to racial degeneration, but—potentially—to new and more vital races. While long ignored by historical scholarship, hybrid Q’eqchi’-Germans, however, unravel a priori assumptions of German diasporic political and social insularity. By examining the potent symbolic and cultural dimensions Guatemala’s unique mestizaje project had for the formation of both German and Guatemalan nationalist projects during the rise of German National Socialism and Guatemala’s own populist dictatorship under President Jorge Ubico (1931–1944), this article argues for an understanding of German diasporas in Latin America that places them squarely in the transnational space between competing nationalisms and political agendas. By further examining the important material and social dimensions of mixed-race families, this article reveals the crucial ties Germans forged in Latin America and how who counted as German and by what measure was a subject of considerable debate with important political consequences.

Read or purchase the article here.

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The Other California: Land, Identity, and Politics on the Mexican Borderlands

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Mexico, Monographs on 2016-05-18 15:51Z by Steven

The Other California: Land, Identity, and Politics on the Mexican Borderlands

University of California Press
January 2017
188 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780520291638

Verónica Castillo-Muñoz, Assistant Professor of History
University of California, Santa Barbara

The Other California is the story of working-class communities and how they constituted the racially and ethnically diverse social landscape of Baja California. Packed with new and transformative stories, the book examines the interplay of land reform and migratory labor on the peninsula from 1850 to 1954, as governments, foreign investors, and local communities shaped a vibrant and dynamic borderland alongside the booming cities of Tijuana, Mexicali, and Santa Rosalia. Migration and intermarriage between Mexican women and men from Asia, Europe, and the United States transformed Baja California into a multicultural society. Mixed-race families extended across national borders, forging new local communities, labor relations, and border politics.

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Charlotte Brontë May Have Started the Fire, But Jean Rhys Burned Down the House

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2016-05-16 18:49Z by Steven

Charlotte Brontë May Have Started the Fire, But Jean Rhys Burned Down the House

Literary Hub
2016-04-21

Bridget Read
Brooklyn, New York

Wide Sargasso Sea and The Limits of Bronte Feminism

In November of last year, Tin House published the text of a speech given by the author Claire Vaye Watkins, in which she spoke frankly of the various intersecting systems of privilege that affect the publishing world. Her main focus was the industry’s domination by men, their tastes and their interests, which even writers who are not men keep in mind when working toward literary success. The rousing essay ended with this call to arms: “Let us burn this motherfucking system to the ground and build something better.”

I thought of this speech this week, on the 200th anniversary of a famous literary house fire otherwise known as Jane EyreCharlotte Brontë’s novel about the eponymous “poor, obscure, plain and little” governess who quietly triumphs over several archetypal gothic adversaries: poverty, cruelty, a castle, a ghost, a brooding Byronic lover. Jane Eyre endures because it’s the story of an underdog, surely, as is the story of the author herself. Diminutive Charlotte and her sisters published their novels from their home in the Yorkshire moors, first under male pen names before being welcomed into important literary circles as women writers. Of Brontë, whose heroine notoriously requires the gruff, hot Mr. Rochester to regard her as a true partner before she will wed him, “equal—as we are,” Matthew Arnold complained in 1853: “The writer’s mind contains nothing but hunger, rebellion and rage, and therefore that is all she can, in fact, put in her book.” This, of course, is an excellent blurb for a novel in 2016, and cause to study Jane Eyre as a proto-feminist text….

There are other reasons that cultural objects get to hang around for multiple centennials, however, and rarely can a book’s radicalism alone account for its longevity in popular imagination. You might consider how Jane Eyre, not unlike the work of another famous but non-fictional Jane, in addition to being groundbreaking, is very safe. Jane E. might at first deny the hands of Rochester and her cousin St. John Rivers because they want to control her, but she does get married, eventually, all while maintaining her quiet dignity, her resilience, and her piety—meaning that her self-actualization is still in the service of morality, a Christian, patriarchal one. It is important to remember who exactly burns down the house in Jane Eyre, because it isn’t Jane. The arsonist of the novel is Bertha, Rochester’s shut-in wife, the infamous woman in the attic, and if a radical core can be found in Brontë’s work, it’s with her. Which is to say that the novel’s real potential for systemic annihilation is not the novel itself, and brings me to another anniversary, a 50th birthday, of Jean Rhys’s prequel to Jane Eyre: Wide Sargasso Sea, published in 1966…

Read the entire article here.

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Marlene Daut

Posted in Audio, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Interviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2016-05-15 01:40Z by Steven

Marlene Daut

New Books Network
2016-04-18

Dan Livesay, Assistant Professor of History
Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, California

Marlene Daut tackles the complicated intersection of history and literary legacy in her book Tropics of Haiti: Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865 (Liverpool University Press, 2015). She not only describes the immediate political reaction to the Haitian Revolution, but traces how writers, novelists, playwrights, and scholars imposed particular racial assumptions onto that event for decades afterward. Specifically, she identifies a number of recurring tropes that sought to assign intense racial divisions to the Haitian people. Individuals of joint African and European heritage, she contends, received the blunt of these attacks, as they were portrayed as monstrous, vengeful, mendacious, and yet also destined for tragedy. Moreover, observers and chroniclers of the Revolution maintained that these supposed characteristics produced ever-lasting discord with black Haitians. Daut analyzes hundreds of fictional and non-fictional accounts to argue that portrayals of the Haitian Revolution, and of the country itself, have long suffered under these false assumptions of exceptional racial problems. She has also produced a compendium of Haitian fiction during this period, in conjunction with the book. You can find it here.

Listen to the interview (00:49:33) here. Download the interview here.

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The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire

Posted in Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Mexico, Monographs, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2016-05-14 01:40Z by Steven

The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire

W. W. Norton & Company
June 2016
368 pages
6.1 × 9.3 in
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-23925-6

Karl Jacoby, Professor of History
Columbia University, New York, New York

A prize-winning historian tells a new story of the black experience in America through the life of a mysterious entrepreneur.

A black child born in the twilight of slavery, William Henry Ellis inhabited a world of fraught, ambiguous racial categories on the anarchic border between the United States and Mexico. He adopted the name Guillermo Enrique Eliseo and passed as a Mexican: traveling as Hispanic in first-class train berths, staying in the finest hotels, and eating in leading restaurants. A shrewd businessman, he became fabulously wealthy and found himself involved in scandalous trials, unexpected disappearances, and diplomatic controversies. Constantly switching identities, Eliseo was a genius at identifying and exploiting the porousness of the color line and the border line.

Through Ellis’s picaresque biography, Karl Jacoby presents an intriguing narrative set in a secret and ever-changing world. The Strange Career of William Ellis reinterprets the borderlands, showing how U.S. and Mexican histories intertwined during Reconstruction, and he offers new insight into the arbitrary and evolving definitions of race in America.

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Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640

Posted in Africa, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery on 2016-05-09 01:04Z by Steven

Atlantic Africa and the Spanish Caribbean, 1570-1640

University of North Carolina Press
May 2016
352 pages
6.125 x 9.25, 15 halftones
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4696-2341-2

David Wheat, Assistant Professor of History
Michigan State University

This work resituates the Spanish Caribbean as an extension of the Luso-African Atlantic world from the late sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century, when the union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns facilitated a surge in the transatlantic slave trade. After the catastrophic decline of Amerindian populations on the islands, two major African provenance zones, first Upper Guinea and then Angola, contributed forced migrant populations with distinct experiences to the Caribbean. They played a dynamic role in the social formation of early Spanish colonial society in the fortified port cities of Cartagena de Indias, Havana, Santo Domingo, and Panama City and their semirural hinterlands.

David Wheat is the first scholar to establish this early phase of the “Africanization” of the Spanish Caribbean two centuries before the rise of large-scale sugar plantations. With African migrants and their descendants comprising demographic majorities in core areas of Spanish settlement, Luso-Africans, Afro-Iberians, Latinized Africans, and free people of color acted more as colonists or settlers than as plantation slaves. These ethnically mixed and economically diversified societies constituted a region of overlapping Iberian and African worlds, while they made possible Spain’s colonization of the Caribbean.

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What Obama’s Trip To Havana Revealed About Race In Cuba And The U.S.

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-05-06 01:56Z by Steven

What Obama’s Trip To Havana Revealed About Race In Cuba And The U.S.

African American Intellectual History Society
2016-05-04

Devyn Spence Benson, Assistant Professor of History and African and African American Studies
Louisiana State University

During his groundbreaking visit to Havana last month, President Barack Obama suggested that the embrace of U.S.-style democracy and capitalism would “help lift up” Cubans of African descent. Following the speech, former Cuban President Fidel Castro reminded Obama that the Cuban Revolution had already eliminated racial discrimination in the 1960s.

The contemporary state of racial inequality casts doubt on both men’s assertions: black and brown North-American youth still face police brutality (murder), voter suppression, and low graduation rates, while Afro-Cubans have less access to the emerging tourist sector than ever before. “Democracy” or “socialism”—despite the propaganda and good intentions of our leaders—does not naturally uplift people of African descent.

The symbolism of a black U.S. president eating at one of Havana’s few black-owned restaurants and talking about Afro-Cuban access to the new economy should be celebrated. Missed, though, was the opportunity to reestablish coalitions and activism between people of African descent in both countries. Instead, debates about which country had been most successful in battling racism abounded. Similar to previous interactions between Cuba and the United States, this event showed how both countries invoke celebratory histories that reinforce national racial mythologies, rather than the controversial present…

Read the entire article here.

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The Calumet Roundtable: A Discussion with Samantha Joyce

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Videos on 2016-05-04 21:27Z by Steven

The Calumet Roundtable: A Discussion with Samantha Joyce

The Calumet Roundtable
2016-04-07

Lee Artz, Host and Professor of Communication
Purdue University Calumet, Hammond, Indiana

Samantha Joyce, Professor of Mass Communication
Indiana University, South Bend

In this episode of “The Calumet Roundtable,” host Dr. Lee Artz, Professor of Communication at Purdue University Calumet, and guest Dr. Samantha Joyce, Professor of Mass Communication at Indiana University South Bend, chat about the representation of race and gender in telenovelas in Brazil. Telenovelas are respected, serious television programs in Brazil and Latin America which air six days a week for approximately nine months, usually containing a mix of real life issues and melodrama. Joyce gives a brief explanation of the history of race equality in Brazil. Artz and Joyce compare the miniseries in the United States to telenovelas in Brazil, and they talk about socially progressive messages in telenovelas.

Joyce wrote “Brazilian Telenovelas and the Myth of Racial Democracy,” which is an open textual analysis of the telenovela “Duas Caras.” This program was the first of its kind to present audiences with an Afro-Brazilian hero.

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Envisioning the United States in the Latin American myth of ‘racial democracy mestizaje’

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, United States on 2016-04-25 03:05Z by Steven

Envisioning the United States in the Latin American myth of ‘racial democracy mestizaje’

Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies
Published online 2016-04-12
DOI: 10.1080/17442222.2016.1170953

Tanya Katerí Hernández, Professor of Law
Fordham University, The Jesuit University of New York

Transnational comparison is relevant both to how racial hierarchy is obscured and elucidated. This Essay traces how the Latin American ‘racial democracy mestizaje’ depiction of the US as blind to racial mixture and color distinctions mistakenly misrepresent the Southern Jim Crow history as the only US experience of racism. It suggests that, in turn, such a limited frame for comparison cloaks not only the more extensive terrain of racism in the United States that is separate from the Jim Crow reality but also parallels to the Latin American context. Moreover, the circumscribed view of US racism adversely affects those who critique the ‘racial democracy mestizaje’ myth of Latin American post racialism. This is because the standard Latin American story of US racial history hinders the ability to fully countermand the attack that portrays racial justice activists as inappropriately applying overly restrictive US binary perspectives on race. With the fuller explication of the complete US racial history, and its contemporary manifestations, it will not be so easy to dismiss the comparisons of racial subordination across the Americas, as the imperialist imposition of ill-fitting US notions of race.

Read or purchase the article here.

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