Mathematician Katherine Johnson at Work

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-07-30 20:17Z by Steven

Mathematician Katherine Johnson at Work

NASA History
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
2016-02-25

Sarah Loff, Editor


Image Credit: NASA

NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson is photographed at her desk at Langley Research Center in 1966. Johnson began her career in 1953 at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that preceded NASA, one of a number of African-American women hired to work as “computers” in what was then their Guidance and Navigation Department, just as the NACA was beginning its work on space. Johnson became known for her training in geometry, her leadership, and her inquisitive nature; she was the only woman at the time to be pulled from the computing pool to work with engineers on other programs.

Johnson worked at Langley from 1953 until her retirement in 1986, making critical technical contributions which included calculating the trajectory of the 1961 flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space…

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Machado de Assis and Female Characterization: The Novels

Posted in Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Women on 2016-07-28 00:47Z by Steven

Machado de Assis and Female Characterization: The Novels

Bucknell University Press
2015
252 pages
ISBN 9781611486209

Earl E. Fitz, Professor of Portuguese, Spanish, and Comparative Literature
Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt, Tennessee

This book examines the nature and function of the main female characters in the nine novels of Machado de Assis. The basic argument is that Machado had a particular interest in female characterization and that his fictional women became increasingly sophisticated and complex as he matured and developed as a writer and social commentator. This book argues that Machado developed, especially after 1880 (and what is usually considered the beginning of his “mature” period), a kind of anti-realistic, “new narrative,” one that presents itself as self-referential fictional artifice but one that also cultivates a keen social consciousness. The book also contends that Machado increasingly uses his female characterizations to convey this social consciousness and to show that the new Brazil that is emerging both before and after the establishment of the Brazilian Republic (1889) requires not only the emancipation of the black slaves but the emancipation of its women as well.

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Secrets of Nation

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Oceania, United States, Women on 2016-07-26 01:20Z by Steven

Secrets of Nation

Inside Story
2016-07-15

Ann McGrath, Professor of History, Director of the Australian Centre for Indigenous History
Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory


Middle ground: detail from Bartering for a Bride, or The Trappers Bride, by Alfred Jacob Miller, c. 1845. Wikipedia Commons

The buried secrets of Australia’s frontier share features with encounters in the United States, writes Ann McGrath

By the 1960s, when I was growing up there, Queensland had become skilled at burying the Aboriginal past, and Queenslanders spoke about its traces in hushed tones. As a child, I wondered why. I recall a particular day when my grandfather Joe whispered that some of his neighbours had a “touch of the tarbrush.” “What does that mean?” I had no clue. He told me that it meant Aboriginal ancestry. I was flummoxed by these comments, which seemed out of character. A tram driver for most of his working life, Joe had refused promotion because the new job would have involved punishing people who could not afford to pay. A son of the Great Depression, he respected hardworking men and women. I had never before heard him say anything that sounded discriminatory or racist.

Only after years of archival research into Australian history did I realise why it was necessary to speak about such topics in a whisper. Unions between Aboriginal women and white men were against the law. You did not want the police to hear. You did not want your neighbours to suffer the shame and the punishment of fines or incarceration. Where Joe grew up in north Queensland, white men went to jail for cohabiting with Aboriginal women. Worse, with marriage prohibited and Aboriginal marriage law not recognised, their children were classed as “illegitimate.” Aboriginal wives and children were taken away.

Keeping these “secrets of nation” as family secrets became common sense, and hence a deeply ingrained practice. Not only had Aboriginal people supposedly just “gone” from the urban and rural landscape with no heroic battles, but according to what we were taught in primary school, it was as if they had never even shared the same spaces. Let alone fallen in love, married, and loved their children.

When I became a historian, I started to investigate the history of race and colonialism, and eventually came to the topic of intermarriage across colonising boundaries. The history of love, above and beyond other themes, seemed to promise gendered clues that might help people understand what lay beneath the surface of history, clues to buried, intimate secrets – the private stuff that makes our nations tick…

Read the entire article here.

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The stories of the ‘War Brides’ of Japan need to be told

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-07-22 15:32Z by Steven

The stories of the ‘War Brides’ of Japan need to be told

International Examiner
Seattle, Washington
2016-07-21

Yayoi Lena Winfrey

One day in the early 1980s, my Japanese mother took my sister and me to an International District gift shop. A middle-aged Japanese American man working there glanced briefly towards us, before turning away apathetically. His body language seemed to indicate a reluctance to wait on us. I looked at my mother and, without the necessity of my uttering a single word, she said, “He not like me.”

Then, pointing at us, her two half-black daughters, she declared in her broken English, “He see I have you two. He know I am war bride.”

Even though I’d heard her use that phrase before, I knew it was not something she was proud to be called. As I stood there reflecting, I realized my mother meant that the Japanese American man didn’t like the fact that she had obviously married someone outside of her race, likely an American G.I. But the irony was he wasn’t living in Japan. Might not the Japanese in that country have considered him as much a traitor for living in America as he thought my mother was for marrying a non-Japanese? Or maybe it wasn’t the same if you left your home country, but married someone of the same ethnicity. I’ve often wrestled with those thoughts in the decades following that 1980s incident.

In the case of Japanese “war brides” like my mother, women who wedded American military men, they were guilty of both marrying an outsider and leaving their country. Considered disloyal by some Japanese nationals for wedding their former enemies, they were also considered disloyal by some Japanese Americans for marrying Americans that were not Japanese. It’s a complicated issue that my documentary War Brides of Japan will address. I also want to eradicate the stigma attached to the term “war bride,” often fallaciously interchangeable with “prostitute.”…

Read the entire article here.

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An Interview with Danzy Senna

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Women on 2016-07-21 00:43Z by Steven

An Interview with Danzy Senna

Callaloo
Volume 25, Number 2 (Spring, 2002)
pages 447-452
DOI: 10.1353/cal.2002.0092

Claudia M. Milian Arias

More than a coming of age story, Danzy Senna’s first novel, Caucasia (Riverhead Books, 1998) addresses themes of coming into consciousness within the U.S. ethnoracial landscape. Clearly in dialogue with Nella Larsen’s Passing as well as Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Caucasia is a first person narrative where anything that happens to the protagonist, Birdie Lee, relates to the rest of the nation. Caucasia interrogates, displaces, and transforms the normative meanings of whiteness, and by extension, Americanness. The multiracial protagonist disappears into America “without a name, without a record. With only the body I traveled in. And a memory of something lost.” As Birdie becomes a transient subject, she undoubtedly echoes a critical question posed by Meena Alexander in The Shock of Arrival. That is: “Does passing mean being granted free passage?”

Birdie’s painful, but transformative, realities thus shift our focus into her reconceptualization of the multiple Americas within America. The larger function of the narrative is to recover and remap America as racially mixed, where multiple memories, or an inventory of memories, are used to identify, catalogue, access, and interrelate thematic histories of displacement. Birdie’s multiraciality critiques the black and white binary not so much by going “beyond” it. Rather, she investigates these polar oppositions from within that binary—incisively demonstrating new identities and discourses that emerge from the continuous examination of not only being racially marked and ranked, but also of being positioned to live as a racialized subject.

Senna was born in Boston in 1970. She holds a B. A. from Stanford University and a M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine. In addition, Senna is the author of the anthologized essays, “The Color of Love,” in The Beacon Best of 2001: Great Writing by Women and Men of All Colors and Cultures (Beacon Press, 2001), and “The Mulatto Millennium,” in Half and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural (Pantheon, 1998).

MILIAN ARIAS: At the beginning of Caucasia, there is a scene where Deck tells Ronnie: “Welcome to the land of miscegenation.” Caucasia follows up on this theme, since the novel functions, to a certain extent, as both a testimony of the lived experiences of being multiracial and a critique of the rigidity of racial categories in the United States. At a time when race relations are constructed, if not understood, in binary and bipolar extremes of black and white, how do you see multiraciality fitting within these strict categories? What is your take on the proposed multiracial category for the U.S. Census?

SENNA: America has always been “the land of miscegenation.” The history of our country is one of disparate groups clashing and commingling. We’ve only recently begun to acknowledge this fact, and lately to celebrate rather than deny mixture. Of course, in many ways I think this recognition is a good thing, but I’m also wary of the way multiraciality has become fetishized in the media and in the popular discussion on race. In particular, I worry when multiracial pride is used to uphold an ahistorical and depoliticized vision of race in America. I’m suspicious of adding a new category to the Census for a lot of reasons. I think the idea of a separate multiracial category in many ways upholds a simplistic, scientific vision of race: If you mix a white and a black, you get a biracial. If you mix a Chicano and an Asian, you get a Chic-Asian, as if race were simply like mixing colors in a paint box. I’m not so much interested in categorizing further, or adding new groups, so much as I am interested in deconstructing the premise of race itself. My hope is that the addition of this new category will spur a debate on the idea of race. But I also wonder if we’re becoming more like Brazil, where complexion rather than race is the predominant system of identification. In Brazil, racism is able to function within a “land of miscegenation”—so we should see that as a warning, perhaps.

As an aside, I recently saw a poster on a wall in New York. It may have been an ad for Benetton—I can’t remember. It showed a very pretty light-skinned girl with brown curly hair who looked to be part black and part white. She held a sign that read: “I’m a mulatto. I can’t be racist.” The sign was bizarre for many reasons, not the least of which was the use of the word “mulatto.” (I thought I was the only one still using that outdated term!) But also, the idea that someone mixed cannot be racist due to their mixed heritage revealed an illusion people seem to have: The idea that race mixture somehow neutralizes the problem of racism. Furthermore, the sign implied that black and white were the only two races in existence. Isn’t it possible that this mulatto could be racist against groups outside of those she is a part of: for instance, Latinos or Asians? Couldn’t she be xenophobic? And isn’t it possible to be racist against your own group(s)?

The poster revealed to me the invisibility of groups who don’t fit into the black-white paradigm. Based on appearance, the girl in the poster could have easily been Puerto Rican, or Dominican, two racially mixed groups, but these identities aren’t as palatable in the American imagination, since they tend to signify “outsider, poverty, non-white, un-American” whereas the mulatto represents assimilation, the end of blackness, and the end of the discussion on racism. These other “mixed” groups, Latino, in particular, threaten the idea of American hegemony in a way that the blissful black-white mulatto in the picture doesn’t.

Mulatto pride can fit in neatly with the black-white paradigm. And mulattos can be racist. And race mixing can exist and has existed happily within a racist and racialized structure. I’m wary of sanctifying any group based on race, or romanticizing the so-called mulatto…

Read or purchase the interview here.

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Commodification of the Black Body, Sexual Objectification and Social Hierarchies during Slavery

Posted in Articles, Economics, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery, United States, Women on 2016-07-19 20:35Z by Steven

Commodification of the Black Body, Sexual Objectification and Social Hierarchies during Slavery

The Earlham Historical Journal: An Undergraduate Journal of Historical Inquiry
Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana
Volume VII: Issue II (Spring 2015)
pages 21-43

Iman Cooper

The horror of the institution of slavery during the late eighteenth century was not that it displaced millions of African people from their homes to the US, but rather that it laid the foundation for the commodification and dehumanization of the black body that was culturally, socially, and politically maintained for hundreds of years to come. This essay will first explore the commodification of African captives as the foundation of my analysis, in order to later examine the social and political ramifications of the sexual objectification that was rampant during the slavery era, through the analysis of Harriet Jacob‘s slave narrative. Slavery had long-reaching effects on the conceptualization of the black body, which is later depicted by the emergence of the mulatto class. White slave owners executed their perceived right under the creation of commoditized black bodies to sexually abuse their slaves, producing mixed race (mulatto) children. Social, religious, economic, and political factors allowed the sustained commodification of black bodies to occur. As a result of commodification, black bodies were rendered disciplined subjects; beholden to the will of white men. Simultaneously, white planters‘ wives were socially conditioned to remain publicly silent in the face of their husband‘s betrayal and abuse; hence they often executed their anger on the black slave, further rendering the black body an object to be claimed by others to enact their will upon. Commodification of the black body at the start of the era allowed for the objectification of the black female body to continue throughout slavery, as portrayed by the simultaneous abuse of the masters and the subsequent retribution of the master‘s wives, which were enacted on the black female body…

Fetishization of the Black Female Slave and Mulatto Children

Black women were both fetishized and regarded as impure, when seen in contrast to the modesty of white women; therefore at the height of slavery, relationships with slave women were decidedly culturally unacceptable. However, just because these relationships were frowned upon does not mean that men resisted crossing the line of this social taboo; they did. The violation of this boundary by slave-owners was sometimes shamelessly explicit, while other times they attempted to keep their affairs secretive, for fear of both the societal backlash and the anger of their wives. As a result, the mulatto class grew extensively during the slavery era, becoming a visible marker of the extensiveness of this issue in the society. The skin color of these children served as a visible reminder for the wives and the community of their husband‘s infidelity. Masters sometimes took care of their mulatto children and eventually freed them, but more often than not, children either worked on the plantation, or (at their wives‘ insistence) were put up for auction and sold into slavery. As the mistress of the plantation, wives held a degree of power that could either improve the lives of slaves on her plantation, or create further harm and devastating destruction…

Read the entire article here.

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Dangerous Ideas

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States, Women on 2016-07-11 21:30Z by Steven

Dangerous Ideas

The Pennsylvania Gazette
2016-06-20

Melissa Jacobs


Photo by Chris Crisman C’03

PIK Professor Dorothy Roberts exposes how the myth of biologically distinct races—forged in the era of slavery—continues to poison the present, affecting attitudes and policies on everything from child welfare to medical treatment.

There’s not much humor to be found around the subjects Dorothy Roberts deals with, but the Saturday Night Live parody, “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black,” was both bitingly funny and practically tailor-made for analysis by the lawyer, scholar, and social-justice advocate who serves as the University’s 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor.

Roberts referenced the sketch at the beginning of a talk titled “What’s So Dangerous About Black Women’s Sexuality?” that she gave on February 17. That was shortly after Beyoncé’s release of her music video, “Formation,” and live performance of the song at the Super Bowl halftime show—“backed up by an entourage of black women sporting Black Panther Party Afros and berets,” Roberts said, and lyrically “saluting the Black Lives Matter movement, protesting against police brutality, and celebrating black culture and black beauty, including her ‘Negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils’ and her daughter Blue Ivy’s baby hair and Afro.”

For the most part, “black people were really proud and happy that Beyoncé was as militant as she was,” Roberts added. “White America, on the other hand, reacted—at least much of it reacted—quite differently.”

Which the folks at SNL took and ran with.

Formatted like a movie trailer, “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black” skewered whites’ assumptions around cultural ownership (“Maybe this song isn’t for us.” “But usually everything is!”), arrogance in assigning racial categories (a familiar co-worker isn’t black black; but a youth outfitted in a gold Africa pendant and camouflage jacket obviously is), and fears of racial contamination (in a white mother’s mounting horror as she imagines her tween daughter has “turned black,” too, from listening to Beyoncé’s music.)

But Roberts homed in on another revealing exchange: “To me the most telling, truthful moment in this skit is two white guys cowering under a desk, when they realize that not only Beyoncé but other female celebrities who become popular with white people—like Kerry Washington, the star of ABC’s very popular Scandal—are also black. And one man says, ‘How can they be black? They’re women.’ And the other shrieks, ‘I think they might be both!’…

…“My parents had a strong sense that all human beings are equal and can live harmoniously and peacefully together,” Roberts says. “They were not so much civil rights advocates as human rights advocates. My very early childhood was deliberately focused on human equality.”

As a kindergartner, Roberts recalls, she embraced her parents’ philosophy. “I remember being proud that I had parents of different races and that was an important part of my identity. But by the time I was in seventh grade, I identified as black and was much more interested in liberation for black people than in interracial relationships,” she says. “Until extremely recently, I really diminished the fact that my parents were black and white. Most people think of me as black. I don’t identify as biracial or mixed race.”…

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La Esclava Blanca: The New Telenovela Rewriting Colombia’s History of Slavery

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Slavery, Women on 2016-07-07 01:15Z by Steven

La Esclava Blanca: The New Telenovela Rewriting Colombia’s History of Slavery

AAIHS: African American Intellectual History Society
2016-07-06

Yesenia Barragan
Columbia University, New York, New York

This is a guest post by Yesenia Barragan, a historian of race, slavery, and emancipation in Colombia, Afro-Latin America, and the Atlantic/Pacific worlds. She recently received her Ph.D. in Latin American and Caribbean History at Columbia University and will be a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Dartmouth College in the Fall 2016. She is currently revising her book manuscript, tentatively titled The Darkest Place: Slavery and Emancipation on the Colombian Pacific, which is the first detailed study of the gradual abolition of slavery (1821-1852) and the immediate aftermath of emancipation in the Pacific lowlands of Colombia. Yesenia is also a longtime activist and has published several pieces for the Latin American news agency Telesur on the historical memory of slavery in the Americas, Black Lives Matter, and Colombian politics.

Between Underground and Roots, the past year has witnessed a boom in the cinematic portrayal of the ugly business of and resistance to slavery in the U.S. South. Little known to American audiences, however, is the recent debut of a television series from the Latin American country of Colombia titled La Esclava Blanca (The White Slave), which depicts the slaveholding world of post-colonial Colombia, currently the country with the third largest Afro-descendent population in the Western Hemisphere (after the United States and Brazil). Produced by Caracol TV (Colombia’s largest television network) and first aired in late January 2016 in Colombia, La Esclava Blanca was transmitted to a larger Spanish-language audience in the United States via Telemundo in April. In contrast to Brazil’s longer history of telenovelas (soap operas) set during the time of slavery (see, for example, Greg Childs’s AAIHS piece on A Escrava Isaura), La Esclava Blanca is actually the first telenovela about slavery in the history of Colombia. Yet, as reflected in the title of the telenovela (The White Slave), the show engages in a violent historical revisionism by centering the fantastical travails of a white woman who ostensibly holds the key of freedom for the region’s enslaved…

Read the entire article here.

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Essence Fest: How Prince helped Misty Copeland discover artistic freedom

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-07-04 20:41Z by Steven

Essence Fest: How Prince helped Misty Copeland discover artistic freedom

The New Orleans Times-Picayune
2016-07-02

Chelsea Brasted, Lifestyle and Culture Reporter

Misty Copeland recounted her own Prince tribute Saturday (July 2) during an Essence Fest weekend full of them. But for the first African American woman to be named principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater, the music star was a friend before she’d ever even seen him in concert.

“I’d never seen him perform live,” Copeland said during an interview with Soledad O’Brien on the festival’s Empowerment Experience stage. Copeland was emotional as she continued her story, adding, “I approached this relationship as this really hilarious quiet guy that became my friend, then I stepped onstage with him for the first time and I was like, OK, I get it now. Like, wow.”…

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Nawal El Saadawi: “All people are mixed blood, the more mixed you are the better”

Posted in Africa, Articles, Media Archive, Women on 2016-07-04 16:28Z by Steven

Nawal El Saadawi: “All people are mixed blood, the more mixed you are the better”

African Arguments
2016-06-24

Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, Research Fellow; Founder: Bookshy Blog
Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, United Kingdom

The iconic Egyptian writer speaks out about being ignored by “colonial capitalist patriarchal powers” and how today’s African women writers are leading a revolt.

With a career spanning half a century and encompassing some 60 works of fiction and non-fiction, Nawal El Saadawi is today one of the Arab world’s and Africa’s most pre-eminent figures.

Over several decades, the 84-year-old Egyptian’s books have challenged the status quo of patriarchal, religious and capitalist structures. And the writer has developed an international reputation as a courageous activist who carries on questioning those in power in spite of the dangers that can come with it.

According to Saadawi, she inherited her rebellious side from her parents and paternal grandmother, and her willingness to speak out has been clear throughout her writing. In her many works, she has tackled a range of controversial topics such as female genital mutilation, sex work, violence against women, and religious fundamentalism. And she has explored these complex issues through both fiction – in the likes of Women at Point Zero, Searching, and God Dies by the Nile – and non-fiction – such as in Women and Sex and various memoirs.

As a feminist writer and activist, Saadawi has raised awareness around women’s rights globally, but she has had a particularly strong influence on the feminist movement in her home country and amongst young Egyptians…

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