English 49, “Whiteness” and Racial Difference

Posted in Course Offerings, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-12-21 01:28Z by Steven

English 49, “Whiteness” and Racial Difference

Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
Spring 1997

Peter Schmidt, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English Literature

A look at the conflicted ways in which “racial” identities and differences have been constructed in past and contemporary cultures, especially in the U.S. Topics given emphasis in the syllabus include why saying “race doesn’t matter” is not enough; how a new debates about the history of race have changed American Studies and feminist studies; how European immigrants to the U.S. became “white” and with what benefits and what costs; how popular culture can both resist and perpetuate racist culture; and an introduction to issues of “passing,” multi-racial identity, and recovering a multiracial past. The format of the class will include both lecture and student-led discussion.

For more information, click here.

Tags: ,

“The Double Curse of Sex and Color”: Robert Purvis and Human Rights

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-12-17 18:59Z by Steven

“The Double Curse of Sex and Color”: Robert Purvis and Human Rights

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 121 [CXXI], Number 1-2, January/April 1997
pages 53-76

Margaret Hope Bacon (1921-2011)

In 1869 A NATIONAL WOMAN’S SUFFRAGE convention was held for the first time in Washington, D.C. The Fourteenth Amendment had recently been ratified and the Fifteenth was about to be introduced into Congress. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and other women present used the opportunity to object to black men receiving the vote before women, both black and white, were enfranchised. Their arguments were countered by those of Frederick Douglass, Edward M. Davis, Dr. Charles Burleigh Purvis, and others, who maintained that the Southern black male needed the shield of suffrage to protect him from the reign of terror being visited upon him by former slave owners.

A tall slender man with fair skin and white hair rose at his seat and began to speak. Elizabeth Stanton invited him to come forward and address the convention from the platform. Robert Purvis of Philadelphia said that he was willing to wait for the vote for himself and his sons and his race until women were also permitted to enjoy it. It was important to him that his daughter be enfranchised, since she bore the double curse of sex and race. He chided his son, Dr. Charles Purvis, for holding a narrow position, and reminded him that his sister Hattie also deserved to be enfranchised.

Alone among the black men who had supported women’s rights in the antislavery movement, Robert Purvis remained an advocate of suffrage for women throughout the period of debate and schism over the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. In 1888 he was honored by Susan B. Anthony at the International Council of Women, meeting in Washington, D.C., for his courageous stand in 1869 in opposition to his own son.

Purvis’s advocacy of women’s rights was rooted in his deeply held convictions on human rights. He believed strongly that the struggle for equality for blacks could not be separated from that of women, of American Indians, of Irish nationalists demanding home rule, of all minorities. He objected to all associations based on color alone and rejected the term “African-American.” ‘There is not a single African in the United States,” he told a Philadelphia audience in 1886. “We are to the manner born; we are native Americans.”

Purvis’s position on human rights undoubtedly stemmed in part from his own mixed-race background. His grandmother, Dido Badaracka, was born in Morocco. Purvis described her as a “full-blooded Moor of magnificent features and great beauty. She had crisp hair and a stately manner.” In approximately 1766, at the age of twelve, she was captured by a slave trader along with an Arab girl. The two had been enticed to go a mile or two out of the city where they lived to see a deer that had been caught. They were seized, loaded on the backs of camels, and carried to a slave market on the coast. Here they were loaded onto a slaver and transported to Charleston, South Carolina. At the slave market in Charleston, Dido was bought by a kind white woman, named Day or Deas, who educated her, treated her as a companion, and left instructions that she was to be freed when the woman died, nine years later, in 1775…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Immigration, Ethnicity, and National Identity in Brazil, 1808 to the Present by Jeffrey Lesser (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Slavery on 2014-12-16 01:58Z by Steven

Immigration, Ethnicity, and National Identity in Brazil, 1808 to the Present by Jeffrey Lesser (review)

Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Volume 45, Number 3, Winter 2015
pages 449-451

Samuel L. Baily, Professor Emeritus of History
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Jeffrey Lesser, Immigration, Ethnicity, and National Identity in Brazil, 1808 to the Present (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Lesser’s book is an ambitious, commendable effort to explain the complex evolving relationships between immigration, ethnicity, and national identity in Brazil since 1808. Over that period of time, 6 million immigrants entered Brazil. The large majority of them were of European descent—slightly fewer than one-third of them from both Portugal and Italy, 13 percent from Spain, and 4 percent from Germany. Non-Europeans comprised nearly 20 percent of the total—Japanese about 5 percent, and Middle Eastern Jews and Arabs, Chinese, Latin Americans, and Americans the remainder. The flow of each group varied in intensity over time. Most of the immigrants settled in the southern part of the country and in the state and city of Sao Paulo, but others spread into other areas as well. Lesser seeks to analyze the impact of migration both on the immigrants themselves and on the evolving meaning of Brazilian national identity.

As daunting a task as Lesser’s may seem, the topic is further complicated by the fact that approximately 30 percent of Brazil’s population at the time of its independence in 1822 were African Brazilians, who served as the primary workforce for the colonial economy. Thus, race became intimately linked to immigration, to ethnicity, and ultimately to definitions of national identity. Immigrants did not provide labor in Brazil alone; they did so in the United States as well. But conceptions of immigrants’ standing in these two societies differed considerably. The United States saw itself as the “promised land” where immigrants could immediately improve their prospects, whereas many of the people who constituted Brazil’s host society hoped that immigrants, by virtue of their physical and cultural presence, would gradually improve an imperfect nation by ameliorating its mixed racial composition. They adopted a “whiteness model” of development. Lesser correctly insists that immigration and national identity cannot be understood separately from the broader context of race.

The book includes many important statistical tables and interesting illustrations (postage stamps, postcards, maps, photos, magazine ads, and cartoons, among others). At the end of five of the six chapters are appended relevant short primary documents related to the topics that they discussed. The work also includes a useful, comprehensive historiographical essay on Brazilian immigration, ethnicity, and national identity, but also sufficient citations to facilitate comparisons with the United States, Argentina, and other New World countries that experienced major immigrations.

Lesser previously published three books on major aspects of his current subject—one about Jewish rnigration to Brazil, the second about negotiating national identity in Brazil, and the third about Japanese Brazilians. In the present volume, he builds skillfully on this foundation of primary data and analysis to deepen our understanding of these complex issues. He organizes his book in loose chronological order beginning with a chapter about Central European and Asian migration schemes (1822–1870), followed by chapters about mass European migration (1880–1920), Middle Eastern migration (Arabs and Jews) (1880–1940), and Asian migration (especially Japanese) (1900–1955). The epilogue focuses on the post–World War II period, bringing the story to the present day. All of these chapters examine the evolving patterns of national identity, but Chapter 4 is specifically focused on the creation of Euro-Brazilian identities.

Lesser’s book has much to offer to both specialists and general readers. His overview carries profound insights about the problems of national identity in Brazil and elsewhere. One of Lesser’s greatest contributions is his effective use of comparative methodology. He clearly delineates the similarities and differences between the specific European, Middle Eastern, and Asian groups within Brazil regarding such important matters as intermarriage with Afro-Brazilians, “whiteness,” the relationship with country of origin, et al. His revealing comparisons between Brazil, the United States, and Argentina provide an important international perspective on immigration and the evolution of national identity…

Tags: , ,

Immigration, Ethnicity, and National Identity in Brazil, 1808 to the Present

Posted in Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery on 2014-12-15 18:32Z by Steven

Immigration, Ethnicity, and National Identity in Brazil, 1808 to the Present

Cambridge University Press
January 2013
219 pages
19 b/w illus. 1 map 19 tables
229 x 153 x 14 mm
Hardback ISBN: 9780521193627
Paperback ISBN: 9780521145350
eBook ISBN: 9781139602723

Jeffrey Lesser, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of History
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

Immigration, Ethnicity, and National Identity in Brazil, 1808 to the Present examines the immigration to Brazil of millions of Europeans, Asians, and Middle Easterners beginning in the nineteenth century. Jeffrey Lesser analyzes how these newcomers and their descendents adapted to their new country and how national identity was formed as they became Brazilians along with their children and grandchildren. Lesser argues that immigration cannot be divorced from broader patterns of Brazilian race relations, as most immigrants settled in the decades surrounding the final abolition of slavery in 1888 and their experiences were deeply conditioned by ideas of race and ethnicity formed long before their arrival. This broad exploration of the relationships between immigration, ethnicity, and nation allows for analysis of one of the most vexing areas of Brazilian study: identity.

  • Includes oral histories and primary documents so readers can get a sense of the voices of immigrants and those with whom immigrants interacted
  • Does not treat immigrants only as victims, unlike other immigration studies
  • Places immigrants within a broader context of racial and ethnic relations

Table of Contents

  • List of Figures, Tables, and Documents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1: Creating Brazilians
  • Chapter 2: From Central Europe and Asia: Immigration Schemes, 1822–1870
  • Chapter 3: Mass Migrations, 1880–1920
  • Chapter 4: The Creation of Euro-Brazilian Identities
  • Chapter 5: How Arabs Became Jews, 1880–1940
  • Chapter 6: Asianizing Brazil: New Immigrants and New
  • Identities, 1900–1955
  • Epilogue: The Song Remains the Same
  • Historiographical Essay
  • Index
Tags: ,

In Memoriam: María Elena Martínez-López, 47

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Mexico, United States on 2014-12-14 22:22Z by Steven

In Memoriam: María Elena Martínez-López, 47

University of Southern California

Susan Bell, Senior Writer
(213) 740-7894

María Elena Martínez-López, associate professor of history and American studies and ethnicity at USC Dornsife and a leading scholar of colonial Latin America has died. She was 47.

Martínez-López died at home in Los Angeles, surrounded by family and close friends on Nov. 16 after being diagnosed with cancer in late May.

“Professor Martínez-López was a brilliant scholar of Spanish American and colonial Mexican history,” said William Deverell, professor and chair of history, and director of the USC-Huntington Institute on California and the West at USC Dornsife. “Her historical insights on race, conquest and religion garnered richly deserved awards and praise, and her dedication to scholarship and her students was exemplary. We will miss her terribly.”

Martínez-López joined USC Dornsife in 2001. Her work focused on colonial Mexico, the cultural connections between Spain and the Americas, and more generally the formation of the Iberian Atlantic world. She taught courses on Latin American history, slavery in the Atlantic world, early modern religion and race, and gender and sexuality in Spanish America…

…While at USC Dornsife, she published a number of articles on space, religion, gender and race in New Spain. Her groundbreaking book Genealogical Fictions: Limpieza de Sangre, Religion, and Gender in Colonial Mexico (Stanford University Press, 2008) reinterpreted the historical foundations of race. It received the American Historical Association’s 2009 James A. Rawley Prize in Atlantic History and the American Historical Association’s Conference on Latin American History’s prize for the best book on Mexican history.

Most recently she was working on the relationship of Spanish colonial law and indigenous “genealogical histories” in central Mexico as well as on science and theories of race and sex in the 18th century Spanish Atlantic world.

She had been conducting extensive research in Mexican, Spanish and U.S. archives for her new book titled The Enlightened Creole Science of Race and Sex: Naturalizing the Body in the Eighteenth-Century Spanish Atlantic World.This was intended to be an extension of her first book about ideas of blood purity and race in the early-modern Spanish Atlantic world, examining how religion provided the epistemological foundations for racial discourses in Spain and colonial Mexico…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

“Race”: a Political Weapon

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2014-12-14 01:40Z by Steven

“Race”: a Political Weapon

Counterpunch: Tells the Facts and Names the Names

Luciana Bohne, Professor
Edinboro University, Edinboro, Pennsylvania

“The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically.”

US Census

According to a widely circulated statistic, the police kill a young black man every twenty-eight hours in America. Without doubt, the police have a problem with race. Moreover, the justice system appears to have a problem, too, as proven by the Grand Jury’s failed indictment of Darren Wilson in the killing this summer of young Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The failed indictment does not mean that Wilson is innocent; only that he will not be brought to trial. This is a terrible perversion of the path to justice. It suggests deliberate prevention of trial on the nearly 100% certainty that Wilson would be found guilty if tried. I am disturbed, however, by the well-intentioned flagellants among the white, non-racist community virtually calling for “America’s” white male blood, metaphorically speaking. I am disturbed because this is the wrong response to the judicial outrage in Ferguson. We should be calling for ruling-class blood, not dividing ourselves into blacks and whites. Isn’t this division a benefit that our divide-and-rule oppressors hardly deserve? Let us not play with the cards in their deck.

To begin with, is “America” racist? Real, existing Americans voted for a black candidate for president, one, moreover, who ticked off only the “African American” category on race in the US Census of 2010. In choosing the less privileged racial group than white, Obama adhered to the principle of “hypo descent,” which the US has traditionally used to determine the race of a child born of a mixed-race union. We have a black political class in the Congress; a black Supreme Court justice; two blacks have been secretary of state (one a woman). We have not one institution in which blacks don’t figure more or less prominently. Mixed marriages have been legal since 1967. In 2008, about 14% of all first marriages were mixed race; 9% of whites, 16% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics, and 31% of Asians were interracially married…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Critical Mixed-Race In Transnational Perspective: The US, China, And Hong Kong, 1842-1943

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Forthcoming Media, History, Live Events, United States on 2014-12-13 22:49Z by Steven

Critical Mixed-Race In Transnational Perspective: The US, China, And Hong Kong, 1842-1943

Center for East Asian Studies
Lathrop East Asia Library, Room 224
Stanford University
518 Memorial Way, Stanford, California
Thursday, 2015-01-15, 16:15-17:30 PST (Local Time)

Emma Teng, T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This paper will examine the intersection of Sinophone Studies and Critical Mixed-Race Studies (CMRS) – two new and critical paradigms of inquiry – as productive forces in reshaping Chinese Studies beyond the old Area Studies model. My work analyzes the evolving discourses on mixed-race as well as the lived experiences of Eurasians in China, Hong Kong, and the US during the era between 1842 and 1943, and thus lies at the intersection of these two emergent and dynamic fields. Through my research on transnational Chinese-Western mixed families I aim to expand the horizons of Critical Mixed-Race Studies, which has been dominated by the study of black-white interracialism. I ask how a transpacific comparative approach might shift the theoretical frameworks for critical race and ethnic studies by challenging the presumed universality of US-centric models. At the same time, I aim to expand the horizons of “Chinese” studies, asking how mixed-race or transracial hybrid identities contest racially bounded, Han Chinese-centric definitions of Chineseness.

For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Brute Ideology

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2014-12-11 15:55Z by Steven

Brute Ideology

Fall 2014

Walter Johnson, Winthrop Professor of History; Professor of African and African American Studies; Director, Charles Warren Center for the Study of American History
Harvard University

Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life by Barbara J. Fields and Karen E. Fields. Verso, 2012, 310 pp.

The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation by David Brion Davis. Knopf, 2014, 448 pp.

The field of U.S. history today is characterized by a mania for management. The “new” history of capitalism has focused its attention on the creation and daily reanimation of the grand abstraction from which it draws its title: the mid-level market makers who take capital and transform it into capitalism. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, increasing numbers of historians have turned their attention to the histories of powerful historical actors we have too long ignored or dismissed as “dead white men” unworthy of the attention of the properly progressive historian: financiers, bankers, and businessmen of all kinds. Despite the obvious importance of the task and the avowedly critical purpose of the turn towards the study of the mechanisms of market practice, however, some of the bolder claims that have been used to mark out the novelty of this “new” history seem unwarranted, perhaps even misguided. Can historians really set aside the study of racial and sexual domination now that they have discovered the economic exploitation underlying all other history? Can they really write a better history of capitalism by simply replacing the history of the marginal with the history of the powerful? Amidst the end-of-historiography enthusiasm for the “new” history of capitalism, two recent books remind us of the enduring importance of some of the questions posed by the old history of capitalism: questions of determination, ideology, and hegemony, and of collective action, resistance, and (even) revolutionary social change.

Bringing together previously published and new essays treating U.S. history from the time of the American Revolution to the eve of the Occupy movement in 2011, Racecraft reminds us that, at the very least, the “new” history of capitalism has some very distinguished antecedents. Taken together, the writing of the historian Barbara J. Fields and the sociologist Karen E. Fields (sisters; hereafter “Fields and Fields”) provides a sustained and brilliant exposition of the history and practice of race-marking in America. If race is “socially constructed,” as virtually every educated person in the United States knows it officially to be, then why do we believe we can determine the race of the person on the other end of the line as soon as we pick up the phone?

As the title’s invocation of witchcraft suggests, the book is framed by the idea that there is something occult about such everyday practices of divination. For the authors, race is a kind of magical thinking, a way of isolating a few of the surface features of near-infinite human diversity and over-generalizing them into an architecture of biological, social, and even metaphysical difference. Race thinking, they suggest, is a sort of transubstantiation that adduces essence out of circumstance, made up of turns of phrase and ways of thinking so familiar and yet so powerful as to persistently remake the material world in their own image.

Fields and Fields illustrate and expose this sort of magic through a close reading of the printed matter of our times: newspaper accounts of proudly segregated high-school proms and white supremacists carrying guns to Obama campaign rallies; peer-reviewed articles published in scholarly journals and the bureaucratic memos that established the “multiracial” category in the U.S. census. They juxtapose the “troglodyte racism” of the crypto-Klan birthers to the breathless intonations of historical transcendence (“the end of racism??!!”) common among twenty-first-century white liberals. The main argument of the book is with the latter’s sometimes unwitting, sometimes self-congratulatory engagement with the dark magic of racial difference itself.

Take the “multiracial” moment—the idea that the bad old days of “black” and “white” may finally be giving way to an embrace of “mixture” and “difference.” But wait: “mixture” of what with what? According to Racecraft, the Census Bureau defines a “multiracial” person as “someone with two monoracial parents.” Through the heart of the celebration of the new multiracialism circulates a notion of blood purity worthy of The Birth of a Nation. For Fields and Fields, any invocation of “race” as an explanatory or even descriptive category is in and of itself racist. The use of “race” to explain anything from ancestry to economic inequality unwittingly reinforces the false belief in deep-rooted biological differences between black and white people. “Ancestry,” according to the authors, should be understood as a way that individuals are linked across generations without being thickened into “race.” Heredity, whether responsible for visible traits like curly hair or hidden ones like the sickle cell, is just that and nothing more: “‘genetic’ is not equivalent to ‘racial.’”

If we had only to worry about a mediascape where relevance is measured by the ability to attach ideas to beginnings and endings (the “post-racial” election of the “first black president”) things would be bad enough. “Racecraft,” however, has infiltrated even the hallowed ground of academia. Precisely and compellingly, Fields and Fields demonstrate that scientists use “racial” causes to explain what are in fact social effects. A recent scientific study of high asthma rates among schoolchildren in the South Bronx, for example, concluded that—in addition to heavy traffic, dense population, poor housing, and lack of preventative health care—the neighborhood was characterized by “a large population of blacks and Hispanics, two groups with very high rates of asthma.”…

Read the entire review of both books here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, United States on 2014-12-11 15:20Z by Steven

Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life

Verso Books
October 2012
310 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781781683132
Ebook ISBN: 9781844679959
Hardback ISBN: 9781844679942

Karen E. Fields, Independent Scholar

Barbara J. Fields, Professor of History
Columbia University, New York, New York

Tackling the myth of a post-racial society.

Most people assume that racism grows from a perception of human difference: the fact of race gives rise to the practice of racism. Sociologist Karen E. Fields and historian Barbara J. Fields argue otherwise: the practice of racism produces the illusion of race, through what they call “racecraft.” And this phenomenon is intimately entwined with other forms of inequality in American life. So pervasive are the devices of racecraft in American history, economic doctrine, politics, and everyday thinking that the presence of racecraft itself goes unnoticed.

That the promised post-racial age has not dawned, the authors argue, reflects the failure of Americans to develop a legitimate language for thinking about and discussing inequality. That failure should worry everyone who cares about democratic institutions.

Tags: , , , , ,

UNPOPULAR OPINION: 6 Reasons Why Your Utopic Vision for a Mixed-Race Future is My Nightmare

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-12-10 17:54Z by Steven

UNPOPULAR OPINION: 6 Reasons Why Your Utopic Vision for a Mixed-Race Future is My Nightmare


Kristina Wong

Guess what? One day, when we’re all mixed race, racism won’t magically disappear.

Before you start trolling me (not that I don’t need the attention), let me tell you the specific sentiment that this whole essay addresses. It usually starts when someone chimes in with their wide-eyed vision for 2050, the year when people of color will outnumber white people in America:

“One day when all the races have mixed together, and we can’t tell what anyone is anymore, there won’t be racism! All our cultures will blend together! And…the babies will be beautiful!”

Ah yes! This magic mixed-race future, where everyone will have fucked the hate out of everyone and in the process, thousands of years of colonialism, violence, and systemic oppression disappear into the “interesting facial features” of mixed-race people!

I’m not indicting the lives of mixed-race people nor chastising interracial relationships. But let’s get real — the hypothetical “Future World of Mixed-Race Babies” being the end of racism suffers from frighteningly naive logic about how racism actually works.

Here are SIX reasons why racial utopia won’t suddenly appear once we pull our pants down and start boning across borders…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: ,