Race, Religion and Law in Colonial India: Trials of an Interracial Family by Chandra Mallampalli (review) [Epstein]

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, Media Archive on 2014-09-30 20:42Z by Steven

Race, Religion and Law in Colonial India: Trials of an Interracial Family by Chandra Mallampalli (review) [Epstein]

Victorian Studies
Volume 56, Number 3, Spring 2014
pages 519-520
DOI: 10.1353/vic.2014.0064

James Epstein, Distinguished Professor of History
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

Mallampalli, Chandra, Race, Religion and Law in Colonial India: Trials of an Interracial Family (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

The case of Abraham v. Abraham (1854–63) was extraordinary. It took nearly a decade to decide as it passed through the district civil court at Bellary in southern India, the appeals court at Madras, and finally the Privy Council’s Judicial Committee. The case repeatedly confounded legal categories based alternately on Hindu and English law and the fixed categories of Britain’s post-1857 colonial regime. In Race, Religion and Law in Colonial India, Chandra Mallampalli skillfully guides readers through the intricacies of the case, studying the social world inhabited by one family drawn into litigation and measuring the gap between their life-world and the protocols of the court. The period was one of imperial crisis and transition, as the British Crown assumed direct control over Indian territories following the 1857 Rebellion and authorities adopted a more cautious approach in governing Indian society. As the author writes, the more conservative turn of liberal governance “gave rise to an imperial multiculturalism, a policy of classifying colonial subjects according to race, religion, caste, or ethnicity,” while accentuating the difference between colonial subjects and colonizers (5).

Matthew Abraham was born into a Tamil-speaking family of “untouchables” (paraiyar community) who had converted to Catholicism. He subsequently converted to Protestantism and married Charlotte Fox, a Eurasian of Anglo-Portuguese descent. Matthew was part of the mobile group of camp followers who gravitated to the garrison town of Bellary. Access to the colonial culture centered on Bellary’s cantonment. The town’s thriving bazaar economy gave scope for Matthew’s enterprising talents and ambition; the locality’s social fluidity proved important to his self-fashioning. At the time of his marriage in 1820, he was working in the arsenal and selling military surplus items. Fairly soon he owned a distillery and most crucially was granted the East India Company contract to produce and supply liquor to the troops and local retailers—an irony, given his conversion to Evangelical Protestantism. The family prospered. Matthew assumed English customs and associated predominately with Europeans. He belonged to the class of doras, persons of local prominence, and was identified as an east Indian, a term usually reserved for those of mixed European and native blood. By a twist of fate, an oversight perhaps, the underlying complexities of this personal success story emerged in court records and now again in this fascinating book. Matthew died having left no will. His wife and his brother, Francis, who was involved in the family’s expanding business networks, fell out; they were unable to agree on a settlement or a legal heir, a necessary condition for their business dealings. From Matthew’s death in 1842 until Charlotte filed suit in 1854, the Abrahams “were a family in search of a law” (99). Once the case came to court, it produced a huge archive, with evidence taken from 271 witnesses and a series of conflicting verdicts.

In simplest terms, the case turned on whether Hindu or English law pertained. The Anglo-Indian system of civil or personal law mandated that Indians were governed according to their own laws whether Hindu or Muslim. As Mallampalli notes, a policy initially meant to promote religious tolerance also helped to create the fiction of coherent religious communities. The law seemed incapable of accommodating the intermingling of conditions and fluid identities that characterized the lives of the Abrahams. The legal agency of Charlotte and Francis depended on their ability to exploit the legal options open to them (in a sense, this is true of all legal proceedings). Hindu law worked to the advantage of male heirs. Charlotte and her legal councilors insisted that the family had been completely assimilated into the religion, customs, and lifestyle of Europeans and was therefore subject to English law with its emphasis on individual enterprise and ownership. Matthew’s brother was merely a business agent and subordinate family member. In contrast, Francis argued for continuity with Hindu tradition and his and Matthew’s undivided brotherhood, which would leave him as sole family heir. In this version, despite their Christian religion and European attitudes, the two brothers had been born into a class of persons who continued to observe the practice of Hindu…

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

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

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

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

Emily Wentzell, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Iowa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History ed. by Nicole St-Onge, Carolyn Podruchny, and Brenda MacDougall (review) [Haggarty]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Canada, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2014-09-26 15:31Z by Steven

Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History ed. by Nicole St-Onge, Carolyn Podruchny, and Brenda MacDougall (review) [Haggarty]

The Canadian Historical Review
Volume 95, Number 3, September 2014
pages 463-465
DOI: 10.1353/can.2014.0057

Liam Haggarty
Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

St-Onge, Nicole, Carolyn Podruchny, and Brenda Macdougall (eds.), Maria Campbell (fore.), Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012).

Reflecting on the state of Metis scholarship in Canada, Maria Campbell writes, “It is crucial for us to research and document our own stories and to share and discuss them at a community level. To celebrate them is a part of our decolonizing” (xxv ). That lofty goal is shared by the editors of and contributors to this collection, which both celebrates the work of pioneers in the field, specifically Jacqueline Peterson and Jennifer S.H. Brown, and charts new paths of study. Although firmly rooted in the Western scholarly tradition, it seeks to focus greater attention on family, mobility, and connectedness – themes that will resonate in Metis communities beyond the walls of academia.

In addition to Campbell’s thoughtful foreword, the collection consists of an introduction and fourteen chapters that encompass a wide range of geographies (from the Great Lakes to British Columbia, from Wisconsin to Creole communities in Alaska), timeframes (from the eighteenth century through to the present day), and topics and methodologies (including women’s history, legal history, biography, discourse analysis, and historical geography). By and large, these chapters address ongoing areas of research and familiar questions in the field pertaining to ethnogenesis, cultural distinctiveness, homelands, key events, regional diversity, politicization, and identity. In so doing, they add significantly to the breadth, depth, and texture of Metis historiography and fulfill the editors’ mandate: to trace the contours of Metis peoples and communities, what binds them together, what separates them from others, and what it means to be Metis in specific places, times, and contexts.

Some contributors simultaneously push the boundaries of conventional Metis historiography by adopting innovative approaches that challenge basic assumptions about Metis histories and the lenses through which Metis cultures are often viewed. Historians Nicole St-Onge and Carolyn Podruchny, for example, problematize simplistic interpretations of Metis ethnogenesis by investigating the significance and meaning of “material and emotional ties of kinship and loyalty” (63) to Metis culture and lifeways. Similarly, historical geographer Philip D. Wolfart challenges us to view Metis ethnogenesis and identity aspatially, as concepts bounded not by places visited or land used but by “a system of social obligation and fealty” (121) based on one’s social networks and relationships, while historical and cultural geographer Etienne Rivard asks us to consider the influence that “oral geographies” (144) have had on Metis constructions of identity and senses of place. In the book’s penultimate chapter, Native studies scholar Chris Anderson surveys the challenges associated with translating nuanced interpretations of Metis mobility, communities, and identity into the juridical arena of the Canadian legal system, arguing that although the courts acknowledge the importance of mobility to Metis culture, “older settlement-based understandings” continue to carry greater weight (412–13). Lastly, Native studies scholar Brenda Macdougall explores the concept of ambivalence not only in the formation of Metis identities but also as a trend in Metis historiography that potentially obscures complicated and multifaceted expressions of biculturality, thereby perpetuating simplistic binary understandings of individual and collective identities. By thus situating family, mobility, and connectedness at the centre of Metis culture, these chapters de-centre Euro-centric frameworks of analysis and ways of knowing, and privilege Metis perspectives on the past and present.

These nuanced and innovative analyses also raise important questions that remain underrepresented in Metis historiography. The collective identities informed by ideas of mobility, family, and historical consciousness, for example, are about exclusion as well as inclusion. Who, then, is being left out of Metis communities through ethnogenesis and identity making? To what extent do gender and class relations, as well as other markers of difference, intersect Metisness? How have Metis identities been instrumentalized to exclude as well as include certain individuals and groups? These questions may lie largely beyond the scope of the text but they are nonetheless important to the type of decolonized scholarship Campbell calls for. Understanding the contours of a people requires us to engage both external and internal relations of power.

As a whole, this collection represents a valuable addition to Metis and Aboriginal historiography, and it is a fitting tribute to Peterson, Brown, and other pioneers in the field. By surveying a broad geographic area and covering a wide range of topics…

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A Family Rooted in Two Realms

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-24 20:45Z by Steven

A Family Rooted in Two Realms

The New York Times
2014-09-23

Neil Genzlinger, Television Critic


In “black-ish,” Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross lead a family wrestling with racial issues. From left, Marsai Martin, Marcus Scribner, Yara Shahidi and Miles Brown as their children.
ADAM TAYLOR / ABC

‘black-ish,’ a New ABC Comedy, Taps Racial Issues

A lot of people in the television business are said to be curious to see how “black-ish,” ABC’s new comedy, is received when it has its premiere on Wednesday night. What they should really be curious about, though, is where the series goes after its funny but talking-point-heavy first episode.

The sitcom centers on a black family in Los Angeles, the Johnsons, struggling with prosperity. Andre (Anthony Anderson) works at an advertising agency; in the premiere, he’s on the verge of a major promotion. Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) is an anesthesiologist. Their four children are smart and adorable.

If this puts you in mind of the Huxtables of “The Cosby Show,” that’s no accident. But more than the Huxtables ever were, the Johnsons are wrestling with whether their comfortable lives are causing them to forget that they’re black…

…At home, he tells his lighter-skinned wife — a “pigment-challenged mixed-race woman,” he calls her — that she’s not black enough. He is dismayed that his older son is trying out for field hockey instead of basketball. The dinner table discussion (yes, we’ve found the last family in America that still eats together around a dinner table) focuses on whether the children know that Barack Obama is the first black president. Even fried chicken comes in for scrutiny, although not from Andre, but from his father, winningly played by Laurence Fishburne.

It’s all gentle as can be. “Black-ish” may be full of racial themes, but it’s working a gimmick that transcends race: Dad as buffoon…

Read the entire review here.

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Articulate While Black. Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S.: H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman, Oxford University Press, New York, 2012, 224 pp., ISBN: 9780199812967, $ 99.00 (hardcover)

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-09-24 19:54Z by Steven

Articulate While Black. Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S.: H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman, Oxford University Press, New York, 2012, 224 pp., ISBN: 9780199812967, $ 99.00 (hardcover)

Journal of Pragmatics
Volume 71, September 2014
pages 148-150
DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2014.08.010

Marta Degani, Assistant Professor
Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
University of Verona, Verona, Italy

Alim and Smitherman’s Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S. is an engaging new book that sheds light on the intricacies of race relations in present-day America while highlighting how intertwined the politics of race and that of language are. The scale, however, is tipped in favor of language to show “how ‘language matters’ to the national conversation on race” (p. 4). Obama’s rhetoric is at the core of the investigation, and it is analyzed with great accuracy and a keen ability for uncovering peculiarities of its “Blackness”. In particular, the book emphasizes Obama’s ability to successfully communicate with different types of audiences and establish rapport with them. On a larger scale, it also shows how Obama’s shifting communicative styles and strategies in using both verbal and non-verbal communication have had an impact on the politics of language and race in the US. Overall, the analyses of Obama’s different usages of political language offer a good example of how audience-centered style-shifting can be skillfully used as a pragmatic tool to convince the audience of one’s political persona. From a pragma-sociolinguistic perspective, Obama’s ability to adjust his speech and gestures to his different audiences falls in line with the postulates of Communication Accommodation Theory (Giles et al., 1991).

What is also remarkable about the book is that the authors mirror Obama’s strategy of style-shifting to engage a large readership and communicate an authentic message. In the book, they alternate academic prose with a style of writing that mirrors African American English (AAE). The nature of this successful linguistic alternation is already evident in the table of contents, which includes chapter titles such as “‘Nah, We Straight”: Black Language and America’s First Black President’ or ‘Making a Way Outta No Way: the “Race Speech” and Obama’s Rhetorical Remix’. Apart from the table of contents, the reader will also find instances of “non-standard” English (e.g. “to be sure, hittin that small sweet spot ain’t easy” p. 23) scattered throughout the main text.

At the beginning of the book, in chapter 1, the authors briefly introduce their work and its aim. As they suggest, the novelty of their approach consists in looking at race from the perspective of language, a practice they call “languaging race”. This concept is applied to Obama’s use of language and the authors claim that it was crucial for his victory. In this chapter, Alim and Smitherman present interesting findings from their sociolinguistic research on Obama’s Black language use and its perception. Data from conversations with young people (mostly aged between 18 and 24) reveal how Obama is unanimously considered an excellent and gifted communicator. Most significantly, findings show that Black respondents are more sensitive than White respondents to Obama’s ability in style-shifting, which is characterized by the use of different lexical variants (e.g. nah and no), shifting pronunciations (e.g. wit mah Bahble for with my Bible) and variance in grammatical constructions (opting at times for zero copula construction) to connect to a multiracial audience. Obama is also praised for his ability to master the Black cultural mode of discourse known as “signifying”. Obama’s recourse to a “Baptist preacher style” is yet another feature that chiefly strikes Black American participants in the survey. The Black preacher style is detected in the cadence, rhythm, pausing, use of repetition, metaphors and storytelling that characterize some of Obama’s speeches. The President is also charged with using a deep Black communicative style of “call and response” that breaks down barriers between addresser and addressee when engaging with a predominantly Black audience. His capacity to shift from White “standard” English to Black modes of communication is presented by Alim and Smitherman as the key for understanding his success. This linguistic flexibility is seen by the authors not only as a reflection of his multicultural and multilingual upbringing but also as a conscious rhetorical strategy.

Chapter 2 starts out with a metalinguistic analysis. The focus is on semantically loaded use of language. The authors refer to “exceptionalizing” racist discourses and provide the example of White politicians who employ terms like “articulate” to describe Obama’s eloquence. According to the authors, exceptionalizing discourse means that what on a surface level might appear as a praise is indeed a racist judgment based on the covert assumption that non-White people are unintelligent and illiterate. The label “articulate” makes Obama ‘exceptional’ in the sense that he sticks out qua Black…

Read or purchase the article here.

 

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Color Lines Are Blurred in ABC Comedy ‘Black-Ish’

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-19 18:29Z by Steven

Color Lines Are Blurred in ABC Comedy ‘Black-Ish’

The Associated Press
2014-09-19

Frazier Moore, Television Writer

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Tracee Ellis Ross delivers perhaps the funniest line you’ll hear on a sitcom this fall.

The character she plays on ABC’s comedy “black-ish” is, like Ross, an appealing mix of beauty, smarts and zaniness. She is totally plausible as a savvy mother of four and the loving wife of an up-and-coming ad exec (co-star Anthony Anderson), not to mention a busy anesthesiologist.

In this upscale African-American family, Dr. Rainbow Johnson also happens to be biracial. This occasionally spurs Andre, her hubby, who’s forever fretting about the family’s black cred, to question whether she is certifiably “black.”

He does this in the series’ premiere, to which, unfazed, Rainbow fires back, “If I’m not really black, then could someone please tell my hair and my ass!”

Reminded of that line during a recent interview, Ross cracks up.

“That’s what I love about our show,” she says. “With that line, my character sums it all up: ‘Are you STILL coming from the world that believes all black people are the same and all black people should think the same? C’mon, Dre!’”

With remarkable humor and finesse, “black-ish” (which debuts Sept. 24 at 9:30 p.m. EDT) addresses race, culture, socio-economics and other weighty matters…

Read the entire article here.

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Choose Your Own Race

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-09-03 17:52Z by Steven

Choose Your Own Race

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times
2014-08-29

Emily Raboteau

‘Your Face in Mine,’ by Jess Row

Do you ever dream of starting again in a new skin? This is the central question of Jess Row’s provocative and intriguing first novel, “Your Face in Mine.” It’s also a tag line of the shady enterprise in Bangkok where the book’s central character, Martin Wilkinson (né Lipkin), has paid a hefty sum to undergo something called racial reassignment surgery, to transform from a white Jewish man to an African-American one.

We’ve seen variations on this premise before, in the 1986 comedy flop “Soul Man,” in which C. Thomas Howell takes self-tanning pills so he can attend ­Harvard Law School on a scholarship for African-Americans, and in the 1961 best seller “Black Like Me,” wherein the white journalist John Howard Griffin disguised himself as black to tour the segregated South by bus. Those stories advanced blackface tradition from minstrelsy to illustrate (as only a white man can — with a wink) that it’s harder in this country to be black than white. Thankfully, Row’s narrative delves into more nuanced territory.

Martin becomes black not to teach anyone a lesson but to better reflect his “true self.” As in Adam Mansbach’s novel “Angry Black White Boy,” Martin’s condition speaks to a generation of suburban white kids who came up in the 1990s possessed by a vibrant hip-hop culture that let them access sincere rage at the world’s injustice in a way music hadn’t done since punk. (One of the book’s sharpest moments is its loving remembrance of the Spike Lee film “Do the Right Thing,” and Row is gifted throughout at writing about music.) Martin’s self-diagnosis is “Racial Identity Dysphoria Syndrome.” He compares his plight to that of a transsexual, but oddly enough, instead of being born into the wrong gender, he believes that he was born into the wrong race. Odder still, that race can be purchased, packaged and sold. More convincingly, he demonstrates it can be performed…

Read the entire review here.

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The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States Edited by Miriam Jiménez Román and Juan Flores (review) [Ellison]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2014-09-02 00:30Z by Steven

The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States Edited by Miriam Jiménez Román and Juan Flores (review) [Ellison]

Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies
Volume 17, 2013
page 278-279
DOI: 10.1353/hcs.2013.0020

Mahan L. Ellison, Assistant Professor of Spanish
Bridgewater College, Bridgewater, Virginia

Román, Miriam Jiménez and Juan Flores, eds., The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010)

As noted in the acknowledgements, this compilation of essays, poetry, prose, and personal narratives coalesced over the past two decades from readings for classes taught by the editors. The collection focuses on the intersection of the Black and Latin@ experiences, avoiding the exclusivity of either/or dualities and instead emphasizing the rich history and diversity found within the encompassing term of “Afro-Latin@.” The collection adheres to a geographical focus of the United States, but it is so vast in its coverage of the many facets of the Afro-Latin@ experience and history that this regional concentration is one of practicality rather than oversight.

The book is divided into ten sections, and these sections address the four central concerns (“coordinates”) within Afro-Latinidad of “group history, transnational discourse, relations between African Americans and Latin@s, and the specific lived experience of being Afro-Latin@” (3). Section I opens by providing historical background for Afro-Latin@s in (what would become) the United States, reaching back to Estevanico el Negro in 1528 and introducing census records showing that 56.5% of the Los Angeles population in 1781 was Afro-Latin@ (30). Other sections focus on the construction of racial identity, popular music, gender, public representations, and one entire section dedicated to Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. There are 66 individual chapters that offer a wide variety of genres, and this mixed-genre approach lends itself well to use in the classroom. The disparate themes each section explores contextualize Afro-Latin@ history while displaying the diversity of Afro-Latinidad. This dense reader is a wonderful resource for educators.

The readings are organized chronologically, beginning with historical context from the sixteenth century, but largely focusing on the twentieth and nascent twenty-first centuries. This chronological ordering allows the intersperment of poetry and personal memoirs among academic essays, thereby varying the narrative tone and form from chapter to chapter. For example, the section on Arturo Schomburg begins with an excerpt from an article penned by Schomburg, is followed by an academic essay by Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, and concludes with a personal narrative by Evelyne Laurent-Perrault that considers the continued resonance of Schomburg’s legacy. This varied-genre approach to the topics creates a narrative flexibility that shows the breadth of the subjects and offers multiple points of view.

The collection includes an excerpt from Piri ThomasDown These Mean Streets, poetry by the Nuyorican poets Sandra María Esteves, Felipe Luciano, and Victor Hernández Cruz, and also more recent works by Tato Laviera, Louis Reyes Rivera, Willie Perdomo, and Mariposa (María Teresa Fernández). Section IX, titled “Living Afro-Latinidades,” is a collection of personal testimonies from Afro-Latin@s that explores the intimate and individual experience of being Afro-Latin@ in the United States. The first person narration that predominates in this section complements the academic essays and personalizes the poetry and fiction found throughout the reader. Section IX is followed by the final section that concludes the book with essays focusing on racial identity and social commentary. As Section I opens with historical context and Section X closes with analysis, these editorial choices emphasize the critical value of Afro-Latin@ identity and literary production.

The Afro-Latin@ Reader is a well conceptualized and executed resource for university instructors. Due to the fact that many of the works included in the reader are excerpts, the value of this book for research purposes is mostly bibliographic. However, as an introduction to the often overlooked areas of Afro-Latin@ identity and history, this collection serves as a valuable resource for students and educators. The variety of tone, content, and genre offers a broad and compelling view of Afro-Latinidad. This reader would serve well as a textbook for a class on Afro-Latin@ culture in the United States, or as an addition to reading lists on African, Latin@, or American culture and literature…

 

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Land of the cosmic race: race mixture, racism, and blackness in Mexico [Villarreal Review]

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Social Science on 2014-08-28 20:37Z by Steven

Land of the cosmic race: race mixture, racism, and blackness in Mexico [Villarreal Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 10, 2014
Special Issue: Ethnic and Racial Studies Review
pages 1989-1991
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2014.920094

Andrés Villarreal, Professor of Sociology
University of Maryland, College Park

Land of the cosmic race: race mixture, racism, and blackness in Mexico, by Christina A. Sue, New York, Oxford University Press, 2013, xi + 234 pp., £15.99 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-19-992550-6

A powerful official ideology promoted by the Mexican Government since the early twentieth century glorifies the mestizo, defined as the descendant of both indigenous and Spanish peoples, as a symbol of national identity. This same ideology holds racism to be inexistent in contemporary Mexico, and negates the contribution of individuals of African descent to Mexican history and to the racial make-up of the nation. Despite the importation of many thousands of slaves during the colonial period, blacks have been essentially erased from the national consciousness. Christina Sue’s outstanding ethnographic study uncovers how Mexican men and women work to reconcile this official national ideology which they vehemently espouse, with their own lived experiences in which individuals with a darker skin tone are routinely discriminated in everyday life, and in which African ancestry is clearly evident in some regions of the country.

Research on racial attitudes in Indo-Latin American countries such as Mexico has focused mostly on the mestizo–indigenous dichotomy. However, Sue convincingly argues that distinctions along a colour continuum within the mestizo population have an important effect on individuals’ life chances. Framing discussions in terms of colour rather than race allows many Mexicans to make comparisons without violating the national ideology according to which racial classifications are no longer relevant.

In contrast to the official ideology of non-racism, Sue finds evidence of tremendous racial prejudice among her subjects in the coastal city of Veracruz. Veracruzanos with a lighter skin tone enjoy preferential treatment socially and in work settings. Employers often code their preference for workers with lighter skin tones by soliciting candidates with ‘good presentation’, a term whose meaning is fully known by job applicants. Racial prejudice is also evident within family units. Family members use a variety of gatekeeping techniques to prevent the entry of dark-skinned individuals into their families through marriage. A woman interviewed by Sue reports that her mother-in-law refuses to speak to her because she is darker than her husband (94). Veracruzanos also agonize over children inheriting the phenotype of a darker parent. Reflecting the disappointment that his daughter inherited his darker skin tone, one father notes: ‘I wouldn’t have cared if she was ugly like me, but I wanted her to have green eyes … like her mother or be light like her mother. But she came out ugly like me’ (74). As in other parts of Latin America, Sue finds that Veracruzanos systematically equate whiteness with beauty and higher social standing. Darker family members are routinely insulted and devalued, while lighter members receive more resources and attention…

Read the entire review here.

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Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth and Culture [Hauskeller Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2014-08-28 20:26Z by Steven

Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth and Culture [Hauskeller Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 37, Issue 10, 2014
Special Issue: Ethnic and Racial Studies Review
pages 1946-1948
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2013.870348

Christine Hauskeller, Senior Lecturer of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology
University of Exeter, United Kingdom

Race and the genetic revolution: science, myth and culture, edited by Sheldon Krimsky and Kathleen Sloan, New York, Columbia University Press, 2011, xiv + 296 pp., £22.66 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-231-15697-4

The similarities and differences among humankind have been a central theme in knowledge production, and modern biological and medical science has contributed much to the formation of race. Race and the Genetic Revolution takes its starting point from two current empirical facts: that ‘race is a scientific myth and a social reality. (2)’ DNA knowledge and genetic tests are promoted as indicating racial differences as biological differences, even though race has been unmasked in the twentieth century as a powerful social reality without a biological basis. Population genetics has shown that races are ideological constructs, yet today we find genetics widely used to re-inscribe nineteenth-century racial categories and prejudices into current social practices. To discuss these developments, Sheldon Krimsky and Kathleen Sloan have brought together contributions by distinguished scholars with multidisciplinary expertise. The resulting anthology unfolds, with sharpness and clarity, the genealogy of the myth of race and how genetics is being misappropriated to revive it.

Following Krimsky’s programmatic foreword, the book is divided into six parts relating to the social realms in which genetic race is fabricated. The chapters deconstruct the amalgamation of ideology and pseudo-science and discuss in detail the flawed methods used to establish biological races. This folk genetics of race is problematic, however, not least because it is increasingly applied in institutions with social power and authority, such as health services and the police. In Part I, Michael Yuddell and Robert Pollack present a history of the ideology of race and an evolutionary perspective on why strict biological human races cannot exist. Part II analyses the politics and uses of the large forensic DNA databases in the USA and the UK. In both countries, ethnic minorities are over-represented in these databases and thus become prime suspects in police proceedings. Profiles of suspects are kept in the databases even when the individuals are never charged with any crime. Michael Risher argues that these DNA banking practices could be seen as unconstitutional and Helen Wallace points out the human rights aspects. Both observe no decided political will to counteract this re-racialization. In Part III on the logic of genetic ancestry testing, Troy Duster deconstructs the underlying idea of ‘pure’ races, the construction of reference data sets and the statistics used to produce percentages of racial origin. Testing products promising to identify the racial ancestry of an individual, he concludes, are flawed and buyers should beware that they buy nothing of any actual meaning or use. Duana Fullwiley looks at the uptake of ancestral informative DNA markers in the creation of search profiles in policing. Despite falling short of the scientific credibility that would be required for courtroom evidence, DNA-derived racial profiles inform investigative searches…

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