Anomaly dir. by Jessica Chen Drammeh (review)

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-17 18:25Z by Steven

Anomaly dir. by Jessica Chen Drammeh (review)

African Studies Review
Volume 57, Number 3, December 2014
pages 274-275

Manouchka Kelly Labouba, USC Provost’s PhD Fellow
Critical Studies School of Cinematic Arts
University of Southern California

Anomaly is a personal documentary featuring mixed-raced people who discuss the complexities and challenges of defining their identity across the different races and cultures they belong to. They talk about the limitations and prejudices of the mainstream approach to race, which makes individuals like them feel like misfits. The director, Jessica Chen Drammeh, is a biracial Asian-Caucasian woman. She introduces herself as “unidentified,” and calls herself an “anomaly,” because she is “difficult to classify,” as she does not fit into any of the six ethnic and racial categories officially recognized in the U.S. Hence, Drammeh and her participants explain how they have learned to deal with people’s preconceptions, reticence, and narrow-mindedness about their racial mixture. They explain how being of mixed-raced heritage ultimately renders them both invisible and hypervisible. They are invisible because their multiracial background tends to be unacknowledged, as they feel socially compelled to identify with one race only. Yet they are also hypervisible because their distinctness is so apparent. Eventually all of Drammeh’s subjects share how they have come to terms with their multiracial identity and developed a sense of pride about their genetic makeup, which they consider makes them culturally rich.

Although the documentary does not specifically focus on multiracial Americans of African descent, the film does feature one biracial Congolese-American, a young man named Pete [Shungu]. He is a saxophonist who plays jazzy melodies with a big uncombed Afro hairstyle. His parents separated when he was ten, and he grew up in New Jersey with his Caucasian mother. She appears in the film and talks about how she would dress up in a Congolese outfit, put a baby doll on her back, and come to Pete’s class to talk about the Congo and its customs. Pete was proud of her and loved that none of his friends had a problem with his white mother dressing in African clothes. His mother explains how she felt that it was important for her to understand the culture of Pete’s father, as well as for Pete and his brother to understand their own culture. In a poem titled “Third-Eye Identity,” Pete describes how being multiracial has helped him become more open-minded. He explains how “his roots extend far beyond the places he lived in,” making him a “complex individual, not just a category.” Yet because of the way race is perceived in society, denying his blackness and identifying only as multiracial would be unrealistic. Only in his senior year in college, having enrolled in a course on the subject of mixed-race heritage, is he finally comfortable identifying himself as multiracial.

In the 2010 U.S. Census more than 9 million Americans identified themselves as multiracial, making them one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the country. Thus Drammeh’s documentary is a valuable contribution in what should be a national effort to perceive and acknowledge this segment of the population, as well as understand what these individuals experience as minorities. Many movies have thematized the moral barriers and societal challenges faced by interracial couples in America, such as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (dir. Stanley Kramer, 1967), Jungle Fever (dir. Spike Lee, 1991), Mississippi Masala (dir. Mira Nair, 1991), and the documentary The Loving Story (dir. Nancy Buirski, 2011), about Richard and Mildred Loving, whose Supreme Court ruling in 1967 put an end to antimiscegenation laws. However, few films have focused on how the offspring of such relationships are integrated in U.S. society. Though Drammeh’s documentary does not try to fill that void on its own, it does give an insight into what many have called “the changing face” of America.

However, Drammeh’s work unfortunately does not tackle its subject matter in the most effective manner. The film resembles more a student project on this assigned theme, rather than a documentary targeted at a broad audience. As a filmmaker, she chooses to intertwine extensive personal interviews with poems and songs by the participants, on the one hand, and with a few contributions by scholars, on the other. By doing so, she makes her movie slightly too personal and informal, which eventually diminishes…

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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…

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‘Who We Be,’ by Jeff Chang

Posted in Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-13 21:18Z by Steven

‘Who We Be,’ by Jeff Chang

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times

Tricia Rose, Director
Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America
Brown ­University, Providence, Rhode Island

Who We Be: The Colorization of America. By Jeff Chang. Illustrated. 403 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $32.99.

The dramatic changes spurred by the civil rights ­movement and other 1960s social upheavals are often chronicled as a time line of catalytic legal victories that ended anti-black segregation. Jeff Chang’sWho We Be: The Colorization of America” claims that cultural changes were equally important in transforming American society, and that both the legal and cultural forms of desegregation faced a sustained hostile response that continues today.

According to Chang, the author of “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation,” multiculturalism challenged who and what defined America, going straight to the heart of who “we” thought we were and who “we” aspired to be. Attacks on exclusions by multicultural scholars and artists were taking place everywhere. University battles raged over whether the Western literature canon should continue to be elevated, or imagined ­outside the politics of racial hierarchies. Artists confronted the nearly all-white and all-male elite art world. Chang even ­describes Coca-Cola’s influential 1971 “I’d like to teach the world to sing” advertisement as a signal of how profitable a “harmonious” multicultural marketing plan could be. But over the next several decades, all the way through Obama’s elections, powerful counterattacks were launched, increasingly in racially oblique language. “Both sides understood that battles over culture were high-stakes,” Chang writes. “The struggle between restoration and transformation, retrenchment and change, began in culture.”…

…Surely our national fabric is more racially diverse than ever before, and a few more people of color have access to powerful cultural institutions. At the same time, “Who We Be” left me wondering about the resilience of power. It is possible but not inevitable that multiculturalism will fuel the creation of an anti-racist and fully inclusive society. But it is also possible that we could ­become the kind of multiracial society that keeps its darker-skinned people at the bottom to provide cultural raw material to a powerful white elite that celebrates the diversity on which it depends…

Read the entire review here.

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‘Pelo Malo’ Is A Rare Look Into Latin American Race Relations

Posted in Articles, Audio, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2014-12-13 20:57Z by Steven

‘Pelo Malo’ Is A Rare Look Into Latin American Race Relations

Morning Edition
National Public Radio

Jasmine Garsd, Reporter and Host
NPR Music’s Alt.Latino

Actor Samuel Lange Zambrano plays Junior, a boy who becomes obsessed with relaxing his hair. Courtesy of the artist

“Pelo Malo” means “bad hair” in Spanish. It’s a term that is commonly used in Latin America, and it’s also the title of a new Venezuelan film that tackles racism and homophobia.

Junior is a 9-year-old living in a poor neighborhood in Caracas. School is about to start, and he has to have his picture taken. Junior, like many Venezuelans, has European, indigenous and African ancestry, which gives him thick, tightly curled hair. He becomes obsessed with straightening it, trying everything from blow-drying to applying gobs of mayonnaise. That last attempt drives his mother, a struggling widow, insane; she threatens to “cortarle el pelo,” just cut all his hair off.

Pelo Malo is a rare look into identity politics among Latin Americans, where racism is often a taboo topic. Despite the taboo, director Mariana Rondón says, the term “pelo malo” is common currency. “The origin of the term is very offensive. It’s very racist. But it’s also true that in Venezuela, we are so mixed, that in every single family there is someone with … ‘bad hair.’ We joke that the second most profitable industry, after oil, is hair straightening. Because everyone here wants to have straight hair.”…

…The film is very Venezuelan, but many Latin Americans can relate to it. Bianca Laureano is the founder of The LatiNegr@s Project, a virtual space that aims to discuss history and current events in the Afro-Latino community. She says the battles over hair are very much present in her own life: “I have family members who I have never even met. And I meet them, and part of the conversation will be, ‘I don’t like your hair the way that it is.’ ”

Laureano says while she wishes the movie had dealt with its issues in more depth, she thinks it’s representative of a sea change in the way Latinos discuss race. “What I definitely see an increase of is people who identify as Afro-Latino. This is who I am, this is my story. We take part in this as well.”…

Read the entire article here. Listen to the story here. Download the story here.

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Racecraft: Stories of Racial Passing

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-12-12 21:35Z by Steven

Racecraft: Stories of Racial Passing

Los Angeles Review of Books

Lucy McKeon, Writer and Photographer
New York, New York

THE VERY NOTION of racial “passing” implies a test. Those who believed clear racial categorization was possible might test for race by measuring physical traits to indicate “blood purity”: slight physical traits that could be identified, such as the half-moon of a nail bed or the whites of ones eyes. In apartheid South Africa, the “pencil test” was devised: categorizing people based on whether a pencil would remain or fall from their hair. Physical markers were used to fix and control whole futures.

“White people were so stupid about such things,” says Irene, the narrator of Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929). “They usually asserted that they were able to tell; and by the most ridiculous means, finger-nails, palms of hands, shapes of ears, teeth.”

To pass the faulty test of white scrutiny is not difficult; Larsen’s Passing, and other 18th to 20th century fiction and 20th century film, work to demonstrate that categorization by race relies on arbitrary rules and unsound logic — proving, in other words, the falsely naturalized or socially constructed nature of “race” itself. As Stanford historian Allyson Hobbs reminds us in her recent cultural history A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, the gains and losses of racial passing — when someone from one racial group “passes,” or is accepted, as another — were historically contingent, like “race” itself. Indeed, one’s semblance could rarely be taken as trustworthy evidence. “Skin color and physical appearance were usually the least reliable factors,” writes Hobbs, “whereas one’s associations and relationships were more predictive” of who was deemed white and who was not. If white people can’t actually tell who is white and who isn’t, whiteness is exposed as simply the external perception of being white — the privilege, power, and civic membership afforded to someone recognized as such. This is white supremacy in practice.

Michael Yudell’s Race Unmasked examines the history of the concept of biological race — in large part tied to the history of genetics, which “at its founding was inseparable from eugenics theories” — in order to show that race is “neither a static biological certainty nor a reflection of our genes. Instead, race is a historical and cultural phenomenon.” We’ve known this, of course. But Yudell’s recent book provides scientific documentation of the process of “racecraft,” a term coined by Karen Fields and Barbara Fields in their 2012 book by the same name: the “mental terrain” where our deep and pervasive belief in race as meaningful is conjured, then ritualized into reality. “Race” comes to explain social effects like poverty, as witchcraft might explain failing crops. What’s real is not “race,” but the ideology of racism: the belief in “race” as a tool with which to rationalize cause and consequence.

In this way, while both fictive and biographical representations of passing demonstrate the absurdity of “race,” they also emphasize the very real effects of racial categorization. From the point of view of those passing, Hobbs writes,

race was neither strictly a social construction nor a biological fact. The line between black and white was by no means imaginary; crossing it had profound, life-changing consequences. Race was quite real to those who lived with it, not because of skin color or essentialist notions about biology, but because it was social and experiential, because it involved one’s closest relationships and one’s most intimate communities.

Passing, in other words, demonstrates how “race” is both socially constructed and, as experienced, extremely meaningful.

Hobbs focuses on the experience of great loss in her cultural history of passing. As she points out, “Historians and literary scholars have paid far more attention to what was gained by passing as white than to what was lost by rejecting a black racial identity.” But “racial passing is an exile, sometimes chosen, sometimes not.”…

Read the entire article here.

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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.

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New doc on Shadeism doesn’t make the cut

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Canada, Media Archive on 2014-12-09 16:23Z by Steven

New doc on Shadeism doesn’t make the cut

Mixed In Canada

Rema Tavares

Debuting November 10th, 2014 on the CBC’s free preview on their documentary channel, Hue: A Matter of Colour opens with the narrator and main subject, Vic Sarin, discussing his relationship to his mixed-race family (or if anything lack thereof). This movie, he reveals, is his way of explaining his strange and often absentee behaviour to his children. The children provide an example of said behaviour by explaining how he refuses to go on the beach with them, choosing instead to stay out of the sun, as well as staying out of family photos. He also tells us that he has a strained relationship with his first born from a previous marriage, in part because he never showed up for a family vacation in the Caribbean due to his compulsion to work. Meanwhile, the backdrop is of the children packing for a family vacation to Sarin’s favourite destination, Brazil, the place where the film opens and closes.

While it is a bit obscure at first, he eventually informs the viewer that he was born in India to a diplomat father (read privileged), raised in Australia for a while, eventually ended up in Toronto Ontario in the 60s, and now resides in Vancouver, BC with his family. Every country of residence impacts him in a different way: in India he discusses how he was scolded for playing in the sun. In Australia he very badly wants to become a citizen but is denied due to racist immigration policies which devastates him. In Toronto he was very aware that he was marginalized and isolated, being one of only a few people of colour, and having only white friends. He also rhetorically asks an insightful question regarding his choice in marrying two white women, commenting on how that was likely not a coincidence, regardless of the real or perceived lack of eligible Indian women in Canada.

As a viewer, it was pretty clear to me from the outset that this documentary was going to be centered around his and other people of colour’s internalized racism, which is very much related to and often a result of shadeism. However, the latter isn’t a necessary condition for the prior. In other words, while it is improbable that we can completely rid ourselves of our internalized racism as people of colour, I believe that it is possible to look at shadeism with a critical eye (not to be confused with the problematic & Eurocentric “objective” eye). Simply discussing internalized racism though, without even as much as naming it, is a dangerous arena in which to venture unless you come prepared with heavy critical analysis to accompany it. Unfortunately, this is not what happens, which leads to several problematic & triggering moments in the film…

Read the entire review here.

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Where the Negroes Are Masters: An African Port in the Era of the Slave Trade by Randy J. Sparks, and: Another America: The Story of Liberia and the Former Slaves Who Ruled It by James Ciment (review)

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2014-12-03 17:37Z by Steven

Where the Negroes Are Masters: An African Port in the Era of the Slave Trade by Randy J. Sparks, and: Another America: The Story of Liberia and the Former Slaves Who Ruled It by James Ciment (review)

Journal of the Early Republic
Volume 34, Number 4, Winter 2014
pages 686-690
DOI: 10.1353/jer.2014.0068

Andrew N. Wegmann
Louisiana State University

Where the Negroes Are Masters: An African Port in the Era of the Slave Trade. By Randy J. Sparks. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014. Pp. 309. Cloth $29.95)

The Atlantic slave trade stands at the center of Atlantic World studies. Indeed, the centuries-long trade in human beings from the coast of Africa to the Americas and Europe has come to define how each society bordering the Atlantic explains its cultural and racial demographics. Tales of families torn apart for the profit of a white man, of countless numbers taken across the Atlantic and forced into the fields of Jamaica, South Carolina, and Virginia, have fascinated and frustrated scholars and readers for decades. But rarely have these stories looked back to their origins, situating Africa at the center of the trade and the Atlantic community that made it possible. In Where the Negroes Are Masters, Randy Sparks does just that.

The strength of Sparks’s work lies in its uncommon approach. By placing the West African town of Annamaboe at the heart of the Atlantic slave-trading world, he shifts the academic focus of the slave trade from American fields and British trading houses to a Gold Coast trading town in which Africans call the shots, make enormous profit, and interact as commercial equals with European slavers. Sparks does not mince words, claiming that “the successful, capable, and wily merchants of Annamaboe were as integral to Atlantic commerce as those of Liverpool, London, Cádiz, Nantes, Charleston, New York, or Kingston” (3). Ruled and ‘‘owned’’ by the Fante people, Annamaboe was a place of commercial as well as cultural exchange, a site where the colonial powers of Europe entered into agreements and treaties with the reportedly ‘‘savage,’’ ‘‘barbarous’’ blacks of Africa. It was a place to which England sent its youngest, brightest captains to serve as governors before they rose in the political ranks to North America and the Caribbean. In return, the leaders (called caboceers) of Annamaboe frequently sent their sons to London and Paris for education, trading experience, and acculturation.

But, as Sparks points out, this was all a game. The caboceers at Annamaboe knew that both England and France wanted the thousands of slaves leaving the coast each year. The young men sent to London and Paris from Annamaboe, like the famous William Ansah Sessarakoo, son of the powerful caboceer John Corantee, imbibed European culture while also acquiring an intimate knowledge of the European side of the trade— profit margins, active political disputes, anything the leaders at Annamaboe could use to outwit and manipulate their European buyers.

Indeed, on a number of occasions the French and English nearly came to blows over the right of deposit at Annamaboe Road, the town’s primary port. In the end, the English muscled the French out of the region, and constructed a fort in town, for which they paid tribute, rent, and customs duties.

The relationship between Africans and Europeans did not stop at the trade itself. English merchants, traders, and governors residing in town often took ‘‘country wives’’—African women, sometimes mixed-race, who provided relief of carnal urges as well as connections in Annamaboe’s merchant elite. Richard Brew, an Irish-born trader who arrived at Annamaboe around 1745, became the wealthiest, most powerful private trader on the Gold Coast due in part to his ‘‘marriage’’ to John Corantee’s daughter. They lived together at Brew’s Annamaboe mansion (called ‘‘Castle Brew’’), and raised three mulatto children, all of whom took their father’s surname and served as interpreters and traders for Annamaboe until the early nineteenth century. As Sparks explains, the mulattoes, of which there were many along the Gold Coast, bridged the cultural and racial gap manifested in their pedigrees. Some served as soldiers for the English aboard slavers and in forts, positions strictly reserved for the mixed-race sons of European officials. Others, like the Brew children, served as interpreters, political representatives, and port traders for the caboceers. Many were Christian. Nearly all spoke both English and Fante, as well as ‘‘creole’’ (which Sparks never fully defines), and dressed in European stylings. They were the products of the cultural and racial exchange that brought Annamaboe, and the rest of the Gold Coast, into the heart of the Atlantic World.

Although central to the commercial and cultural development of the Atlantic World, Sparks’s…

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Mixed: Multiracial College Students Tell Their Life Stories ed. by Andrew Garrod, Robert Kilkenny, Christina Gomez (review)

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Campus Life, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-01 02:35Z by Steven

Mixed: Multiracial College Students Tell Their Life Stories ed. by Andrew Garrod, Robert Kilkenny, Christina Gomez (review)

Journal of College Student Development
Volume 55, Number 8, November 2014
pages 856-858
DOI: 10.1353/csd.2014.0077

Jessica C. Harris

Andrew Garrod, Christina Gómez, and Robert Kilkenny, Mixed: Multiracial College Students Tell Their Life Stories (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013)

Mixed: Multiracial College Students Tell Their Life Stories presents multiracial student essays focusing on growing up and living as a mixed-race individual in a society founded on monoracial understandings of race. The purpose of the book is “to capture the phenomenology of being mixed-race in a compelling way, and in so doing to inspire, engage, and move our readers” (p. xi). The edited book contains 12 narratives written by self-identified multiracial students: six men and six women, either current students or recent graduates of Dartmouth College. For the most part, the multiracial individuals’ narratives included in this book were enrolled in one of several Dartmouth education courses taught by Andrew Garrod, one of the editors of Mixed. Students who were not enrolled in one of Garrod’s courses, but whose narratives are included in the book, were recommended to the editors by other Dartmouth students and faculty. All of the students worked closely with Garrod over a 10-week period, either face to face or via email, to craft the narratives that are presented in this book.

The book begins with a preface that explains the creation of the 12 narratives, and subsequently, the book. The editors explained how the essays were crafted over a great deal of time with Garrod’s help and input. Using a list of thought-provoking questions, which were included in the preface, the 12 student authors were asked to reflect and write on their experiences with race and identity throughout their lifetime. Robert Kilkenny, the second editor, reviewed each essay and offered feedback to Garrod and the multiracial students.

The introduction provides an important context for the 12 narratives. The first half of the introduction turns a critical eye to the social construction of race in America and the implications this has on multiracial individuals. Moreover, the connection between multiraciality and post-racial rhetoric is explored in an attempt to expose the contemporary realities of multiracial Americans. The authors explain that neoconservatives have begun to position multiraciality as an object that symbolizes the end to race and racism. However, the 12 narratives contained in this book suggest that race and racism are indeed present in the lives of multiracial students, refuting the notion that we are living in a post-racial nation.

The second half of the introduction provides an overview of the three different sections into which the book is divided. Additionally, a summary of each of the 12 narratives is offered in this overview. While this roadmap is helpful, individual summaries may have been better placed as an introduction to each respective section. Instead, the reader must continually refer to the introduction to read about the purpose of each of the three sections and the narratives within them.

The first of three sections in Mixed, Who Am I?, contains four first-person narratives from multiracial students. These four narratives focus on the incongruence students encountered between racial self-identification and others’ perceptions of their race. The narratives expose how physical features, such as hair and skin-color, caused non-multiracial individuals to question multiracial students’ racial identities. The four narratives in this section included stories from students who grew up or spent time internationally, relaying the complexities of being both multiracial and multicultural. For instance, one woman grew up in Japan, identified with Japanese heritage and culture, but understood that she did not “look Japanese” in an American context.

In-Betweenness, the second section in Mixed, explores four more multiracial students’ experiences of being mixed-race in a post-racial America. This section exposes the fluidity of race for four multiracial students. For instance, one “Happa”-identified male asserted he could be White, Asian, or somewhere in between. While this liminal space was a positive aspect for this student, other narratives in this section provided an alternate reality, one of being caught between racial identities. Specifically, one Chinese, Indian, and White female student conveyed the complexities of navigating multiple racial heritages and the influence this had on her relationship with her parents. She described privilege that comes with being monoracial and not having to oscillate or navigate between the cultures and races of one’s parents.

The final section…

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A Profound Documentary, Little White Lie Follows a Woman’s Search for Her Identify

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-11-28 21:47Z by Steven

A Profound Documentary, Little White Lie Follows a Woman’s Search for Her Identify

The Village Voice
New York, New York

Diana Clarke

In Woodstock, New York, at the end of the 20th century, Lacey Schwartz was raised in an affluent Jewish household where something was slightly off. Darker-skinned than her mother and father, Schwartz fielded probing questions about her race from a young age, but refused to entertain the possibility that she was not the biological offspring of her two white parents. When Lacey was in high school, her parents’ marriage collapsed, and so did the veneer of her identity. Schwartz’s subsequent investigation resulted in this profound and engaging documentary

Read the entire review here.

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