Solo Show at UCSB’s MultiCultural Center Examines Notions of Racial Identity

Posted in Articles, Arts, Autobiography, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, New Media, Social Science, United States, Women on 2013-05-06 18:06Z by Steven

Solo Show at UCSB’s MultiCultural Center Examines Notions of Racial Identity

Public Affairs & Communications
University of California, Santa Barbara
News Release

Contact: Andrea Estrada: 805-893-4620; George Foulsham: 805-893-3071

Multimedia performance is produced by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chay Carter

(Santa Barbara, Calif.)—When actress and playwright Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni married the love of her life in 2006, her father did not walk her down the aisle. In fact, he declined to attend the wedding altogether.

Seeking to understand why he chose not to participate, DiGiovanni began a trek through family history—and time and space—that ultimately led to her M.F.A. thesis project: the multimedia one-woman play, “One Drop of Love: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father’s Racial Approval.”

DiGiovanni will perform the hour-long show at UC Santa Barbara’s MultiCultural Center Theater on Tuesday, May 7. The performance begins at 6 p.m. and will be followed by a question-and-answer session with G. Reginald Daniel, professor of sociology at UCSB. Daniels is a leading expert in the field of critical mixed race studies…

…A leading activist on issues related to mixed race, DiGiovanni is an actor, comedian, producer, and educator. She developed “One Drop of Love” as the thesis project for her Master of Fine Arts degree in film, television, and theater from California State University Los Angeles. She will use footage from her performances—the most recent was at the University of Maryland—to produce a documentary film…

Read the entire news release here.

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The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World

Posted in Books, History, Louisiana, Monographs, New Media, United States, Women on 2013-05-05 23:21Z by Steven

The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World

University of North Carolina Press
April 2013
296 pages
6.125 x 9.25
16 halftones, notes, bibl., index
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4696-0752-8

Emily Clark, Clement Chambers Benenson Professor of American Colonial History; Associate Professor of History
Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana

Exotic, seductive, and doomed: the antebellum mixed-race free woman of color has long operated as a metaphor for New Orleans. Commonly known as a “quadroon,” she and the city she represents rest irretrievably condemned in the popular historical imagination by the linked sins of slavery and interracial sex. However, as Emily Clark shows, the rich archives of New Orleans tell a different story. Free women of color with ancestral roots in New Orleans were as likely to marry in the 1820s as white women. And marriage, not concubinage, was the basis of their family structure. In The Strange History of the American Quadroon, Clark investigates how the narrative of the erotic colored mistress became an elaborate literary and commercial trope, persisting as a symbol that long outlived the political and cultural purposes for which it had been created. Untangling myth and memory, she presents a dramatically new and nuanced understanding of the myths and realities of New Orleans’s free women of color.


  • PROLOGUE: Evolution of a Color Term and an American City’s Alienation
  • CHAPTER ONE: The Philadelphia Quadroon
  • CHAPTER TWO: From Ménagère to Placée
  • CHAPTER THREE: Con Otros Muchos: Marriage
  • CHAPTER FOUR: Bachelor Patriarchs: Life Partnerships across the Color Line
  • CHAPTER FIVE: Making Up the Quadroon
  • CHAPTER SIX: Selling the Quadroon
  • EPILOGUE: Reimagining the Quadroon
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgements
  • Index

PROLOGUE: Evolution of a Color Term and an American City’s Alienation

Let the first crossing be of a, pure negro, with A pure white. The unit of blood of the issue being composed of the halt of that of each parent, Will be a/2 + A/2. Call it, for abbreviation, h (half blood).

Let the second crossing be of h and B, the blood of the issue will be h/2 + B/2 or substituting for h/2 its equivalent, it will be a/4 + A/4 + B/2 call it q (quarteroon) being ¼ negro blood.

Thomas Jefferson, 1815

Travelers have long packed a bundle of expectations about what they will encounter when they visit New Orleans. Long before jazz was born, another presumably native-born phenomenon drew visitors to the Crescent City and preoccupied the American imagination. The British traveler Edward Sullivan observed succinctly in 1852,”I had heard a great deal of the splendid figures and graceful dancing of the New Orleans quadroons, and I certainly was not disappointed.” Sullivan’s fellow country-woman Harriet Martineau provided more-disapproving intelligence on New Orleans quadroons some fifteen years earlier: “The Quadroon girls of New Orleans are brought up by their mothers to be what they have been; the mistresses of white gentlemen.” Frederick Law Olmsted observed of the city’s quadroon women just five years before the outbreak of the Civil War that they were “one, among the multitudinous classifications of society in New Orleans, which is a very peculiar and characteristic result of the prejudices, vices, and customs of the various elements of color, class, and nation, which have been there brought together.”

The Civil War did not much alter advice to visitors about New Orleans quadroons. The “southern tour” in a guidebook published in 1866 includes New Orleans quadroons in its itinerary. Admitting that “the foregoing sketch of society and social life in New Orleans, I need hardly remind my reader, was penned long before the late rebellion had so changed the aspect of every thing throughout the South,” the entry reassures its readers that they may nonetheless expect to encounter survivals of the quadroon in the postbellum city. “The visitor will, however, be surprised as well as delighted at the extent to which the manners and customs of ‘the old regime’ are still perpetuated among the descendants of the early settlers in the Crescent City.” Twenty-first century travel literature upholds the practice of enticing tourists to New Orleans with tales of the quadroon. “The quadroons (technically, people whose racial makeup was one-quarter African) who met here were young, unmarried women of legendary beauty,” a popular travel website explains. “A gentleman would select a favorite beauty and, with her mother’s approval, buy her a house and support her as his mistress, ‘the entry continues, concluding with a guarantee that traces of this peculiar tradition could be found only in one place in America. “This practice, known as plaçage, was unique to New Orleans at the time.”

Passages like these give the impression that New Orleans was the sole place in America where one could encounter beautiful women produced by a specific degree of procreation across the color line, women whose sexual favors were reserved for white men. The reality was, of course, more complicated than that. Women whose racial ancestry would have earned them the color term quadroon lived everywhere in nineteenth-century America.‘ Today, the most well known of them is undoubtedly Virginia-born Sally Hemings, who bore her owner, Thomas Jefferson, seven children. Sally Hemings was the daughter of white planter John Wales and an enslaved woman he owned named Betty Hemings. Betty was the daughter of an enslaved woman named Susannah and a white slave-ship captain named John Hemings. Sally Hemings came to Monticello as the property of Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha Wales Skelton, who was, like Sally, the daughter of John Wales.

Sally Hemings ancestry qualified her as a quadroon under Thomas Jefferson’s own rubric, but when he sat down in 1815 to clarify to an acquaintance the legal taxonomy of race in his home state of Virginia, he did not take the living woman best known to him as his example. Instead, he eschewed the vivid register of language and enlisted the symbolic representation of algebra to illustrate the genetic origins of the physical and legal properties of the woman who bore most of his children and was his deceased wife’s half sister. In a virtuosic and bizarre display of what one scholar has called a “calculus of color,” Jefferson presented a tidy mathematical formula to define the race and place ot the quadroon. The complicated, messy identity and status of Sally Hemings were tamed by the comforting discipline of symbolic logic. Flesh and blood, love, shame, and fear were safely imprisoned within the cold confines of mathematics. Unnamed, Sally Hemings mother was reduced to a/2 + A/4 = h (half-blood). Sally herself was a/4 + A/4 + B/2. “Call it q (quateroon) being ¼ negro blood,” Jefferson instructed (see Figure 1).

This formulaic representation renders race as a kind a chemical compound comprising elements that act on one another in ways that multiply, mix, or cancel one another out to produce predictable results. Just as the combination of the elements of hydrogen and oxygen in the proportions represented by the formula 2H2 + O2 = 2H2O will always produce H2O—water—Jefferson’s calculus of race was meant to be precise, immutable, reliable, knowable. With detached precision, Jefferson produced theoretical mulattos and quadroons devoid of the untidy human elements of desire and power that destabilized the living expressions of his mathematical calculations. He may have been driven to abstraction by the disturbing situation of his own reproductive life, but larger historical currents probably played as important a role in his recourse to symbolic logic.

More than two decades before he drafted the chilling equations of 1815, Jefferson produced his well-known observations on race in Notes on the State of Virginia. The black people Jefferson references in Notes are not abstract symbols but corporeal examples, their differences from “whites” mapped on their bodies and projected onto their sensibilities. The observations in Notes are evocative, almost sensual passages, dense with palpable detail. Here, race is human, organic, expressive, a thing whose qualities can be described, but whose essence cannot be defined. Race slips the porous boundaries of words and threatens to overwhelm with its immeasurable meaning. Jefferson’s calculus of 1815, by contrast, imprisons race within the abstract forms and structures of mathematics, subjecting it to universal rules that prescribe and predict comforting certainties that can be anticipated, managed, even controlled.

The dissonance between Jefferson’s qualitative disquisition on blacks in Notes on the State of Virginia and his algebraic calculations of 1815 begs questions about more than the incongruities in the mind and life of one man. It points to a widespread and enduring tension in the American imagination over the symbolic expression and meaning of race that intensified and accelerated with the outbreak of widespread, violent slave rebellion in the French sugar colony of Saint-Domingue in 1791. Jefferson’s own disquiet over the events that convulsed Saint-Domingue for the next thirteen years is clear in his correspondence, public and private. He spared his daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph none of his fearful assessment in the early months of the violence. “Abundance of women and children come here to avoid danger,” he told her in November of 1791, having written to her earlier that the slaves of Saint-Domingue were “a terrible engine, absolutely ungovernable.” He gave lull vent to the enormity of his fears to his colleague James Monroe two years later. “I become daily more and more convinced that all the West India Island will remain in the hands of the people of colour, and a total expulsion of the whites sooner or later take place,” he wrote in the summer of 1793. “It is high time we should foresee the bloody scenes which our children certainly, and possibly ourselves (south of the Potomac), have to wade through and try to avert them.” Later that year he wrote to Governor William Moultrie of South Carolina to warn him that “two Frenchmen, from St. Domingo also, of the names of Castaing and La Chaise, are about setting out from this place [Philadelphia] for Charleston, with design to excite an insurrection among the negroes.” These men were neither former African captives nor French émigrés dedicated to the cause of racial equality, but the products of sexual relations between the two. “Castaing,” Jefferson advised Moultrie, “is described as a small dark mulatto, and La Chaise as a Quarteron, of a tall fine figure.”

Jefferson and his contemporaries did more than worry about the Haitian Revolution and the mixed-race people who seemed bent on spreading it. They acted with new urgency to insulate themselves from the threat of slave rebellion and racial reordering in the Atlantic world by means of policy and ideas. The revolution in the French colony of Saint-Domingue that culminated in the establishment of the slave-free black republic of Haiti in 1804 produced a new urgency in attempts to define and manage race throughout the Atlantic world. Race was the basis for the system of chattel slavery that fueled the Atlantic economy. If if could not be imaginatively codified and its mechanism understood, manipulated, controlled, slavery was imperiled. Jefferson’s algebra was one of a range of symbolic strategies Americans deployed in response to racial anxieties magnified by the Haitian Revolution. The American quadroon was another. Both were equally fanciful reductions of a complex reality.

The term quadroon was primarily descriptive for most of the eighteenth century, a color term applied to people whose genetic makeup was imagined to have been one-fourth African. Spanish and Spanish colonial artists began to attach qualitative meaning to the color terms in the second half of the eighteenth century in a genre known as casta painting. Casta paintings comprise multiple panels, usually in multiples of four, in each of which a man and woman of different races are shown with their child or children. Each scene is labeled with the color terms for the racial taxonomy being depicted. For example, a panel portraying a Spanishman and a black woman with their child is labeled “de Español y Negra: nace Mulata.” Such couplings between people imagined as occupying racial extremes were rendered in pejorative ways. As one scholar has noted, “The message is clear: certain mixtures—particularly those of Spaniards or Indians with Blacks—could only lead to the contraction of debased sentiments, immoral proclivities, and a decivilized state” (see Figure 2).

Médéric Louis Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry, a jurist and naturalist from the French Antilles, betrayed his anxiety over the uncontrollable nature of interracial procreation in a spectacularly detailed 1796 racial taxonomy that provides twenty combinations that produce a quadroon (see Figure 3). Elsewhere, he portrayed mixed-race women as dangerous beauties who seduced French men away from their proper loyalties and paved the way for the overthrow of the plantation regime in Saint-Domingue. Other late eighteenth-century writers likewise gendered the term quadroon and linked it to irresistible beauty. In his 1793 account of Surinam, John Gabriel Stedman succumbs to the powerful charms of a “young and beautiful Quadroon girl” and fathers a son on her.

At the end of the eighteenth century, Americans imagined the beautiful, seductive quadroon as a foreigner in the Caribbean who did not occupy American territory. In fact, of course, the quadroon was already well established in the bosom of the young republic under circumstances such as those at Monticello. This homegrown American quadroon was unacknowledged, however, both literally and figuratively. She, like Sally Hemings, remained in the shadows for nearly two centuries while Americans developed a complex symbolic strategy that kept her at an imaginative distance from the nations heart and heartland. When the Haitian Revolution drove thousands of mixed-race women from the Caribbean to American shores, the figure of the quadroon supplied something more accessible than algebraic abstraction to neutralize the threat embedded in mixed-race people. The foreign female of color who migrated to the United States from the blood-soaked shores of Haiti could be mastered and controlled by white American men. This fantasy of sexual triumph supplied an antidote to the terror inspired by the image of Haiti’s virile black men poised to export their war on slavery to the American mainland.

The émigré quadroon offered other advantages in the symbolic management of Americas mixed-race population. She was more easily contained and controlled than her domestic counterpart could be. The endemic American quadroon was geographically pervasive, but a limited range could be imaginatively imposed on the invader, quarantining the threat she posed. Anxiety over the destabilizing potential of procreation across the color line was assuaged if America ignored its own interracial population and practices, preoccupied itself with the migrant quadroon, and found a way to cordon off the newcomer from the rest of the nation. When the Haitian Revolution first drove the quadroon from the Caribbean to the United States, she surfaced in Philadelphia and created quite a stir. By the 1810s, however, she had migrated away from the city so closely associated with America’s founding and attached herself to a site comfortingly located on the geographic margins of the young republic: New Orleans.

Sequestering the quadroon figuratively in the Crescent City shaped American identity and historical narrative in subtle but powerful ways, effectively turning New Orleans into a perpetual colonial space in the national imagination. The subjection of eroticized women of color by white men is one of the key mechanisms and metaphors of colonialism. Historians and theorists have disputed the view of colonialism as a project limited to the empires of Europe and Asia, exposing the colonial enterprises of the United States not only in overseas sites such as the Philippines but within the nation’s continental borders. Native Americans and Mexican-descended inhabitants of the American West and Southwest are now widely recognized as the objects of episodes of domestic colonialism. In such instances, “mainstream” America defined itself and its values against an “other,”—usually a feminine, colored other. Slavery and racism, too, fit easily into the concept of domestic colonialism. The nation’s symbolic use of the figure of the quadroon has produced yet another instance of domestic colonialism, rendering New Orleans an internal alien barred by this presumably exceptional feature of its past from claiming a comfortable berth in the national historical narrative.

The acceptance of New Orleans as exceptional and its exclusion from the normative common history imagined to have been shared by the rest of America paradoxically secure some of the most prominent building blocks of American exceptionalism. The presumption that the history of New Orleans and its quadroons is unique diverts the gaze of the rest of the nation away from its own unattractive Atlantic past, allowing it to remain firmly fixed on less-troubling founding scenes played out on the Mayflower and in Independence Hall. Americans have used the figure of the quadroon for more than two centuries not just to explain and explore race but to delineate an American past and polity that is as sanitized—and as unsatisfying—as Thomas Jefferson’s equation. The pages ahead tell the intertwined stories of the quadroon as symbol, the flesh-and-blood people this symbol was supposed to represent, and New Orleans, the city long imagined as Americas only home to both.

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The Atlantic Wins Two National Magazine Awards

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-05-03 14:47Z by Steven

The Atlantic Wins Two National Magazine Awards

The Atlantic
Press Releases

For media inquiries, please contact: Natalie Raabe at  (202) 266-7533.

Washington, D.C. and New York, N.Y. (May 2, 2013)—The Atlantic won two National Magazine Awards, it was announced tonight by the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). Atlantic senior editor Ta-Nehisi Coates won in the Essays and Criticism category and was selected best Web site.

“I’m so happy for Ta-Nehisi and the entire team at The Atlantic. It’s wonderful to be recognized by our peers for excellence in one of our oldest journalistic forms, the essay, and one of our newest–the work we do every day on,” said M. Scott Havens, president of The Atlantic.

Coates was honored in the Essays and Criticism category for “Fear of a Black President,” published in the September 2012 issue. Marshaling history, original reporting, memoir, and a fierce but understated moral passion in advance of the 2012 election, Coates outlines the predicament constraining President Obama: wary of coming across as a politically untenable Angry Black Man, he must always strive—as many professional African Americans must—to appear “twice as good.”…

Read the entire press release here.

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In a first, black voter turnout rate passes whites

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Census/Demographics, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-04-30 02:56Z by Steven

In a first, black voter turnout rate passes whites

Associated Press

Hope Yen

WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.

Had people voted last November at the same rates they did in 2004, when black turnout was below its current historic levels, Republican Mitt Romney would have won narrowly, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press.

Census data and exit polling show that whites and blacks will remain the two largest racial groups of eligible voters for the next decade. Last year’s heavy black turnout came despite concerns about the effect of new voter-identification laws on minority voting, outweighed by the desire to re-elect the first black president.

William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, analyzed the 2012 elections for the AP using census data on eligible voters and turnout, along with November’s exit polling. He estimated total votes for Obama and Romney under a scenario where 2012 turnout rates for all racial groups matched those in 2004. Overall, 2012 voter turnout was roughly 58 percent, down from 62 percent in 2008 and 60 percent in 2004.

The analysis also used population projections to estimate the shares of eligible voters by race group through 2030. The numbers are supplemented with material from the Pew Research Center and George Mason University associate professor Michael McDonald, a leader in the field of voter turnout who separately reviewed aggregate turnout levels across states, as well as AP interviews with the Census Bureau and other experts. The bureau is scheduled to release data on voter turnout in May.

Overall, the findings represent a tipping point for blacks, who for much of America’s history were disenfranchised and then effectively barred from voting until passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

But the numbers also offer a cautionary note to both Democrats and Republicans after Obama won in November with a historically low percentage of white supporters. While Latinos are now the biggest driver of U.S. population growth, they still trail whites and blacks in turnout and electoral share, because many of the Hispanics in the country are children or noncitizens…

Read the entire article here.

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Black pols stymied in Obama era

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-04-30 01:16Z by Steven

Black pols stymied in Obama era


Jonathan Martin, Senior Political Reporter

More than five years after Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses and demolished the notion that white voters wouldn’t support a black presidential candidate, progress for other African-American politicians remains elusive. Even as the country elected and reelected Obama, making it seem increasingly unremarkable to have a black family in the White House, African-Americans are scarce and bordering on extinct in the U.S. Senate and governorships.

The president is indeed exceptional — but in the wrong sense of the phrase as it applies to other black politicians.

Consider what has taken place, or not taken place, since Obama broke the presidential color barrier in 2008: There has not been one African-American elected to the Senate — the only blacks in the chamber were appointed to fill vacant seats; the country’s sole African-American governor, who was originally elected before Obama captured the presidency, won reelection but may leave the ranks of black governors empty when he leaves after 2013; and a cadre of promising, next-generation black politicians have either lost races (Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, Reps. Kendrick Meek of Florida and Artur Davis of Alabama) or seen their careers extinguished because of scandal (former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.).

The situation is particularly embarrassing for Democrats, to whom black voters give the vast majority of their support. Until Sen. Mo Cowan (D-Mass.) was appointed in February, the only African-American in the Senate was a Republican — Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina And it’s not lost on high-profile Democrats that the GOP now enjoys more ethnic diversity among its statewide leaders than the party whose president is both an illustration and a beneficiary of America’s changing face.

“We’re not there yet,” conceded Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). “That’s why when people ask me whether the election of President Obama is the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream, I say, ‘No, it’s just a down payment. There’s still a lot of work to do.’”…

Read the entire article here.

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Are the Tsarnaevs White?

Posted in Articles, Law, New Media, Religion, Social Science, United States on 2013-04-24 22:31Z by Steven

Are the Tsarnaevs White?

The Daily Beast

Peter Beinart, Senior Political Writer and Associate Professor of Journalism
City University of New York

also Editor-in-chief
Open Zion

In a word, yes. But why is this so hard for Americans to grasp? Peter Beinart on our country’s long track record of conflating religion and race.

The day after last week’s attack in Boston, David Sirota wrote a column for Salon entitled “Let’s Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber Is a White American,” arguing that this would limit the resulting crackdown on civil liberties. At first, conservatives were appalled. Then, when police fingered the Tsarnaev brothers, they were triumphant. “Sorry, David Sirota, Looks Like Boston Bombing Suspects Not White Americans,” snickered a headline in Newsbusters. “Despite the most fervent hopes of some writers over at,” added a blogger at Commentary, “the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing are not ‘white Americans’.”

But the bombers were white Americans. The Tsarnaev brothers had lived in the United States for more than a decade. Dzhokhar was a U.S. citizen. Tamerlan was a legal permanent resident in the process of applying for citizenship. And as countless commentators have noted, the Tsarnaevs hail from the Caucasus, and are therefore, literally, “Caucasian.” You can’t get whiter than that.

So why did conservatives mock Sirota for being wrong? Because in public conversation in America today, “Islam” is a racial term. Being Muslim doesn’t just mean not being Christian or Jewish. It means not being white…

Read the entire article here.

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Status Boundary Enforcement and the Categorization of Black-White Biracials

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, New Media, Social Science, United States on 2013-04-24 15:30Z by Steven

Status Boundary Enforcement and the Categorization of Black-White Biracials

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Available online 2013-04-23

Arnold K. Ho, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Colgate University, Hamilton, New York

Jim Sidanius, Professor of Psychology and Professor of African and African American Studies
Harvard University

Amy J. C. Cuddy, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Hellman Faculty Fellow
Harvard University

Mahzarin R. Banaj, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics
Harvard University


  • This paper demonstrates that individual differences and social context interact to influence how we categorize biracials.
  • We show that the rule of hypodescent is used to enforce group boundaries.
  • Anti-egalitarians are shown to strategically engage in hierarchy maintenance.

Individuals who qualify equally for membership in more than one racial group are not judged as belonging equally to both of their parent groups, but instead are seen as belonging more to their lower status parent group. Why? The present paper begins to establish the role of individual differences and social context in hypodescent, the process of assigning multiracials the status of their relatively disadvantaged parent group. Specifically, in two experiments, we found that individual differences in social dominance orientation—a preference for group-based hierarchy and inequality—interacts with perceptions of socioeconomic threat to influence the use of hypodescent in categorizing half-Black, half-White biracial targets. Importantly, this paper begins to establish hypodescent as a “hierarchy-enhancing” social categorization.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Race, Policy, and Culture: An Identity Crisis for Sickle Cell Disease in Brazil

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, Health/Medicine/Genetics, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2013-04-24 03:45Z by Steven

Race, Policy, and Culture: An Identity Crisis for Sickle Cell Disease in Brazil

Melissa S. Creary, MPH, Doctoral Candidate
Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts
Emory University

Professor Howard Kushner, Chair
Professor Jeffrey Lesser, Co-Chair

Abstract of Dissertation Prospectus

In 2001, Cândida and Altair, a married couple, started a national organization to increase the rights of sickle cell patients, and thereby gave birth to the sickle cell disease (SCD) movement in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Cândida, the wife, who carries sickle cell trait, now heads the municipal SCD unit for Salvador. She, with light skin and wavy brown hair, might be considered white in the United States, but when I asked her why she had created the organization she responded: “Eu sou negra!” (I am black). Her darker-skinned husband, who considers himself a black activist, coordinates the national SCD association and helped craft policy for SCD. As a family, Cândida and Altair shift between multiple roles: genetic carrier, parent, government official, and SCD advocate. Together these two activists have helped shape the racial discourse on SCD by associating the disease with “blackness” on the individual, organizational, and national level.

Sickle cell disease is the most common hereditary hematologic disorder in Brazil and throughout the world. In Brazil, the estimated prevalence is between 2% and 8% of the population. My research explores how patients, non-governmental organizations, and the Brazilian government, at state and federal levels, have contributed to the discourse of SCD as a “black” disease, despite a prevailing cultural ideology of racial mixture. Specifically, this project analyzes how the Brazilian state, advocacy, and patient communities within the nation have, at times, branded SCD an Afro-Brazilian disease. At the state level, I’ll describe the reigning racial ideology and how the development of racialized health policy contests their own viewpoint. On the organizational level, I’ll investigate the alignment of the SCD movement with the black movement of Brazil and the decisions made by some of these organizations to influence health policy using anti-racist motives. Lastly, I will explore the actual embodiment of SCD in the patient population and the “identity crisis” many may experience upon being diagnosed with a “black” disease.

With this framework in mind, I aim to answer the question—How are different actors (re)defining race and health through culture, biology, policy and politics in contemporary Brazil? This multi-level identity crisis is in constant contestation of competing racial frameworks at the micro, meso, and macro level. I will manage these complexities with a flexible notion of biological citizenship that considers frameworks of biology, social determinants, and policy in ways that is uniquely responsive to the cultural and historical specifics of how race, identity, health, and legitimacy operate in Brazil.

To do this, I will spend ten months in Brasília, Salvador, and Rio de Janeiro investigating the construction of sickle cell disease on three different levels: advocacy organization around patient rights, individual patient and family experience, and governmental policy development and implementation. To assess the social, geographical, and political context of my subjects, I will use a series of historical and qualitative methodologies.

My work will deepen and re-think narratives of Brazil’s racial history through the lens of SCD. It also stands to generate a better understanding of the historical genealogy as it informs the current implementation of SCD policy. This analysis can provide lessons to both Brazil and the US on how future policy can be designed. Specifically, whether policy developed around populations (or sub-set of populations) can be measured against and be as effective as policy developed around disease.

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The 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners (Biography): “The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo,” by Tom Reiss

Posted in Articles, New Media, United States on 2013-04-17 02:03Z by Steven

The 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners (Biography): “The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo,” by Tom Reiss

The Pulitzer Prizes
Columbia University
New York, New York

For a distinguished and appropriately documented biography or autobiography by an American author, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
Awarded to “The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo,” by Tom Reiss (Crown), a compelling story of a forgotten swashbuckling hero of mixed race whose bold exploits were captured by his son, Alexander Dumas, in famous 19th century novels.

For more information, click here.

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The Racial Middle On-line Survey

Posted in Identity Development/Psychology, New Media, Social Science, United States, Wanted/Research Requests/Call for Papers on 2013-04-16 03:27Z by Steven

The Racial Middle On-line Survey

On behalf of Dr. Reanne Frank and Dr. Jennifer Jones of The Ohio State University, we invite you to take part in our research study, which concerns the development of racial identity among multiracials. There are no foreseeable significant direct benefits to you by participating in this research. However, we do hope that this research will provide you with the opportunity to engage in meaningful reflection about your identity. Furthermore, it is our hope that this research will benefit society in general by advancing our awareness and understanding of the experience of race in contemporary society.
If you agree to participate in our research, we ask that you complete an informational survey and family history to the best of your ability. Completing the survey and family history will take approximately 20 minutes. You must be at least 18 years of age to participate in this study.

If you would like to complete this research study, please click the link below to participate.
As a reward to participating in the survey, we offer you the opportunity to participate in a raffle to win an Amazon gift certificate for $50.
If you are asked and agree to participate in a follow-up interview, we will provide you with an additional small honorarium of $20.00 in exchange for your participation.
For more information about this research study, please contact Dr. Jennifer Jones at For questions about your rights as a participant in this study or to discuss other study-related concerns or complaints with someone who is not part of the research team, you may contact Ms. Sandra Meadows in the Office of Responsible Research Practices at 1-800-678-6251.

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