Amrita Hepi interview

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, Oceania, Passing on 2016-05-24 19:09Z by Steven

Amrita Hepi interview

Time Out Sydney
2015-05-24

Dee Jefferson, Arts & Culture Editor

Sydney knows – and loves – Amrita for her Hollaback nights and Beyoncé dance classes, but her latest project is far more fierce

Amrita Hepi was in the final creative phase of her dance-theatre work Passing, with New Zealand-born dancer and spoken-word artist Jahra Wasasala, when Beyoncé dropped her first Lemonade single and film clip, ‘Formation’.

“I was like man… What the!? This is everything we’re going through right now. And people were saying ‘How dare she have a political statement? She’s not even that black! She dyes her hair blonde!’.’”…

Passing explores identity from the perspective of two women who not only have mixed cultural heritage, but whose dance practice spans genres as far apart as classical ballet, contemporary Indigenous choreography and dance hall…

Read the entire interview here.

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Skinship: Dialectical Passing Plots in Hannah Crafts’ The Bondwoman’s Narrative

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery on 2016-05-24 00:32Z by Steven

Skinship: Dialectical Passing Plots in Hannah Crafts’ The Bondwoman’s Narrative

American Literary Realism
Volume 46, Number 2, Winter 2014
pages 116-136

Martha J. Cutter, Professor of English and Africana Studies
University of Connecticut

Racial definitions were in crisis within the U.S. during the mid-nineteenth century, with the country moving closer and closer to a Civil War in which the legal basis for enslavement and other forms of discrimination might be abolished. Therefore, historians and legal scholars such as Daniel Sharfstein and Joel Williamson have argued that the time period of 1830-1860, rather than that of the early twentieth-century, should be regarded as the era of the rise of the “one-drop” rule; laws regarding racial purity were passed amid the emergence of the plantation economy in the 1830s to provide a reliable source of labor and prevent what Sharfstein has termed “racial migration.” As Sharfstein has argued, “The one-drop rule’s transformation from ideological current to legal bright line and presumed social reality is in essence a story of freedom. [During] the thirty years preceding the Civil War . . . [t]he prospect of freedom for people of African descent hastened the one-drop rule’s rise as whites attempted to preserve social hierarchies and property relations in the absence of slavery.” Legal and scientific discourse from these decades further attempted to stabilize ideas of racial purity, even in the face of evidence that racial migration was an on-going fact of the U.S’s very existence.

How did racial passing texts from this time period respond to this attempt to stabilize the meaning of blackness and whiteness? Some texts endorse the attempt to stabilize race by portraying passing characters whose migration from blackness to whiteness or vice versa is figured as an invalidation of a “true” or “authentic” racial identity. For example, in Mary Langdon’s abolitionist passing novel Ida May (1854), a white child is stained brown and sold into slavery; but no one ever actually believes that the eponymous [End Page 116] heroine is anything but white, so the passing plot in fact supports racial difference and the idea that there is a “true” white race that somehow can be separated physically from the black race.

Other racial passing texts from this time period are more multivalent, in that they invoke the idea that race is physical (a matter of “one drop” of blood), only to transgress this idea through the manipulation of racialized identities based in performance, legal structures, and circumstances. Frank Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends (1857) at times invokes blood-based ideologies of race; Emily Garie’s hair, for example, is described as being “a little more wavy than is customary in persons of entire white blood” (emphasis added). Yet the novel often undercuts this rhetoric of racial blood through scenes in which race is shown to be more performative than biological. William Wells Brown’s Clotel (1853) similarly at times invokes what Adéléke Adéèkó has called “hemocentric imageries.” Brown implies at one point, for example, that “The infusion of Anglo-Saxon with African blood has created an insurrectionary feeling among the slaves of America hitherto unknown” (emphasis added). The text as a whole, however, shows race to be based in performance, legal discourse, and power relations, rather than in anything biological. For example, Clotel’s “black” daughter Althesa is said to be “as white as most white women in a southern clime.” The “somatic indecipherability” of the “white negro,” as Guilia Fabi phrases it, here emphasize that race is a sociohistorical construct, rather than a matter of blood or physical essence.

The passing plots of Hannah Crafts’ recently rediscovered novel The Bond-woman’s Narrative, written sometime after 1853, enter squarely within these complex questions by at times endorsing the idea that there is something physical to race (a drop of blood, a curl of hair, a tint in the eye) even as the narrative as a whole proffers a more flexible theorization of racial identity based not in racial blood, but in kinship, or rather what I call skinship. In the overt plot of The Bondwoman’s Narrative, as in The Garies and Their Friends and Clotel, blackness is…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Cinematic Identity: Anatomy of a Problem Film

Posted in Books, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2016-05-21 00:59Z by Steven

Cinematic Identity: Anatomy of a Problem Film

University of Minnesota Press
2007
200 pages
24 b&w photos, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Paper ISBN 978-0-8166-3412-5
Cloth ISBN 978-0-8166-3411-8

Cindy Patton, Canada Research Chair in Community Culture and Health
Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada

Though largely forgotten today, the 1949 film Pinky had a significant impact on the world of cinema. Directed by Elia Kazan, the film was a box office success despite dealing with the era’s most taboo subjects—miscegenation and racial passing—and garnered an Academy Award nomination for its African American star, Ethel Waters. It was also historically important: when a Texas movie theater owner showing the film was arrested for violating local censorship laws, his case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled the censorship ordinance unconstitutional.

In Cinematic Identity, Cindy Patton takes Pinky as a starting point to meditate on the critical reception of this and other “problem films” of the period and to explore the larger issues they raise about race, gender, and sexuality. Films like Pinky, Patton contends, helped lay the groundwork for a shift in popular understanding of social identity that was essential to white America’s ability to accept the legitimacy of the civil rights movement.

The production of these films, beginning with Gentleman’s Agreement in 1947, coincided with the arrival of the Method school of acting in Hollywood, which demanded that performers inhabit their characters’ lives. Patton historicizes these twin developments, demonstrating how they paralleled, reflected, and helped popularize the emerging concept of the liberal citizen in postwar America, and in doing so illustrates how the reception of projected identities offers new perspectives on contemporary identity politics, from feminism to the gay rights movement.

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Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2016-05-15 20:52Z by Steven

Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins

Broadview Press
2016-05-04 (Originally Published in 1894)
304 pages
5½” x 8½”
Paperback ISBN: 9781554812660

Mark Twain

Edited by:

Hsuan L. Hsu, Associate Professor of English
University of California, Davis

The two narratives published together in The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy of Those Extraordinary Twins are overflowing with spectacular events. Twain shows us conjoined twins, babies exchanged in the cradle, acts of cross-dressing and racial masquerade, duels, a lynching, and a murder mystery. Pudd’head Wilson tells the story of babies, one of mixed race and the other white, exchanged in their cradles, while Those Extraordinary Twins is a farcical tale of conjoined twins. Although the stories were long viewed as flawed narratives, their very incongruities offer a fascinating portrait of key issues—race, disability, and immigration—facing the United States in the final decades of the nineteenth century.

Hsuan Hsu’s introduction traces the history of literary critics’ response to these works, from the confusion of Twain’s contemporaries to the keen interest of current scholars. Extensive historical appendices provide contemporary materials on race discourse, legal contexts, and the composition and initial reception of the texts.

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The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire

Posted in Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Mexico, Monographs, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2016-05-14 01:40Z by Steven

The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire

W. W. Norton & Company
June 2016
368 pages
6.1 × 9.3 in
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-23925-6

Karl Jacoby, Professor of History
Columbia University, New York, New York

A prize-winning historian tells a new story of the black experience in America through the life of a mysterious entrepreneur.

A black child born in the twilight of slavery, William Henry Ellis inhabited a world of fraught, ambiguous racial categories on the anarchic border between the United States and Mexico. He adopted the name Guillermo Enrique Eliseo and passed as a Mexican: traveling as Hispanic in first-class train berths, staying in the finest hotels, and eating in leading restaurants. A shrewd businessman, he became fabulously wealthy and found himself involved in scandalous trials, unexpected disappearances, and diplomatic controversies. Constantly switching identities, Eliseo was a genius at identifying and exploiting the porousness of the color line and the border line.

Through Ellis’s picaresque biography, Karl Jacoby presents an intriguing narrative set in a secret and ever-changing world. The Strange Career of William Ellis reinterprets the borderlands, showing how U.S. and Mexican histories intertwined during Reconstruction, and he offers new insight into the arbitrary and evolving definitions of race in America.

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Passing

Posted in Arts, Live Events, Media Archive, Oceania, Passing on 2016-05-13 01:48Z by Steven

Passing

Next Wave Festival 2016
Northcote Town Hall
189 High Street
Northcote, Victoria 3070
2016-05-12 Through 2016-05-18, Tuesday-Friday 18:30 AEST, Saturday 15:15 and 18:30 AEST (Local Time)

Presented in association with Darebin Arts’ Speakeasy

Choreographers/Performers: Amrita Hepi (Bundjalung NSW/Ngāpuhi NZ) and Jahra Wasasala (NZ)

Using the notion of racial passing as a catalyst for a series of movement monologues, spoken word passages and physical conversations, PASSING maps two bodies under pressure from the responsibility that comes from being of mixed cultural background.

A trans-pacific partnership of physical force, PASSING combines Amrita Hepi’s hip-hop prowess and background in contemporary dance with Jahra Wasasala’s grounded and ritualistic choreographic style to create a provocative, complex and deeply magnetic work—a physical dialogue that exists between two daughters of diaspora.

Bringing together some of Australia’s most talented creatives including an original score by Lavern Lee (Guerre, Cassius Select, Black Vanilla) and styling by installation artist Honey Long, PASSING is an evocative portrait of the ‘exotic’, and the exhausting effects the title can bear.

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Racial Passing in American Life

Posted in History, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2016-05-11 16:36Z by Steven

Racial Passing in American Life

The Hill Center
Washington, D.C.
2016-05-10

Lisa Page, Director of Creative Writing at The George Washington University, and co-editor of the forthcoming anthology, #Passing, moderates a discussion with Dr. Allyson Hobbs. Hobbs is an assistant professor of American history at Stanford University. She is the author of A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life.

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Dying to Be Black: White-to-Black Racial Passing in Chesnutt’s “Mars Jeems’s Nightmare,” Griffin’s Black Like Me, and Van Peebles’s Watermelon Man

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-05-09 15:16Z by Steven

Dying to Be Black: White-to-Black Racial Passing in Chesnutt’s “Mars Jeems’s Nightmare,” Griffin’s Black Like Me, and Van Peebles’s Watermelon Man

Prospects
Volume 28 / October 2004
pages 519-542
DOI: 10.1017/S0361233300001599

Baz Dreisinger, Associate Professor of English
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

Is racial passing passé? Not according to contemporary book sales. The theme remains central to at least three recent best sellers: Danzy Senna’s Caucasia, Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, and Philip Roth’s The Human Stain. Roth’s novel made it to the big screen this fall, just as Devil in a Blues Dress, the adaptation of Walter Mosley’s novel starring Denzel Washington, did in 1995. Renewed academic attention is being paid, of late, to “classic” passing narratives; once-ignored ones, including Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars, are being revived; and still others being reread in the context of passing.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Long Time Passing

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-05-09 14:22Z by Steven

Long Time Passing

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times
2009-01-23

Amy Finnerty

Baz Dreisinger, Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008).

How black is Eminem? How white is our president? We can’t help asking these awkward questions as we digest “Near Black,” by Baz Dreisinger. A freelance journalist and an assistant professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, she explores cases of “reverse racial passing” — as distinct from the more conventional, black-as-white “passing,” for so long a feature of our tortured society. Presenting “narratives about white people who either envision themselves or are envisioned by others as being or becoming black,” and drawing on examples ranging from Twain’sPudd’nhead Wilson” to the sophomoric genre film “Soul Man,” she argues that the appropriation of black identity by whites — both literally and metaphorically — has been a potent strain in American culture for centuries.

The term “white passing” is broadly defined here. A white journalist with dyed skin infiltrating black precincts and writing about it is passing. So is a “jive-slanging” white D.J. A white immigrant sold into slavery in the early 19th century (a case of “coerced passing”) also has a place in Dreisinger’s compendium of racial mix-ups, satires and cautionary tales…

Read the entire review here.

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The Gilded Years, A Novel

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, Novels, Passing, Women on 2016-05-09 01:09Z by Steven

The Gilded Years, A Novel

Washington Square Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
June 2016
384 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781501110450
eBook ISBN: 9781501110467

Karin Tanabe
Washington, D.C.

Passing meets The House of Mirth in this “utterly captivating” (Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House) historical novel based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar, who successfully passed as white—until she let herself grow too attached to the wrong person.

Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.

Though Anita has kept herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously threaten her secret.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal—and a gripping account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life.

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