Infiltrating the colonial city through the imaginaries of Metissage: Saint-Louis (Senegal), Saint-Pierre (Martinique) and Jeremie (Haiti)

Posted in Africa, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2016-02-06 00:46Z by Steven

Infiltrating the colonial city through the imaginaries of Metissage: Saint-Louis (Senegal), Saint-Pierre (Martinique) and Jeremie (Haiti)

University of Iowa
August 2015
281 pages

Avonelle Pauline Remy, Assistant Professor of French
Hope College, Holland, Michigan

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in French and Francophone World Studies in the Graduate College of The University of Iowa

In this dissertation, I investigate the ways in which the phenomenon of racial and cultural hybridity inform and alter the social, political and cultural fabric of three creole cities of significant colonial influence, namely Saint-Louis of Senegal, Saint-Pierre of Martinique and Jérémie of Haiti during and after the colonial era. In particular, I examine the relevance of the French colonial city not only as a nexus of relational complexity but also as an ambiguous center of attraction and exclusion where multiple identities are created and recreated according to the agendas that influence these constructions. In order to articulate the main hypotheses of my thesis, I explore the key historical and social catalysts that have led to the emergence of Saint-Louis, Saint-Pierre and Jérémie as original creole cities.

Through the critical analyses of contemporary literatures from Senegal, Martinique and Haiti by Fanon, Sadji, Boilat, Mandeleau, Confiant, Chamoiseau, Salavina, Bonneville, Moreau de Saint-Méry, Desquiron, and Chauvet and films by Deslauriers and Palcy, I illustrate the dynamics of creolization within the context of the French colonial city. I argue that the city engenders new narratives and interpretations of métissage that scholars have often associated with the enclosed space of the plantation.

My dissertation intends to prove that the three French colonial cities of Saint-Louis, Saint-Pierre and Jérémie offer distinct interpretations and practices of processes of cultural and ethnic métissage. I propose that a correlation albeit a dialectical one, exists between the development of the French colonial city and the emergence of the mulattoes as a distinct class, conscious of its economic, sexual and political agency. I suggest that the French colonial city, represents both a starting point and a space of continuity that permits new forms of ethnic and cultural admixture. The articulation of such mixtures is made evident by the strategic positioning and creative agency of the mulatto class within the colonial city.

The phenomenon of métissage is certainly not a novel subject as evidenced by the plethora of theories and studies advanced by scholars and intellectuals. My research is thus part of an existing critical literary corpus in Postcolonial and Francophone Studies and is inscribed within the theoretical framework of Creolization. My research observes from a historical, comparative and literary perspective, metis presence and consciousness in three specific spaces where colonial authority has been imposed, challenged, resisted and even overpowered (in the case of Haiti). My study therefore analyses the creative agency articulated by the metis ethnoclass in the colonial city and counters the claim of a passive assimilated group.

As an in-between group, mulatto’s access to social, economic and political upward mobility are impeded by their ambiguous positioning within the larger community. Consequently, they resort to unconventional means that I refer to rather as creative ingeniousness in order to survive. Scholars usually focus on these “unconventional” practices as immoral rather than as strategies of self-reinvention and revalorization. As a result, representations of cultural and ethnic interconnections and hybridity are often projected in fragmentary ways. The figure of the metis women for example is overly represented in studies on métissage while metis men receive very little attention. My thesis thus intends to decenter narratives on métissage from the women and implicate equally the creative agency of metis males.

My thesis expands on the complexities that inform processes of métissage during pre-colonial Saint-Louis in the early seventeenth century, Saint-Pierre from the period 1870-1902 and Jérémie during the dictatorship of Francois Duvalier. It examines further the city as a space that engenders new narratives and interpretations of the processes of creolization. Processes of métissage or creolization have often been described as the results of violent encounters that were colonial and imperial. Moreover, these clashes were inscribed within the enclosed space of the plantation.

The city, representation of European pride and greed is an ambiguous space that attracts even as it excludes. Projected as an active commercial, economic and cultural hub, the city is soon engulfed by mass emigration. That site where the European image and culture is imposed, quickly evolves into a complex and chaotic web of human and material interaction giving rise to a complex creolized atmosphere. I propose that practices of métissage in the city are distinct from those generated in the belly of the slave ships, in the trading houses of Sub-Saharan Africa and on the sugar plantations of the French Antilles.

I conclude with a look at the present context of métissage, I rethink the significance of racial and cultural hybridity in relation to contemporary cultural and social theories such as creolization, creoleness, and transculturation in articulating, interpreting and decoding a world in constant transformation.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Identity and racial ambiguity in Danzy Senna’s Caucasia

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2016-01-27 03:26Z by Steven

Identity and racial ambiguity in Danzy Senna’s Caucasia

North Carolina Central University
2015
82 pages

Carole Bonita Montgomery

Set in 1970s Boston, Danzy Senna’s novel, Caucasia (1998) centers around biracial Birdie Lee, whose racial identity is complex as she defines and redefines herself from her youth through young adulthood. Birdie and Cole Lee are daughters of Deck, an African American college professor, and Sandy Lee, a radical activist and educator who homeschools their daughters. The younger sister, Birdie, is very light-skinned, and people commonly mistake her for white, while Cole is often perceives as solely black. The girls do not notice this distinction until external forces, people, and institutions bring it to their attention. This thesis discusses Senna’s dramatization of Birdie Lee’s struggles with her own racial identity in 1970s America. As a first-person narrator, Birdie gives voice to Americans of her generation and younger who are able to be black, white, or both. The journey towards identity is a difficult for anyone; however, Senna highlights her convoluted path as this young biracial American detours from the conventional tragic mulatto’s outcome of self-destruction. Ultimately, Birdie embraces her double heritage and her skin tone, becoming a voice for the millennial mulatto.

Order a copy of the thesis thesis here.

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Contested Identities: Racial Indeterminacy and Law in the American Novel, 1900-1942

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2016-01-27 03:14Z by Steven

Contested Identities: Racial Indeterminacy and Law in the American Novel, 1900-1942

University of Connecticut
2014-05-08

Rebecca S. Nisetich

In Contested Identities, I chart the path of the legal and literary discourses on racial identity, codified by the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision and culturally ascendant in the early decades of the twentieth century. In this period, a group of American writers produced fiction that implicitly challenged this legal and cultural discourse. My project explores the literary productions of Charles W. Chesnutt, Nella Larsen, and William Faulkner—three writers who undermine, question, and critique the legal and social practices that seek to define and contain individual identities in binary terms. Specifically, in Contested Identities I explore why Chesnutt, Larsen, and Faulkner create characters whose identities are not clearly articulated, defined, or knowable, and why they intentionally position these figures in relation to the law.

At the center of each of these texts there remains a void where racial information might be clearly articulated, defined, or corroborated, but isn’t. This enables Chesnutt, Larsen, and Faulkner to underscore an unresolved tension between what must be true and what cannot be known, a dynamic which throws into relief the maddening complexity of human experience in opposition to cut-and-dry legal and popular definitions of “race,” which operate under the assumption that blood proportions are easily known, and that specific blood proportions determine identity. I argue that it is racial indeterminacy that animates these writers’ explorations of identity, and that it is the fundamental theme that binds these characters and texts together. The law treats race as a matter of identity; my dissertation argues that the law is instead a crucial factor in the formation of the racial identity of individual characters.

Available for download here on or after 2024-05-01.

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Minorities’ Perceptions of Minority-White Biracials: The Role of Identification for Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Responses

Posted in Dissertations, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2016-01-23 21:21Z by Steven

Minorities’ Perceptions of Minority-White Biracials: The Role of Identification for Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Responses

City University of New York
2014-06-03
134 pages

Sabrica Barnett

A dissertation submitted to the Graduate Faculty in Psychology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, the City University of New York

Research on intergroup relations has a rich history in social psychology, with scholars devoting a considerable effort investigating factors that influence stereotyping, prejudice and discriminatory behavior. The results of these studies suggest that individuals’ cognitions, affect, and behaviors are affected by their own group memberships as well as the groups to which others belong. People generally view the groups that they belong to (their ingroup) positively, and view the groups that others belong to (outgroups) stereotypically (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). However, much of the research on social identification and subsequent perceptions has focused on socially distinct groups rather than groups that blur categorical boundaries. As such, there is a dearth of research on how individuals identify with and perceive people who belong to multiple racial groups.

To address this gap in the literature, I investigated minorities’ identification with minority-White biracials, as well as the downstream cognitive (warmth and competence stereotypes), affective (pride, shame), and behavioral (facilitation, distancing) consequences of identification across three studies. Results demonstrated that Black (Study 1) and Hispanic (Study 2) participants were equally identified with biracials and other ingroup members (Blacks, Hispanics), and were less identified with outgroup members (Whites). In contrast, White participants (Study 1) were most identified with other White people, least identified with Black people, and moderately identified with Black-White biracial people.

Moreover, Black participants stereotyped Blacks and Black-White biracials as equally warm and competent (Study 1); Hispanic participants felt equally proud of and were equally willing to help Hispanics and Hispanic-White biracials (Study 2); and both Black and Hispanic participants felt equally ashamed when a Black or Hispanic and Black-White or Hispanic-White biracial person acted in a stereotypically negative manner, and wanted to distance themselves from the wrongdoer (Study 3). In contrast, minorities perceived Whites less positively across measures of stereotypes, emotions and behaviors. Finally, consistent with self-categorization theory (Turner et al., 1987), minorities’ identification with minority-White biracials predicted their group-based stereotypes, emotions and behaviors. These results make an important contribution to the limited work on perceptions of biracial people, and extend previous research regarding the role of identification for intergroup perceptions.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Multiracial Identity Recognition – Why Not? A Comparison Between Multiracialism in the United States and Brazil

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Dissertations, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2016-01-05 19:08Z by Steven

Multiracial Identity Recognition – Why Not? A Comparison Between Multiracialism in the United States and Brazil

University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
2015
143 pages

Ana Carolina Miguel Gouveia

Thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate and Post-Graduate Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a LLM Master degree in Law Graduate Studies in Law

Scholars debate the importance of multiracial identity recognition as the increasing number of self-identified multiracial individuals challenges traditional racial categories. Two reasons justify the count of multiracial individuals on censuses. One is the right to self-identification, derived from personal autonomy. The other is social: the category allows governments to accurately assess affirmative action programs’ results and society’s acceptance of multiracialism. Critical Race Theory and Critical Mixed-Race Studies serve as basis for my analysis over multiracial identity formation and its recognition. Comparing multiracialism in America and Brazil, I verify that both countries are in different stages regarding categorization and social acceptance of multiracial identity. Neither uses multiracial data for social programs, though. I conclude that the growth of mixed-race individuals makes the identification of race-based social programs’ beneficiaries difficult, which demands the use of diverse criteria. Moreover, official recognition can serve to improve the way society deals with race.

Read the entire thesis here.

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Language variation, audience design, and racial identity: an analysis of discourse in Danzy Senna’s “Caucasia”

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-12-22 23:51Z by Steven

Language variation, audience design, and racial identity: an analysis of discourse in Danzy Senna’s “Caucasia”

Purdue University
2015
81 pages
ISBN: 9781339183824

Rachelle R. Henderson

Previous studies examining sociolinguistic language variation, race, and identity focus primarily on self-defining monoracial audiences. Additionally, previous studies examining mixed race identity in interracial literature use traditional literary or historical methodologies. The current study seeks to bridge a connection between sociolinguistics and literature. To date, there are few, if any, studies which apply sociolinguistic theories of language variation to discourse in interracial literature. The current research project is one such study, examining character dialogue of self-defining monoracial and black-white mixed race interlocutors in Danzy Senna’s contemporary interracial novel, Caucasia. The current research project asks two primary questions: 1) How is language variation is Caucasia (Senna, 1998) motivated by the race of both speaker and the audience and 2) How do mixed race and self-defining monoracial audiences evaluate language variation in Caucasia (Senna, 1998)? The overarching research objective is the exploration of mixed race identity.

The current thesis is composed of four chapters. Chapter 1 introduces the rationale behind the current project. Chapter 2 provides a background of the relevant literature, ad Chapter 3 analyzes data within the text through sociolinguistic methodology, and Chapter 4 offers a discussion of the analysis, in addition to a conclusion.

Purchase the Masters thesis here.

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Violent Disruptions: Richard Wright and William Faulkner’s Racial Imaginations

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-26 19:58Z by Steven

Violent Disruptions: Richard Wright and William Faulkner’s Racial Imaginations

Harvard University
September 2013
177 pages

Linda Doris Mariah Chavers

A dissertation presented to The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the subject of African and African American Studies

Violent Disruptions contends that the works of Richard Wright and William Faulkner are mirror images of each other and that each illustrates American race relations in distinctly powerful and prescient ways. While Faulkner portrays race and American identity through sex and its relationship to the imagination, Wright reveals a violent undercurrent beneath interracial encounters that the shared imagination triggers. Violent Disruptions argues that the spectacle of the interracial body anchors the cultural imaginations of our collective society and, as it embodies and symbolizes American slavery, drives the violent acts of individuals. Interracial productions motivate the narratives of Richard Wright and William Faulkner through a system of displacement of signs. Though these tropes maintain their currency today, they are borne out of cultural imaginings over two hundred years old. Working within the framework of the imaginary, Violent Disruptions places these now historical texts into the twenty-first century’s discourse of race and American identity.

In the first part of the dissertation, I show in detail the various narratives at work in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! (1936) in order to portray the imaginations shared by the white characters and disrupted by the interracial body as spectacle. Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940) depicts a similar racial imaginary but with more focus on its violent, corporeal effects. By contrast, in the second half of the dissertation, I demonstrate the writers’ central and racially charged characters from their earlier works, Light in August (1932) and Uncle Tom’s Cabin [Children] (1938; 1940) and look at how the figures of Joe Christmas and Big Boy, respectively, work as literary prototypes for their version in later works.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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“These narratives of racial passing have risen from the dead”

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-08-29 01:46Z by Steven

“These narratives of racial passing have risen from the dead”

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
May 2015
275 pages
DOI: 10.7282/T38G8NJG

Donavan L. Ramon

Ph.D. Dissertation

Instead of concurring with most critics that racial passing literature reached its apex during the Harlem Renaissance, this project highlights its persistence, as evidenced in the texts examined from 1900 to 2014. Using psychoanalysis, this dissertation recovers non-canonical and white-authored narratives that critics overlook, thus reconceptualizing the genre of passing literature to forge a new genealogy for this tradition. This new genealogy includes novels, life writings, and short stories. In arguing for the genre’s continued relevance and production, this project offers a rejoinder to critics who contend that racial passing literature is obsolete. Part one of this dissertation complicates the notion that characters pass only in response to witnessing a lynching or to improve their socioeconomic status, by asserting that racial passing begins in the classroom for male characters and at home for their female counterparts. It thus precedes the threat of violence or middle class aspirations. Whereas the first half of this project is preoccupied with the gendered beginnings of racial passing, the second half examines its effects, on both writing and death. This project explores racial passing in Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars (1900), James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), Jessie Fauset’s Plum Bun (1929), Vera Caspary’s The White Girl (1929), Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s The Stones of the Village (1988), Danzy Senna’s Caucasia (1999), Philip Roth’s The Human Stain (2000), Bliss Broyard’s One Drop (2003) and Anita Reynolds’ American Cocktail (2014).

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‘It’s no disgrace to a colored girl to placer’: Sexual Commodification and Negotiation among Louisiana’s “Quadroons,” 1805-1860

Posted in Dissertations, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-08-22 01:13Z by Steven

‘It’s no disgrace to a colored girl to placer’: Sexual Commodification and Negotiation among Louisiana’s “Quadroons,” 1805-1860

Ohio State University
2014
284 pages

Noel Mellick Voltz

Doctor of Philosophy in History

In 1805, a New Orleans newspaper advertisement formally defined a new social institution, the infamous Quadroon Ball, in which prostitution and plaçage – a system of concubinage – converged. These balls, limited to white men and light-skinned, free “Quadroon” women, became an interracial rendezvous that provided evening entertainment and the possibility of forming sexual liaisons in exchange for financial “sponsorship.” At these balls, money and other forms of payment were exchanged for the connubial placement of free women of color with wealthy white men.

My dissertation entitled, “‘It’s no disgrace to a colored girl to placer’: Sexual Commodification and Negotiation Among Louisiana’s “Quadroons,” 1805-1860” seeks to understand how free women of color used sex across the colorline as a tool of negotiation in various spaces, like the Quadroon Ballroom, in antebellum Louisiana. More specifically, utilizing contemporary travelers’ journals, newspapers, poems, songs, letters, notarial and ecclesiastical records, court cases and other legal documents, my dissertation examines the sexual agency exerted by Louisiana’s free women of color in four sites of contestation – the body, the ballroom, the courtroom and the sanctuary.

Free women of color occupied a precarious position in antebellum Louisiana, often subjugated because of their race, gender and class; yet, this very positioning also afforded them a space in which to maneuver socially and economically. I contend that in these literal and figurative spaces, these women drew upon their sexuality to make strategic claims to their freedom advancing themselves socially and economically. This work pushes the boundaries of current scholarship engaging questions of sexual agency and trauma, race and identity, hegemonic myth and cultural reappropriation. In so doing, I build upon and push beyond historiographic discussions of the fetishizing and fanticizing gaze of white men and the overly simplistic dichotomous images of the hypersexualized jezebel and the totally victimized yet “respectable” free woman of color. Ultimately, this research illuminates a more nuanced understanding of black female agency in the antebellum era.

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The mixed-race girl’s guide to the art of passing: racial simulations in Danzy Senna’s Caucasia and Nella Larsen’s Quicksand

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Women on 2015-02-08 19:49Z by Steven

The mixed-race girl’s guide to the art of passing: racial simulations in Danzy Senna’s Caucasia and Nella Larsen’s Quicksand

Florida Atlantic University
May 2014
65 pages

Gyasi S. Byng

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, Florida Atlantic University

Racial identifications are continually influenced by and constructed through one’s environment. Building on Jean Baudrillard’sThe Precession of Simulacra” and Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, this thesis argues that houses and clothing are the material objects that allow characters Birdie Lee from Danzy Senna’s Caucasia and Helga Crane from Nella Larsen’s Quicksand to construct their mixed race identities. Birdie Lee’s childhood home is the place where she develops a mixed race identity. When she leaves that home, she is forced to take on simulacra in order to pass for white. Without a stable childhood or adult home, Helga Crane’s wardrobe becomes the space where she unconsciously develops a mixed race identity. Her clothing choices allow her to simulate an entirely black identity that masks her mixed race heritage. Ultimately, the fates of Birdie and Helga are determined by whether or not they can occupy a space that is accepting of their mixed race identities.

Read the entire thesis here.

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