Racism and multiracialism can be allies.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-03-25 02:48Z by Steven

Last year, I predicted 2017 (and the era of Trump more generally) would be a time of renewed faith in the political efficacy of interracial romance and procreation. This prediction was informed by two recent books — one by UC Irvine professor Jared Sexton, the other by NYU professor Tavia Nyong’o — which probe the way racial hybridity is used to avoid reflection and recollection on how white supremacy works. NatGeo’s cover illustration, which codes one biracial twin as “white” and the other as “black,” transmits the idea that racism will be fixed with more lightly bronzed children. This future utopia is one in which children who can pass for white still exist among their tanner peers, but those with dark skin and tightly coiled hair do not. This hope, which imagines a past of white racial “purity,” is a form of anti-blackness itself. Racism and multiracialism can be allies.

Lauren Michele Jackson, “National Geographic Replaces Racist Fictions With Post-racial Fantasies,” New York Magazine, March 16, 2018. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/03/natl-geographics-racist-fictions-and-post-racial-fantasies.html.

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National Geographic Replaces Racist Fictions With Post-racial Fantasies

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2018-03-24 19:49Z by Steven

National Geographic Replaces Racist Fictions With Post-racial Fantasies

New York Magazine
2018-03-16

Lauren Michele Jackson


Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic. Photograph by Robin Hammond

In her honest but odd memoir that it seems, thankfully, few besides me have read, National Geographic emerges as a crucial touchstone to Rachel Dolezal’s supposed racial awakening. Isolated regionally and culturally by Christian-fundamentalist parents, copies of the magazine were one of the few tokens from 1980s and ’90s American culture allowed to Dolezal in a home that forbade television and processed food. And while her older brother scrounged pages for photos of topless women, NatGeo begat Rachel’s earliest racial fantasies. Coating herself in mud from head to feet, she “would pretend to be a dark-skinned princess in the Sahara Desert or one of the Bantu women living in the Congo,” images conjured exclusively by the monthly magazine. “I would stay in this fantasy world as long as I possibly could,” Dolezal writes. “It was never long enough.”

Over the last century, National Geographic has used the guise of ethnographic research to stoke the racial imaginations of curious white people. Investigating peoples and cultures like flora, splaying their images upon glossy pages with unchecked fascination, the magazine does not have a great track record when it comes to stories about people of color. And yet, these are the stories NatGeo is most famous for, training generation after generation to gawk at peoples other than themselves through telephoto lenses. Founded in 1888 to document the interests of affluent explorers, the name alone evokes a colonial impulse — the National Geographic Society started as a private club dedicated to worldly, exotic travel. The publication has long been an unrepentant descendant of those beginnings — until now, allegedly…

Read the entire article here.

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On Black Negativity, Or the Affirmation of Nothing

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2017-09-20 16:02Z by Steven

On Black Negativity, Or the Affirmation of Nothing

Society and Space
2017-09-18

Jared Sexton, Interviewed by Daniel Colucciello Barber

Jared Sexton is Associate Professor of African American Studies and Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Irvine, where he also holds an affiliation with the Center for Law, Culture, and Society. He is the author of Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism (University of Minnesota Press, 2008) and Black Masculinity and the Cinema of Policing (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). In these books, as well as in his numerous articles and essays, Sexton addresses themes of contemporary political and popular culture, or more broadly the cultural politics of the post-civil rights era United States, focusing on questions of race and sexuality, policing and prisons, multiracial coalition, and contemporary film.

The range of themes addressed in Sexton’s work is motivated by a central commitment to the field of black studies. Importantly, black studies is here understood not as one field among many, such that it would become identifiable through its division from others. Black studies—as “an internally differentiated project”—concerns what Sexton describes as “an unlimited field,” one that ramifies upon, because it is implicated in, all fields of study.

This interview attends to and foregrounds Sexton’s theorization of the meaning, stakes, and implications of the unlimited field of black studies. While such theorization is bound to matters that entail a sociological specificity, the questions that thereby emerge likewise entail the opening up of “a whole series of ontological matters.” Such double entailment follows from Sexton’s focus on the singular “sociopolitical status” of blackness in the modern world: if blackness “opens the space for articulating what is unthought,” this is because blackness is “that which relates to the undoing or unraveling of every social bond” and so inhabits them, negatively, from within.

Daniel Barber: In “The Social Life of Social Death,” you speak of “a procedure for reading, for study, for black study or, in the spirit of the multiple, for black studies … wherever they may lead. And, contrary to the popular misconception, they do lead everywhere. And they do lead everywhere, even and especially in their dehiscence.” This is a lesson that I am constantly learning from the reading of your work. You characterize such black study as “an exemplary transmission: emulation of a process of learning through the posing of a question, rather than imitation of a form of being,” and it is inarguable that your writing has been at the vanguard of such exemplification.

Many of your recent essays have explicitly pressed the stakes of a dehiscent “everywhere.” The incommensurateness of the position of blackness with discourses of the universal—which, as you demonstrated in Amalgamation Schemes, remains the case even in a purportedly pluralized, expansive discourse such as multiracialism—marks an opening up all over, according to the unthought recesses of what Dionne Brand has called “a tear in the world.” I can imagine this everywhere coming to be interpreted as “more” universal than universality, and I wonder how you would think about this? Dehiscence—or, along similar lines, the ungrounding entailed by deracination—certainly exceeds the universal, but such excess would seem to refuse its being related in terms of universality.

Jared Sexton: First, let me thank you again for your rich and generative questions here, and for the careful and sustained reading required to formulate them. I say that especially because I am aware of the ways that, for all of the moments of real critical engagement I’ve enjoyed since entering academia, aspects of my writing, as one instance in a much larger collective project, have been fairly consistently distorted and, at times, caricatured for some time now. Some of that has to do of course with very broad developments in intellectual life in the United States—academic celebrity culture, social media “hot takes,” “me too” research protocols, the denigration of the arts and humanities, etc.—and some of it has to do with an understandable, if disagreeable, anxiety about conserving radical thought under reactionary conditions. But then too I think much of it reflects the type of paralogical affect, or animus, that Frantz Fanon explored so provocatively in his time and that I have, again among many others, tried for a while now to understand better. It strikes me as a ressentiment not of the slave, but rather about and against the slave, and those thought to be slavish…

Read the entire interview here.

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128 RACE MIXTURE POLTCS

Posted in Course Offerings, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2015-11-27 02:58Z by Steven

128 RACE MIXTURE POLTCS

University of California, Irvine
School of Humanities
Winter Quarter 2016

Jared Sexton, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Film & Media Studies

This course explores the politics of race, class, gender, and sexuality in the United States from the antebellum period to the post-civil rights era, paying specific attention to interracial sexuality as a fulcrum of power relations shaped by racial slavery and historical capitalism. We will address the emergence of the multiracial identity movement since the 1990s and discuss its relation to the legacies of white supremacy and the black freedom struggle. We will read for quality not quantity, with a premium on engaged class participation. Several short writing assignments, a midterm and a final exam are required.

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What’s Radical About “Mixed Race”?

Posted in Canada, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States, Videos on 2015-05-24 18:50Z by Steven

What’s Radical About “Mixed Race”?

Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU
8 Washington Mews
New York, New York 10003
2015-04-20

On April 20, 2015, the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU hosted “What’s Radical About ‘Mixed Race’?“. Eschewing an apolitical “celebration” of mixed race, this panel examined the movement’s implications for multiracial coalition and the future of race in the US and Canada, asking: does the multiracial movement challenge—or actually reinforce—the logics of structural racism?

Minelle Mahtani critically located how an apolitical and ahistorical Canadian “model multiracial” upholds the multicultural claims of the Canadian settler state. Jared Sexton called to task multiracial activists who leverage a mixed race identity in opposition to those who are “all black, all the time.”

A roundtable conversation moderated by Ann Morning (NYU Department of Sociology) followed.

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What’s Radical About “Mixed Race?”

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-05-19 19:29Z by Steven

What’s Radical About “Mixed Race?”

Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU
8 Washington Mews
New York, New York 10003
Phone: (212) 998-3700
Monday, 2015-04-20, 18:00-20:00 EDT (Local Time) | Free

Since the 1990s, mainstream media has heralded the growing population of self-identified “mixed race” people in the US and Canada as material proof of a post-racial era (a recent example: National Geographic‘s 2013 feature “The Changing Face of America,” whose title paraphrases a Time feature [at right] from two decades prior). Meanwhile, foundational multiracial activists and scholars like Maria Root claim a doubled oppression—racism via white supremacy and ostracizing from so-called “monoracial” people of color. A growing body of Critical Mixed Race Studies literature is challenging both positions, questioning the assumption that multiracial activism and scholarship is necessarily anti-racist.

Minelle Mahtani critically locates how an apolitical and ahistorical Canadian “model multiracial” upholds the multicultural claims of the Canadian settler state. Jared Sexton calls to task multiracial activists who leverage a mixed race identity in opposition to those who are “all black, all the time.”

Eschewing an apolitical “celebration” of mixed race, this panel examines the movement’s implications for multiracial coalition and the future of race in the US and Canada, asking: does the multiracial movement challenge—or actually reinforce—the logics of structural racism?.

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Panel discusses mixed race scholarship

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-21 18:25Z by Steven

Panel discusses mixed race scholarship

Washington Square News: NYU’s Independent Student Newspaper
2015-04-21

Amanda Morris, Contributing Writer


Jared Sexton speaks on the topic of mixed race individuals. Sexton is the director of the African American Studies program in UC Irvine. (Shawn Paik)

In studying mixed race identities, the historical focus has been on the individual, but speakers at Monday’s roundtable conversation “What’s Radical About Mixed Race?” aimed to reframe discussion in a way that allows for more nuanced understanding of racial identity.

Speakers at the event, which was hosted by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute, included Minelle Mahtani, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, and Jared Sexton, an associate professor and director of African American studies at the University of California, Irvine.

Sexton said hypodescent, a condition in which people with multiple race identities are automatically classified according to their non-white race, is one of the concerns researchers of mixed race have had in the past. Sexton said he wants researchers to re-examine this issue in a larger framework of racial stereotypes.

“Some of the preoccupations are the issue of hypodescent and challenging its reflexive use, but in challenging hypodescent, multiracial studies also runs the risk of re-stigmatizing the very identities that it claims to combine,” Sexton said.

Mahtani said some mixed raced individuals try to fuse their various identities, but often reinforce white supremacy by ignoring their non-white ancestry. Mahtani added that the media often takes advantage of people of mixed race, using their perceived racial ambiguity to appeal to several demographics at once…

…“We need to ask new questions,” Mahtani said. “Not ‘What is mixed race?’ but ‘How does the meaning of mixed race change over time?’”

University of Washington student Na’quel Walker, who attended the event, said she often had trouble with her identity as a child.

“When I was younger, for me to say ‘I’m mixed,’ was to denounce blackness,” Walker said. “I was trying to elevate myself because I wanted to feel special or different, but I was running away from my blackness.”

Nicole Holliday, a doctoral student at NYU in linguistics who is studying the speech patterns of people of mixed race, agreed that research into mixed race culture needs to take a new approach…

Read the entire article here.

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Complicating Race or Reproducing Whiteness? Heidi Durrow and The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, United States on 2014-04-17 01:53Z by Steven

Complicating Race or Reproducing Whiteness? Heidi Durrow and The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

Gino Michael Pellegrini: Education, Race, Multiraciality, Class & Solidarity
2014-04-13

Gino Michael Pellegrini, Adjunct Assistant Professor of English
Pierce College, Woodland Hills, California

[This is an excerpt from a paper (currently being revised) that I presented last month at the 2014 MELUS Conference in Oklahoma City.]

[…] Heidi Durrow is also the latest member of the mixed-experience generation to achieve widespread recognition following the publication of her deeply autobiographical first novel. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky was published in 2010 after winning the 2008 PEN/Bellwether Prize for a first novel that addresses social justice issues. It became a national bestseller in 2011, and is now available in French, Dutch, Danish, and Portuguese. This is a remarkable accomplishment for a book that was repeatedly rejected by the traditional publishing industry.

For those who are unfamiliar, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky recounts the racialization, alienation, coming of age, and coming to multiracial consciousness of Durrow’s fictional intermediary, Rachel Morse. Rachel is the sole survivor of a heartbreaking tragedy: her Danish mother Nella jumps from a rooftop in Chicago with all her biracial children. After recovering, Rachel is sent to live with her paternal grandmother who lives in a predominantly black neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Her alcoholic father, an airman stationed overseas, has disappeared from her life. The year is 1982. Rachel is seen as a light-skinned black girl by her new family and by the surrounding community. From the 5th grade onward, she identifies herself as black, but is still ridiculed for talking white; she is both resented and desired for her good hair and blue eyes. In short, Durrow’s novel recounts from multiple perspectives how Rachel comes to understand the tragedy that claimed her mother and siblings, and in the process reclaim her Danish cultural memory, becoming Afro-Viking like Durrow…

Read the entire article here.

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The Politics of Multiracialism in an Anti-Black World

Posted in Audio, Interviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-08-28 02:42Z by Steven

The Politics of Multiracialism in an Anti-Black World

I MiX What I Like!
WPFW 89.3 FM, Washington, D.C.
2011-10-07

Jared A. Ball, Host and Associate Professor of Communication Studies
Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

Jared Sexton, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Film & Media Studies
University of California, Irvine

Dr. Jared Sexton joined us this week to discuss to his work in Amalgamation Schemes and the politics of multiracial identification in an anti-Black world.  As Sexton has written, “Multiracialism cuts its teeth on the denial of this fundamental social truth: not simply that antiblackness is longstanding and ongoing but also that it is unlike other forms of racial oppression in qualitative ways—differences of kind, rather than degree, a structural singularity rather than an empirical anomaly.”   We also paid a brief tribute to professor Derrick Bell and his continuing influence.

Listen to the interview (00:59:30) here. Download the interview here.

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The Flesh of Amalgamation: Reconsidering the Position (and the Labors) of Blackness

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United States on 2013-07-04 03:12Z by Steven

The Flesh of Amalgamation: Reconsidering the Position (and the Labors) of Blackness

American Quarterly
Volume 65, Number 2, June 2013
pages 437-446
DOI: 10.1353/aq.2013.0021

Tryon P. Woods, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Anthropology, and Crime & Justice Studies
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance and the Ruses of Memory.
By Tavia Nyong’o. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2009. 230 pages.

Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracilism.
By Jared Sexton. Minneapolis; University of Minnesota Press, 2008. 345 pages.

The story that cannot be told must not-tell itself in a language already contaminated, possibly irrevocably and fatally. . . . And only in not-telling can the story be told; only in the space where it’s not told—literally in the margins of the text, a sort of negative space, a space not so much of non-meaning as anti-meaning.

NourbeSe Philip

In the postscript to her indomitable poetic treatise on black life and death in the making of the modern world, M. NourbeSe Philip writes of the ongoing mutilation of black humanity through the language of the legal text. She finds, for example, no word for recovering the millions of Africans buried in the “liquid grave” of the Middle Passage: “I find words like resurrect and subaquatic but not ‘exaqua.’ Does this mean that unlike being interred, once you’re underwater there is no retrieval—that you can never be ‘exhumed’ from water?” In the face of this historical cataclysm, Philip uses her poetry to foment a disorder of her own, in search of yet another site of maroonage from what Saidiya Hartman terms slavery’s afterlife. To “release the story that cannot be told,” Philip mutilates the text herself, seeking to “literally cut it into pieces, castrating verbs, suffocating adjectives, murdering nouns, throwing articles, prepositions, conjunctions overboard, jettisoning verbs.”

I find it compelling to consider how Philip’s meditations might extend to the contemporary study of race. Is there an imposition of meaning perpetuating a similar kind of violence on the black subject of critical race studies? Within the American studies community, for instance, there seem to be parallel discussions on race. The primary distinction between these two tracks hinges on what to make of racial blackness, a splitting reminiscent of “the presence of excised Africans” explored by Philip (199). Is blackness but one among a diversity of subjectivities and, historical particulars notwithstanding, essentially no different from these other positions, identities, and experiences in terms of authorizing analyses of suffering and struggle? Or is the rupture that blackness represents so essential to the formation of the social itself that any analysis of violence or injustice that is not centered in, derived from, or accountable to the suffering of African-descended peoples risks missing the crux (as opposed to the totality) of the social formation?

Tavia Nyong’o’s Amalgamation Waltz and Jared Sexton’s Amalgamation Schemes offer answers to these questions that might discomfit many American studies scholars. Indeed, perhaps their interventions into the matter of racial blackness and its place within the various analytic frameworks of American studies scholars has something to do with their heretofore quiet reception. While both books have been duly reviewed in a handful of journals, thus far they have enjoyed only scant critical engagement from American studies scholars. American studies has become a scholarly community that takes pride in its activist bona fides, that foregrounds its commitment to progressive politics, and that positions social justice as central to its avowed raison d’être. With this in mind, I am wondering if this reluctance to engage indexes Philip’s description of “slavery—the story that simultaneously cannot be told, must be told, and will never be told” (206).

In the June 2012 issue of American Quarterly, this two-track discourse on race was on full display. Dylan Rodríguez wrote a gentle indictment of the response to the public spectacle of state violence on November 18, 2011, at the University of California, Davis, when campus police pepper sprayed students engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience as part of the Occupy movement. Rodríguez rightfully contrasts the outrage and moral indignation from left-liberal quarters, which was both national and international because of the viral spread of video footage from the incident across social media, against the UC Davis police with what he calls “a broader, commonsense conspiracy of silence” about the larger logic of racist state violence, for which policing is the most visible and fundamental expression. Rodríguez is careful to include brown with black in the category…

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