Mixed Race: Understanding Difference in the Genome Era

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2009-11-02 22:25Z by Steven

Mixed Race: Understanding Difference in the Genome Era

Social Forces
Volume 86, Issue 2, December 2007
pages 795-820
E-ISSN: 1534-7605, Print ISSN: 0037-7732
DOI: 10.1353/sof.2008.0011

Elizabeth M. Phillips
National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health

Adebola O. Odunlami
National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health

Vence L. Bonham
National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health

This article presents the findings of a qualitative study of multiracial individuals’ understanding of identity, race and human genetic variation. The debate regarding the correlation between race, genetics and disease has expanded, but limited empirical data has been collected regarding the lay public’s perspective. Participants in this study explore their identity and its relationships to their health care interactions. Participants also share their views on race-based therapeutics, health disparities and the connections between race, ancestry and genetics. Their voices highlight the limitations of racial categories in describing differences within our increasingly diverse communities. The genomic era will be a pivotal period in challenging current understandings and uses of racial categories in health.

Read or purchase the article here.

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A Mixed Race: Ethnicity in Early America

Posted in Anthologies, Books, History, Media Archive, United States on 2009-11-02 20:48Z by Steven

A Mixed Race: Ethnicity in Early America

Oxford University Press
March 2003
296 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4
ISBN13: 978-0-19-507523-6
ISBN10: 0-19-507523-4

Edited by

Frank Shuffelton, Professor Emeritus of English
University of Rochester

This collection of new essays enters one of the most topical and energetic debates of our time–the subject of ethnicity. The recent vigorous debates being waged over questions raised by the phenomenon of multiculturalism in America highlight the fact that American culture has arisen out of an unusually rich and interactive ethnic mix. The essays in A Mixed Race suggest that American society was inescapably multicultural from its very beginnings and that this representation of cultural differences fundamentally defined American culture. While recent scholarship has looked extensively at the ethnic formation of modern American culture, this study focuses on the eighteenth century and colonial American values that have been previously overlooked in the debate, arguing that a culture shaped by responses to ethnic and racial difference is not merely a modern circumstance but one at the base of American history. Written by a group of first-class contributors, the essays in this collection discuss the representation of cultural differences between European immigrants and Native Americans, the circumstances of the first African-American autobiographical narratives, rhetorical negotiations among different European-American cultural groups, ethnic representation in the genre literature of jest books and execution narratives, and the ethnic conceptions of Michel de Crevecoeur, Phillis Wheatley, and Thomas Jefferson. A Mixed Race offers agile and original yet scholarly readings of ethnicity and ethnic formation from some of our best critics of early American culture. Moving from questions of race and ethnicity to varieties of ethnic representation, and finally to individual confrontations, this volume sheds light on the confrontations of ethnically diverse peoples, and launches a timely, full-scale investigation of the construction of American culture.

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Louisiana Creoles: Cultural Recovery and Mixed-Race Native American Identity (review)

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Louisiana, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2009-11-02 18:46Z by Steven

Louisiana Creoles: Cultural Recovery and Mixed-Race Native American Identity (review)

The American Indian Quarterly
Volume 33, Number 4
Fall 2009
E-ISSN: 1534-1828
Print ISSN: 0095-182X
DOI: 10.1353/aiq.0.0078

Gary C. Cheek Jr.

Jolivétte, Andrew J., Louisiana Creoles: Cultural Recovery and Mixed-Race Native American Identity, Lexington Books, 2006.

“Who is white?” Jolivétte asks in the first chapter of his recent Louisiana Creoles, posing a controversial question that concerns both racial and ethnic identity. Part of the issue, he states, is a matter of family history, and the other is based on choice. Here he explores ideas about racial and ethnic identity, mixing and definition. At its core the book discusses the internal struggle of Louisiana Creoles with mixed heritage to define themselves among family and friends, within local communities, and among Americans at large. The author then explores how members of Creole communities have fought to acknowledge their unique blend of cultural traditions and heritage, particularly by including Native American lineage, to forge a multiracial ethnic identity and why they choose to define themselves as such.

The study approaches questions about race, ethnicity, and choice both sociologically and anthropologically. Jolivétte includes portions of his research tools in the appendices. These include a survey, interview questions, and a list of Creole organizations, periodicals…

Purchase or read the entire review here.

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“Miscegenation” Making Race in America

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2009-11-02 16:59Z by Steven

“Miscegenation” Making Race in America

University of Pennsylvania Press
216 pages
6 x 9, 19 illus.
Cloth: ISBN 978-0-8122-3664-4
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8122-2064-3

Elise Lemire, Professor of Literature
Purchase College, State University of New York

In the years between the Revolution and the Civil War, as the question of black political rights was debated more and more vociferously, descriptions and pictorial representations of whites coupling with blacks proliferated in the North. Novelists, short-story writers, poets, journalists, and political cartoonists imagined that political equality would be followed by widespread inter-racial sex and marriage. Legally possible yet socially unthinkable, this “amalgamation” of the races would manifest itself in the perverse union of “whites” with “blacks,” the latter figured as ugly, animal-like, and foul-smelling. In Miscegenation, Elise Lemire reads these literary and visual depictions for what they can tell us about the connection between the racialization of desire and the social construction of race.

Previous studies of the prohibition of interracial sex and marriage in the U.S. have focused on either the slave South or the post-Reconstruction period. Looking instead to the North, and to such texts as the Federalist poetry about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, James Fenimore Cooper‘s Last of the Mohicans, Edgar Allan Poe‘s “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and the 1863 pamphlet in which the word “miscegenation” was first used, Lemire examines the steps by which whiteness became a sexual category and same-race desire came to seem a biological imperative.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Introduction: The Rhetorical Wedge Between Preference and Prejudice
  • 1. Race and the Idea of “Preference” in the New Republic: The Port Folio Poems About Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings
  • 2. The Rhetoric of Blood and Mixture: Cooper’s “Man Without a Cross”
  • 3. The Barrier of Good Taste: Avoiding A Sojourn in the City of Amalgamation in the Wake of Abolitionism
  • 4. Combating Abolitionism with the Species Argument: Race and Economic Anxieties in Poe’s Philadelphia
  • 5. Making “Miscegenation”: Alcott‘s Paul Frere and the Limits of Brotherhood After Emancipation
  • Epilogue: “Miscegenation” Today
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Acknowledgments
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Mestizo Democracy: The Politics of Crossing Borders

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2009-11-02 16:45Z by Steven

Mestizo Democracy: The Politics of Crossing Borders

Texas A&M University Press
320 pages
6.125 x 9.25
Paper ISBN: 978-1-58544-346-8

John Francis Burke, Professor of Political Science and Chair
University of St. Thomas, Houston

Foreword by Virgilio Elizondo

It can come as no surprise that the ethnic makeup of the American population is rapidly changing. That there are political repercussions from these changes is also self-evident. How the changes can, must, and should alter our very understanding of democracy, though, may not be obvious. Political theorist John Burke addresses these issues by offering a “mestizo” theory of democracy and tracing its implications for public policy.

The challenge before the United States in the coming century, Burke posits, will be to articulate a politics that neither renders cultures utterly autonomous from each other nor culminates in their homogeneous assimilation. Fortuitously or ironically, the way to do this comes from the very culture that is now necessitating the change.

Mestizo is a term from the Mexican socio-political experience. It means “mixture” and implies a particular kind of mixture that has resulted in a blend of indigenous, African, and Spanish genes and cultures in Latin America. This mixture is not a “melting pot” experience, where all eventually become assimilated; rather, it is a mixture in which the influences of the different cultures remain identifiable but not static. They all evolve through interaction with the others, and the resulting larger culture also evolves as the parts do. Mestizaje (the collective noun form) is thus process more than condition.

John Burke analyzes both American democratic theory and multiculturalism within political theology to develop a model for cultivating a democratic political community that can deal constructively with its cultural diversity. He applies this new model to a number of important policy issues: official language(s), voting and participation, equal employment opportunity, housing, and free trade. He then presents an intensive case study, based on a parish “multicultural committee” and choir in which he has been a participant, to show how the “engaged dialogue” of mestizaje might work and what pitfalls await it.

Burke concludes that in the United States we are becoming mestizo whether we know it or not and whether we like it or not. By embracing the communitarian but non-assimilationist stance of intentional mestizaje, we can forge a future together that will be not only greater than the sum of its parts but also freer and more just than its past.

John Francis Burke is a professor of political science and chair of the department at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. He is an active lay minister in a Houston Catholic parish characterized by diversity. With a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame, he brings strong training in western political philosophy and religious studies to his study of mestizo culture in the United States.

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Mulattas and Mestizas: Representing Mixed Identities in the Americas, 1850–2000

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2009-11-02 16:30Z by Steven

Mulattas and Mestizas: Representing Mixed Identities in the Americas, 1850–2000

University of Georgia Press
284 pages
Trim size: 6 x 9
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8203-2325-1
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8203-2781-5

Suzanne Bost, Associate Professor of English
Loyola University

In this broadly conceived exploration of how people represent identity in the Americas, Suzanne Bost argues that mixture has been central to the definition of race in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean since the nineteenth century. Her study is particularly relevant in an era that promotes mixed-race musicians, actors, sports heroes, and supermodels as icons of a “new” America. Bost challenges the popular media’s notion that a new millennium has ushered in a radical transformation of American ethnicity; in fact, this paradigm of the “changing” face of America extends throughout American history.

Working from literary and historical accounts of mulattas, mestizas, and creoles, Bost analyzes a tradition, dating from the nineteenth century, of theorizing identity in terms of racial and sexual mixture. By examining racial politics in Mexico and the United States; racially mixed female characters in Anglo-American, African American, and Latina narratives; and ideas of mixture in the Caribbean, she ultimately reveals how the fascination with mixture often corresponds to racial segregation, sciences of purity, and white supremacy. The racism at the foundation of many nineteenth-century writings encourages Bost to examine more closely the subtexts of contemporary writings on the “browning” of America.

Original and ambitious in scope, Mulattas and Mestizas measures contemporary representations of mixed-race identity in the United States against the history of mixed-race identity in the Americas. It warns us to be cautious of the current, millennial celebration of mixture in popular culture and identity studies, which may, contrary to all appearances, mask persistent racism and nostalgia for purity.

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History, Trauma, and the Discursive Construction of “Race” in John Dominis Holt’s Waimea Summer

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2009-11-02 14:54Z by Steven

History, Trauma, and the Discursive Construction of “Race” in John Dominis Holt’s Waimea Summer

Cultural Critique
Number 47, Winter 2001
pages 167-214
DOI: 10.1353/cul.2001.0026

Susan Y. Najita, Associate Professor of English
University of Michigan

In contemporary discussions about the literature of Hawai’i and its decolonization, a central problematic resulting from on-going Euro-American imperialism is the tension between genealogical and racial definitions of Hawaiianness. Haunani-Kay Trask in “Decolonizing Hawaiian Literature” argues for a notion of “Hawaiian” that is based upon “[g]enealogical claims” of Hawaiians as the first people of Hawai’i,” a claim that establishes their status as indigene and Native (170). She argues, “It is the insistence that our Native people have a claim to nationhood on Hawaiian soil that generates the ignorant and ill-intentioned response that Hawaiian nationalists are racists. In truth, Hawaiians are the only people who can claim Hawai’i as their lahui, or nation” (170). I quote this passage to show how Trask suggests the way in which genealogical claims, when viewed from more Western perspectives of family descent and pedigree, can be taken to imply a more racialized idea of ancestry.

J. Kehaulani Kauanui has aptly noted the difference between pedigree and genealogy in the contemporary Hawaiian sovereignty struggle. The Hawai’i State Constitution and the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 define “native Hawaiian” in terms of blood quantum, specifically, 50 percent Hawaiian blood. Kauanui argues that this notion of pedigree is based upon the assumption of racial purity and the suggestion that as racial mixing and intermarriage continue, “Hawaiians,” as defined by blood quantum, will be bred out of existence, will “vanish.” She advocates a turn toward a genealogical definition that valorizes multiple interpersonal relations more reflective of the Hawaiian sense of group belonging. Such [End Page 167] an approach implies impurity and mixing that is not a “dilution” but a reterritorialization, reflecting the complex relations between ethnic groups in Hawai’i.

In his novel Waimea Summer, Native Hawaiian writer John Dominis Holt [1919-1993] vividly depicts the conflict between identities based, on the one hand, upon racializing notions such as eugenics and pedigree that imply purity, and on the other hand, upon genealogy that implies relations between people and a sense of the past that guides future action. For Holt, genealogy and history guide nationalist struggle, and so in order to chart a decolonized future, he must first address one of the legacies of colonialism, the way in which racial constructions have interfered with genealogy in structuring identity.  Holt’s novel depicts how this oppositional and racialized notion of pedigree is one of the causes of his protagonist’s traumatic acting out in the novel; it prevents him from wholly accepting the nationalistic claims that his genealogy makes upon him.

The novel tells the semiautobiographical story of a hapa haole (part-Hawaiian, part-white) youth, Mark Hull, who visits his paniolo uncle, Fred Andrews, in the ranching town of Waimea on the island of Hawaici. Amid the financial and social decline of his extended family, Mark attempts to understand what it means to be Hawaiian as he is introduced to various cultural practices of his rural relations in Waimea and Waipio Valley. During his stay, he attempts to keep his uncle’s family together and to save the life of his young cousin Puna.  At the novel’s end, the protagonist is familiarized with his genealogical ties to his ancestor, Kamehameha I, the first chief to unite the islands under a single ruler. The central problem with which Mark struggles is the oppositional way missionary discourse and eugenics structures hapa haole identity along the construction of race and racial mixing in contrast to the Hawaiian emphasis on genealogy, which implies a connection to ancestral history that guides future action…

Read the entire article here.

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Who’s Your Mama? “White” Mulatta Genealogies, Early Photography, and Anti-Passing Narratives of Slavery and Freedom

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States, Women on 2009-11-02 14:29Z by Steven

Who’s Your Mama? “White” Mulatta Genealogies, Early Photography, and Anti-Passing Narratives of Slavery and Freedom

American Literary History
Volume 14, Number 3 (Fall 2002)
DOI: 10.1093/alh/14.3.505
pages 505-359

P. Gabrielle Foreman, Professor of English and American Studies
Occidental College

Partus sequitur ventrem.
The child follows the condition of the mother.

US slave law and custom

If we shift from a politics of substance to a politics of optics, identity itself no longer possesses the reassuring signs of ontological distinction that we are accustomed to reading.
Amy Robinson

The right to see and be seen, in one’s own way and under one’s own terms, has been the point of contention.
Laura Wexler

1. Passing For or Passing Through?

“Passing” for white, and the representational strategies some phenotypically indeterminate African-American women used to claim privileges granted to whites, name phenomena as different as night and day. Examination of the assumptions about racial aspirations that occupy the space between the two illuminates how paradigms that trump expressed and expressive black female will and agency circulate both in the nineteenth century and in current literary criticism. Mulatto/a-ness as a representational trope often designates a discursive mobility and simultaneity that can raise questions of racial epistemology, while it also functions as a juridical term that constrains citizenship by ante- and postbellum law and force. The women I examine in this essay use their own bodies to challenge such constraints by expressing a desire, not for whiteness, but for familial and juridical relations in which partus sequitur ventrem produces freedom rather than enslavement for African Americans, light and dark.

Many contemporary scholars, however, deploy “white mulatto/a genealogies,” a term I use not to describe the lighter shades of a politically determined African-American racial classification but to highlight an overemphasis on patrilineal descent and an identification with and projection of white desire that continually revisits the paternal and the patriarchal, the phallic and juridical Law of the (white) Father. Russ Castronovo exemplifies such configurations in Fathering the Nation: American Genealogies of Slavery and Freedom (1995) when he asserts “texts by ex-slaves prohibit the restoration of any genealogical line, suggesting that only in the discontinuity and disorder of bastard histories does remembering properly construct freedom” (193); he goes on to assert that “the slave’s genealogy–both as personal history and as national critique—. . . recontextualizes freedom from plenitude and promise to a narrative of lack and deferral” (200). Others, like Lauren Berlant, offer considerations of undifferentiated “mulatta genealogies” that examine racial mixtures in unspecified and unsituated ways. Eric Sundquist’s important To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature (1993) enacts a more explicit erasure of black female agency by offering a (masculinist) nationalist paradigm that enacts and encourages readings of race in the nineteenth century as if women did not have a voice…

Read the entire article and view the illustrations here.

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Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, United States on 2009-11-02 02:40Z by Steven

Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas

Louisiana State University Press
April 2009
224 pages
Series: Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War
Illustrations: 5 halftones, 1 map
Cloth ISBN-13: 978-0-8071-3390-3

Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel, Associate Professor of History
Millsaps College

In Bleeding Borders, Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel offers a fresh, multifaceted interpretation of the quintessential sectional conflict in pre-Civil War Kansas. Instead of focusing on the white, male politicians and settlers who vied for control of the Kansas territorial legislature, Oertel explores the crucial roles Native Americans, African Americans, and white women played in the literal and rhetorical battle between proslavery and antislavery settlers in the region. She brings attention to the local debates and the diverse peoples who participated in them during that contentious period.

Oertel begins by detailing the settlement of eastern Kansas by emigrant Indian tribes and explores their interaction with the growing number of white settlers in the region. She analyzes the attempts by southerners to plant slavery in Kansas and the ultimately successful resistance of slaves and abolitionists. Oertel then considers how crude frontier living conditions, Indian conflict, political upheaval, and sectional violence reshaped traditional Victorian gender roles in Kansas and explores women’s participation in the political and physical conflicts between proslavery and antislavery settlers.

Oertel goes on to examine northern and southern definitions of “true manhood” and how competing ideas of masculinity infused political and sectional tensions. She concludes with an analysis of miscegenation–not only how racial mixing between Indians, slaves, and whites influenced events in territorial Kansas, but more importantly, how the fear of miscegenation fueled both proslavery and antislavery arguments about the need for civil war.

As Oertel demonstrates, the players in Bleeding Kansas used weapons other than their Sharpes rifles and Bowie knives to wage war over the extension of slavery: they attacked each other’s cultural values and struggled to assert their political wills. They jealously guarded ideals of manhood, womanhood, and whiteness even as the presence of Indians and blacks and the debate over slavery raised serious questions about the efficacy of these principles. Oertel argues that ultimately, many Native Americans, blacks, and women shaped the political and cultural terrain in ways that ensured the destruction of slavery, but they, along with their white male counterparts, failed to defeat the resilient power of white supremacy.

Moving beyond a conventional political history of Kansas, Bleeding Borders breaks new ground by revealing how the struggles of this highly-diverse region contributed to the national move toward disunion and how the ideologies that governed race and gender relations were challenged as North, South, and West converged on the border between slavery and freedom.

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The Literary Career of Charles W. Chesnutt

Posted in Books, History, Monographs, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2009-11-02 02:17Z by Steven

The Literary Career of Charles W. Chesnutt

Louisiana State University Press
312 pages
Trim: 6 x 9
Paper ISBN-13: 978-0-8071-2452-9

William L. Andrews, E. Maynard Adams Professor of English
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

The career of any black writer in nineteenth-century American was fraught with difficulties, and William Andrews undertakes to explain how and why Charles Waddell Chesnutt (1858-1932) became the first Negro novelist of importance: “Steering a difficult course between becoming co-opted by his white literary supporters and becoming alienated from then and their access to the publishing medium, Chesnutt became the first Afro-American writer to use the white-controlled mass media in the service of serious fiction on behalf of the black community.”

Awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1928 by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP], Chesnutt admitted without apologies that because of his own experiences, most of his writings concentrated on issue about racial identity. Only one-eighth Negro and able to pass for Caucasian, Chesnutt dramatized the dilemma of others like him. The House Behind the Cedars (1900), Chesnutt’s most autobiographical novel, evokes the world of “bright mulatto” caste in post-Civil War North Carolina and pictures the punitive consequences of being of mixed heritage.

Chesnutt not only made a crucial break with many literary conventions regarding Afro-American life, crafting his authentic material with artistic distinction, he also broached the moral issue of the racial caste system and dared to suggest that a gradual blending of the races would alleviate a pernicious blight on the nation’s moral progress. Andrews argues that “along with [George Washington] Cable in The Grandissimes and Mark Twain in Pudd’nhead Wilson, Chesnutt anticipated [William] Faulkner in focusing on miscegenation, even more than slavery, as the repressed myth of the American past and a powerful metaphor of southern post-Civil War history.” Although Chesnutt’s career suffered setback and though he was faced with compromises he consistently saw America’s race problem as intrinsically moral rather than social or political. In his fiction he pictures the strengths of Afro-Americans and affirms their human dignity and heroic will.

William L. Andrews provides an account of essentially all that Chesnutt wrote, covering the unpublished manuscripts as well as the more successful efforts and viewing these materials in he context of the author’s times and of his total career. Though the scope of this book extends beyond textual criticism, the thoughtful discussions of Chesnutt’s works afford us a vivid and gratifying acquaintance with the fiction and also account for an important episode in American letters and history.

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