Rise and Fall of the Cosmic Race: The Cult of Mestizaje in Latin America

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2009-11-10 04:31Z by Steven

Rise and Fall of the Cosmic Race: The Cult of Mestizaje in Latin America

University of Texas Press
6 x 9 in.
216 pp., 3 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-292-70596-8

Marilyn Grace Miller, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
Tulane University, New Orleans

Latin America is characterized by a uniquely rich history of cultural and racial mixtures known collectively as mestizaje. These mixtures reflect the influences of indigenous peoples from Latin America, Europeans, and Africans, and spawn a fascinating and often volatile blend of cultural practices and products. Yet no scholarly study to date has provided an articulate context for fully appreciating and exploring the profound effects of distinct local invocations of syncretism and hybridity. Rise and Fall of the Cosmic Race fills this void by charting the history of Latin America’s experience of mestizaje through the prisms of literature, the visual and performing arts, social commentary, and music.

In accessible, jargon-free prose, Marilyn Grace Miller brings to life the varied perspectives of a vast region in a tour that stretches from Mexico and the Caribbean to Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina. She explores the repercussions of mestizo identity in the United States and reveals the key moments in the story of Latin America’s cult of synthesis. Rise and Fall of the Cosmic Race examines the inextricable links between aesthetics and politics, and unravels the threads of colonialism woven throughout national narratives in which mestizos serve as primary protagonists.

Illuminating the ways in which regional engagements with mestizaje represent contentious sites of nation building and racial politics, Miller uncovers a rich and multivalent self-portrait of Latin America’s diverse populations.

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Genealogy as Social Memory: Making the Public Personal

Posted in History, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Slavery, Social Science on 2009-11-10 02:09Z by Steven

Genealogy as Social Memory: Making the Public Personal

The 7th Annual Committee on Historical Studies, Sociology Department and International Labor Working Class History Journal Joint Conference
History Matters: Spaces of Violences, Spaces of Memory
New School for Social Research
2004-04-23 through 2004-04-24

Karla Hackstaff, Associate Professor of Sociology
Northern Arizona University

“Race, like nature and sex, is replete with all the rituals of guilt and innocence in the stories of nation, family, and species. Race, like nature, is about roots, pollution, and origins. An inherently dubious notion, race, like sex, is about the purity of lineage; the legitimacy of passage; and the drama of inheritance of bodies, property, and stories”
(Haraway 1995, p. 213).

In May 2002, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation which runs Monticello and is comprised of the descendants of Thomas and Martha Jefferson voted to deny membership and associated burial rights to the descendants of Sally Hemings—a slave who appears to have had children by Thomas Jefferson (San Francisco Chronicle, May 12, 2002, p. D4).  This decision was somewhat surprising because in 1998 genetic tests appeared to confirm what Hemings’ relatives had claimed through oral history for years—that at least one, if not all, of Sally Hemings’ children had descended from Thomas Jefferson. Still, the white descendants concluded that the historical and scientific evidence was “insufficient.”…

…First, within sociology there is a large and growing literature on the formation of racial/ethnic identities, relations, and the accompanying constructions of inequalities (e.g. Azoulay 1997; Brah and Coombes 2000; Collins 2000; DaCosta 2000; Haraway 1995; Nagel 1994; Omi and Winant 1994; Pedraza and Rumbaut 1996; Song 2001; Waters 1990; Worchel 1999). Given that race, ethnicity, and nationality organize many genealogical associations, clearly, race and ethnicity are constructed in the process of doing genealogy. Although ‘race’ as a biological construction has been widely rejected, it is no less real for being a social construction. As many scholars have shown, racialethnic constructions must be sustained, and are neither invariant nor universal.  Ethnoracial identities are sustained through various practices, policies, and institutions—including families.  Because interracial relations have been taboo, we still assume and to a large degree produce families that appear monoracial (DaCosta 2000). Intermarriage has grown substantially in recent decades—there were ten times as many couples categorized as interracial in 1990 as had been the case in 1960; still, in 1990 interracial marriages were just three percent of all marriages in the United Stated (DaCosta 2000, p. 9-10). By 2000, six percent of marriage households were interracial (Simmons and O’Connell 2003).  The practices of adoption agencies and sperm banks often, if not always, produce monoracial families as well. In short, ethnoracial identities continue to be crucial to family constructions…

Read the entire paper here.

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Light in August in Light of Foucault: Reexamining the Biracial Experience

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2009-11-10 01:26Z by Steven

Light in August in Light of Foucault: Reexamining the Biracial Experience

Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory
Volume 64, Number 4, Winter 2008
pages 49-68
E-ISSN: 1558-9595
Print ISSN: 0004-1610
DOI: 10.1353/arq.0.0020

Bethany L. Lam

Comparatively little current criticism of Foucauldian racial theory exists, primarily because [Michel] Foucault never formulated a full-blown racial theory. Some critics, such as Robert J.C. Young and Ann Laura Stoler, have successfully used Foucauldian principles to inform their views of race studies. Foucault himself said little directly pertaining to race studies, admits Young: “Foucault had a lot to say about power, but he was curiously circumspect about the ways in which it has operated in the arenas of race and colonialism. His virtual silence on these issues is striking” (57).  This silence does not deter Young and a few other critics from extrapolating Foucauldian thought into various areas of race studies. Young focuses his discussion on racism; he evaluates Foucauldian influence on colonial studies, particularly on Edward Said’s Orientalism, before applying Foucauldian commentary on ethnology, power, and sexuality to a theory of racism. Like Young, Ann Laura Stoler relies heavily on Foucault’s History of Sexuality in her applications of Foucault to colonial studies. Stoler has authored two of the more extensive explorations of Foucauldian thought as it pertains to race studies, Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things and Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule.  Both of these works deal with race primarily in the context of sexuality in colonialism, neglecting the larger picture of Foucault and racial identity.

One element that has been noticeably lacking in the theory thus far is a thorough application of Foucault to the study of multiracialism. But Foucault has much insight to offer in explaining the attitudes of society towards the multiracial, the attitudes of the multiracial towards himself, and the resulting interaction between society and individual. The viability and value of these explanations become evident when applied to literary characters and their social (albeit fictional) contexts. Foucault deepens our understanding of the multiracial in society, showing not just how the individual and society affect each other, but—more importantly—why they view and treat each other as they do; merging his theory with literary criticism sheds new light on the tensions between multiracial characters, such as Faulkner’s Joe Christmas, and their societies, moving our explanations beyond mere “identity confusion” to the underlying causes of the confusion.

Before applying Foucault directly to Faulkner, let us spend several moments tracing the outlines of a Foucauldian theory of multiracialism. To understand society’s perception of multiracialism, we must begin with the racial hierarchy, one of the many ways by which society orders subjects. In order to do this effectively, we should first look at Foucauldian thought regarding power, knowledge, and discourse. Foucault describes discourse as “an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumbling-block, a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy. Discourse transmits and produces power; it reinforces it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart it” (History 101). “It is in discourse,” he states, “that power and knowledge are joined together” (100). Discourse is both product and producer of power, the place where power and knowledge intersect.

In a Foucauldian paradigm, one might view race as a visual discourse. Its power emanates first of all from the prevalence and potency of race-based societal stereotypes. These racial stereotypes act as self-ful-filling prophecies, continually producing and reproducing themselves. The stereotypes lead to a second source of power in the discourse of race: the race-based ordering of society. These stereotypes and ordering feed off the knowledge aspect of racial discourse, knowledge based both on visual perception of skin color and the expectations created by the stereotypes themselves. Society uses its knowledge to assign a place in the racial hierarchy to each person. Race, then, becomes an indicator of societal expectation for a person, to which that person more or less conforms.

Multiracialism problematizes this visual discourse through its nonconformity, both to the visual code and to traditional racial categories. A mixed-race individual is the result of an ancestral transgression of the racial order, a transgression either of the parents or of a more…

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