Featuring new critical essays by scholars from Europe, South America, and the United States, At Home and Abroad presents a wide-ranging look at how whiteness-defined in terms of race or ethnicity-forms a category toward which people strive in order to gain power and privilege. Collectively these pieces treat global spaces whose nation building and identity formation have turned on biological and genealogical exigencies to whiten themselves.
Drawing upon racialized, national practices implemented prior to and during the twentieth century, each of the essays enlists literature or performance to reflect the sociopolitical imperatives that secured whiteness in the respective locations they study. They range from examinations of whiteness in the literature of Appalachia and contemporary Argentinean poetry to an analysis of performances memorializing the colonial experience in Italy and an exploration into the white rap music of Eminem and contemporary multiracial passing.
As the contributors show, literary and performance representations have the power to chronicle histories that reflect the behaviors and lived realities of our selves. Whether whiteness, in addition to its physical manifestation, presents itself as identity, symbol, racism, culture, social formation, political imposition, legal imposition, or pathology, it has been outed into the visible, even in national spaces where the term “whiteness” has yet to be translated and entered into the official lexicon.
The ten essays collected here provide powerful insights into where and how the race for biological and genealogical whiteness persists in various geopolitical realms and the ways in which Nordic whites, as well as ethnic whites and nonwhites, resecure its ascendance.
La Vinia Delois Jennings is professor of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her recent critical study Toni Morrison and the Idea of Africa won the 2008 Toni Morrison Society Prize for Best Single-Authored Book on the Nobel laureate and Pulitzer-Prize winning author.
Throughout the latter part of the 20th century, the U.S. labor market performed differently than the labor markets of the world's other advanced industrialized societies. In the early 1970s, the United States had higher unemployment rates than its Western European counterparts. But after two oil crises, rapid technological change, and globalization rocked the world's economies, unemployment fell in the United States, while increasing dramatically in other nations. At the same time, wage inequality widened more in the United States than in Europe. In At Home and Abroad, Cornell University economists Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn examine the reasons for these striking dissimilarities between the United States and its economic allies. Comparing countries, the authors find that governments and unions play a far greater role in the labor market in Europe than they do in the United States. It is much more difficult to lay off workers in Europe than in the United States, unemployment insurance is more generous in Europe, and many fewer Americans than Europeans are covered by collective bargaining agreements. Interventionist labor market institutions in Europe compress wages, thus contributing to the lower levels of wage inequality in the European Union than in the United States. Using a unique blend of microeconomic and microeconomic analyses, the authors assess how these differences affect wage and unemployment levels. In a lucid narrative, they present ample evidence that, as upheavals shook the global economy, the flexible U.S. market let wages adjust so that jobs could be maintained, while more rigid European economies maintained wages at the cost of losing jobs. By helping readers understand the relationship between different economic responses and outcomes, At Home and Abroad makes an invaluable contribution to the continuing debate about the role institutions can and should play in creating jobs and maintaining living standards.
Although he never lived in Harlem, Chester Himes commented that he experienced “a sort of pure homesickness” while creating the Harlem-set detective novels from his self-imposed exile in Paris. Through writing, Himes constructed an imaginary home informed both by nostalgia for a community he never knew and a critique of the racism he left behind in the United States. Half a century later, Michelle Cliff wrote about her native Jamaica from the United States, articulating a positive Caribbean feminism that at the same time acknowledged Jamaica’s homophobia and color prejudice.
In At Home in Diaspora, Wendy Walters investigates the work of Himes, Cliff, and three other twentieth-century black international writers—Caryl Phillips, Simon Njami, and Richard Wright—who have lived in and written from countries they do not call home. Unlike other authors in exile, those of the African diaspora are doubly displaced, first by the discrimination they faced at home and again by their life abroad. Throughout, Walters suggests that in the absence of a recoverable land of origin, the idea of diaspora comes to represent a home that is not singular or exclusionary. In this way, writing in exile is much more than a literary performance; it is a profound political act.
Wendy W. Walters is assistant professor of literature at Emerson College.
At Home in the World
Michael Jackson Duke University Press, 1995 Library of Congress DU125.W3J33 1995 | Dewey Decimal 306.0899915
Ours is a century of uprootedness, with fewer and fewer people living out their lives where they are born. At such a time, in such a world, what does it mean to be "at home?" Perhaps among a nomadic people, for whom dwelling is not synonymous with being housed and settled, the search for an answer to this question might lead to a new way of thinking about home and homelessness, exile and belonging. At Home in the World is the story of just such a search. Intermittently over a period of three years Michael Jackson lived, worked, and traveled extensively in Central Australia. This book chronicles his experience among the Warlpiri of the Tanami Desert. Something of a nomad himself, having lived in New Zealand, Sierra Leone, England, France, Australia, and the United States, Jackson is deft at capturing the ambiguities of home as a lived experience among the Warlpiri. Blending narrative ethnography, empirical research, philosophy, and poetry, he focuses on the existential meaning of being at home in the world. Here home becomes a metaphor for the intimate relationship between the part of the world a person calls "self" and the part of the world called "other." To speak of "at-homeness," Jackson suggests, implies that people everywhere try to strike a balance between closure and openness, between acting and being acted upon, between acquiescing in the given and choosing their own fate. His book is an exhilarating journey into this existential struggle, responsive at every turn to the political questions of equity and justice that such a struggle entails. A moving depiction of an aboriginal culture at once at home and in exile, and a personal meditation on the practice of ethnography and the meaning of home in our increasingly rootless age, At Home in the World is a timely reflection on how, in defining home, we continue to define ourselves.
Translated from the French by Benjamin Ivry, Simone Weil was one of the twentieth century’s most original philosopher-critics, and as a result her legacy has been claimed by many. This memoir by Weil’s niece is strong-willed and incisive and as close as we are likely to get to the real Simone Weil. Born into a freethinking Jewish family, Weil contributed many articles to Socialist and Communist journals and was active in the Spanish Civil War until her health failed.
In 1940 she became strongly attracted to Roman Catholicism and the Passion of Christ. Most of her works, published posthumously, continue to inform debates in ethics, philosophy, and spirituality surrounding questions of sacrifice, asceticism, and the virtues of manual labor. Massively influential, Weil’s writings were widely praised by such readers as Albert Camus, T. S. Eliot, Simone de Beauvoir, Pope John XXIII, Czeslaw Milosz, and Susan Sontag. Sylvie Weil recovers the deeply Jewish nature of Simone’s thinking and details how her preoccupations with charity and justice were fully in the tradition of tzedakah, the Jewish religious obligation toward these actions.
Using previously unpublished family correspondence and conversations, Sylvie Weil offers a more authentically personal portrait of her aunt than previous biographers have provided. At Home with André andSimone Weil illuminates Simone’s relationship to her family, especially to her brother, the great Princeton mathematician André Weil. A clear-eyed and uncompromising memoir of her family, At Homewith André and Simone Weil is a fresh look at the noted French philosopher,mystic, and social activist.
Naturalist and philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore meditates on connection and separation in these twenty-one elegant, probing essays. Using the metaphor of holdfasts—the structures that attach seaweed to rocks with a grip strong enough to withstand winter gales—she examines our connections to our own bedrock.
“When people lock themselves in their houses at night and seal the windows shut to keep out storms, it is possible to forget, sometimes for years and years, that human beings are part of the natural world,” she writes. Holdfast passionately reclaims an awareness of the natural world, exploring the sense of belonging fostered by the communal howls of wolves; the inevitability of losing children to their own lives; the fear of bears and love of storms; the sublimity of life and longing in the creatures of the sea; her agonizing decision when facing her father’s bone-deep pain. As Moore travels philosophically and geographically—from Oregon’s shores to Alaska’s islands—she leaves no doubt of her virtuosity and range.
The new afterword is an important statement on the new responsibilities of nature writers as the world faces the consequences of climate change.