This collective biography of four jazz musicians from Brooklyn, Ghana, and South Africa demonstrates how modern Africa reshaped jazz, how modern jazz helped form a new African identity, and how musical convergences and crossings altered the politics and culture of both continents.
Signaling such recent activist and aesthetic concepts in the work of Kara Walker, Childish Gambino, BLM, Janelle Monáe, and Kendrick Lamar, and marking the exit of the Obama Administration and the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, this anthology explores the role of African American arts in shaping the future, and further informing new directions we might take in honoring and protecting the success of African Americans in the U.S. The essays in African American Arts: Activism, Aesthetics, and Futurity engage readers in critical conversations by activists, scholars, and artists reflecting on national and transnational legacies of African American activism as an element of artistic practice, particularly as they concern artistic expression and race relations, and the intersections of creative processes with economic, sociological, and psychological inequalities. Scholars from the fields of communication, theater, queer studies, media studies, performance studies, dance, visual arts, and fashion design, to name a few, collectively ask: What are the connections between African American arts, the work of social justice, and creative processes? If we conceive the arts as critical to the legacy of Black activism in the United States, how can we use that construct to inform our understanding of the complicated intersections of African American activism and aesthetics? How might we as scholars and creative thinkers further employ the arts to envision and shape a verdant society?
Contributors: Carrie Mae Weems, Carmen Gillespie, Rikki Byrd, Amber Lauren Johnson, Doria E. Charlson, Florencia V. Cornet, Daniel McNeil, Lucy Caplan, Genevieve Hyacinthe, Sammantha McCalla, Nettrice R. Gaskins, Abby Dobson, J. Michael Kinsey, Shondrika Moss-Bouldin, Julie B. Johnson, Sharrell D. Luckett, Jasmine Eileen Coles, Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Rickerby Hinds.
Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
Decades after independence for most African states, the struggle for decolonization is still incomplete, as demonstrated by the fact that Africa remains associated in many Western minds with chaos, illness, and disorder. African and non-African scholars alike still struggle to establish the idea of African humanity, in all its diversity, and to move Africa beyond its historical role as the foil to the West.
As this book shows, Africa’s decolonization is an ongoing process across a range of fronts, and intellectuals—both African and non-African—have significant roles to play in that process. The essays collected here examine issues such as representation and retrospection; the roles of intellectuals in the public sphere; and the fundamental question of how to decolonize African knowledges. African Intellectuals and Decolonization outlines ways in which intellectual practice can serve to de-link Africa from its global representation as a debased, subordinated, deviant, and inferior entity.
Contributors Lesley Cowling, University of the Witwatersrand Nicholas M. Creary, University at Albany Marlene De La Cruz, Ohio University Carolyn Hamilton, University of Cape Town George Hartley, Ohio University Janet Hess, Sonoma State University T. Spreelin McDonald, Ohio University Ebenezer Adebisi Olawuyi, University of Ibadan Steve Odero Ouma, University of Nairobi Oyeronke Oyewumi, State University of New York
at Stony Brook Tsenay Serequeberhan, Morgan State University
Throughout its long and often tumultuous history, “La Hispanola” has taken on various cultural identities to meet the expectations—and especially the demands—of those who governed it. The island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti saw its first great shift with the arrival of Spanish colonists, who eliminated the indigenous population and established a pattern of indifference or hostility to diversity there. This enlightening book explores the Dominican Republic through the lens of its African descendants, beginning with the rise of the black slave trade in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century West Africa, and continuing on to slavery as it existed on the island. An engaging history that vividly details black life in the Dominican Republic, the book investigates the slave rebellions and evaluates the numerous contributions of black slaves to Dominican culture.
The Atlantic slave trade was the largest forced migration in history, yet most of its stories are lost. Randy Sparks examines the few remaining reconstructed experiences of West Africans who lived in the South between 1740 and 1860. Their stories highlight the diversity of struggles that confronted every African who arrived on American shores.
Africans to Spanish America expands the diaspora framework to include Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, and Cuba, exploring the connections and disjunctures between colonial Latin America and the African diaspora in the Spanish empires. Analysis of the regions of Mexico and the Andes opens up new questions of community formation that incorporated Spanish legal strategies in secular and ecclesiastical institutions as well as articulations of multiple African identities. The volume is arranged around three sub-themes: identity construction in the Americas; the struggle by enslaved and free people to present themselves as civilized, Christian, and resistant to slavery; and issues of cultural exclusion and inclusion.
Contributors are Joan Cameron Bristol, Nancy E. van Deusen, Leo Garafalo, Herbert S. Klein, Charles Beatty Medina, Karen Y. Morrison, Rachel Sarah O'Toole, Frank "Trey" Proctor, and Michele B. Reid.
Indigenous people and African descendants in Latin America and the Caribbean have long been affected by a social hierarchy established by elites, through which some groups were racialized and others were normalized. Far from being “racial paradises” populated by an amalgamated “cosmic race” of mulattos and mestizos, Latin America and the Caribbean have long been sites of shifting exploitative strategies and ideologies, ranging from scientific racism and eugenics to the more sophisticated official denial of racism and ethnic difference. This book, among the first to focus on African descendants in the region, brings together diverse reflections from scholars, activists, and funding agency representatives working to end racism and promote human rights in the Americas. By focusing on the ways racism inhibits agency among African descendants and the ways African-descendant groups position themselves in order to overcome obstacles, this interdisciplinary book provides a multi-faceted analysis of one of the gravest contemporary problems in the Americas.
Tourists exult in Bahia, Brazil as a tropical paradise infused with the black population's one-of-a-kind vitality. But the alluring images of smiling black faces and dancing black bodies masks an ugly reality of anti-black authoritarian violence. Christen A. Smith argues that the dialectic of glorified representations of black bodies and subsequent state repression reinforces Brazil's racially hierarchal society. Interpreting the violence as both institutional and performative, Smith follows a grassroots movement and social protest theater troupe in their campaigns against racial violence. As Smith reveals, economies of black pain and suffering form the backdrop for the staged, scripted, and choreographed afro-paradise that dazzles visitors. The work of grassroots organizers exposes this relationship, exploding illusions and asking unwelcome questions about the impact of state violence performed against the still-marginalized mass of Afro-Brazilians.
“Perhaps,” wrote Ralph Ellison more than seventy years ago, “the zoot suit contains profound political meaning; perhaps the symmetrical frenzy of the Lindy-hop conceals clues to great potential power.” As Ellison noted then, many of our most mundane cultural forms are larger and more important than they appear, taking on great significance and an unexpected depth of meaning. What he saw in the power of the Lindy Hop—the dance that Life magazine once billed as “America’s True National Folk Dance”—would spread from black America to make a lasting impression on white America and offer us a truly compelling means of understanding our culture. But with what hidden implications?
In American Allegory, Black Hawk Hancock offers an embedded and embodied ethnography that situates dance within a larger Chicago landscape of segregated social practices. Delving into two Chicago dance worlds, the Lindy and Steppin’, Hancock uses a combination of participant-observation and interviews to bring to the surface the racial tension that surrounds white use of black cultural forms. Focusing on new forms of appropriation in an era of multiculturalism, Hancock underscores the institutionalization of racial disparities and offers wonderful insights into the intersection of race and culture in America.
An intimate ethnographic narrative of one indigenous family in the twentieth-century Caribbean
Among the Garifuna is the first ethnographic narrative of a Garifuna family. The Garifuna are descendants of the “Black Carib,” whom the British deposited on Roatan Island in 1797 and who settled along the Caribbean coast from Belize City to Nicaragua.
In 1980, medical anthropologist Marilyn McKillop Wells found herself embarking on an “improbable journey” when she was invited to the area to do fieldwork with the added challenge of revealing the “real” Garifuna. Upon her arrival on the island, Wells was warmly embraced by a local family, the Diegos, and set to work recording life events and indigenous perspectives on polygyny, Afro-indigenous identity, ancestor-worshiping religion, and more. The result, as represented in Among the Garifuna, is a lovingly intimate, earthy human drama.
The family narrative is organized chronologically. Part I, “The Old Ways,” consists of vignettes that introduce the family backstory with dialogue as imagined by Wells based on the family history she was told. We meet the family progenitors, Margaret and Cervantes Diego, during their courtship, experience Margaret’s pain as Cervantes takes a second wife, witness the death of Cervantes and ensuing mourning rituals, follow the return of Margaret and the children to their previous home in British Honduras, and observe the emergence of the children’s personalities.
In Part II, “Living There,” Wells continues the story when she arrives in Belize and meets the Diego children, including the major protagonist, Tas. In Tas’s household Wells learns about foods and manners and watches family squabbles and reconciliations. In these mini-stories, Wells interweaves cultural information on the Garifuna people with first-person narrative and transcription of their words, assembling these into an enthralling slice of life. Part III, “The Ancestor Party,” takes the reader through a fascinating postmortem ritual that is enacted to facilitate the journey of the spirits of the honored ancestors to the supreme supernatural.
Among the Garifuna contributes to the literary genres of narrative anthropology and feminist ethnography in the tradition of Zora Neal Hurston and other women writing culture in a personal way. Wells’s portrait of this Garifuna family will be of interest to anthropologists, Caribbeanists, Latin Americanists, students, and general readers alike.
Archiving Sovereignty shows how courts use fiction in their treatment of sovereign violence. Law's complicity with imperial and neocolonial practices occurs when courts inscribe and repeat the fabulous tales that provide an alibi for archaic sovereign acts that persist in the present. The United Kingdom's depopulation of islands in the Indian Ocean to serve the United States' neoimperial interests, Australia's exile and abandonment of refugees on remote islands, the failure to acknowledge genocidal acts or colonial dispossession, and the memorial work of the South African Constitution after apartheid are all sustained by historical fictions. This history-work of law constitutes an archive where sovereign violence is mediated, dissimulated, and sustained. Stewart Motha extends the concept of the "archive," as site of origin and source of authority, to signifying what law does in preserving and disavowing the past at the same time.
Sovereignty is often cast as a limit-concept, constituent force, determining the boundary of law. Archiving Sovereignty reverses this to explain how judicial pronouncements inscribe and sustain extravagant claims to exceptionality and sovereign solitude. This wide-ranging, critical work distinguishes between myths that sustain neocolonial orders and fictions that generate new forms of political and ethical life.
In Autochthonomies, Myriam J. A. Chancy engages readers in an interpretive journey. She lays out a radical new process that invites readers to see creations by artists of African descent as legible within the context of African diasporic historical and cultural debates. By invoking a transnational African/diasporic lens and negotiating it through a lakou or ”yard space,” we can see such identities transfigured, recognized, and exchanged. Chancy demonstrates how the process can examine the salient features of texts and art that underscore African/diasporic sensibilities and render them legible. What emerges is a potential for richer readings of African diasporic works that also ruptures the Manichean binary dynamics that have dominated previous interpretations of the material. The result: an enriching interpretive mode focused on the transnational connections between subjects of African descent as the central pole for reader investigation.
A bold challenge to established scholarship, Autochthonomies ranges from Africa to Europe and the Americas to provide powerful new tools for charting the transnational interactions between African cultural producers and sites.