Accent on Privilege looks at the complexities of immigration, asking how native and immigrant construct race, gender, class and national identity. Katharine Jones investigates how white English immigrants live in the United States and how they use their status as privileged foreigners to gain the upper hand with Americans. Their privilege, she finds, is created by both American Anglophilia and the ways they perform their identities as "proper" English women and men in their host country. Jones looks at the cultural aspects of this performance: how English people play up their accents, "stiff upper lip," sense of humor and fashion—even the way they drink beer.
The political and cultural ties between England and the US act as a backdrop for the identity negotiations of these English people, many of whom do not even consider themselves to be immigrants. This unique exploration of the workings of white privilege offers an important new understanding of the paradoxes of how class, gender, and race are formed in the US and, by implication, in the UK.
Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, Malcolm X—their words speak firmly, eloquently, personally of the impact of white America on the lives of African-Americans. Black autobiographical discourses, from the earliest slave narratives to the most contemporary urban raps, have each in their own way gauged and confronted the character of white society. For Crispin Sartwell, as philosopher, cultural critic, and white male, these texts, through their exacting insights and external perspective, provide a rare opportunity, a means of glimpsing and gaining access to contents and core of white identity.
There is, Sartwell contends, a fundamental elusiveness to that identity. Whiteness defines itself as normative, as a neutral form of the human condition, marking all other forms of identity as "racial" or "ethnic" deviations. Invisible to itself, white identity seeks to define its essence over and against those other identities, in effect defining itself through opposition and oppression. By maintaining fictions of black licentiousness, violence, and corruption, white identity is able to cast itself as humane, benevolent, and pure; the stereotype fabricates not only the oppressed but the oppressor as well. Sartwell argues that African-American autobiography perceives white identity from a particular and unique vantage point; one that is knowledgeable and intimate, yet fundamentally removed from the white world and thus unencumbered by its obfuscating claims to normativity.
Throughout this provocative work, Sartwell steadfastly recognizes the many ways in which he too is implicated in the formulation and perpetuation of racial attitudes and discourse. In Act Like You Know, he challenges both himself and others to take a long, hard look in the mirror of African-American autobiography, and to find there, in the light of those narratives, the visible features of white identity.
In Advertising Diversity Shalini Shankar explores how racial and ethnic differences are created and commodified through advertisements, marketing, and public relations. Drawing from periods of fieldwork she conducted over four years at Asian American ad agencies in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, Shankar illustrates the day-to-day process of creating and producing broadcast and internet advertisements. She examines the adaptation of general market brand identities for Asian American audiences, the ways ad executives make Asian cultural and linguistic concepts accessible to their clients, and the differences between casting Asian Americans in ads for general and multicultural markets. Shankar argues that as a form of racialized communication, advertising shapes the political and social status of Asian Americans, transforming them from "model minorities" to "model consumers." Asian Americans became visible in the twenty-first century United States through a process Shankar calls "racial naturalization." Once seen as foreign, their framing as model consumers has legitimized their presence in the American popular culture landscape. By making the category of Asian American suitable for consumption, ad agencies shape and refine the population they aim to represent.
Affirmative Reaction explores the cultural politics of heteronormative white masculine privilege in the United States. Through close readings of texts ranging from the popular television drama 24 to the Marvel Comics miniseries The Call of Duty, and from the reality show American Chopper to the movie Million Dollar Baby, Hamilton Carroll argues that the true privilege of white masculinity—and its defining strategy—is not to be unmarked, universal, or invisible, but to be mobile and mutable. He describes how, in response to the perceived erosions of privilege produced by post–civil rights era identity politics, white masculinity has come to rely on the very discourses of difference that unsettled its claims on the universal; it has redefined itself as a marginalized identity.
Throughout Affirmative Reaction, Carroll examines the kinds of difference white masculinity claims for itself as it attempts to hold onto or maintain majority privilege. Whether these are traditional sites of minority difference—such as Irishness, white trash, or domestic melodrama—or reworked sites of masculinist investment—including laboring bodies, public-sphere politics, and vigilantism—the outcome is the same: the foregrounding of white masculinity over and against women, people of color, and the non-heteronormative. By revealing the strategies through which white masculinity is produced as a formal difference, Carroll sheds new light on the ways that privilege is accrued and maintained.
In this illuminating history, Leslie M. Alexander chronicles the development of Black activism in New York from the formation of the first Black organization, the African Society, in 1784 to the eve of the Civil War in 1861. In this critical period, Black activists sought to formulate an effective response to their unequal freedom. Examining Black newspapers, speeches, and organizational records, this study documents the creation of mutual relief, religious, and political associations, which Black men and women infused with African cultural traditions and values. In the end, the Black leadership resolved to assert an American identity and to expand their mission for full equality and citizenship, signaling a new phase in the quest for racial advancement and fostering the creation of a nascent Black Nationalism.
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.
George Reid Andrews Harvard University Press, 2016 Library of Congress F1419.N4A64 2016 | Dewey Decimal 305.80098
Two-thirds of Africans, both free and enslaved, who came to the Americas from 1500 to 1870 came to Spanish America and Brazil. Yet Afro-Latin Americans have been excluded from narratives of their hemisphere’s history. George Reid Andrews redresses this omission by making visible the lives and labors of black Latin Americans in the New World.
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.
In Against the Closet, Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman interrogates and challenges cultural theorists' interpretations of sexual transgression in African American literature. She argues that, from the mid-nineteenth century through the twentieth, black writers used depictions of erotic transgression to contest popular theories of identity, pathology, national belonging, and racial difference in American culture. Connecting metaphors of sexual transgression to specific historical periods, Abdur-Rahman explains how tropes such as sadomasochism and incest illuminated the psychodynamics of particular racial injuries and suggested forms of social repair and political redress from the time of slavery, through post-Reconstruction and the civil rights and black power movements, to the late twentieth century.
Abdur-Rahman brings black feminist, psychoanalytic, critical race, and poststructuralist theories to bear on literary genres from slave narratives to science fiction. Analyzing works by African American writers, including Frederick Douglass, Pauline Hopkins, Harriet Jacobs, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler, she shows how literary representations of transgressive sexuality expressed the longings of African Americans for individual and collective freedom. Abdur-Rahman contends that those representations were fundamental to the development of African American forms of literary expression and modes of political intervention and cultural self-fashioning.
In Alien Capital Iyko Day retheorizes the history and logic of settler colonialism by examining its intersection with capitalism and the racialization of Asian immigrants to Canada and the United States. Day explores how the historical alignment of Asian bodies and labor with capital's abstract and negative dimensions became one of settler colonialism's foundational and defining features. This alignment allowed white settlers to gloss over and expunge their complicity with capitalist exploitation from their collective memory. Day reveals this process through an analysis of a diverse body of Asian North American literature and visual culture, including depictions of Chinese railroad labor in the 1880s, filmic and literary responses to Japanese internment in the 1940s, and more recent examinations of the relations between free trade, national borders, and migrant labor. In highlighting these artists' reworking and exposing of the economic modalities of Asian racialized labor, Day pushes beyond existing approaches to settler colonialism as a Native/settler binary to formulate it as a dynamic triangulation of Native, settler, and alien populations and positionalities.
“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.
In 1997, when the New York Times described Filipino American serial killer Andrew Cunanan as appearing “to be everywhere and nowhere,” Allan Punzalan Isaac recognized confusion about the Filipino presence in the United States, symptomatic of American imperialism’s invisibility to itself. In American Tropics, Isaac explores American fantasies about the Philippines and other “unincorporated” parts of the U.S. nation that obscure the contradictions of a democratic country possessing colonies.Isaac boldly examines the American empire’s images of the Philippines in turn-of-the-century legal debates over Puerto Rico, Progressive-era popular literature set in Latin American borderlands, and midcentury Hollywood cinema staged in Hawai‘i and the Pacific islands. Isaac scrutinizes media coverage of the Cunanan case, Boy Scout adventure novels, and Hollywood films such as The Real Glory (1939) and Blue Hawaii (1961) to argue that territorial sites of occupation are an important part of American identity. American Tropics further reveals the imperial imagination’s role in shaping national meaning in novels such as Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart (1946) and Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters (1990), Filipino American novels forced to articulate the empire’s enfolded but disavowed borders.Tracing the American empire from the beginning of the twentieth century to Philippine liberation and the U.S. civil rights movement, American Tropics lays bare Filipino Americans’ unique form of belonging marked indelibly by imperialism and at odds with U.S. racial politics and culture.Allan Punzalan Isaac is assistant professor of English at Wesleyan University.
Performance artist and scholar E. Patrick Johnson’s provocative study examines how blackness is appropriated and performed—toward widely divergent ends—both within and outside African American culture. Appropriating Blackness develops from the contention that blackness in the United States is necessarily a politicized identity—avowed and disavowed, attractive and repellent, fixed and malleable. Drawing on performance theory, queer studies, literary analysis, film criticism, and ethnographic fieldwork, Johnson describes how diverse constituencies persistently try to prescribe the boundaries of "authentic" blackness and how performance highlights the futility of such enterprises.
Johnson looks at various sites of performed blackness, including Marlon Riggs’s influential documentary Black Is . . . Black Ain’t and comedic routines by Eddie Murphy, David Alan Grier, and Damon Wayans. He analyzes nationalist writings by Amiri Baraka and Eldridge Cleaver, the vernacular of black gay culture, an oral history of his grandmother’s experience as a domestic worker in the South, gospel music as performed by a white Australian choir, and pedagogy in a performance studies classroom. By exploring the divergent aims and effects of these performances—ranging from resisting racism, sexism, and homophobia to excluding sexual dissidents from the black community—Johnson deftly analyzes the multiple significations of blackness and their myriad political implications. His reflexive account considers his own complicity, as ethnographer and teacher, in authenticating narratives of blackness.
"This diverse collection, like Asian America itself, adds up to something far more vibrant than the sum of its voices."
-Eric Liu, author of The Accidental Asian
"There's fury, dignity, and self-awareness in these essays. I found the voices to be energetic and the ideas exciting."
-Diana Son, playwright (Stop Kiss) and co-producer (Law & Order: Criminal Intent)
This refreshing and timely collection of coming-of-age essays, edited and written by young Asian Americans, powerfully captures the joys and struggles of their evolving identities as one of the fastest-growing groups in the nation and poignantly depicts the many oft-conflicting ties they feel to both American and Asian cultures. The essays also highlight the vast cultural diversity within the category of Asian American, yet ultimately reveal how these young people are truly American in their ideals and dreams.
Asian American X is more than a book on identity; it is required reading both for young Asian Americans who seek to understand themselves and their social group, and for all who are interested in keeping abreast of the changing American social terrain.
Eleanor Ty's bold exploration of literature, plays, and film reveals how young Asian Americans and Asian Canadians have struggled with the ethos of self-sacrifice preached by their parents. This new generation's narratives focus on protagonists disenchanted with their daily lives. Many are depressed. Some are haunted by childhood memories of war, trauma, and refugee camps. Rejecting an obsession with professional status and money, they seek fulfillment by prioritizing relationships, personal growth, and cultural success. As Ty shows, these storytellers have done more than reject a narrowly defined road to happiness. They have rejected neoliberal capitalism itself. In so doing, they demand that the rest of us reconsider our outmoded ideas about the so-called model minority.
What constitutes “blackness” in American culture? And who gets to define whether or not someone is truly African American? Is a struggling hip-hop artist more “authentic” than a conservative Supreme Court justice? In Authentic Blackness J. Martin Favor looks to the New Negro Movement—also known as the Harlem Renaissance—to explore early challenges to the idea that race is a static category. Authentic Blackness looks at the place of the “folk”—those African Americans “furthest down,” in the words of Alain Locke—and how the representation of the folk and the black middle class both spurred the New Negro Movement and became one of its most serious points of contention. Drawing on vernacular theories of African American literature from such figures as Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Houston Baker as well as theorists Judith Butler and Stuart Hall, Favor looks closely at the work of four Harlem Renaissance fiction writers: James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, George Schuyler, and Jean Toomer. Arguing that each of these writers had, at best, an ambiguous relationship to African American folk culture, Favor demonstrates how they each sought to redress the notion of a fixed black identity. Authentic Blackness illustrates how “race” has functioned as a type of performative discourse, a subjectivity that simultaneously builds and conceals its connections with such factors as class, gender, sexuality, and geography.