In the tradition of Eric Lott's award-winning Love and Theft, Hartman's new book shows how the violence of captivity and enslavement was embodied in many of the performance practices that grew from, and about, slave culture in antebellum America. Using tools from anthropology and history as well as literary criticism, she examines a wealth of material, including songs, dance, stories, diaries, narratives, and journals to provide new insights into a range of issues. She looks particularlyat the presentations of slavery and blackness in minstrelsy, melodrama, and the sentimental novel; the disparity between actual slave culture and "managed" plantation amusements; the construction of slave culture in nineteenth-century ethnographic writing; the rhetorical performance of slave law and slave narratives; the dimension of slave performance practice; and the political consciousness of folklore. Particularly provocative is her analysis of the slave pen and auction block, which transmogrified terror into theatre, and her reading of the rhetoric of seduction in slavery law and legal cases concerning rape. Persuasively showing that the exercise of power is inseparable from its display, Scenes of Subjection will interest readers involved in a wide range of historical, literary, and cultural studies.
In this provocative and original exploration of racial subjugation during slavery and its aftermath, Saidiya Hartman illumines the forms of terror and resistance that shaped black identity. Scenes of Subjection examines the forms of domination that usually go undetected; in particular, the encroachments of power that take place through notions of humanity, enjoyment, protection, rights, and consent. By looking at slave narratives, plantation diaries, popular theater, slave performance, freedmen's primers, and legal cases, Hartman investigates a wide variety of "scenes" ranging from the auction block and minstrel show to the staging of the self-possessed and rights-bearing individual of freedom. While attentive to the performance of power—the terrible spectacles of slaveholders' dominion and the innocent amusements designed to abase and pacify the enslaved—and the entanglements of pleasure and terror in these displays of mastery, Hartman also examines the possibilities for resistance, redress and transformation embodied in black performance and everyday practice. This important study contends that despite the legal abolition of slavery, emergent notions of individual will and responsibility revealed the tragic continuities between slavery and freedom. Bold and persuasively argued, Scenes of Subjection will engage readers in a broad range of historical, literary, and cultural studies.
In this far-ranging and penetrating work, Denise Ferreira da Silva asks why, after more than five hundred years of violence perpetrated by Europeans against people of color, is there no ethical outrage? Rejecting the prevailing view that social categories of difference such as race and culture operate solely as principles of exclusion, Silva presents a critique of modern thought that shows how racial knowledge and power produce global space. Looking at the United States and Brazil, she argues that modern subjects are formed in philosophical accounts that presume two ontological moments—historicity and globality—which are refigured in the concepts of the nation and the racial, respectively. By displacing historicity’s ontological prerogative, Silva proposes that the notion of racial difference governs the present global power configuration because it institutes moral regions not covered by the leading post-Enlightenment ethical ideals—namely, universality and self-determination. By introducing a view of the racial as the signifier of globalit y,Toward a Global Idea of Race provides a new basis for the investigation of past and present modern social processes and contexts of subjection. Denise Ferreira da Silva is associate professor of ethnic studies at University of California, San Diego.
Black, White, and in Color offers a long-awaited collection of major essays by Hortense Spillers, one of the most influential and inspiring black critics of the past twenty years. Spanning her work from the early 1980s, in which she pioneered a broadly poststructuralist approach to African American literature, and extending through her turn to cultural studies in the 1990s, these essays display her passionate commitment to reading as a fundamentally political act-one pivotal to rewriting the humanist project. Spillers is best known for her race-centered revision of psychoanalytic theory and for her subtle account of the relationships between race and gender. She has also given literary criticism some of its most powerful readings of individual authors, represented here in seminal essays on Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks, and William Faulkner. Ultimately, the essays collected in Black, White, and in Color all share Spillers's signature style: heady, eclectic, and astonishingly productive of new ideas. Anyone interested in African American culture and literature will want to read them.
Traces the history of the Atlantic slave trade by recounting a journey the author took along a slave route in Ghana, vividly dramatizing the effects of slavery on three centuries of African and African-American history.
Performance and identity in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Arican-American creative work.
W. C. Handy waking up to the blues on a train platform, Buddy Bolden eavesdropping on the drums at Congo Square, John Lomax taking his phonograph recorder into a southern penitentiary - in Disturbing the Peace, Bryan Wagner revises the history of the black vernacular tradition and gives a new account of black culture by reading these myths in the context of the tradition's ongoing engagement with the law.
Prior to the 1960s, when African Americans had little access to formal political power, black popular culture was commonly seen as a means of forging community and effecting political change. But as Richard Iton shows, despite the changes politics, black artists have continued to play a significant role in the making of critical social spaces.
Visual texts uniquely demonstrate the contested terms of American identity. In American Archives Shawn Michelle Smith offers a bold and disturbing account of how photography and the sciences of biological racialism joined forces in the nineteenth century to offer an idea of what Americans look like--or "should" look like. Her varied sources, which include the middle-class portrait, baby picture, criminal mugshot, and eugenicist record, as well as literary, scientific, and popular texts, enable her to demonstrate how new visual paradigms posed bodily appearance as an index to interior "essence." Ultimately we see how competing preoccupations over gender, class, race, and American identity were played out in the making of a wide range of popular and institutional photographs. Smith demonstrates that as the body was variously mapped and defined as the key to essentialized identities, the image of the white middle-class woman was often held up as the most complete American ideal. She begins by studying gendered images of middle-class domesticity to expose a transformation of feminine architectures of interiority into the "essences" of "blood," "character," and "race." She reads visual documents, as well as literary texts by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Pauline Hopkins, and Theodore Dreiser, as both indices of and forms of resistance to dominant images of gender, class, race, and national identity. Through this analysis Smith shows how the white male gaze that sought to define and constrain white women and people of color was contested and transformed over the course of the nineteenth century. Smith identifies nineteenth-century visual paradigms that continue to shape debates about the terms of American belonging today. American Archives contributes significantly to the growing field of American visual cultural studies, and it is unprecedented in explaining how practices of racialized looking and the parameters of "American looks" were established in the first place.
Arguing that the fundamental, familiar, sexual violence of slavery and racialized subjugation have continued to shape black and white subjectivities into the present, Christina Sharpe interprets African diasporic and Black Atlantic visual and literary texts that address those “monstrous intimacies” and their repetition as constitutive of post-slavery subjectivity. Her illuminating readings juxtapose Frederick Douglass’s narrative of witnessing the brutal beating of his Aunt Hester with Essie Mae Washington-Williams’s declaration of freedom in Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond, as well as the “generational genital fantasies” depicted in Gayl Jones’s novel Corregidora with a firsthand account of such “monstrous intimacies” in the journals of an antebellum South Carolina senator, slaveholder, and vocal critic of miscegenation. Sharpe explores the South African–born writer Bessie Head’s novel Maru—about race, power, and liberation in Botswana—in light of the history of the KhoiSan woman Saartje Baartman, who was displayed in Europe as the “Hottentot Venus” in the nineteenth century. Reading Isaac Julien’s film The Attendant, Sharpe takes up issues of representation, slavery, and the sadomasochism of everyday black life. Her powerful meditation on intimacy, subjection, and subjectivity culminates in an analysis of Kara Walker’s black silhouettes, and the critiques leveled against both the silhouettes and the artist.
"In his study, Green tells the story of how this unified consciousness was shaped. With this portrayal of black life - complemented by a dozen works of the Chicago photographer Wayne F. Miller - Green ultimately presents African Americans as agents, rather than casualties, of modernity, reenvisioning urban existence in a way that will resonate with anyone interested in race, culture, or the life of cities."--Jacket.
Profiles African American lawyers during the era of segregation and the civil rights movement, with an emphasis on the conflicts they felt between their identities as African Americans and their professional identities as lawyers.
An illuminating look at the concepts of race, nation, and equality in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century America, The idea that "all men are created equal" is as close to a universal tenet as exists in American history. In this hard-hitting book, David Kazanjian interrogates this tenet, exploring transformative flash points in early America when the belief in equality came into contact with seemingly contrary ideas about race and nation. The Colonizing Trick depicts early America as a white settler colony in the process of becoming an empire--one deeply integrated with Euro-American political economy, imperial ventures in North America and Africa, and pan-American racial formations. Kazanjian traces tensions between universal equality and racial or national particularity through theoretically informed critical readings of a wide range of texts: the political writings of David Walker and Maria Stewart, the narratives of black mariners, economic treatises, the personal letters of Thomas Jefferson and Phillis Wheatley, Charles Brockden Brown's fiction, congressional tariff debats, international treaties, and popular novelettes about the U.S.-Mexico War and the Yucatan's Caste War. Kazanjian shows how emergent racial and national formations do not contradict universalist egalitarianism; rather, they rearticulate it, making equality at once restricted, formal, abstract, and materially embodied.
Viet Nguyen argues that Asian American intellectuals need to examine their own assumptions about race, culture and politics, and makes his case through the example of literature.
In Sites of Slavery Salamishah Tillet examines how contemporary African American artists and intellectuals—including Annette Gordon-Reed, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Bill T. Jones, Carrie Mae Weems, and Kara Walker—turn to the subject of slavery in order to understand and challenge the ongoing exclusion of African Americans from the founding narratives of the United States.
Barack Obama’s historic presidency has re-inserted mixed race into the national conversation. While the troubled and pejorative history of racial amalgamation throughout U.S. history is a familiar story, The United States of the United Races reconsiders an understudied optimist tradition, one which has praised mixture as a means to create a new people, bring equality to all, and fulfill an American destiny. In this genealogy, Greg Carter re-envisions racial mixture as a vehicle for pride and a way for citizens to examine mixed America as a better America. Tracing the centuries-long conversation that began with Hector St. John de Crevecoeur’s Letters of an American Farmer in the 1780s through to the Mulitracial Movement of the 1990s and the debates surrounding racial categories on the U.S. Census in the twenty-first century, Greg Carter explores a broad range of documents and moments, unearthing a new narrative that locates hope in racial mixture. Carter traces the reception of the concept as it has evolved over the years, from and decade to decade and century to century, wherein even minor changes in individual attitudes have paved the way for major changes in public response. The United States of the United Races sweeps away an ugly element of U.S. history, replacing it with a new understanding of race in America.
In this original and trenchant work, Christina Sharpe interrogates literary, visual, cinematic, and quotidian representations of Black life that comprise what she calls the "orthography of the wake." Activating multiple registers of "wake"—the path behind a ship, keeping watch with the dead, coming to consciousness—Sharpe illustrates how Black lives are swept up and animated by the afterlives of slavery, and she delineates what survives despite such insistent violence and negation. Initiating and describing a theory and method of reading the metaphors and materiality of "the wake," "the ship," "the hold," and "the weather," Sharpe shows how the sign of the slave ship marks and haunts contemporary Black life in the diaspora and how the specter of the hold produces conditions of containment, regulation, and punishment, but also something in excess of them. In the weather, Sharpe situates anti-Blackness and white supremacy as the total climate that produces premature Black death as normative. Formulating the wake and "wake work" as sites of artistic production, resistance, consciousness, and possibility for living in diaspora, In the Wake offers a way forward.
Cultural hybridity is a celebrated hallmark of U.S. American music and identity. Yet hybrid music is all too often marked -and marketed - under a single racial label. Resounding Afro Asia examines music projects that counter this convention; these projects instead foreground racial mixture in players, audiences, and sound in the very face of the ghettoizing culture industry. Giving voice to four contemporary projects, author Tamara Roberts traces black/Asian engagements that reach across the United States and beyond: Funkadesi, Yoko Noge, Fred Ho and the Afro Asian Music Ensemble, and Red Baraat. From Indian funk & reggae, to Japanese folk & blues, to jazz in various Asian and African traditions, to Indian brass band and New Orleans second line, these artists live multiracial lives in which they inhabit - and yet exceed - multicultural frameworks built on essentialism and segregation. When these musicians collaborate, they generate and perform racially marked sounds that do not conform to their individual racial identities. The Afro Asian artists discussed in this book splinter the expectations of racial determinism, and through improvisation and composition, articulate new identities and subjectivities in conversation with each other. These dynamic social, aesthetic, and sonic practices construct a forum for the negotiation of racial and cultural difference and the formation of inter-minority solidarities. Resounding Afro Asia joins a growing body of literature that is writing Asian American artists back into U.S. popular music history, while highlighting interracial engagements that have fueled U.S. music making. The book will appeal to scholars of music, ethnomusicology, race theory, and politics, as well as those interested in race and popular music.