Category Archives: Race book

Research today

Ultimately, what really defines whiteness is not melanin or nationality – it’s power. And while demographics may be shifting, Kenneth Prewitt, a former director of the United States Census Bureau, is sceptical that whites will ever be a minority. White people will “figure out some way to reshuffle the deck”, he told me, finding new ways to bolster their numbers and protect white privilege. Perhaps, in the near future, he suggests, successful Asians (now classed as “honorary whites”) will undergo a similar process to the Irish and become “white.” When you look at the mutable history of whiteness the idea is certainly not beyond the pale.

Meanwhile, here is a map of lynching in America.

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The muse of history

I. CLIO
“let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth”

The past’s fantasia cannot hold or let
us go. Flycatcher catching itself in
the pool’s glint gaze, Samarkand where Tamerlane
hewed his bloody thread, unspooling across
the hacked-to-pieces field, a triple axle
splitting Clio’s cataract, muddy then
clear, the opal of a rain-sheened open
eye that looks at nothing but yet holds
our look.
Euterpe, my head is in my hands.
Flies speckle the field. The sizer, hissing,
straps dynamite to a waist no bigger
than a fly’s wing span, but the daughters
of Babylon do not tarry—the road flares
burn blue, bog irises, erect, quivering.

The poem has five parts, and that was the first. I liked it and wanted to study it, but wrote on my copy of it that I must see about deadlines for the ERIP conference in Morelia, and remember to find the book Lower Education. So I am studying the poem here.

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Filed under ALFS presentation, Poetry, Race book

Encore des nouvelles. On modernity, and on race.

– Thursday is César Vallejo’s birthday and he will be 125.

– This, as we know, could also be about Vallejo, as it is about many:

Living in Budapest, connected to a self-confident and industrializing West but set apart from it by language and often religion, Polanyi and his contemporaries embodied one of the central facts about the cultural and political ferment that we often equate with modernism: Its vitality depended on the admixture of a modern social order and outlook with often archaic folk communities. (Bartók’s music is a classic example.)

Polanyi is one of many intellectuals I would like to understand.

I am interested also in the conversion of the Jews in the nineteenth century, as both Marx’ and Heinrich Heine’s parents converted, as my ancestor did. Polanyi and other twentieth century figures longed, says Gareth Dale, for “a social order in which the entire issue of assimilation would be an irrelevance.” (It could be worth reading the book whose review I refer here to learn more about what this meant then, because it is yet another experience of race and difference in the high modernist period.)

Then there is Marisol de la Cadena:

…mestizo and mestizaje…are doubly hybrid. On the one hand they house an empirical hybridity, built upon eighteenth and nineteenth century racial taxonomies and according to which ‘mestizos’ are non-indigenous individuals, the result of biological or cultural mixtures. Yet, mestizos’ genealogy starts earlier, when ‘mixture’ denoted transgression of the rule of faith, and its statutes of purity. Within this taxonomic regime mestizos could be, at the same time, indigenous. Apparently dominant, racial theories sustained by scientific knowledge mixed with, (rather than cancel) previous faith based racial taxonomies. ‘Mestizo’ thus houses a conceptual hybridity – the mixture of two classificatory regimes – which reveals subordinate alternatives for mestizo subject positions, including forms of indigeneity.

Y sí, and that is what the talk the other day did not address, and it is key for my piece on Isaacs: there is racial and religious mestizaje that stand in for each other. THIS is a good insight, I do think. (About mestizaje itself, the other way in which the word or concept “means in two accents” is that it is deployed in both oppressive and utopian or liberating ways.)

And Isaacs is another 19th century person, working on the conversion of the Jews, and there is a connection here.

(I so must create a system in which to put all these thoughts together.)

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Filed under Bibliography, Movement, Race book, Theories

Des joies du printemps.

A map shows each country’s current second language. Saudi Arabia’s is Tagalog.

That New Orleans-Havana connection.

*

Russia in 1921, as represented at a conference of London trade unionists, held in the Friars Hall, Blackfriars Road, London, held on May 7 of that year. Here, the report’s author visits Russia.

Volin’s anarchist analysis of the Revolution.

Red Army in Tblisi, 1921, and a parade on Red Square in 1917.

Butyrskaya, where four of my relatives were held in 1921. Aizenman was in a labor camp near Moscow. Later Voskresensky (one of the four mentioned above) was required to work in some type of prison, also near Moscow.

Famine was bad in that year and to me things in Russia look terrible before, during, and after the Revolution, as well as now. From Riga in 1921, Emma Goldman said her stay in Russia had convinced her that anarchism was the only sound system.

*

Seven new planets and a new star.

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Filed under A.V. Bari, Race book

Beatriz Preciado

¿Y qué aportan esos ‘detritus del sistema’, como usted los llama?

Inventan nuevas formas de relación personal y política que se salen de una coordenada que engancha con las políticas coloniales del siglo XV y que tienen que ver con la familia, la nación, la raza. Esa línea se ha agotado, hay que abrirse a lo no familiar, no nacional, no racial, no generizado.

Read.

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She is Cuba

I have to get this book at Tulane. It is so tempting to just click “buy,” but no. Ideally, I not even check the book out: I will go there, read, and leave having actually conducted research. Or I will become very serious and use interlibrary loan, despite not liking to do this online.

I do not know where my copy of The Dialogic Imagination is (that is a disadvantage of having too many books), but amazingly we have it at our very own library. There are other things we have: Burke, Raymond Williams, some of Koselleck, and it is impressive. The 1983 edition of Williams’ book is online.

In the meantime, here is a neo-surrealist film about race and consciousness, that was recommended by our friend Junot Díaz and that should be seen. Also, there is this journal Contretemps, that is Communist and I used to flee dogma, but I think some serious left theory may be needed now.

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A modernidade negra

Of Agamben, I was going to read the author as gesture. So I have remembered.

I am looking through my files and finding my things. I once printed and wrote on this article by S. P. Guimarães, and kept the copy for years as I waited to work with it. I am going to take notes on my notes now, so I can recycle the printout. I will not require myself to reread the entire text, or to order these notes; nor shall I write the notes in such a way as to make them comprehensible to anyone knowing less about its topic than I do.

It is a long article, over 50pp. in typescript, written in sections that are called chapters; I should find out where it was actually published (in the early 21st century). Black intellectuals and modernity in Brazil, it is called. It is smart, and starts out with a discussion of modernity as a Western (and colonialist) notion. It places the Others of the West outside itself. It also likes revolution and expansion, and thus comes to include elements of this Otherness in itself and even recognizes Other peoples as creators of civilization. So modernity “tal como ocorreu” is the fruit of Europe’s malaise. Black modernity takes part in this process in a very specific way, says Guimarães, and his text discusses this.

Some of the notes I took on the manuscript were:

+ It was the Movimento Negro Unificado, not academics, who deconstructed the myth of racial democracy
+ Racial discrimination in Brazil exists, it is just more implicit and subtle than was [Jim Crow-style discrimination]; black people in Brazil sought assimilation to the national culture but sought to create their own culture in the U.S.; in both cases, blackness meant opposition to an “Anglo-Saxon” ideal (I say the construction of the “Anglo-Saxon” in Iberian and Ibero-American cultural discourse is a question of great interest, by the way)
+ Convivência social with white people does not necessarily mean a good life or an end to discrimination
+ Many Brazilian intellectuals have studied “o negro” as object of study; black intellectuals themselves have not gotten this kind of attention as a class
+ Both Sílvio Romero and Paulo Prado wanted the extinction of the “negro” and importation of European workers
+ Important, and I am not sure whether this is Guimarães speaking or me speaking, noticing that he supports me: modernidade negra involves (a) the romantic inclusion of non-European origins as possible origins of the nation and (b) abolition, so that negros can join modernity as citizens
+ Harlem renaissance was not a black movement but a negotiation between black writers and white audiences; other modern/primitive negotiations of the period are similar; Guimarães points out that this is a white thing: for them, the negro could be equal if (s)he remained different
+ race consciousness among negros was strongest in S.P. due to the importation of European workers; black intellectuals were interested in inclusion in and assimilation to national culture
+ Black culture, black identities as ethnogenesis
+ The idea of “race” is imported; creation of Frente Negra Brasileira (1931) was possible because of this importation (see p. 16); this is why we have “cultura afro-brasileira” (a national term) and the idea of “cultura negra” did not take hold until the 1960s. (Can this be true? Does Guimarães agree? He seems to accept it on some pages, and disagree on others.)
+ He does say that “negro” in Brazil was a political, not a cultural identity until the 1970s; this is interesting
+ Consider the journal Quilombo, published by Abdias do Nascimento, RJ 1948-1950
+ The word “raça” has often referred to a believed-in idea of race as breed or biological category, and it may be for this reason it is disliked (there is a lot in this article about connections to US ideas and vocabulary, from early on, and interesting quotations from SP black newspapers of the 1920s)
+ An important US idea (cf. DuBois) is wanting to preserve black culture — not wanting to be absorbed into a (white) nation. Os negros brasileiros seem to feel differently, not to feel like a separate culture — race and blackness mean African cultural values, and/but are not considered part of a separate nation as in the US and in the Francophone world. So Afro-Brazilian culture may have overlappings with other black cultures / world black cultures, but it isn’t the same as the black culture of Pan-Africanism.
+ Modernismo in Brazil goes in a different direction from the New Negro Movement or Negritude, because it represented motivos negros as belonging to the culture in general and as being mestiços (syncretism, not the creation of a different or separate ethnic identity, was the sign of Brazilian modernism)
+ Abdias do Nascimento was one of those who believed in mixture, not a separate cultura negra; where the idea of a separate culture appears, it is seen as more negative, more primitive, not more civilized. And part of the reason why the idea of cultura negra did appear in the 1960s was that democracy had ended in Brazil, and had to be sought internationally–in this case, in the Black Atlantic
+ But Quilombo was still a publication with a black identity
+ Important: democracia racial may be a white idea originally, but it was reinterpreted and deployed by black intellectuals to their ends
+ Interesting: the creation of national identities is not always an answer to the same question (simple example of different questions: what is the Brazilian people? and what is Brazil?)

There is a lot more in this piece.

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