Version classiqueVersion mobile

Diasporas, Cultures of Mobilities, ‘Race’ 3

Corinne Duboin
Claudine Raynaud


Texte intégral

1Michael A. Gomez

2 Peregrinations of ‘Blackness’ and Race across Time and Space: The Impulse of Mitigation

3While there are differences between the societies of the Persian Gulf and Morocco, there are even greater divergences between those societies and those of the Americas, especially the Dominican Republic. And yet, notwithstanding cultural chasms between such spaces, they tend to become more symmetrical with respect to race; that is, and to be more precise, the experiences and statuses of African-descended populations within these societies are far more similar to one another than dissimilar. Certain historical events can be identified, particularly in Morocco and the Dominican Republic, that help explain these experiences and statuses, constituting the mechanisms by which these conditions came into existence. But even so, it is striking that historical particularity nonetheless issues into recognizably comparable circumstances, for which a rumination into the broader meaning and pattern of diaspora among African-descended communities is offered.

4Delphine Gras

5 In the Steps of the Griots: Traveling Bards in Shay Youngblood’s Black Girl in Paris

6This paper explores the figure of the griot in Shay Youngblood’s Black Girl in Paris (2000). More precisely, it traces how the protagonist Eden becomes an itinerant bard, historian, and exhorter who retraces Black Atlantic routes while proudly asserting her roots as member of the African Diaspora. Through her mental and physical journeys, the heroine creates cartographies of experience that seek to better express one’s feelings and grow as individual and as artist, attesting to the need to maintain a sense of imagined community to fight the lasting effects of racism as a global phenomenon, a discrimination that she feels doubly as a Black woman. Following her predecessors James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, the protagonist comes to embody a new generation of bards who encourage us to look at the past and learn not to declare too quickly a ‘post-race’ era. She represents a new generation of griots, those Jean Ouédraogo fits under the category of ‘griot novateur ou explorateur’ (86), because their roles go beyond upholding tradition and keeping a record of history. But while Ouédraogo focuses on works set in West Africa, I expand this definition to include writers like Youngblood who also carry on the legacy of the griots, their art outliving colonialism and slavery. In fact under the pen of a writer like Youngblood, who answers Amiri Baraka’s call to offer ‘what the Griot/Djali provided, information, inspiration, reformation, and self-determination’ (Suso 82), the griots’ art finds a new breath in the Americas.

7D. Quentin Miller

8 South by Southeast: James Baldwin in Provence

9Despite the relative longevity of Saint-Paul-de-Vence as James Baldwin’s place of residence, critics have paid much less attention to it than they have to Paris and to Istanbul, where he spent his first two periods of exile. Saint-Paul was a peaceful refuge for Baldwin, far removed from the turbulence of American race relations and the burdens of publicity in cultural centers like New York and Paris. Yet Saint-Paul was more than just another site of exile for Baldwin. I will argue that Saint-Paul offered an imaginative territory to reconcile his longstanding antagonism to the American South, where he was conceived. A town in southern France becomes for Baldwin the perfect vantage point from which to write about the American South, which is the setting of much of his final novel Just Above My Head and his final work of non-fiction The Evidence of Things Not Seen. Although Baldwin’s later works written in Saint-Paul are certainly not devoid of racial violence, their distinct emphasis is on the attempt to recapture the lost innocence of youth in a southern setting, exactly as Baldwin did in Saint-Paul. Terrifying though the South may have been to Baldwin, it was his origin, and in order to confront this origin, he moved physically south of Paris to move imaginatively south of New York.

10Maggi M. Morehouse

11 Civil Rights Pioneers: Building Race Consciousness in the WWII Armed Forces

12During the Second World War, the British colonial forces and the US armed services reflected the general racial attitudes of the day: black men were inferior to white men and thus as soldiers, black men had to be segregated and contained. Military planners in the US and Britain believed that people of color acted and behaved similarly and they sought to craft policies to control black soldiers with their race policies. While all of the black soldiers who migrated were sent to conduct a war, as a by-product, many of the men engaged in a range of cultural activities that brought about a diasporic identity. The men gained a worldview of strength and resistance that allowed them to exercise their full citizenship rights as civil rights leaders, legal experts, elected officials, and labor organizers. Certainly, neither colonial government believed that the outcome of their racial policies toward the black soldier would imbue him with such a sense of power and a call to action. They meant to control the colonial subject, not put him on the world stage with his brothers in the diaspora. World War II is a significant event of comparison because of the policies of governance practiced by both governments and the number of black soldiers who participated in the worldwide conflagration. WWII soldiers of color went on to lead freedom struggles post-war that placed many veterans in the vanguard of black independence movements across the globe. This paper outlines the racial policies and the migration realities black soldiers experienced.

13Anthony S. Parent

14 ‘Making Abolitionists of the Whole Community’: Jeffrey Brace and Charles Bowles

15The lives of African American Revolutionary War veterans offer a window into ‘intersectionality’ (Hill Collins) of sexuality, age, gender and ethnicity, but also race, religion, class, and nationality. This chapter demonstrates the diasporic identities of two veterans: Jeffrey Brace (ca. 1742-1827) and Charles W. Bowles (1761-1842). Both men left memoirs, a rich source of identity formation: The Blind African Slave, Or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Brace (1810); The Life, Labors, and Travels of Elder Charles Bowles (1852). Both men also applied for pensions. Pension applications not only established their war service, but also documented their family lives, finances, and community standing. They ‘recollected’ their service in county court, including rank, duties, battles, and war wounds. They supplemented their depositions with declarations about their dependents, property, and character. Interpreting their memoirs and their pension records will enrich our understanding of identities of intersectionality. African-born Brace was enslaved as a child; he became blind and indigent as an old man. American-born Bowles claimed unacknowledged descent from a Revolutionary War general on his mother’s side. New Englanders both, these men self-identified as fathers and widowers, mariners, farmers, and laborers, and preachers and patriots. Yet both men contributed mightily to the model of black masculinity (manhood) in the struggle against racism in a slaveholding republic. ‘To hear Elder [Charles] Bowles preach and Brother Jeffrey Brace talk’, said a contemporary, ‘was enough to make abolitionists of a whole community’.

16Malin Pereira

17 Brenda Marie Osbey’s Black Internationalism

18The poetry and prose of two African American female poets, Rita Dove and Brenda Marie Osbey, maps two contemporary versions of black diasporic experience of home and identity in movement across literal and figurative, national and transnational, and racialized spaces/places. These poets’ work repeatedly returns to representations of home and identity as displaced, in motion, temporary, in-between and contested. As Susan Koshy argues in her 2011 essay, ‘Minority Cosmopolitanism’ in PMLA, ‘ [t] he feeling of not being at home is a marker of diasporic citizenship, an effect of attachments that position such minority subjects inside the nation formally but between nations culturally. The persistence of unhomeliness also emphasizes the inhospitality of a liberal, universalist model of citizenship that requires a transcendence of ethnic identity’ (601). Koshy’s project, which conjoins the ‘historically divergent projects of ethnic studies and studies of cosmopolitanism’ (592), employs the term ‘minority cosmopolitanism’ to refer to: ‘Translocal affiliations that are grounded in the experience of minority subjects and are marked by a critical awareness of the constraints of primary attachments such as family, religion, race, and nation and by an ethical or imaginative receptivity, orientation, or aspiration to an interconnected or shared world. Crucially, [she argues], minority cosmopolitanism is constituted through a paradoxical relation to cross-cultural contact, registering the disruptions and asymmetries of intercultural encounter while sustaining an openness to its transformative possibilities’. (594) Minority cosmopolitanism allows multiple diasporic articulations of home and identity, as minority subjects navigate translocal affiliations and cross-cultural contact in widely various ways. Contrasting Dove’s and Osbey’s intercultural encounters—one, ongoing and global, the other short-term and diasporically-focused—maps a wide range of African American ‘unhomely’ diasporic citizenship. The paper focuses on Dove’s poem ‘Ars Poetica’ (and reference Sonata Mulattica), Osbey’s poems ‘Geography’ and ‘History’ (and reference her essays about France during her 2004 Carmago fellowship).

19Alix Pierre

20 Appropriating African Belief Systems: Renée Stout Re-Writes Her Self

21The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art—the only one in the nation dedicated to visual art made by and about women of the African Diaspora—is currently hosting an exhibition entitled Material Girls. The show features the work of seven female artists who use ordinary material such as black plastic combs, plastic grocery bags, and car tires, rebar, and metal bed frames to create art. Of particular interest is Renée Stout whose art is greatly informed by African belief systems. The artist raises the question of the complexity of (spiritual) identity formation for Americans of African descent who live in a Judeo-Christian society. What (spiritual) message is reflected back to African Americans in the faces of the majority population? What do they learn from the media about their (spiritual) selves? How are they (spiritually) represented in the cultural images around them? Or are they missing from the picture altogether? Stout acknowledges that much of her work deals with botanicas and herbal remedies: ‘I like to deal with these women who have strong personalities and create tableaux to them’. The paper examines her use of a healer alter ego—Fatima Mayfield—in the writing of what she considers to be ‘the last missing piece’ in the narrative of the African Diaspora. The analysis of the installation piece ‘The Thinking Room’, Fatima’s parlor, reveals how through the weaving of numerology, New Orleans Vodou, Nigerian Ifá and Congo Munkisi Stout’s aesthetic proceeds to (re) claim African-based spirituality.

22Marc A. Reid

23 Whose ‘Post-Racial’, ‘Post-Black’ Is It?: USA, France, and Italy

24In the United States, France and Italy movements toward a ’post-racial’ and ‘post-black’ ways of being and thinking provide spaces for their citizens of color. Communalisms of the racial-religious-sexual singular identity formulations are challenged by what is becoming a Post-Negritude awareness that complicates monolithic selfhoods as they encounter plural forms of being and thinking. This article analyzes how Blacks in the U.S., France, and Italy undergo critical reassessments of their racial-religious-sexual identities to embrace a more plural concept that is catalyzed in national politics. Still, I argue there remains the residue of what the Martinique psychiatrist Frantz Fanon calls the ‘Blackness of Being’ as is evidenced in the recent arrest of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin and the reception of Italy’s first Afro-Italian minister, Cecile Kyenge. All of which overshadows the optimism that followed of the election of President Barack Obama, the appointment of Harlem Désir as the first black to lead a major French political party. As Afro-Europeans move into positions of national importance like their post-Obama American counterparts, the leopard has not changed its spots—the residue of the Blackness of Being remains resilient. The western world is far from a post-racial, post-black, and postcolonial reality. Using articles and images culled from the press, I analyze the inconsistencies in ’post-racial’ and ‘post-black’ thinking when confronted with recent ‘everyday’ injustices.

25Alan Rice

26 Guerilla Memorialisation in the Wake of Slavery’s Legacy: African Atlantic Art in the 1990s

27This paper contrasts American-born, Kara Walker’s dark vision of the history of the American South with Cuban-born Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons translucent installations about migration and the legacies of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Lubaina Himid’s dynamic works about black women and the ocean. All three created stellar works in the 1990s with related, but completely different, visions of slavery and its consequences. This chapter will mobilise discussion of the abject and memory both redemptive and unredeemable to outline the difficulties of representing the slave past. It will in particular discuss issues of gender, sex and labour in all three artists’ work. It will use a theoretical frame developed through the work of Paul Ricœur, Dominick LaCapra, Saidiya Hartman, Dionne Brand, Hershini Bhana Young, Jean Fisher, Stuart Hall and Toni Morrison to essay the differences of approach in these three artists. In particular it will show how Walker’s ‘suckling from history’ is steeped in a problematic attachment to the abject which is in danger of promoting a conservative ideology in the present and will contrast this with Himid’s more radical vision and Campos-Pons’ imaginative evocation where the very signs of domestic servitude in a confined space are transformed by the operation of memory and diasporic consciousness into a theatre for mobility and transformative redemption that make for a truly radical vision.

28Ashraf H. A. Rushdy

29 The Diasporas of and to Nations?: The Case of Africa

30I propose to return to the two inaugural intellectual events in African diaspora studies, a 1965 conference in Dar es Salaam and a 1979 conference in Washington, DC, in order to tease out how the original debates in those conferences helped form the contemporary study of the African diaspora. I pay especial attention to the question of the relationship between diaspora and nationalism, since the concept of African diaspora was proposed and promoted at a key moment in the development of black nationalism as an ideology in America and a practical concern in decolonizing Africa.

31Heather Smyth

32 African Diaspora and Coalition: Multiracial Writing and Arts Activism in Canada

33This paper engages with the ways diaspora theory, and diasporic identities, can be imagined more broadly and with new implications when we re-route their trajectories in unexpected ways and into new contexts—both geographical and intersectional. It proposes that despite the connotations of mobility and flow invoked in our use of the term diaspora and its constellation of critical approaches, it is still potentially about a moving community with boundaries. The concept of coalition, on the other hand, offers the analytical resources of a community of affiliation where those boundaries are themselves moving. To that end, this paper offers three examples of a coalitional or re-routed diasporic theory: it explores Vancouver writer Wayde Compton’s work as exemplary of the Black Pacific; it presents a description of how coalition is a relevant context for the African diaspora and for antiracist arts activism, particularly in Canada; and it explores the theoretical possibilities of complementing diaspora theory with relational models of community.

34 Lisa Veroni

35 Blackness and the African Diaspora in ‘Postracial’ America

36Attempts at challenging the American racial order have not necessarily succeeded in bringing about an era when blackness and whiteness as racialized identities do not play such a major role in shaping Americans’ lives—an era that can be equated to a postracial one. However, acts of resistance have led to an increasing destabilization of that order. To assess that level of destabilization, we will first look at attacks against the racial order on the part of activists of the Black Freedom Struggle, and the new generation of black politicians as well, and question whether the racial hierarchy has had a lessening importance in today’s sociopolitical realm. Then we will focus on groups that stand at the periphery, because their racial identity is perceived as somewhat ambivalent, namely multiracials and immigrants of the black African diaspora, to see whether they can resist compliance with the existing racial hierarchy. Then we will assess the reality of the decentering of the racial order in contemporary America, using public opinion data on race, racism and racial equality, and focusing on the opinion of Americans—black American youth in particular— along racial lines. In these so-called postracial times when American voters have chosen a biracial president twice, when demographic and immigration trends are evolving at such a fast rate that the nation is not seen as ‘black and white’ anymore, and identities are increasingly recognized as inherently hybrid, to what extent has the American racial order been ‘destabilize[d], decenter[ed] and carnivaliz[ed]’ (Mercer 1988: 57)?

37Christine Vogt-William

38 ‘If it’s a game of colors you want to play’: Contemporary Literary Representations of African American GIs in Germany

39Despite contemporary tendencies to celebrate diaspora as a descriptive trope for global modernity and transnational mobility, it would be necessary to distinguish between diverse diasporic experiences (see Huggan 2010, Clifford 1997). Diasporic experience has significant ramifications for the formation of identity, the negotiation of difference and the articulation of ethnicity in a diasporic community as well as that community’s relationship to other local or diasporic groups of the host country. Racial climates in the USA and in Germany post-World War II will bear some scrutiny when considering how diaspora figures in discussing African American experience in Germany. Could Germany, despite its problematic history, perhaps still furnish a ‘black space’ that could perhaps function metaphorically and emotionally as a substitute for a longed-for homeland? This paper proposes to examine literary representations of the diasporic experiences of African-American GIs in Germany. The novels to be analysed here include Michael Dorris’s multi-perspectival fictional piece Cloud Chamber (1997) and Donald Vaughn’s autobiography Color My World (2011). The protagonists Elgin and Donald use their conscription into the US army to actually move from racially fraught American spaces to Germany (an equally difficult space) to negotiate their own raced identities while pursuing their dreams. Intersectional and diasporic approaches among others will address how race, masculinity and homosociality are negotiated by these African-American protagonists in their attempts to understand the spaces they come to occupy in German landscapes, where they engage with questions of home and belonging, which have been sources of discomfort for them back in the US.

40Jennifer M. Wilks

41 ‘As real as the unreal’: Identity and Iconography in the Fiction of Percival Everett

42In his memoir Dreams from My Father (2004), U.S. President Barack Obama chronicles his search for identity after the death of his father, ‘a figure he [knew] more as a myth than as a man’. This paper will explore how author Percival Everett confronts and wrestles with raced and gendered cultural icons, particularly representations of African American manhood, from the mid- to late-20th century. In his 2001 novel Erasure, Everett uses the philosophical/artistic practice of sous rature to challenge inflexible notions of black identity dating back to the Richard Wright classic Native Son and recurring in contemporary fiction classified as ‘street’ or ‘urban’ literature. Negation becomes Everett’s tool of choice in his 2009 novel I Am Not Sidney Poitier, in which the title character, through the simple act of introducing himself, repeatedly denies any relation to his somewhat namesake and doppelganger, African American cinema icon Sidney Poitier. I argue that Everett’s fictional project does not reject race identification so much as it expands (via the partial obscuring and subsequent layering of narratives in Erasure) and explodes (via the absurd vignettes of I Am Not Sidney Poitier) previously restrictive understandings of blackness in general and black masculinity in particular. In work that heralds Kenneth W. Warren’s critical meditation What Was African American Literature?, Everett blurs the lines between real and imagined, waking and dream, in order to offer a retrospective critique of African American culture that also suggests innovative, provocative ways for rethinking questions of race and identity.

© Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2016

Licence OpenEdition Books

Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search