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Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism
Despite being heralded as the answer to racial conflict in the post–civil rights United States, the principal political effect of multiracialism is neither a challenge to the ideology of white supremacy nor a defiance of sexual racism. More accurately, Jared Sexton argues in Amalgamation Schemes, multiculturalism displaces both by evoking long-standing tenets of antiblackness and prescriptions for normative sexuality.
In this timely and penetrating analysis, Sexton pursues a critique of contemporary multiracialism, from the splintered political initiatives of the multiracial movement to the academic field of multiracial studies, to the melodramatic media declarations about “the browning of America.” He contests the rationales of colorblindness and multiracial exceptionalism and the promotion of a repackaged family values platform in order to demonstrate that the true target of multiracialism is the singularity of blackness as a social identity, a political organizing principle, and an object of desire. From this vantage, Sexton interrogates the trivialization of sexual violence under chattel slavery and the convoluted relationship between racial and sexual politics in the new multiracial consciousness.
An original and challenging intervention, Amalgamation Schemes posits that multiracialism stems from the conservative and reactionary forces determined to undo the gains of the modern civil rights movement and dismantle radical black and feminist politics.
Jared Sexton is assistant professor of African American studies and film and media studies at the University of California, Irvine.
Japanese Atmospheres of Self
Ambient Media examines music, video art, film, and literature as tools of atmospheric design in contemporary Japan, and what it means to use media as a resource for personal mood regulation. Paul Roquet traces the emergence of ambient styles from the environmental music and Erik Satie boom of the 1960s and 1970s to the more recent therapeutic emphasis on healing and relaxation.
Focusing on how an atmosphere works to reshape those dwelling within it, Roquet shows how ambient aesthetics can provide affordances for reflective drift, rhythmic attunement, embodied security, and urban coexistence. Musicians, video artists, filmmakers, and novelists in Japan have expanded on Brian Eno’s notion of the ambient as a style generating “calm, and a space to think,” exploring what it means to cultivate an ambivalent tranquility set against the uncertain horizons of an ever-shifting social landscape. Offering a new way of understanding the emphasis on “reading the air” in Japanese culture, Ambient Media documents both the adaptive and the alarming sides of the increasing deployment of mediated moods.
Arguing against critiques of mood regulation that see it primarily as a form of social pacification, Roquet makes a case for understanding ambient media as a neoliberal response to older modes of collective attunement—one that enables the indirect shaping of social behavior while also allowing individuals to feel like they are the ones ultimately in control.
Childhood, Tourism, and Social Change in Banaras, India
Jenny Huberman provides an ethnographic study of encounters between western tourists and the children who work as unlicensed peddlers and guides along the riverfront city of Banaras, India. She examines how and why these children elicit such powerful reactions from western tourists and locals in their community as well as how the children themselves experience their work and render it meaningful. Ambivalent Encounters brings together scholarship on the anthropology of childhood, tourism, consumption, and exchange to ask why children emerge as objects of the international tourist gaze; what role they play in representing socio-economic change; how children are valued and devalued; why they elicit anxieties, fantasies, and debates; and what these tourist encounters teach us more generally about the nature of human interaction. It examines the role of gender in mediating experiences of social change—girls are praised by locals for participating constructively in the informal tourist economy while boys are accused of deviant behavior. Huberman is interested equally in the children’s and adults’ perspectives; her own experiences as a western visitor and researcher provide an intriguing entry into her interpretations.
In American Anthropology and Company, linguist and sociologist Stephen O. Murray explores the connections between anthropology, linguistics, sociology, psychology, and history, in broad-ranging essays on the history of anthropology and allied disciplines. On subjects ranging from Native American linguistics to the pitfalls of American, Latin American, and East Asian fieldwork, among other topics, American Anthropology and Company presents the views of a historian of anthropology interested in the theoretical and institutional connections between disciplines that have always been in conversation with anthropology. Recurring characters include Edward Sapir, Alfred Kroeber, Robert Redfield, W. I. and Dorothy Thomas, and William Ogburn.
While histories of anthropology rarely cross disciplinary boundaries, Murray moves in essay after essay toward an examination of the institutions, theories, and social networks of scholars as never before, maintaining a healthy skepticism toward anthropologists’ views of their own methods and theories.
"A major, unique, and useful contribution to the understanding of regional ethnography in general and of Micronesia in particular. Kudos." --The Contemporary Pacific, Fall 2000 "Unique. For no other part of the world has the anthropological endeavour been so resolutely, comprehensively and even self-critically compiled, in qualitative and quantitative terms." --Australian Journal of Anthropology 12 (2001)"Clearly a significant contribution to the history of our discipline." --George W. Stocking, Jr., University of Chicago "The best compendium of its type I have ever encountered. That it is also beautifully produced helps; but mostly it's the conceptual framework and the high quality of each of the chapters and even many tidbits at the end." --Melford E. Spiro, University of California, San Diego "Despite the diversity of contributions, reflecting the perspectives of various subdisciplines of cultural anthropology, a number of recurring issues and themes emerge. These include a questioning of the notion of 'Micronesia', the tension between the postwar era of government-funded applied anthropology and the more recent period of pure research, and the degree to which American anthropological involvement in Micronesia influenced the US administration, Micronesia and Micronesians, and the wider discipline." --Journal of the Polynesian Society, September 2000 "I'm not an anthropologist ... [but] I was utterly fascinated by the historical background, thorough literature review and often painful self-reflection." --Pacific Affairs, Spring 2001
Arabs and Islam in the Nineteenth Century Imaginary
American Arabesque examines representations of Arabs, Islam and the Near East in nineteenth-century American culture, arguing that these representations play a significant role in the development of American national identity over the century, revealing largely unexplored exchanges between these two cultural traditions that will alter how we understand them today.
Moving from the period of America’s engagement in the Barbary Wars through the Holy Land travel mania in the years of Jacksonian expansion and into the writings of romantics such as Edgar Allen Poe, the book argues that not only were Arabs and Muslims prominently featured in nineteenth-century literature, but that the differences writers established between figures such as Moors, Bedouins, Turks and Orientals provide proof of the transnational scope of domestic racial politics. Drawing on both English and Arabic language sources, Berman contends that the fluidity and instability of the term Arab as it appears in captivity narratives, travel narratives, imaginative literature, and ethnic literature simultaneously instantiate and undermine definitions of the American nation and American citizenship.
Anthropology Engages the New Immigration
Soaring immigration to the United States in the past few decades has reawakened both popular and scholarly interest in this important issue. American Arrivals highlights the important insights of anthropology for the field of migration studies. The authors reflect on anthropological approaches, methods, and theories and seek to develop a research program for the future. Placing contemporary immigration in the perspective of globalization and transnational social fields, their essays demonstrate the importance of gender and urban contexts to understanding immigrants' lives. Addressing issues of health care, education, and cultural values and practices among Mexicans, Haitians, Somalis, Afghans, and other newcomers to the United States, the authors illuminate the complex ways that immigrants adapt to life in a new land and raise serious questions about the meaning and political uses of ideas about cultural difference.
A Deleuzian Approach
A reflection on the metaphor of the body politic throughout American history Bernd Herzogenrath’s An American Body|Politic is a study of the intersection between the material, biological body and body as political and cultural metaphor in American politics, religion, literature, and popular culture. Deeply influenced by the thought of Gilles Deleuze, Herzogenrath’s approach to American culture encompasses endless possibilities and potentials, eschewing the mechanic and structural. He traipses through American history and culture, pausing to examine such varied facets as the Puritans’ “two bodies,” Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy, Cotton Mather and smallpox, the poetics|politics of Whitman, Henry Adams’s stroll along the shores of complexity, and the Detroit-based techno music of today.
How Documents Matter in Immigrant Literacy
American by Paper reveals how two groups of immigrants who share a primary language nevertheless have very different experiences of literacy in the United States. It describes the social realities facing documented and undocumented immigrants who use everyday acts of writing to negotiate papers—the visas, green cards, and passports that promise access to the American Dream. It is both an ethnography, filled with illuminating details about contemporary immigrant lives, and a critical intervention into two leading—and conflicting—scholarly ideas of literacy and its social role.
Although popular thinking and scholarship have viewed literacy as a method of culturally assimilating immigrants into the nation, Kate Vieira finds that upward mobility and social inclusion in the United States are tied to literacy in complex ways. She draws from extensive interviews with Portuguese-speaking migrants who live and work together in a former mill town in Massachusetts that she calls South Mills: one group from the Azores, who are usually documented, and another from Brazil, who are usually undocumented. She explains how these migrants experience literacy not as a vehicle for assimilation (as educational policy makers often assert) nor as a means of resisting oppression (as literacy scholars often hope) but instead as tied up in papers, particularly in the papers that confer legal status. Papers and literacy are inextricably bound together, both promoting and constraining opportunities, and they shape why and how migrants read and write.
Vieira builds on insights from literacy theories that have long been in opposition to each other in order to develop a new sociomaterial theory of literacy, one that takes into account its inseparable link to paper, forms, and documentation. This point of view leads to a deeper understanding of how literacy actually accrues meaning by circulating, and recirculating, through institutions and the lives of individuals.