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Desi Divas

Political Activism in South Asian American Cultural Performances

Christine L. Garlough

Desi Divas: Activism in South Asian American Cultural Performances is the product of five years of field research with progressive activists associated with the School for Indian Languages and Cultures (SILC), South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), the feminist dance collective Post Natyam, and the grassroots feminist political organization South Asian Sisters. Christine L. Garlough explores how traditional cultural forms may be critically appropriated by marginalized groups and used as rhetorical tools to promote deliberation and debate, spur understanding and connection, broaden political engagement, and advance particular social identities. Within this framework she examines how these performance activists advocate a political commitment to both justice and care, to both deliberative discussion and deeper understanding. To consider how this might happen in diasporic performance contexts, Garlough weaves together two lines of thinking. One grows from feminist theory and draws upon a core literature concerning the ethics of care. The other comes from rhetoric, philosophy, and political science literature on recognition and acknowledgment. This dual approach is used to reflect upon South Asian American women's performances that address pressing social problems related to gender inequality, immigration rights, ethnic stereotyping, hate crimes, and religious violence.

Case study chapters address the relatively unknown history of South Asian American rhetorical performances from the early 1800s to the present. Avant-garde feminist performances by the Post Natyam dance collective appropriate women's folk practices and Hindu goddess figures make rhetorical claims about hate crimes against South Asian Americans after 9/11. In Yoni ki Bat (a South Asian American version of The Vagina Monologues) a progressive performer transforms aspects of the Mahabharata narrative to address issues of sexual violence, such as incest and rape. Throughout the volume, Garlough argues that these performers rely on calls for acknowledgment that intertwine calls for justice and care. That is, they embed their testimony in traditional cultural forms to invite interest, reflection, and connection.

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Desi Hoop Dreams

Pickup Basketball and the Making of Asian American Masculinity

Stanley I. Thangaraj

South Asian American men are not usually depicted as ideal American men. They struggle against popular representations as either threatening terrorists or geeky, effeminate computer geniuses. To combat such stereotypes, some use sports as a means of performing a distinctly American masculinity. Desi Hoop Dreams focuses on South Asian-only basketball leagues common in most major U.S. and Canadian cities, to show that basketball, for these South Asian American players is not simply a whimsical hobby, but a means to navigate and express their identities in 21st century America.

The participation of young men in basketball is one platform among many for performing South Asian American identity. South Asian-only leagues and tournaments become spaces in which to negotiate the relationships between masculinity, race, and nation. When faced with stereotypes that portray them as effeminate, players perform sporting feats on the court to represent themselves as athletic. And though they draw on black cultural styles, they carefully set themselves off from African American players, who are deemed “too aggressive.” Accordingly, the same categories of their own marginalization—masculinity, race, class, and sexuality—are those through which South Asian American men exclude women, queer masculinities, and working-class masculinities, along with other racialized masculinities, in their effort to lay claim to cultural citizenship.

One of the first works on masculinity formation and sport participation in South Asian American communities, Desi Hoop Dreams focuses on an American popular sport to analyze the dilemma of belonging within South Asian America in particular and in the U.S. in general.

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Diagnosing Folklore

Perspectives on Disability, Health, and Trauma

edited by Trevor J. Blank and Andrea Kitta

Diagnosing Folklore provides an inclusive forum for an expansive conversation on the sensitive, raw, and powerful processes that shape and imbue meaning in the lives of individuals and communities beleaguered by medical stigmatization, conflicting public perceptions, and contextual constraints. This volume aims to showcase current ideas and debates, as well as promote the larger study of disability, health, and trauma within folkloristics, helping bridge the gaps between the folklore discipline and disability studies.

This book consists of three sections, each dedicated to key issues in disability, health, and trauma. It explores the confluence of disability, ethnography, and the stigmatized vernacular through communicative competence, esoteric and exoteric groups in the Special Olympics, and the role of family in stigmatized communities. Then, it considers knowledge, belief, and treatment in regional and ethnic communities with case studies from the Latino/a community in Los Angeles, Javanese Indonesia, and Middle America. Lastly, the volume looks to the performance of mental illness, stigma, and trauma through contemporary legends about mental illness, vlogs on bipolar disorder, medical fetishism, and veterans’ stories.

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Did You Hear About The Girl Who . . . ?

Contemporary Legends, Folklore, and Human Sexuality

Marianne H. Whatley, Elissa R. Henken

Ever hear the one about the man who wakes up after a chance sexual encounter to discover he's been involuntarily relieved of one of his kidneys? Or the tiny gift-wrapped box from a recently departed lover that reveals a horrible secret? Everyone knows contemporary legends, those barely believable, often lurid, cautionary tales, always told as though they happened to the friend of a friend. Sometimes we pass them on to others unsure of their truthfulness, usually we dismiss them as mere myth. But these far-fetched legends tell us quite a bit about our deepest fears and fantasies.

In fact, a large part of what we know about our bodies we have learned informally, from kids on the playground or colleagues at work, from piecing together the information contained in folk beliefs, jokes and legends. Sexual folklore goes beyond classroom lessons of mechanics to answer many questions about what people actually do and how they do it.

Mariamne H. Whatley and Elissa R. Henken have collected hundreds of sexually-themed stories and jokes from college students in order to tell us what they reveal about our sexual attitudes and show us how they have changed over time. They confront myths and stereotypes about sexual behavior and use folklore as a tool to educate students about sexual health and gender relations. Whether analyzing popular rumors about celebrity emergency room visits or the latest schoolyard jokes, Did You Hear About The Girl Who . . . ? presents these tales in a way that is intriguing and educational.

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Different Drummers

Rhythm and Race in the Americas

Martin Munro

Long a taboo subject among critics, rhythm finally takes center stage in this book's dazzling, wide-ranging examination of diverse black cultures across the New World. Martin Munro’s groundbreaking work traces the central—and contested—role of music in shaping identities, politics, social history, and artistic expression. Starting with enslaved African musicians, Munro takes us to Haiti, Trinidad, the French Caribbean, and to the civil rights era in the United States. Along the way, he highlights such figures as Toussaint Louverture, Jacques Roumain, Jean Price-Mars, The Mighty Sparrow, Aimé Césaire, Edouard Glissant, Joseph Zobel, Daniel Maximin, James Brown, and Amiri Baraka. Bringing to light new connections among black cultures, Munro shows how rhythm has been both a persistent marker of race as well as a dynamic force for change at virtually every major turning point in black New World history.

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Popular Music Audiences in Freetown, Sierra Leone

This book offers an intriguing account of the complex and often contradictory relations between music and society in Freetown’s past and present. Blending anthropological thought with ethnographic and historical research, it explores the conjunctures of music practices and social affiliations and the diverse patterns of social dis/connections that music helps to shape, to (re)create, and to defy in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown. The first half of the book traces back the changing social relationships and the concurrent changes in the city’s music life from the first days of the colony in the late 18th century up to the turbulent and thriving music scenes in the first decade of the 21st century. Grounded in this comprehensive historiography of Freetown’s socio-musical palimpsest, the second half of the book puts forth a detailed ethnography of social dynamics in the realms of music, calibrating contemporary Freetown’s social polyphony with its musical counterpart.

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Divining the Self

A Study in Yoruba Myth and Human Consciousness

By Velma E. Love

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Doomi Golo—The Hidden Notebooks

The first novel to be translated from Wolof to English, Doomi Golo—The Hidden Notebooks is a masterful work that conveys the story of Nguirane Faye and his attempts to communicate with his grandson before he dies. With a narrative structure that beautifully imitates the movements of a musical piece, Diop relates Faye’s trauma of losing his only son, Assane Tall, which is compounded by his grandson Badou’s migration to an unknown destination. While Faye feels certain that his grandson will return one day, he also is convinced that he will no longer be alive by then. Faye spends his days sitting under a mango tree in the courtyard of his home, reminiscing and observing his surroundings. He speaks to Badou through his seven notebooks, six of which are revealed to the reader, while the seventh, the “Book of Secrets,” is highly confidential and reserved for Badou’s eyes only. In the absence of letters from Badou, the notebooks form the only possible means of communication between the two, carrying within them tunes and repetitions that give this novel its unusual shape: loose and meandering on the one hand, coherent and tightly interwoven on the other.

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Dressing for the Culture Wars

Style and the Politics of Self-Presentation in the 1960s and 1970s

Betty Luther Hillman

Style of dress has always been a way for Americans to signify their politics, but perhaps never so overtly as in the 1960s and 1970s. Whether participating in presidential campaigns or Vietnam protests, hair and dress provided a powerful cultural tool for social activists to display their politics to the world and became both the cause and a symbol of the rift in American culture. Some Americans saw stylistic freedom as part of their larger political protests, integral to the ideals of self-expression, sexual freedom, and equal rights for women and minorities. Others saw changes in style as the erosion of tradition and a threat to the established social and gender norms at the heart of family and nation.

Through the lens of fashion and style, Dressing for the Culture Wars guides us through the competing political and social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Although long hair on men, pants and miniskirts on women, and other hippie styles of self-fashioning could indeed be controversial, Betty Luther Hillman illustrates how self-presentation influenced the culture and politics of the era and carried connotations similarly linked to the broader political challenges of the time. Luther Hillman’s new line of inquiry demonstrates how fashion was both a reaction to and was influenced by the political climate and its implications for changing norms of gender, race, and sexuality.

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Du coq à l’âme

L’art populaire au Québec

Jean-François Blanchette

L’art populaire est le reflet d’une société, de la perspective de ses créateurs, dont les approches sont tantôt traditionnelles et rationnelles, tantôt indisciplinées et débridées. D’hier ou d’aujourd’hui, l’art populairen révèle toute son expressivité, met en valeur la beauté des objets anciens.
Du coq à l’âme : L’art populaire au Québec vient circonscrire l’art populaire et présenter son évolution dans le temps, depuis sa forme traditionnelle, fort ancienne, jusqu’à sa forme indisciplinée, plus récente, du graffiti.
Cet ouvrage est le résultat de plusieurs années de recherche et de rencontres avec des créateurs, des collectionneurs et des chercheurs, tous passionnés de cette forme de créativité originale et authentique.Une magnifique synthèse de la production et de l’évolution de l’art populaire, l’histoire culturelle et sociale et la créativité d’artistes québécois, souvent peu reconnus.
L’anthropologue Jean-François Blanchette jette un regard historique et photographique sur les collections d’art populaire québécois du Musée canadien de l’histoire, dont la très prestigieuse collection de Nettie Covey Sharpe, acquise en 2002.

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