When the fatal shooting of six hunters by a Hmong man in the woods of Wisconsin received sensationalized national coverage in 2004, Hmong Americans struggled with an intensification of the hostile typing that had haunted their arrival in the U.S. since 1975. Mainstream accounts asserted that the incident, whether from the point of view of the white hunters or that of the Hmong man, could not be interpreted as primarily racial, but more probably centered on misunderstandings of property. Chai Soua Vang was convicted by an all white jury of six counts of first-degree murder. Simultaneously, the Hmong people and their culture were - by many accounts of Hmong in Minnesota andWisconsin - likewise convicted through one sweeping judicial act.
Meanwhile, in eerie anticipation of the gruesome incident, Hmong filmmaker Va-Megn Thoj had in 2001 penned a screenplay, Die By Night, that conjured a contrapuntal image regarding the air of racial danger in the northern woods. Written a full three years before the actual shooting incident, the dark script portrays the terror of a group of Hmong campers who are methodically maimed and murdered by what they think is a Hmong demon but turns out to be white hunters who have ruthlessly hunted the party over the course of the night. Working from the many actual hunting confrontations he already knew of, and evoking the racial tension that had long saturated the everyday lives of Hmong in the Midwest, the text is an intriguing amalgam of Hmong immigrant themes and slasher horror.
In this dialogue piece, we explore the potential for the occult demon feared in Die by Night to illuminate the active and ongoing occulting of race in Hmong-white relations. Keeping artistic vision and social analysis tightly articulated, we intercut the logics of Die By Night, histories of racial dynamics in the Midwest, the proceedings of the trial, the politics of media representation, and notions of turf and property, in order to ask: What accounts for the masking of race in so much discourse on Hmong over the decades, those same decades in which racialized interactions have been so salient to Hmong resettlement in the U.S.? In the process, we explore the erasure of Asian race in the black-white logics of American race politics.
This essay takes its cue from a nineteenth-century New Orleans poem, "Pour les Incendiés de Saint Domingue," which was dedicated to the victims of a great fire that burned Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1866. Reading both the poem and the disaster it memorialized as productive lenses upon the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the author seeks to understand the 1866 fire and the 2005 hurricane as instances of transamerican catastrophe: disasters that were insistently narrated in their respective moments as national tragedies, but which tell very different stories when examined within the wider and more complex geopolitical context of the American hemisphere, and particularly the Caribbean. 'Pour les Incendiés'first appeared in the earliest African American daily newspaper in the United States, La Tribune de la Nouvelle Orleans, a francophone journal that elaborated an alternative discourse of racial politics and historical understanding and helped to shape a transamerican public sphere. At the same time, the poem itself, and the varied modes of formal agency it exercises upon its poetic content and within its historical context, speaks powerfully to our current political moment. The poem provides a kind of mediating text between the two transamerican catastrophes, clarifying the historical and discursive trajectory from the nineteenth-century Haitian fire to the contemporary political and public discourse emerging from Katrina's aftermath.
"Come Let Us Build a New World Together": SNCC and Photography of the Civil Rights Movement
This essay considers the vital yet contentious role photography played in the mobilization, expansion, consumption, and memorialization of the modern civil rights movement through an examination of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Photo Agency in the years 1962-64. Placing special emphasis on SNCC posters, I argue that through their use of photography, SNCC created a formidable independent media structure that substantively influenced the course of the civil rights movement. Moreover, the images SNCC's photographer-activists produced provide cues and clues for contemporary viewers to better understand and incorporate the lessons and legacies of the 1960s freedom struggle.
"Reading Nanook's Smile: Visual Sovereignty, Indigenous Revisions of Ethnography, and Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)" puts ethnography and cinematic representations of Native Americans in crucial dialogue with the work of contemporary indigenous filmmakers. The author explores what it means for indigenous people "to laugh at the camera" as a tactic of what she calls "visual sovereignty," to confront the spectator with the often absurd assumptions that circulate around visual representations of Native Americans, while also flagging their involvement and, to some degree, complicity in these often disempowering structures of cinematic dominance and stereotype. She employs Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) (2000), the first full-length feature film directed by an Inuit, Zacharias Kunuk, and produced by Igloolik Isuma Productions, Inc., a collaborative, majority Inuit production company, as her primary context for analysis to examine the ways this film is embedded within discourses about Arctic peoples that cannot be severed from the larger web of hegemonic discourses of ethnography. She does this first by discussing the pervasive images of Native Americans in ethnographic films and then by theorizing the ways that Atanarjuat intervenes into visual sovereignty as a film that successfully addresses a dual Inuit and non-Inuit audience for two different aims. More specifically, she interrogates how the Atanarjuat filmmakers strategically adjust and reframe the registers on which Inuit epistemes are considered with the twin, but not necessarily conflicting, aims of operating in the service of their home communities and forcing viewers to reconsider mass-mediated images of the Arctic.
This essay examines the controversy over outdoor advertising for what it reveals about Progressive Era conceptions of public space and public culture. Beginning in the 1890s, advertisers began to widely exploit urban public space as a marketing medium. By the turn of the century, outdoor advertising had became a lightning rod for debates over the public value of an emergent mass culture and the subject of significant reform efforts. While most historical accounts of reformers' response to consumer culture emphasize the conflict between genteel and commercial cultural values, this essay focuses instead on their similarities—similarities that ultimately led at least some reformers to accept outdoor advertising as a mode of mass communication superior to genteel forms. Identifying the legitimization of mass culture as a precipitate of both civic and business ideology is one of this essay's most significant insights. While important differences distinguished civic and business conceptions of the public, their mutual promotion of the integrative powers of mass communication and consumption cultivated a common ground where consumerism flourished.
The arrival in the U.S. of global soccer star David Beckham, signed on a massive multiyear contract to the LA Galaxy, occasioned no end of media coverage. The hoopla surrounding this event saw the latest effort to change the national conversation regarding the grudging acceptance of soccer as a mass American sport. But the real story about U.S. men's soccer, as this essay argues, is the embryonic Latinization of the game along lines similar to Major League Baseball. Its deep roots in working class immigrant communities guarantee a more reliable and lucrative fan base than the more fickle middle-class audiences that soccer has traditionally attracted in the US. As a result, the recruitment of high-profile Latin American players may be more consequential than the entry of over-the-top European stars like Beckham.
This essay analyses the arrival of Beckham and his spouse Victoria (Posh of ex-Spice Girls fame) in the context of the impact on the sport, and of celebrity culture in this country. It is the most recent expansion in the reach of Brand Beckham, wildly successful as a transnational, cross-media operation, and the couple's relationship and relatively autonomous role as icons is critical to the maintenance of the brand. In addition, however, the globalization of the sport, especially the migration of players from the Global South to the affluent European and North American clubs, is transforming the demographics and cultural resonance of the organized sport. The cosmopolitan make-up of the New York Cosmos in the 1970s—a high water mark in the U.S. acceptance of soccer—is now much more common in the top tier of professional soccer. The importing of players like Beckham, Juan Pablo Ángel (from Columbia) and Cuauhtémoc Blanco (from Mexico) are evidence of a new phase in the sports industry that is already quite advanced in the demographics of MLB, and increasingly in the NBA.