Psychological Lens Reveals Racial Repression at Heart of ‘Passing’

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2022-09-06 02:35Z by Steven

Psychological Lens Reveals Racial Repression at Heart of ‘Passing’

University of Kansas

Rick Hellman
KU News Service

LAWRENCE – While many literary critics have found Nella Larsen’s 1929 novella “Passing” to be frustratingly opaque, and others have concentrated on its themes of same-sex attraction and class consciousness, an essay by a University of Kansas professor of English finds that racial repression is the focus of the novel by analyzing it from a Freudian perspective.

Doreen Fowler said she believed that the shift to a psychological reading explains why the two main characters — Irene, who lives as a Black woman, and Clare, who passes for white — are doubled.

In an article titled “Racial Repression and Doubling in Nella Larsen’s Passing” in the latest edition of The South Atlantic Review, Fowler wrote that the main character, Irene Redfield, “works to erase signs of her black identity — but those signs of blackness return to haunt her in the form of her double, Clare. While many scholars have recognized that Irene is ambivalent about her African American iden­tity and that Clare and Irene are doubled, my original contribution is to link the two. In my reading, Clare is Irene’s uncanny double because she figures the return of Irene’s rejected desire to fully integrate with the black race.”…

Read the entire press release here.

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‘Funnyhouse of a Negro’ gets under character’s skin

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2019-05-14 15:12Z by Steven

‘Funnyhouse of a Negro’ gets under character’s skin

KU Today
The University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas 66045

Rick Hellman, KU News Service
Telephone: 785-864-8852

LAWRENCE – More than one white politician has landed in hot water this year after old photographs of them dressed in blackface surfaced. Clearly, racial stereotypes are still a touchy subject. So is it OK for minorities to dress in whiteface? What if it’s meant to represent an inner conflict among people of mixed-race identity?

“This question implies that there is such a thing as reverse racism, and I don’t think we can even ask that without discussing the systemic inequality and racial hierarchies that result in internalized racism experienced by historically underrepresented groups,” said Nicole Hodges Persley, University of Kansas associate professor of theatre.

Melting Pot Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, goes there this month when Hodges Persley directs an avant-garde play from 1964 titled “Funnyhouse of a Negro” by Adrienne Kennedy. The play, which opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 3, for a two-week run, is part of Hodges Persley’s exploration of the ways 20th-century black artists undermined racial and mixed-race stereotypes in their creative work.

For the past couple of years, Hodges Persley has been working on the first major biography of actress Fredi Washington (1903-1994), a woman of mixed racial background who fought against the racial stereotyping of her day while also working for black empowerment…

Read the entire article here.

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Mixed roots, common bonds

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2014-07-30 22:00Z by Steven

Mixed roots, common bonds

The Kansas City Star
Kansas City, Missouri

Jeneé Osterheldt

Her first year at KU [University of Kansas], Jasmin Moore noticed the black students sat together. The Hispanic students sat together. And everyone else did the same. This was over a decade ago.

“For the first time, I was trying to figure out where I belonged,” she says. Her mom is white and her dad is black, and students pulled her in different directions, wanting her to declare herself. She found herself gravitating toward the Hispanic students. She looked like them. At the time, it was easier.

As she and her husband pursued graduate programs, they moved to Little Rock, Ark., where things are still very segregated and being mixed is an anomaly.

“People didn’t know what to make of me,” she says. “I got stares. I realized that for people in other places, being biracial is still a unique experience, and it’s important to support others.”

And that’s why, now that she’s back in town, she is helping rebuild the Multiracial Family Circle, now called Kansas City Mixed Roots…

Read the entire article here.

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Afro-Mexican: A Short Study on Identity

Posted in Anthropology, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, Media Archive, Mexico on 2012-04-16 02:50Z by Steven

Afro-Mexican: A Short Study on Identity

University of Kansas
April 2009
63 pages

Ariane Rose Tulloch

Submitted to the graduate degree program in Anthropology and the Graduate Faculty of the University of Kansas in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master’s of Arts.

Up until the early 19th century, blacks outnumbered white Spaniards in most major Mexican cities (Vaughn 2008). Nowadays, the black population has been localized to two areas: Veracruz and the Costa Chica. This study looks at whether Afro-Mexicans in the Costa Chica region had developed a racial consciousness, and if so, to what extent. Data gathered about Afro-Mexicans was analyzed using the Minority Identity Development Model (Atkinson et al 1983) which captured the complexities of minority-majority relations in a multi-ethnic society. Not all Afro-Mexicans had developed a strong sense of Afro-Mexican identity, but instead accepted their classification into the dominant mestizo group. Others see themselves as Afro-Mexicans in their own right, possibly due to having been influenced by activist group in the U.S. and elsewhere. The latter group sees itself and others in a positive yet autonomous light, corresponding to the final stages of the Minority Identity Development Model.

Read the entire thesis here.

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The Language Trap: U.S. Passing Fiction and its Paradox

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2012-04-16 01:32Z by Steven

The Language Trap: U.S. Passing Fiction and its Paradox

University of Kansas
181 pages

Masami Sugimori, Instructor of English
University of South Alabama

Submitted to the graduate degree program in English and the Graduate Faculty of the University of Kansas in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Through exploration of William Faulkner’s, James Weldon Johnson’s and Nella Larsen’spassing novels,” this dissertation points out that narrative representation of racial passing facilitates and compromises the authors’ challenge to the white-dominant ideology of early-twentieth-century America. I reveal that, due to their inevitable dependence on language, these authors draw paradoxically on the white-dominant ideology that they aim to question, especially its system of binary racial categorization. While the “white” body of a “passing” character serves the novelists as a subversive force in white-supremacist society (which depends on the racial other to define “whiteness”), language, which is essentially ideological, traps the writers in racial binary and continually suggests that, while the character looks white, s/he is really black. Accordingly, the authors have to write under the constraints of the problem that American discourse of race must and, for the most part, does systematically suppress its own essential fictiveness.

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The Passing Paradox: Representing Racial Chaos within the Symbolic Order
  • Chapter 1: Racial Mixture, Racial Passing, and White Subjectivity in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!
  • Chapter 2: Signifying, Ordering, and Containing the Chaos: Whiteness, Ideology, and Language in William Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust
  • Chapter 3: Narrative Order and Racial Hierarchy: James Weldon Johnson’s Double-Consciousness and “White” Subjectivity in The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man and Along This Way
  • Chapter 4: Ordering the Racial Chaos, Chaoticizing the Racial Order: Nella Larsen’s Narrative of Indeterminacy and Invisibility in Passing
  • Conclusion: Toward a Language for the Real, Chaotic and Unnamable
  • Notes
  • Works Cited

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Hybrid Zones: Representations of Race in Late Nineteenth-Century French Visual Culture

Posted in Dissertations, Europe, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2011-11-07 02:30Z by Steven

Hybrid Zones: Representations of Race in Late Nineteenth-Century French Visual Culture

University of Kansas
April 2011
358 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3456911
ISBN: 9781124667348

Rozanne McGrew Stringer

In this study, I examine images of the black female and black male body and the female Spanish Gypsy by four artists—Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Frédéric Bazille, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec—that articulate the instability of racial categories and stereotypes assigned to racialized populations by French artists, natural scientists, anthropologists, and writers between 1862 and 1900. Notably, whiteness—made visible and raced—is also implicated in some of the images I analyze. I look closely at the visual stereotype of the seductive, dark-skinned female Spanish Gypsy and the primitive and debased black male, as well as at representations of the abject black female body. I also consider the construction of “whiteness” as an unfixed and complex notion of French identity, particularly as it applies to the bourgeois white female body.

I analyze images in which representations of racial identity seem unproblematic, but I show that these images articulate a host of uncertainties. I contextualize each image through analyses of nineteenth-century French representations of the black person and Spanish Gypsy by modernist and academic artists, nineteenth-century racialist science, French fiction and periodicals, and entertainment spectacles such as the circus and human zoos. My methodology draws primarily on formalism, social history, and postcolonial and feminist theory.

In my examination of representations of racial difference in late nineteenth-century French visual culture, I investigate images of racialized bodies specifically through the lens of hybridity, a term employed by nineteenth-century biologists and natural scientists to define the intermixing of races and cultures. The fascination with and fear of hybrid races increasingly dominated the discourses on racial hierarchies and classifications. I explore nineteenth-century notions of racial hybridity through the emerging science of anthropology, but I also expand my study to interrogate hybridity as the cross-fertilization of cultures and identity. I consider how these images expand and problematize the meaning of hybridity and its antithetical concept of racial purity. I also demonstrate the paradoxical correspondence and oscillation between the racial stereotype and the culturally dominant power responsible for the stereotype’s creation and perpetuation. My study seeks to illuminate what I see as the hybridity and heterogeneity of racial identity, for the person of color as well as for the “white” European, discretely and subtly disclosed in these images.

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Mme Camus’s Shadow: Degas and Racial Consciousness
  • Chapter Two: Manet’s Gypsy with a Cigarette: Unfixing the Racial Stereotype
  • Chapter Three: Beholding Beauty: The Black Female Body in Frédéric Bazille’s Late Oeuvre
  • Chapter Four: Masculinity and the Object of Desire in Toulouse-Lautrec’s Chocolat dansant dans un bar
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Illustrations


The juxtaposition of a black woman and white woman in Frédéric Bazille’s canvas, La Toilette [Figure 1], 1870, at first glance seems to uphold normative nineteenth-century conceptions about the separation and hierarchization of the races. The semi-nude kneeling black woman, attired only in a headscarf and multi-colored striped skirt, attends to the seated light skinned female nude who is placed at the center of the composition. Standing to the left of the seated nude is a second female servant with dark eyes and hair, and a sallow complexion. Surprisingly, it is the interchange between the kneeling and seated women that especially commands the viewer’s attention. While one might expect to see the white woman depicted as the principal focus of the pairing, her body is rendered as a limp and generalized form. Yet, the body of the black woman is depicted with specificity and not reduced to a racialized type. Indeed, the skin coloration of the seated female nude in Bazille’s image could be characterized as “blank” whiteness while Bazille imparts an unexpected radiance to the black woman’s skin. Bazille composed the flesh tones of the seated nude woman from a palette of analogous icy whites which contrasts markedly with the array of luminous hues—warm browns, copper, orange, pink, and plum—with which he painted the black woman’s skin. In formal terms, Bazille painted the image of a black woman that was at odds with established social and pictorial traditions by suggesting an aestheticized and a particularized black female body.

Bazille’s image of the black female body in La Toilette is situated at an intersection between mid- to late nineteenth-century French scientific models that established the strategies of defining racial and hierarchical difference and the visual representation of race. Certainly, artists employed multiple strategies for visualizing racial difference during the second half of the nineteenth century, but many producers of visual culture subscribed to the ideology that essential differences separated the human races. In this dissertation, I will show how signs of racial difference in images by Frédéric Bazille, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec evoke ambivalence toward racial identity. I explore how fluid notions of race in late nineteenth-century France are unexpectedly disclosed in these works.

In my examination of representations of constructions of race in late nineteenth-century French visual culture, I have chosen to investigate images of racialized bodies specifically through the lens of hybridity, a term employed by nineteenth-century biologists, natural scientists, and most notably by contemporary cultural historian and postcolonial theorist Homi K. Bhabha to define the intermixing of races and cultures. The fascination with and fear of hybrid races increasingly dominated the nineteenth-century discourse about racial hierarchies and classifications. The images I have selected expand and problematize the notion of hybridity and its antithetical concept of racial purity. “Hybridity … makes difference into sameness, and sameness into difference, but in a way that makes the same no longer the same, the different no longer simply different,” writes Robert J. C. Young in Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race. Young distinguishes biological hybridity—inter-racial mixing that produces heterogeneous offspring—from cultural hybridity, which he argues is transformative and irrevocably alters the physical, spatial, and metaphorical separation of two discrete entities. I will explore the concept of hybrid zones as sites where boundaries between absolute difference and sameness are effaced, and contact and interaction result in shifts of identity that dismantle the sense of racial or cultural exclusivity and authenticity.

In this study, I employ both the literal and metaphorical notions of hybridity. Since the requisite for biological hybridity is the intermixing of distinct “races,” my dissertation focuses on racialized populations with which the French had significant contact in the nineteenth century: Negroes and Gypsies. I also interrogate what constituted “whiteness” for the French in the second half of the nineteenth century and how visual culture inscribed, indeed participated in creating, unstable and fluid designations of racial difference for populations of color as well for the “white” Spanish Gypsy by Degas, Manet, Bazille, and Toulouse-Lautrec that expose the unreliability of racist ideologies and articulate the instability of racial categories and stereotypes assigned to racialized populations by many French artists, natural scientists, anthropologists, and writers between 1860 and 1900. I investigate nineteenth-century notions about racial hybridity through the lens of biology and ethnology, but I also expand my study to interrogate hybridity as the cross-fertilization of cultures and identity.

I examine how French representations of the African Caribbean, North and West African black, and Spanish Gypsies visually expressed the anxieties about and fascination with the growing numbers of non-white populations living in France. Colonial expansion in the West Indies and Africa resulted in unions between French colonists and colonized women and the offspring of these interracial relationships elicited concerns about the degradation of the white race and civilization. Within their nation’s borders, the French viewed immigrant populations of blacks from their colonies and itinerant Spanish Gypsies – deemed ethnically distinct from Europeans – with suspicion, derision, and desire. The Negro and Gypsy were simultaneously marked as overtly sexual, primitive, and intellectually inferior. Although the French established a racial hierarchy that affirmed Europeans superior to non-white races, colonialism and immigration inevitably contributed to the dissolution of precise racial boundaries. My dissertation considers the areas where the dominant culture and its perceived inferior intersect and how artists represented those “in-between”6 states of racial and cultural identity…

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Red and Black – A Divided Seminole Nation: Davis v. U.S.

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery on 2010-08-11 17:41Z by Steven

Red and Black – A Divided Seminole Nation: Davis v. U.S.

Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy
University of Kansas School of Law
Volume 14, Number 3 (Spring 2006)
pages 607-638

Joyce A. McCray Pearson, Director, Law Library and Associate Professor of Law
University of Kansas

One of the longest unwritten chapters in the history of the United States is that of the relations of the Negroes and the Indians. The Indians were already here when the white men came and the Negroes brought in soon after to serve as a subject race found among the Indians one of their means of escape.1

There is no black Seminole…2

If you want to keep the bloodlines going, you got to keep’em separate…. the tribe is not trying to rewrite history-it’s just that the common fight for freedom that brought blacks and native people together 200 years ago doesn’t apply anymore.3

When we all started out, we started out as brothers. We fought together as brothers. Our blood ran together the same. When we settled we were still brothers. We were brothers until this money came up and then they went to pulling away.4

These sentiments and opposing points of view regarding the identity of Black Seminoles is at the heart of the matter in the case of Davis v. United States. The history of the Black Seminoles reaches as far back as the 17th century.  But the most recent history began in 1950 and 1951 when the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma (SNO) and Seminoles living in Florida filed claims for compensation for Florida lands ceded to the United States in 1823. In an attempt to quiet title to land taken from the Seminoles, in 1976 a $16 million judgment from the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) was awarded to the descendants of the “Seminole Nation as it existed in Florida on September 18, 1823.” The Department of Interior (DOI) directed that 75% of the money be distributed to the Oklahoma Seminoles, 25% to the Florida Tribes and nothing to the Freedmen or Black Seminoles because in 1823 they were considered slaves. Congress did not pass an act allowing distribution of the funds until 1990 which by this time, with interest, had ballooned to $56 million.

In 1996, Sylvia Davis, a member of the Dosar Barkus band of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, was denied a $125 school clothing allowance from the funds.  The Dosar Barkus and Bruner bands are Seminoles of African descent and are the only branches of the tribes being denied access to these funds. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the SNO argue that in denying their claims, they are not discriminating against the Dosar Barkus band based on race, but they are correctly enforcing the requirement that the funds be distributed to descendants as defined in 1823. The Black Seminoles, also known as Estelusi, were not considered members of the nation until 1866 when the U.S. government decided to recognize them as such after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, and passage of treaties imposed upon the Seminoles and a number of other Indian nations who owned slaves. These treaties provided for the emancipation of any slaves owned by the tribes and allowed them to incorporate the “freedmen” into the nation “on an equal footing with the original members”

Obviously, there is much more at stake in the Davis case than $125 worth of school clothes. What is at stake is how tribes, federal agencies and other entities, based upon both an historical analysis and today’s public policy concerns over the distribution of resources, will choose to define or identify as Indian or Black, numerous people who have over the years identified themselves as Black Seminole Indians either through blood quantum, social construct, cultural affiliation, or proven descendancy from an identified ancestor.

This article will not draw definitive conclusions about how to label or categorize an obviously mixed race of people. I will not endorse one position at the peril of alienating the legitimacy of the opposite stance. I only propose to point out the claims of both the Black and Red Seminoles.

Part II of the article explores the historical backdrop which created this ostensibly Black and Indian race. It also looks at the numerous definitions of the word “Seminole.” Part III looks at the Davis case, and the rich heritage of the plaintiff, Sylvia Davis. This section will not employ an in-depth analysis of the procedural, constitutional or other substantive legal issues that plain people will never understand to be the reason why they win or lose a case. Because to plain people that is not what the real issues are. The real issue to plain people is the end result of litigation, not procedural questions or issues which ultimately sends them away from the courts empty handed.

Part IV looks at the reaction and the community outcry after Davis as tribal leaders and disenfranchised Black Seminoles express their agreement or discontent over the outcome of the cases.

Part V briefly explores how DNA and genetic tests may or may not bolster the claims of Black Seminoles, followed by a conclusion which unfortunately gives no solid solutions but instead is merely a few concluding remarks and observations…

Read the entire article here.

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