“Nearly White” and Clinging to “Bits of Finery”: Jim Crow Logic, Brazil, and Evelyn Scott’s Escapade

“Nearly White” and Clinging to “Bits of Finery”: Jim Crow Logic, Brazil, and Evelyn Scott’s Escapade

Women’s Studies: An inter-disciplinary journal
Volume 41, Issue 4, 2012
Special Issue: Women and Travel
DOI: 10.1080/00497878.2012.663249

Amy Schmidt, Supervisor of Supplemental Instruction
Lyon College, Batesville, Arkansas

Evelyn Scott’s Escapade (1923) illustrates both the similarities and the differences between the U.S. South and South American Brazil, highlighting the former’s privileged position as part of the U.S.  Through depictions of elite southern American women living in Brazil, Scott’s Escapade demonstrates how identity performances are disrupted when the stage for them changes and denaturalizes identity through parody, revealing how performances depend upon material means. However, it also demonstrates how the ideology governing performances remains, unfortunately, quite consistent; while her critiques of American capitalism reveal its international consequences, Scott inadvertently illustrates how Jim Crow logic translates rather easily into other regions and countries. Scott’s text demonstrates an impulse towards social justice but simultaneously reveals ambivalence about relinquishing privilege.

Scott left the South to escape the constraints of Jim Crow logic, which entails more than racial segregation laws; as all identities intersect with one another under a “matrix of domination,” race- cannot be divorced from gender, class, or nationality (see Collins 228). Thus, the gender constraints Scott faced in the U.S. South are just as much a part of Jim Crow logic as racial segregation is. and travel taboos are a notable illustration of how Jim Crow governs both race and gender. When Scott left the South in 1913, elite white women were not allowed to travel without a white male chaperone; despite the energy while southerners spent on…

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