In ‘Red Pyramid,’ Kid Heroes Take On Ancient Egypt

Posted in Africa, Articles, Audio, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2012-12-20 06:01Z by Steven

In ‘Red Pyramid,’ Kid Heroes Take On Ancient Egypt

Backseat Bookclub
All Things Considered
National Public Radio

Melissa Block, Host

Robert Siegel, Senior Host

If there was a recipe for the best-selling writer Rick Riordan, it would go something like this — start with a love of storytelling, fold in more than a decade of teaching middle school English, combine that with two sons of his own who don’t quite share their dad’s love of literature, and marinate all of that with a deep passion for mythology.

Riordan has sold tens of millions of kids’ books. He hit pay dirt with the Percy Jackson series — it’s about an everyday kid who has superhero powers because he’s the secret son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.

Egyptian gods reign supreme in our latest book for NPR’s Backseat Book Club. It’s The Red Pyramid from Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles. It tells the story of a brother and sister — Carter and Sadie Kane — who have lived apart most of their lives. One Christmas Eve, their father brings them both together for a trip to the British Museum, and a terrible, magical accident happens that unleashes the gods of ancient Egypt into the modern world.

Carter and Sadie learn that they are descended from ancient Egyptian magicians. This means they are the only ones who have the magic that might be able to put the gods back where they belong — before the world spirals out of control.

Riordan is an author who knows his audience — and that has influenced his writing. “I imagine myself in front of my own class,” he tells NPR’s Michele Norris. “I don’t teach anymore, but I can still clearly see fifth period after lunch — that’s a real tough time to teach. And I tried to imagine writing a story that would appeal to those kids — even when they’re tired, even when they’re bouncing off the walls. … If I could find a way to tell a story that would resonate with them, then I had something going.”

Carter and Sadie are biracial characters, but Riordan doesn’t dwell on this in the book. He is more interested in the idea of kids being caught between two worlds, a concept to which he says his readers can relate…

Read the entire article here. Read the transcript here. Download the interview here.

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‘Going out of stock’: Mulattoes and Levantines in Italian literature and cinema of the Fascist period

Posted in Africa, Dissertations, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2011-10-09 02:14Z by Steven

‘Going out of stock’: Mulattoes and Levantines in Italian literature and cinema of the Fascist period

University of Connecticut
255 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3329116
ISBN: 9780549826118

Rosetta Giuliani Caponetto

A Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut

My dissertation examines, within Fascist propagandist literature and cinema of the 1930s, the hybrid figures of mulattoes—the offspring of interracial unions between Italian men and native women of Italy’s African colonies—and Levantines—white Italian immigrant merchants and craftsmen living in Alexandria, Egypt, who culturally intermingled with other ethnic groups. The popular novels and feature films I examine reveal the mulattoes and Levantines as interchangeable characters invalidating Benito Mussolini’s efforts at establishing a national identity based on a common cultural background, racial attributes, and religious beliefs. As my title suggests, I take mulattoes and Levantines out of the cinematic and literary “stock” of propaganda, where they were depicted as outside the stirpe (stock) of the Italian people, to reveal the inconsistencies within Fascist ideals of racial and cultural purity. In historical and anthropological terms, I intend to bring to light how literary and cinematic devices used to stigmatize mulattoes and Levantines often undermine themselves, calling attention to what was supposed to be absent or different from what was in “stock,” in the works themselves, in the actual peoples depicted and even in the motives of Fascist colonial enterprises. My analysis is informed by the framework of studies on exoticism, hybridity and mimicry, passing and the tragic mulatto, masculinity and femininity, and cultural studies, all of which lead back to the question: Why did Italians resist the ethnic and cultural metissage during colonialism and still to this day insist on “whiteness” when they describe themselves and their culture?

Table of Contents

  • Approval Page
  • Acknowledgments
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: ‘Speaking of Itself:’ Exoticism in ‘African Works’ of the Early Italian Colonialism
    • 1.1. Introduction
    • 1.2. Italian Colonialism from the Purchase of the Bay of Assab to the Ethiopian Campaign
    • 1.3. Exoticism and Colonialism
    • 1.4. Exploration and First Italian Colonization: Piaggia, Franzoj, Bianchi and Martini
    • 1.5. Italian Anthropology in the Second Half of the 19th Century and the Hamitic Theory
    • 1.6. Africa in the Literary Works of De Amicis, Salgari, D’Annunzio and Marinetti
  • Chapter Two: ‘Art of Darkness:’ The Aestheticization of Black People in Fascist Colonial Novel
    • 2.1. Introduction
    • 2.2. Mixed Race Children in Italy’s African Colonies
    • 2.3. The Colonial Novel
    • 2.4. Disciplining the Native Population and the Italian Audience
    • 2.5. Rosolino Gabrielli’s II piccolo Brassa
    • 2.6. Arnaldo Cipolla’s Melograno d’Oro, regina d’Etiopia
  • Chapter Three: Undermining Fascist Policies of Order and Risanamento. The Dissident Literature of Enrico Pea and Fausta Cialente
    • 3.1. Introduction
    • 3.2. Alexandria of Egypt: Historical Framework
    • 3.3. The Italian Emigrants of Alexandria
    • 3.4. Growing up in the Shadow of Alexandria
    • 3.5. Enrico Pea’s Egyptian Novels
    • 3.6. Fausta Cialente’s Levantine Characters
  • Chapter Four: Fade to White:’ How Italian Cinema Affiliated with Fascism Framed the Native Population of Italy’s African Colonies
    • 4.1. Introduction
    • 4.2. Demographic Colonization of Ethiopia
    • 4.3. Italian Cinema before Fascism
    • 4.4. ‘African Films’ during the Fascist Period
    • 4.5. Augusto Genina’s Lo squadrone bianco
    • 4.6. Guido Brignone’s Sotto La Croce del Sud
  • Bibliography

Purchase the dissertation here.

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Black Skin, White Skulls: The Nineteenth Century Debate over the Racial Identity of the Ancient Egyptians

Posted in Africa, Articles, History, Media Archive, Philosophy on 2011-08-28 22:32Z by Steven

Black Skin, White Skulls: The Nineteenth Century Debate over the Racial Identity of the Ancient Egyptians

Volume 13, Number 2 (2007)
pages 6-20
DOI: 10.1080/13534640701267123

Robert Bernasconi, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy
Pennsylvania State University

Not so long ago, the question ol the racial identity of the Ancient Egyptians passed beyond the narrow confines of academia onto television and into the national newspapers when, in the wake of  Martin Bernal’s Black Athena. he and certain Afrocentric historians like Molefi Kete Asante, were criticized by Mary Lefkowitz and others for not respecting proper scholary standards However, my aim in this paper is not to expose the errors made on either side of the argument, still less to decide the racial identity of the Ancient Egyptians. This latter task assumes that we have agreed on ways of classifying the races which, given the fact that contemporary biology does not recognize racial classifications, we do not. My aim in this essay is to perform the long overdue task of documenting how the Ancient Egyptians were racially identified during the late eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century. In particular, I will support, suitably modified, the contention of the Haitian thinker Anténor Firmin, that it was not until 1842 that the Philadelphian physician, Samuel George Morton, became the first person to present a sustained scientific argument according to which the people of ancient Egypt belonged to the White race. The debate between Bernal and Lefkowitz reminds us that many people today are still heavily invested in the question of the racial identity of the Egyptians. In order to understand why this is so, it is necessary to know why it was such a major issue in the nineteenth century.

At the end of the eighteenth century the argument was already beginning to be heard that if the people of ancient Egypt were African in a way that attached them to the so-called Ethiopian, Black or Negro race, then the attempt to match the hierarchy of civilizations to the hierarchy of races, which Europeands had already defined in the late eighteenth century, could not be sustained. The stakes were particularly high as the Greeks had been explicit about their debt to the Egyptians. In 1787, Constantin François Volney had published his Travels through Egypt and Syria and had declared that the Copts, who at that time were widely thought to be the descendants of the ancient Egyptians, still had largely Negro characteristics. Four years later, Volney published The Ruins, or Meditations on the Revolutions of Empires, some editions of which include the lines: ‘A race of men now rejected from society for their sable skin and frizzed hair, founded on the study of the laws of nature, those civil and religious systems which still govern the universe.’ Volney did not initiate this idea, which relies on the testimony of, among other ancient authors, Herodotus, who described the Egyptians as having black skin and wooly hair…

Read or purchase the article here.

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The influence of racial admixture in Egypt

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Media Archive on 2011-04-27 22:21Z by Steven

The influence of racial admixture in Egypt

Eugenics Review
Volume 7, Number 3 (October 1915)
pages 168-183

G. Elliot Smith, Professor of Anatomy
University of Manchester

I suppose it is inevitable in these days that one trained in biological ways of thought should approach the problems of anthropology with the idea of evolution as his guiding principle’; but the conviction must be reached sooner or later, by everyone who conscientiously and with an open mind seeks to answer most of the questions relating to man’s history and achievements—certainly the chapters in that history which come within the scope of the last sixty centuries—that evolution yields a surprisingly small contribution to the explanation of the difficulties which present themselves. Most of the factors that call for investigation concerning the history of man and his works are unquestionably the direct effects of migrations and the intermingling of races and cultures.

But I would not have you misunderstand my meaning. The forces of evolution to-day are at least as potent to influence human structure and capabilities as they were in the past to bring an ape to man’s estate. The effects of selection—not only the variety which Darwin qualified by the term “sexual,” but also what we have learned to call “organic” and “social” selection—are certainly emphasised by the heightened powers of discrimination which the intelligence and the fashions of civilised man create.

But one of the effects of the contact of races of different origins and traditions—each of which in its own particular way and in the seclusion of its own domain had successfully overcome the difficulties of existence, and incidentally become more or less specialised in structure and ability, as the result of thus meeting and overcoming its own special difficulties—was the benefitting of the whole community of intermingled races by the knowledge and experience acquired by each race individually. The pressure of maintaining the struggle for existence was thus enormously lightened and the influence of such factors correspondingly lessened. The apparent inhibition of some of the potentialities of the force of evolution among civilised men is not to be regarded as a token of its dwindling efficacy, but rather as an effect of the superior knowledge and experience of mankind enabling him to shield himself against those destructive factors that weeded out and so more rapidly modified his ancestors before they had acquired this wider experience and accumulated wisdom.

Whatever the explanation, the fact remains that during the last sixty centuries the distinctive features of the main subdivisions of mankind have undergone surprisingly little modification…

Read the entire article here.

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American Identities: California Short Stories of Multiple Ancestries

Posted in Anthologies, Asian Diaspora, Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Mexico, United States on 2010-01-13 01:07Z by Steven

American Identities: California Short Stories of Multiple Ancestries

Xlibris Press
263 Pages
ISBN: 1-4363-7705-6 (Trade Paperback 6×9)
ISBN13: 978-1-4363-7705-8 (Trade Paperback 6×9)

Eliud Martínez, Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature
University of California, Riverside

In many parts of the country, especially in California, when one passes by a school or strolls across a college or university campus, it is inescapable to the eye that the American student population looks very different from that before the seventies. Young people today are accustomed to seeing people from many ancestral backgrounds. In classrooms, at schools, colleges and universities; at shopping malls, weddings and other social gatherings, young people are aware that they are living in an increasingly multicultural America.

These then, are the voices and stories of today’s young Americans. Diverse, by turns uplifting, insightful, illuminating and heart-warming or heartbreaking, the stories give us moving portrayals of the young authors and their families, mothers and fathers. Some offer shocking depictions of military brutality and political violence. Others recover family stories and make touching tributes to earlier generations. Some stories help us to see how young people perceive themselves and their identities when they are offspring of mothers and fathers from other lands or of different cultures.

The young writers included in this anthology, or their parents and ancestors, come from Egypt, Ethiopia, Korea, China, Japan, Cambodia, Taiwan, India; from East Los Angeles, El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, Vietnam, Italy, Denmark, the Philippines, Cuba, and other places. Generational differences are inevitable between immigrant parents and their children, who are either American-born or grow up in America. The differences shape many attitudes to the ancestral cultures, customs, language and ways of life. The stories remind us of why some people came to America, of what they left behind, and what persists in ancestral forms adapted to American ways.

The stories provide telling evidence that collectively, there are many varieties of American identity among children of immigrants and their parents from other lands. These California stories tell of young lives that have been shaped by ancestry, time and place, national background, personal and generational experiences, geography, and by American social and immigrant history, conditions in their ancestral lands and lingering perceptions of race.

Many immigrants come in search of a better life or in pursuit of the American dream. Some Americanized children of immigrants struggle self-consciously to fit in. Their experiences invite dramatic literary expression. In two of the most powerful stories in this anthology, Jan Ballesteros and Thien Hoang exorcise their extreme pain, self-consciousness and struggle for acceptance.
In high school Ballesteros is repeatedly humiliated in his classes by four bullies who ridicule his Filipino appearance and his spoken accent. Extremely vulnerable, Ballesteros is perplexed because the bullies are all half-Filipino. In Hoang’s case, he is self-conscious about the Chinese reflection that looks out at him from the mirror. By writing their stories these two vulnerable young men come to terms with being American, and at the same time with being Filipino and Chinese, respectively.

More so than in Ballesteros and Hoang’s case a heightened consciousness of color and the desire to look American leads the Vietnamese mother in Kim Bui’s story—“Asian Eyes Westernized”—to change the shape of her eyes surgically. Ironically, the young author points out, the woman who in Vietnam used to work in the sun daily, here In America, she avoids being out in the sun, and resorts to skin whiteners. Kim Bui is struck by her mother’s advice to be proud of being Vietnamese, but to look American. In their stories Megan E. Chao, Chariya Heang, and Neha Pandey highlight their views of young womanhood in America when parents observe or desire to observe the tradition of arranged marriages. Conflicting points of view and parental cultural norms affect young women. Moving self-portrayals, characterized by thoughtful introspection and injections of irony and humor, attest to their dilemmas.

The Stories in this anthology are important for American education, I believe, so that young people can see themselves in these portrayals. In addition to the moving value of the stories the storytelling is of a high caliber. The storytelling is based on knowledge of ancestral traditions and customs, languages, cultural and social history, geography, family memorabilia, immigration documents, old photographs and family correspondence, materials and family stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. In addition to these sources, the young authors interviewed mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents, and in some cases in languages other than English, all to the young writers’ credit…. [T]he titles of the stories tellingly identify major themes, experiences, and issues that invited and received dramatic literary expression. These stories are valuable repositories of human experiences shared by many young people today. These then, are the stories and voices of young Americans. One may safely predict that the experiences of which these young people have written so candidly, and in many cases eloquently, will resonate with other people and invite thoughtful self-awareness and self-understanding, a deeper appreciation for the richness of the many immigrant cultures of America, and an enhanced understanding of people of multiple ancestries.

And according to the prospectus…

The decades of the 1960s and 1970s ushered in a productive, illuminating and prolific body of scholarly research and creative expression in all the arts. Much of that enterprise was devoted to the most admirable task of historiography—the reinterpretation of the past and the rewriting of American history.

These stories add artistic dimensions to American social and immigrant history, and complement the scholarly research and literary expression of individual groups. The subject matter, the themes, cultural issues and the very human drama of young lives, as depicted in these stories, are timely. Also, because many of the stories address the longing to belong, which historically, was denied to some American groups in the past, they illustrate how emotionally complex the task continues to be for vulnerable young people from many countries…. In the case of U.S. minority groups—as African Americans, Chicanos, Asian- and Native Americans were once designated—that past denial resulted in the retroactive recovery of our rich intellectual and cultural histories, creative and artistic roots, our arts, heritages and ancestries.

Imaginative and creative expression in the arts dramatizes scholarship in history and the social sciences…. Personal, emotional, direct and down to earth, these stories drive home the psychological and emotional impact of feeling different with a directness and immediacy that scholarly works can only approximate. As such, the anthology also complements numerous scholarly works about bi-racial, multi-racial and mixed-race people.

To read an excerpt, click here.

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