Obama and Race: History, Culture, Politics

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Barack Obama, Books, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-07-17 04:20Z by Steven

Obama and Race: History, Culture, Politics

200 pages
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-415-68678-5

Edited by

Richard H. King, Professor Emeritus of American and Canadian Studies
University of Nottingham

In this collection, academics from both sides of the Atlantic analyze the confluence of a politician, a process, and a problem—Barack Obama, the 2008 US presidential election, and the ‘problem’ of race in contemporary America. The special focus falls upon Barack Obama himself, who appears in many guises: as an individual from biracial and transnational backgrounds; a skilled, urban African-American organizer and then politician; and as intellectual and author of a bestselling autobiographical exploration.

There is a certain representative quality about Obama that makes him a convenient way into the labyrinth of American race relations, national and regional politics (including the South and Hawaii), and past history (particularly from the 1960s to the present). Contributors also explore the role Michelle Obama has played in this process, both separately from and together with her husband, while one theme running through many chapters concerns the myriad ways that the American left, right and centre differ on the nature and future of race in a country that daily becomes more mixed in ethnic and racial terms. Race is everywhere; race is nowhere. The essays are grouped by their approach to the topic of Obama and race: via historical analysis, cultural studies, political science and sociology, as well as pedagogy. The result is an exciting mix of perspectives on one of the most fascinating phenomena of our time.
This book was originally published as a special issue of the journal Patterns of Prejudice.


  1. Obama and race: culture, history, politics Richard H. King, University of Nottingham, UK
  2. The riddle of race Emily Bernard, University of Vermont, USA
  3. ‘A curious relationship’: Barack Obama, the 1960s and the election of 2008 Brian Ward, University of Manchester, UK
  4. Barack Hussein Obama: the use of history in the creation of an ‘American’ president George Lewis, University of Leicester, UK
  5. Becoming black, becoming president Richard H. King, University of Nottingham, UK
  6. Two great days in Harlem Carmel King, freelance photographer, UK
  7. How to read Michelle Obama Maria Lauret, Sussex University, UK
  8. Barack Obama and the American island of the colour blind Peter Kuryla, Belmont University, USA
  9. Barack Obama as the post-racial candidate for a post-racial America: perspectives from Asian America and Hawaii Jonathan Y. Okamura, University of Hawaii, USA
  10. Barack Obama and the South: demography as electoral opportunity Donald W. Beachler, Ithaca College, USA
  11. Teaching Obama: history, critical race theory and social work education Damon Freeman, University of Pennsylvania, USA
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How to read Michelle Obama

Posted in Articles, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2011-05-29 17:20Z by Steven

How to read Michelle Obama

Patterns of Prejudice
Volume 45, Issue 1 & 2 (Special Issue: Obama and Race) (2011)
Pages 95 – 117
DOI: 10.1080/0031322X.2011.563149

Maria Lauret, Reader in American Studies
University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom

Michelle Obama’s role as the first African American First Lady is more than merely symbolic. Her self-representation as a professional woman, mother and spouse is directed towards a wider representativeness that is new in American political discourse. As a descendant of slaves and slave owners whose American ancestry can be traced back to the 1850s, she can lay claim to an African American legacy that the President lacks. As a result, some of her more controversial statements during the presidential campaign about the black family, class mobility and national pride need to be read in the context of an African American literature and historiography that challenges the American creed of equality, liberty and unconditional love of one’s country. Michelle Obama’s family history, her Princeton undergraduate thesis and her own words in interviews are analysed here in the discursive context of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Richard Powers’s The Time of Our Singing, and Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave-girl, as well as the historiography of the civil rights movement. Such a reading reveals how Michelle Obama’s background weaves the legacy of slavery into the American fabric, and shows that a redemptive construction of American history—in which the success of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the Obama presidency are taken as fulfilment of the American creed (and of Martin Luther King’s dream)—must be refused if a new national self-definition with African America at its heart is to take its place.

Read or purchase the article here.

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