Physics of Blackness: Beyond the Middle Passage Epistemology

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Philosophy on 2015-02-24 02:12Z by Steven

Physics of Blackness: Beyond the Middle Passage Epistemology

University of Minnesota Press
February 2015
240 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8166-8730-5
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8166-8726-8

Michelle M. Wright, Associate Professor of Black European and African Diaspora Studies
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

What does it mean to be Black? If Blackness is not biological in origin but socially and discursively constructed, does the meaning of Blackness change over time and space? In Physics of Blackness: Beyond the Middle Passage Epistemology, Michelle M. Wright argues that although we often explicitly define Blackness as a “what,” it in fact always operates as a “when” and a “where.”

By putting lay discourses on spacetime from physics into conversation with works on identity from the African Diaspora, Physics of Blackness explores how Middle Passage epistemology subverts racist assumptions about Blackness, yet its linear structure inhibits the kind of inclusive epistemology of Blackness needed in the twenty-first century. Wright then engages with bodies frequently excluded from contemporary mainstream consideration: Black feminists, Black queers, recent Black African immigrants to the West, and Blacks whose histories may weave in and out of the Middle Passage epistemology but do not cohere to it.

Physics of Blackness takes the reader on a journey both known and unfamiliar—from Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and gravity to the contemporary politics of diasporic Blackness in the academy, from James Baldwin’s postwar trope of the Eiffel Tower as the site for diasporic encounters to theoretical particle physics’ theory of multiverses and superpositioning, to the almost erased lives of Black African women during World War II. Accessible in its style, global in its perspective, and rigorous in its logic, Physics of Blackness will change the way you look at Blackness.


  • Introduction. Many Thousands Still Coming: Theorizing Blackness in the Postwar Moment
  • 1. The Middle Passage Epistemology
  • 2. The Problem of Return in the African Diaspora
  • 3. Quantum Baldwin and the Multidimensionality of Blackness
  • 4. Axes of Asymmetry
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Africa in Europe: Studies in Transnational Practice in the Long Twentieth Century

Posted in Africa, Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, Europe, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2013-03-06 17:02Z by Steven

Africa in Europe: Studies in Transnational Practice in the Long Twentieth Century

Liverpool University Press
January 2013
304 pages
Illustrations: 8 colour plates, 12 black and white illustrations
234 x 156 mm
Hardback ISBN: 9781846318474

Edited by:

Eve Rosenhaft, Professor of German Historical Studies
University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

Robbie Aitken, Senior Lecturer in History
Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom

This volume explores the lives and activities of people of African descent in Europe between the 1880s and the beginning of the twenty-first century. It goes beyond the still-dominant Anglo-American or transatlantic focus of diaspora studies to examine the experiences of black and white Africans, Afro-Caribbeans and African Americans who settled or travelled in Germany, France, Portugal, Italy and the Soviet Union, as well as in Britain. At the same time, while studies of Africans in Europe have tended to focus on the relationship between colonial (or former colonial) subjects and their respective metropolitan nation states, the essays in this volume widen the lens to consider the skills, practices and negotiations called for by other kinds of border-crossing: The subjects of these essays include people moving between European states and state jurisdictions or from the former colony of one state to another place in Europe, African-born colonial settlers returning to the metropolis, migrants conversing across ethnic and cultural boundaries among ‘Africans’, and visitors for whom the face-to-face encounter with European society involves working across the ‘colour line’ and testing the limits of solidarity. Case studies of family life, community-building and politics and cultural production, drawing on original research, illuminate the transformative impact of those journeys and encounters and the forms of ‘transnational practice’ that they have generated. The contributors include specialist scholars in social history, art history, anthropology, cultural studies and literature, as well as a novelist and a filmmaker who reflect on their own experiences of these complex histories and the challenges of narrating them.


  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Illustrations
  • List of Abbreviations
  • List of Contributors
  • 1. Introduction / Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken
  • I. Enacting Identity: Individuals, Families and Communities
    • 2. Prince Dido of Didotown and ‘Human Zoos’ in Wilhelmine Germany: Strategies for Self-Representation under the Othering Gaze / Albert Gouaffo
    • 3. Schwarze Schmach and métissages contemporains: The Politics and Poetics of Mixed Marriage in a Refugee Family / Eve Rosenhaft
    • 4. ‘Among them Complicit’? Life and Politics in France’s Black Communities, 1919–1939 / Jennifer Anne Boittin
    • 5. ‘In this Metropolis of the World We Must Have a Building Worthy of Our Great People’: Race, Empire and Hospitality in Imperial London, 1931–1948 / Daniel Whittall
  • II. Authenticity and Influence: Contexts for Black Cultural Production
    • 6. Féral Benga’s Body / James Smalls
    • 7. ‘Like Another Planet to the Darker Americans’: Black Cultural Work in 1930s Moscow / S. Ani Mukherji
    • 8. ‘Coulibaly’ Cosmopolitanism in Moscow: Mamadou Somé Coulibaly and the Surikov Academy Paintings, 1960s–1970s / Paul R. Davis
    • 9. Afro-Italian Literature: From Productive Collaborations to Individual Affirmations / Christopher Hogarth
  • III. Post-colonial Belonging
    • 10. Of Homecomings and Homesickness: The Question of White Angolans in Post-Colonial Portugal / Cecilie Øien
    • 11. Blackness over Europe: Meditations on Culture and Belonging / Donald Martin Carter
  • IV. Narratives/Histories
    • 12. Middle Passage Blackness and its Diasporic Discontents: The Case for a Post-War Epistemology / Michelle M. Wright
    • 13. Black and German: Filming Black History and Experience / John Sealey
    • 14. Excavating Diaspora: An Interview Discussing Elleke Boehmer’s Novel Nile Baby / John Masterson with Elleke Boehmer
    • 15. Afterword / Susan Dabney Pennybacker
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Was first black priest black enough?

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, Religion on 2010-05-13 22:13Z by Steven

Was first black priest black enough?

Chicago Tribune

Manya A. Brachear, Tribune reporter

Healy, son of a plantation owner, isn’t mentioned as often as Tolton, who is being pushed for sainthood

More than a year after some African-Americans scrutinized the blackness of the nation’s first black president, America’s Catholics are now wrestling with the same questions to determine who was the nation’s first black priest.

The debate emerges as the Archdiocese of Chicago seeks sainthood for the Rev. Augustus Tolton, long hailed in Chicago as the first African-American clergyman to serve in the U.S. Catholic Church.

A rival for the title is Bishop James Augustine Healy, who was ordained in 1854, the year Tolton was born. But Healy, the son of an Irish-American landowner and a mixed-race slave, was light-skinned enough to pass as a white man. And in many cases, he did…

…As bishop of Portland, Maine, Healy served another marginalized population: Native Americans.

The eldest of 10 siblings, Healy was raised Catholic but attended a Quaker school in New York. In 1849, he graduated valedictorian of the first class at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.

He attended seminary in Canada and was eventually ordained in Paris. But he distanced himself from an African-American identity. He declined to participate in African-American organizations and turned down invitations to address the National Black Catholic Congress, citing the New Testament — “Christ is all and in all” — as his reason.

James O’Toole, author of “Passing for White: Race, Religion and the Healy Family [, 1820-1920],” said that denial comes across to some as betrayal. To others, it gives a new dimension to the struggle. But he believes contemporary categories or agendas shouldn’t be imposed upon historical figures.

“In a sense, that can look like racial treason. Why are you denying who you are?” said O’Toole. “Those are very much the standards of today. But they’re not their standards. As a historian, that’s what ought to govern here. … We should be assessing them on their own terms.”

But Michelle Wright, associate professor of African-American studies at Northwestern University and author of “Becoming Black [: Creating Identity in the African Diaspora],” cautions that ceding to Healy’s self-identity could further the misconception that African-Americans did not contribute to society…

Read the entire article here.

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Black Europe and the African Diaspora

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, Europe, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2009-11-11 16:35Z by Steven

Black Europe and the African Diaspora

University of Illinois Press
368 pages
6 x 9 in. 
15 black & white photographs, 1 map
Cloth: ISBN 978-0-252-03467-1
Paper: ISBN 978-0-252-07657-2

Edited by

Darlene Clark Hine, Board of Trustees Professor of African American Studies
Northwestern University

Trica Danielle Keaton, Associate Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies
the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Stephen Small, Associate Professor of African American Studies
University of California, Berkeley

Multifaceted analyses of the African diaspora in Europe

The presence of Blacks in a number of European societies has drawn increasing interest from scholars, policymakers, and the general public. This interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary collection penetrates the multifaceted Black presence in Europe, and, in so doing, complicates the notions of race, belonging, desire, and identities assumed and presumed in revealing portraits of Black experiences in a European context. In focusing on contemporary intellectual currents and themes, the contributors theorize and re-imagine a range of historical and contemporary issues related to the broader questions of blackness, diaspora, hegemony, transnationalism, and “Black Europe” itself as lived and perceived realities.

Contributors are Allison Blakely, Jacqueline Nassy Brown, Tina Campt, Fred Constant, Alessandra Di Maio, Philomena Essed, Terri Francis, Barnor Hesse, Darlene Clark Hine, Dienke Hondius, Eileen Julien, Trica Danielle Keaton, Kwame Nimako, Tiffany Ruby Patterson, T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, Stephen Small, Tyler Stovall, Alexander G. Weheliye, Gloria Wekker, and Michelle M. Wright.

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