Overlooked No More: Si-lan Chen, Whose Dances Encompassed Worlds

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2022-01-11 15:56Z by Steven

Overlooked No More: Si-lan Chen, Whose Dances Encompassed Worlds

The New York Times

Jennifer Wilson, Contributing Writer
The Nation

Si-lan Chen in 1944. A socialist, she approached dance as a way to build international solidarity.
Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY, ADAGP, Paris 2021; Telimage

This article is part of Overlooked, a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

As a dancer and choreographer, she sought to represent a broad range of ethnic groups, but audiences often sexualized and exoticized her by focusing on her mixed race.

In 1945, the dancer Si-lan Chen sent a draft of her memoir to the writer Pearl S. Buck, with a letter asking for her thoughts on why she was struggling to get the attention of a publisher.

The problem, Buck explained, was that while Chen had dined with the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek in revolutionary China, had been romanced by the poet Langston Hughes in Soviet Moscow, and had worked in Hollywood for the producer Joseph Mankiewicz, no one actually knew who she was.

The autobiography, Buck said, of a mixed-race girl growing up in Trinidad, studying ballet at the Bolshoi and choreographing films like “Anna and the King of Siam” (1946), was too focused on, well, her…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Adopting the wisdom of Pearl S. Buck

Posted in Interviews, Media Archive, Women on 2013-03-29 03:54Z by Steven

Adopting the wisdom of Pearl S. Buck

gbtimes: The Third Angle Chinese news and video reports on China today

Asa Butcher

When listing an author’s life achievements, it is rare for their Nobel Prize for Literature and Pulitzer Prize to be overshadowed. However, Pearl S. Buck’s humanitarian work with children leaves those awards in the dark.

A pioneer in mixed race adoption, Pearl S. Buck was ahead of her time in many issues considered unpopular in 1950’s America, all of which contributed to her being counted as one of the 20th century’s greatest women.

In the second part of our interview with Mrs. Janet Mintzer, CEO and President of Pearl S. Buck International, we talk to her about the adoption legacy and how it all began.

Part one of the interview is available here.

Match a child

The Welcome House Child Adoption Program, created by Pearl S. Buck in 1949, currently have adoption programs in China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, Korea, and the Philippines. They have found families for more than 7,000 children that, six decades ago, were ‘considered unadoptable’.

If you were bi-racial in the United States in the late-‘40s you were considered unadoptable – that was the mentality of the time period. Adoption was secretive and they would match parents that had blond hair with blond-haired kids or blue eyes with blue-eyed kids because that’s just the way it was done back then,” begins Mrs. Mintzer.

She explains that there were no mixed race parents able to adopt, so officials were unable to ‘match’ a child, so they were left to languish in the orphanage. Pearl S. Buck was well-known in adoption circles, having written about the issue and also having adopted several orphans, including two bi-racial children…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Deconstructing Race: Gobinism and Miscegenation in Pearl S. Buck

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Philosophy on 2012-11-23 03:46Z by Steven

Deconstructing Race: Gobinism and Miscegenation in Pearl S. Buck

The Criterion: An International Journal in English
Volume III, Issue II (June 2012)
8 pages
ISSN 0976-8165

Aysha Munira

The 17th and 18th centuries saw the emergence of the idea of race, along with the rise of colonialism and transatlantic slave trade. By the end of the seventeenth century, the racial category of “black” evolved with the consolidation of racial slavery, in the United States. The specific identities of Africans were engulfed and rendered “black” by an ideology of racial exploitation, leading to the establishment and maintenance of a “color line.” The consolidation of racial slavery was an outcome of a period of indentured servitude. This led to a racially polarized society and shaped specific identities for the slaves as well as white. With homogenization of the colonies as a whole, the new term of self-identification evolved as white (Omi and Winant).

In the conception of race, the discovery of the most perfect female human skull at the Caucasus Mountains, near the purported location of the Noah’s Ark was used to establish and explain racial hierarchy starting from the Caucasoid on top. Theologically, humans are supposed to have come from Adam and Eve, but it is alleged that with the increase in population, some groups in later descendants degenerated and digressed into deviations, which is also used to explain racial hierarchy. On the other hand, the polygenists believe that human had different ancestors. Till the beginning of the 20th century, the notion of archaic subspecies was held, with corresponding cultural and biological manifestations. But the contemporary anthropologists do not hold the idea of race as valid. Race as a scientific reality is no more accepted. The macroracial terms used in order to categorise, e.g. light and dark are not able to cater to the diversity of humanity and therefore are being rejected (Mukhopadhye and Henze). The Columbia Encyclopedia documents that many physical anthropologists believe that the concept of race is unscientific and flawed, since the genetic variations within one race are as many as there can be found between the macroracial groups, (“Race.”). Hence, the term race is unsound especially when applied in order to ethnopsychologize and hierarchize the human species. As to the question how the colours and physiognomic differences marking one set of people different in appearance from others come about, the answer lies in “mutation , selection, and adaptational changes in human populations” (“Race.”) that took place with the passage of time. Race is commonly understood to be the colour of skin or difference in physiognomy that goes into the making of one race different from others.

Despite the scientific truth, race has been used, throughout human history in varying degrees, as “a disfavored means of judging human reality and potential” (Brown). For centuries, the western society has perceived the world as Eurocentric, in terms of exploiting it for albocratic purposes. The various kinds of Eurocentric social discourses reflect and endorse the notion of superiority of white race to the coloured. For sociologists, psychologists and phrenologists there are various ways to define race and explain the reason why there exist hierarchical parameters that declare one race to be superior to the others. Historically speaking, the success of the white race has led to Gobinism or the belief that comparative lightness or darkness of skin colour is a determiner of superiority or inferiority of a particular race. Using the differentiation between essence and existence and Hegelian distinction between ‘to be’ and ‘to have become’ as used by Simone de Beauvoir, (Beauvoir 15), the concept of race and racialization as a basis for another kind of hierarchization can be taken as another human folly to maintain the status quo of global power politics. To Howard Winant, notion of race as an “objective condition” is illogical and flawed. Race can only be understood as a “dynamic flexible social construct” (Chancer and Watkins 50). If an amount of uncertainty or accidental occurrence may be considered to be the law of the universe (Madison), little validity remains to hold the view that success as well as tts resultant seeming superiority of one race is decisive of human worth and not the result of chance and accidents in the history of evolution. It leaves space for a change in the fortunes of the history of peoples.

Race as a notion of hierarchy is also invalidated by the fact that “All human groups belong to the same species (Homo sapiens) and are mutually fertile” (“Race”). This reality of mutual fertility at the same time, has given rise to one of the biggest social problems of human history, the mixed race children.

Even a cursory glance at Pearl S. Buck’s fiction reveals the fact that as a transnational and what she calls a “culturally bifocal” (Conn xiii) person, she subscribes to the constructionists’ idea of race. She holds the view that mutual fertility is a boon for the human species as it creates better progeny that the humanity should be proud of instead of being ashamed of and embarrassed about. For Pearl S. Buck, the cause of the coloured people and the mixed race children was very important and she devoted much of her time and energy for the new breed with different colours and physiognomic features. Laura the chief protagonist in The New Year reads Man’s Most Dangerous Myth, The Fallacy of Race by Ashley Montague which echoes the author’s idea about miscegenation:

When we combine oxygen and hydrogen, we obtain water…When we combine zinc and copper, we obtain an alloy, bronze, which has far greater strength, and numerous other qualities, than the unalloyed metals comprising it; that is certainly getting more out of a mixture than was put into it. When two pure bred varieties of plants or animals unite to produce offspring, the latter often show many more desirable qualities and characters than the stock from which they were derived. Surely the varieties which man presents in his various ethnic forms would suggest that something more has been produced out of the elements than was originally brought into association. (Buck, The New Year 217).

Pearl Buck’s is a perfect eugenic solution. She extols the result of miscegenation. Laura like Pearl S. Buck reaches the conclusion that hybrid is an improvement upon the originals and should be valued as an example of human’s forward march in the process of evolution. It is a symbol of unity rather than of discord and dispute between the progenitors. Kim Christopher and the likes are “a step into future” (Buck, The New Year 218) and so is her husband’s recognition of his son publicly…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,