The Dismissal of the “Mulatto”…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes, Identity Development/Psychology on 2009-11-18 19:15Z by Steven

The dismissal of the “mulatto” through his emasculation is historically grounded: “so frequently did nineteenth century writers depict octoroons as delicate beauties that the word itself began to conjure up images of passive femininity. Although by definition an octoroon was either a male or a female with one-eighth Black blood, Black men in novels were rarely described as such.” There is, of course, an immense bibliography of work (primary and secondary) concerning the “tragic mulatto” as a typically female protagonist, who is unable to find her place in society because of her biracial heritage. This displacement has sexual implications, explains Cynthia Nakashima: “[b]ecause of the structure of power and domination in the American gender system… weakness and vulnerability can be very exciting and attractive when applied to females.” Although the mulatta narratives are intended to evoke sympathy, they often culled readerly desire instead.

Dunning, Stefanie. “Demystifying the Tragic Mulatta: The Biracial Woman as Spectacle.Stanford Black Arts Quarterly 2.3 (Summer/Spring 1997). 12-14.

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Demystifying the Tragic Mulatta: The Biracial Woman as Spectacle

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2009-10-21 01:14Z by Steven

Demystifying the Tragic Mulatta: The Biracial Woman as Spectacle

Stanford Black Arts Quarterly
Volume 2, Issue 3 (Summer/Spring 1997)
pages 12-14

Stefanie Dunning, Associate Professor
Miami University (of Ohio)

To talk about the complexities of subjectivity is to enter into a discussion which necessarily locates itself at the intersection of race, clans, gender and sexuality. When thinking about my own subjective position, I am confronted by constructions that simultaneously identify, name, abridge and abstract me. Sometimes they help guide my thoughts about myself; at other times, they limit my thinking, reducing me to general categories of color, class, and desire. My present task, interrogation of a biracial subject position, is as much a gender discussion as it is a racial one. My investments in this discussion are deep; I am writing theoretically and distantly about myself— looking for truths about biraciality that I recognize in the words of other theorists, hoping to trace for myself and my audience one thread within a complex, unraveling cultural text. I am not interested here with how biracial subjects manage their subjectivites; such an approach inherently positions biraciality as problematic, the historical consideration of which falls beyond the scope of this project. Instead I will explore the way biracial subjectivity is gendered through its construction.

Women are the primary signifiers of miscegenation in literature and film. Likewise, the critical discourse on biraciality foregrounds the “tragic mulatta.” Yet, theorists regularly circumvent the issue of gender and theories lack interrogation of the point at which race and gender meet to sign biraciality. Visibility, i.e. what biracial people “look” like, makes up a significant part of biracial women’s experiences with uniracial onlookers. Moreover, visibility informs biracial women’s response to the uniracial “gaze.” This paper posits that biraciality is read differently “along gender lines.” While discourses about “mulattos” efface biracial men, biracial women are discursively foregrounded as “exotic.” Effectively, biraciality is inscribed with a specifically female status: the desire of ‘uniracial’ onlookers to exoticize biracial women inform the “gaze” which casts biracial women, “spectacle.”

Read the entire article here.

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Queer in Black and White: Interraciality, Same Sex Desire, and Contemporary African American Culture

Posted in Arts, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2009-10-21 00:06Z by Steven

Queer in Black and White: Interraciality, Same Sex Desire, and Contemporary African American Culture

Indiana University Press
152 pages
5 b&w photos, 5.5 x 8.25
ISBN-13: 978-0-253-22109-4

Stefanie K. Dunning, Associate Professor
Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

This book analyzes representative works of African American fiction, film, and music in which interracial desire appears in the context of same sex desire. In close readings of these “texts,” Stefanie K. Dunning explores the ways in which the interracial intersects with queerness, blackness, whiteness, class, and black national identity. She shows that representations of interracial desire do not follow the logic of racial exclusion. Instead they are metaphorical and anti-biological. Rather than diluting race, interracial desire makes race visible. By invoking the interracial, black gay and lesbian artists can remake our conception of blackness.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. “Ironic Soil”: Recuperative Rhythms and Negotiated Nationalism
  • 2. “No Tender Mercy”: Same-Sex Desire, Interraciality, and the Black Nation
  • 3. (Not) Loving Her: A Locus of Contradictions
  • 4. “She’s a B*(u)tch”: Centering Blackness in The Watermelon Woman
  • Epilogue: Reading Robert Reid-Pharr
  • Notes
  • Index
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