The World of Zadie Smith: Mixed-Race People and Polychromatic Dreams

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-01-12 03:42Z by Steven

The World of Zadie Smith: Mixed-Race People and Polychromatic Dreams

The Wire

Radhika Oberoi

Swing Time like its predecessors is intensely curious about race, but it is also curious about so much more than race, such as Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Ali Baba Goes to Town and Michael Jackson.

Cool Britannia, slickly marketed by Tony Blair’s Labour government, was hardly a monochromatic one. The London of Alexander McQueen, Oasis, Blur, Damien Hurst and the Spice Girls was a pastiche of the preceding Conservative regimes and a variegated motif of multiculturalism. White Teeth, that rollicking sketch of the post-colonial migrant experience, that comical world of inter-locking narratives – a genre that James Wood compellingly defined as ‘hysterical realism’ – landed amidst the boisterous icons of Cool Britannia in 2000, announcing the arrival of Zadie Smith – young, black, British, freckled, high cheek-boned.

White Teeth, an ostensibly hilarious examination of the vagaries of racially mixed friendships, is perhaps the loudest testimony to what Smith does best – bring the Joneses, the Iqbals and the Chalfens together in the hybrid topography of Willesden in north-west London. The book is, as described by Smith herself, in an interview, “…a kind of mishmash, as first novels tend to be”. Swing Time, Smith’s newest fiction, published in November 2016, is an evocation of that very universe – a hotchpotch of people and places, a medley of sights and sounds and smells. It is also a deeper and somewhat quieter rumination on race…

Read the entire review here.

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The Myth of White Purity and Narratives That Fed Racism in South Africa

Posted in Africa, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, South Africa on 2016-07-16 15:25Z by Steven

The Myth of White Purity and Narratives That Fed Racism in South Africa

The Wire

Nicky Falkof, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

An apartheid-era sign from South Africa. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The rhetoric of racial purity is full of suggestive terms like illness, weakening and dilution. These imply the medicalisation of the nation.

In this extract from her book The End of Whiteness: Satanism and Family Murder in Late Apartheid South Africa, Nicky Falkof explores how ideas about disease, risk and danger that the apartheid government applied to black people were transposed onto fears about Satanism during the 1980s.

The grand apartheid regime’s most pressing fear was gelykstelling, an Afrikaans word that means “equalisation”. It believed that this would bring on the “mishmash cohabitation” and eventual bloedvermenging – blood mixing – that threatened the purity of the white race.

During the run-up to the 1938 election, the National Party campaigned on the argument that the ruling United Party’s policy of allowing mixed marriages would cause mass miscegenation. This, in the words of Afrikaans intellectual N.J. van der Merwe, would lead to “mixing of the blood and the ruin of the white race”.

During the 1970s Afrikaans genealogist J.A. Heese uncovered records of more than 1,200 European men in South Africa who married non-white women between 1652 and 1800. Through this he determined that approximately 7.2% of Afrikaner heritage was non-white. This complicated history was not admissible within the apartheid imaginary…

Read the entire article here.

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Africans in India: Pictures that Speak of a Forgotten History

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2016-03-20 23:08Z by Steven

Africans in India: Pictures that Speak of a Forgotten History

The Wire

Jahnavi Sen

Sultan Muhammad Adil Shah of Bijapur and African courtiers, ca, 1640. Credit: The British Library Board.

An exhibition on Africans in India, highlighting the long history of African communities in India, opens on March 21

India and Africa have a shared history that runs deeper than is often realised. Trade between the regions goes back centuries – 4th century CE Ethiopian (Aksumite) coins have been found in southern India. Several African groups, particularly Muslims from east Africa, came to India as slaves and traders. On settling down in the country, they played important roles in the history of the region.

Forgotten histories

Unlike slave experiences in other parts of the world, enslaved Africans in India were able to assert themselves and attain military and political authority in their new homeland.

One of the most famous slave-turned-generals was Malik Ambar, an Ethiopian born guerrilla leader who went on to hold a prominent position in the Ahmadnagar Sultanate in west India in the 17th century. In spite of Ambar’s important role, he is a near forgotten chapter of history. Like Ambar, several other enslaved Africans rose to positions of power and prestige.

Ikhlas Khan, African prime minister of Bijapur, c. 1650, Credit: Johnson Album 26, no. 19, British Library. Public Domain.

“Free African traders, sailors, and skilled artisans were part of the movement of people across the India Ocean. Later on, captives were brought by the Arabs, the Portuguese and Indians”, Sylviane Diouf, director of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery in New York, told The Wire. “The people who became ‘elite slaves’ came mostly from the countries that today are Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. The Portuguese brought in men and women from Mozambique. Later years also saw the arrival of people from Tanzania and adjacent countries.”

Africans in India were known as either Habshi or Sidi to denote their African origins. Even after centuries of mixing with local populations, the name Sidi remains for their descendants…

The historical African diaspora in India is rarely discussed. What is the idea behind this exhibition and what is it trying to highlight?

The idea was to show the diversity of the African diaspora in terms of geography and history. Few people know that there is an African diaspora in the east, the vast majority think only of the Atlantic world. There is also a diversity of experiences within slavery. I started with a digital exhibition: The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World, which presents the history of Africans in Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, India, Sri Lanka, etc. The Indian story was so unique that it I thought it had to be the focus of a physical exhibition…

Read the entire article and interview here.

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Cedric Dover, the Anglo-Indian Who Sought Worldwide Solidarity With Racial Minorities

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Media Archive, United States on 2015-08-18 15:27Z by Steven

Cedric Dover, the Anglo-Indian Who Sought Worldwide Solidarity With Racial Minorities

The Wire

Elisabeth Engel, Research Fellow
German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.

Slate, Nico, The Prism of Race: W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, and the Colored World of Cedric Dover (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)

The scholarship that takes up W.E.B. Du Bois’s thesis that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the colour line – the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea” fills libraries around the globe.

Ever since the African-American leader defined the concept in Souls of Black Folk in 1903, it figured prominently in research on the United States and the transnational contexts of Western imperialism. Nico Slate, a historian at Carnegie Mellon University, is no exception. His research on social movements in the United States and India has long explored how black Americans and colonial subjects advanced their struggles against white supremacy. His most recent book, The Prism of Race: W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, and the Colored World of Cedric Dover, makes the case that this struggle did not just pose the problem of race, but also that of colour.

The story of the 20th century that unfolds from the perspective of people defined as coloured is the subject of Slate’s account. He traces it through the lens of Cedric Dover (1904–1961), an Anglo-Indian biologist, who dedicated his work to the study of race and his political ambition to the movement toward Afro-Asian solidarity. Dover was born in colonial Calcutta, one year after Du Bois’s historic prediction. Slate shows that Dover was one of those “men in Asia and Africa,” whose libraries were filled with Du Bois’s and other African Americans’ writings. Precisely, Dover’s personal library, comprising his writings and reading, is Slate’s main primary source…

Read the entire review here.

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