Boittin, Jennifer Anne. Reverse Exoticism and Masculinity: The Cultural Politics of Race Relations
2010, University of Nebraska Press
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Abstract: The black colony was sculpted from the elements of racial and political solidarity, but Paris was still dominated in the eyes of black people by white men. In consequence, strategies for sociocultural independence could not follow straightforward political lines, in particular with respect to the phenomenon of negrophilia. How did black men respond to their categorization as exotic others when faced with a vogue nègre that threatened to leave them voiceless? How did they reinforce their control not just over the political milieu they had forged in part through racial bonds, but also within the broader cultural sphere of the capital?

Comment: Can be used to discuss the intersection of race and gender in spaces where black men were in power, accompanied by white women. Useful for conversations on the impact of racism on masculinity.

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Jennifer Anne Boittin. Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of Anti-Imperialism and Feminism in Interwar Paris
2010, University of Nebraska Press
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Publisher’s Note: World War I gave colonial migrants and French women unprecedented access to the workplaces and nightlife of Paris. After the war they were expected to return without protest to their homes—either overseas or metropolitan. Neither group, however, was willing to be discarded. Between the world wars, the mesmerizing capital of France’s colonial empire attracted denizens from Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Paris became not merely their home but also a site for political engagement. Colonial Metropolis tells the story of the interactions and connections of these black colonial migrants and white feminists in the social, cultural, and political world of interwar Paris. It explores why and how both were denied certain rights, such as the vote, how they suffered from sensationalist depictions in popular culture, and how they pursued parity in ways that were often interpreted as politically subversive.

Comment: This book uses a wide variety of sources and methods to discuss the social, political, and cultural history of the French Empire. Prior but limited knowledge of interwar Paris is necessary. Can be used as both an introduction to themes of colonial empire and race and an introduction to new methods of archival research.

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Marika Preziuso. A Subtlety by Kara Walker: Teaching Vulnerable Art
2016, Journal of International Women's Studies 17(3)
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Abstract: In late Spring 2014, the nonprofit organization Creative Time commissioned artist Kara Walker to create her first large-scale public installation. Hosted in the industrial relics of the leg- endary Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, Walker’s A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby was as controversial as it was revered. The powerful presence of the installation, coupled with its immersion in historical consciousness, makes A Subtlety rich in educational value. This article engages in a comparative reading of A Subtlety in the light of female writers and thinkers from the Caribbean, but also incorporates some of the generative questions Walker’s installation has pro- voked my students to ask. I especially engage questions on how to unravel the mixed metaphors that make A Subtlety the artistic embodiment of the textured experience of the African diaspora, with its complex history, cultural hybridity and transnational ramifications. While Walker’s instal- lation seems to sustain its many layers of meanings through both form and content, the (mostly white, US-born) students in my class have responded to it in a range of critical ways that pointed especially to their emotional and critical response toward female Blackness, and reflections about the artist’s responsibility toward her intention. The article reflects on the inherent possibilities for teaching A Subtlety and other forms of what I consider “vulnerable art,” which at its best helps to channel our collective and personal discomfort in effective, healing ways.

Comment: Very useful for teachers interested in integrating contemporary exhibitions into debates about race, gender and colonialism. Establishes connections to other literary pieces and discusses implementation in the classroom as well as reception by students. Prior knowledge of the themes mentioned is recommended but not mandatory if the focus is on the methods used.

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