Junot Díaz representing the Diaspora vs. Dominican government and intellectual nationals

 

Junot Diaz Speaks Out After Insults To His Dominican-ness

 

From the outsider’s perspective, those who are not Dominican or Dominican diasporans, this news may look as a scandal, a circus show of high-profile figures throwing rotten tomatoes at each other. But from the intellectually curious’ view, the one familiar with the history of nations and imperialism, this news is much more than what it looks to either the insider or the outsider. Indeed, this news is worth noting beyond the obvious issue of the Dominican judicial racist ruling because it shows us a significant trend in world identities.

 

Beneath the journalist view, this news is a furious clash between the diaspora (Dominicans actually living outside of the DR) and national locals (Dominicans living on the east side of the island and with deep roots in Dominican soil). Those interested in studying current nationalisms, particularly the expressions of patriotism emanating from small and poorer countries struggling to maintain dignity and sovereignty, may want to pay attention to how national locals (Dominicans in the DR) are now perceiving their own diasporas: they are half-breeds, tools of foreign intervention and imperialism. In this case, viewed from the local nationals’ perspective with a long history of struggle against US imperialism, the US does not have to intervene directly on Dominican politics anymore (the Marines can stay calmly home in their military bases, and the likes of cultural diplomats like Sumner Welles can stay in their DC offices observing the drama developed, but from the outside). The Dominican diaspora in the US, already assimilated into (even when partially) modern paradigms of liberalism, can do the work of chastising the recalcitrant and outdated Dominican national visions of race and retrograding nationalisms that keep both nation-states on Hispaniola (Haiti and the DR) in constant disharmony and international source of shame.

 

The Diaspora, then, people like Junot, is not always welcome back home, neither it belongs legitimately at the center of the empire (look here for an example, to what happened recently to Marc Anthony when he tried asserting his US credentials by signing a historically US song publicly and was then openly treated as a foreign “Mexican” and not as a legitimate US citizen, nor even a Puertorrican. This is also similar (look here) to what Joe Feliciano went through in the fateful year of 1968). The diasporan can’t speak English, the imperial language, well enough to be seen a bona fide US individual (she/he does not have the looks anyways), nor can she/he articulate thoughts well in Spanish to be embraced by Dominican locals as a genuine Dominican. Without a legitimate home, the Diaspora floats around as if hanging over in space without a hard surface to land on or call home (Diasporans are the anti-nationals). The airports are its bungalows, the airlines its agents and the impersonal internet its only real network.

 

Yet, as indicated in this story, the Diaspora is ever more powerful, and despite local-national accusations of imperial complicity, the Diaspora is its own emancipated self. Perhaps it is because I am also a diasporan, have always been, I say, “Go Junot, dale pa’ lante, show them lo ignorante y atrasados que se ven.”

 

A pic with Junot Díaz after a reading in 2010.

A pic with Junot Díaz after a reading in 2010.

 

 

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Junot Diaz Speaks Out After Insults To His Dominican-ness

Junot Diaz Speaks Out After Insults To His Dominican-ness

From the outsider’s perspective, those who are not Dominican or Dominican diasporans, this news may look as a scandal, a circus show of high-profile figures throwing sticky balls of mud to each other. But from the intellectually curious’ view, the one familiar with the history of nations and imperialism, this news is much more than what it looks to either the insider or the outsider alike.

Indeed, this news is worth noting even beyond the obvious issue of the Dominican judicial racist ruling. Beneath the journalist view, this is a furious clash between the diaspora (Dominicans actually living outside of the DR) and national locals (Dominicans living on the east side of the island and with deep roots in Dominican soil). Those interested in studying current nationalisms, particularly expressions of patriotism emanating from small and poorer countries struggling to maintain dignity and sovereignty, may want to pay attention to how national locals (Dominicans in the DR) are now perceiving their own diasporas: they are half-breeds, tools of foreign intervention and imperialism. In this case, viewed from the local nationals’ perspective with a long history of struggle against US imperialism, the US does not have to intervene directly on Dominican politics anymore (the Marines can stay calmly home in their military bases, and the likes of cultural diplomats like Sumner Welles can stay in their DC offices observing the drama developed, but from the outside). The Dominican diaspora in the US, already assimilated into (even when partially) modern paradigms of liberalism, can do the work of chastising the recalcitrant and outdated Dominican national visions of race and retrograding nationalisms that keep both nation-states on Hispaniola (Haiti and the DR) in constant disharmony and international source of shame.

The Diaspora, then, people like Junot, is not always welcome back home, neither belongs legitimately at the center of the empire (look here for an example, to what happened recently to Marc Anthony when he tried asserting his US credentials by signing a historically US song publicly and was then openly treated as a foreign “Mexican” and not as a legitimate US citizen, nor even a Puertorrican. This is also similar (look here) to what Joe Feliciano went through in the fateful year of 1968). The diasporan can’t speak English, the imperial language, well enough to be seen a bona fide US individual (she/he does not have the looks anyways), nor can she/he articulate thoughts well in Spanish to be embraced by Dominican locals as genuinely one of them. Without a legitimate home, the Diaspora floats around as if hanging over in space without a hard surface to land on or call home (we are the anti-nationals). The airports are its bungalows, the airlines its agents and the impersonal internet its only real networks. Yet, as indicated in this story, the Diaspora is ever more powerful, and despite local-national accusations of imperial complicity, the Diaspora is its own emancipated self. Perhaps it is because I am also a diasporan, have always been, I say, “Go Junot, dale pa’ lante, show them lo ignorante y atrasados que se ven.”

“Listen to What the Drums Say” – Jasiri X



What does it say when the young and rebellious who are on the trenches resisting racial and economic oppression, and are too smart to believe the establishment’s eulogies, continue thinking and reinterpreting the inspirational life of Mandela? There may be reasons to hope in the future.

The Daily News posted that James Baker has tried to clean Reagan from his defense of the South African Apartheid.

When even the most reactionary leaders, who once feared and disapproved of Mandela, are chanting his praises, we need critical thinkers in the front lines ready to speak truth to power.

Though unknown to many, grassroots music and other forms of artistic performances were at the vanguard of the fight against the Apartheid. Drums, in particular, were symbols of resistance since the start of slavery in the Americas. Jasiri X’s metaphor on drums, then, runs deeper than what it looks on the surface.


The lyrics to this song are here

About Jasiri X
http://www.jasirix.com
http://www.twitter.com/jasiri_x

12 Years a Slave and the Problem of Depicting Human Atrocities | Ana Lucia Araujo

12 Years a Slave and the Problem of Depicting Human Atrocities | Ana Lucia Araujo

Every now and then, thinkers and activists (of a certain kind) manage to convince producers to sponsor a film or TV show about the history of slavery that shocks the establishment. It does, not because the production is necessarily superior (it often is), but because it succeeds in inciting reflection of the intensity and current implications of slavery’s past. For many, the standard has long been Alex Haley’s novel and its inspired TV series, Roots, which transformed much of the intellectual and emotional landscape, not only in the U.S., but in Latin America and even Europe (even despite its controversies).

If college tests’ results, and media’s ignorance are any indication, I would say we need more of this and more often. Fortunately, this year we are witnessed to one of these films. I have not watched the film yet (I live far from any screening or showing), but by reading the criticism, summaries and being familiar with the primary source (autobiography) in which is based, it seems safe to think this film will add to the resources educators can use to bring life to the classroom and will stimulate much-needed intellectual discussion among lay people about a topic often cover by myth, fear and secrecy.

“12 Years” seems to markedly contrast with sweeter films like “Amazing Grace” (2006) in portraying the realities of racial oppression in more stark terms, to the point that Morgan Freeman, an actor in similar films (i.e., Glory 1989′ Invictus 2009) have publicly said he prefers not to watch it. He admitted that this type of film hits the amygdalae hard and there are limits in what a person like him can take of these hits. The crudeness of reality in this film apparently challenges our common practice of escapism in movie-watching.. It also forces watchers to make space for more anger and repulsiveness in their lives.

Time will tell the impact this film will have in the consciousness of people, in and outside of the U.S. As for me, I am eager to watch it, but should recommend reading the original source first, reviews and blogs like that of my colleague Ana Araujo.

REVIEWS: Modernity Challenged, or how I learned to love others

English: Coat of arms of Cuba. Español: Escudo...

Coat of arms of Mexico. Español: Escudo Nacion...

Coat of arms of Mexico. Español: Escudo Nacional de México. Français : Armoiries du Mexique. 日本語: メキシコの国章。 Română: Stema Mexicului. Русский: Герб Мексики. Svenska: Mexikos statsvapen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Modernity

Modernity (Photo credit: brian glanz)

Geoffrey Fox <gf@geoffreyfox.com> and Lorrin Thomas
<lthomas2@camden.rutgers.edu> have indulged us with two fine reviews:

1- Fox: “Frustrated Bourbons vs. Urban Reality in Old Mexico
http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=31423

2- Thomas: “Against A U.S.-Dominated Modernity
http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=31919

The theme of modernity, be it in Mexico, Cuba, or the United States, ties Fox and Thomas’ reviews together. Though one more than the other, both allude to the need of revising our interpretations of European modernity and to value those opposing it.  The power of the supposedly un-modern to frustrate aggressive Bourbon reforms may reveal more than just an incompetent colonial bureaucracy. Similarly, the intricate visions of de-nationalized, but racialized wandering dissident authors may help us appreciate a universal thirst for justice, betterment and order, a prerogative (seemingly) previously claimed by modernity.

 

Picture you as a sophisticated and street-wise Mexica healer walking
purposely on the “wrong side of town” in Bourbon “modern” Mexico City,
while exuding the distinctive aroma of traditional herbs– an
assortment of long cherished greens, which by now have grown to
include others from Africa (thanks to the importation of African
captives) and Asia (made available through the Manila Galleon). You
have made a name by resisting the medical “modern” bleed-treatment of
pious European-trained physicians in overcrowded colonial hospitals,
and perhaps by surviving a few close encounters with the inquisition.

 

Travel now ahead in time, but only for about a century. Picture you
again as a person of color, but this time fortunate enough to write
and travel to Cuba and the Harlem at a time when lynching was common,
states and provinces were passing laws forbidding interracial
marriages, and science seems to confirm ideas of the gradual
extinctions of non-White people. In your travels, as well as in your
writings, you oppose this new version of “modernity”: the USAmerican
“modernity” (thanks to Brian Owensby for the term). This is, in fact,
a neo-euro modernity, not that different from the Bourbon’s that
cannibalizes other states’ sovereignties and attempts to impose a
global “scientist” social order with racial difference at its
hierarchical social core. Your writing, not unlike the shamanic
practice in your previous incarnation as a Mexica healer opposing
modern Bourbon reforms, envisions a radically different world-order
that de-centers race and nations, and makes better claim for human
equality than what the European modern liberalism has done yet. Who
are you? And why should historians write about you?

 

In a seminal article about modernity, Richard Wolin admits the
profound failings of European modernity as a historical paradigm while
also arguing for its “benefit.” (1) The blessing is what he calls,
“cultural reflexivity,” or the ability to use a second order to
critically examine the first one. In other words, the euro-modernity
project, despite all of its deficiencies, has a trait, a device, if
you like, that allows for self-criticism through the appreciation of
the Other (i.e., Protestant Reformation, Enlightenment critique,
Romantic view of the exotic).

 

Latin American historians are perhaps more familiar with this idea
(than most other historians) through the studies of Bartolomé de las
Casas, called often the first “modern” (of many things). But
tragically, we are also well-versed with the problems in this rosy
view of pious compassion, and, even more terrifying, with the plethora
of “modern” followers of Gines de Sepulveda. Take for example Domingo
Faustino Sarmiento’s push for an uncompromising nationalist modernity,
a decidedly neo-euro modernity. Perhaps in desperation, American
patriot-nationalists like Sarmiento sought functional order and
validity from civilized Europe and the USA. Many Latin American
positivists would later follow the unfortunate natural logic of
evolutionism and scientific racialism. In their national projects, the
traditional, non-modern order would not be assimilated, not even
treated kindly, but extricated and expunged, to give way to a more
advanced, robust and brighter future where capitalist forms of
production were favored, and patriarchy and whiteness were once again
(if not more viciously) enthroned. This horrid image gives some
validity to Homi Bhabha’s argument that euro-modernity’s most serious
problem is its inability to assimilate or deal fairly with traditional
(ancient) practices.  Thus, after all, self-criticism might not be a
particularly strong trait of euro-modernity.

 

What are we left with, then? Don’t forget yet to give credit to
Emanuel Kant’s most sanguine interpretation of euro-modernity, which
asserts that euro-modern individuals are modern because they transcend
their parochial cosmos (perhaps an audacious depiction considering his
virulent racism). This enlargement of compassion, in fact, fueled many
Romantic reforms (including abolitionism). However, the existence of
this positive side to euro-modernity is not in question, but rather
its uniqueness (exceptionalism) and perhaps its comparative strength
or importance in the mix. The other side of Kant’s coin, in clear view
to euro-thinkers only after the rude awakening of both WWs, is better
expressed in the foucauldian grim articulation of power as a
historical point of inquiry (a grimmer and more totalizing turn in
thought from “class struggle”). Daniel Brunsetter puts it grislier in
coining the term “othercide:” euro-modernity’s tendency to kill the
Other. (2) Here, Europe’s modernity left us again naked and with
little room for love (bummer).

 

But then, from the ashes of a nihilist postmodernism, which found all
meta-histories, as well as all purposes of history simply distasteful
and useless, have risen a more clearly defined oppositional
scholarship, busy trying to decipher the ugly post-colonial reality
and searching for signs of origins other than euro’s pasts. It is the
Age of Heroines and Heroes all over again, but from humbler origins (a
theme long popular): the rise of the margins? From this utterly honest
political scholarship we hear clamors, like that of Dilip Gaonkar,
which entreat us to stop our obsession with European “modernity,” and
start listening to other modernities. From this paradigm, modernity is
not the monopoly of Europe anymore, but it is perhaps the universally
human impulse to find and negotiate order—it just happens throughout
history somewhat differently in time and space. (3) In fact, Sarmiento
could have easily written _Facundo_ in ancient Mesopotamia (_Epic of
Gilgamesh_). His consideration of Enkidu would have certainly
differed, however, from his treatment of the dispossessed
American-poor, Amerindian and Black people. And the questions we would
have asked would have been, how and why?

 

So, the anti-Bourbons and anti-USAmericans in these reviews may be
suggesting alternative modernities, perhaps a prodding for us to
follow similar tracks and look for modernities (as opposed to a single
modernity) all around and throughout the historical record.

 

1. Richard Wolin, ““Modernity”: The Peregrinations of a Contested
Historiographical Concept,” _The American Historical Review_ 116, no.
3 (2011): 741-751.
2. Daniel R. Brunsetter, _Tensions of Modernity: Las Casas and His
Legacy in the French Enlightenment_, (Routledge, 2012).
3. Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar, ed. _Alternative modernities_ Vol. 12,
no. 3. (Duke University Press Books, 2001).

Black History: is this Raul Julia?

Black History: is this Raul Julia?

You may be surprised– This was Henry Jay Lewis a U.S. Black musician and conductor. A talented musician, Henry was the first Black to serve as a conductor and musical director of a major American orchestra (the New Jersey Symphony) in 1968, and the first Black to conduct the Metropolitan Opera, in 1972.

This is the real Raul Julia.

This is the real Raul Julia.

Raul Julia was a powerful actor known well for his acting in The Addams Family and Kiss of the Spider Woman among many. At the end of his life he became increasingly radicalized, more visible in his participation on the films The Burning Season and Romero and on the PBS documentary Americas.

They both rose to prominence from humble origins, died two years apart, and left an admirable legacy.

Latinos as a political classification

The post below is part of the H-LatAm conversation about Latino versus Hispanic identity. The original post is found here:

Migrant Jesis

“Migrant Jesus,” from Lemos “Latino Gothic” works.
http://bit.ly/YmxsCn

Redistas y Neteros (thanks for the reminder, Tom [Holloway]),

What a surprising reception to Nelly‘s question! It is not simply the rapid-firing of messages which tells when a topic has touched a nerve, but the depth of its engaging posts which sets the thread apart. The sharing of articles, written by participants, and of new research (Gary) makes this forum a necessary contribution to the study of Latin American History, and as this discussion has shown, of Latin@ Studies. And it is to this last point that I want to draw your attention to.

 

Though Latino America, as the place of origin, is important to identify the roots of the Latino/a community in the U.S., what makes the Latino (Latin@) experience unique is its diasporic nature. An engineering Professor recruited directly from [Latin America] is not necessarily a Latino Professor. These professors would often have difficulties in relating to the struggles of Latino students coming directly from U.S. High Schools. Their loyalties and identities would often linked them to their countries of origin rather than to the Latin@ more amorphous and (perhaps) transnational sense of community.

 

This (Latino) community would be more comfortable with accepting and even speaking Spanglish, with moving across various cultures and subcultures, and more familiar with “mixed” marriages of, [say] Peruvians and Mexicans, and with “Latino” kids that have never visited Latino America, and yet, [who] do not fit the “American”/”Gringo” mold (a light color would facilitate assimilation, though). The “Latino,” thus, is not a “Latino American.” She is certainly more American than the [typical] U.S. American. But it is the fact that this community is a diaspora, a people without a tangible country, but with a dispersed identity, that makes its [efforts in] naming crucial. It is politically fraught, as Roger briefly mentioned, but it is also inevitable. We can call it an exercise in absurdity all we want, but people on the ground, the activists, the “undocumented,” the religious leader, the community counselor, the teacher, and most importantly, the young members of the second and third generations, would find this the struggle of their lives.

 

So, this is not a mere discussion in semantics, but one that strike at the heart of past and current histories.

 

Cheers

Dennis R. Hidalgo

Latino Gothic

“Latino Gothic,” from Alejandro Garcia Lemos works: http://bit.ly/YmxsCn

First Work on the shipping toward Hayti

Map of Haiti

Image via Wikipedia

Logo of the Archival Research Catalog, the onl...

Image via Wikipedia

One of the first things I need to do is to look at the U.S. National Archives to verify the info about the ships leaving for Haiti in 1824-1826. I have checked the newspapers, and though they have lots of info, we cannot yet put a hard number on the people who migrated to Hayti during this time.

The British seamen shipping archives are now online: http://bit.ly/wiPmuk

Also interesting, is the British archives’ new researchers’ personal page. It has the potential of becoming a new form of social media. http://bit.ly/wsDOZp

The U.S.A. National Archives still have a way to go. http://1.usa.gov/xpR3vP

http://1.usa.gov/w7sGiY

Research now happens 75% online, and the rest flipping through papers, dusty document, and waiting at the desk to receive the documents.

English:

Image via Wikipedia

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