Noting ProgressModern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization,
and the Politics of Culture in Jamaica
By Deborah A. Thomas
Duke University Press, 2004/2005
376 pp., $84.95 Cloth ISBN: 0-8223-3408-9; $23.95; paperback ISBN 0-8223-3419-4
Modern Blackness is a rich ethnographic exploration of Jamaican identity in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Analyzing nationalism, popular culture and political economy in relation to one another, Deborah A. Thomas illuminates an ongoing struggle in Jamaica between the values associated with the postcolonial state and those generated in and through popular culture. With detailed descriptions of daily life in Jamaica set against a backdrop of postcolonial nation-building and neo-liberal globalization, Modern Blackness is an important examination of the competing identities that mobilize Jamaicans locally and represent them internationally.Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education
By William G. Bowen, Martin A. Kurzweil and Eugene M. Tobin
University of Virginia Press, April 2005
480 pp., $27.95 Cloth ISBN: 0-8139-2350-6
Thomas Jefferson once stated that the foremost goal of American education must be to nurture the “natural aristocracy of talent and virtue.” Although in many ways American higher education has fulfilled Jefferson’s vision by achieving a widespread level of excellence, it has not achieved the objective of equity implicit in Jefferson’s statement. After identifying the “equity” problem at the national level and studying 19 selective colleges and universities, the authors urge all selective colleges and universities to continue race-sensitive admissions policies, while urging the most selective (and privileged) institutions to enroll more well-qualified students from families with low socioeconomic status.Racial Myths and Masculinity in African American Literature
By Jeffrey B. Leak
University of Tennessee Press, April 2005
192 pp., $30.00 Cloth ISBN: 1-57233-357-X
The portrayal of Black men in our national literature is controversial, complex and often contradictory. In Racial Myths and Masculinity in African American Literature, Jeffrey B. Leak identifies some of the long-held myths and stereotypes that persist in the work of Black writers from the 19th century to the present — intellectual inferiority, criminality, sexual prowess, homosexual emasculation and cultural deprivation. Utilizing Robert B. Stepto’s call-and-response theory, Leak studies four pairs of novels within the context of certain myths, identifying the literary tandems between them and seeking to discover the source of our culture’s psychological preoccupation with Black men.
Calling upon interdisciplinary fields of study — literary theory, psychoanalysis, gender studies, legal theory and queer theory — Leak offers groundbreaking analysis of both canonical texts (representing the “call” of the call-and-response dyad) and texts by emerging writers (representing the “response”). The pairings include: Frederick Douglass and Charles Johnson; Ralph Ellison and Brent Wade; Richard Wright and Ernest J. Gaines; and Toni Morrison and David Bradley.
Beyond the Silence and the Shame
By Anne C. Bailey
Beacon Press, 2005
289 pp., $26.00 Cloth ISBN: 0-8070-5512-3
The story of the Atlantic slave trade has largely been filtered through the eyes and records of White Europeans, but in this watershed book, Anne C. Bailey focuses on memories of the trade from the African perspective. African chiefs and other elders in an area of southeastern Ghana once famously called “the Old Slave Coast” share illuminating stories of Africans as both traders and victims of the trade. Though Africans were not equal partners with Europeans, their involvement had devastating consequences on their history and sense of identity.
Like victims of trauma, many African societies now experience a fragmented view of their past that partially explains the blanket of silence and shame around the slave trade.
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