The Foreign Gaze: Reimagining Culture and Identity

Friday, February 6, 2015
4:00pm – 5:15pm
Race Conference Room 201, Lavin-Bernick Center (LBC)
Moderated by: Dr. Annie Gibson, Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University

Black Faces: uma reflexão comparada entre o Cavalo-Marinho (Pernambuco- Brasil) e os Zulus do Mardi Gras de New Orleans (EUA)
Beatriz Brusantin, Universidade Católica de Pernambuco

Neste texto construiremos um estudo comparado entre a manifestação cultural do Cavalo-Marinho (Bumba-meu-Boi) realizada na zona da mata norte de Pernambuco (Brasil) e o Mardi Gras (EUA). Em estudo realizado, dialogamos com as pesquisas de Reid Mitchell (2005) sobre o carnaval afro-creole em New Orleans e aprofundamos uma análise entre os personagens Mateus, Bastião e Catarina do folguedo Cavalo-Marinho e os Zulus do desfile do Clube Zulu de Ajuda Mútua e Diversão no século XX. Os personagens brasileiros e americanos trazem significações da cultura africana e esteticamente se utilizam do rosto pintado de preto para ridicularizar estereótipos brancos numa repetição e revisão das formas culturais brancas. Assim, aprofundaremos considerações a respeito dos processos de “crioulização” e “transculturação” dos povos africanos na América, compreendendo suas formas de (re)significar seu cotidiano e reinventar sua realidade através de expressões culturais como o Cavalo-Marinho e o Mardi Gras (Rei dos Zulus). Para desenvolver tal perspectiva analítica utilizaremos como base teórico-metodológica os estudos em História Social, como de Reid Mitchell e Robert Slenes, os estudos dos historiadores britânicos E.P. Thompson e Peter Burke sobre cultura popular e as reflexões sobre a cultura africana na América de Mintz e Price e Lovejoy.

The Victory of the Baianas and FIFA: a look at the opening of political opportunities in wake of the 2014 World Cup
Vanessa Castañeda, Tulane University

Baianas de acarajé are often referred to as “the postcard of Salvador”. These almost exclusively female street vendors are ubiquitously found within Salvador, Brazil, wearing turbans, white blouses and rounded skirts complimented with colored beaded necklaces. They are regarded as traditional and authentic icons of Afro-Bahian identity. Baianas have been selling their West African foods (acarajé) on the streets and beaches of Salvador da Bahia since the 19th century, originally as wage-earning slaves. In 2004 Baianas de acarajé were officially recognized as symbols of national Brazilian heritage and cultural patrimony. In 2013, FIFA announced for the first time in the history of the World Cup, permission for Baianas de acarajé to sell their historical and infamous fritters in the arenas of Salvador during the Confederation and World Cup games. This research paper is an interdisciplinary and intersectional study that examines how and why the Baianas were able to achieve this victory. I examine the historical relationship between Baianas and the local and federal governments, Brazil’s articulation of both a national and regional identities in the first half of the twentieth century and the emergence of a vibrant Afro culture, including cultural civil society groups and black intellectuals. I argue that Baianas were successful in achieving the victory as the first street vendors to sell within the FIFA games because of their official national status as cultural patrimony, the political opportunities afforded to them from the local and federal governments and the kinds of resources presented to them at this particular time in history. Using a mostly quantitative research method of historical and sociological methodology, I argue that this victory was possible because of the specific circumstances of the political environment during that time which partially explains the Baianas’ continuous struggle to address larger social movement agendas.

Sociolinguistic Coloniality and Decolonization in Haiti’s Political and Educational Institutions
Heather Frost, Tulane University

While former colonies often have complicated linguistic relationships with their colonial, indigenous, and creole languages, in Haiti, these relationships have been further complicated in the last hundred years. In the twentieth century, notably since the American occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934 during which French was established as the sole official language of the Caribbean nation, the dynamics between Haiti, its former colonizer, France, and the United States have shifted. Today, these international dynamics reflect the complicated web of dependence, exploitation, and cultural hegemony which continuously renews and displaces political, economic, and linguistic bonds between the three nations. As language has been and continues to be one of the principal tools of cultural hegemony, in this paper I examine how the marginalization of the Haitian Creole language in Haiti is perpetuated by Haitians based on a colonial model in order to limit social mobility and to preserve elite privilege, particularly in political and educational institutions. Additionally, I examine how foreign influence comes into play in this sociolinguistic policy. I explore what is at stake in linguistic policies and practices that marginalize the language spoken by the majority and evaluate alternative policies and practices that have been proposed in terms of the extent to which they work towards the decolonization of Haiti’s political and educational institutions.

Indigenous, Afro-descendent, and Mestizo: Tourism Development and National Narratives
Gabriela Galeano, George Mason University

The national narratives espoused by Central American governments have historically been based on a mestizo (defined here as indigenous-white mixed) image, notorious for homogenizing indigenous and afro-indigenous identities in an attempt to assimilate minority groups into the dominant society. However, recent scholarship points to a shift from mestizaje to a celebration of multiculturalism in the telling of national narratives, where previously marginalized minority groups – such as indigenous and afro-descendant populations – are now pressed to emphasize their cultural difference, particularly for tourist consumption. The Garifuna afro-descendant communities of Honduras represent one such population currently engaging with the rapid growth of tourism development as well as redefining citizenship and civic participation. My initial fieldwork on tourism development and land rights among the Tornabe Garifuna community in Tela, Honduras focused on the process through which the community organized and obtained an agreement with the Honduran national government and national/international investors regarding the development, construction, and management of a nearby, large-scale tourism resort. Interviews with community members at the time pointed to a successful collaborative relationship, though interviews and participant-observation conducted two years later exposed more complex dynamics between the major actors and during a different – more tense – sociopolitical and economic context. Thus, while the overall objective of my research still consists of analyzing the ways in which the Tornabe Garifuna community in the Tela Bay area of Honduras is resisting and adapting to the growing tourism industry (e.g. socio-political organization and framing of interests), I also seek to explore the potential role Garifuna communities could play (and have played) in the Honduran economy as well as bring into question the long-held perception that Afro-Hondurans and other minority groups are not contributors (or are marginal) to the mestizo-based ideal of Honduran citizenship.

Embodying the Beauty of a Nation: negotiating identifications in the Miss Haiti competition
Eva Heppelmann, University of California Los Angeles

Beauty Pageants, particularly national and international pageants, offer insight into representations of the nation and femininity. In the case of the Miss Haiti beauty pageant, contestants participate in a performance of citizenship. Competing to represent Haiti on a national and later on an international stage, the women negotiate personal opinions of beauty and comportment with international perceptions. The pageant serves as a platform that illustrates tensions surrounding cultural values, identifications, and aesthetics, demonstrating a corporeal enactment of these questions of identification. By comparing competitions in several Caribbean countries as well as competitions in the United States, I will investigate the intersection of pedagogic and performative narratives of nationality. What does it mean to embody or represent a nation? In past competitions, contestants who have lived most of their lives outside of Haiti have been selected to represent the nation. In the most recent 2014 Miss Haiti competition, contestants choose to answer questions in Kreyol rather than French, causing shock and admiration among the audience. Finally, how does the fact that these contests were founded and now run by western nations influence the presentation of nationality and beauty? I will analyze past and recent contestants’ performances, the structure and customs surrounding the competitions, as well as the politics of the competition to investigate representations of nationality on an ‘international’ stage.

Constructing a Nation, Defining its People: The Formation and Preservation of Ethnic Identities

Saturday, February 7, 2015
11:30am – 12:45pm
Jones Hall 102
Moderated by: Dr. Rosanne Adderley, Department of History, Tulane University

Out of Blood, Let the Dance Begin: The Metaphor of Blood in Revolutionary Saint-Domingue
Sean Anderson, Lehigh University

While European slave societies placed much emphasis on blood’s purity in a racial sense, the enslaved also placed certain emphases on blood’s meanings in the Americas. Often concerned with European colonial perceptions such as the Spanish limpieza de sangre or the classification system of Moreau de Saint-Méry, much scholarly research has focused on European racial categories rather than specific African ideas and practices concerning blood. This paper will explain the role blood occupied in the Bois Caiman ceremony, which occurred in 1791 at the start of the Saint-Domingue insurgency. According to archival accounts, the ceremony was centered around an African blood-oath ritual. While blood-oath rituals are often interpreted by scholars as creating symbolic union between people and groups, this paper will examine how traditional African symbolic conceptions surrounding blood ritual were transformed by early insurgents. In Saint-Domingue, blood-oath ritual appeared traditional but acted socially and symbolically differently by both integrating various people while demarcating lines of difference among early insurgents. Further, in various contexts, such as at dances and in insurgent camps, blood as a metaphor for both unity and disunity emerges in the archival documents of late eighteenth-century Saint-Domingue, which exposes a rich world of African, European, and American confluence around the multivalent social metaphor of blood. Drawing on the works of diverse scholars such as James H. Sweet, Joan Dayan, Robin Law, and Michael Taussig, this paper will show that the Haitian metaphor of blood was deeper than studies on racial classification reveal. To that end, African cultural forms and symbolic meanings about blood will be examined within the diverse social context of Saint-Domingue to show how an emerging Haitian identity was crafted over the revolutionary period out of many trans-Atlantic symbolic currents.

Cajun Identity Formation during the 19th Century
Jessica DeJohn Bergen, University of Texas at El Paso

This paper will look at the Louisiana Acadians during the early nineteenth century. Following their 1755 deportation by the British Empire from present day Nova Scotia, most Acadians, as subjects of the French Empire, returned to France and/or settled in various regions the Spanish Empire in North America. Many of them relocated to southern Louisiana where they remained until the purchase of the Louisiana Territory by the American Empire. Despite this intriguing trans-imperial history, scholars interested in race, racialization, imperialism, and post-colonialism have largely overlooked the Acadians commonly refer to as Cajuns. This oversight stems from the present understanding of Acadians/Cajuns solely and simply as French or European, thus white; therefore, not a mixed-race or metis peoples. From the earliest settlement of Acadians in Nova Scotia to those of south Louisiana, Acadians/Cajuns have a mixed ancestry of Native American, African, French, and Spanish to name a few. This paper argues that at the nexus of Northern and Southern hemispheric empires, Louisiana Acadians/Cajuns formed alliances with communities that accommodated, resisted, and facilitated European imperialisms. I will discuss the ways that Louisiana Acadians/Cajuns were tied to the nation and the ways the state tied them to emerging constructions of race and nation. Moreover, I will explain what it meant to be Acadian/Cajun under French, Spanish, and U.S. imperial rule and how Acadians/Cajuns perceived themselves likewise. Over time conflicting nineteenth century racial and national ideas promoted discord and Louisiana Acadians/Cajuns sought to divorce themselves from the “other” through a relational process that frequently stressed their “whiteness.” Moreover, this analysis speaks to the ways that French speakers in Louisiana have claimed an Acadian past to racially legitimized a Cajun identity or whiten themselves.

Saint Domingue in Flames, 1791-1793: A Spanish Colonial Perspective of Violence, Spatiality, and Power
Jesús Ruiz, Tulane University

Interrogating Gender: Traditions and Opportunities in the Framing of Women’s Identities

Saturday, February 7, 2015
11:30am – 12:45pm
Greenleaf Conference Room, Jones Hall 100A
Moderated by: Dr. Supriya Nair, Department of English, Tulane University

Poto Mitan or Helpless Victim: An Analysis of Women’s Representation in Haitian Proverbs
Rachel Denney, University of Kansas

This work examines competing notions of Haitian female identity as reflected through Haitian proverbs. Using a postcolonial feminist framework, this research analyzes entries from one of the world’s largest collection of Creole proverbs to understand how gender norms are both constructed and reinforced. These proverbs present a complex picture of female identities and gender relations in Haiti, in which women appear as entrepreneurs, partners, and caregivers, experiencing and eliciting the full range of human emotion. In doing so, they contradict the stereotypical “victim narrative” of Haitian women that permeates the underlying ideology of much humanitarian assistance, as well as undermine simplistic notions about women’s strength and resiliency. This project builds on literature that examines the social construction of identity through content and rhetorical analysis.

Ancient Maya Women’s Identity: An Analysis of Costume in Pre-Columbian Maya Art
Elizabeth Haughey, Tulane University

Ancient Maya textiles were made of natural wool or cotton that was dyed with natural vegetal dyes and woven by women on a backstrap loom. Evidence for these practices can be found in ancient Maya depictions of the act of weaving (often performed by the goddess Ixchel, or Goddesses O and I), as well as Jaina Island figurines and more. While some of the methods of textile production have changed throughout time, others have largely remained the same. Evidence from the Conquest period suggests that some Pre-conquest elements in Maya costume were also retained in 19th century women’s garments and beyond. Specific designs and colors in Guatemalan textiles today can often be linked to certain towns or regions of the country, especially the woman’s huipil (blouse) and corte (skirt) (both elements that originated in ancient times), and serve to provide the wearer with a sense of identity; not only Maya identity, but a specific identity tied to birth town or town of residence. Though little evidence exists that specifically links the Post-Classic Maya period to the period of the Spanish conquest, it may be true that the element of regional identifiability in textiles has persisted since ancient times. Ancient Maya women’s costumes may be seen worn on prominent Maya women, such as Lady Xok of Yaxchilan, Lady Rabbit of Bonampak, Lady Night of Piedras Negras, and others. These ladies can be found on a variety of ancient Maya art, including painted pottery, carved stone lintels and stelae, three-dimensional figurines, and the Maya codices, from sites such as Yaxchilan, Bonampak, and Motul de San José. Analysis of such depictions of women’s costume in Pre-Columbian Maya art can be employed to discover the ways in which the Pre-Columbian Maya may have distinguished regional identity.

(Sup)Plantation Narratives: Reading Andrea Levy’s The Long Song as a Textual and Sexual Revision of The History of Mary Prince

Laura Mellem, Tulane University

This paper examines a contemporary novel, Andrea Levy’s The Long Song (2010), alongside a prominent historical text describing the experiences of an enslaved woman in the West Indies, The History of Mary Prince, originally published in 1831. In depicting the sexual encounters of enslaved women–coerced, for pleasure, and for economic or legal gain–in Jamaica in the period between the abolition of the slave trade and full emancipation (1807-1838), I argue that Levy’s novel especially responds to the deliberate silencing of aspects of Mary Prince’s sexual experiences as an enslaved woman in the original slave narrative. Ultimately, Levy’s novel reveals what Prince’s testimony does not say, that sexuality was a central tenet of enslaved women’s lives and that they did with it what they could. Writing back to the public furor that erupted over Prince’s sexual omissions, moreover, Levy pieces together the claims made about Prince and reinvents a full story of her life, and other enslaved women’s lives. In doing so, she makes clear the contradictions inherent in the unrealistic Victorian demands being made of enslaved women, including the idealization of motherhood and the insistence on women’s chastity. Unapologetically portraying an enslaved woman’s rejection of her dark-skinned child and highlighting her relationships with men, both black and white, for economic gain, Levy disrupts the binary logic of “the woman card” in the debates between abolitionists and pro-slavery supporters. Instead, she portrays a complex female character who is neither simply victim nor concubine. Reading Levy’s The Long Song alongside The History of Mary Prince allows us to fill in the blanks deliberately left in Prince’s testimony, while also appreciating, perhaps even more, the boldness of Prince’s original work.

Challenges to Development: Education, Exclusion, and Accessibility

Saturday, February 7, 2015
1:30pm – 2:45pm
Jones Hall 102
Moderated by: Dr. Laura Murphy, Department of Global Health Systems and Development, Tulane University

Identity and the Millenium Development Goals: Consideration for the post-2015 Agenda 
Shauna Lewis, Tulane University

This paper explores the relationship between legal identity, social exclusion, and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and uses this relationship as a backdrop for evaluating whether a rights-based focus in the post 2015 agenda — with specific inclusion of citizenship-related targets — could improve development outcomes for marginalized and vulnerable populations. Widespread MDG-motivated social programs and interventions related to poverty reduction and access to health and education systems are analyzed to determine the extent to which they are accessible and relevant to indigenous groups, populations of African descent, and those without birth certificates (the argument is also presented that these first two categories are disproportionately represented in the third). The 2013 ruling of the Supreme Court in the Dominican Republic and the resulting statelessness of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent is discussed in the context of comparison of the national policies throughout the region that govern the provision of identification documents and citizenship rights to individuals. In addition, the continued struggle around birth registration and the strengthening of civil registry systems throughout the region are considered, with an eye toward distinguishing legitimate capacity challenges from exclusionary practices. The conclusions of these analyses, and of examinations of the guidelines of existing international agreements such as the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons will serve as the foundation for recommendations concerning the construction of targets and indicators for a citizenship goal addressing birth registration and statelessness.

Ciudadanía y modernidad en Memorias del subdesarrollo
Héctor Alfonso Melo Ruiz, University of Notre Dame

La efervescencia política y cultural que concentró la década de los sesenta en Cuba, producto del triunfo de la Revolución castrista, dio lugar a uno de los reductos intelectuales más importantes de la izquierda latinoamericana, europea, e incluso, norteamericana. Dos grandes debates ocupan de lleno la intelectualidad del momento: la idea de la descolonización y la idea del subdesarrollo. La descolonización de todas las estructuras sociales, económicas y culturales, como una necesidad de primer orden, ocupó sin duda la agenda revolucionaria en torno a temas tales como la dependencia, la soberanía y la libertad. Por su parte, la idea de subdesarrollo, como una condición también económica, intelectual y cultural inherente a los países “post-coloniales” reflejaba justamente el viejo paradigma colonial civilización-barbarie y lo reinstalaba ahora en el centro del contexto capitalista bajo la premisa del desarrollismo. En el ámbito de dichos debates se sitúa la novela Memorias del subdesarrollo de Edmundo Desnoes y la posterior adaptación cinematográfica hecha por Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. Novela y filme exploran la subjetividad de un habanero burgués que, imbuido en sus concepciones de clase, interpreta los vertiginosos cambios sociales que trae consigo la Revolución y su marcha hacia la construcción del hombre nuevo. La tensión entre el personaje y la sociedad (entre el individuo y la colectividad) se plantea a través de una racionalidad europeizante––representada en Sergio y su intelectualismo diletante––y las masas “subdesarrolladas” que remplazan la vieja burguesía cubana, ahora en el exilio. En esta ponencia me propongo analizar los problemas de las masas y la ciudadanía desde dos ópticas: (1) la representación de las masas desde el locus modernizador de la Revolución, y (2) la crisis del letrado frente a esta problemática modernidad.

When Teaching and Research Aren’t Enough: Extensão in Modern Brazilian Universities
Miranda Stramel, Tulane University

Article 207 of the Brazilian Federal Constitution of 1988 states that universities should obey “the principle of indivisibility of teaching, research and extension,” with extensão in the Brazilian context meaning the relevance of the university to the local community, or, the ways in which universities facilitate a connection between those with access to higher education and those who do not have the same access. As described by José Ernandi Mendes and Sandra Maria Gadelha de Carvalho in “Extensão universitaria:
compromisso social, resistência e produção de conhecimentos,” Brazilian universities have suffered many transformations in the neoliberal context that threaten the purposes of education as related to citizenship and full participation in society. Ideally, universities create dialogue through presenting varying perspectives and play a social role by facilitating the sharing and co-creation of knowledge. Institutions now run like for-profit businesses, however, with goals limited to the production of a workforce for the global market, compromise the role of universities in modern Brazil. Looking at various case studies, this work investigates the purpose and work of offices of extensão within Brazilian universities and within Brazilian society to uphold Article 207 of the Constitution of 1988, and some of the ways that social activists and academics work together to solve community problems under the umbrella of extensão. Using various interpretations of Article 207 that connect the purposes of higher education to full participation and citizenship, these case studies demonstrate how the modern university can remain relevant to the larger community by fostering dialogic knowledge production.