Race, Identity and Academic Survival
How Race is Made: Slavery, Segregation and the Senses By Mark M. Smith The University of North Carolina Press, 2006216 pp., $29.95 cloth, ISBN: 0-8078-3002-X
For at least two centuries, says Mark M. Smith, White Southerners used all of their senses — not just their eyes — to construct racial difference and define race. Smith’s provocative analysis, extending from the colonial period to the mid-20th century, shows how Whites of all classes used the artificial classifications of “Black” and “White” to justify slavery and erect the political, legal and social structure of segregation.
Based on painstaking research, How Race Is Made is a highly original, always frank and often disturbing book. After enslaved Africans were initially brought to America, the offspring of Black and White sexual relationships (consensual and forced) complicated the purely visual sense of racial typing. As mixed-race people became more common in the segregated South, White Southerners began asserting that they could rely on their other senses — touch, smell, sound and taste — to identify who was “White” and who was not. According to How Race Is Made, sensory racial stereotypes were almost universally irrational, but persisted to perpetuate and justify an unequal society.
Smith argues that the history of Southern race relations, and the construction of racial difference on which that history is built, cannot be understood fully on the basis of sight alone. In order to come to terms with the South’s past and present, Smith says, we must explore the dynamics underpinning the deeply emotional construction of race.
— Dr. Mark M. Smith is Carolina Distinguished Professor of History at the University of South Carolina.
“Strangers” of the Academy: Asian Women Scholars in Higher EducationEdited by Guofang Li and Gulbahar H. Beckett Foreword by Shirley Geok-Lin Lim Stylus, 2005 304 pp., $65.00 cloth, ISBN: 1-57922-120-3; $24.95 paper, ISBN: 1-57922-121-1
Asian female scholars are a rare sight in academia. And like many other minorities, the few female Asian academics are often confronted with discrimination, stereotyping and disrespect for their research, teaching and leadership.
“Strangers” of the Academy explores the strategies many female Asian scholars have developed in order to survive and thrive in the face of such barriers. The book, which is among the first to examine their experience in Western academic society, delves into the sociocultural, political, academic and personal issues that Asian female scholars frequently encounter in higher education.
The contributing authors include first- and second-generation immigrants from a range of Asian nations and backgrounds. All are teachers and researchers in higher education, and most have experienced first-hand the effects of discrimination and cultural ignorance. The authors combine new research and personal narratives to explore the layers of reality that impact their lives — language, culture, academic discourses, gender, class, generation and race.
— Dr. Guofang Li is an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education, University of Buffalo (SUNY). Dr. Gulbahar H. Beckett is an assistant professor in the College of Education, University of Cincinnati.
The Church in the Barrio: MexicanAmerican Ethno-Catholicism in HoustonBy Roberto R. TreviñoThe University of North Carolina Press, 2006320 pp., $59.95 Cloth, ISBN: 080782996X; $22.50 paper, ISBN: 0-8078-5667-3
From the first immigrant parishes in the early 20th century to the Chicano civil rights movement in the early 1970s, Roberto R. Treviño discusses how an intertwining of ethnic identity and Catholic faith equipped Mexican Americans in Houston to overcome adversity and find a place for themselves in the Bayou City.
Native-born Texans and immigrant Mexicans alike found solidarity in a distinctive style of Catholicism that evolved from the blending of the relig-ious sensibilities and practices of Spanish Christians and New World indigenous people. Employing church records, newspapers, family letters, mementos and oral histories, Treviño reconstructs the history of several predominately Mexican American parishes in Houston. He explores Mexican American Catholic life from the most private and mundane, such as home altar worship, to the most public and dramatic, such as neighborhood processions and civil rights marches. Treviño demonstrates how Mexican Americans’ religious faith helped mold and preserve their cultural identity and played a crucial role in the family, community and institutional structure. Their distinct brand of Catholicism provided the spiritual support that sustained them through their long quest for social justice.
— Dr. Roberto R. Treviño is associate professor of history and assistant director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington.
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