race/ethnicity

A recent Soc Images post on cultural appropriation highlighted issues of control over the production and representation of images of Indigenous peoples. On a related note, an image I captured during a recent visit to the Canadian Museum of Civilization (or as one of my professors has called it, the “Canadian Museum of Colonization”) highlights similar issues regarding the representation of Indigenous knowledges. This poster was displayed in the “First Peoples’ Hall” of the museum in a section dedicated to “Ways of Knowing”:

Two points are particularly striking. Firstly, the poster portrays the “preservation” of Indigenous knowledges as a project of colonizers and non-Indigenous anthropologists. Rather than attributing control over the production and representation of Indigenous knowledges to Indigenous peoples themselves, the poster depicts colonial “explorers” and anthropologists as the primary agents in these endeavors. Indigenous peoples themselves are merely portrayed as informants, leaving interpretation and presentation to colonizers and anthropologists. In recent years, numerous Indigenous scholars have written about the oppressive nature of this type of approach to Indigenous peoples and knowledges, pointing out how academic disciplines such as anthropology have been essential tools in the study and subjugation of Indigenous peoples as “primitive Others.”

Secondly, the poster presents Indigenous knowledges as static and unchanging, ignoring their dynamic nature and the ongoing experiences of Canada’s Indigenous communities. Canadian Indigenous scholar Andrea Smith* has argued that in settler societies such as Canada, false notions of the disappearance or threat of extinction of Indigenous peoples and their knowledges are at the foundation of cultural imaginations and serve as justifications for the appropriation of Indigenous lands and cultures. In this case, the threat of extinction is implied in the need for Indigenous knowledges to be “preserved in writing.”

This poster provides an entry point for questioning power relations inherent in the production and presentation of knowledge at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and similar institutions. This example demonstrates how the museum portrays a particular view of Canada and its relationship with Indigenous communities, one which ignores the historical and continuing reality of colonialism and its implications.

* Smith, A. (2006). Heteropatriarchy and the three pillars of white supremacy: Rethinking women of color organizing. In A. Smith (Ed.), Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology (66-73). Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

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Hayley Price has a background in sociology, international development studies, and education. She recently completed her Masters degree in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at the University of Toronto with a thesis on Indigenous knowledges in development studies.

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Andrew Slater sent in an interesting example of the mocking of rap music.  The mocking occurs in a re-make of Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” about the excitement of going on out Friday night.  Black’s low-budget music video went viral, shooting her into stardom, or at least celebrity.  The song is a standard teeny-bop pop song, complete with rap interlude.

The re-make, produced by the Community Christian Church, features a so-called “Sadie Black” singing about “Sunday” instead of Friday, and extolling the pleasures of worship. Slater noticed, however, that the entire re-make is more-or-less truthful to the original, except for the rap section. In the re-make, “BP” and “Master E” appear to make fun of rappers.  It’s a very different effect when compared to the straightforward mimickry of Sadie B.

Screen shots (original and re-make respectively):

Videos (rap sections starts at 2:30 and, um, 2:30 respectively):

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


I invite you to spend seven minutes listening to Baratunde Thurston explaining what, exactly, is wrong with the fact that Barack Obama was hounded into releasing his long form birth certificate.  He does a wonderful job of historicizing the requirement that Obama prove that he is an American (to a man such as Donald Trump), at the same time that he explains why this questioning of Obama’s citizenship is deeply hurtful to all Black Americans and their allies.

Via BoingBoing.  Transcript after the jump (via Racialicious).

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When I teach Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, one thing I have to balance is disclosure of the horrendous history of racism in the U.S. and the risk of further traumatizing students in my classroom for whom these tragedies are not pure abstractions.  One of the these tragedies is lynching.

Lynching, or the killing of individuals targeted by non-police mobs, usually by hanging, became frighteningly common after slavery was ended.  It was a form of terrorism, designed to teach black people, and their white allies, that the end of slavery would not be the end of their subordination. Because a lynching need not be based on evidence that could stand up in court, all anti-racists were at risk of death. Thousands of people — most, but not all of them black — were violently hanged, their bodies often set afire.

Despite the importance of this chapter of American history, I do not show pictures of lynchings in my classroom.  These images are surprisingly easy to come by because the events were often gleefully public and photographs of the murders were sold as postcards. Sometimes, though, I think about showing Billie Holiday singing what is, perhaps, one of the most deeply troubling songs ever written, “Strange Fruit.”  Written by Abel Meeropol and Laura Duncan, it was first performed by Holiday in 1939, almost 30 years before lynching could be called “history.”

Strange Fruit:

Via BoingBoing.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

It must be a cliché that American movies are, overwhelmingly, made for 17-year-old white boys.  Goodness knows that there is plenty of evidence on this website to back up the cliché.  In light of this, I am surprising floored by the actual data showing who goes to movies.  It’s not that I didn’t know that women, people of color, and grown-ups went to movies.  It’s just that seeing it in technicolor just drills home the fact that the making of movies to please white male kids is ideological, not capitalist.  And that’s always an interesting observation to make.

55% of tickets sold are sold to not-men:


40% of tickets sold are sold to non-white people:


72% of tickets sold are sold to legal adults (i.e., not-kids, though they may be buying tickets for kids):

Data from the Motion Picture Association of America (via Racialicious).

See also our post on how about 1/3rd of ESPN’s audience are women.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Dmitriy T.M. sent in another example, via Jezebel, of the use of hunting as a metaphor for dating/attaining sex with women.  The metaphor portrays men as predators and women as prey,  suggesting that women are inherently unwilling and men inherently deceitful, coercive, and aggressive.  This sets the stage, discursively, for sexual assault.

Throw in a couple men representing a non-specifically “primitive” culture to remind us that such a relationships is “natural,” and you’ve got this Dos Equis ad:

For more of this metaphor, see Sex and Dating as a Hunt, Beer, Sex, and the Hunt, Taxidermied Girl Parts, and Hunting for Bambi.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Katrin sent us another in the long line of fashion shoots that exoticize the cultures and residents of non-Western countries. The article, titled “Indian Summer,” appeared in the British version of Vogue in September 2007, along with the tagline, “Eclectic, colourful, crazy…The modern gipsy’s style is every bit as exotic as her travels.” So the model is being presented as “exotic” herself (she’s a “gipsy,” after all), but her exoticism is proven by her travels to places that are themselves marked as exotic and extremely different from the UK.

It includes several elements common to these types of photo shoots, including a model who is clearly differentiated from the local population not just in terms of fashion, but by skin tone, as well as the use of locals as props surrounding or in the background of the blond model.

While a video Vogue posted about the photo shoot clearly shows cars, motorcycles, and paved roads, the photos tend to erase signs of modernity, focusing instead on items that present India as somehow stuck in pre-modern times, such as images with animals:

Also see Lisa’s post on the Anthropologie catalog set in India.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

We’ve posted a number of posts about cultural appropriation in fashion, particularly when it comes to Native Americans. Kristyn G. sent in a link to a story at the Huffington Post about a recent fashion show in Moscow that brings up questions about cultural appropriation of another group. The show, from St. Bessarion, included female models in hats, sidecurls, and some articles of clothing inspired by things worn by Orthodox Jews, combined with distinctly non-Orthodox items.

It’s not the first time Orthodox-inspired clothing has appeared on the runway. For instance, in 1993 Jean Paul Gaultier put together a men’s line he called Chosen People, which the New York Times says it was the first Judaism-inspired clothing line from a well-known designer. According to an article I found at Racked, “the collection ruffled quite a few feathers in the religious community, many of whom felt that Gaultier had misappropriated elements of religion in a disrespectful, frivolous manner.” It was quite the production:

Thoughts?

UPDATE: Just a quick note, since I see some confusion in the comments — the designer who recently made some horrid anti-Semitic remarks was John Galliano, not Jean Paul Gaultier.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.