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Commentary on Ray Allen’s ”Jump Up! West Indian Carnival Music in Brooklyn” by Misty Crooks and Claudia Rey Crowie

Ray Allen is the first ethnomusicologist ARC faculty fellow. His work focuses on American folk and popular music within New York City music cultures. His latest project deals with the stylistic characteristics of calypso and soca in the 20th century. Allen’s work makes valuable contributions to understanding diasporic transnationalism, globalization, the politics of hybridity, and the relation between music and cultural identity.  Allen complicates these theoretical frameworks by thinking through the contextualized lives and development of these musical styles. He has three major interventions into these areas of research. First, diasporic transnationalism is cyclical, reflected in the flow of calypso and soca between the Caribbean and New York. Allen also questions the center-periphery model of globalization theory by showing how Trinidad and Brooklyn each served as centers and peripheries at different points in the life cycle of calypso and soca. Finally, the power relations between sites of artistic emergence can have effects on musical hybridity, as seen in the mass marketing of calypso music in the United States. Despite the unity fostered through this music, there were still island specific identities, that are clearly reflected in the annual Caribbean carnival in Brooklyn, for example.

Allen traces the development of Harlem and Manhattan calypso music from the 1920s to the 1960s, and after that the emergence and decline of soca, which now tends to enjoy only seasonal popularity in New York. The mobility of Trinidadians across the Atlantic from Trinidad to New York was reflected in the circulation of Harlem calypso between these sites in the first half of the twentieth century, and audiences included English speaking Caribbean islanders, as well as Harlem Trinidadians. Through playing a selection of songs, Allen points out that the  lyrics of this musical genre reveal that the songwriters and singers (including Wilmoth Houdini and Rupert ‘Lord Invader’ Grant) were inspired by their immigrant experiences. They drew from the Trinidadian tradition of using music as a medium of sociopolitical commentary. For the first time, calypso was generated by musicians in hybrid form: containing sounds from Africa, as well as new jazz sounds from the  United States. Calypso began to reflect elements of everyday life in New York, including the movement of the Trinidadian community from Harlem to  Brooklyn. It also incorporated local and universal political experiences, such as racism in the city, pride in African identity, and the growth of the Black nationalist movement globally. Allen traces the historical trajectory of calypso in the post-war period to illuminate the effects of capitalism and U.S. cultural imperialism in both its content and its production and distribution. For example, for the first time in 1956, calypso was appropriated for mass consumption through crossover appeal  in the United States by record companies such as RCA, and sung by artists such as Harry Belafonte, who mimicked West Indian linguistic traits.

With the Hart Keller Act of 1965, there was a surge in Caribbean immigration to New York, and the center of the NYC Caribbean community moved from Harlem to Brooklyn. This growing community created a demand for calypso music, leading to the establishment of record stores and recording studios in Brooklyn. This led to a flow of calypso music written in Trinidad that was recorded and produced in Brooklyn where the technology was available. Two of these record stores still stand in Brooklyn: Straker Records and Charles Records.

It was during this time that the musical style of calypso began to change as well. Songs began to incorporate electric guitar with more prominent basslines. Elements of funk and soul were also incorporated. These novel sounds became known as Brooklyn soca. Soca lyrics were not as politically themed as in calypso, but were associated with party going and dance scenes. Soca was a thoroughly transnational musical style. Artists from Trinidad saw their songs recorded in New York while these records were then popularized and sold in Trinidad. For example, the acclaimed soca artist Calypso Rose was born in Trinidad, toured the world and the Caribbean, and was based in Queens. The rise of soca in the 80s and 90s is attributed to its pan-Caribbean audience across the islands and Brooklyn, as well as its influence from soul, funk, and disco. However, there was a lull in soca music sales in the 1990s due to CD piracy and music streaming services. As a result, soca is no longer recorded in Brooklyn, and its popularity is limited to the Caribbean community and the festivity of annual Caribbean carnival in New York City.

Written by Misty Crooks and Claudia Rey Crowie

 

Commentary on Finex Ndhlovu’s ”The Language Nesting Model” by Matthew Glenn Stuck

In his numerous publications, Finex Ndhlovu has critically examined the relationship between language and issues of multilingualism, identity formation, migration, politics, and policy/planning. At the heart of his recent work, Prof. Ndhlovu is concerned with the complex interplay of social and political factors that make up the sociolinguistics of migration, and how to reshape heritage language planning and policy to better align with the needs of immigrant communities.

Prof. Ndhlovu impresses upon us the need to understand where someone comes from in order to understand who they are, stating “you can’t say you know me if you don’t know the people that I live with.” This notion perfectly captures the spirit of his recently developed Language Nesting Model (Ndlovu, 2014). As Prof. Ndhlovu shows, the model provides a more holistic profile of the unique language-based needs of immigrant communities than has previously existed.

A recurring theme throughout his talk is a call to challenge the “commonsense” assumptions about how we conceptualize heritage languages.  While language planning and policy typically assumes a direct relationship between ethnicity and language, this assumption is often contradicted by the linguistic realities of immigrants, whose language choices are largely influenced by complex migratory patterns and exposure to a wealth of linguistic diversity. Prof. Ndlovu’s research is centralized around two overarching questions: What are the actual multilingual practices of people on the move, and how do specific migration paths influence their linguistic experiences?

In building the Language Nesting Model, Prof. Ndhlovu conducted an in-depth ethnographic study of speakers from East, Central, and West Africa who were residing in Australia. Interviews comprised of people offering personal stories about their migration experiences. Prof. Ndhlovu finds that his participants often speak a HL that is not their native one. In fact, several individuals report speaking pigeons and creoles (new languages having emerged through extended contact between different languages) in their interviews. Pigeons and Creoles receive little to no government support due to their subordinated social status. Prof. Ndhlovu argues it is precisely these languages that serve to bridge relationships and create new and vital social networks. These narratives demonstrate the severe need for governments to provide institutional support for such languages.

Prof. Ndhlovu proposes the Language Nesting Model to account for these and other crucial findings that surfaced through his ethnographic research. The model leverages commonalities across the language experiences of African immigrants to paint a picture of rich linguistic diversity. Central to his model are the diverse language codes and varieties a HL speaker can deploy as linguistic resources. These include varieties of English, discoursal and cultural practices, African cross-border languages, small ethnic languages, and refugee “journey” languages, which are those languages picked up while in transit. The model achieves its goal of breaking down our common-sense assumptions about HLs by showing that the linguistic repertoires of transient populations must be better understood. Prof. Ndhlovu closes his talk by arguing that language policy and planning cannot address the needs of immigrant communities unless it shifts its focus to considering the lived experiences and linguistic realities of people on the move, which show much more nuance than what census data alone is capable of revealing.

Written by

Matthew Glenn Stuck

 

Reflections on Language and Power – Tatyana Kleynat at ARC By Sara Vogel

Language and power are tightly intertwined. That was my takeaway from November 16th’s ARC talk featuring the thoughtful, engaged, and critical scholar Tatyana Kleyn, who is an Associate Professor and Director of Bilingual Education and TESOL in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture at the City College of New York.

This message about language and power came through in the substance of Kleyn’s talk and the film she screened about how transborder young people navigate language, family, and school as their families repatriate small towns in Oaxaca, Mexico after years of living in the United States. The power of words was also a theme that resonated in the post-talk conversation, including in ways that revealed some tensions in our ARC community that we would do well to address moving forward.

I’ll unpack that conversation in a bit. But first: the talk.

Tatyana is someone I have had the privilege to work with through the CUNY-New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals, a project that brings K-12 teachers, administrators, and professors in bilingual education from across the CUNY campuses together to study and improve education for bilingual kids. As Don mentioned in his opening remarks, Kleyn’s work truly embodies the values and mission of ARC. Her research is interdisciplinary, straddling all of ARC’s clusters. She views phenomena such as immigration and multilingualism through the lens of theories that take into account racial, economic, and linguistic power hierarchies. And she is a public scholar, not content simply to write for narrow audiences of academics. Her films about the experiences of undocumented and transborder youth, as well as curriculum and guides for teachers based on the content of the films, are accessible for free online.

Before showing her film Una Vida, Dos Paìses (One Life, Two Countries), Kleyn asked us to consider the power of film as its own language. She argued persuasively that film can be mobilized as a research method, a medium of dissemination, and as service and activism. At the same time that she celebrated the capacity of the medium to “reprioritize whom we listen to” and to bring research participants’ stories alive for wider audiences, she also described some of the limitations and challenges of this type of scholarship. She has had to build strong relationships with her participants, many of them folks targeted in today’s political climate for their or their family members’ undocumented status. In addition, while she prefers not to use voice-overs in her films so that audiences hear participants “direct from the source,” she acknowledged her and her collaborators’ roles in editing and juxtaposing clips to create cohesive narratives.

The film she screened at ARC introduced us to a group of transborder young people living in Oaxaca, Mexico who call themselves “New Dreamers.” The film captures the complex, mixed emotions that come with “going home” — the feeling of belonging, but also of being “ni de aqui ni de alla” (from neither here nor there). One of the core themes discussed by participants was the role of language in their transitions to life in Mexico. Across contexts in the US and Mexico, languages are used for different purposes and have different statuses attributed to them. While the youth expressed love for the English language, and were often called upon by peers to tutor them in English, they also found themselves lost in classes delivered in Spanish, and felt peers and teachers in Oaxaca sometimes viewed them as stuck-up for their knowledge of English and experiences in the US. In her talk, Kleyn also described how indigenous languages, often regarded as less prestigious in their communities, are a key part of students’ linguistic repertoires, enabling them to communicate especially with older generations.

After Kleyn’s presentation, an audience member asked a question about the young people’s accents. It elicited a strong reaction from some of those present, including one who found it so offensive that he walked out. Rachel Chapman, a fellow ARC student, has provided her take on the question, and her response can be read on our blog here. Kleyn responded by critiquing the premise of the question, arguing that language ideologies about accent are rooted in socially and historically constructed hierarchies that rank speakers based on race, economic status, perceived education, ethnicity, and other markers (see Flores & Rosa, 2015 for more on this).

To me, the strength of ARC is its ability to foster critical conversations about dynamic and complex issues — immigration, inequality, multilingualism, and our digital world — with people at different stages in their academic careers, from different disciplinary, racial, and cultural backgrounds, in order to deepen research and practice in our fields.

Having conversations about complex issues across difference is not easy, however, and this moment at ARC brought those tensions into sharp relief.

Despite a professed desire for open, democratic dialogue, academic communities can reproduce many of the hierarchies they seek to dismantle. As we learned from the student when he returned to the conversation, for people of color, academia can be a violent space. Too often, people of color shoulder the burden and invest much emotional labor into correcting the oppressive dynamics which permeate our institutions. Others (read: white people) need to step up.

At ARC, there are some first steps we can take. There are many incredible organizations such as Border Crossers and the New York Coalition of Radical Educators, among others, which have figured out how to facilitate critical and constructive conversations across difference. I’ve drawn on resources from these organizations as I navigate my role as a white scholar and educator engaged in work with youth of color and their teachers, and have found them exceptionally useful.

To have critical and constructive conversations across difference, relationship-building and setting community norms are key. I noticed that when I began my time as an ARC student, there wasn’t a space devoted to building this community — perhaps such a space could be useful in the future. Some questions for ARC students and fellows to consider as we build community might include:

  • What are the challenges of coming together as an interdisciplinary community?
  • What norms might help ensure our conversations are both critical and constructive?
  • Who gets to study, publish about, and profit from research on inequality, multilingualism, and immigration? Why? In what ways does our community challenge those trends? In what ways does it reproduce them?
  • How might ARC fellows and students not just share our research, but work together to ensure we are also engaged in making our fields more equitable and just?

In many ways, Tatyana’s work offers us a compelling example of engaged, critical scholarship. She began her talk by discussing her own positionality — her own background and experiences, and how she arrived to her topic. She is transparent about how her own power and privilege shape her teaching and research. She forges strong bonds with her study participants, reciprocating in the communities that provide her with data. And her scholarship and teaching go hand in hand with her social justice activism.

I hope the talk from this week is a catalyst for some soul-searching at ARC. Not only might we strengthen and deepen our own work, but we might continue the hard work of dismantling oppressive structures within academia too.

Citation:

Flores, N., & Rosa, J. (2015). Undoing Appropriateness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and Language Diversity in Education. Harvard Educational Review, 85(2), 149–171. https://doi.org/10.17763/0017-8055.85.2.149

 

By Sara Vogel

PhD Student in Urban Education, CUNY-Graduate Center

Commentary on Tatyana Kleyn’s ”Transborder Children and Youth (Back) in Mexico” by Kahdeidra Monét Martin

According to a recent Pew Research Report, between 2009 and 2014, one million people repatriated from the United States to Mexico. As a qualitative researcher, Dr. Tatyana Kleyn is interested in the stories behind these numbers. In particular, she studies the experiences of children and young adults who undergo these crossings—physical, social, linguistic, and educational. “Transborder youth are crossing many borders,” she said. Indeed, some recurring themes both in her research program and in reactions to her research are the power of language to form community and the need to cross borders in order to understand multiple perspectives. This blog piece begins by exploring the research topics, methodology and general findings of Kleyn’s work, and it ends by discussing the reactions to her lecture and offering practical suggestions for moving forward.

The Research

Kleyn, who is Associate Professor in the Bilingual Education and TESOL programs at the City College of New York, began her study entitled “The Other Side of Deportation Repatriation” as a Fulbright scholar in Mexico from 2014 to 2015.

Through interviews, classroom observations, and collections of art and poetry, Kleyn assembles portraits of transborder youth in elementary, secondary, and tertiary schools in Oaxaca, Mexico. Additionally, she uses documentary film as both a research method and tool for disseminating research findings to larger audiences. She said, “Film is accessible across borders. It does not matter your educational level or what language you speak.” Ethnographic data from her research on transborder youth in Oaxaca is highlighted in the documentary film “Una Vida, Dos Paises: Children and Youth (Back) in Mexico.” The complete film and accompanying unit plans are freely available at www.UnaVidatheFilm.com.

So, what are her findings? First, transborder youth bring their assets of multilingualism and multiculturalism that can be harnessed in the classroom. Differentiating classroom instruction to exploit their English language skills and knowledge of United States cultures can better support everyone in the learning community.

Second, it is important to note that transborder children are multifaceted and have varying degrees of fluency in the languages that they speak. Their linguistic repertoires are formed from the multiple speech communities that they have lived in. For example, one could hear features of U.S. English from the Midwest, Florida, and California; features of Spanish spoken in Latinx communities in Southern California; and Zapoteca, a language indigenous to Mexico. Generally, most of the youth in her study are more fluent and comfortable speaking English than Spanish, and they are least fluent in Zapoteca, which is stigmatized and mostly reserved for speaking with grandparents.

Naming themselves the New DREAMers, transborder youth negotiate their identities using language practices that are rooted in cultural and political hierarchies. Sociolinguists often refer to stigmatized language varieties or specific features of language, what lay people refer to as “accents,” in regards to prestige. We often criticize the less prestigious, stigmatized variety of a language while praising the dominant, higher prestige variety. Furthermore, higher prestige speech patterns that are considered normative or standard; one focuses on the content that their speakers are conveying. On the other hand, lower prestige varieties are considered irregular and substandard. Listeners tend to focus more on phonology and syntax rather than the substance of what the speaker is saying. These New DREAMers may speak varieties of Spanish that are lower prestige because they are different than what is spoken in Oaxaca. Conversely, their fluency in English is an asset that may be perceived as threatening by their teachers. These power dynamics and cultural fissions reflect the politicized nature of language.

The Reactions

After hearing about the project and viewing the 30 minute documentary on immigration, language, race, and class, audience members undoubtedly were feeling a mass of emotions. Personally, I was thrilled. I was impressed by Dr. Kleyn’s integration of mixed methods qualitative research and multimedia to magnify underrepresented voices. Her scholarship provides a model for me in several ways. As an Urban Education Ph.D. student who has been studying sociolinguistics since my freshman year of college in 1999, one could say that I have a close relationship with these topics. I’ve had time to mull them over, clarify questions, process strong emotions, and formulate my positions. But, this is not the norm.

Scholars from other academic disciplines and thematic clusters were processing their thoughts in the moment, perhaps unaware of the potential volatility in the atmosphere. The very first comment expressed in the discussion period was an anecdote about teaching multilingual children and a separate comment that drew attention to the fact that although youth had lived in the United States for several years, they still spoke English with a “Spanish accent.”

I am not sure where the comment was leading, or if there were a follow-up question planned after the anecdote and comment. However, I noticed that several audience members appeared to be uncomfortable and perplexed. What I heard in the comment was a lack of awareness about linguistic repertoires and the role of speech communities in shaping our linguistic repertoires. At the same time, I heard an ideological assumption of linguistic purity in the United States that is false and has been used as an instrument of racism in education, housing, and employment. It is this last piece that triggered some audience members, including my colleague who stated, “I’m sorry, but that is a racist statement!” He made other comments about being tired of racism at the Graduate Center before hurriedly leaving the room.

What happened? It was a charged context. We all hear and process information according to our own individual experiences and social positions. Bodies matter. Words matter. In recent months, my colleague and other Ph.D. students have experienced blatantly racist remarks such as being called ‘the N-word’ and ‘oriental’ in classes devoted to the scholarly study of language, power, and culture. They also have been subjected to sexist remarks in the same classes, and the individual rights of the offending parties—who are White—were prioritized over the rights of students of color and women.

Despite news articles to the contrary, I can attest that professors at the Graduate Center do in fact support the views of “conservative” and “right wing” students. They do in fact support academic dissent, even when it appears that comments teeter on racial and sexual harassment. And in this context, we students seek refuge in the lectures held at the Advanced Resource Collaborative with its stated commitment to promoting equity and critical, interdisciplinary dialogue. This work will not happen by itself. We must be intentional about forging community across boundaries of academic title, race, ethnicity, class, gender, linguistic background, and religion.

If a graduate student becomes enraged, do not question his intelligence or maturity. As Audre Lorde told us in “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” there is a place for eros in the academy. There is a place for rage as a defensive mechanism against the protracted, systematic oppression of our psyches. The academy is not neutral. There is a place for passion that can be transformative in our relationships, but reflexivity is key. What triggered our strong reactions to certain comments or actions? What are our “non-negotiables” as scholars? What experiences and teachings inform the values that we bring with us? Is it possible to understand someone else’s values and perspective? Can we apologize for our offenses and forgive others for offending us? Let’s assume the best of each other and receive each other with patience and compassion. Those are the first steps to navigating these often dangerous crossings of memory, of lived experience, and of perspective. As an ARC community, this is the work that we are uniquely called to do in these times, and to the extent that we are successful, the reverberations of our efforts are manifold.

 

Written by Kahdeidra Monét Martin, M.S.Ed.

Ph.D. Student in Urban Education

The Graduate Center, CUNY

Mellon Humanities Alliance Graduate Fellow

 

Commentary on Cecelia Cutler’s “The Corpus of New York City English Outreach Project” by Kelsey Swift

While Cecelia Cutler has an impressive record of academic research and publication, her current project focuses on something a little different: community outreach.
This endeavor comes out of her work on the Corpus of New York City English (CoNYCE) Project, which focuses on collecting data on varieties of English spoken in the five boroughs and the surrounding areas and will ultimately comprise of an on-line, freely accessible, audio-aligned and grammatically annotated corpus. Through this work, Prof. Cutler and her colleagues have contributed to linguistic knowledge of non-mainstream varieties of English, documenting distinctive phonological features and patterns of dialect leveling.
Documentation work like this has radically altered the way that many academics view so-called ‘nonstandard dialects’, highlighting the systematic nature of underlying rules, but this sort of change is yet to happen on a larger scale. Outside of the community of linguists who do this sort of work, negative attitudes towards non-mainstream varieties, including New York City English, persist, and many speakers are plagued with linguistic insecurity.
Prof. Cutler hopes to address that disparity by sharing the findings of the corpus with the public. This is an opportunity to both give back to the communities that have contributed to the CoNYCE project and to challenge mainstream ideologies of language in pursuit of sociolinguistic justice.
Inspired by various existing initiatives, including the Language and Life Project at NC State, the Wisconsin Englishes Project, and the SKILLS (School Kids Investigating Language in Life and Society) program at UC Santa Barbara, Prof. Cutler is using the ARC fellowship as a starting point for this endeavor. Ultimately, she hopes to develop teaching resources, design an interactive website, and organize public events.
Drawing on her experience in teacher education at Lehman College, Prof. Cutler is currently developing specific ideas for activities that could be incorporated into social studies and English language arts curriculum. These include an investigation of the relationship between NYC’s immigrant past and language forms that have arisen as a result of multilingual contact, an exploration of common words with varying pronunciation, and translating rap texts into Standard American English.
Prof. Cutler ended on the importance of actively disseminating our work to a general audience because “if knowledge is worth having, it’s worth sharing”. If we are responsible researchers committed to a vision of justice, we cannot just assume that the message will ‘trickle down’ from academic journals; we have to do the work to make it happen. This is a valuable reminder for all of us engaged in scholarly work, regardless of our field.

Kelsey Swift

Commentary on Brian Nolan’s “Inequality and Prosperity” by Erin Cully

Income inequality has become the watchword of the current era. It is often used as a shorthand explanation for wealth concentration, economic stagnation, declining social mobility, various social ills ranging from the decline of civic engagement to the opioid crisis, and for the populist politics that have blossomed in the US and Europe. In his fascinating talk, Brian Nolan, Professor of Social Policy at the University of Oxford, took a hard look at the evidence for these purported consequences of inequality, and in most cases found it lacking or inconclusive. But does data have the final word?

Take Brexit, for example. Many have argued that rising British income inequality was responsible for driving populist feeling. But Prof. Nolan showed that while inequality spiked sharply during the Thatcher era, it remained stable thereafter, meaning that the level of inequality did not, in a strict sense, correlate with the rise of populism. Yet Prof. Nolan didn’t discount the possibility that the data might not be telling the whole story. He acknowledged that there may be lagging or indirect effects, and it is possible that the spurt of inequality in the 80s sowed the seeds for the present wave of populism in ways that sociologists are still studying. Certainly the fact that, as he cited, education and geography are the strongest predictors for how people voted suggests that labor market competitiveness and uneven regional economic development — which are manifestations of inequality — rallied support for the “Leave” campaign.

On Growth and Inequality

According to Prof. Nolan, the claim that rising inequality slows economic growth is not robustly substantiated by the evidence. In my view, this causal relationship is not only unsupported by data but might also be conceptually flawed. Let’s say inequality does slow down growth: we are still left to explain what forces are creating inequality in the first place. And the possible answers to that question — financialization, stagnant wages, etc. — are all markers of a sedate economy. Thus, our hypothesis would be that inequality is both driven by and driving slow growth, in which case the impact of inequality on growth is a feedback effect, and we ought to focus primarily on the puzzle of slowed economic growth.

This puzzle cuts to the heart of a debate in the field of economics about the theories used to understand the workings of the economy. As Prof. Nolan pointed out, policymakers at the IMF and the OECD now argue that inequality can be addressed through market correcting tweaks, and have therefore begun developing policies intended to foster “inclusive growth.” But is inequality a bug or a feature of our capitalist economy? It might be more likely that slowed growth, like income inequality, is inherent to capitalism. In that case, are redistribution and other such schemes the solution? If the gears of the capitalist economy are in a secular slowdown, they might not provide more than a short-term reprieve.

Erin Cully

Commentary on Chad Alan Goldberg’s “Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thoughts” by Ola Galal & Kelsey Chatlosh

 

What place are minority groups accorded within sociological theory and what insights could be gained by historically analyzing the representation of Jews in Western European theoretical reflections on the conditions of modernity? These are some of the questions that Dr. Chad Alan Goldberg addresses in his recently published book, Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought (2017).

 

Dr. Goldberg is a professor of sociology affiliated with the Center for German and European Studies, the George L. Mosse/Laurence A. Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies, and the George L. Mosse Program in History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is also a proud alumnus of the CUNY Graduate Center’s Advanced Research Collaborative, where he was previously a Distinguished Visiting Fellow while developing his most recent publication. On September 7th, 2017, the Graduate Center’s Advanced Research Collaborative and Sociology Department welcomed Dr. Goldberg to launch his new book.

 

Dr. Goldberg argues that in the 19th and 20th centuries Jews emerged as a touchstone for defining modernity in the work of influential social theorists of France, Germany and the United States: Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Thomas Park, amongst others. That is, each of these authors, working within distinct national traditions, would take a synecdoche of modernity—one aspect that represents the whole—and analyze the extent to which Jews embodied or embraced each of these aspects.

 

For example, taking urbanization as an index of modernity in the United States, Thomas Park examined patterns of and tensions around Jewish immigrants’ experiences in the burgeoning urban metropole of New York City. During the era of the French Revolution, Emile Durkheim attempted to challenge anti-Semitic depictions of Jews as either agents of revolutionary subversion or counter-revolutionary reactionaries, situating Jews as either premodern or anti-modern. In the German context, Karl Marx and Max Weber reproduced cultural assumptions about Jews from Christian theology, situating them as “backwards,” but in secularized terms. As such, Dr. Goldberg asserts, Jews played a significant role as intermediaries for European self-reflection at a time of major social, political and economic transformations.

 

The methodological approach of Dr. Goldberg’s project draws on Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of “reflexive history,” which “takes itself as its own object” (quoting Bourdieu). Specifically, Dr. Goldberg seeks to historicize the emergence of oppositional categories, i.e. Jewish vs. not Jewish, that shape our understandings of modernity. By doing so, he seeks to denaturalize such dualisms and the social out-groups they construct, which continue to shape the meaning of modernity today.

 

In introducing the book, Dr. Goldberg recounted how the idea for the manuscript originated at an international conference on anti-Semitism and the emergence of sociological theory at the University of Manchester and then expanded n into a longer-term project. His book promises to hold valuable insights for scholars in Jewish studies and the history of European and American thought. More broadly, however, it is equally helpful for scholars thinking about the politics of the representation of social minorities, processes of “Othering,” and theories of European and capitalist modernity. It would be interesting to see how Dr. Goldberg’s analysis of the Jews as an object of study within modern social theory could also be understood in relation to shifting racial formations and discourses of whiteness within and across the contexts of France, Germany and the United States.

 

Ola Galal & Kelsey Chatlosh

Commentary on Christopher Bonastia’s “The Southern Attack on Northern Hypocrisy in Education” by ARC Student Fellows Deshonay Dozier and Rakhee Kewada

Christopher Bonastia urges that integration, as a strategy for unearthing the unequal foundations of United States institutions such as education, is not expendable. In his presentation, “The Southern Attack on Northern Hypocrisy in Education,” Bonastia however sheds light on some of the contradictions of progressivism as part of his broader critique and historical analysis of Northern education intergrationist movements in the 1970s. Bonastia challenges conventional narratives of the Civil Rights Movement, asserting the movement’s longer history and continuation into the 1970s as well as the movement’s fight for integration as a tactic to achieve great equality rather than a moral good or good unto itself.

After the Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education decision (1954) banning intentional segregation in schools, most of the white South spent the next decade evading the mandate to create desegregated school systems. New York City and many of its purportedly liberal Northern counterparts denied that they intentionally fostered school segregation and vowed to redouble their efforts to increase integration. Yet, their deeds fell fall short of their rhetoric. Infuriated by sanctimonious Northern criticism of segregation and racism in the South, Southern white newspaper editors, anti-integration activists and politicians sought to expose Northern hypocrisy via scathing editorials, publicity stunts such as the “Reverse Freedom Rides” and the introduction of legislation to compel school desegregation nationwide. Bonastia presents a wealth of original archival data detailing these efforts to expose Northern hypocrisy all the while asking: Did white Southerners have a point?

For example, while Northern liberal newspapers at the time did not report on race tensions in the North, through their critiques of Northern hypocrisy, Southern newspapers such as the Montgomery Alabama Advertiser revealed that there was fierce resistance to school desegregation in the North in places where there was a large black population. The “Reverse Freedom Rides” where the White Citizens Council – informally known as “the gentlemen’s klan” – offered to pay one-way fares for Southern black people to travel North presented an attempt to force liberals in the North to take on welfare rolls and provide employment. And, when a Southern senator attempted to introduce a bill to amend the desegregation school bill so that it would be applied uniformly nation-wide, a Northern liberal senator effectively resisted the bill. Thus, Bonastia reveals the ways in which the politics and rhetorical gestures of both Southern conservatives and Northern liberals maintain inequality.

Bonastia’s interrogation of the hypocrisy of the liberal North is still relevant today as the pendulum of United States politics continues to swing between conservatism and progressivism while inequality remains rooted in institutions such as education. Indeed, Bonastia asks whether school integration in a place like New York City was ever possible opening up a fruitful discussion with the audience where questions around the scale of the New York City school system, “white flight” and the role of private schools arose.

We are very excited about the possibilities of Bonastia’s study to uncover the parallels between liberal and conservative approaches to institutional change. We are interested in how both of these reformist approaches repeatedly fail, as Bonastia outlines, and the possibilities for non-reformist reforms (See Golden Gulag by Ruth Wilson Gilmore) that can enable us to move effectively towards freedom and democracy.

A professor of sociology and public intellectual we are confident that Bonastia’s accessible research on U.S. politics will not disappoint as it will make an invaluable contribution to a wide-range of students and scholars.

~Deshonay Dozier and Rakhee Kewada