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The Newly Black Americans

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

African immigrants and black America

THERE IS A moment in Dinaw Mengestu’s well-received novel The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007) where the narrator, Sepha—Ethiopian, refugee, victim of an anomie that is as Naipaulian as it is stereotypically modernist—encounters traces of Pan-Africanism and, what continues to be celebrated in scholarly and cultural circles (often uncritically) as, black Diaspora. Walking through neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. convulsed between decline and renaissance, where the domestic migrations of gentrification speak to the displacements of post-Independence Africa, Sepha encounters amongst the abandoned lots and littered condoms, the prostitutes and alcoholics, the memory of black transnational solidarity, or at least its symbols. The memory trigger in question is “a black-owned bookstore called Madame X,” where once were Afrocentric poetry readings, shared plates of “yam patties,” and no doubt the sound of jazz, reggae, hip-hop, or even Afrobeat.

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Thom Hartmann Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9780253015846

1 Boredom and Despair in Rural Egypt

Samuli Schielke Indiana University Press ePub


In Spring 2008, a pop song by Aamer Saeed caught the mood of the time: “The world’s wrecked, there’s no point” (il-dinya kharbana mafish fayda). It expressed a sensibility that young people in particular articulate as one of boredom (malal) and frustration (ihbat): it is all the same, it is not getting better, one’s plans get thwarted—so what’s the point?

Beginning an ethnography about hope and ambivalence with this sense of emptiness, boredom, even despair, helps us think about boredom as a condition in the lives of people who aim for a better life, a consequence as well as a grounding of aspiration. Moments of hope can be better accounted for if we first turn our attention to their flip side—despair, frustration, endless waiting, a sense of meaninglessness and lack of purpose. These negative sentiments come partly from dissatisfaction with unkept promises of improvement and progress, but also from expectation, which gives credibility to promises of purpose and hope. Boredom must therefore be taken seriously as an experience in its own right, because it points to a complex human condition that cannot be accounted for merely by reference to ideals, aims, and higher purposes. Instead, ideals are often discredited, aims frustrated, and life can seem to have no purpose.

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CHAPTER 5 Jefferson versus the Corporate Aristocracy

Thom Hartmann Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Let monopolies and all kinds and degrees of oppression be carefully guarded against.

—Samuel Webster, 1777

ALTHOUGH THE FIRST SHOTS WERE FIRED IN 1775 AND THE DECLARATION was signed in 1776, the war against a transnational corporation and the nation that used it to extract wealth from its colonies had just begun. These colonists, facing the biggest empire and military force in the world, fought for five more years—the war didn’t end until General Charles Cornwallis surrendered in October 1781. Even then some resistance remained; the last loyalists and the British left New York starting in April 1782, and the treaty that formally ended the war was signed in Paris in September 1783.

The first form of government, the Articles of Confederation, was written in 1777 and endorsed by the states in 1781. It was subsequently replaced by our current Constitution, as has been documented in many books. In this chapter we take a look at the visions that motivated what Alexis de Tocqueville would later call America’s experiment with democracy in a republic. One of its most conspicuous features was the lack of vast wealth or any sort of corporation that resembled the East India Company—until the early 1800s.

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12. Cold War Memories and Post–Cold War Realities: The Politics of Memory and Identity in the Everyday Life of Kazakhstan’s Radiation Victims

Madeleine Reeves Indiana University Press ePub

Asan, an elderly Kazakh man, was nineteen years old when the first nuclear test exploded near his village on August 29, 1949.1 Despite his young age, as a schoolteacher and a member of the Communist Party, he would have been viewed as a member of the village elite, or intelligentsia, at that time. When we interviewed him, Asan recalled how everybody in the village was completely taken by surprise during the first explosion. In his version of events, he was giving an exam at the local school, when one or two large explosions took place. From the windows of the classroom, he saw a very bright, mushroom-shaped cloud appear in the sky. He ordered the children, who were very afraid and hiding under their desks, to stand up and go outside. Asan explained how everybody in the village was confused about what was happening, and they were trying to come up with explanations to account for this very peculiar occurrence. Some people thought that it might be an unusual weather episode, and the strange noises and sights could be attributed to thunder and lightning. Soviet military personnel appeared in the village shortly after the explosion and started to ask villagers what they had seen. As he told us this story, he noted how he was eventually taken aside by “the soldiers” and told: “You are a Communist. You did not see anything and you do not know anything. That was the testing of the bomb that came from America. You will sign a document stating that you will not tell anybody.” Asan’s narrative is not unique. Similar to many of the other narratives that we collected, his account, filled with emotions of fear and anger, portrayed him as somebody who, despite his status within the village, was in a relatively powerless position compared to the formidable Soviet state, which he largely trusted at the time. In other words, Asan’s memories of nuclear testing in the present help assert his current identity as a victim of nuclear testing and a victim of the Soviet state.

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