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8. Strangers Are Like the Mist: Language in the Push and Pull of the African Diaspora

Edited by Abdoulaye Kane and Todd H Lee Indiana University Press ePub

PAUL STOLLER

Yeow harandang no, nd’a a mana bia, a ga woyma. (Strangers are like the mist; if they haven’t disappeared by the morning, they will surely be gone by afternoon.)

—SONGHAY PROVERB

Issifi Mayaki is a stranger in New York City. Born in a small village near Tahoua in north central Niger, Issifi has lived in New York City for almost twenty years. He comes from a Hausa family of religious clerics who, besides having taught the Koran to the children of the village, have long been engaged in long distance commerce. As a young man Issifi left Niger and took up residence in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, where his father taught him the trading business. He sold watches and traded kola nut. In time, he began to buy and sell African textiles—especially to American diplomats and Peace Corps volunteers. He set up a small African art shop at the Abidjan market. Having heard so much about America, he decided to seek his fortunes in New York City. And so he traveled to New York with a large and valuable inventory of antique cloth, which, due to a misunderstanding and a degree of naiveté, was stolen from him. Stuck in New York City without the resources to return to West Africa, he resiliently found an apartment, got an informal loan, and in no time at all found himself on 125th Street in Harlem, selling audiotapes and compact discs of popular music under the marquis of the Apollo Theatre. In time, he began to invest again in cloth, which he bought from West African suppliers (Stoller 2002). Issifi continues to sell cloth in Harlem. Because trading affords him a decent living, he wears fashionable clothing, uses a Blackberry, and drives a relatively new car—a good life in New York City.

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CHAPTER FIVE. Generic Pots and Generic Indians: The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis in the Middle Orinoco

Alf Hornborg University Press of Colorado ePub

Kay Tarble de Scaramelli and Franz Scaramelli

Epidemic disease, slave raiding, and the displacement and relocation of indigenous groups under the colonial mission regime resulted in dramatic transformations in the ethnic conformation of the middle Orinoco area, as in other parts of America. Nonetheless, after the expulsion of the missionaries following the war of independence, native societies had the opportunity to redefine themselves vis-à-vis the fledgling Republics of Colombia and Venezuela. This process involved the coalition of small, remnant groups into viable multiethnic communities and the appearance of new ethnic identities. At the same time, a non-indigenous Criollo/Llanero (creole/ranger or cowboy) identity was evolving out of the combination of escaped slaves, former mission Indians, poor mestizos, mulattos, and blancos de orilla (whites from the periphery), who joined forces to exploit the abundant feral cattle in the savannahs, but who eventually were forced to enter the workforce as peons and cow-hands on the privately owned ranches in the area. As a part of this post-colonial process, ethnic, racial, and class lines were redrawn. A supra-ethnic identity, the generic Indio, emerged for indigenous peoples, as opposed to the generic Criollo or Racional, a gloss for Spanish-speaking sectors formerly divided into multiple castas during the colonial period. The colonial casta distinctions were largely abandoned as indigenous and non-indigenous sectors became increasingly polarized.

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7 The Second World War and Its Aftermath, 1940–1965

Manuel G. Gonzales Indiana University Press ePub

In the annals of American history, the Second World War was probably not as momentous in its consequences for many Americans as had been the Great War a generation before, but such is not the case for Mexicanos in this country. World War II altered life in the Mexicano community profoundly. Its heaviest impact was on the nascent middle class, which grew in both size and influence. In the aftermath of the war, this middle sector, largely composed of children of immigrants rather than immigrants themselves, was eager to win acceptance into American society, but only on its own terms. Much maligned by Chicano historians in the 1960s and 1970s for its lack of concern for the welfare of the ethnic community at large, in recent years this middle class, thanks largely to the efforts of the brothers Mario T. and Richard García, Guadalupe San Miguel Jr., and like-minded historians, has been reevaluated in a much more positive light. Given the intellectual and moral climate engendered by the war, it is clear that options available to this generation were rather limited. Moreover, it is now clear that a substantial number of the middle class did attempt to ameliorate working and living conditions for the Mexicano community as a whole, with surprising success.

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4 Nature and/or Nurture?

Jo B. Paoletti Indiana University Press ePub

Where do masculinity and femininity come from? After all, it is fairly obvious that newborn humans have neither set of qualities. Yet by the time they are two or three years old children not only know the rules, but they also have become its primary enforcers, as any observer of a preschool playgroup can confirm. With the women’s movement challenging traditional female roles and popular culture offering a range of new expressions of modern masculinity and femininity, it seems inevitable that children would get swept up in the excitement and confusion. If nothing else, the link between adult and children’s clothing would mean that kids and grownups would wear similar styles. This clearly happened during the 1960s and ’70s, but there was something else at work too. Emerging scientific evidence pointed to gender roles being learned and malleable in the very young. This affected children regardless of where their parents stood on women’s rights or sexual morality. Given the drive to transform women’s roles and promote gender equality, it’s likely that if you were born between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, you experienced non-gendered child raising to some extent. If you didn’t wear your sibling’s hand-me-down Garanimals outfits, the kindergarten teacher might be reading William’s Doll to you at story time. Or you might be singing along to your Free to Be . . . You and Me record on your Fisher-Price record player, after watching Sesame Street, which featured Susan Robinson as a working woman who liked to fix cars in her spare time.1

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4 Nutritional Dystrophy: The Science and Semantics of Starvation in World War II

Edited by Wendy Z Goldman and Donald Fi Indiana University Press ePub

Rebecca Manley

During the war it was permitted to call hunger “hunger.”

Varlam Shalamov, “Perchatka” 1

IN THE TERRIBLE WINTER OF 1942, AS THE RESIDENTS OF Leningrad succumbed to famine, Vera Inber recorded scenes of starvation in her diary. Among the figures she described on the city’s streets was a man with an awkward gait, being led by two women, who looked as if he had been “gnawed by hunger.” Inber subsequently identified the man as a distrofik, adding in parentheses that “we only learned this word here.”2 Distrofik was in fact a new term, not simply introduced to Leningrad during the blockade but invented there. It was derived from another new term, a term that figures not only in Inber’s diary, but in her poems: “nutritional dystrophy” (alimentarnaia distrofiia). In “Pulkovo Meridian,” the 1943 poem that would earn her a Stalin Prize after the war, Inber described the illness that afflicted so many of the city’s residents as “that which in scientific language doctors refer to as ‘nutritional dystrophy’ but which those who are not latinists or philologists identify with the Russian word ‘hunger.’ ”3 Inber was well-positioned to understand both the “scientific language” of doctors and the specific term “nutritional dystrophy.” Married to Il′ia Davidovich Strashun, head of Leningrad’s First Medical Institute, she was intimately connected with the medical world: she attended lectures on the medical effects of starvation, the details of which she duly recorded in her diary, and she also spent time in the morgue.4 Even as Inber composed the poem, moreover, her husband was helping organize conferences devoted to “nutritional dystrophy,” conferences that would result, only a couple of years later, in an important publication on the topic.5 And yet such specialized knowledge and intimate connections to the world of medicine were hardly needed in 1942 to make sense of “nutritional dystrophy.” By the time Inber completed her poem, the term had become ubiquitous in Leningrad, an integral part of the wartime lexicon not only of “latinists and philologists,” but of the population at large.

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