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The Amalgamation Waltz

The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory

Tavia Nyong’o
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 238
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  • Book Info
    The Amalgamation Waltz
    Book Description:

    At a time when the idea of a postracial society has entered public discourse, Tavia Nyong’o investigates the practices that conjoined blackness and whiteness in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A timely rebuttal to our contemporary fascination with racial hybridity, The Amalgamation Waltz questions the vision of a national future without racial difference or conflict.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6817-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: Antebellum Genealogies of the Hybrid Future
    (pp. 1-32)

    In the notorious 1802 exposé of Thomas Jefferson’s sexual relationship with his wife’s enslaved half-sister, Sally Hemings, James Callender derisively referred to Hemings’s son Tom as “our little mulatto president.”¹ For much of subsequent American history, the idea of a black president has remained a premise for similarly ribald jokes. As national surrogate and leader of the free world, the U.S. president has traditionally stood for everything that blackness was not: commanding, legitimate, virtuous, white. But as the nation entered the new millennium, an inarticulate desire to see the color line subside along with the twentieth century created an opening...

  4. 1. The Mirror of Liberty: Constituent Power and the American Mongrel
    (pp. 33-68)

    In the collection of the Wellcome Library in London lies a hoax as elaborate in its own way as Croly and Wakeman’sMiscegenationpamphlet.¹ Attached to a small, leather-bound book is a tag reading, in full, “The Cover of this book is made ofTanned Skinof theNegrowhoseExecutioncaused the War of

    Independence—.”² Although subsequent analysis has determined this ghoulish claim to be untrue, and the leather cannot be identified as human in origin, the powers of fascination this small object holds do not simply end there. Its specious claim literalizes Foucault’s description of genealogy’s object:...

  5. 2. In Night’s Eye: Amalgamation, Respectability, and Shame
    (pp. 69-102)

    In the autumn of 1833, a traveling agent for the antislavery journal theEmancipator and Journal of Public Moralswas traveling northbound by stagecoach from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Lake Erie, “the beautiful western country,” as he called it, having witnessed the successful formation of the Pittsburgh Anti-Slavery Society and built regional contacts and subscribers for his New York City–based newspaper.¹ The stagecoach departed after midnight, and the six passengers, crowded together in an “Egyptian darkness,” fell into conversation. The subject turned to the burning issue of abolition. The traveling agent, in his first season as an antislavery worker, reported...

  6. 3. Minstrel Trouble: Racial Travesty in the Circum-Atlantic Fold
    (pp. 103-134)

    The uneven ground of history ensures that social struggles are usually pitched not in terms of opposing discourses but in competitions over a single vernacular and improvisations upon a common repertoire. This is what “the amalgamation waltz” is meant to evoke: a momentum that spins the body into and out of the symbolic order, a performance that becomes a mirror in which seeing and being seen convene without ever quite converging. Historically speaking, as a metaphor of transformation, amalgamation appeared as a performed and potential transgression of the boundaries of blackness and whiteness. At the same time, it did so...

  7. 4. Carnivalizing Time: Decoding the Racial Past in Art and Installation
    (pp. 135-166)

    If my argument up to this point has observed a roughly historicist shape—moving across three moments that all lie within what I have called the circum-Atlantic fold—I want to now take up what Slavoj Žižek calls the “parallax view” and reconsider that antebellum moment from the perspective of historical memory.¹ This shift is not an attempt to bring my narrative up to date. Indeed, I make no attempt to do justice to events after 1877, the events of the “American cycle” of the long twentieth century, as Arrighi and Baucom have called it.² My concern in this chapter...

  8. Conclusion: Mongrel Pasts, Hybrid Futures
    (pp. 167-180)

    In the late 1930s, toward the end of the Great Depression, a young schoolgirl from Pennsylvania was taken to meet her father for the first time. After experiencing the shock and discomfort of segregated transportation, her mother finally brought her to a law office in Edgefield, South Carolina, where, to her surprise, a “fair, handsome man” wearing a “light blue suit” swept into the room and asked the surprised girl, “What do you think of our beautiful city?” Moments later, he showed her something she took to be a “large coin”:

    “This is our state seal. See the palmetto, growing...

  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 181-182)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 183-202)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-220)
  12. Index
    (pp. 221-230)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-231)