Showing 81 - 90 of 179 annotations tagged with the keyword "Racism"

Skin: A Natural History

Jablonski, Nina

Last Updated: Apr-05-2007

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

As an anthropologist with training in comparative biology, Jablonski is particularly interested in the natural history of humans: how did humans evolve to gain the varied appearances we see today? In particular, she investigates how our skin developed into a covering that is unique among animals in three ways: (1) it is naked--effectively hairless--and sweaty, (2) we come in a wide array of colors (not just the traditional four), and (3) we use our skin as a surface for decoration, a "social placard," which we cover or bare at will, and on which we put make-up, tattooes, scarifications, and piercings, all ways of expressing cultural and personal values.

Our ability to sweat allowed us to cast off the usual mammalian fur coat and to be active even in the heat of the day (when many creatures take shelter). Humans, therefore, could do more and be more as thinkers, builders, and social creatures.

As to our color variations, Jablonski argues that the main root of modern humans came out of East Africa; these people were black, because a lot of melanin in their skin was the best way to avoid too much ultraviolet radiation, although some is needed to create Vitamin D. As humans migrated to the north and the south, Darwinian selection favored lighter skin pigmentation in order to use the lower levels of sunlight.

Jablonski writes, "Dark skin or light skin, therefore, tells us about the nature of the past environments in which people lived, but skin color itself is useless as a marker of racial identity" (p. 95). And, noting an irony: "Naturally dark people in many parts of the world are increasingly seeking ways to lighten their skin, while the naturally light-skinned are trying to find new ways to darken theirs" (p. 159).

We often take our skin and all its functions for granted; our consciousness can change quickly, however, if we experience a skin disease, a sunburn, or a thermal burn (see Carter and Petro, Rising from the Flames: The Experience of the Severely Burned). Jablonski discusses a variety of illnesses, including burns, dermatitis, and skin cancers. Other topics include the importance of touch, how skin relates to emotion and sex, and experiments in artificial skin, useful for covering patients with severe burns.

Jablonski presents a dozen color plates, 44 figures, and maps to enliven her text.

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The Calcutta Chromosome

Ghosh, Amitav

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the not too distant future, the morose Egyptian, Antar, works in New York City, as a home-based computer employee, monitoring artifacts which he can study holographically through cyber space. He conjures up the I.D. card of one L. Murugan, who had supposedly disappeared in Calcutta back in 1995. Murugan is/was an expert on Nobel laureate Ronald Ross, discoverer of the role of the anopheles mosquito in the transmission of malaria.

Through flashbacks to the intense week of his disappearance and to episodes in the late nineteenth century, the virtual Murugan roams Calcutta trying desperately to understand and expose a subtext of counter science in Ross's laboratory. He is joined by Urmila, a journalist whose life is endangered by their collaboration.

Murugan theorizes that Ross was sloppy, intent on fame and fortune though a simplistic rendering of the parasite-host relationship; his discoveries were fed to him by others and he was blind to the spiritualistic ambitions of Mangala, his Indian laboratory technologist. Conceiving of the powerful significance of malaria prevention and control, Mangala held different views on the purpose and means of investigating the disease and, Murugan thinks, she anticipated the later discovery of another Nobel laureate, J. Wagner-Jauregg, in the use of malaria for the treatment of syphilis. The travels of Murugan and Urmila imply that these views are still there awaiting their own discovery.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

The book opens with a thought "exercise": thirteen short essays, each in a different national voice and beginning "We, the people of a nation . . . " The honest, intelligent "speakers" love their countries and traditions; however, they try to express the ugly truths about their homelands as challenges for the future.

For example, American smugness over its know-how and wealth combines with American failure to recognize the resentment sparked elsewhere by these same attributes. Similarly, the mutual intolerance of Canada's linguistic and religious duality is portrayed as a grotesque irony. The U.S.S.R. has exchanged an old tyranny for a new; Japan must face the issue of controlling its population, if it is to control its impulse to aggression.

Chisholm then returns to his role as a socially committed psychiatrist who hopes to avert a war that could annihilate the human species. World aggression, he writes, is caused by the "anxiety" that emerges from intolerance typifying narrow parental guidance and even narrower systems of education and religion. People must learn to be comfortable with differences in population, race, language, and wealth. The message is simple: "anxiety" leads to "aggression." The book ends with a ideal curriculum for "world citizenship," surprisingly different from any currently in use.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

During the Nazi occupation of Paris, the deranged doctor Petiot (Michel Serrault) abuses the trust implied by his profession to "help" frightened Jewish citizens. By day, he conducts his clinic and supports his family with a kindly obsession. By night, he leads his victims from a metro-station rendezvous to his apartment, their worldly possessions dragged in a trailer behind his bicycle. He then administers a "vaccine" and locks the now poisoned refugee in a room to face an agonizing death alone.

The doctor takes the possessions of his victims, and dismembers and incinerates their corpses in a makeshift crematorium in his basement. In March 1944, the nauseating black smoke betrays his activities; however, the now notorious doctor vanishes, abandoning his wife and son. Following the war, he is living incognito as a soldier pursuing war criminals and collaborators. But he is identified by his fascination with the Petiot case and his handwriting. In the final scene, dozens of people stand at a long table silently sorting through clothing, jewelry, books, seeking belongings of their loved ones who became the doctor's victims.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This strong, powerful poem of grief for the death of an infant son in an intensive care unit is written by a poet who lost two of his five children. The rhythm of the poem is jazz, pulsing and pulsating, with well-controlled rests. Some words are run together: " . . . mamaborn, sweetsonchild / gonedowntown into researchtestingwarehousebatteryacid" which evokes (among other things) the frenzied atmosphere of a neonatal intensive care unit and the seemingly inevitable rush towards death.

Much of the poem deals with the distrust of the medical community, which is emphasized by the divide of race: the white doctors and nurses in white uniforms versus the African-American patient and family. The frustration of dependence on others is painful for the father during the nightmare of his baby’s dying. However, the poet reaches a higher level of understanding about his pain and grief; he acknowledges that the baby did receive all that medicine had to offer and he recognizes the complicated responsibilities one acquires by experiencing a loss.

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Sister Outsider

Lorde, Audre

Last Updated: Jan-08-2007
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

Sister Outsider is a collection of essays focusing on race/racism, gender/sexism, sexual identity, and social class as these are enacted in a white-supremist, heterosexist, capitalist patriarchy (i.e. the United States). As a Black woman, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet, essayist, and political activist, Lorde's essays in this collection include her often quoted "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House," an essay that radically challenges how white people "learn about" racism, or how men "learn about" women: "Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master's concerns . . . ."

Her essay "Poetry is Not a Luxury" suggests that poetry is "illumination," and is a way to wed ideas and feeling, a way "we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives." Other titles include "Sexism: An American Disease in Blackface," "Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist's Response" (on being the lesbian mother of a son), and "The Uses of Anger: Women Respond to Racism."

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Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Subtitled Women Novelists of Color and the Politics of Medicine, this book draws on novels by eleven women to illustrate how physical and emotional states of health and illness are linked directly to social justice. The book is divided into two parts. The first five chapters deal with individual characters, their illnesses, and sometimes their healing: Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters, Paule Marshall's Praisesong for the Widow, Gloria Naylor's The Women of Brewster Place: A Novel in Seven Stories, Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony, Toni Morrison's Beloved and The Bluest Eye, Louise Erdrich's Tracks, and Sapphire's Push are among the works Stanford uses to examine women who have become ill because of broken ties to their histories and communities, because of racial hatred, or because of domestic and sexual violence (see this database for annotations).

The second part of the book finds novels examining medicine itself. Stanford uses Ana Castillo's So Far from God, Gloria Naylor's Mama Day (annotated in this database), Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead: A Novel (annotated in this database), and Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents again to raise connections between patients and social conditions but also to ask questions about bioethics and uncertainty, medicine and epistemology, and how medicine might resist dehumanizing trends through the "myriad possibilities of communitas" (218).

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The Black Doctor

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan

Last Updated: Jan-04-2007
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Dr. Aloysius Lana, a "Black Doctor" of Spanish ancestry, settled in a Lancashire town and courted Miss Frances Morton, a young woman of the local gentry. After he unexpectedly broke off their engagement, he was found dead, and Frances's brother was arrested. At the trial, Dr. Lana himself appeared: the corpse was instead his dissipated twin brother Ernest, dead of a heart attack. Ernest's secret arrival had forced Aloysius to dissolve his engagement, not wishing scandal; Ernest's death allowed Aloysius to create a new identity abroad, his future shattered. But, hearing that the death had been misdiagnosed as murder, Aloysius explained the situation, and he and the Mortons were reunited.

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Robinson Crusoe

Defoe, Daniel

Last Updated: Jan-04-2007
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Young Robinson Crusoe defies his father's recommendation to seek a "middle way" of life, and runs off to find his fortune at sea. After a series of misadventures including storms at sea and capture by pirates, he succeeds in becoming a plantation owner in "the Brasils." When he sets out to add slave trading to his income, a storm shipwrecks him alone on a desert island. Here he must learn to support himself through farming, hunting, and simple carpentry, making whatever he could not salvage from the ship.

Cannibals from a nearby island use his domain for occasional feasts, but Crusoe rescues one "savage" from certain consumption and finally gains a companion, Friday, whom he teaches English and Christianity and learns to love. In Crusoe's twenty-eighth year on the island, Friday helps him engineer the takeover of an English ship with a mutineed crew nearby, and they journey to England with the ship's grateful captain.

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Kim

Kipling, Rudyard

Last Updated: Jan-04-2007
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Kim, a young Irish boy living in Lahore, India, decides to accompany a Tibetan lama on his search for the River that washes all sin. Kim’s canny street smarts and gift for disguise protect the gentle lama along the Grand Trunk Road, bustling with the peoples of various races, castes, and creeds who make up India’s complex culture and history. Kim’s abilities also inspire Mahbub Ali, an Afghani horse-dealer, to ask him to deliver a coded message to the spymaster Colonel Creighton, who taps Kim to help the British in their Great Game against the Russians for control of the northwest territory of India.

When Kim is discovered by an Irish regiment and nearly sent to an orphanage for soldiers’ children, the lama and Creighton intervene to send him to St. Xavier’s school instead, for training in mathematics, map-making, and other skills of the Great Game along with a classical education. Kim visits Lurgan Sahib for memory training and assessment of his potential, and journeys with the Bengali Hurree Babu to steal survey information from two Russian spies in the Hills bordering Tibet.

When Kim succumbs to exhaustion, uncertain whether to follow the lama’s vision of paradise or to join the Great Game for good, an elderly Sahiba nurses him back to health with traditional remedies. The lama, having discovered the River, invites Kim to bathe in it as well, to attain freedom from all worldly cares, although Mahbub waits for Kim to accompany him on another expedition for the State. The novel ends without Kim’s reply.

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