Thursday, July 5, 2012

George Mariscal - Brown Eyed Children of the Sun

George Mariscal’s Brown-Eyed Children of the Sun responds to critiques of the Chicano Movement (the Movimiento) as a failed, regressively nationalist social movement by reconstructing it in terms of postmodern discourse.  Using Raymond Williams’ claim that ideology and material practice/ discourse are mutually constitutive, and Foucault’s claim that “overlapping ideologies and discourses produce figures, practices, and languages functioning under a generalized rubric,” Mariscal analyzes a variety of texts, including images, poetry, speeches, student essays, newspaper articles and writings by both English- and Spanish-speaking activists to “map the complex ideological field that was the Chicano Movement of the Viet Nam war era” in terms that he hopes will help 21st century Chicano/a activists form their own context-dependent identities and social movements.  (23, 21)  Because he is interested in the relationship between discourse and ideology in the Movimiento and in constructing a Foucauldian “archaeology” rather than a chronological historical narrative, Mariscal refuses to develop a linear narrative or to reify the Chicano Movement around a single ideology, group, or even defining feature.   Instead, he analyzes primarily written and visual texts by both participants and contemporary observers  to complicate key movement concepts and symbols (or people) such as nationalism, race, Che Guevara, Cesar Chavez, Aztlan, and UCSD.  The end result of this discourse analysis is a conception of the Movimiento as a fragmented ideological fabric whose participants are themselves fragmented, multiple, and heterogeneous.   

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hasan Kwame Jeffries - Bloody Lowndes

Jeffries’ Bloody Lowndes, which both chronicles and contextualizes the Lowndes County freedom struggle of the late 1960s, uses a combination of interviews, archival sources, periodicals and histories to argue – against the canonical view that black militancy destroyed the civil rights movement – that black militancy and separatist ideology, at least in Lowndes County, was a necessary ingredient for the success of the freedom rights (vs. voting rights) struggle.  Although he argues that his thesis holds for the Black Civil Rights struggle as a whole, he centers it around a painstakingly constructed microhistory of Lowndes County, beginning with post-Civil War separatist efforts to build black churches, landholding collectives, and schools; moving through the “Lowndes  Diaspora” and the formation of a strong, geographically diverse social network (whose Detroit arm provided critical fundraising for the LCFO and other local organizations); detailing the interconnections between this local network and SNCC’s unique combination of intensive local activism and political and media know-how; and tracing the eventual corruption and failure of the movement to the departure of SNCC and the integration of its main activists into the local political machine.  Bloody Lowndes shows how the development of Lowndes County’s black community into a strong, grassroots network, in combination with the organizing skills of experienced activists from SNCC, constituted the seeds for a radical democratic revolution.