Saturday, February 10, 2007

Arguments of definition - Identity Politics?

An article in today's paper highlighted a fascinating argument of definition in the upcoming presidential race. The question is whether Barack Obama is an African American. Now, certainly, considering that his father is Kenyan and his mother American, he is quintessentially African American. But considering that heritage and his childhood, growing up in Indonesia etc, to what extent do African Americans descended from slaves consider Obama as "one of them?" Very interesting question.

This shows what I have tried to tell my students at Oregon State about the relevance of arguments of definition - definitely not a trivial exercise.


Blogger Beanie said...

PEACE.I really want to thank you for the concepts that you create. The word African-American isin't recognized by the Family of Nations/United Nations nor is American, black, latino, hispanic, and many more of the labels that are put on the people of this land. I would bet my last fifty cents that Barack will not be recognized in this race for presidency based upon these facts. Just as Rev. Jesse Jackson who also claimed to be black, and/or African-American.PEACE,AND LOVE.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Hector Superb said...

My understanding of Afro-American is that it was the accepted term chosen for the people who had the combined African and American heritage - ie their ancestors were subject to the massive enforced transportation and the consequent enslavement of African people in America. Initially there were pejorative terms to define them - coloured or negro; then "black" was the accepted in the lingua-franca. Things were not as black and white as that. The people defined themselves and gave their own definition - based on their origins or ethnicity, not on how they appear to other people.

Things get a little complex with new influxes of free immigration.

We have situations where certain peoples are distinguished from other ethnic groups - "ethnic Albanians in Kosovo" spring to mind.

So, will the core institutions in the US refer to the incumbent Afro-Americans as "Ethnic Afro-Americans".

I speak as white UK and I could be horrendously wrong; but there you go.

It's a great subject to throw up in the air - a bit like throwing up knives, some blunt, some sharp.

1:44 PM  

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