Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (America and the Long 19th Century)

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9780814787083: Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (America and the Long 19th Century)

In Racial Innocence, Robin Bernstein argues that the concept of "childhood innocence" has been central to U.S. racial formation since the mid-nineteenth century. Children--white ones imbued with innocence, black ones excluded from it, and others of color erased by it--figured pivotally in sharply divergent racial agendas from slavery and abolition to antiblack violence and the early civil rights movement.
Bernstein takes up a rich archive including books, toys, theatrical props, and domestic knickknacks which she analyzes as "scriptive things" that invite or prompt historically-located practices while allowing for resistance and social improvisation. Integrating performance studies with literary and visual analysis, Bernstein offers singular readings of theatrical productions from blackface minstrelsy to Uncle Tom's Cabin to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; literary works by Joel Chandler Harris, Harriet Wilson, and Frances Hodgson Burnett; material culture including Topsy pincushions, Uncle Tom and Little Eva handkerchiefs, and Raggedy Ann dolls; and visual texts ranging from fine portraiture to advertisements for lard substitute. Throughout, Bernstein shows how "innocence" gradually became the exclusive province of white children--until the Civil Rights Movement succeeded not only in legally desegregating public spaces, but in culturally desegregating the concept of childhood itself.

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About the Author:

Robin Bernstein is Professor of African and African American Studies and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University.  Her previous books include Cast Out: Queer Lives in Theater.  Visit her online at scholar.harvard.edu/robinbernstein/home.

Review:



The "focus on the horrifying historical content built into supposedly innocent items of everyday culture is surely the book's most important point. [This] book would be a great resource for courses on race, children and childhood, power, and U.S. culture." Girlhood Studies, July 2012

"A historiographic tour de force. [The] rich archive and nuanced analysis will make this a classic book for theater historians and performance theorists." Outstanding Book Award Committee, Association for Theatre in Higher Education

"A tremendous resource. . . . [An] exemplary model for any interdisciplinary project of similarly ambitious scope."  Journal of Popular Culture

“Bernstein’s powerful account of how the sentimental ideology of childhood innocence, and particularly its highly gendered manifestations, function to articulate racial hierarchies gives strong and detailed evidence for how paying attention to childhood serves to refocus many all too familiar, and troublesome, facets of American culture. I know of virtually no one of her generation who writes with this kind of verve, authority and pleasure. Racial Innocence will prove an important and widely read book—in part simply because it will be so much fun to read.” -Karen Sánchez-Eppler,Amherst College

“Nineteenth and early twentieth-century material culture comes alive in Robin Bernstein’s brilliant study of the racialized and gendered ideologies that shape, inform and continue to haunt notions of American childhood into the present day. Through imaginative and masterfully innovative archival research, Bernstein shows how representations of childhood and child’s play are integral to the making of whiteness and blackness and citizenship in this country. Racial Innocence is a groundbreaking book that for the first time illuminates the powerful and critical connections between constructions of girlhood, racial formations and American popular culture.” -Daphne Brooks,Princeton University

“One of those rare books which, as I'm reading it, is giving me all sorts of disconcertingly new and disconcertingly persuasive ideas about subjects I've been thinking about for years. Apparently I don't know everything about the textuality of childhood—at least not yet. But I am learning more, and very much enjoying it. Highly recommended.” -Perry Nodelman,Prof. Emeritus, Univ. of Winnipeg and author of The Hidden Adult: Defining Children's Literature

"One of those rare books that shifts the paradigm--a book that, in years to come, will be recognized as a landmark in children's literature and childhood studies...This is not one of those scholarly books that offer a thesis and then proceed to pummel the reader into submission by piling example on top of example. Instead, it develops a certain line of argument, and then turns, moving in a different direction, developing this new direction fully before changing tack once more. Structuring the argument this way makes for a much more interesting reading experience...[F]ew scholars can write a sentence like Bernstein can: packed with insight, theoretically sophisticated, and yet lucid--even, at times, lyrical..."-Philip Nel,Children's Literature

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Robin Bernstein
Published by New York University Press, United States (2011)
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Book Description New York University Press, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. 2013 Book Award Winner from the International Research Society in Children s Literature 2012 Outstanding Book Award Winner from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education 2012 Winner of the Lois P. Rudnick Book Prize presented by the New England American Studies Association 2012 Runner-Up, John Hope Franklin Publication Prize presented by the American Studies Association 2012 Honorable Mention, Distinguished Book Award presented by the Society for the Study of American Women Writers Part of the American Literatures Initiative Series Beginning in the mid nineteenth century in America, childhood became synonymous with innocence-a reversal of the previously-dominant Calvinist belief that children were depraved, sinful creatures. As the idea of childhood innocence took hold, it became racialized: popular culture constructed white children as innocent and vulnerable while excluding black youth from these qualities. Actors, writers, and visual artists then began pairing white children with African American adults and children, thus transferring the quality of innocence to a variety of racial-political projects-a dynamic that Robin Bernstein calls racial innocence. This phenomenon informed racial formation from the mid nineteenth century through the early twentieth. Racial Innocence takes up a rich archive including books, toys, theatrical props, and domestic knickknacks which Bernstein analyzes as scriptive things that invite or prompt historically-located practices while allowing for resistance and social improvisation. Integrating performance studies with literary and visual analysis, Bernstein offers singular readings of theatrical productions from blackface minstrelsy to Uncle Tom s Cabin to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; literary works by Joel Chandler Harris, Harriet Wilson, and Frances Hodgson Burnett; material culture including Topsy pincushions, Uncle Tom and Little Eva handkerchiefs, and Raggedy Ann dolls; and visual texts ranging from fine portraiture to advertisements for lard substitute. Throughout, Bernstein shows how innocence gradually became the exclusive province of white children-until the Civil Rights Movement succeeded not only in legally desegregating public spaces, but in culturally desegregating the concept of childhood itself. Check out the author s blog for the book here. Bookseller Inventory # AAJ9780814787083

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Book Description New York University Press, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. 2013 Book Award Winner from the International Research Society in Children s Literature 2012 Outstanding Book Award Winner from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education 2012 Winner of the Lois P. Rudnick Book Prize presented by the New England American Studies Association 2012 Runner-Up, John Hope Franklin Publication Prize presented by the American Studies Association 2012 Honorable Mention, Distinguished Book Award presented by the Society for the Study of American Women Writers Part of the American Literatures Initiative Series Beginning in the mid nineteenth century in America, childhood became synonymous with innocence-a reversal of the previously-dominant Calvinist belief that children were depraved, sinful creatures. As the idea of childhood innocence took hold, it became racialized: popular culture constructed white children as innocent and vulnerable while excluding black youth from these qualities. Actors, writers, and visual artists then began pairing white children with African American adults and children, thus transferring the quality of innocence to a variety of racial-political projects-a dynamic that Robin Bernstein calls racial innocence. This phenomenon informed racial formation from the mid nineteenth century through the early twentieth. Racial Innocence takes up a rich archive including books, toys, theatrical props, and domestic knickknacks which Bernstein analyzes as scriptive things that invite or prompt historically-located practices while allowing for resistance and social improvisation. Integrating performance studies with literary and visual analysis, Bernstein offers singular readings of theatrical productions from blackface minstrelsy to Uncle Tom s Cabin to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; literary works by Joel Chandler Harris, Harriet Wilson, and Frances Hodgson Burnett; material culture including Topsy pincushions, Uncle Tom and Little Eva handkerchiefs, and Raggedy Ann dolls; and visual texts ranging from fine portraiture to advertisements for lard substitute. Throughout, Bernstein shows how innocence gradually became the exclusive province of white children-until the Civil Rights Movement succeeded not only in legally desegregating public spaces, but in culturally desegregating the concept of childhood itself. Check out the author s blog for the book here. Bookseller Inventory # AAJ9780814787083

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