Isar P. Godreau

Dec 23, 2020

Scripts of Blackness

Race, Cultural Nationalism, and U.S. Colonialism in Puerto Rico

University of Illinois Press 2015

This is part of our Special Series on Third World Nationalism. In the wake of a rise in nationalism around the world, and its general condemnation by liberals and the left, in addition to the rise of China and Russia, we have put together this series on Third World Nationalism to nuance the present discourse on nationalism, note its centrality to anti-imperial, anti-colonial politics around the world, the reconfiguration of global power, and its inextricability from mainstream politics in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Today my guest is Isar Godreau, author of Scripts of Blackness: Race, Cultural Nationalism, and U.S. Colonialism in Puerto Rico (University of Illinois Press, 2015).

The geopolitical influence of the United States informs the processes of racialization in Puerto Rico, including the construction of black places. In Scripts of Blackness, Isar P. Godreau explores how Puerto Rican national discourses about race--created to overcome U.S. colonial power--simultaneously privilege whiteness, typecast blackness, and silence charges of racism.

Based on an ethnographic study of the barrio of San Antón in the city of Ponce, Scripts of Blackness examines institutional and local representations of blackness as developing from a power-laden process that is inherently selective and political, not neutral or natural. Godreau traces the presumed benevolence or triviality of slavery in Puerto Rico, the favoring of a Spanish colonial whiteness (under a hispanophile discourse), and the insistence on a harmonious race mixture as discourses that thrive on a presumed contrast with the United States that also characterize Puerto Rico as morally superior. In so doing, she outlines the debates, social hierarchies, and colonial discourses that inform the racialization of San Antón and its residents as black.

Mining ethnographic materials and anthropological and historical research, Scripts of Blackness provides powerful insights into the critical political, economic, and historical context behind the strategic deployment of blackness, whiteness, and racial mixture.

Kirk Meighoo is a TV and podcast host, former university lecturer, author and former Senator in Trinidad and Tobago. He hosts his own podcast, Independent Thought & Freedom, where he interviews some of the most interesting people from around the world who are shaking up politics, economics, society and ideas. You can find it in the iTunes Store or any of your favorite podcast providers. You can also subscribe to his YouTube channel. If you are an academic who wants to get heard nationally, please check out his free training at becomeapublicintellectual.com.

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Kirk Meighoo

Kirk Meighoo is Public Relations Officer for the United National Congress, the Official Opposition in Trinidad and Tobago. His career has spanned media, academia, and politics for three decades.

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