This discussion essay on Hazel V. Carby’s Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands considers the contrasting ways the dominant society and the people of the African diaspora approach and regard research into family histories. Beginning with reflections on the somewhat dreaded though seemingly benign question, “Where are you from?,” the essay explores the shortcomings and racial biases of popular genealogical websites, contrasting these with the deeply and profoundly nuanced ways Carby’s book tackles fundamental questions, shortcomings, and difficulties in endeavors to trace ancestry. Along the way, the essay references Alex Haley’s Roots and then takes up the Moynihan Report and Maury Povich’s daytime TV show, Maury, both of which, the author asserts, reflect the pathology of depicting the black father as absent and deviant. The essay concludes with considerations of an inevitably settled yet nevertheless creatively fertile “mixed upness” of the creation of African diaspora family histories.
Zippin’ Up My Boots, Going Back to My Routes
Eddie Chambers is a professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas, Austin, teaching African diaspora art history. He is the author of Roots and Culture: Cultural Politics in the Making of Black Britain (2017) and World Is Africa: Writings on Diaspora Art (2020) and the editor of Routledge Companion to African American Art History (2020).
Eddie Chambers; Zippin’ Up My Boots, Going Back to My Routes. Small Axe 1 March 2021; 25 (1 (64)): 186–197. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-8912844
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