Friday 30 April 2021

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897) was born a slave and only fifteen when her master, Dr Flint, began his pursuit of her. At 40, she was purchased and emancipated by an abolitionist. Jacobs became an antislavery activist. Here are a few excerpts:

"(...) though we were all slaves, I was so fondly shielded that I never dreamed I was a piece of merchandise (...). When I was six years old, my mother died, and then, for the first time, I learned, by the talk around me, that I was a slave. (...)

The secrets of slavery are concealed like those of the Inquisition. My master was, to my knowledge, the father of eleven slaves. But did the mothers dare to tell who was the father of their children? Did the other slaves dare to allude to it, except in whispers among themselves? No, indeed! They knew too well the terrible consequences. (...)

There was a planter in the country, not far from us, whom I will call Mr. Litch. He was an ill-bred, uneducated man, but very wealthy. He had six hundred slaves, many of whom he did not know by sight. His extensive plantation was managed by well-paid overseers. There was a jail and a whipping post on his grounds; and whatever cruelties were perpetrated there, they passed without comment. He was so effectually screened by his great wealth that he was called to no account for his crimes, not even for murder. (...)

No pen can give an adequate description  of the all-pervading corruption produced by slavery. The slave girl is reared in an atmosphere of licentiousness and fear. The lash and the foul talk of her master and his sons are her teachers. When she is fourteen or fifteen, her owner, or his sons, or the overseer, or perhaps all of them, begin to bribe her with presents. If these fail to accomplish their purpose, she is whipped or starved into submission to their will. (...)

I was twenty-one years in that cage of obscene birds. I can testify, from my own experience and observation, that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks. It makes white fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious, it contaminates the daughters, and makes the wives wretched. And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation. 

- - - - -
Jacobs, H. (2000). Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Harriet Jacobs writing as Linda Brent. With an Introduction by Myrlie Evers-Williams. New York. A Signet Classic.

Wednesday 28 April 2021

The Intruder (1962)

"A man in a gleaming white suit comes to a small Southern town on the eve of integration. His name is Adam Cramer. He calls himself a social reformer. But his aim is to incite the people against letting black children into the town’s white school. Soon he has the white citizens of the town worked up." (MUBI)

C: "You may say I'm a social worker. I've come to do what I can for the town. The integration problem."
W: "Oh that. But that's all over. I mean they've got ten n***ers enrolled already in the school. And they're starting Monday."
C: "Yes, I know. But do you think it's right?"
A: "No, I sure don't. Neither does nobody. But it's the law."
C: "Whose law?"

::: The Intruder: WATCH
_ _ _ _
image via

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Florence and the Machine + Feminism

"I'm not very good at speaking to crowds, but I’m going to try, because what I have to say next is very important. I’m so happy today to be playing a festival that is 70 per cent women. Which is unfortunately still so rare in the festival circuit but look - welcome to the matriarchy, it's fun! So I just wanted to say thank you, not only to all of you who came here to support this whole event but to the incredible women I work with behind the scenes every day who help me put this whole show together. This festival, this line-up was brought together by women and really, what you are experiencing is a matriarchal experience."
Florence Welch (British Summer Time, Hyde Park, 2019)

"I definitely consider myself a feminist and it matters. The idea of what a feminist is is changing. I have so many strong women in my life. Throughout making this record I was really supported, consoled and held by the women in my life. My mother is a professor of renaissance history so I spent a lot of time in France as a child. Going to the Duomo and seeing St. Agatha with her breasts cut off was particularly shocking and made a mark. When you have a history of women behind you, you are constantly being floored by something powerful. It’s like waves of truth. It is humbling to listen to strong women and it makes me realize my capacity. I had to go through this as I was making the record. Through advice from other women, I felt like I [gained] more strength."
Florence Welch

YouTube Mini Selection

::: Dog Days Are Over: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Kiss With a Fist: LISTEN/WATCH
::: You've Got the Love: LISTEN/WATCH

image via

Sunday 25 April 2021

The Desexualisation of the Asian American Man

The construction of Asian masculinity is one defined by otherness, a contrast to Western masculinity. One rather disturbing stereotype is the effeminate Asian male. The body is stigmatised, the smoother skin and lack of hair associated with a boyish and feminine look (Atkins, 2005). Asian (American) male sexuality is probably best described by a "discourse of nothingness", his absence or inferiority in the coloniser's sexual hierarchy, in films often portrayed as a "sexually impotent voyeur or pervert" (Kee, 1998), generally castrated by media (Eng, 2001).

"The West thinks of itself as masculine - big guns, big industry, big money - so the East is feminine - weak, delicate, poor."
Liling (cited in Atkins, 2005)

- - - - -
- Atkins, G. L. (2005). My Man Fridae: Re-Producing Asian Masculinity. Seattle Journal for Social Justice, 4(1), 67-100.
-Eng, D. I. (2001). Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America. Durham: Duke University Press.
- Kee, J. (1998). (Re)sexualizing the Desexualized Asian Male in the Works of Ken Chu and Michael Joo; link
- photograph by Dorothea Lange via

Saturday 24 April 2021

How a Museum Can Make a Difference to the Debate of Migration

"It can make a difference because you can take the conversation about migration away from the heat of political debate and the media, where arguments tend to be framed in extreme terms and become polarized, and there is sometimes a dearth of real information. If you can take this conversation into a calmer cultural space - and the cultural world is where people are accustomed to test what they think about things - then that is a benefit. I think that people go to see films, read books or visit museums in order to see the world through other people's eyes. This automatically makes you question your own attitudes, and your relationships with other people.

I think that the medium of culture is often where we process our emotional responses. People sometimes have feelings about migration that are complicated or internally inconsistent; it is the topic that is on everybody' lips nowadays - indeed it has been for decades, but the focus is particularly intense right now. If we can help take these conversations into a well-informed cultural space then I think that we can make a real contribution to a calmer, more reasoned public conversation about migration."
Sophie Henderson

- - - - - -
- Henderson, S. (2017). Migration Museum Project. In Acesso Cultural (ed.) The Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees: The Role of Cultral Organisations.
- photograph via

Friday 23 April 2021

Children Vanishing

Every day, about 17 unaccompanied child migrants go missing in Europe. Most of them come from Morocco, Algeria, Eritrea, Guinea, and Afghanistan, 90% of them are boys. Among the migrants, these children are the ones most vulnerable to violence, trafficking, and exploitation (via).

photograph (UNICEF, Sanadiki) via

Wednesday 21 April 2021

Irish Travellers Photographed by Michele Zousmer

"My project gives insight into the everyday life and values of Ireland’s largest minority group. They are a beautiful group of people living traditional gender roles with great importance placed on family, lifelong bonds and God. For many there seems to be a daily struggle for survival. Most live without running water, electricity and proper sanitation. Some have become more ‘settled’ living in encampments set up by the government. I was very taken with the role of the young girls. They are sexualized at very young ages, marry in their mid-teens, and have 10 babies on average. These women lead lives full of hardship and poverty. Domestic violence and suicide is very high. I would love to see them value their education more , marry later in life and have smaller families, but I must respect the life they lead."

"This is an ongoing project. Irish Travellers continue to be the subject of political and cultural abuse. Recognized as an ethnic group they are refused services in shops, hotels, and pubs. Equality in education was offered years ago but continues to be inferior. The settled community does not want them in their neighborhood, concerned their property values will go down.
The 'Settled' and the 'Irish Travellers' need to come together to address longtime misconceptions. I hope this project creates awareness and the start of the conversation. No one should be denied basic human rights."
Michele Zousmer, humanitarian photographer

photographs by Michele Zousmer via

Thursday 8 April 2021

Quoting Lemmy Kilmister

“I don't see why there should be a point where everyone decides you're too old. I'm not too old, and until I decide I'm too old I'll never be too f*** old.”
Lemmy Kilmister

photograph by Eddie Malluk (1992) via

Wednesday 7 April 2021

Stefan Zweig's Last Letter

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), Austrian and Jewish, left Austria in 1934 for England, then New York, and finally Brazil. His work - once the most translated one - had been denounced, banned and vilified in Germany and Austria.

During political disturbances early in 1934, policemen arrived at Zweig’s house, demanding to search it for weapons. As soon as they had gone, Zweig packed his bags for London, where he had recently rented an apartment, and he never lived in Austria again.
Leo Carey, The New Yorker
Zweig, who had been "one of the most renowned authors" (via) and "an object of admiration" and envy before, lived in exile (via), in Brazil "the only place where the race question does not exist", Zweig wrote. He continued: "Blacks and whites and Indians, the most marvellous mulattos and creoles, Jews and Christians all live together in an indescribable peace." Brazil was ruled by Vargas, an anti-Semite dictator who only offered Zweig asylum because he was so famous (via).

On 22 February 1942, he combed his hair, buttoned his collar, straightened his tie, took an overdose of sleeping pills and lay down. His death, together with his second wife Charlotte Elisabeth Altmann, is often interpreted as a political act. In fact, he was "anything but outspoken" which frustrated writers of the time (via)
If Zweig’s death wasn’t quite the political act it seemed, the popularity of that interpretation is understandable. A man in whom genuine modesty and a genius for self-publicity existed side by side, Zweig spent his life backing into the limelight, and his death followed the same pattern. The day after their bodies were discovered, Stefan and Lotte Zweig were given a state funeral. President Getúlio Vargas attended, along with his ministers of state. Petrópolis shuttered its shops as the cortège passed and deposited Stefan and Lotte in a plot near the mausoleum of Brazil’s former royal family. A day or so later, a friend received a farewell letter from Zweig, asking that his burial “should be as modest and private as possible.” Leo Carey, The New Yorker
In his suicide letter (entirely written in the first person singular although he committed suicide together with his wife), he wrote:

“Every day I learned to love this country more, and I would not have asked to rebuild my life in any other place after the world of my own language sank and was lost to me and my spiritual homeland, Europe, destroyed itself.
But to start everything anew after a man’s 60th year requires special powers, and my own power has been expended after years of wandering homeless. I thus prefer to end my life at the right time, upright, as a man for whom cultural work has always been his purest happiness and personal freedom – the most precious of possessions on this earth.
I send greetings to all of my friends: May they live to see the dawn after this long night. I, who am most impatient, go before them." (via)

image via