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Red, White, and Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms [Paperback]

Frank B. Wilderson

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Book Description

25 Mar 2010
"Red, White & Black" is a provocative critique of socially engaged films and the related critical discourse. Offering an unflinching account of race and representation, Frank B. Wilderson-III asks whether such films accurately represent the structure of U.S. racial antagonisms. That structure, he argues, is based on three essential subject positions: that of the White (the 'settler', 'master', and 'human'), the Red (the 'savage' and 'half-human'), and the Black (the 'slave' and 'non-human'). Wilderson contends that for Blacks, slavery is ontological, an inseparable element of their being. From the beginning of the European slave trade until now, Blacks have had symbolic value as fungible flesh, as the non-human (or anti-human) against which Whites have defined themselves as human. Just as slavery is the existential basis of the Black subject position, genocide is essential to the ontology of the Indian. Both positions are foundational to the existence of (White) humanity. Wilderson provides detailed readings of two films by Black directors, "Antwone Fisher" (Denzel Washington) and "Bush Mama" (Haile Gerima); one by an Indian director, "Skins" (Chris Eyre); and one by a White director, "Monster's Ball" (Marc Foster). These films present Red and Black people beleaguered by problems such as homelessness and the repercussions of incarceration. They portray social turmoil in terms of conflict, as problems that can be solved (at least theoretically, if not in the given narratives). Wilderson maintains that at the narrative level, they fail to recognize that the turmoil is based not in conflict, but in fundamentally irreconcilable racial antagonisms. Yet, as he explains, those antagonisms are unintentionally disclosed in the films' non-narrative strategies, in decisions regarding matters such as lighting, camera angles, and sound.

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"I have not read anything as striking as Red, White & Black in some time. In this unsettling work, Frank B. Wilderson III theorizes the singularity of anti-Blackness as he refines our understanding of how political economy, popular culture, and law are shot through with identification and desire, pleasure and pain, sexuality and aggression. Anti-Blackness, which is carefully distinguished here from White supremacy, is not only an ideology and an institutional practice; it is also a structure of feeling with pervasive effects. This last, crucial point is glossed over by too many authors in their haste to provide rational analyses of and challenges to racism."--Jared Sexton, author of Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism "Red, White & Black challenges scholars of film, race, ethnicity, American studies, and cultural studies to rethink many of the assumptions that animate our work. Pairing analyses of film representations of U.S. racial antagonisms animated by images of Blacks with those that work through images of Indians provides a new and exciting critical framework. Red, White & Black provokes scholars to reckon with the political implications of Frank B. Wilderson's call to think structures of Blackness, Whiteness, and Redness in the United States both in conjunction with and in contradistinction to each other."--Kara Keeling, author of The Witch's Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense "Red, White & Black is unique, incisive, and thought-provoking. The analytic frameworks that Frank B. Wilderson III develops surpass the conventional paradigms for exploring theory, race, power, and film in U.S. culture."--Joy James, editor of Warfare in the American Homeland: Policing and Prison in a Penal Democracy

About the Author

Frank B. Wilderson III is Associate Professor of African American Studies and Drama at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of "Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid," winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the American Book Award. He is also the recipient of a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read 30 Dec 2013
By brooke - Published on
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Got to through policy debate, it's a fantastic starter book for understand social death. It takes a little time to read but it's worth it
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1.0 out of 5 stars To academic for it's own good 3 Sep 2013
By Jaqua Williams - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Don't get me wrong I've read a ton of academic discourse and treatise in my time, which in turn informs me when an author is using unnecessary heightened language to tell me the sky is blue, which is how I felt about this book, the points are point s I was well familiar with, but the language was so thick an unwieldy in trying to prove his thesis that I immediately turned off, I suppose I'm more of a bell hooks, Marshall Mikononi Lee, Cornel West reader, these folks know how to interweave common language with academic verbiage in order to keep the reader engaged, not write as if to prove to your audience how smart and capable you are, we already know you are, know just simply tell us your thesis without the need to try and wow us, leave that to us to decide
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