Innocents Abroad: Reimagining the Immigrant Frontier in “Slow West”

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“He was an officer.” “Wearing a dress don’t make her a lady. He ain’t soldier least no more … injun slayers.” “Wearing a dress don’t make her a lady,” Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) tells his new mentee, Scottish 16-year-old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Indeed, the first dialogue exchanged between the two in the new western, Slow West could serve as the film’s coda. Things are rarely what they seem, expectations do not often meet reality, and the stories we tell ourselves, whether about love, identity, or history, frequently obscure unpleasant truths. Cavendish had travelled from “the cold shoulder of Scotland to the hot baking heart of America,” Selleck tells viewers in the … [Read more...]

Indiana GOP Rep. Decries Creeping “Ving Rhames-ification” of America

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Mark Lawson, a Republican lawmaker from Evansville, spoke out on Tuesday against a trend that he sees as threatening the future of the United States.  President Obama's executive order allowing some 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the country was a gross violation of the separation of powers under the Constitution, Lawson said on the floor of the State House.  He also referred to the recent announcement of Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential bid, saying that it did not matter whether a Democrat or Republican won in 2016. "If America keeps allowing thieves and criminals to run rampant over our laws and Constitution," Lawson said, "there won't be much of a Constitution left when the … [Read more...]

Courting Division: How Three Southern California Court Cases Bolstered and Hindered Multiracial Civil Rights Movements

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With Barack Obama's second term inauguration in January and the multiracial coalition assembled for his 2012 victory, observers everywhere hailed America's new demographics and electoral shifts: increasing numbers of Asian and Latino American voters exerting a national influence. But for Southern Californians, and Californians more broadly, this sort of diversity is old hat. Granted, in the early twentieth century, white Midwestern and Southern migration drove population growth in Los Angeles and Orange County. Reyner Banham acknowledged these early waves: "They brought with them ... the prejudices, motivations, and ambitions of the central heartland of the USA."1 While it remains true … [Read more...]

Only Some May Follow: Southern California, Asian Americans, and Housing during the Cold War

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“Years of media abetted conditioning to the possibility of war, invasion, and conquest by waves and waves of fanatic emperor worshiping yellow men,” the late writer Michi Nishiura Weglyn pointed out, “invariably aided by harmless seeming Japanese gardeners and fisherfolk who were really spies and saboteurs in disguise – had invoked latent paranoia as the news from the Pacific in the early weeks of the war brought only reports of cataclysmic Allied defeats.”[1]  Indeed, even before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and internment, the U.S. government questioned the loyalty of its Japanese citizens. The F.B.I. and Naval intelligence had performed exhaustive surveillance of the Japanese minority and … [Read more...]

Trying to Be Someone in Irish, Working-Class Brooklyn: Alice McDermott’s Someone

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At the end of Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil, we see Tanya, a jaded gypsy, reflecting on the death of her ex, Hank Quinlan, a corrupt detective who had just been shot by his partner.  “He was a lousy cop,” she says matter-of-factly. “Is that all you have to say for him?” asks Schwarz, another cop.  Tanya brushes aside the question.  “He was some kind of man,” she says.  “What does it matter what you say about people?” What indeed.  If Breaking Bad recently reminded us of the futility even the most powerful and dynamic people face when they attempt to preserve a legacy (linking Walter White to Shelley’s "Ozymandias"), we might wonder what the everyman and everywoman may hope to expect … [Read more...]

Making Place: Mapping South El Monte and El Monte

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South El Monte Arts Posse’s upcoming project “East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and El Monte” will use interdisciplinary workshops to create a digital archive. Our hope is that our archive will be accessible to community members, journalists, and scholars and thus produce more written and other forms of cultural production about El Monte and South El Monte. Ultimately, we hope this will produce a better sense of place. Over a four-week period (Jan to Feb 2014) we will be bringing a range of professionals from Mexico City to work in South El Monte and El Monte with community members. Together, we will create a range of primary sources--oral histories, creative … [Read more...]

Helms, Zoots, Legos, Dinkins, Valley Girls, & Lebowski: ToM Contributors Around the Web

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Tropics of Meta contributors do not only spend their nights toiling at Wordpress and waiting by the phone to hear from our editors.  They have also published widely in sources online and off, from traditional peer-reviewed journals to blogs and news sites.  We wanted to compile some of the notable things our contributors have written in a wide variety of the platforms for some light Summer reading, links to which are included below: Adam E. Gallagher Palestine: A History of Nonviolence (Carnegie Endowment) Jason Resnikoff Thomas Crown's Global Vision (Paris Review) The Indescribable Frankenstein: A Short History of the Spectacular Failure of Words (Paris Review) Carribean … [Read more...]

Raging Grannies Battle for the Soul of the New South

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America's partisan political wars have come to North Carolina, as big-money donors have helped bring the most ideologically extreme right-wing state government to power since the days of Jim Crow.  (Democrats have been vastly outspent in recent elections, thanks in part to the largesse of Art Pope, NC's answer to the Koch brothers and the current state budget director.)  The GOP took over the legislature in the Tea Party wave of 2010, when a backlash against healthcare reform and frustration over the ailing economy swept right-wing politicians into office across the country.  Republicans took advantage of once-a-decade redistricting to draw lines that deliberately diluted the voting power of … [Read more...]

We’re All the Same Except that We’re Not: A Primer on Multiculturalism

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“We are extremely skeptical about ‘multicultural’ education in settings with few or no blacks,” Charles Moskos and John Butler wrote in 1996. “Indeed, without a substantial black presence, such education can detract from blacks’ opportunity by becoming a vehicle for other ‘oppressed’ groups – women, Hispanics, Asian Americans, gays and lesbians, and so on.”[1]  For the two sociologists, blacks endured the longest and most pernicious forms of discrimination, both de jure and de facto, which immigrant groups largely avoided. Moskos and Butler even blamed the rise of multiculturalism for undermining affirmative action programs for African Americans, arguing that once multicultural rhetoric … [Read more...]

Finding the Bones in Immigrant America

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In her new chapbook, Finding the Bones, poet Aimee Suzara writes about a Filipino migrant family, their place in the Philippines and the U.S., as well as the relationship between the “sending” and “receiving” country. The scope is simultaneously expansive (geographically and historically) and intimate as she asks the reader to constantly move between countries, to grasp the present by understanding the past. Divided into three sections, Finding the Bones digs through the materials of an unnamed narrator’s personal and family story, while discovering ancient layers of sedimented life, creatures that bear some eerie semblance to us. Suzara’s poetic excavations complicate the relationship … [Read more...]

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