Black Hunger: Food and the Politics of U. S. Identity

Overview

The creation of the Aunt Jemima trademark from an 1889 vaudeville performance of a play called "The Emigrant" helped codify a pervasive connection between African American women and food. In Black Hunger, Doris Witt demonstrates how this connection has operated as a central structuring dynamic of twentieth-century U.S. psychic, cultural, sociopolitical, and economic life.

Taking as her focus the tumultuous era of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when soul food emerged as a ...

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Black Hunger: Food and the Politics of U. S. Identity

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Overview

The creation of the Aunt Jemima trademark from an 1889 vaudeville performance of a play called "The Emigrant" helped codify a pervasive connection between African American women and food. In Black Hunger, Doris Witt demonstrates how this connection has operated as a central structuring dynamic of twentieth-century U.S. psychic, cultural, sociopolitical, and economic life.

Taking as her focus the tumultuous era of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when soul food emerged as a pivotal emblem of white radical chic and black bourgeois authenticity, Witt explores how this interracial celebration of previously stigmatized foods such as chitterlings and watermelon was linked to the contemporaneous vilification of black women as slave mothers. By positioning African American women at the nexus of debates over domestic servants, black culinary history, and white female body politics, Black Hunger demonstrates why the ongoing narrative of white fascination with blackness demands increased attention to the internal dynamics of sexuality, gender, class, and religion in African American culture.

Witt draws on recent work in social history and cultural studies to argue for food as an interpretive paradigm which can challenge the privileging of music in scholarship on African American culture, destabilize constrictive disciplinary boundaries in the academy, and enhance our understanding of how individual and collective identities are established.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An intriguing, provocative work of psychoanalytic theory and literary criticism that seeks to reach beyond a specialized audience."—Choice

"Black Hunger shows the strengths of a cultural studies approach in analyzing critically taken for granted assumptions propagated in culturally dominant texts.... The originality of [Witt's] approach and the richness of her material will reward readers."—The Women's Review of Books

"Doris Witt's study breaks important ground in highlighting food as a site through which to explore the interplay of race, gender, class, and sexuality.... The critical and theoretical perspectives on which Witt primarily draws...prove to be highly effective and relevant.... Scholars who are interested in critical work on masculinities should definitely place this book on their readings list. In addition, Witt has made a most significant contribution to the critical discussions of food and gender advanced in recent times.... Black Hunger is compellingly argued, beautifully written, and fully engaging from beginning to end. Witt has given us nothing less than an intellectual feast."—American Literature

"A fascinating look at food's role in African-American culture."—Chicago Sun-Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195110623
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Series: Race and American Culture Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Lexile: 1630L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue 3
Pt. I Servant Problems
1 "Look Ma, the Real Aunt Jemima!": Consuming Identities under Capitalism 21
2 Biscuits Are Being Beaten: Craig Claiborne and the Epistemology of the Kitchen Dominatrix 54
Pt. II Soul Food and Black Masculinity
3 "Eating Chitterlings Is Like Going Slumming": Soul Food and Its Discontents 79
4 "Pork or Women": Purity and Danger in the Nation of Islam 102
5 Of Watermelon and Men: Dick Gregory's Cloacal Continuum 126
Pt. III Black Female Hunger
6 "My Kitchen Was the World": Vertamae Smart Grosvenor's Geechee Diaspora 155
7 "How Mama Started to Get Large": Eating Disorders, Fetal Rights, and Black Female Appetite 183
Epilogue 211
African American Cookbooks 217
Chronological Bibliography of Cookbooks by African Americans 221
Notes 229
Works Cited 253
Index 282
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