Hybrid Zones: Representations of Race in Late Nineteenth-Century French Visual Culture
Stringer, Rozanne McGrew
University of Kansas
History of Art
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In this study, I examine images of the black female and black male body and the female Spanish Gypsy by four artists ��_�� Edgar Degas, �_��douard Manet, Fr�_��d�_��ric Bazille, and Henri de Toulouse��_���Lautrec ��_�� that articulate the instability of racial categories and stereotypes assigned to racialized populations by French artists, natural scientists, anthropologists, and writers between 1862 and 1900. Notably, whiteness ��_�� made visible and raced ��_�� is also implicated in some of the images I analyze. I look closely at the visual stereotype of the seductive, dark��_���skinned female Spanish Gypsy and the primitive and debased black male, as well as at representations of the abject black female body. I also consider the construction of ��_��_whiteness��_��_ as an unfixed and complex notion of French identity, particularly as it applies to the bourgeois white female body. I analyze images in which representations of racial identity seem unproblematic, but I show that these images articulate a host of uncertainties. I contextualize each image through analyses of nineteenth��_���century French representations of the black person and Spanish Gypsy by modernist and academic artists, nineteenth��_���century racialist science, French fiction and periodicals, and entertainment spectacles such as the circus and human zoos. My methodology draws primarily on formalism, social history, and postcolonial and feminist theory. In my examination of representations of racial difference in late nineteenth��_���century French visual culture, I investigate images of racialized bodies specifically through the lens of hybridity, a term employed by nineteenth��_���century biologists and natural scientists to define the intermixing of races and cultures. The fascination with and fear of hybrid races increasingly dominated the discourses on racial hierarchies and classifications. I explore nineteenth��_���century notions of racial hybridity through the emerging science of anthropology, but I also expand my study to interrogate hybridity as the cross��_���fertilization of cultures and identity. I consider how these images expand and problematize the meaning of hybridity and its antithetical concept of racial purity. I also demonstrate the paradoxical correspondence and oscillation between the racial stereotype and the culturally dominant power responsible for the stereotype��_���s creation and perpetuation. My study seeks to illuminate what I see as the hybridity and heterogeneity of racial identity, for the person of color as well as for the ��_��_white��_��_ European, discretely and subtly disclosed in these images.
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