“Those crazy Americans, of course Pushkin’s not black!” – NYU Jordan Center

eu.ixquick-proxy.com_2016-09-19_11-09-51.png“Those crazy Americans, of course Pushkin’s not black!” – NYU Jordan Center – Next we heard from Anne Lounsbery who introduced her paper, “‘Bound by Blood to the Race’: Pushkin in African American Context”. Pushkin, the Russian national poet, is famously descended from an African slave, can be found in the “Mulatto” section of Cuban bookstores and was vociferously discussed in the African-American press in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century. Lounsbery argued that African-American literary critics were attracted to Pushkin not only because he was of African descent – although this was critical – but for a number of interconnected reasons. Due to his status as an aristocrat, a friend of the tsar and a serf-owner, Pushkin offered the chance to discuss issues of access to power and privilege for people of African descent, as well as the intriguing case of a black man owning white bonded labourers. Pushkin gave African-American writers to discuss taboo issues of race-mixing at a time when miscegenation was illegal in the majority of American states. Perhaps most significantly, Pushkin is seen as an exemplary Russian and the founding father of Russian literature despite his black heritage; could an African-American writer ever occupy a similar place within the mainstream American canon? Perhaps the pessimists among us would point to the most common Russian response to Lounsbery’s work: “Those crazy Americans, of course Pushkin isn’t black!” It seems that Pushkin isn’t a black Russian at all; could he have become so important if he were? This we don’t know. We do know however that Pushkin’s African heritage is well known and even celebrated. Africa has a central place in the Russian literary canon, but perhaps one that is so ordinary as to be overlooked, and one that proves Africa is not linked automatically to blackness, race or ethnic identity.

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