Faculty Colloquium: “A Hindu is white although he is black”

Dear Colleagues,

Please join us this Friday, November 6th at 3:00 in the Hatfield Room for our seventh Faculty Colloquium of this semester. Treats will be provided.

Alexander Rocklin, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Alexander Rocklin
Title: “A Hindu is white although he is black”: Hindu Alterity and the Performativity of Religion and Race between the US and the Caribbean


This talk uses the controversies surrounding the racially and religiously enigmatic Ismet Ali, a yogi working in Chicago and New York in the 1920s, as a way to get at the complexities of the interrelatedness of the performativity of religion and race. In examining several moments in which Ali’s “authenticity” as Indian is brought into doubt, it opens up larger questions regarding the global flows of colonial knowledge, racial tropes, and groups of people between India, the US, and the Caribbean. The practices of the yogi persona and its sartorial stylings, particularly the donning of a turban and beard, meant to signify “East Indianness” in the US, were one mode through which “Hindoo” stereotypes were repurposed as models for self-formation by both South Asian and African Americans in the early twentieth century. In passing as “Hindoo,” peoples of color could circumvent the US’s black/white racial binary and the violence of Jim Crow. This act of racial passing, though, was an act of religious passing as well. This talk explores the ways in which, in the early twentieth century US, East Indian “authenticity” only became legible via identificatory practices that engaged with and took on Orientalized stereotypes. However, the ways in which identities had to and could be performed changed with context, as individuals moved across national and colonial lines.

Please feel free to invite students to attend this talk.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Doreen Simonsen and Bobby Brewer-Wallin
Faculty Colloquium Coordinators

New Voices Showcase: Rabins & Bernard

Please join us for the third event in the Fall 2015 Hallie Ford Literary Series at Willamette, a New Voices Showcase, featuring poet Alicia Jo Rabins and fiction writer Sean Bernard. The reading and Q&A will take place on Monday, November 9, at 7:30 p.m. in the Hatfield Room of Willamette’s library. It is free and open to the public, and books will be for sale courtesy of the Willamette Store.

A writer, composer, performer and Torah scholar, Alicia Jo Rabins won the 2015 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize. Her first volume of poetry, Divinity School, was published this October. She tours internationally with her band, performing Girls in Trouble, an indie-folk song cycle about the complicated lives of Biblical women. A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff, her one-woman chamber-rock opera, was named one of Portland’s best theatre performances of 2014 by the Willamette Week.

Sean Bernard is the author of two books released in the last year: a novel, Studies in the Hereafter, and a story collection, Desert Sonorous, which won the 2014 Juniper Prize from the University of Massachusetts Press. He lives and teaches creative writing in Southern California, where he serves as Fiction Editor for The Los Angeles Review and also edits the journal Prism Review. He holds degrees from Oregon State University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and his fiction has appeared in Epoch, CutBank, LIT, Glimmer Train, and Sequestrum. In 2012, he received a literary fellowship from the NEA.

Read one of Alicia’s poems here: https://aprweb.org/poems/florida; or listen to her songs here: http://www.girlsintroublemusic.com/listen/.

Read an interview with Sean here: http://therumpus.net/2015/10/the-rumpus-interview-with-sean-bernard/.

Scott Nadelson
Associate Professor of English;
Department Chair of English

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