Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity

John L. Jackson, Jr., Author University of Chicago Press $20 (298p) ISBN 978-0-226-39002-4
To more effectively delve into the ""relationship between race and sincerity"" and its implications for the academic and popular debates on who or what is ""authentically"" black, Duke University cultural anthropologist Jackson regularly assumes the guise of his alter ego, the ""ethnographic superhero Anthroman,"" a cross between ""Harry Potter and Huckleberry Finn."" Billed as ""part conspiracy theory, part rant, part novelistic storytelling, part autoethnography,"" Jackson's book provides discerning readers with a provocative analysis of contemporary black subcultures: middle class blacks in a gentrifying Harlem who are split between a social justice-minded old guard and a neo-capitalistic new guard, conspiracy theorists, Black Hebrew Israelites of Worldwide Truthful Understanding and hip hop artists as exemplified by Mos Def. The strongest sections are his field interviews with residents of Harlem and Brooklyn, who furnish perceptive and unpretentious observations of their experience. Some of the interactions are thought-provoking: A conversation with a young man convinced that a fruit drink sterilizes black men gives the author pause; he returns the drink for bottled water. Others are more disturbing, such as the arrest of an individual who blares NWA during a neighborhood incident. The author's powers of observation are indisputable; however, his theoretical interpretations, which can be so jargonized that readers may get repetitive stress injuries after reaching for the dictionary so many times, are best savored by specialists.
Reviewed on: 10/31/2005
Release date: 11/01/2005
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-226-39001-7
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