[Marxism] Racial Spectacles: Explorations in Media, Race, and Justice

Ismail Lagardien ilagardien at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 15 12:03:50 MDT 2012

 Jonathan Markovitz.  Racial Spectacles: Explorations in Media, Race,and Justice.  New York  Routledge, 2011.  240 pp.  $125.00 (cloth),
ISBN 978-0-415-88345-0; $39.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-415-88383-2; ISBN

Reviewed by Jonathan Anuik (University of Alberta)
Published on H-Memory (March, 2012)
Commissioned by Linda Levitt

Last summer, I happened upon an advertisement for Calvin Klein underwear in a subway station in downtown Toronto. Notably, the male model was black. The billboard did not come out of a vacuum, emerging
as a single ad to capture the attention of consumers with disposable income going home from work. Instead, it is part of a longer history of North American obsession with black male sexuality. The advertisement is a racial spectacle, according to Jonathan Markovitz.
He argues that "collective memories ... help to structure contemporary social identities and determine how various constituencies make sense of racial spectacles as they unfold on a national or international stage" (p. 3). Thus, the national and international contours of race
relations inevitably affect my response to the ad. Gender and class shape race as spectacles occur in news media, in fictional and nonfictional depictions of race in movies and on television, and in novels. Markovitz sets out to examine "the
ways in which state actors and social movements have constructed narratives of the past" through the use of spectacles and "enlisted these narratives in political struggles," locally, nationally, and internationally. People have deployed spectacles, "mobilized around
them," and made them matter, and through all of this, spectacles have influenced "racial formation" and racialization in the United States and internationally (p. 3). However, not all spectacles endure, and Markovitz wants to know why.


Ismail Lagardien

Nihil humani a me alienum puto

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