In memoriam: Raymond A. Mohl, past president of the Urban History Association and distinguished professor of history emeritus at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
Ray Mohl was educated at Hamilton College, Yale, and NYU, where he earned his Ph.D. in History in 1967. He began as an early American historian and published his first book, a study of poverty and social welfare in early national New York City, in 1971. With it, Ray established his reputation as pioneering urban social historian. His interests in urban history broadened geographically and chronologically when he took his first tenure-track job, at Indiana University Northwest. There he delved into the history of the Rustbelt and retooled himself as a twentieth-century U.S. historian. He published two books on race and ethnicity in Gary.
After moving southward, first to Florida Atlantic University for twenty-six years, then to the University of Alabama, Birmingham, for nineteen years, Ray…
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Last year I wrote a post about Miley Cyrus’ use of the trope of large black female buttocks in her stage performances and the way it referenced earlier images of the “Female Hottentot” in deeply problematic ways. Because it seems we have learned nothing, we again have another white female unknowingly invoking this trope in the interest of furthering her own image of fashion and transgression. I write of course about Kim Kardashian’s latest hijinks in Paper magazine. Because others have written about this, I will simply share their thoughts, which are pretty much my own.
“Kim Kardashian doesn’t realize she’s the butt of an old racial joke” — http://thegrio.com/2014/11/12/kim-kardashian-butt/
“The Big Problem With Kim Kardashian’s Butt Photos Nobody Is Talking About” — http://mic.com/articles/104188/the-big-problem-with-kim-kardashian-s-photos-nobody-is-talking-about
When I saw Kardashian’s cover, I immediately thought of Saartjie Baartman, and the inspiration photograph made her participation in this egregious history perfectly clear. This time, however, commentary about the historical association actually bubbled up into the mainstream media. I wonder why? Is it because Kardashian, married to Kanye West, is some kind of racial surrogate? Even then, her image still reinscribes her whiteness, given the salient differences between her clothed (in a shiny black dress no less) image juxtaposed with the original photograph of a nude black woman.
It still reminds me of this: