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Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights
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Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights

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4.43  ·  Rating details ·  91 ratings  ·  8 reviews
Beginning in the mid-19th century in America, childhood became synonymous with innocence—a reversal of the previously-dominant Calvinist belief that children were depraved, sinful creatures. As the idea of childhood innocence took hold, it became racialized: popular culture constructed white children as innocent and vulnerable while excluding black youth from these qualiti ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published December 1st 2011 by New York University Press
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Cara Byrne
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What an outstanding critical look at race, gender, childhood and innocence in nineteenth-century American material and literary culture. Even before her complex analysis of works like _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ and _Uncle Remus_ and cultural juggernauts like Raggedy Ann and Topsy-Turvy dolls, she proposes these worthwhile questions: “Why is abstracted childhood so flexible that it can simultaneously bolster arguments for and against interracial marriage? How did childhood acquire so much affective weig ...more
Irma Mayorga
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Dolls of all colors anxiously raise questions about the definitions and limits of humanity. As I have argued throughout this book, all dolls in play, and all stories about sentient dolls, trouble the boundary between person and thing--the terror at the ontological core of slavery. Nineteenth-century black dolls, however, uniquely literalized these functions in that they were owned, insentient things that often explicitly represented enslaved humans. Black dolls marked and eroded the border betw ...more
Allan
Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Very rich argument. This was the kind of book that made me excited to be in graduate school, studying American cultural history, and focusing on performance. Good stuff. Bernstein's argument about "dancing things" in material culture which script our behavior is not simply a powerful contribution to historical cultural studies, it's also an answer to a question I've had this last year: does theater studies have anything to offer other disciplines?

Over the last 15 years, with the definitive emer
...more
Cynthia
Sep 03, 2014 added it
Shelves: education
Loved this very interesting book. Focusing mostly on the influence of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Bernstein discusses how the performances around that book portrayed black people and influenced whites. Black children were not given that "innocence" that white children were presented with. Interesting ideas about objects and how they influence performance of play. Recommend for people interested in race, education, toys, or literature.
Karen Jean Martinson
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: research
I finally, fully read a book over the course of the semester! And Bernstein's is an excellent book. I find her concept of "scriptive things" to be incredibly useful. Sometimes theories get too abstract for me, but her application of thing-theory elucidates the subjects of race and childhood in innovative ways, as does her tracking of the various performances of race as they crossed media: books to stage plays to pictures to advertisements to dolls.

I'm glad she won the book award for this!
Richard
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
See my review in The Lion and the Unicorn
Volume 36, Number 2, April 2012
pp. 209-213

http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&...
...more
Jill
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Definitely lived up to the glowing recommendation I had!
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