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Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity Paperback – November 15, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0226390024 ISBN-10: 0226390020

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226390020
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226390024
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Expertly weaving theory with analysis, Jackson discovers that identities built around race and class in the quintessential black American neighborhood are far less monolithic than even Harlem residents believe." - Publishers Weekly "Jackson convincingly makes the case that precisely because race and class can be 'done to people,' his behavioural model is 'the only real grounding on which hierarchical notions of race in the United States can ultimately stand.' " - Mireille A. L. Djenno, Times Literary Supplement"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Baum on September 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
While television scripts instruct the actors where to be and what to say, real life scripts teach us how to determine who belongs to a certain group and who does not. These latter, everyday scripts are stringent stereotypical outlines of expected physical and personal attributes, based on race, gender and other immediately identifiable characteristics. They allow us to judge the legitimacy of one another's actions and group memberships without any information other than what is visible. These scripts are easy to use and govern what we think of as authentic, but are they the best way to differentiate between what is real and fake?

John L. Jackson Jr. tackles that question in reference to racial scripts in his book Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity and answers in the negative. This book introduces his concept of racial sincerity, which contrasts and challenges the scripts that lead to monolithic notions of racial authenticity. Through searching ethnographic studies of race and identity carried out in Harlem and Brooklyn, Jackson presents the reader with stories that defy the scripts they use every day, opening minds to a new perception of race.

Jackson received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University and is currently a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He is very familiar with New York City, having done research there for his previous book, Harlem World: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America. This focus on the familiar does not limit the scope of his work though.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kathy S. Choi on September 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
My frequent 8 year-old verbal skirmishes with my parents often ended with my reluctant capitulation. Each altercation was unfailingly followed by one parent that incessantly prodded me to apologize to the other. While I was surely not penitent, I still spewed the defeated words of "I'm sorry" through clenched teeth in order to ensure the restoration of peace and sanity in the household. Was it an authentic apology? Surely. Was it a sincere apology? Far from it.

John Jackson extrapolates upon these often complicated notions of authenticity and sincerity and extends them into the discourse of contemporary American race relations. Though Jackson's SAT-word infused jargon may be underappreciated by non-academics in the field, he nonetheless establishes eloquent and critical arguments about the notion of racial sincerity that can be appreciated by both scholars and non-scholars alike.

Jackson presents a fresh look of the concept of black authenticity through the new viewing "lens" of sincerity. He maneuvers beyond the traditional theories of racial authentication by use of several so-called real characters that he encounters throughout his ethnographic adventures in New York. Jackson's selection and subsequent juxtaposition of opposing characters, beliefs, and identities is done elegantly, and serves to further support this idea of racial sincerity.

The author presents this view of sincerity as an affront to the commonly accepted belief of authenticity as the defining factor in the validation of one's racial identity. Leo Felton, a black white supremacist, serves as one of Jackson's most prominent examples.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
That's why professor Jackson, Jr.'s work is so exciting: it deals with identity as lived processes of identification in the flow of everyday life, with real people in his theoretical argumentation.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ber Berkner on April 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
The first chapter was very interesting. We meet "Bill," an interesting Harlem personality and the author Dr. John L. Jackson, who fashions himself as some type of psuedo super-hero "Anthroman." While at first his self definition as "Anthroman" is endearing, by the end the of the book, the repeated references to one's self in third person gets annoying. Its too bad, the premise is good, the author is intelligent, and subject matter is fascinating, but the book fails to capture any of these elements in its pages (unless you count the authors extensive lexicon as proof of intelligence).

Supposedly the author is out to measure the difference between authenticity and sincerity among the African-American (and African-African) community of Harlem. And rumor has it that this is even an ethnography.

Sadly, the book accomplishes neither. Mostly, its the rambling thoughts of one Professor on a wide range of topics loosely connected to "Black Identity." Beyond lacking any coherent structure, and only a loosely defined argument, the book fails to be "Ethnographic." Ethnographies are supposed to be about the people of a particular community, this book is largely a personal memoir and reflection J.L. Jackson. Mostly the author drones on about his own thoughts, experiences, and vague interpretations of other intellectuals. He attempts to use other intellectual's thoughts, but rarely explains them, simply assuming that every reader has read every author he has read. At least for me, this was not the case.
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