Black devils, white saints and mixedrace femme fatales: Philippa Schuyler and the winds of change
Critical Arts , Volume 25 - Issue 3 p. 360- 376
This article sheds new light on abstract definitions of Afropessimism by analysing the self-fashioning of Philippa Schuyler in southern and central Africa during the Cold War. Schuyler had achieved prominence as an African-American child prodigy in the 1930s and 40s, and a peripatetic concert pianist in the 1950s, before becoming an ultra-conservative writer who opposed African decolonisation in the 1960s. Rather than relying on the tired cliché of the American tragic mulatto to explain Schuyler's existential choices, or limiting the scope of her story to an (Afro)Americocentric frame, this article argues that her virulent anti-black racism threatened purportedly respectable forms of colonial whiteness. In doing so it uses a New Historicist approach to contend that pessimistic positions about resistance can be combined with the study of practices that unveil the ironies and limits of power. In addition, it addresses Frantz Fanon's diagnosis of 'the woman of colour and the white man,' and argues that Fanon's work in the 1950s and 60s can be used to question Schuyler's desire to 1) condemn the 'force vitale' of Negritude, 2) praise white colonialists and 3) adopt an 'off-white' identity.