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The Pursuit of Happiness: Black Women, Diasporic Dreams, and the Politics of Emotional Transnationalism

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In The Pursuit of Happiness Bianca C. Williams traces the experiences of African American women as they travel to Jamaica, where they address the perils and disappointments of American racism by looking for intimacy, happiness, and a connection to their racial identities. Through their encounters with Jamaican online communities and their participation in trips organized b In The Pursuit of Happiness Bianca C. Williams traces the experiences of African American women as they travel to Jamaica, where they address the perils and disappointments of American racism by looking for intimacy, happiness, and a connection to their racial identities. Through their encounters with Jamaican online communities and their participation in trips organized by Girlfriend Tours International, the women construct notions of racial, sexual, and emotional belonging by forming relationships with Jamaican men and other "girlfriends." These relationships allow the women to exercise agency and find happiness in ways that resist the damaging intersections of racism and patriarchy in the United States. However, while the women require a spiritual and virtual connection to Jamaica in order to live happily in the United States, their notion of happiness relies on travel, which requires leveraging their national privilege as American citizens. Williams's theorization of "emotional transnationalism" and the construction of affect across diasporic distance attends to the connections between race, gender, and affect while highlighting how affective relationships mark nationalized and gendered power differentials within the African diaspora.


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In The Pursuit of Happiness Bianca C. Williams traces the experiences of African American women as they travel to Jamaica, where they address the perils and disappointments of American racism by looking for intimacy, happiness, and a connection to their racial identities. Through their encounters with Jamaican online communities and their participation in trips organized b In The Pursuit of Happiness Bianca C. Williams traces the experiences of African American women as they travel to Jamaica, where they address the perils and disappointments of American racism by looking for intimacy, happiness, and a connection to their racial identities. Through their encounters with Jamaican online communities and their participation in trips organized by Girlfriend Tours International, the women construct notions of racial, sexual, and emotional belonging by forming relationships with Jamaican men and other "girlfriends." These relationships allow the women to exercise agency and find happiness in ways that resist the damaging intersections of racism and patriarchy in the United States. However, while the women require a spiritual and virtual connection to Jamaica in order to live happily in the United States, their notion of happiness relies on travel, which requires leveraging their national privilege as American citizens. Williams's theorization of "emotional transnationalism" and the construction of affect across diasporic distance attends to the connections between race, gender, and affect while highlighting how affective relationships mark nationalized and gendered power differentials within the African diaspora.

30 review for The Pursuit of Happiness: Black Women, Diasporic Dreams, and the Politics of Emotional Transnationalism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    I have been complaining forever about how white-centric ethnographies of travel are, so I was incredibly excited to read this book and it did not let me down. I particularly enjoyed her theoretical framework of emotional transnationalism and her interrogation of race and affect. I also loved the “interludes” - a reminder that the finished product of scholarly theory is rarely as simple and neat as it seems. I only wished it was longer (a rare feeling for a scholarly book) - there were a few momen I have been complaining forever about how white-centric ethnographies of travel are, so I was incredibly excited to read this book and it did not let me down. I particularly enjoyed her theoretical framework of emotional transnationalism and her interrogation of race and affect. I also loved the “interludes” - a reminder that the finished product of scholarly theory is rarely as simple and neat as it seems. I only wished it was longer (a rare feeling for a scholarly book) - there were a few moments where I was hoping for more analysis, particularly in the epilogue where she discussed the difficulties of ethnography and in Chapter 2. She argues nationalized class difference disrupts the imagined oneness of the black diaspora - I wanted to know more about how women manage these moments of disruption. That said, I highly recommend this and I think it would readable and engaging even for non-anthropologists, especially if they are interested in the politics of race, travel, and emotion.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jack Kelly

    Good book. It was an interesting look into race and class from a translational perspective. It’s more of an academic deep dive than a novel. Only issue consisted of momentum. Half way through the book Points and dialogue seemed repetitive. But overall, very well written and was exposed to a topic unrelated to me.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Mathys

    4.5

  4. 4 out of 5

    Saira

    Refreshing to read a book about Black women and happiness. My intro to anthropology students enjoyed this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bagun

    The writing feels a little stiff at times but the quality of the research and analysis is great. Really appreciate the attention to race and emotions. There’s not nearly enough work done in this area. Excellent book for anyone interested in leisure, travel, intersectionality

  6. 4 out of 5

    Erica Williams

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sidney Watkins

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ashanté

  11. 5 out of 5

    Maria Claudia

  12. 5 out of 5

    Florence

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jomaira Salas

  14. 5 out of 5

    Erica

  15. 5 out of 5

    Justin Langford

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rafael Munia

  17. 4 out of 5

    Annie

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ishan Mainali

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dubie Toa-kwapong

  21. 4 out of 5

    Raonaid

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nohely Peraza

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shaina Coronel

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kia

  25. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Morgan

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  27. 5 out of 5

    Molly Hamm

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gracie Golden

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nikki Lane

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mairead

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