2016 winner of the American Historical Association's Wesley-Logan Prize in African diaspora history • Finalist for the 2016 Fage and Oliver Prize from the African Studies Association of the UK • Winner of the 2017 Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize
“A book that offers a rare glimpse into the intimate world of mixed race couples in colonial Africa....[Crossing the Color Line] is truly innovative. Whereas historians of the transatlantic slave trade had previously written about the instrumental nature of interracial marriages on the Gold Coast, Ray seeks out the forces of attraction, desire, and love that brought these men and women together, and goes further to demonstrate how ferociously they sought to maintain their unions, even in the face of humiliation and penury.”
Canadian Journal of African Studies
“Winner of the American Historical Association’s 2016 Wesley-Logan prize for African diaspora history, and the Aidoo-Snyder prize for outstanding books on the experiences of African women, Crossing the Color Line has already made its mark in African and African diaspora studies. It is also clear that the subject matter, methodological approach, and analytical framework are speaking to readerships in the history of race, empire, gender, and sexuality. There can be no doubt that this is an important book.…Many authors claim to be bringing colony and metropole into a single analytical field, but few of them really succeed in highlighting transnational dynamics without forsaking detailed knowledge of social relations in specific times and places. Ray’s book is one of the successes.”
“In this creatively and brilliantly conceived book, Carina Ray uses the story of interracial sexual relationships between European men and African women in the Gold Coast and African men and European women in Britain as an entry point into a much broader history of racial and gender relations.…Crossing the Color Line is tier-one scholarship, capable of directing a new course in historical research on sex, gender, race, diaspora, empire and identity formation, among other themes and subfields of African colonial history. In [Ray’s] rigorous hands, the reader is introduced to stories of men and women across location and race as they encountered and contested shifting metropolitan and colonial conceptions of race relations, power and gender.”
“A fascinating exploration of sex across the color line in colonial Ghana. This book is a brilliant addition to the literature on sex, gender and empire.”
Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy and law, New York University
Interracial sex mattered to the British colonial state in West Africa. In Crossing the Color Line, Carina E. Ray goes beyond this fact to reveal how Ghanaians shaped and defined these powerfully charged relations. The interplay between African and European perspectives and practices, argues Ray, transformed these relationships into key sites for consolidating colonial rule and for contesting its hierarchies of power. With rigorous methodology and innovative analyses, Ray brings Ghana and Britain into a single analytic frame to show how intimate relations between black men and white women in the metropole became deeply entangled with those between black women and white men in the colony in ways that were profoundly consequential.
Based on rich archival evidence and original interviews, the book moves across different registers, shifting from the micropolitics of individual disciplinary cases brought against colonial officers who “kept” local women to transatlantic networks of family, empire, and anticolonial resistance. In this way, Ray cuts to the heart of how interracial sex became a source of colonial anxiety and nationalist agitation during the first half of the twentieth century.
Carina Ray is an associate professor of African and Afro-American studies at Brandeis University. She is coeditor of Navigating African Maritime History and Darfur and the Crisis of Governance in Sudan.
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