On Geophagia

In Dr. Farthing’s lab on Monday, one of the things that stood out to me was the discussion of Hoa and the consumption of geological materials. Professor McCoy’s mention of kaolinite led to me researching its potential nutritional value, eventually leading me to the term geophagia, or the eating of geological materials, specifically earth, soil, or clay.

According to the same source, geophagia is defined by psychologists as a form of pica,  a mental disorder that is characterized by eating objects of no nutritional value. However, this website does mention that eating clay does not necessarily a pica patient make, as “some cultures promote eating clay as a part of medicinal practice.”

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Lack of Nature in Western Culture

The passage from Snead that focused on repetition was really informative for me. He claims that the lack of repetition in Western culture is truly at odds with, not only the cultures of Asia and Africa, but nature itself. Honestly, after thinking on what he claims I end up completely agreeing. Western culture marks the seasonal changes with holidays that are more and more connected to consumerism rather than the actual nature based origin of the holiday. Christmas came to mind when reading this passage as these days, from this reader’s perspective, the holiday may still be considered a religious holiday but the underlying focus is on buying and giving gifts. The origin of the holiday itself, it is argued, not Christian at all,  Continue reading “Lack of Nature in Western Culture”

Is Hoa a Stone Eater?

We talked a lot about the name “Stone Eater” in the lab on Monday and the informality of the word “stone” in geologic terms. With every couple pages I read, im finding that stone eaters are becoming increasingly more important to the structure of the post apocalyptic world that Jemison creates. I’m wondering if it was a conscious decision to use the less formal term, “stone”  for this pivotal role. The word “stone” has a more medieval connotation than “rock”. The period of time when early humans discovered how to make tools out of rocks is not called “the rock age”, it’s known as the Stone Age. Perhaps Jemison wanted to use the word “stone” because it has a stronger correlation to earlier, more primal humans and the medieval period, which is known for its hierarchies and violence. This would create a parallel between the dynamic of nobles, knights, and serfs, and that of the Fulcrum, Guardians and orogenes. this emphasizes cyclical nature of violence, hierarchies and oppression among human societies.

Although Monday was mostly a day of geology and terminology, we briefly discussed the fact that Hoa eats rocks. It caught me off guard, and was a bit of a spoiler, but it raises the question of whether or not he is a stone eater. He literally eats rocks, wouldn’t that make him a stone eater? This is not the only odd thing about Hoa. When confronted with a wild animal, he manages to turn this animal into stone and break it into pieces. This is a strange ability that does not align with the abilities of orogenes.

Jemison also mentions his oddly shaped teeth during the tense interaction with Yikka at the house. His teeth were described as sharp and diamond like. Diamonds and the hardest rocks, and have the ability to scratch and even break other rocks. It makes sense that Hoa can eat rocks if his teeth are hard enough to pierce and break them. Simultaneously to the discovery that Hoa’s teeth are made of diamonds, Syenite finds that she and Alabaster have been “saved” by a stone eater. Is this a coincidence or is there a connection between the stone eater that Syen and Alabaster know and Hoa, the rock eating child? Are stone-eaters mystical creatures that live in obelisks under bodies of water? Or can they also disguise themselves as strange nomadic children?

I’m only halfway through the novel, so I’m not yet sure if there is a connection between Hoa and this mysterious creature that Syenite finds when attempting to clean the harbor. I’m predicting that some stone eaters, like some orogenes, walk secretly among “humans”, and have the sense to identify one another. Hoa senses that Nassun is an orogene upon meeting her and is able to track her family for weeks. If he can do this, he can surely  identify and track other beings like himself. He, however appears tense when he meets another being like himself at Yikka’s house. Is he hiding from something, and what exactly is he? It will be interesting to learn more about Hoa as the novel progresses. I have a lot of questions about this strange, yet comical character.


Week 3 Blog

I first wanted to talk about the excerpt that i read from Snead. This quote from the reading in particular i found very interesting. Snead wrote ” Nothing is constant in the whole world. Everything is in a state of flux, and comes into being as a transient appearance. . . don’t you see a year passing through a succession of four seasons?” pg. 65. I found this quote to be very intriguing because it implies that as time continues to pass, oppression and other hardships faced by africans may dissipate. I really liked how Snead used the example of a year that passes with four seasons. This helps the reader understand that the world and the situations within it are constantly changing.

So far I am finding this class to be very interesting. It is a topic that is completely foreign to me and I believe that is why I find it so interesting. I saw the movie black panther last year and when I first watched it, it just seemed like a typical superhero movie to me. However as we go through it in class, I’ve realized that there is much more about Black Panther then just “a superhero movie”. I feel like I am learning a completely new subject for the first time in a while and it excites me for the rest of the semester.

Langston Hughes and Afrofuturism

Afrofuturism is hard to explicitly define. Wikipedia defines it as using “…science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentrism and magic realism with non-Western cosmologies in order to critique the present-day dilemmas of black people and to interrogate and re-examine historical events”. By this definition, Langston Hughes practices parts of this himself in one of the poems we read this weekend. He writes “[d]reams and nightmares…dreaming that the negroes of the South have taken over- voted all the Dixiecrats right out of power- comes the colored hour: Martin Luther King is Governor of Georgia, Dr. Rufus Clement his chief advisor, Zelma Watson George the High Grand Worthy. In white pillard mansions sitting on their wide verandas, wealthy negroes have white servants, white sharecroppers work the black plantations, and colored children have white mammies…”(Ask Your Mama, pages 91-92). In a way, this does what a part of afrofuturism aims to do, but without a sci-fi or fantasy theme. Continue reading “Langston Hughes and Afrofuturism”

Blog Post Week 3

One of my favorite parts of this course is the interactivity and collaboration that is encouraged in our class discussions, as well as within these blog posts. These interactive environments allow us to easily share ideas with one another and be creative in doing so, which greatly enhances the learning process and understanding of the material. Additionally, by design this collaborative approach exposes us to perspectives other than our own, which can not only help to deepen our understanding of a given topic, but can also help to deepen our understanding of each other. I feel that this skill is very useful and can be applicable to many different contexts.

I also found some of the ideas in the Snead article to be very intriguing. Specifically, the quote that we discussed in class, “transformation is culture’s response to it’s own apprehension of repetition”, was very interesting to me. I feel that what Snead is trying to say is that while most would like to deny it, repetition of the past is inevitable in certain domains of culture.  The reasons for this phenomena lie within the necessity for people to have recognizablility, and the fact that culture is not a reservoir of “inexhaustible novelty”. I find this most interesting because I see a clear application to racism today, in that the racism that certain minorities experience is not novel, but rather a “transformation” of the past. Many people like to think that we have overcome racism, considering the extreme progress that has been made since the segregation era, for example. Yet it is this very perception that feeds into the institutional racism that is still present today, and ignorance of this is frequently referred to as “color-blindness”. Those who have a “color-blindness” perspective claim that in this modern age, we have progressed so far that race does not affect one’s life chances, ability to climb the social ladder, or vulnerability to negative circumstances. This however blatantly ignores the institutional racism and inequality that is very much present in terms of unequal distribution of resources for minority communities, higher incarceration rates for African Americans, among others. Thus, while we may feel that on a social level we have overcome racism, we have only “transformed” racism into a masked, less apparent form that diminishes the potential for minority groups.

Why Am I “Here”?

I began thinking about our class discussion that we had on September 10th about the meaning behind Jemisin’s choice of titling the prologue of The Fifth Season as “you are here”.  Someone made the comment (and I apologize, I can’t remember who said this, but if it was you please let me know so I can credit you!) that Jemisin forced us to start “here” in the novel, leaving us to piece things together to uncover meaning, and get a sense of the beginning of the story on our own, since we essentially started in the middle of everything.

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Blog Post Week 3

What has really interested me in this class is analyzing afrofuturism in different mediums; not just literature. I like that we watch clips of Black Panther and talk about the artistic choices made to portray afrofuturism and the effect it has.

Another thing that has interested me is reading texts that are quite challenging. It is had to come across classes that assign texts written by authors/poets of color. Continue reading “Blog Post Week 3”

Music and Afrofuturism

A part of this class that has really interested me is music’s role in Afrofuturism. Before this class, all of my knowledge about Afrofuturism centered around Black Panther. The assertion that Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae could be an Afrofuturist text was extremely intriguing to me. I started to explore this further and found tons of videos and interviews that  Monae has been a part of where she talks about her role as an Afrofuturist artist. My favorite anecdote from one of these interviews is when Monae tells the interviewer from Rolling Stone, “But I only date androids. Nothing like an android — they don’t cheat on you.” As I moved past Monae and moved on to researching Afrofuturist music as a whole, I was surprised to see an article from the BBC entitled “8 afrofuturist classics everyone needs to hear.” I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of the movement before registering for this class, but there were “classics.” I was admittedly embarrassed. In any event, music’s role in the movement pairs ideology with the personas these musicians take on stage, the lyrics that they write, and the clothes that they wear. It is interesting to see how the movement manifests itself.

My Perception of Culture

James Snead’s Repetition as a Figure of Black Culture (1984) changed my perception of culture and its development through time. Prior to reading this piece, I believed that culture was static in its improvements – that culture did not necessarily change but people did instead. When Snead claims that cultural repetition is not repetition at all but transformation instead (59), I (of course) made the connection to Black Panther (2018). One of the first images we examined in class was a still of the marketplace with futuristic buildings in the background (33:20) and it struck me as I had never noticed the cultural fusion they had built. I remember thinking of survivance, a term used in Native American studies and refers to the importance of survival and resistance during the Native American genocide. Wakanda survived due to the initiative that past leaders took after observing the grief in surrounding countries, closing their borders, and hiding their most precious resources. These actions also curbed outside cultural influence, thus further sealing the already established traditions and rituals in a nice, vibranium-filled package. Overall, this class has piqued my interest because it is making me reevaluate my stance on cultural discussions and has invigorated a passion for asking more questions about why things are the way they are.
l Continue reading “My Perception of Culture”