Snead/Space is the Place

For this weeks post, I wanted to expand upon what I began last week about Sun Ra’s Space is the Place, which was about the depiction of white and black men in the film. However, now I would like to discuss how the movie reflects Snead’s ideas about repetition in black and white cultures from Black Literature and Literary Theory (a concept I am particularly interested in). In Space is the Place, science and technology play key roles, but they are represented in various ways. Sun Ra often discusses his own science. For example, his theory of “transmolecularization” as a way to transport black people to his planet. This theory itself stands as an example of the concept in black culture; Snead asserts “[i]n black culture, the thing (the ritual, the dance, the beat) is ‘there for you to pick it up when you come back to get it’. If there is a goal in such a culture, it is always deferred; it continually ‘cuts’ back to the start…” (Snead, 67). While Ra’s science may be an advance, it is still done with the notion of the “cut” in mind; one of Sun Ra’s goals is to ultimately transport black people back to a time before the taint of the white society on black culture, and the new science helps accomplish this.

In contrast, white science, represented by the two men from NASA, only has advancement in mind, without acknowledging the importance of the past. This illustrates the difference between the two cultures that Snead details in his piece when he says “[i]n Eurpoean culture, repitition must be seem to be not just circulation and flow but accumulation and growth” (Snead, 67). The idea that repetition must always have some sort of growth in white culture is reflected in the film, and emphasizes that white scientists are only ever after gain (power or money, in this case). This is demonstrated in many ways; in one scene, a NASA scientist reaches out to Ra for a job, hoping to make better money, but is immediately disinterested when he hears there is no money up for offer. There are also two white men from NASA who are perpetually after Ra’s technology in order to use it for their own gain and set Ra back in his quest. Not only do the actions of these men exemplify the inherent colonizing nature of white culture, but they also show Sneads point: white culture must always create or take something new, without attention to origins.

2 Replies to “Snead/Space is the Place”

  1. I hear, respect, and agree with most of what you wrote. Although, I am curious, what exactly is “white culture”, as in what do you define it as? Additionally, I am curious, do you think that the entirety of white culture has an inherent nature of colonization?

    1. Here I am using “white culture” interchangeably with “European culture” from the Snead quote. And yes, I would say that white culture has a nature of colonization when examined from a historical perspective. I think this question also somewhat relates to what we discussed in class last week/what Maiah discussed: the presence of white culture in an afrofuture.

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