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”
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”
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.
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”
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.
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”
Of all the readings so far, I have enjoyed Langston Hughes the most. I grew up with a copy of “I wonder as I wander” flouting around my house and ever since I read that beautiful title I have been intrigued by Mr. Hughes.
General understandings of time tend generally, but wrongly, to conflate change with progress. In Snead’s writing, however, he parses out the implications of repetition and change, particularly along the black/white racial distinction, in such a way that challenges an oversimplified, direct relationship between change and progress. Most effectively, Snead advocates that changes does not necessarily indicate progress, and, instead links black repetition with historical value, as opposed to white change/cultural cycles with capitalist values: “Black culture highlights the observance of such repetition, often in homage to an original generative instance or act … In European culture, financial and production cycles have largely supplanted the conscious sort of natural return in black culture,” (65-66). With these statements, Snead, whether intentionally or not, sheds light on the problem of white folks appropriating and coopting black culture, without understanding its resonance or implications. For the purposes of Snead’s argument, black and white cultures essentially function in a condition of opposites: black culture preserves the past, and white culture generates revenue for the future. When broken down this way, Snead’s thesis makes it obvious why the appropriation of repetitious black culture by people who don’t understand the “homage to an original .. act” essentially robs cultural elements of anything but their pure aesthetic value (65).
Reflecting on the course as a whole thus far, I would say my favorite reading was Tolson. I think this is because and not despite it was so difficult. Reading it was very different than reading anything I’ve ever read before. Phrases like “O peoples of the Brinks, come with the hawk’s reserve, the skeptics’ optic nerve, the prophet’s tele verve…” fill this libretto, language none of us are accustomed to understanding, and the libretto also contains a lot of foreign languages and references to African tribes and traditions that I have never heard of. Because of this, I had to do a lot of research: reading footnotes, using google translate, reading reviews and analyses online. I feel like I learned a lot about African history just from reading this poetry, as well as learning a lot about the form of an epic poem ( or Libretto ) and how it conveys stories and weaves them into a complicated, descriptive, whole tale.
My question about this piece that I might propose would be:
- Why would Tolson chose this form, a libretto, of writing to convey the African history it contains? It was a deliberate choice, and a difficult form, so what is the significance of it?
In the depth of my past and the repetition of everyone within my sphere, music is core to our character. For my mother, she sings passionately in her room to Whitney Houston. My younger brother is dreaming of Chance the Rapper and the rapper’s next big single. My grandmother, in her frustration to call me, sings out her familiar negro spirituals; a reminder of the bad times but the good times to come. All of that juxtaposes with not only what Snead discusses but our general discussion in class: the perception of wrong and right.