The Market

Colson Whitehead’s Zone one is marked with complex vocabulary and intellectual communication of ideas. The metaphors are resounding and the language can be quite esoteric. A dictionary or new word notepad should be in handy when reading this masterful albeit hard-to-read work of art. However, I remembered a practice I did a year ago of using metaphors and language in writing to capture a space until it felt like the reader could see it. For example, Whitehead captures the African Burial Ground avidly in his book. Phrases in his book like ” through the sad aperture of the dead” remind one of the burial ground and how it would feel to look on at the ancestors and meet them at face value. The African Burial ground remains as the resting space for the oppressed, the wronged and the hopeful. The Ancestral Chamber provides a sacred space for individual contemplation, reflection, meditation and prayer. . After reading about the African memorial background I decided to capture a space I found interesting in my hometown in Nigeria. It’s the local market and it is the oldest economic centre of the community. However, it is also a place filled with suffering, hardship, loss and hope. A less sombre and vibrant antithesis to the burial ground.

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When reminiscing on the novel Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler, I realized that the “other” animal is bought to the forefront. Post humanism oppressed co-evoution of humans with nonhumans and other forms of life. The novel shows the horrors of living and accepting a human-animal hybrid and Octavia Butler creates these characters that displays this human-animal quality. Eli, Meda, and many other characters were enhanced due to this virus and become these hybrid subject. In reality, we fear power and in this novel “the hybrids” hold power and make the humans feel like the “others” on their own land. When Media, Rane, Keira, and Eli become infected, they obtain enhanced senses, speed, strength, and telepathic characteristics. Because of this, they question what they are and wonder if they are animals in human form. Meda questions this and says “We’re changed, but we have ethics. We aren’t animals.” (pg. 39). Although they technically still have human-like appearances, they are still rejected and deemed as unnatural and evil. Jacob was born out of infected humans, but is still rejected and observed as another hybrid. The bodies of humans and hybrid children like Jacob and Joseph can also be assumed as postman bodies. Their new posthuman bodes need to interact with the new environment. For a posthuman, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they carry a new body, but that they have to accept being challenged. Both the humans and hybrids must understand each other. The non human body of Jacob stands as a barrier for the humans to accept him as one of “them.” Humanity often denies and fears deformity. Deformity is often portrayed in Clay’s Ark. Jacob had a human face but an animal body, making it almost impossible to be accepted by humans. On the other hand, Butler accepts human body, but without racial and cultural uniqueness. In reality hybrids will face a lot of problems in a human world. In a postman world, dominance of a single species is denied by Butler and multi species interaction and co evolution is exhibited. Butler challenges the theory of accepting the “other” regardless of how they look and what they do. Through her novel, she points out the flaw that many will have with accepting others based on appearance. The novel is a science fiction but relates to the class because it demonstrates how one will treat others differently based on appearance. For example the Tuskegee experiments demonstrated how white medics thought it was ok to infect african americans and neglect them treatment because they saw these people as “different” and not as one of their own. By creating this hybrid, Butler introduces ideas like human dependency, sharing, and a changed world with altered species part human.

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Collaborative Experiences.

No one should be alone. We, as humans exist in/within communities, groups, population, cultures, families among others. From birth, an individual’s community/family assumes responsibility for the upbringing of the individual. From the kindergarten teachers to next-door neighbours, a network of people periodically provide support and care. Kids are encouraged to go out and make friends. Holidays, rites of passages celebrations are only complete with family and with long standing traditions; families are responsible for guiding the individual in their eventual situation to life. Humans usually live communally or simply tolerate each other hence we are regarded as social but complex creatures. The old adage “No man is an Island” is heard too often from the mouths of those who wish to talk introverts out of their highly valued internal conversations. Can you respect my privacy please? Tolerate. Even when research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption (Cain, 2012. ) The old biblical story of the tower of Babel highlights the great power of team work and collective experience. After the flood in the post-Noahic world; humans on earth were united in one language. Soon after, they decided to team up together and build a tower that could reach the heavens. They built a sky high edifice, continued building until they were struck by God and started to speak different languages. The workers abandoned the work and migrated to different ends of the earth. The tower of Babel became desolate; a withered testament to the power of unity. In my lonely times, I wonder about the unspeakable power in team work. Men and women;if matched together in intelligence, fervor and ambition could indeed change the world like the workers of Babel attempted to. If individual achievements matter; then the world exists on the axis of collective achievements. Greatness is in the WE not I, alone .

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Understanding the Literary Cannon and How It Pertains to This Course

In my ENGL 203 course, we have been taking a look at literary theories, and one of them pertains to this course that I thought I would share with you all. One of the theories, ethnic studies, states that “You can thank literary theory and criticism for much of the positive change that has occurred over the past few decades. Students are still assigned works by many of the “dead white European males” that used to monopolize reading lists, but those students are now likely to be assigned books by Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison or Amy Tan alongside with those by Charles Dickens or John Milton”. If you take a look at the first name in that list of authors, you’ll notice Toni Morrison’s name among the list. What this quote from the book is saying that we owe reading Home this semester, to the literary canon, which is known as the change in the collection of texts read in classrooms.

This term literary canon often reflects national culture, which is another way this term relates to this course. It talks about how some people view culture as a  broad collection of a countries practices, while others see culture as a kind of goal or ideal. That second view of culture reminds me of our journey through this course. We took a look at several pieces of literature this semester on the topic of how racism has played into medical treatments and consent, with a goal in mind of raising awareness on this topic. Books such as Home illustrated examples of consent within the text and illustrated topics we looked at in Medical Apartheid to life. We owe being able to dive into such a topic due to the literary canon, as it has changed into reading texts that encourage discussion and questioning.


Transitioning as a Class and Incorporating GLOBE

Through our discussion of the Geneseo Learning Outcomes for Baccalaureate Education (GLOBE) while all the outcomes are important, our group emphasized the importance of “Leadership and Collaboration” and “Diversity and Pluralism” during our construction of the collaborative course statement. Continue reading “Transitioning as a Class and Incorporating GLOBE”

Straggler to Skel

In this post I want to discuss a specific incident in Zone One and try to understand what this scene could mean. The scene I’m looking at is the fortune teller scene, here’s a quick recap: While on their duty of sweeping Zone One, Gary, Kaitlyn, and Mark Spitz come across a fortune teller rotting in her shop. When they first see the fortune teller she appears to be a Straggler and per usual, Gary feels the need to make a joke out of it by staging a seance. During Gary’s clerical stunt, Mark Spitz notices that the Straggler appears to be smiling, and as Gary releases the fortune teller’s hand from his she bites down on his thumb. This scene surprises the characters because the fortune teller had shown signs of being a Straggler.

Up until that scene there was a clear distinction between the Stragglers and the Skels, being that one group moved and attacked the living, and the others just stood frozen and inactive. “The fortune-teller must be a mistake, an errant bad comet loping into their solar system, the malfunctioning one percent of the malfunctioning one percent.” (Whitehead 301), but what if it wasn’t just a mistake, what if it was the parasite transforming and perhaps becoming stronger? In previous scenes in the novel, if a Skel saw a human they would immediately attack them or would at least wander around until they could smell flesh. But in this scene the Skel appears to pretend to be dormant until she finds the right opportunity to make her move. So could this mean the parasite is adapting to its environment and learning to survive more efficiently? Unfortunately the novel ends before this can be explored.

If the parasite were to adapt I believe it would mean an end to civilization. At the end of the book, the outcome for Zone One already looks pretty grim, the dead are gathering in masses around Zone One, “It was the most mammoth convocation of their kind Mark Spitz had ever had the misfortune to see. The things were shoulder to shoulder across the entire width of the avenue, squeezed up against the buildings, an abhorrent parade that writhed and palsied up Broadway until the light failed.” (303) So the situation is already pretty bad, but if the Skels learned a way to mimic Stragglers I think it’d be enough for them to overcome humanity. And that would be the end of us all.

Medical Voluntourism needs a checkup

In (12/4) class, we were asked to look for possible solutions that could help with the problem about Medical voluntourism. This problem possesses an overlooked threat to emerging health systems in low and middle-income countries. The investors in global health systems should take action to implement solutions that will make medical voluntourism more beneficial for the volunteers, patients, and health systems. Students as young as high school students are often interested in the medical/health care field and encouraged to gain “real world” experience by volunteering to do medical work in developing countries through organizations. This practice entails untrained, uncertified, young students practicing directly on patients to a much greater degree than would be allowed at home or in their country. Unfortunately this is still being allowed in other countries, and people are unaware of the risks and damage that medical volunteerism brings.

Before taking this class, I wasn’t as aware about the issues and risks that came along with medical voluntourism. As I worked and spoke with other students in the class, we discussed several ideas or solutions that could be done to inform the public and stop this type of dangerous practice from happening in other countries. Something that I strongly believe could help this problem is having a certification component that goes along with volunteering in other countries. Certification components should require medical professionals to conduct training for students that plan to participate. Along with getting certified and being trained, students should present a project about their understanding of the healthcare system in which they participated, the ethics of their work, and future motivations/goals within the healthcare industry. If students were to accept these guidelines, they’d be more aware about the risks of medical voluntourism and less likely to go on these trips to gain something new to add to their resume. Overall, medical voluntourism is a challenging concept that others may not see a problem with, but the only thing that can be done is to inform the public about the pros and cons of such topic.

The Recursive Nature of the Human Experience: The Forbidden Thought.

“If our souls are the sails that bring the times to shore; then we must live where the sea meets the sky in an orange horizon. Everlasting”- Adaeze.

Time, our biggest enemy is on a march, and we the endless soldiers fight greatly in the battle of life. There is no doubt there is a circle of life. We are born to this world, grow up, seek fortune, get married, have children and die. The recursive nature of the human experience. When we try to venture out of this circle, society scorns us and tries to keep us in check. Why don’t you want to go to college? Why don’t you want to have children? Through their eyes, children grow up fitting into their parent’s linear expectations of them. Children should accomplish what their parents could not accomplish in their lifetime. In the life of the average middle class American, a good job is given as the highest expectation. “Go to school, have a good job, get married and raise your children” most parents repeatedly drum out to their children. Why do we do everything we do? Merely to survive? I think not. Even as animals are born with basic survival instinct and in the food chain; only the fittest survive. Evolution tells us that populations not individuals evolve with time. Homo Erectus to Homo Sapiens, the human race has felt the touch of evolution. However, could this explain why materialism has taken centre stage in this new world? Did the technology-enhanced population crown money as the new order leaving happiness to considered as too extravagant. Too far-reaching? The average college student graduates neck deep in debts knowing that it could take the majority of their life time to pay it off. Seek fortune. However, what if we did not give meaning to anything that existed? Would they cease to exist or they would not be as important? As we trudge through the concrete filled, broken path of life, a great fear exists. The fear of oblivion. The horrid thought of disappearing as ash into the winds of time as though one never existed.

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Saartje Baartman: The Exploitation of African Americans

WARNING: This post has many details/obscenity that one could find disturbing
Who is Saartje Baartman? (also known as Sara Baartman)
A couple of weeks ago Dr. McCoy mentioned Sara Baartman and her relevance to the class, but I was still curious about this female figure. After some research, I learned that Sara Baartman was someone who lived an uneasy life during the 19th century. She was an African American female that lost her fiancé at the age of sixteen to Dutch colonists. She was taken by the dutch to serve as a domestic servant and later exhibited for entertainment purposes. The contract she “signed” stated that she would receive a portion of the earnings from her exhibitions and then given freedom after five years. The reason she was exhibited by Europeans was because of the shape of her body and “exotic” color of her skin. She had large buttocks and large breasts that instilled curiosity to the white public ranging from places between England and France. The sad reality is that she was objectified and displayed half naked to the public. After being exhibited for about four years in London, she was sold to another white male, Hendrik Cezar, who showcased her with other animals in Paris demonstrating the lack of respect given to her as a human being. Due to the color of her skin, Cezar felt superior and would order her to sit and stand certain ways, treating her like the rest of the animals being showcased alongside.

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The Importance of Perspective Taking in Literature

In our smaller group discussions last class, Sami brought up this really interesting phenomenon where individuals are more likely to be empathetic and sympathetic in their everyday life if they are avid readers. According to Sami, because most readers are putting themselves into the mindsets of the characters in novel, they are better skilled at that in real interactions. Reading novels allows a person to walk in anther’s shoes, understand events from another’s perspective, and empathize with characters. This really got me thinking about the regime of the visual. I question whether a reader is more likely to empathize with characters because it is their own visualization of said characters. For example, has anyone ever been frustrated with a film adaptation of a book because its not how YOU imagined how the character would look and act like. I think Octavia Butler tricks us with this very human tendency. Many other classmates Continue reading “The Importance of Perspective Taking in Literature”