Reading the pieces from Bhabha and Said, I thought about things I have influenced by from other cultures and how I integrate that into my work and teaching. I resonated with Said’s statement about the artist genius and original talent. Often enough, a driving force for myself is the search for a new sound through technique and technology. Something of a Les Paul drive. To do this, I listen through the internet to styles and genres being produced globally and converse with other audio practitioners about their process both technically and creatively. Coming from basically what I took from parts of Said’s piece, Oriental technique and style influences my compositional style. Though, I came to this by way of David Toop’s work and his influence from Java. However influential another culture might be, I always fear appropriation. Granted, I rarely stylize content to fit another culture, my work in theater takes me into groups that are obviously performing someone else’s work and cultural roots tied to their work. Example being for me, designing for “The Whipping Man” performance in the McLeod last Spring. The play is about two recently freed African American slaves who worked for a Jewish family’s plantation and the eldest son of the family. Without getting into a synopsis, I always felt odd working on the project with my cultural backgrounds, regardless of the director’s cultural ties and the insight of a local Rabbi. …And now I feel like I’ve rambled myself out of topic…
From the past few weeks reading about feminism/post feminism/gender study to this week reading about race and postcoloniality, I feel like all of these theory starts from the idea of ‘differentiation’ between person to person, community to community, and country to country. I almost get thrilled, or surprised when reading Apollo Amoko’s article and start thinking about the discourse is getting expand, getting beyond of gender, sexuality and nationality to ‘race’.
Edward Said’s reading about Orientalism makes me to think about the concept of the orientalism. Because I didn’t think about race or orientalism before (or didn’t think about it seriously), I was able to understand and think about the idea of Orientalism by reading Said’s writing. What I understand from this article is Orientalism is an artificial concept made by the white men to use it for political issues. For this the real idea of ‘orient’ is not exist, it’s the vague idea taught, researched in a certain direction.
Diawara’s concept of the resistant spectator held the most interest for me in this week’s readings. The idea that the spectators of media are not unified in their reactions to media seems obvious but it was helpful to have it spelled out in terms of the resistant spectator. I like the idea that the viewer can consume the media without reading it the way the producer intended it to be read. I know that many of the readings of previous weeks also centered around this idea (maybe all of them?) but I liked this way of framing it.
I was also a little puzzled by the Amoko piece, the part which states that postcolonial critique spells the death of English literature. I was reluctant to take seriously such a sweeping statement but I think I get the gist. I had not realized that the concept of English literature came about and was influenced so strongly by colonialism. I also liked the statement that the modern age is an age of grand narratives.
I found all of this week’s readings very interesting. I especially enjoyed reading Mitchell and Allnut’s piece on the photo documentary. Their ideas about how photographs can be used to construct social and personal narratives was something I had never thought of before. Instead of looking at photography as an “art”, this article reveals the importance of the family photo album, which was such an intrinsic part of my growing up years . I wonder if people still maintain albums such as the ones Mitchell and Allnut talk about now that everyone’s lives are played out on social media. The romance and nostalgia of browsing through an album full of sepia-toned photos may have become a obsolete experience in today’s times.
The other reading I would like to discuss here is Amoko’s “Race and Postcoloniality”. I did not know that English Literature was an established discipline of study in the colonies before it was in the home country. It made me think about how well-coordinated the whole program of colonisation was and how the English (I’m speaking in the context of my own country) subsumed us not just politically or economically, but also culturally. I was reading about how this teaching of English was only for the purpose of getting Indians trained to do low-rung bureaucratic jobs, and also do make them culturally more “refined”. Together with Edward Said’s “Orientalism”, this piece also tell us how colonisation was built upon the assumed inferiority of certain races. It was difficult to respond to these pieces “academically” because it made me sad to think how exploitative and cruel imperialism was in actuality and how long it lasted, even though its premise was so absurd and fallacious.
I found Amoko’s despondent tone when he addressed the unquestionable resilience of English literature within precoloniality and race conception. I find it harder to stomach his jumping to conclusions in regards to his claims on later African-American literature. I realize he is discussing these different types of literature under the problematic umbrella of “race” (in which I appreciate his almost Judith Bulter-esq denouncement of the word), but to say that African or African American literature that “embodies a black essence [that is] predicated on an imitative fallacy,” imitative of that Anglo-Saxon essence seems quite dubious to me. The fact that he stuck this on the end of his race paragraph makes it even more questionable to me as he doesn’t do a good job of backing up his claims. Wouldn’t African Americans, still under various forms of oppression, have an altogether different perspective on race that would inform a different way of approaching black essence? I realize that English literature came before so there will probably be a form of imitation in some way, but I think Amoko missed the point in terms of accurately analyzing the different perspectives of the privileged and the disenfranchised when it comes to perpetuating and formulating racial “essences.” Maybe he wants literature to get completely away from race altogether, but he seems awfully dismissive.
I enjoyed Said look at Orientalism and “The White Man.” By the way, is the reason that Oriental is considered racist in this day and age because of its connection to work Orientalism? I really enjoyed his Nietzsche quote and his disclaimer saying it may be “too nihilistic.” I need to read more Nietzsche I think if he is filled with quotes like this. It is interesting to me that the concepts and rituals of how a “white man” should act are still perpetuated in today’s society. I can’t escape it, not to claim to be some sort of subjugated race. I wish that Said went into detail on the white man in conjunction with black slavery in America and how this concept is not only pervasive against Orientalism, but also against Africans. This old European mentality has been maintained by the consistent conquering of “the other,” it doesn’t seem to matter which continent this activity takes place. I’m reminded of Aladdin when I read this piece as that whole movie is an example of the white man concocting a world for “the coloreds.” The opening song even with its lines, “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face. It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” This is the mode in which the other race should reside where it is the white mans duty to take hold of a culture and inform children about it’s barbaric nature in an animated film. Uhhh…it pisses me off.
I don’t know how I would incorporate these reading in a piece of my own save for my idea to do a piece on the inscrutability and inescapability of white privilege which I’ve mentioned before. A student that is in the narrative class I’m TAing for is doing a short film in which white people are suddenly subjugated to racial discrimination through various means which I think is a great idea, though he said it would be slightly comedic which is a tone I don’t think befits the subject matter.
I found his tone to be initially interesting and true is what I meant to finish my opening sentence with (sorry). I was just anxious to get on to my next point 🙂
Two readings that I found interesting and useful this week were Black Spectatorship and Postcolonial Ruptures. I found Postcolonial Ruptures to be fascinating because, coming from another country, it was interesting to see how the issues of race in education are dealt with in the U.S. Coming from a place where there is not as much racial diversity, it was something I had not given much consideration to before, and I feel like this particular piece really opened my eyes to the many challenges educators must face when dealing with subjects that seem simple, such as the history of the country, because there are a lot of viewpoints that must, or ought to be, taken into account. I thought this article was helpful because it gave several examples of how one, as an educator, could strive to do that from different perspectives.
The part about Black Spectatorship that most appealed to me was when the author made a reference to Laura Mulvey’s argument about the classical Hollywood film being made for the pleasure of the male spectator. In this reading, the author takes this concept but approaches it differently, telling us that it works the same way with black characters, which are there for the pleasure of the white spectator. He analyzes a couple of films, like Birth of a Nation and The Color Purple and even some Eddie Murphy ones, and points out specific examples of how this happens. I thought this was helpful because it shows how one can apply theory to analyze an actual film and it brings up many interesting concepts that can be explored in further analysis.
I found this week’s readings to be very interesting, especially Manthia Diawara’s article, Black Spectatorship.
I can totally relate with this article and I personally feel Diawara is right. I too, view media as a black spectator and find some of the media representations towards African Americans (and other people of color) totally bogus!
It really bothers me when I am watching a film in class and I see a minority person acting in a racist stereotypic role, and my white classmates are enjoying the film as if it is ‘talent’. I find myself annoyed when the class has a discussion about negative image representation in film, most of my white classmates are quick to make some kind of excuse why the film is not racist and it is my “black spectatorship” that is wrong. When in reality, it is my white classmates who are resisting the spectatorship of minorities and view films from the male/female white gaze. This is nothing new. G.W. Griffen’s, The Birth of a Nation, Amos and Andy, some Black Exploitation films and some Hip Hop videos too, are just a few examples that media entertainment portrays African Americans from the lens of the white male/female gaze. These films show black men and women as lazy, dangerous, hyper sexual, dumb, loud, etc.
In Apollo Amoko’s article Race and Postcoloniality he states that race is a false concept. By this he means that racism is not inevitable. The idea of race is socially constructed, just as sexuality and gender. I appreciate the optimistic argument that human beings can change their understanding of race. One thing that I find depressing as a grad student is the consistent theories on how terrible humanity is, and the doom of never fixing what’s wrong with it.
Manthia Diawara’s Black Spectatorship relates heavily to Tina in Blacula. She is prey to the white male gaze. Tina even suffers three deaths in the film at the hands of white male figures of authority. I appreciate that the article attacks G.W. Griffin’s Birth of a Nation. I would need two hands to count on my fingers how many times I watched the attempted rape scene as an under grad. I understand that Griffin’s technique was revolutionary, but one professor solely addressed this, and didn’t draw attention to misrepresentation of black lives. This has always bothered me.
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