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What I am most concerned with is the methodological inadequacy of these practices as critical tools for the interpretation of contemporary literature. The end result is the discursive construction of an African essence and the exclusion from the canon of the works of writers who do not reflect that essence. He argues:. One must not always assume that there is a homogeneity of culture and literature in Africa which one can … oppose to European literature.

Stuart Hall, addressing the production and reception of black film in Britain, recently advanced an analogous argument. What this brings into play is the recognition of the immense diversity and differentation of the historical and cultural experience of black subjects.

Get PDF African American Deracination in Alice Walker and Gwendolyn Brooks

I would argue that the positions entertained by Diawara and Hall present a framework through which we might rethink Afro-American cultural production. While I have indicated elsewhere that the ideological environment surrounding the Black Aesthetic was conducive to the production within literature of a unified black subject Butler-Evans , the material context for the development of such a discourse no longer exists.

All of these factors may very well force us to rethink both the politics of everyday life and the politics of cultural criticism and production. It is the latter, however, with which I am immediately concerned here. When one encounters the narratives of Charles Johnson, Gayl Jones, Ishmael Reed, Toni Cade Bambara, and others, one is confronted with texts that reject the linear narratives that have generally characterized writings by Afro-Americans.

These writers problematize the concept of a monologic, homogeneous Afro- American literature, and their novels often become the site of the playing out of a multiplicity of diverse and heterogeneous body of desires. I use those terms heuristically: [the modernist] work to suggest an aesthetic, symbolic whole sealed by an origin i.

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Reproducing its historical moment, it is irrational and idiosyncratic, signalling a break with traditional notions of Afro-American cultural expression. Yet it is a paradigmatic black feminist text. Luna reveals to the narrator that while engaged in the civil rights work in the South during the s she was raped by Freddie Pye, a black fellow civil rights worker. These two incidents constitute the textual dominant, determining the focus of the narrative and the ideological issues it foregrounds, tensions and fragmentations experienced by black women attempting to reconcile the politics of race and that of gender.

Through it she achieves a personal and collective identity that is in conflict with her friendship with Luna. In narrating her fieldwork in the South with Luna, she reveals the strong race-identified aspect of her character:.

This month with Luna of approaching new black people every day taught me something about myself I had always suspected: I thought black people superior to white people, because even without thinking about it much, I assumed almost everyone was superior to them….

Any atrocity, any time, was expected from them. On the other hand, it never occurred to me that black people could treat Luna and me with anything but warmth and concern. Walker The realist frame of the narrative is broken so as to allow the reader to confront the ideological issues being mapped out in the text:.

Who knows what the black woman thinks of rape? Who has asked her? Who cares? Who has even properly acknowledged that she and not the white woman in this story is the most likely victim of rape? A history of lynching has bred this reflex in her. In this passage we see the fundamental tension between subject positions based on gender and race. Evocations of the assassinations of King, Malcolm X, and the Kennedys represent the suppression of black hopes during that period.

Overall, the story foregrounds the conflict inherent in a politics that would merge race and gender. Upon being informed by Luna of the alleged assault, the narrator responds with anger and repulsion. The immediate context in which she views the act is that of some of the extremist statements that characterized black nationalist rhetoric of the s. It was also … before LeRoi Jones wrote the advice to young black insurrectionaries…. Rape their fathers….

It was the misogynous cruelty of this latter meaning that was habitually lost on black men on men in general, actually but nearly always perceived and rejected by women of any color. This representation of Jones and Cleaver as signs of a political movement hostile to women enables the narrator to identify with women as an oppressed group.

The concluding sentence of the passage is particularly significant, for it goes beyond commentary and argues that essentially different ethical and moral perspectives determined the respective male and female responses. The issue, however, is not brought to closure. Turning to the autobiography of Ida B. Wells, the narrator invokes a second historical moment and personage that enters a dialogic yet contestatory relationship with her first citation. Write Nothing. Nothing at all. It will be used against black men and therefore against all of us.

But you remember. You are dealing with people who brought their children to witness the murder of black human beings, falsely accused of rape…. Through these inscriptions of two different historical moments, the text foregrounds its dominant ideological problematic: the need to resolve tensions generated by competing loyalties, one focused on racial solidarity, the other addressing the oppression of women.

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Yet the resolution of this conflict is left to the reader. The tension remains unresolved as the narrator presents her argument but refuses to state an ideological position. This interrogative mode is further reinforced by the manner in which the narrative unfolds. In a final moment of metafictionality, the narrator moves outside the text and focuses on it as written discourse. All of these possibilities are left for the reader to explore. The story simply maps out within a fictional space ideological issues confronted by black women who must embrace a politics of both race and gender.

What the text addresses and leaves largely unresolved is the manner in which the multiple positions black women occupy result in irresolution.

Table of contents

Overdetermined by the political issues of their moments, they cannot be contained by interpretive strategies that privilege blues matrices, vernacular theories, and expressive concepts of culture, all of which are implicated in ahistorical and essentialist notions of a transcendent black culture. Gerard Chaliland London: Zed Press, 5. Emphasis mine. Back to main text. Houston Baker claims a semiotic basis for his argument about the blues matrix. But his formulation glosses over a basic premise of the semiotic discourse it purports to embrace. Addressing the problem of the interchangeability of semiotic systems, Emile Benveniste argues:.

The first principle [of semiotics] can be stated as the principle of nonredundancy between systems. In other words, two semiotic systems of different types cannot be mutually interchangeable. In the example cited, speech and music have as a common trait the production of sounds and the fact that they appeal to hearing; but this relationship does not prevail in view of the difference in nature between their respective units and their types of operation….

Robert E. Innis Bloomington: Indiana University, Butler-Evans, Elliott. Culler, Jonathan.


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Framing the Sign: Criticism and Its Institutions. Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, Diawara, Manthia. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Hall, Stuart. In the s, after a decade that abandoned many of the constraints on capital that were won in the interwar period and that wreaked havoc with one-country socialist experiments around the world, U. At the same time, the hegemony of bourgeois culture and its culture industry challenges early modernist strategies of resistance.

Herein lies the value we ascribe to postmodernism theory: it challenges both the logo-Eurocentric constitution of Western bourgeois culture and the taken-for-granted emancipatory "promises" of radical and revolutionary social practices. Shifts in the dynamics of global capitalism unleashed with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war mark a qualitative leap in the complexity of capitalist operations, now functioning on a scale of plunder and development unimagined by Marx or Lenin.

In this context, the quest for viable approaches to socially responsive architecture practice intensifies, and consideration of theories of cultural practice spawned by those who embrace this analysis of a postmodern cultural condition and offer postmodern theories, albeit highly problematic, seems worthwhile.

Architects have long since acted on the assumption that architecture participates in the formation of social order. The goal of that social formation has changed throughout the history of the profession. But the traditional approach has historically intended that its architecture serve or build society after the likeness of ruling power.

This traditional social orientation has been periodically challenged by architects who professed social reform and sought an architecture responsive to the human condition of society in general.

No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks at the Chan Centre Feb 24 2019

In the early twentieth century, the modern movement in architecture—a loosely coalesced agglomeration of trends, styles, and political persuasions—upheld the basic premise that architecture had the power as a social force to engage society and actually transform it. These modernists were at once architects and social advocates. To the extent that they constituted an actual movement, they believed, in common, that architecture could cure social ills and prevent or make revolution. Art and technology united in mass production could bring increased social welfare as well as enlightened democratic consciousness to the downtrodden masses and contribute to the inevitable forward march of human progress.

Concepts like "new objectivity" asserted that the universalizing, abstract qualities of technological reproduction could bring greater equality among peoples, not only greater access to shelter but broader access to common social values and collective experience, possibly resulting in a collective internationalist style. At a time when the Soviet Union and Germany's Weimar Republic were attempting socialist construction, and social revolution was either imminent or seemed so in many countries around the world, the concept of an objectified internationalist architecture in intent, content, and form dovetailed exactly with the institutionalized social movements led by the Communist and Socialist Internationals, which were striving for the betterment of humankind across all national barriers.

By midcentury—with the failure of the Weimar experiment in social democracy as well as the rejection of the avant-garde in the socialist construction of Eastern Europe—criticism of the negative social impact of modernism's objectified industrialized technological forms began to challenge beliefs about architecture's positive engagement with society. As modern architecture's postwar phase successfully engaged society in the United States as a corporate cog and in the Soviet Union as an instrument of a repressive state apparatus, disenchantment with the potential of an architecture for social change grew.

In the s, a surge of grassroots social criticism found its way into the fringes of architecture in the West. By the early s, evidence mounted that architecture was not the determinant progressive force that the early modern movement had hoped to unleash. But critics such as Robert Venturi, in his period-breaking book Complexity and Contradiction, granted just enough effectiveness to architectural determinism to blame the modern movement for the alienation of people from their physical environments. Belief in the redemptive power of modern architecture was ceremoniously exploded with the failed public housing project Pruitt-Igoe in Saint Louis.

This explosion was named "the birth of postmodernism" in architecture by Charles Jencks in his book The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, and thus codified the critique of modernism's failed social agenda. As the dust settled over the rubble of Reaganomics, the stability of architectural meaning was being challenged in architectural offices and in the studios of architecture schools everywhere.

As the rate of social change advances exponentially and the nature of architectural practice is challenged every day, questions about architecture's material and cultural roles in society persist. Postmodern theoretical trends consistent with those previously described have been evident in architecture for some time. The manner by which architecture has shaped and been shaped by recent postmodern directions can be characterized as a disengagement from the modernist commitment to advance progressive projects.

Indeed, a virtual army with multiple regiments aligned to critique modernism in architecture has organized to actually retreat from progressive social practice through their generation of new strategies that attempt to separate architecture from its social soul. With the growth of these regiments, the political valence of architectural theorizing has shifted from the development of strategies for architecture's progressive social agency to satisfaction with the crafting of tactical justifications for architecture's retreat from the crude and inhumane forces of modern social life, a nonetheless profoundly social act.

The specific characters and institutional forces driving this retreat will appear throughout the chapters to follow, but their characteristics may be briefly outlined.