Complex Identities in the Black and Green Atlantic

Coming into this class I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the comparison between Black and Green would be like — two colonized entities, I thought I could see where we were going — and I was excited to read some new and different authors, expanding my horizons that way.  Needless to say, as I find is often the case with classes here, I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I might and my expectations didn’t quite cut it.  The conversations we’ve had and conclusions we’ve drawn in this class have been complex, confusing, sometimes contradictory and distinctly stimulating. Sometimes I knew exactly what I thought, other times I had no idea and my mind was frequently changed by everyone in class and the things you all noticed that I’d never thought of or didn’t see. The end result was that staring down the barrel of our final paper and the end of our class, I was thinking many things, sort of my own tempest of black and green narratives, and I couldn’t quite consolidate everything floating around in my head into one thing I felt compelled to write about. 

And then I wondered if that lack of cohesion could be my take away instead, or a way of formulating my final thoughts.  We’ve talked a lot about what placing pieces from both sides of the Atlantic together actually does, and at what point that comparison is no longer helpful or appropriate. Histories are so focused on creating a singular story, a definitive narrative, and that definitely does not apply to this class and the many perspectives and people we have read. My conclusion then ultimately is that both the Black and the Green Atlantic, as groups of people that suffered great oppressions and were told who they could or were allowed to be, use the gestures across the ocean, whether overt or not, to think about their own place and identities, trying to codify a sense of self. However, because of fundamental differences in experience — different types of hunger, the ownership of bodies, access to eventual whiteness — there is a point at which the comparison fails to say anything more about either identity, and at that point the search for self must ultimately come from within — that no experiences can define them but their own, as groups and as individuals. 

Ultimately I think our journey through the class is what led us to where we are now, and what allows me to see and analyze the comparative model that is the foundation for our course. Every piece we read and discussion we had was necessary to build our understanding of both the Black and the Green Atlantic — from the theory to Douglass to Synge to Walcott and everyone else — and finally allows us to critique the model itself.  My final thoughts are that the model was helpful to provide a framework for understanding and we can see that reflected in the literature and the fact that the comparison exists at all. But the true sense of who each of these peoples are, acknowledging the fact that I am generalizing, comes from self exploration and characterization of identity and from the individual experiences of each. 

One Reply to “Complex Identities in the Black and Green Atlantic”

  1. I agree that the model is helpful to a certain extent, but ultimately cannot encapsulate a singular experience for everyone oppressed in the Atlantic body. I laughed when you described all your ideas about the Black and Green Atlantic as a tempest; I myself am feeling the same way while writing this paper because new ideas and comparisons keep popping up in my head. I ask myself how I can add another comparison into the web of my paper to build up a bigger idea, but I find that I have to throw some of these ideas away because they do not build toward a central idea. In the end I think the model is most helpful in its capacity to generate empathy between two groups that may not have seen the similarities between their experiences had certain individuals not presented those comparisons clearly in writing.

Comments are closed.