Final Thoughts on Presentations

While the presentations in class were all incredibly unique and pursued their own niche, there was one common theme that I found pervaded through most of the discussions: the notion of consumption. This term, “consumption,” is intentionally vague—it can reference consumption of culture, consumption in a performative sense, or physical consumption of land with the shifting of water and the Atlantic. In regards to my working thesis, aspects of the other culture within a binary are consumed to become a part of the “dominant” culture. On the other hand, prejudices from the “dominant” culture are consumed to affect the other culture’s perception of self. For example, in The Octoroon, or, Life in Louisiana: A Play in Four Acts, Zoe consumes negative prejudices against black people from the white people in her life until they permeate her identity. In Mules and Men, Hurston and the people she interviews consume stories that explain happenings in their world, and the consumption of these stories provide them with answers to life’s questions. This notion of consumption is not limited to only my thesis. 

In relation to performance, the audience members consume the persona that the performer displays for them. This form of consumption provides the performer with a sense of power; they get to control how they are perceived, they dictate the narrative to be consumed. 

Consumption of different languages leads to new words, slang, and phrases. When cultures encounter each other, the language of the “dominant” culture is consumed to the point that it becomes the prominent language of the shared land. Similar to performance, language can be used and consumed as a means of power: to speak in and consume native language is to create space for one’s native culture. 

Ultimately, this conference series was incredibly helpful because it provided me with another way of understanding the transatlantic experience: within the struggles of cultural exchange are battles of consumption, and these battles can be used as a method to reclaim power.

2 Replies to “Final Thoughts on Presentations”

  1. I agree with what you said about the importance of consumption, I never really thought of it as such. That is what cultural assimilation is–a result of consumption. In all of the works we’ve read or watched, we’ve seen how characters evolved because of what they consumed or why they act the way they do as a result of their consumption. In an ever-changing world, such as the one we’re in now, we’re constantly consuming things on social media. It’s interesting to see how culture was consumed back then as well, like you said. It was done in simpler ways such as language and performance, which is still seen today. I would make the argument that our personalities are results of what we consume, so how much of that is really within our control?

  2. This is a really interesting framework to connect all of our conference presentations! Something that stands out to me about “consumption” is the implication that that which is being consumed is wholly destroyed and reconstructed. Especially when you think about performance or language, this suggests that cross-cultural exchange is not a simple transferral of customs but a generation of new ones. Language is hybrid because it is “consumed” and regenerated, as with Theo’s use of Irish and African-American English. Banjo’s performance is not a simple repetition of songs from elsewhere, but a new creation suited for his audience. I think this can be connected to some of the theory we’ve read. Paul Gilroy argues that the Atlantic experience produces a new, shared culture. It’s more than just a diaspora, which would suggest an easy transferral of customs. Evidently, you’ve picked up on something he also did with the idea of consumption — the Black and Green Atlantic is a space for the consumption and reclamation of culture, rather than the one-way transferral of it.

Comments are closed.