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.