First Thoughts

Starting this semester, I have a lot to look forward to and think about in regards to this course. A lot of the themes, and even readings, are things I have touched on before in other courses, but I’ve never had the opportunity to piece them together and think about how they form one, or at least several, cohesive and connected narratives. Our first reading in particular highlighted the areas where diverse areas of study come together in the context of this class — where questions of the realities of race encounter those of culture and identity. Consolidation of identity helped to establish the nations and national structures recognized today, particularly those in Europe, where culture was streamlined and homogenized to create a dominant national narrative, often based on idealized folk culture, for strength and stability. In the creation of these cultural mythos’ however, as Gilroy points out, nuance about the realities of culture are lost and groups who don’t quite fit the national model are cast off. The reality of these cultures is much more broad and connected as a result of intertwined history. To ignore the history of cultural exchange is to misrepresent the truth about the transatlantic cultural experience. Investing in a new and more inclusive, less binary and more culturally diverse narrative has powerful potential to allow us to think about the way we construct our stories and histories — and the ways we represent those stories in the poetics of literature and art. 

Questioning “Proximity” and Legitimacy in the Atlantic

In Gilroy’s “The Black Atlantic as a Counterculture of Modernity,” he explores Martin Robinson Delany and his views and impacts on the Black community. He starts off by introducing Delany and claims that he is viewed as being more relevant or legitimate as he has a closer “proximity” to Africa than people such as Frederick Douglass. I am not sure, however, whether this added sense of legitimacy is justified, especially when the content of what Delany speaks about is considered. Delany proposes an idea that he and the Black community should ultimately seek to go back to Africa, or what he calls the “fatherland.” Delany’s notions of belonging and returning “home” are troubling, however, as he sees Africa from a viewpoint very similar to that of colonizers. He does not truly see Africa as home and would require multiple things to change before he would find it to be a suitable place to live. He thinks that simply going back to the place of his ancestors is not enough; one must bring that place up to speed with today’s world and craft it in order to make it a better fit. What’s most disturbing about this perspective is that it is similar to those same colonizers that ripped his ancestors from their home. Looking back on Delany’s viewpoints from today’s society, one can easily see how Delany’s ideas are problematic. His condescending views towards the African people and the inherent sexism that he feels the need to detail in his efforts should cause one to question whether he truly deserves to be privileged because of the proximity of his heritage.