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Gilroy:

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 4 months ago

The Black Atlantic is a dense account of how our contemporary society attempts to segregate different cultures and influences to ensure that each community has an untainted sense of identity. I was impressed by how Paul Gilroy tried to mention each perspective in his book and also that he didn’t seem to denounce anything violently but simply propose alternatives. It seems as if his goal in the book is to mesh all ideas about ethnicity together to convey one cohesive picture of our current society. I also liked that language is not the only cultural medium that he dealt with; he also included some artistic facets, such as music. Although I respected his approach to his topics of choice, I would not praise his writing style. If global perspectives are what he is trying to alter, how can he possible reach his audience when he is so wordy? I do respect that he seems learned and articulate, but I had a hard time paying attention to his long winded prose and found he took his merry time making a point. It was a valuable read but not particularly an enjoyable one.

Alyssa Dytko

 

I would also like to start by agreeing that the text is very dense and although it holds a great deal of information, at times it is hard to stay focused, simply because there is so much information. I thought that one of the most powerful, or compelling, parts of the book is Gilroy's description of the choice of "death over slavery". In Chapter 2, Gilroy tells of Margaret Garner, who escaped slavery in Kentucky with her family and nine others. As slave catchers cornered them in a relative's house in Ohio, Margaret killed her three-year-old daughter and attempted to kill her other three children, hoping to prevent them from returning to a life of slavery. In the eyes of history, popular history, slavery has always been pained with faded colors, not the whole truth, but just enough. But what is just enough? Who says what is just enough?

Evan Gallagher

 

I believe that the quotes Gilroy placed in the beginning of the chapters and passages often conveyed his point more powerfully than the sections he had following. Kool G Rap’s line of “my nationality is reality” made me want to pursue the song further. Nationality dictates not necessarily who a person is, but how the world perceives them. It is easy to box people into a specific category of racial groups and associate certain characteristics with them. However, it is much harder to separate people from their physical and genealogical histories and to accept them as individuals who are free thinking.

Jackie Mitchell

 

The idea of the slave ship explored in Gilroy is fascinating, both as a location and a means or mode of transportation. To think of the ship as having its own geography -- and within the boundaries of that tangible space, a set of rules, regulations, and ideas (in fact, a distinctive "microculture" and a system of "micropolitics") -- is to give it an entirely separate identity apart from the land masses where the commodity exchanges occurred. The transatlantic shipping of slaves isn't just a matter of forcibly removing a group of human beings and placing them in a separate location, but rather an additional subjection of a new ideological and cultural "othering" before the stateside role of "slave" and everything associated with it even began! As a separate moment in "time-space," it's worthwhile to explore the genealogical ideas and connotations of the slave ship not as part of the slave journey, but as a solitary process.

Bryan D. Peach

 

 

J. M. W. Turner: "The Slave Ship," or "Slavers Throwing overboard the Dead and Dying — Typhoon coming on." 1840, oil on canvas.

 

I thought Gilroy's section on "The Slave Ship" painting by Turner was very interesting in relation to what Bryan talked about (thanks for posting the picture) and because of what happened to the painting itself. The story of the Zong Massacre portrayed in painting is that the Captain of the ship threw all the slaves overboard who were dead or dying because he could get insurance money for lost "cargo" but could not sell a sick slave. I thought it was very interesting that Ruskin owned the painting but ignored the subject for 28 years. Why would he, being pro slavery, kept a painting with such a strong political message for as long as he did? I really like Gilroy's idea of the painting itself being part of the cultural exchange across the Atlantic when it was sold to an American. Not only did people bring customs and ideas, but art depicts these issues across the ocean.

Erica Osterloo

 

John Ruskin was primarily interested not in the political content (which he nearly completely ignored), but rather the form and texture of the water. In "Of Water, as Painted by Turner" (from Modern Painters), he says "It will be remembered that it was said above, that Turner was the only painted who had ever represented the surface of calm or the force of agitated water," and far later in the piece, "I think, the noblest sea that Turner has ever painted, and, if so, the noblest certainly ever painted by man, is that of the Slave Ship." Ruskin ignores the explicit political message, the social work that Turner was attempting to involve himself with, by applying the argument that art doesn't have a message -- it's simply art. I would suggest, however, that Ruskin had more of a grasp on Turner's intent than he would have let himself believe. In the penultimate paragraph of "Of Water," he describes the waves which "...lift themselves in dark, indefinite, fantastic forms, each casting a faint and ghastly shadow behind it along the illumined foam. They do not rise everywhere but three of four together in wild groups, fitfully and furiously, as the under strength of the swell compels or permits them, leaving between them treacherous spaces of level and whirling water." We could easily forget that these particular sentences are about waves, because the language used to describe them can easily be transposed to the dying slaves in the piece! Furthermore, a single word in the same paragraph ("...advancing like the shadow of death upon the guilty ship") is footnoted to reveal the nature of the boat, whose iconography is overlooked in Ruskin's entire discussion of the piece, thusly: "She is a slaver, throwing her slaves overboard. The near sea is encumbered with corpses."

Bryan D. Peach

The most interesting thing about Gilroy is his tendency to relieve the "race" itself from the ethnocentric notions so prevalent in a lot of contemporary literature. (His essays detailing his relationship with his colorblind father provide insight into his approach.) So, to add to Bryan's comments regarding time-space in his first post, I would point out the following: First, the very postmodern idea of displacing space and time in relation to one another is eerily echoed in the African diaspora, which in effect confounded for thousands of people the ideas of place, time and perceived modernity. It's an interesting relationship that I'd like to explore, but I'm not smart enough to do it right here. Secondly, I think that Gilroy’s idea regarding the “Black Atlantic”—and NOT a particular period of time or geographical location—most accurately describes a race (for lack of a better term) that utterly supercedes the idea of a time-space-confined “ETHNICITY” that we’re all supposed to buy into at the student bookstore.

 

Therefore, from the outset we're conditioned to expect much less "Black Romanticisim" from this course and instead forced to buy the gimmick of geneaologies as a function outside of time-space which can, in effect, facilitate a discussion of the black diaspora (and presumably the literature that comes about as a result) that doesn't pay tribute to a view of history that would even allow for the idea of "Romanticism." But wait! Because Gilroy's view of the slave trade and the cultures it helped to create falls well outside of the ethocentric idea of "race" as being in any way binding or restricting (or even mandatory?--I'm not sure about this one), we don't even know if what we're reading is "black."

 

I guess I'm game.

Brandon W. Peach

 

This idea of a culture recorded solely and completely in music and theatre (never in written form such as a novel) is what I find most interesting about the subjects that Gilroy hit in his work. Especially being an English major, all I do is study written work to learn about genres and histories alike. Rarely, am I asked to study cultures or phenomenons in lyrics to a song or in a painting, but what I have come to realize is that these modes of recording history or identity can be just as powerful as a short story or a novel. Take for example, Turners painting that Bryan posted for us, when looking upon this painting, I can still get a strong sense of the hardship and agony that Turner was trying to capture, perhaps just as equally as if it had been written out for me in elegant words. I am fascinated by this idea of capturing black identity in other forms of art, especially music. I took an African literature class in France and we listened to some of the sermons of Langston Hughes and some other jazz music as well. Although it was in French (so I did not catch every single word), there was still a somber melancholy in his voice that projected the struggle of black identity. It wasn't even necessairly the words he was using or saying, it was more the combination of the words with the music that made it so powerful.

 

 

It seems like historians and scholars are too quick to overlook these types of art forms, which I find very disappointing because I believe they could be extremely enlightening to understanding other cultures and historical identities, just as Gilroy has laid out for us.

 

Jillian Winn

 

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