Borders, Boundaries, and Frames: Cultural Studies and Cultural Criticism.Reviewed by
Cheryl A. Wall Rutgers University Rutgers University, main campus at New Brunswick, N.J.; land-grant and state supported; coeducational except for Douglass College; chartered 1766 as Queen's College, opened 1771. Campuses and Facilities
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"Disco Dancing in Bulgaria"? The title jumped out at me as I read the table of contents of Borders, Boundaries, and Frames. With some uneasiness, I wondered how much in this volume would claim the particular attention of African American Review The African American Review is a quarterly journal and the official publication of the Division on Black American Literature and Culture of the Modern Language Association. readers. The diverse topics collected here include exile in the writings of W. E. B. Du Bois Noun 1. W. E. B. Du Bois - United States civil rights leader and political activist who campaigned for equality for Black Americans (1868-1963)
Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois and Frantz Fanon Frantz Fanon (July 20, 1925 – December 6, 1961) was an author from Martinique, essayist, psychoanalyst, and revolutionary. He was perhaps the preeminent thinker of the 20th century on the issue of decolonization and the psychopathology of colonization. , Yiddish as the "Mother Tongue mother tongue
1. One's native language.
2. A parent language.
the language first learned by a child
Noun 1. " of poet Kadya Molodowsky, memoirs of disaffected daughters in Britain and France, and actor Laurence Fishburne's role as undercover cop and patriarch manque man·qué
Unfulfilled or frustrated in the realization of one's ambitions or capabilities: an artist manqué; a writer manqué. in the film Deep Cover. Originally presented as papers at the English Institute, the eight essays collected in Borders, Boundaries, and Frames share a general concern with defining cultural criticism and cultural studies. These new definitions unsettle preexisting pre·ex·ist or pre-ex·ist
v. pre·ex·ist·ed, pre·ex·ist·ing, pre·ex·ists
To exist before (something); precede: Dinosaurs preexisted humans.
v.intr. borders of nation, ethnicity, class, language, genre, and discipline. At least half the contributors and the volume's editor, Mae Henderson, are expressly concerned with exploring the porous boundaries between African American studies African American studies (also known as Black studies and/or Africana studies) is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to the study of the history, culture, and politics of African Americans. and cultural studies. As more scholars from diverse disciplines cross these boundaries, we would do well to ponder what is at stake intellectually, institutionally, and politically.
Henderson's introduction is impressive for the range of references upon which it draws and for the coherence it imposes on the disparate pieces the volume collects. It sketches the genealogy of cultural studies in Europe from Theodor Adorno and the Frankfurt School to the posthumously published essays of Walter Benjamin to Raymond Williams and scholars at the University of Birmingham Due to Birmingham's role as a centre of light engineering, the university traditionally had a special focus on science, engineering and commerce, as well as coal mining. It now teaches a full range of academic subjects and has five-star rating for teaching and research in several who coined the term cultural studies, to their black British successors and antagonists. Borrowing from perhaps the most influential of this last group, Stuart Hall, Henderson asserts that the "great collective identities" of class, race, gender, and nation have in our time been "undermined by social and political developments," leaving us with what she calls "a politics of dislocation." In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , the postmodern moment has made exiles of us all. Where might we find critical and theoretical tools to help us make sense of our postmodern condition? Alongside the genealogy of cultural studies, Henderson charts a genealogy of African American Studies from Du Bois, through Hurston, Wright, Ellison, Murray, Angela Davis, and the scholar/critics who have come to prominence during the past quarter-century. African American Studies, Henderson maintains, anticipated not only the "cross-disciplinary epistemological and hermeneutic her·me·neu·tic also her·me·neu·ti·cal
[Greek herm concerns at the heart of contemporary European cultural theory," but also its concerns with comparative and cross-cultural work and, "more specifically, its redefinitions of culture in the context of political contestation." Henderson's claims are contested by several contributors to the volume, who propose critical genealogies of their own. What results is an unusually intense and vigorous dialogue among the editor and the essayists The following is an abbreviated list of essayists, arranged alphabetically by last name (years of birth and death, if applicable, and country of birth, are noted in parentheses).
Note: An individual's country of birth is not always indicative of his or her nationality. . I found the dialogue illuminating, as I think most readers will.
In the opening essay, "Bonding and Bondage: Nancy Cunard and the Making of the Negro Anthology," Jane Marcus offers an impassioned brief for a woman who lived her life in exile and has in death been exiled from the histories of the movements (Modernism, African and African American Studies, and British Left politics of the 1930s-1950s) that she did much to shape. The shipping heiress has been remembered, if at all, for her highly publicized love affair with black jazz musician Henry Crowder, and her renunciation The Abandonment of a right; repudiation; rejection.
The renunciation of a right, power, or privilege involves a total divestment thereof; the right, power, or privilege cannot be transferred to anyone else. of her family and British homeland. Her contributions as an intellectual historian, publisher, promoter of modern art, and poet have been neglected.
They have not been totally ignored. Citations of Negro (1934), the oversized o·ver·size
1. A size that is larger than usual.
2. An oversize article or object.
adj. o·ver·size also o·ver·sized
Larger in size than usual or necessary. 855-page anthology that featured 150 contributors writing on African culture throughout the diaspora, are routinely made in studies of the Harlem Renaissance. No scholar goes so far as Marcus in assessing the anthology's significance, however, when she asserts that it could be seen as the "inaugurating effort in claiming an African American culture African American culture or Black culture, in the United States, includes the various cultural traditions of African American communities. It is both part of, and distinct from American culture. The U.S. ." While many would identify The New Negro as a pre-text for Cunard's volume, Marcus's estimation of Negro as a signal precursor of contemporary cultural studies is persuasive. It is Cunard's life, not her work, that prompts Henderson to compare her to pop star Madonna. The photographs illustrating the essay represent Cunard "in bondage" and suggest how difficult it is to determine the extent to which her identification with African culture challenged or confirmed prevailing racial stereotypes. Reassessing Negro with its invaluable articles on art and ethnography poses fewer difficulties. A new abridged edition has recently come back into print, and Marcus is committed to republishing the volume in its entirety.
Pushing back the genealogy of African American Studies, while internationalizing its present concerns, is work Anita Goldman performs in "Comparative Identities: Exile in the Writings of Frantz Fanon and W. E. B. Du Bois." If Du Bois's work is foundational for African American Studies, Fanon's is the same for Post-Colonial Studies, since both offer models for cultural studies scholars. In The Souls of Black Folk, the narrator's personal sense of exile is not a matter of geographical dislocation; neither is the exile of his people living in the Black Belt. Theirs is rather the result of an abrogated social contract, which, at least in the collective case, ought to be amenable to remedy by state action. No such liberal hope exists in Fanon's writing. Rather than a discourse of rights, his is a discourse of revolution. By delineating the philosophical underpinnings of their respective work and attending to close textual analysis (comparing the trope trope
1. A figure of speech using words in nonliteral ways, such as a metaphor.
2. A word or phrase interpolated as an embellishment in the sung parts of certain medieval liturgies. of the veil in Souls and A Dying Colonialism, for example), Goldman produces clarifying contrasts.
A controversial aspect of cultural studies is its preoccupation with popular culture. This derives from the premise that identity is formulated through interaction with film, video, and mass-produced music as well as, if not more than, in relation to traditional social structures. Can popular culture then become a site of resistance, or is it necessarily complicit com·plic·it
Associated with or participating in a questionable act or a crime; having complicity: newspapers complicit with the propaganda arm of a dictatorship. with the official culture? What is the relationship of the consumer (spectator or listener) to the product? What happens when both the consumer and the performer are black? Can a "B" movie or a rap video stand up to the weight of post-structuralist theoretical apparatus? Should it have to?
Wahneema Lubiano's "Don't Talk with Your Eyes Closed: Caught in the Hollywood Gun Sights" explores several of these questions in an engaged and compelling way. The essay's epigraph ep·i·graph
1. An inscription, as on a statue or building.
2. A motto or quotation, as at the beginning of a literary composition, setting forth a theme. disarmed me immediately. Towanda Williams, a home girl who happened to be in the audience when Lubiano saw the movie, expresses their shared ambivalence to the character portrayed by Fishburne: "Well, some of this is messed up, yet and still he is a good father and I do like the way he walks across the graveyard." Analyzing the film, Lubiano uncovers a "hysterical black nationalist revision of a patriarchal family romance," "a homosocial/homoerotic romantic triangle," and the "style that is one of the markers of black American specificity." She critiques the position of black female spectators, whose complete acceptance of what they see on the screen would require their own erasure ERASURE, contracts, evidence. The obliteration of a writing; it will render it void or not under the same circumstances as an interlineation. (q.v.) Vide 5 Pet. S. C. R. 560; 11 Co. 88; 4 Cruise, Dig. 368; 13 Vin. Ab. 41; Fitzg. 207; 5 Bing. R. 183; 3 C. & P. 65; 2 Wend. R. 555; 11 Conn. . But most impressive is Lubiano's ability to honor Towanda Williams's perceptions and to use them to interrogate her own.
Manthia Diawara calls for an analogous model of mutual interrogation interrogation
In criminal law, process of formally and systematically questioning a suspect in order to elicit incriminating responses. The process is largely outside the governance of law, though in the U.S. in the volume's concluding essay, "Cultural Studies/Black Studies." Arguing against the wholesale appropriation of cultural studies "made in Britain" to African American Studies, he begins to demonstrate how we can use the one to show the strengths and limitations of the other. The results are controversial and instructive. The assertions that Black Studies in the U.S. has been "victim studies" and that a more performance-based model needs to be imported are at best dubious. Zora Hurston's repudiation of victim status comes immediately to mind, but few of the thinkers in Henderson's genealogy take such a reductive re·duc·tive
1. Of or relating to reduction.
2. Relating to, being an instance of, or exhibiting reductionism.
3. Relating to or being an instance of reductivism. view of African American history African American history is the portion of American history that specifically discusses the African American or Black American ethnic group in the United States. Most African Americans are the descendants of African slaves held in the United States from 1619 to 1865. and culture. Moreover, Hurston formulated theories of performance in "Characteristics of Negro Expression" sixty years ago (they were first published, coincidentally, in Cunard's Negro). On the other hand, the great limitation of Hurston's work - her failure to ground her theories in the material conditions of peoples' lives - is a great strength of cultural studies. Mutual interrogation is a useful strategy. Diawara also offers keen insights into the contradictions of a post-Civil Rights Movement culture in which "nationalistic black structures of feeling" compete with an insatiable thirst for representations of the "black good-life society."
What does disco dancing in Bulgaria have to do with it? For one thing, the ethnic Turks of that fragmented nation now find themselves exiles in the land of their birth, a condition that has obtained for generations of African Americans. For another, no overarching cultural narratives unify contemporary life in Bulgarian villages or in inner cities of the U.S. The value of this book is its ability to enable readers to cross national borders, disciplinary boundaries, and cultural frames of reference to make such unexpected connections.