Sunday, May 8, 2011

Analysis #7 - Breaking the boundaries of Racial Divide

Americans have come a long way in their fight for the elimination of racial divide and human inequality.  Beginning with Abraham Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, he declared "All persons held as slaves within the rebellious states are, and henceforward shall be free." (Featured Documents 1)  And while this proclamation didn’t completely end slavery, it set the precedent for freedom in the minds of many for what was achievable.  But, change takes time.  Analagous to the struggles that women endure in a male dominated society, per Simone de Beauvoir’s, Second Sex, African-Americans have essentially been considered an “other” to the white race.  African-Americans have faced an uphill battle in their fight for their right of equality.  
During the Harlem Renaissance period, was it any wonder that African-Americans might wish to have a different skin color to improve their chances of gaining acceptance by whites in literature and music?  Langston Hughes, a pioneer during that time, was concerned about this longing in many of the black artists during the early 1920s.  He understood how desperately these artists wanted to be heard and sought the approval from a white audience.  “But he worries about the price paid for gaining the attention of whites.  The perils facing the black artist are so many – from self-loathing to currying the favor of whites to providing a safe window on the exotic world of the racial other – that success depends on an honesty and fearlessness that are almost too much to ask.” (1191)  Hughes was concerned for the African-American artist.  He hoped they would affirm their race and acknowledge the truth in racism, but his disappointment remained when a poet friend of his declared indirectly that he not only wanted to be a poet, but a white poet. (1192)

One hundred years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. Martin Luther King broke the boundary of racial divide in 1963.  In the attached clip of King's famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King unites men and women of all races and shares his dream of combined brotherhood where one’s skin color is unimportant.  “I have a dream that one day my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  (King 1963)  In the time between, and after this great speech, enormous progress has been made in abolishing the racial divide between white and black Americans as attested to in 2009, when Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States; a man of mixed race. 

Featured Documents, The Emancipation Proclamation, page 1
Record Group 11
General Records of the United States, web, May 8, 2011
Langston Hughes 1902-1967, the Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism
Leitch, New York, 2010, 2001 - p 1191-1192

Dr. Martin Luther King- I Have a Dream  Speech, 1963

Monday, May 2, 2011

Analysis #6 - Woman - Knowing Her Place in Society

Woman’s status as being second to man has remained constant since the beginning of time.  In the era of Aristotle, the belief that women were inferior to men was reinforced by his influence.  In his quotes, "A proper wife should be as obedient as a slave, and “The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities - a natural defectiveness," (Aristotle; 384-322 BCE -Fable 1), he perpetuated the continuum of keeping women in this subservient role through rhetoric.
In examining the New American Bible, there is no fallacy in the fact that a woman’s place has been second to men since its conception.  History states that God removed a rib from Adam to create woman.  “The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man.  When he brought her to the man, the man said:  “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.” (Genesis 4)  Therefore, being created from man has been a woman’s curse for centuries.  Simone de Beauvoir reinforces this ideology in her book, The Second Sex, by saying that humanity is male and that he defines woman relative to him as she is not an autonomous being. (de Beauvoir 3)
Have women reached a point of enlightenment in realizing that they can achieve the status bequeathed to men?  A shift began to occur with the Suffrage Movement and the Seneca Convention led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a radical Quaker Group on July 19, 1848.  The push for change helped the women to achieve a “greater proportion of social, civil and moral rights.” (Wikipedia/Seneca)
A second wave of feminism began after World War II and at the time when capitalism prevailed.  Women maintained the position as the suburban housewife thus fulfilling her role in a patriarchal society.  The media helped to influence this role by airing shows like Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best. (Wikipedia).  Unlike the first wave of feminism, this wave focused more on sexuality, family and the workplace. 
While great strides have been made for equality, “Women still make 77 cents for each dollar men make in the US.” (Gunelius)  Knowing this, women pull out all their tricks in an attempt to break the inequality by using their intelligence, femininity, body and looks.  But this is no easy task and often ends in self-destruction.  As Susan Bordo states, “Through the exacting and normalizing disciplines of diet, makeup and dress – central organizing principles of time and space in the day of many women – we are rendered less socially oriented and more centripetally focused on self-modification.  At the farthest extremes, the practices of femininity may lead us to utter demoralization, debilitation and death.” (2240) 
Even today, our media reinforces this subservient role through art.  As depicted in the attached clip, “Coming to America,” the potential princess is groomed, educated and trained to serve and meet the needs of Eddie Murphy’s character, the prince, thus supporting the anti-feminist’s view of a woman’s place in society.
While things have progressed somewhat over the centuries regarding women’s rights, achieving an equal status to men in our society is still improbable.   

Works cited:

New American Bible, Thomas Nelson Inc, 1988, Genesis, Chapter 2, vs 22-23, page 4

Fable, Jan. “The Woman’s Page”.  April 30, 2011

Gunelius, Susan, “Women Make 77 Cents for Each Dollar Men Make in the U.S.” –

Coming to America, Landis, John, 1988
Featuring: Murphy, Eddie, Hall, Arsenio, Jones, James Earl

Reflection #9 - Feminism

In taking a look at Feminism, we discussed Simone de Beauvoir and her book The Second Sex which focuses on women as "the other."  In exploring feminity, de Beauvoir asks the question, "What is Woman?"  She explores this meaning going beyond the basic gender issue and touching on the essence of femininity that women try to incarnate.  We understand through her writing that the man defines the woman and that she is not autonomous.  These two human beings are in a binary relationship and in trying to do away with the oppressor is not possible because they are interdependent on one another.

Susan Bordo explores the feminist discourse on the body.  She argues that woman try too hard with the daily rigors of beautifying themselves through fashion, diet, and makeup and in the end chasing this ideal of femininity only results in "demoralization, debilitation and death." (2241)

Foucault's The History of Sexuality was discussed and how he is concerned with the order of things in language.  His argument of discourse about sex has intensified since the eighteenth century.  He argued that sex has not been repressed - it has been controlled through discourse.  Foucault asks us to compare the priest to an analyst.  Whereas he hears confessions that divulge the smallest temptations and desires.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Analysis #5 - The Imaginary and The Juicy - Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction follows post-modernism/post-structuralism viewpoints.  There are several things that can be stated about this movie falling in line with these theories.  First and foremost, the story is non-linear; it jumps all over the place.   The film has a disconnection between the characters actions and dialogue.   At one point, the characters Jules and Vincent are walking into a building have a dialogue about foot massages and whether or not it constitutes cheating.  There is no connection between this dialogue (signifier) and their upcoming actions (signified) that they are about to whack several guys in an apartment.   In another scene, Jules and Vincent are at Jerry’s house trying to get help to get rid of a dead body of a boy that Vincent accidentally killed.  Vincent and Jules are calmly talking about how great the coffee tastes as if the fact that they have to get rid of this body is insignificant.  In addition, post-modernism comes into play because this shows that there is no sense of morality in the characters’ actions   Finally, there is a scene where Jules, believes he experiences “divine intervention” when he is shot at, but suffers no wounds.  Vincent disagrees with him and says it was luck.   In post-structuralism, one might argue in favor of Vincent that there is no proven truth that this experience was divine intervention casting a shadow on the Enlightenment era.
In taking a look at Quentin Tarantino’s writing through Foucault’s viewpoint, he considers that it is important to carry the author and his text forward and this is determined by its culture.  “Discourse that possesses an author’s name is not to be immediately consumed and forgotten…Rather, its status and its manner of reception are regulated by the culture in which it circulates.” (1470)  This holds true for Tarantino as he has gone on to make other films and has commanded a vast following due to his talent as a unconventional writer and director. 

Works cited:
Michel Foucault 1926-1984, the Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism
Leitch, New York, 2010, 2001 - p 1470

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Reflection # 8 - Postmodernism

In reviewing Foucault’s Discipline and Punish we gain a better understanding of his interest in how the discourse of science pertains to order.  Understanding panopticism or the theory that if you know you are being watched then you mostly likely would behave, Foucault’s idea was that we would internalize the pressures of big brother watching us therefore we would regulate ourselves through the power of relations.  In addition, through the power of relations, we understand how disciplines such as criminology, sociology, psychology, etc., regulate us.  From a judge who passes down a sentence to a criminal for evaluation by a psychologist to the sociologist to a criminologist – we gain a better understanding of how these disciplines maintain social order.
Jean Baudrillard’s simulacrum denotes representation but still carries a sense of counterfeit or falseness.  It is a copy of a copy.  Simulacra has real references but are only a pretend representation, marking the absence and not the existence of the object is represents.   The Disney clip in class showing the dancers on Main Street supports this theory.  By bringing nostalgia to the park goers of a time that never really existed serves a world of today for these people because our forward thinking is always working backwards.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Analysis #3 - Marxism on Slumdog

Click here to see this video

In this clip from Slumdog Millionaire, a Marxist view might be that the children are not only exploited, but they are victims in a capitalistic society where they suffer mentally and physically for their cheap labor at the hands of their oppressors.   This suffering is more than just a basic class difference.  The children are not only well below the poverty level, their thoughts and opinions are disregarded because of their age, therefore causing an even wider gap between them and the authority figures.
One could argue that, if in deed, there was nothing morally wrong with the idea that the children pan for things and beg tourists for money only to give it over to the higher authority (the orphan ring-master), their return payment for their prolific labor is balanced unequally.  In being so young, the children are unable to enter into an amicable agreement that their payment in the form of food and shelter is in direct correlation to their labor value of spending entire days running around the streets of Mumbai begging for money. 
In the end, when realizing that their lives are in danger because of what the men will do to them (gouging out their eyes in an effort to gain further sympathy from tourists – which only increases profits for the capitalists), the children revolt against the men and flee as a means of escape similar to other proletarians who rise up to fight for their rights. 
Marx’s idea of dialectical materialism, in believing that "all change results from the constant conflict arising from oppositions inherent in all ideas," (648) is supported by this economic structure of the society in which these children live.  Their world is shaped at the hands of the capitalists and by having the courage to run, the children have taken the first step toward changing their condition.

Works cited:

Karl Marx 1818-1883; Friedrich Engels 1820-1895; The Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism
Leitch, New York, 2010, 2001 - p 648

Slumdog Millionaire, 2008
Dir. Danny Boyle
Perf. Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Rajendranath Zutshi

Reflection on Marxism

The material conditions of life and the economic structure of society was the driving force behind Karl Marx’s theory of Marxism.  He believed that, “The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general.  It’s not the consciousness of men that determines their well-being, but their social being that determines their consciousness.” (662) 
Marx set out to prove that the economic and social forces shape the human consciousness.  Stemming from dialectical materialism – believing that all change results from a constant conflict arising from oppositions inherent in all ideas - he argued that these internal contradictions in capitalism would eventually lead to its demise. 
He determined that society has a base and superstructure.   With the base being the class (workers) the superstructure emerges.  The base is the way people relate to one another in productive relations.
Marx’s theory of class struggle is a central element to his beliefs.   He was against capitalism (private ownership) insisting it created a barrier between the proletarians and bourgeoisie.   Within capitalism, the proletarians only own their capacity to work – to sell their own labor.  But as a result of the disparity between their labor value and the surplus value derived from their mean of production, the bourgeoisie continue to benefit by getting richer and the proletarians lives remain the same.
Marx believed that eventually a social revolution must occur when an economic recession takes place.  The proletarians would be unable to afford the very products they manufacture and the bourgeoisie would not be able to consume the surplus value.
With relation to commodity fetishism, little thought from the recipient goes into the labor value that is involved in making or producing a product as in our class example of coffee.