Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Microaggression, Code Switching, Piling On, & Open Conversation

As we begin Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, we will discuss colonization and context.

Below are images of the Congo River - in living color, from social studies, and an early depiction of Africa, an unexplored continent. Each image feeds our imagination and our understanding of the Congo River. 


he introduction to The Norton Anthology's Heart of Darkness begins…

Norton Critical Edition 4th Edition


How do we read this allegorical journey? 

It depends on how we see the world. 

"Is Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" a masterpiece of art? 
Or is it, as Chinua Achebe persuasively argues, a racist and deplorable book?"

To answer these questions…as readers, we have to look at our own society, so...

We start(ed) a conversation about Microaggressions, Code Switching, and Piling On.


Read HEART OF DARKNESS to page 20 of 72 pages (thus 2/7 of the text).

And Read the handouts: From Time Magazine: "'Microaggression' Is the New Racism on Campus"

From Teaching Tolerance: "Straight Talk about the N-Word"

Here's some additional resources that will better inform our conversation.

What is code switching? Why does one switch codes?
What role does context and audience play in code switching?

Code Switching: Defined on NPR as "the practice of shifting the languages you use or the way you express yourself in your conversations"

Piling on

For more examples, check out: The Microaggressions Project

Chinua Achebe writes of his own experience with a microaggression - long before there was the term:
In the fall of 1974 I was walking one day from the English Department at the University of Massachusetts to a parking lot. It was a fine autumn morning such as encouraged friendliness to passing strangers. Brisk youngsters were hurrying in all directions, many of them obviously freshmen in their first flush of enthusiasm. An older man going the same way as I turned and remarked to me how very young they came these days. I agreed. Then he asked me if I was a student too. I said no, I was a teacher. What did I teach? African literature. Now that was funny, he said, because he knew a fellow who taught the same thing, or perhaps it was African history, in a certain Community College not far from here. It always surprised him, he went on to say, because he never had thought of Africa as having that kind of stuff, you know. By this time I was walking much faster. "Oh well," I heard him say finally, behind me: "I guess I have to take your course to find out."
An older man, perhaps a fellow professor, makes assumptions about age, race, and history in the briefest of exchanges. One can imagine this is not an isolated incident - then or now.

READ MORE of Achebe's essay on Heart of Darkness and then watch this video...


"Is Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" a masterpiece of art? 
Or is it, as Chinua Achebe persuasively argues, a racist and deplorable book?"

Interesting Youtube lecture that gives background, overview, and attempts to answer this question.

Background on African colonization:

Poetry matters... since it allows voices, often marginalized, to be heard.

Watch Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED Talk (she quotes Achebe). Here's a favorite quote with an egregious assumption:

I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called American Psycho -- (Laughter) -- and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers. (Laughter) 

Also consider how geography along with a single story shapes the way see the world.
1646-47 Robert Dudley (1574-1649) 
Carte seconda Generale d'Affrica. 

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