Thursday, October 29, 2009

Minority Becoming Majority

After reading about "the other" Chapter 4 from Representations, I was reminded of a discussion our class had in an AP Government class back in high school. Today's society is constantly in flux, and as America becomes more of a melting pot and immigrants continue to enter, it is likely that soon the minority ethnicities together will become the majority. Previously, we tended to look at the minority as "the other", while Caucasian values and traditions remained dominant in society. Now, however, times are changing. What does this mean for future generations' perception of "the other"? Bringing in The Abolition of the English Department, what will this mean for future English classes? If the minority becomes Caucasian culture, will this put pressure on schools to focus on literature that has been created worldwide? Or will the "cannon" still be in use despite its outdated, less relevant, and (possibly then) more unrelatable context?


  1. This is a bit off topic..but I can't resist talking about it!

    A couple of days ago I went and say the new Folger Shakespeare Library's production about Much Ado About Nothing. Similar to other endeavors to modernize and personalize Shakespeare, this production is based in a present day Afro-Caribbean DC neighborhood. -- Bob Marley and Shakespeare do indeed make strange bedfellows-- Similarly, being the Jane Austen Fanatic that I am... I have seen far too many movie versions of Pride & Prejudice. One of my favorite is a silly Bollywood version called Bride & Prejudice.

    I'm tempted to wonder how Thiong'o, Liyong, Owuor-Anymba would react to the efforts of minority artistic leaders to re-introduce classics into recognizable contexts? How beneficial are such activities? Are these artistic leaders of minority cultures buying into the domination of "English Department" or are they making them their own?

    Like I said, a bit off topic but interesting all the same!

  2. oh! I forgot to talk about the Harleen's question!!

    My opinion is that while the lines between the white majority and the various ethnic minorities are blurring, I seriously doubt that English Departments will detour from the traditional cannon. From Jocye to Woolf, Shakespeare to Milton, there is a wealth of quality literature that in my opinion will remain the basis of a liberal arts English degree! I think the only noticeable difference for English departments will be the increase in electives....

  3. I think maybe a future literature major will have to take courses in translation from all different languages, and then choose a concentration in the literature of a particular language. So way in the future, you could be a literature major with a concentration in English literature. It will be awesome.

  4. I certainly agree with Carolyn W. that certain works will always stay part of the cannon because of the reputation and history behind them, but I also think that Carolyn K.'s prediction of being able to focus your English degree towards a certain language's writings is quite possible. If International Affairs majors can choose to concentrate on Asia or Eastern Europe, why can't English majors do the same with those regions' texts? This structure, along with basic requirements in English language classics, would build a group of scholars that can have discourse on our own language, yet who can also share and enhance each other's separate areas of expertise. It WILL be awesome :D
    Thanks everyone for the great thoughts, keep em' coming!

  5. Hmmmm . . . I need to be contrary. While Carolyn W. raises some intriguing points about updating canonical writers--Shakespeare, Austen--I suppose that we could argue that such updates are really just covert traditional manoeuvers. In other words, the off-kilter Shakespearean update has been in vogue for years, so much so that it might not even be surprising anymore. The same could be said for Austen, whose novel Emma was famously updated as Clueless, which is much better than the novel it's based on, if I might be so bold. Again, I'm somewhat being the Devil's Advocate here, but in some ways I'm not. Thoughts?

    Re: Harleen's question, it really gets us back to some of the larger postmodern concepts that we've been entertaining. How do we know when the other is really an Other? How can we establish stable categories--racial, societal, etc.--if those categories are seen as completely unstable, shifting, constructed? All of which points us back to bell hooks: She's antagonistic toward postmodernism because, in her mind, it--as an elite white male discourse--seeks to put identity under erasure, just at a time when, for her, African Americans could proudly assert their identity. I suppose a way to update her argument is this: At a time when America has its first Af. Am. President, what would it mean for us to embrace the notion of a post-racial society, one where race doesn't really exist? Would Obama's position be undermined? Is that fair? Ethical?

  6. You all are bringing up really good points and I like how this debate is broadening. I guess in my original question I was talking about generations and generations down the road. I'm sure 100 years ago, Americans didn't think our country would become so intermingled, and none of us can really make an accurate guess at what it will be like 100 years from today. Even if we go to Europe, where must of today's famous literature had its origination, we would find cultural diffusion as well.
    Professor Fisher mentioned the term "post-racial" a few weeks ago in class when referring to our society...but is it really a post-racial society? I don't feel that we're quite at the point where we can say "race doesn't exist" in our society, but having an African American president is definitely a huge step in the right direction. I don't think by being a post-racial society, Obama's position would be undermined - if anything, I think it would garner more respect from a wider variety of people.

  7. I don't now what came of this proposal, but presumably it was forgotten:

    It's about how in 2006 the Senate voted to declare English the official language of the US. The Senate sought to re-affirm English-speaking America's true Americanism in a time when many English-speaking Americans were anxious about rubbing shoulders with people from other cultures. They would then be able to refer to this legislation when in doubt about the otherness of the "Other." I agree with Harry Reid; the proposal (like all nationalistic brouhaha) was shockingly transparent.

  8. This post is going to going a little broader and speaking to the several small things being brought up...starting with a story:
    I, today, live in an American society where white is the majority and everyday there is an influx of other cultures and skin colors. Today, you have two well known sides. Those that openly, or behind doors and in the polls, hate those of another color and race. And those who are so PC about everything I highly doubt they even know what they really think.
    I, quite a few years ago, was in the racial minority. And, it was always expressed through looks and comments that I being that minority was also the cause of great hatred. I was not even 10, yet it was my fault and my color that repressed the black culture and caused great anguish to them.
    Now, being in America and having experienced all that through my childhood, I know and feel that this is not a post racial society. As much as having an African American signifies post-racial feelings, it is only a step in that direction. As soon as the question of having a man, or woman, of Arab descent being president doesn't cause fear, then there might be an argument made. We're focusing too much on the "other" being black. The "other" is anyone that we immediately put into a category other than 'person.' Like 'Asian person' or 'someone to avoid."

    Going to childhood fantasies and Rose - yes, our childhood can be seen as being an interpretation through our adult lives. However, I feel that she never looked at her childhood for what it was and what was felt at the exact times of those experiences. My parent's never scared me with stories of how I could be kidnapped and sold as a child prostitute. Instead, I was allowed to run away and scare myself back to the sides of my parents. This is not an experience to be interpreted and wondered about. It was what it is.

    I think, perhaps, I've put too much into one post. Oh well, it's a blog!

  9. I think that just as the introduction of the global trade of goods lead to more protectionism against "the other" in terms of tariffs and trade restrictions the global exchange of ideas and cultures on an extreme scale, which has only just started to occur, will lead to a similar form of protectionism in terms of culture.

    This issue is one of the main reasons, I believe, behind the abolition of the english department. For decades English has been the dominant language in the study of literature and local "revolutionary" literature has taken a back seat in many institutions. Now that you can experience another culture by just going to youtube, I think that there is an extreme push to preserve what little is left of local culture. Therefore, while before it was not dangerous to teach primarily english literature because students were exposed to local literature on an hourly basis in their daily lives, today many feel that it is essential to expose students to native writings in order to prevent them from never becoming accustomed to anything but the worldwide commodity of english literature and language.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I think that the minority population has already greatly affected our culture in many ways. In banks and other many public places there are signs in both English and Spanish. American universities offer an array of literature clases such as African American Lit., Asian American Lit., etc. It is only a matter of time before American culture becomes a more "worldly" culture. Like the ever changing views of sexuality, race and culture is constantly evolving and shaping new norms that define us as Americans. As we continue to modernize I can only see the lines beginning to blur more and more between peoples of different race, culture, ethnicity, sexuality, etc. Eventually I would like to think that there will be no more lines and that every culture will be embraced by everyone as if it were their own. Only time will tell.