Puneet Varma

Tejumola Olaniyan

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Tejumola olaniyan the misconception of modernity a conversation with european attraction limited


Tejumola Olaniyan (April 3, 1959) is the Louise Durham Mead professor of English, and African languages, and literature, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Olaniyan has approximately 35 of his works in over 100 publications, and all in one language. Olaniyan received education both internationally and at an Ivy League institution. In 1982 he received his Bachelor's from the University of Ife in Nigeria and just three years later, he received his Master of Arts degree there. Likewise, Olaniyan also attended Cornell University in 1989 where he also acquired his MA, and three years later he received a PhD from the University. Sandra Smith Isidore, former member of the Black Panther Party, introduced Olaniyan to the history, the ideology, and the personalities of the Civil Rights Movement and as a result, Olaniyan has referred to Isidore as his "mentor." Tehumola Olaniyan's main interests are: Africa and its diaspora, African American, Caribbean, and African literatures, criticisms, post-cultural studies, history, theory, and the sociology of drama, as well as pop culture (art, music, architecture). Some of his best acclaimed works are: Arrest the Music!: Fela and His Rebel Art and Politics (2004, 2009; nominated for Best Research in World Music by the Association for Recorded Sound Collections in 2005), Scars of Conquest/Masks of Resistance: The Invention of Cultural Identities in African, African American and Caribbean Drama (1995), and co-editor of African Literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory (2007, with Ato Quayson), African Drama and Performance (2004, with John Conteh-Morgan), and African Diaspora and the Disciplines (2010, with James H. Sweet). Through these popular works by Olaniyan, his viewpoints and interests are evidently expressed. Olaniyan practices different approaches, which allow others to vitalize new perspectives by means of his coincidental teachings. In his personal statement for the University of Wisconsin he says, "My deep interest is transdisciplinary teaching and research; my goal is the cultivation of critical self-reflexivity about our expressions and their many contexts.

Contents

Recently, Olaniyan takes focus on research amongst the African State, specifically following the end of colonialism. In this research, Olaniyan exemplifies the pop culture aspects while also trying to depict the "elite" cultural aspects of the state. Some of these practices are: art, music, architecture, literature, political cartooning. How the essence of the State influences the emanation and expansion of these practices helps in furthering Olaniyan's ultimate goal: to compose a cultural biography of the postcolonial African State in hopes of resolving the social crisis by means of understanding the epistemological methods to have an intimate comprehension.

"Uplift the Race!": "Coming to America". "Do the Right Thing" And the Poetics and Politics of "Othering"

Uplift the race is an in-depth look at the actions and realities of films such as Coming to America and Do the Right Thing. In this article Tejumola Olaniyan discusses this idea of 'uplifting the race" and how the portrayal of this uplifting manifests itself in films. He starts his article with a quote from die Murphy who basically says the white majority has created a system in which three powerful black men feel the need to whisper 'white' in their own office. This realization that they felt fear even in a place of their own making, where they were the people in charge blew Murphy's mind. Olaniyan then includes a quote from Michael Foucault, which basically describes the situation Eddie Murphy talks about in his quote. These quotes serve to outline the ideas and purposes of this article. It is a strong beginning as these two very different people are able to speak on the same issue and manage to say the same thing. Olaniyan quotes Paul Rabinow from "Representations Are Social Facts: Modernity and Post modernity in Anthropology" with respect to the idea of power of representation. Olaniyan explains that Rabinow is effectively saying "To be in control of (the means of) representation is therefore, to be in a position of power: that is, to be in control of the production, promotion, and circulation of subjectivities." (Olaniyan 93). Olaniyan then begins to discuss the two films, Murphy's Coming to America and Lee's Do the Right Thing and their shared goal of 'uplifting the race'. He finds it interesting that in the case of both films the popular opinion is that they failed do that. He spends a good amount of time discussing this idea of 'othering' their people instead of actually uplifting them. He goes into detail about how Coming to America 'others' the African people. First, he discusses how the scenes of this wild forest and lavish house in the middle of the 'wild' supports this exoticized idea of Africa. Throughout the film these images of this rigid, unbending culture persist. As if to suggest that they are too small-minded to change their traditions to represent present times. He repeatedly points out that Coming to America continues to be "cliché". He suggests that the film is not so much a way to showcase black people in a positive light, but rather to show Hollywood's idea of Africa's 'civilized' culture. He also discusses the role of the black women in this movie, their role being the background, the scenery. He then discusses how Do the Right Thing is kind of contradictory to Coming to America in that it freezes its African culture in a very "one-dimensional frame" where as Do the Right Thing gives its audience an unexpected and seemingly unapologetic view. Spike Lee allows his characters to be more three-dimensional. To not be stuck in over-simplified stereotypes. In the end, Lee fails because he loses sight of the goal of 'uplifting the race'. Olanyian says that they both failed due to the representation of gender, specifically women in each of these films. He felt that both films failed to see the intersectionality of gender and race, therefore not uplifting the race.

Key Terms from "Uplift the Race!": "Coming to America". "Do the Right Thing" And the Poetics and Politics of "Othering"

Racial Subjectification- A state in which an individual is seen as having no use to others. The subjectified individual is viewed as not having value to add to the lives of those around them, nor to society as a whole. Olanyian uses this term throughout "Uplift the Race!," when speaking about the subjectification of colored individuals. In the context of this article, racial subjectification can be understood as the concept that people of color can be, and have been granted a status as equal subjects in society in relation to white Americans, but if they are seen as nothing more than just subjects, than they are given no instrumental worth. This term is instrumental throughout Olanyian's discussion of the racial divide and the questioning of racial uplift.

Race/ Racial Uplift - A description of the prominent response of black leaders, activists and spokespersons to the racial discrimination marked by the assault on civil and political rights of African Americans. Many of these leaders felt and continue to feel a need to defend the good intent and honor of African Americans, while also countering negative black stereotypes. Olanyian continually mentions race uplift throughout his article "Uplift the Race,"and questions why it is a favorable mode of response to racial subjectification. The author additionally questions why race uplift is 'privileged' as a response to the unequal power relations in America today. In Olanyian's discussion of the two films "Coming To America" and "Do The Right Thing," which he contrasts in this essay, he presents the reader with the idea that racial uplift can actually lead to 'othering' of the African Americans who are being discriminated against.

"Othering"- Othering is defined by wordnik.com as "the process of perceiving or portraying someone or something as fundamentally different or alien." In simple terms, Othering can be understood as a viewpoint in which oneself is placed as the central figure in society, while those who differ from you are considered "the Other." The act of Othering a group provides the individual(s) conducting it with a sense of majority identity, while imparting on the Other a minority identity. This process of forming a self or group identity has a negative connotation and impact on the Other-ed group. Othering or viewing a social group in this way is undoubtedly debilitating to the social progress of the group, which Olanyian's discusses in his article "Uplift the Race!" Olanyian discusses Othering in terms of racial uplift. He alludes to the idea that the idea of racial uplift Others the African Americans it is trying to help by putting them in their own separate sector that, is below that of the black leaders fighting to defend their status in society.

Coevalness is described as being of the same time, duration, age. The purpose of coevalness is to provide authenticity, acknowledgment that something did exist and has existed.

Appropriation in the context of the film "Coming to America" explains that all films require the viewer to have a specific perspective on the topic being presented. Through calculated decisions both stylistic and thematic the filmmaker is able to present viewers with ideas that might not necessarily be their own but are used to convey a particular standpoint. In text, the author takes an image or a subject and places it out of context in order to best suit the context of their argument/opinion. In "Uplift the Race" Olaniyan address appropriation by saying it denies the native "Other" and denies coevalness in a sense that it establishes a "dominant gaze," or a general authoritative idea. This poses the questions of whose ideas are dominant and therefore intrinsically more important than the other. Furthermore, whether there is fair representation in this dominant idea and why we should take the author's word dilutes the authenticity of said dominant idea. Bell Hooks goes to the extreme by stating that appropriation violates another culture by creating a "fake" or a cheap imitation therefore always falling second to the original.

Power of Representation - Olaniyan addresses the concept of power of representation by explaining that the power comes from the ability to create one's own reality. The ability to participate in allows those who do to construct and better understand the constructs, the realities, in which they form. Furthermore, when one participates in creating their own reality they are able to distinguish "self" from "non-self," parallel to sameness and differentness. To be in control of one's representation is to be in a position of power says Olaniyan because one is able to control all aspects of their reality; production, promotion, and circulation of ideas. The power inherited by representation is transformed into a metaphorical and symbolic domination.

References

Tejumola Olaniyan Wikipedia


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