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The Significance of the ‘Black Other’ Concept for Explaining the Experiences of the African Diaspora Essay


The meaning of the concept of diaspora changes according to alternations in the people’s perception of the processes of migrations and diasporas’ development. The African diaspora is presented in many countries all over the world that is why it is impossible to focus on the general opinion on diaspora in order to explain the particular features of all those African diasporas which develop globally.

However, there is the concept which can be used to discuss the experiences of the African diaspora in spite of its location and the questions of geopolitics. It is the notion of the ‘otherness’ or ‘black other’. The black-other mentality is characteristic for the representatives of diaspora as well as the understanding of the black ‘otherness’ is related to the representatives of the nations’ majority.

Although the ‘black other’ concept can be operated in explaining the peculiarities of different African diasporas, the approaches to the discussion are various, and it is important to analyze the notion from the point of the African-American diaspora’s possible dominance, issues of gender and sexuality, from the perspective of understanding ‘otherness’ as something of the exotic nature, as the reason for oppression, and as the reason to accentuate differences between races and nations.

There is the vision that the migration movements are based on a kind of longing. It is possible to determine several types of this longing, and the longing for belonging to the African-American diaspora can be discussed among the major desires of the African diaspora’s representatives.

In her essay “Diaspora and Desire: Gendering “Black America” in Black Liverpool”, Jacqueline Brown correlates such notions as desire, gender, sexuality, and the role of the African-American diaspora in forming the black people’s perception of their ‘otherness’. Brown pays attention to the ideas of the black American iconography and ideologies as influential aspects for the development of the black people’s visions in Liverpool.

Thus, “Black America became the object of diasporic longing, for it answered these and other problematics – however partially or contentiously” (Brown 83). It is important to note that the role of the African-American diaspora became even more significant than the role of the Africa as the desired homeland in affecting the black people’s opinions.

Such perceptions can be connected with the general vision of America as the land of a dream for many people in spite of the historical context and slavery question. Nevertheless, Brown also discusses the notions of longing and ‘otherness’ from the perspective of causes for the Africans’ migrations.

Basing on the example of the African diaspora in Liverpool, Brown states that longing is “in the formation of the diasporas” (Brown 87). That is why people are inclined to migrate in their search for a dream, and then they have to adapt to the situation with references to their ‘otherness’.

However, this ‘otherness’ can be also emphasized with references to the black woman’s comparing themselves with white women in Liverpool or with references to comparing their black men with the men in America as it is discussed by Brown in her work. In this case, the issues of gender and sexuality are also important for understanding the nature of the black people’s relations with the representatives of their race and with the members of the other ethnic groups.

Nevertheless, the African diaspora is different in relation to the location. Thus, the African diaspora in the USA or England is not the same as it is in Canada, for instance. It is a rather controversial task to determine what aspect is more significant in developing this question: the particular features of the surroundings in different countries or the peculiarities of the migrants’ attitudes to these surroundings.

In her essay “Mama, I’m Walking to Canada”: Black Geopolitics and Invisible Empires”, Naomi Pabst stresses that the African diaspora is a “contested category that has been defined in myriad ways running the gamut from Afrocentric to Pan-African to postmodern in orientation”, and moreover, “it is rather a cartography that takes blackness to be a local and global phenomenon, influenced, indeed constituted, by long-standing interactions of dwelling and movement” (Pabst 116).

From this point, the question of geopolitics is significant to speak about the character of the African diasporas’ development in different countries. Pabst concentrates on the position of the Black Canadians, comparing their situation with the African-American diaspora. Thus, it is a problematic question to conclude about Canada as the place for the black people’s longing, or as the “prospective homeland”, or as the place where the black people are rather unsecure like in any other countries (Pabst 113).

In spite of the fact there are a lot of opportunities for the successful development of the Canadian African diaspora, it is impossible not to pay attention to the point that Canada was the ‘invisible empire’, and the phenomenon of invisible racism does not contribute to discussing Canada as the best place for the African diaspora’s development.

However, the situation in Canada is different, and the representatives of the Canadian African diaspora experience different problems associated with their ‘otherness’. Thus, “diversely motivated and varying forms of transnational border-crossing shape the cultural, political, and ideological parameters of blackness” (Pabst 129). This fact supports the idea that the particular features of geopolitics matter while discussing the African diaspora as the phenomenon.

It is also important to pay attention to such detail as the fact that Pabst’s vision of the African-American diaspora and the issues of gender of sexuality are similar to Brown’s position. Pabst states that “if black subjectivity is mitigated by ethnicity, gender, class, and sexuality, it is also mitigated by geopolitics”, and furthermore, “while blacks are dispersed transnationally, there is a certain centrality…of African American sign production to global black standards” (Pabst 117).

That is why, the idea of the ‘black other’ significantly depends on the African-American patterns which can be discussed as chosen by the Africans to follow and on the concepts of gender and sexuality.

The connection of the concepts of the ‘black other’ and sexuality are also discussed in detail in Jayne Ifekwunigwe’s essay. The author chooses the perspective which differs considerably from the mentioned approaches to discussing the issue. The focus on the migrations of the Nigerian women associated with providing the sexual services in Europe presents another vision of the black people’s ‘otherness’. Thus, the black sexuality is popular in Europe because it is perceived as exotic and unique.

Moreover, the services of the Nigerian women are cheaper than the same services provided by the European women. It is the border where the issues of racism, discrimination, sexuality, and ‘otherness’ can be discussed as connected. The representatives of the African diasporas in many countries were often oppressed, but the ways of oppression could be various. In her work, Ifekwunigwe concentrates on the sexual oppression as one more vision of the African diaspora’s development and state in Europe.

In this case, the idea of pan-Africanism as solidarity of the Africans all over the world which is cultivated in the modern society can be perceived from the other point. Ifekwunigwe states that “beneath the pan-African imagined global networks, however, run fluid discursive structures that blur conventional and taken-for-granted classificatory practices with emergent nodes of cultural identity that we have yet to imagine” (Ifekwunigwe 206). That is why, the differences in ‘otherness’ of the members of various African diasporas is significant.

The problem of the ‘black other’ can be also discussed with more accentuation on the notions of gender and sexuality. Ariana Hernandez-Reguant refers to the timba music and the associated role of men in the Afro-Cuban diaspora in order to provide the analysis not only of the racial hierarchies in the society but also of the gender differences and their role in developing the social interactions.

The author argues that, “timba’s disidentificational stance is heavily male-centered. When it comes to the Afro-Cuban woman, timba offers no salvation” (Hernandez-Reguant 269). From this point, timba helps men to state their position in the society with references to the issue of sexuality as the significant aspect.

Thus, the Afro-Cubans’ vision of their identity and authenticity is based on the timba music which guarantees them the accentuation of identity as well as reduction of the negative meanings which can be connected with the concept. In this case, the notion of the ‘black other’ in relation to male Afro-Cubans is understood and explained with references to the timba music.

Moreover, “timba emphasized Afro-Cuban heritage as central to national culture” (Hernandez-Reguant 251). Paying attention to Hernandez-Reguant’s discussion, it is possible to analyze the role of the diaspora’s members in the society with references to their cultural identity, their gender qualities, and sexuality (Hernandez-Reguant 250-251).

Comparing Hernandez-Reguant’s discussion with the arguments of the previously mentioned authors, it is necessary to focus on the fact that in spite of operating notions of gender and sexuality actively, the question of the racial politics is discussed in the essay more completely.

Thus, the understanding of the ‘black other’ can be considered as central for explaining the experiences of the representatives of African diaspora. It is possible to concentrate on the black people’s ‘otherness’ with references to different aspects of geopolitics and diasporas’ location; it is possible to discuss the ‘black other’ concept among the means to understand the nature of racism and discrimination in the society; it is possible to use the notions of sexuality and gender in order to explain the particular features of the diaspora’s development.

In spite of the fact Jacqueline Brown, Naomi Pabst, Jayne Ifekwunigwe, and Ariana Hernandez-Reguant examine the problem of the African diaspora using different approaches, the authors’ main ideas and arguments can be discussed as correlated. The authors’ opinions on the question are various, and the aspects chosen for the discussion have few associations, but the ideas presented in the articles help create the complex vision of the issue.

Works Cited

Brown, Jacqueline. “Diaspora and Desire: Gendering “Black America” in Black Liverpool”. Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Ed. Kamari Clarke and Deborah Thomas. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006. 73-93. Print.

Hernandez-Reguant, Ariana. “Havana’s Timba: A Mach Sound for Black Sex”. Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Ed. Kamari Clarke and Deborah Thomas. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006. 249-279. Print.

Ifekwunigwe, Jayne. “Recasting “Black Venus” in the “New” African Diaspora”. Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Ed. Kamari Clarke and Deborah Thomas. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006. 206-236. Print.

Pabst, Naomi. “Mama, I’m Walking to Canada”: Black Geopolitics and Invisible Empires”. Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Ed. Kamari Clarke and Deborah Thomas. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006. 112-133. Print.

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Nolan, C. (2019, April 10). The Significance of the ‘Black Other’ Concept for Explaining the Experiences of the African Diaspora [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-significance-of-the-black-other-concept-for-explaining-the-experiences-of-the-african-diaspora/

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Nolan, Cayson. "The Significance of the ‘Black Other’ Concept for Explaining the Experiences of the African Diaspora." IvyPanda, 10 Apr. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/the-significance-of-the-black-other-concept-for-explaining-the-experiences-of-the-african-diaspora/.

1. Cayson Nolan. "The Significance of the ‘Black Other’ Concept for Explaining the Experiences of the African Diaspora." IvyPanda (blog), April 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-significance-of-the-black-other-concept-for-explaining-the-experiences-of-the-african-diaspora/.


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Nolan, Cayson. "The Significance of the ‘Black Other’ Concept for Explaining the Experiences of the African Diaspora." IvyPanda (blog), April 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-significance-of-the-black-other-concept-for-explaining-the-experiences-of-the-african-diaspora/.

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Nolan, Cayson. 2019. "The Significance of the ‘Black Other’ Concept for Explaining the Experiences of the African Diaspora." IvyPanda (blog), April 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-significance-of-the-black-other-concept-for-explaining-the-experiences-of-the-african-diaspora/.

References

Nolan, C. (2019) 'The Significance of the ‘Black Other’ Concept for Explaining the Experiences of the African Diaspora'. IvyPanda, 10 April.

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