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Halfway through Kindred

Well, I’m afraid to say that Butler’s Kindred isn’t really my cup of tea. The style simply strikes me in an odd and off way. Despite this though, there are passages which interest me greatly. On page 52, the beginning of The Fall chapter, Dana introduces the reader to her old workplace and mentions how she and her coworkers used to call it the “slave market.” This interested me in a similar fashion to how it seemed to interest Dana. She recognizes that this “casual labor agency” was, in fact, “the opposite of slavery” as people didn’t care whether or not an employee showed up for work (because there was always someone else to step up and take their place) (Butler 52).

However, what struck me wasn’t simply that this agency was misrepresented in the workers’ minds but that slavery seemed to be. It is problematic, I think, the way we throw certain historical events and terms about from slavery to the holocaust, our modern cultures seem ready and willing to pimp out the pains of the past for our own common hyperbole today. This cultural hyperbole fosters, I think, not only laziness in terminology and vernacular, but also enables people to more easily convince themselves that the horrors of slavery somehow are comparable to things we dislike or feel today. And, if this class has taught me anything thus far, it’s the power of language. After all, as Butler also discusses early on, a major reason for the antebellum characters’ contempt of Dana was her ability to clearly and eloquently articulate herself for fear that she might put “freedom ideas in [other enslaved peoples’] heads” (Butler 74).  The power of language, Dana also reflected, is what could grant enslaved peoples the ability to write “passes” for themselves so that they might visit their families or even potentially forge freedom papers after escaping.

 

How we communicate separates us culturally and socially, distinguishing people not only by levels of education but also by region, even by personality. And how our ancestors communicated is also what has largely dictated what we know of them today — hence what makes this book as a whole interesting to our studies: Dana is actively “recovering” a largely “lost” past and heritage that was reduced to nothing more than a list of names. In a similar fashion our groups are attempting to recover a past obfuscated by forced illiteracy, white washing, and other coercive cultural forces.

 

This book is tougher for me to directly relate to what we’re doing in class for the people of Williamson County since Dana, at least so far, is largely cheating by simply traveling back in time rather than researching in the days of 1976 but it is littered with conversations (such as those which I’ve already referenced) that clearly reflect modern cultural issues in regards to this antebellum era.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Ah! Katie! I was thinking the exact same thing while I was reading that section. I think the placement of that chapter was perfect…right after she gave some insight into the life of an actual slave, but before we were too far from the present time period. She cites some weird, tedious things she needed to do for money, but no one was abusing her, and, in fact, there was someone around who was even nice enough to buy her lunch. Definitely not comparable to actual slavery. I wonder if someone who was actually affected by slavery was to read this, if he or she would be offended at the nonchalant throwing out of the word.

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