African Identity Analysis

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Unraveling the True Nature of the African Identity

As many may be aware, cultural theorist Margaret Blair recently delivered a speech entitled, “Africa Within,” at the conference of the Africana Studies Association. The speech itself was concluded with her beliefs regarding the preservation of both the African identity and culture in the face of enslavement. While many of Blair’s points can be concurred with, it is also important to avoid the generalization of the African identity as a whole, and to investigate beyond the surface into the depths of what “African” connotes in terms of the many social, cultural, and geographical facets it encompasses. In addition, it is crucial to delve into an analysis of the role of the white identity
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Once again, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano is an effective example of this argument, in that the reader witnesses the African’s forced entrance into Western culture, as well as a diminishment in his dedication to the cultural practices of his homeland, Eboe. While some may argue that the narrative’s introduction regarding Equiano’s background reinforces its continued magnitude in his life despite his experiences as a slave, the events which unfold throughout the work- such as his baptism and identity as an overseer on a slave plantation- highlight the presences of Westernization and cultural assimilation, rather than an ongoing attachment to one’s roots. The text as a whole serves in large part to address the erasure of identity, culture, and tradition which resulted from the slave trade. Nevertheless, this is not to say that enslaved African’s lost all ties to their cultural practices, but rather to suggest that their immersion in Western society oftentimes inevitably resulted in their assimilation into the culture that they were forced to become accustomed to, speaking to Blair’s following claim regarding their “adaptations.” The structure of Sierra Leone’s Krio society attests to this argument, as their civilization was one which “[absorbed] Western determinants of civilization” but also “retained their traditional cultures” (Wyse

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