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Contact Zones

Memory, Origin, and Discourses in Black Diasporic Cinema

Sheila J. Petty

Publication Year: 2008

Created at the crossroads of slavery, migration, and exile, and comprising a global population, the black diaspora is a diverse space of varied histories, experiences, and goals. Likewise, black diasporic film tends to focus on the complexities of transnational identity, which oscillates between similarity and difference and resists easy categorization. In Contact Zones author Sheila J. Petty addresses a range of filmmakers, theorists, and issues in black diasporic cinema, highlighting their ongoing influences on contemporary artistic and theoretical discourses. Petty examines both Anglophone and Francophone films and theorists, divided according to this volume’s three thematic sections—Slavery, Migration and Exile, and Beyond Borders. The feature films and documentaries considered—which include Sankofa, Daughters of the Dust, The Man by the Shore, and Rude, among others—represent a wide range of cultures and topics. Through close textual analysis that incorporates the work of well-known diasporic thinkers like W. E. B. DuBois, Aimé Césaire, and Frantz Fanon along with contemporary notables such as Molefi Kete Asante, bell hooks, Clenora Hudson-Weems, René Depestre, Paul Gilroy, and Rinaldo Walcott, Petty details the unique ways in which black diasporic films create meaning. By exploring a variety of African American, Caribbean, Black British, and African Canadian perspectives, Contact Zones provides a detailed survey of the diversity and vitality of black diasporic contributions to cinema and theory. This volume will be a welcome addition to the libraries of scholars and students of film studies and Africana studies.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series


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pp. vii-10

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pp. ix-12

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the artists whose films inspired this book project. During the research for this book, it was my good fortune to have collaborated in early 2000 with Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina and Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery in Halifax on a film series and catalog titled “The Archaeology of Origin: ...

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pp. 1-15

It has become axiomatic to assert that the world is shrinking, connected as we are through computer, transportation, and telecommunication technologies. It seems, too, that cultures are dissolving as borders appear redundant in a world where thought and people can travel from here to there with the seeming speed of imagination. All ...

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1. Africa and the Middle Passage: Recoupment of Origin in Sankofa

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pp. 16-51

... One of the most powerful metaphors of the black diaspora is that of the Middle Passage, a phrase coined to describe “the portage from Africa to the New World” on slave ships that signified the enslave-ment of Africans in the Americas (Wolff 1996, 24). As a milestone in black consciousness, the multiple histories of slavery have a powerful ...

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2. Collision of Cultures: Occulted Caribbean Histories in Sugar Cane Alley

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pp. 52-79

...racist ideology that accompanied it, took some time to develop in the Caribbean. Initially, plantations relied on slave labor drawn from indig-enous Carib Indians, African slaves captured from enemies during vari-ous wars, and Russians and Greeks from various European slave mar-kets. As Gordon K. Lewis observes, it was only when earlier sources ...

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3. Reclaiming Africa: Black Women’s Discourses in Daughters of the Dust

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pp. 80-103

... There is always a danger, when using categorizing terms such as black women’s discourses, of creating intellectual ghettoes that rein-force margins and peripheries by assigning them convenient designations..1 The term blackness, for example, is made relevant to discourses of racism and cultural difference because it carries encoded within it ...

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4. Disjunction from Self: The Politics of Arrival in Soleil O

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pp. 104-126

... One of the most striking aspects of black diasporic theories is the way in which concepts circulate across boundaries, nations, and histories. Inherently nomadic, black diasporic theories that arise in one specific map in response to particular historical, political, and economic impulses can often find new life and new articulations as they move ...

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5. Arrested Memory: The Problematics of Return in Testament

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pp. 127-153

... As previous chapters have outlined, the black diaspora is a highly contested space in which dispersals, motivated by diverse im-petuses such as slavery, migrancy, and exile, exist side by side in both peace and tension. Avtar Brah conceives of diasporic space as “the in-tersectionality of diaspora, border, and dis/location as a point of con-...

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6. Slippage and Mutable Histories in Deluge

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pp. 154-175

... In chapter 5, I described exilic experience as a disjunctive state that creates a fracture between origin and exile, resulting in alienation and making the act of return problematic. Both Abdul JanMohamed and Edward Said suggest the exilic state is experienced as one of mourn-ing, in which the exile is caught in permanent transition between a re-...

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7. Transnational Gazes in Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask

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pp. 176-195

... As noted in previous chapters, definitions of the black dias-pora and diasporic identities are fraught with contradictions and pitfalls that make easy generalizations difficult to establish or defend. In part, this is due to the tremendous vitality of black diasporic communities where “localizing strategies”—such as community, organic culture, re-...

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8. Locality, Memory, and Zombification in The Man by the Shore

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pp. 196-223

... As discussed in chapter 2, the unique historical and cultural pro-cesses that inform Caribbean diasporic identities have generated theory that advances a commitment to movements such as creolization, An-tillanité, and métissage, thus creating conceptual paradigms of hybrid-ity specific to resident needs (Edwards 1994, 29). A certain amount of ...

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9. Mapping New Boundaries: Discourses of Blackness in Rude

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pp. 224-258

... Black Canadians have a long and varied history in Canada that is almost as lengthy as that of African Americans (Winks 1997, ix). The cultural differences between the United States and Canada, however, have led to very different experiences of blackness in Canada, where “spaces and places speak to each other in ways that gesture to vari-...


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pp. 259-268


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pp. 269-286


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pp. 287-295


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p. 310-310

E-ISBN-13: 9780814339909
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814330999

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 16
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series