Knowledge of it all: Major Concept

Throughout the semester many different topics of through a format of translation. The major novels read explored concepts of cultural and class stratification then onto binaries that created concepts of boundaries as well in social structures. Another being a full on critique of culture that formed ideas of belly politics.

In Utopia by Ahmed Towfik explored ideas more on the range of colonial life with cultural stratification through binaries. The binaries presented in the text show case the social classes more so. As the author makes a distinction between the poor and rich by saying them as being either Utopians who have a more entitled outlook on life while the “others” are the less fortunate who fend for everything for themselves and are consistently taken advantage of. A common binary that refers to these two classes is predator and pray. Examples are:

“WE HAD ENTERED THE TERRITORY OF THE OTHERS” (Towfik 36).

“HERE I SAW FAKE MISERY, SUFFERING ANF HUNGER. I SAW FEAR, WHICH WAS UNUSUAL. IN OUR WORLD YOU DIDN’T OFTEN SEE FEAR; INSTEAD, THERE WAS A KIND OF SURRENDER TO FATE AND HOPELESSNESS” (Towfik 66).

Then from here, the concept of boundaries is mentioned in Signs Preceeding the End of the World by  Yuri Hererra which is a novel based on the premises of a young girl traveling through the Mexico and United States border on a specific quest and basically documents situations of her trip. There is a depiction in the novel of the physical and figurative border which could even be symbolic of death. An example in the text that shows this is:

“AND SHE’D SAID TO GO TO THE LITTLE TOWN, TALK TO THE TOP DOGS, MAKE NICE AND THEY’LL LEND A HAND WITH THE TRIP” (Hererra 12).

Then there is a critique of belly politics in both Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila   and Baho! by Roland Rugero. In Tram 83 belly politics are addressed in a very unique manner with many minor concepts at play in society such as an opening image of a stone and the way in which colonization and westward culture is at play with the use of railroads. An example is:

” IT WAS ESSENTIALLY AN UNFINISHED METAL STRUCTURE, GUTTED BY ARTILLERY, TRAIN TRACKS, AND LOCOMOTIVES THAT CALLED TO MIND THE RAILROAD” (Mujila 1).

Then in Baho! the belly politics are seen directly in the way of the ways of treatment of people which technically resulted in changes of the body typically hunger or times of scarcity. It also comes into play with the way culture is looked upon especially in terms of understanding African ideologies.
“MAN FLEES, TO BE RULED BY NOTHING MORE THAN THE GROWLS OF HIS OWN BELLY — OF FEAR, AND OF HUNGER” (Rugero 5).
Overall, each of these novels created a separate understanding but all came back to one thing being translation. The concepts they explored created a broader understanding in both the characters in the novels lives and the ones of the writers. I believe they all served a positive purpose to grasp new ideals when it comes to other cultures works and beliefs that are seen in societies that are unfamiliar to common readers.
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The Gender Relations Within

In Baho! written by Roland Rugero there are multiple different mediations within the novel that justify certain actions throughout. The novel starts out with and continues with a story of a young man who is a mute and he ends up in a predicament that is a complete accident that brings upon the ideals in the African culture and the gender standards.  Men had a place in their society of being the man of the house and in charge while Women were seen as property and became a person of value rather than seen for their human qualities.

“The men stare at the twenty-some combinations of headscarves, wraps, and multi-colored wool sweaters, and tactlessly comment on the gloomy murmur rising from the feminine sex below.They grumble to each other with glances” (25-26).

“She has just watched the violent arrest of the young mute by his pursuers. She saw the hate that fortified their actions, screwing up their eyes and quaking the knotted veins of their fingers—their rage to punish”(28).

“Wordlessly, far from the chaos before her eye, far from these powerful, hasty young men, far from the violent anger of the impotent. She reflects  in wonder on how the forbidden has moved from curse to deed in such little time, an illicit transferal. Pensively, she remembers her own father, a blunt, thin man, who was very strong and who loved to return home a little drunk some evenings. His curses were all related to her, the only daughter of a rich, forty-cow farmer” (41).

All of these quotes exemplify a form of gender commentary. In the first quote there is the topic of female objectification brought to light with the way male gaze is represented and men only caring about female appearances. This plays a major role in the entirety of the novel as men were seen in this certain light that mimics actions they must perform rather than taking advantage of women, as the main character finds out through a major misunderstanding. Then on to the material mentioned in the second quote, what is presented is this situation the main character winds up in and this is a viewers response to the events of the main character. The last quote basically sums up the ideal of how women were seen as property.

The presence of gender relations forms this cataclysmic effect on the novel as whole and becomes a form of commentary on society and it definitely relates to current situations on the way men and women are seen.

 

City-State: What’s its purpose?

When I first began reading Tram 83, there was something unique to the storyline that peaked my interest. That being the setting which directly takes place in a train station where there is an unfinished and broken down feel. Yet City-State itself embodies its own emptiness of a whirlwind of chaos of being a purposeless cityscape. Some examples of this depicted environment are the following quotes.

“The City-State was written by her gigolos, her baby chicks, her diggers, her four-star whorehouses, her dissident rebels ready to imprison you, her prospectors, her semi-tourists. Lucien rushed into the night, his imitation-leather bag slung across his body. Tourist Street, Independence Street, International Armistice Street, Gravedigger Street, Mineral Street, Copper Street, First Revolution Street, True and Sincere Revolution Street..”(Mujila, 96).

This quote brings up points in which this society strives off of, both on the Tram and in City-State the presence of prostitution and sexualization of women in straightforward. However, this place my be for them to belong and flaunt their promiscuous lifestyle. An ideal purpose to City-State is to take in the outcasts and misfits of the world and be this somewhat safe haven. The presence of street names in this quote almost makes it clear that City-State is much more than perceived helping move the story along with just the relatable also proving this setting has more promise to it.

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This image is from http://lisbon-portugal-guide.com/lisbon-transport/lisbon-tram-28.html

“As time passed, he adjusted his decree to two days, then one, then two hours, reasoning that the processing plants for the minerals so dear to the tourists require more electrical power, that the inhabitants of City-State don’t have much need for it, and the machinery meant to be supplying this power is rusting under the weight of the years…” (Mujila, 73).

“They’ll wake up one morning and realize the City-State no longer exists. The City-State will be a distant memory , the vestige of a …. Even now, the City-State exists only in name” (Mujila, 60).

The purpose of having City-State seems to be meaningless. Mujila states how even those who live in could care less about it. Tourists become the most prominent of the setting and make a name for themselves there. City-State truly means nothing rather it is just a place that has no reason to be recognized since it has nothing to better the world. Yet by including it in the novel, there must be a hidden reason for it. There is this idea continually mentioned that surrounds itself in text based around the idea of City-State and it discusses this “unfinished metal structure” which is only one characteristic to this setting. Using this to fully view, City-State that metal structure is just one fragment of this broken down society that no one wants to make better and it creates this sort of emptiness inside all the real inhabitants.

Mujila wrote this setting up to make the reader think the City-State has no purpose based on the word choice of being stated. However, the purpose of City-State is in the hands of the reader for interpretation of its true potential. Only my view is that it is a bigger catalyst to the emptiness and broken down social structure.

So ultimately it is up to you to find the true purpose.

Borders of the Future Hell

In Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World, there seems to be a nostalgic interpretation into what borders symbolize and represent in this presented society. At the beginning of the text, the main character, Makina, is introduced to the reader as some sort of hero set out on a quest. She takes on this stance but it seems peculiar at the time to have this female protagonist as the adventure/quest seeker. That aspect makes this development of borders so interesting.

The most relevant border mentioned in this is the one defining the primary journey at hand for Makina, being the one separating her from migrating to a new country. The border seems to be a representation of the Mexico and North American border. Which this border is described explicitly as some sort of hell like place and the border itself is more representative of life and death as well. There are multiple references to it,

“I’m dead, Makina said to herself, and hardly had she said it than her whole body began to contest that verdict and she failed her feet frantically backward, each step mere inches from the sinkhole, until the precipice settled into a perfect circle Makina was saved” (11).

This expands the notion of what could be Makina’s journey not just crossing the border of her reality but worse, a life and death type situation. The beginning starts with the reputation of “I’m dead” which seems to symbolic. What stood out though based on my own knowledge and that of in class discussion is the parallelism to Dante’s Inferno being certain levels of hell and Makina seems to be undergoing this specific quest going through her own hell. Another section of the text that draws on this idea states:

“I don’t know what they told you, declared the irritated anglo, I don’t know what you think you lost but you ain’t going to find it here, there was nothing here to begin with” (70).

This just sums up Makina’s almost end revelation of what her journey of this crossing borders has lead to in relation to all she endures in hellish states.

The individual in Utopian culture and the blended binaries

The novel Utopia, written by Ahmed Towfik is based on the comparisons of two social classes one being the rich, Utopians and those in poverty, the Others. The novel thoroughly transforms itself with the ideas given from two points of view. The points of views coming from a Utopian seen as a predator and the Other’s seen as the prey. The author does this to create this contrast while still keeping alive the idea of the classes and whats makes them individual from the entire society.

One of the main themes that I will be touching on that is within the novel the individuality shown in the Utopian and Other’s culture. For Utopian culture there seems to be no regulations when it comes to life styles and being who ever they want to be. That being said, creates an overall stigma towards Utopians as they seem inferior to the Other’s. An example of this in the novel comes from the way the character in predator sections describes his life. He seems to posses an entitled attitude whereas the other’s don’t. It states, “No one interferes in my life in anyway I have a right to take anything in any quantity and at any price” (Utopia, 8). This reveals the entitlement depicted in this character and to counterbalance it, other’s care less about their individual gain. For the main character in the sections titled prey, the level of individuality is rather seen on a level of intimacy to make them unique and more humane and in touch with self as the individual. Keeping to the idea of individuality it all ends up tying back to the overall idea behind the Utopian culture being of modernity.

Now onto the presence of individuality is the Other’s culture. An example that fully encompasses this is, “But in spite of that, I continue to aspire to something else. I aspire to something beyond sex” (Utopia, 60). Yes, this quote represents a binary that is in comparison to the relationship for how others treat women and the utopians treat women, but in reality this shows the individual outlook on life that Utopians seem to be more trapped in with their boredom leading them to life more uncertain and less unique to the person. The Other’s mentioned in the novel seem to want to find themselves as they seem to have nothing more to lose in life.

With all of this in mind, the real main idea being of individuality through the novel the binaries present complete this idea with these two classes in this Utopia society differ so much as comparing the rich to the poor yet when it comes down to it. The rich being Utopians take full advantage of what they have and don’t take into account the overall difference between them. The main reason the two narrations are split being binaries of predator and prey is because Utopians gain pleasure from hunting those less fortunate in their modernized cultural society.