Read the chapter White by Richard Dyer on pps 457 – 467 of the course reader making notes. Watch the films Simba, Jezebel and Night of the Living Dead or at least Simba. Find The Battle of Algiers (Italian: La battaglia di Algeri), a 1966 black-and-white film by Gillo Pontecorvo based on events during the 1954-1962 Algerian War against French rule. xxxiii This late neo-realist film is in stark contrast to Simba and the comparison is worth the effort.
Most of this first section is my notes on the essay, its not comment, its short hand to simplify the original writing.
White people think of their place before colour, British, Welsh, etc. followed by white.
Problem comes when you scrutinise a group of people, you inadvertently create an issue and make the group feel more different than normal.
However, we are now looking at the fact that ‘normal’ is a construct.
White and black have acquired subtitles white is good, light Black is dark bad.
“White domination is reproduced by the way that white people colonise the definition of normal.”
Cites Paul Gilroy “whiteness both disappears and is subsumed into other identities.” Questions as a nation how we use words like “we” and “our”, who do we mean by them?
It is difficult to “see” whiteness more difficult to analyse. Black people are labelled as black instead of just as people.Brief encounter is about English middle-class people, Godfather Italian Americans the colour purple is about black people before poor Southern Americans.
Being white interviewees had difficulty saying they where white over the part of England they hail from before comfortably discussing stereotypes of black people
To study white we need to look at that which is not white to find it. (thats deeply ingrained)
Jezabel; big budget attempt to outdo gone with the wind. Does not know whether to condemn or adore black. its understood as its history that slavery was about to disappear.
Simba; black people can learn white values but the fear is that white people will be engulfed by black values (blackness). White rule was on its way out and a lack of understanding as to why black people would not deal with white rule was inherent.
Night of the living dead White people turn into zombies alone? (I’ve got this to watch this week).
All three show white as ordered and rational and black as the opposite also use black to see the whiteness of white.
All three (although loosely in Simba) show whites in power but materially dependant on blacks which “throws legitimacy of white domination into question”.
Simba Pleasure with a tale of growth. Manchicheism (mixed Christian/pagan/gnostic Persian religion based on light and dark), delirium (Fanon) White stands for modernity and black for backwards. Observed in meeting scenes, whites meet in daylight and debate coherantly, black meets in dark and is ritualised.
Racist but not at a physical level, at evolutionary. One black character, the son of a local chief, has trained in England as a Dr but is held at arms length till the end of the film, when he dies from wounds sustained from a black mob.
Hero of the film ends without avenging his brothers death, or saving the farm. Just gets the girl and an understanding that this is the end of white colonial rule. From the beginning, the role of black people in this film is to unsettle and create distrust.
Simba is much investigated by Dyer in his essay, However I will add that I wasn’t expecting the level of talking down that I observed in the film. White characters spoke about black people as the general rather than the rule, whilst in the same room. The condescension is noticeable as is the overall attitude of talking to and about the natives like recalcitrant children. The fact that they should be grateful because they have jobs and food but are treated the way they are. The ‘normalising’ in film of the white way of life as the better way reiterating Dyers essay. The dependance on black labour to run the farms as cheap labour and surprise that this wouldn’t be accepted.
The Battle for Algiers is different whilst not dissimilar to Simba. There is a recognition from the start that this is about two comparable views. The reading out of the manifesto for the National Liberation group of Algiers sets the standard for equality. Seeing Ali tripped by the young french man then seeing his rap sheet, whilst music plays softly in the background, with a close up of his face not looking at the camera, signs of a bloody nose insights feelings of sympathy. The contrast From Simba’s glossing over of the culture that the white people where calling backward is immense.
The film continues to show the trapping of the much needed and relied upon workforce in the Casbah, the control points seeing the workers in and out, whilst showing the struggle from the natives side. one scene where an innocent road sweeper is hounded down and arrested for his looks showing the class of labour that the Algerians filled.
the outcome of the movie is the same as Simba.
Jezabel. This film shows the reliance on the black slaves, but seems to show it all as one big happy family, Davis’s character hands down her fine evening gowns, only worn once to her maid. Theres a point where another actor reminisces with the houseman and offers to drink with him then theres the great sing-a-long on the porch with the happy workers and their children. This film is the contradiction to the other two as it isn’t showing dissent of the black workers, shows them as happy to be there. It also as a film, uses the black parts for comedic value over content.
• Note how Dyer uses some of the theories alluded to earlier in the course (hegemony and Sartre’s ideas of the self) to analyse the films and construct his argument.
Dyer is highlighting, in his study of Simba, that the only black character trusted is the one taught in white ways and the Mau Mau where heathen. I think this eludes to Sartres noting that the indiginous cultures whites ruled over were different and that plays into Dyers use of differences to find out about white (also a tool of deconstruction, finding the differences to work back into a subject)
This also leads back to Gamsci and the dominant fundimental group using its norms to set the tone of its rule. I don’t believe we can take Marxist or Bergeres theory into account for Dyer as in the instance of Simba, the Mau Mau are failing to be ruled by/ conform to the ruling/men classes.
• Over the period of a week, see how racial identity and identities are dealt with in the visual media: film, newspapers, the web, any exhibitions you might visit, advertising images and, particularly, the television. Make notes, illustrated where possible, of your analysis, taking Dyer as your model.
Renaming of Colston Hall in Bristol as its named after a slave trader. This is about people not being reminded of slave trade, from the perspective of the slaves descendants. the argument in terms of Dyer could be part of white normalisation making it ok as on the other side of being a slave trader, Colston was a philanthropist using his money for the benefit of poor white people in his local area. Which cultural history does the name invoke? Does the fact that his philanthropy was propped up by the sale of black people belittle the honour of naming the building after him?
Turner prize nominees Himid and Anderson
The nominations for the Turner prize have been announced. The headlines were about the age of the Turner prize being raised, and Himid is over 60, however, articles have covered some of her work which has themes raising awareness of black culture and recognition. I saw her Guardian pages reworked at Oxfords museum of modern art, the bright colourful patterning is eye-catching and given she has chosen a supposedly liberal paper to decorate in the first place, her point about glossing over black culture is clear. Andersons work links back to his parents jamaican backgrounds however, the Turner script in most of the papers doesn’t seem to be commenting on content over the age.
Is the Turner prize the bigger story than the message in the artwork? previous years I would argue that hasn’t been the case, Tracy Emin’s unmade bed springs to mind.
Dyer, R(1988)White In: Visual culture reader, Jessica Evans, Stuart Hall. London. Visual culture reader. pp.457-467
The battle of Algiers[feature film on DVD]Igor film, Casbah film. Italy, 1967, 121mins
Jezabel[feature film on DVD]Warner Bros. America, 1938, 1hr, 44mins
Simba[feature film on DVD]J Arthur Rank organisation. UK, 1955, 99mins
Saner, E(2017)Renamed and shamed: taking on Britain’s slave-trade past, from Colston Hall to Penny Lane,The Guardian, 29th April 2017. Available here: Renamed and shamed: taking on Britain’s slave-trade past, from Colston Hall to Penny Lane[Accessed 6th May2017]
Singh, A(2017)The not so Young British Artists: All 2017 Turner Prize nominees are aged over 40, The Telegraph, 3rd May 2017. Available here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/03/not-young-british-artists-2017turner-prize-nominees-aged-40/ [accessed 6th May21017]