2nd identity paper FD

2nd identity paper FD - Will Cliff 2/16/10 Professor Donald...

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Will Cliff 2/16/10 Professor Donald Cosentino World Arts and Cultures 20 Prompt 1 All over the United States and the greater world, nations and societies are coined with the term “freedom.” Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of the idea that we live in a society where you can be who you want to be and live the life you want to live. Over the majority of the planet, freedom seems to be established as a natural human right. This overuse of the term freedom has most likely stemmed from the establishment of democracies—the government for the people. But looking beneath the surface, there are many pressures that have come about in societies around the world. Pressures have emerged from the media, from our own history, and from society itself. Examining the topic more thoroughly raises questions on how free we truly are. Do we each individually possess the power of individual freedom regardless of societal pressures? According to articles presented by Kobena Mercer, Janice Boddy, and Susan Bordo; cultures greatly influence the formation of our individual identities so that we naturally conform to the mass identity of the particular culture we were born into. Kobena Mercer’s article “Black Hair-Style Politics” analyzes the efforts of African- Americans to create their own identity as a minority group in the United States during the 20 th century. In a time when blacks were not represented politically, they found a way to produce a sense of self and find a sense of power as a people through style, language, and the arts. Hair-styles that were considered to be “natural” to the black population—Afros
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and Dreadlocks for example—became extremely prevalent in the black community and were worn with a sense of pride. Hair, being very easy to change its direction and size, became politicized through being an “ethnic signifier.” Mercer writes, “all black hair- styles are political in that they articulate responses to the panoply of historical forces which have invested this element of the ethnic signifier with both personal and political ‘meaning’ and significance” (Mercer 251). Not only did the blacks transform their hair as an icon, but also their dress. Suits and even zoot suits became very popular in the black community as they “projected stature, dignity and presence: it signified that the black man was ‘important’ in his own terrain and on his own terms” (Mercer 260). Yet is this really a new cultural identity? As blacks began to penetrate more into the greater
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2nd identity paper FD - Will Cliff 2/16/10 Professor Donald...

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