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Transnationalism and Double Consciousness in The 21st Century

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Words: 2995 |

Pages: 7|

15 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

Words: 2995|Pages: 7|15 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

It is imperative for all United States citizens, and especially politicians to hold an extensive knowledge concerning the concepts of fragmented identities and transnationalism. A wide understanding on these concepts is a prerequisite to grow, progress, and mature a society. In addition to the essential diversity in background knowledge needed on these subjects; societies should also realize that definitions of these concepts differ significantly. For example, my own definition of transnationalism is that: transnationalism, is generally the motivation to interact and networks with other cultures across borders. Scholars see the importance as a paradox of our time “The paradox of our times, and one that must be central to our understanding of the identities and dilemmas of current day immigrants is that the ‘age of transnationalism’ is a time of continuing and even heightened nation-state building processes”. Therefore, exceeding the nation state as the only primary point of reference for identities. Transnationalism is not a one faceted designation, it can act to aid as a way of study for a comprehensive number of problems concerning immigration and the constant social change in society’s status quo. From the purely economic perspective, transnationalism encompasses the entire world’s restructuring of manufacturing development. Transnationalism in this way is often known as globalization. Upon the very late 1900s, cell phones and the use of Internet became so proliferated around the globe; that we saw in almost every first world country there were decreases in cost of transportation.

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When we look at transnationalism in regards to immigration, we can see Latinx are associated with quite a few places at once. This can be a strong catalyst in forming fragmented identities in itself; as one is neither completely “there or here.” In the text “Chicana Artists: Exploring Nepantla, el Lugar de la Frontera” Gloria Anzaldúa writes “The Mexico-United States border is a site where many different cultures 'touch' each other and the permeable, flexible, and ambiguous shifting grounds lend themselves to hybrid images. The border is the locus of resistance, of rupture, of implosion and explosion, and of putting together the fragments and creating a new assemblage.” When one disturbs the arranged imaginary lines between cultures, this can also become a catalyst towards fragmented identities through gnerating a mix of beliefs and values in a culture. The term Nepantla which Anzaldúa puts forth in her writings I h is a breath of fresh air to Latinxs dealing with fragmented identities as it is written in by a non-white author and describes this affirmation of in-between-ness.

The concept of fragmented identities is very rarely defined by a qualified individual; which often results in a “single-story” a concept made famous in a Ted Talk by a writer, speaker, and more relevantly a Nigerian minority who articulates prejudices enacted on her self.

Around the beginning of the 20th century only a small portion of the world's populace existed in urban areas. Individuals would die not far from their place of origin. However, if you lived in a small village; everyone would be familiar with you, this familiarity would last, and often would be from corner to corner over a myriad of diverse perspectives. The views of the ethos seen constantly being enacted around you would frequently be identical, habitually controlled everywhere by religion.

However, now, the aforementioned would cease to exist: the inventive contemporaneousness of the 21st century has scythed the earth as it were grain. The development, economic development and entrepreneurship cleared the forests that were villages, lives had now become gradually more diverse and fragmented. In light of these developments, I believe the traditional and communal creations where we once entrenched our individualities fractured and coasted away from each other. Our uniqueness relocated with them.

There would be a different currency for “not being fragmented” in this novel society. I propose in the 21st century this currency would no longer be made up anything even resembling a semblance of someone’s reputation or personality. Sadly, this system of “currency” plays no part towards deep relationships forming. The beginning of fragmentation to one’s personal identity can only be understood once we start start with the fragmentation of one from our society. In the 21st century, now, one who is not intellectual, of similar racial and religious backgrounds, and of only common experiences and territory would have to stand on the side-lines of society’s court.

I would suggest fragmented identities concerning one individual can be best defined by the author named W.E.B. Du Bois. I believe him to be an authority before his time on the concept. Just a glimpse into Du Bois’ background lends credit to my aforementioned arguments about the 20th century. In 1895, just before the turn of the 20th century Du Bois would become the first African-American to earn a PhD from Harvard University. Du Bois saw the future. He warned us with this theory of double consciousness that fragmented identities would become a problem before 21st century, and before they were ever were even defined. Du Bois describes his theory of double consciousness as:

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife- this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn’t bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.

Du Bois goes as far to describe double consciousness as two warring ideas, which can be found as deep as an individual’s soul. This theory of double consciousness is of specific importance to Latin Americans and their culture in the early 20th century. One could argue that even the name Latin-American supports the dichotomy of double consciousness or fragmented identities in Latinx individuals. On one hand they are Latin and on the other they are Americans, therefore a perception of identity that Latinx persons possessed was one about their conflicting societal roles as Americans and as Latinx people. Double consciousness, again, is more figuratively “the sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.” Du Bois’ theory of double consciousness can be applied to Latinx individuals in the way that they must look at themselves through the eyes of white people and sometimes give way to their perceptions.

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.” Adichie’s, Ted Talk tells us how fragmented identities can be harmful in her own way; using her own terminology. Also, possibly more importantly, how they can be the results of being told a single-story one’s entire childhood. I believe another important take away of her speech is that often these single stories that lend to fragmented identities are often not purported by outspoken racists such as the KKK, but by famous acclaimed writers of our history. Adichie’s ideas are not spoken to condemn the novelist, but rather to enlighten us that we are all guilty of continuing and maintaining stereotypes that create the single-story.

Nigerian author, Adichie, cautions us that we are creating cultural misconstructions when we forget that everyone’s lives and identities are composed of a myriad of stories that repeatedly overlap. She uses her American literature knowledge and a witty interaction with the reader of her novel to demonstrate this in her 2009 Ted talk. She explains to her audience that she is conversing with an American student who has read her novel. The novel she had written contained an abusive male husband. The student suggested that her novel over claimed the frequency of Nigerian men who were abusive towards woman. She replies “all young American men are serial killers.” Which of course without context her claim would hold no water. However, if just like the student claimed Nigerian men were abusive from just her “single-story,” than one could conclude the same from the “single-story” American Psycho. Everyone giggles at the irrationality of this simplification; however her point becomes extremely clear. It is now obvious the hazards of a single-story. The main reason being that it keeps a population from drawing conclusions that are authentic concerning individuals and literature with said population.

The important part of this is that the single stories creates stereotypes that when repeated lead to fragmented identities. Specifically related to the Latinx cultures, and Adichie’s example of male abuse towards woman; there is a masculine pride known as machismo. This machismo is often derived from Spanish and Portuguese cultures; and can be simply and wantingly defined as a macho male. On the other hand machismo is recognized as the need to be, and be demonstrated as manly. Or only reliant on one’s self. This notion is connected with masculine pride, but is often exaggerated. It has been exaggerated to the point where Latinx individuals are painted with the single-story that they must do anything (often criminally) to support their families. As well as, as the head-of-the-household one knows what is best; and can abuse woman who are under their care without consequence. Even as a non-Latino man I have felt this responsibility to provide for, protect, and defend my family habitually.

If society believes, and thus tells us a Latinx must be machismo in the way of the latter definition, one may start feeling that one varies in some way from that stereotype. If one believes that these stereotypes are true from the single-story model; this could obviously destroy self-confidence and create a double conscious as Du Bois described. The damage is twofold concerning machismo, often Latin males feel they must uphold the standard; in the result ends up catastrophic for their families. In addition, if one feels this standard must be upheld in fails; they feel their personality wanting, that they are not a man, and can end up with an even more fragmented identity. Machismo hurts men too; Jimenez confirms this. With his own heart-felt testimony he sadly confirms my aforementioned points. Latinx cultures are being torn by the single-story of Machismo, but also the destruction it brings when one tries to uphold the stereotype. Even if they are of the culture the stereotype is constructed for, we can propagate out own fragmented identities.

“…I was already the immigrant kid that didn't know enough English I wanted to be accepted and liked I also noticed that the bad-boy demeanor was rewarded and that's what we are taught as boys to be aggressive in the face of adversity…” (Jimenez, 00:01:54 - 00:02:22).

Fragmented identities can also be seen in the short story “We came all the way from Cuba so you could dress like this?” Obejas’ narrator not only suffers by being a racial minority she is also a lesbian and is poor. Therefore the narrator has a triple crisis she feels being Cuban she is treated differently. This short story tells the tale of a young girl, the narrator of the story; with her anti-communist family from Cuba; during the time in which Fidel Castro took power.

The story focuses on her in a different time frame or setting in which the narrator speaks about her story after her father has since died. She is exploring her journey from that previously shy girl with the green sweater in the immigration office when she arrived in America. This is an example of a fragmented sense of self, specifically directing our attention her Latin-American roots being the possible cause she is not accepted by a significant other the narrator meets in the short story. She wonders if she could love a woman in Cuba the way she can in the United States. Another fragmented identities displayed by the narrator was not only her Latin American identity, but the dichotomy of fragmentation’s that occurred as she came to age. “My green sweater will be somewhere in the closet of my bedroom in their house” (Obejas 228). This quote shows in a poetic way that once the green sweater was taken off she left her childhood and entered another identity as an adult. In addition this now adult would also be challenged with the triple crisis that affords her less opportunities.

The story-telling of Obejas frequently shifts back and forth between chronicled sequences that follow the narrator’s experiences at the immigration office. For example, there is a scene in which with a Catholic former-prostitute who can be seen in a literary way to foreshadow the narrator sexuality. Moreover, she can foreshadow her life in America in the years that are forthcoming after her family’s visit to the immigration office. The narrator’s father criticizes our narrator’s clothes; which some would say that her clothes are an “Americanized wardrobe”; I believe this aspect is what affords the title of the story, and more importantly the book in which these short stories are held.

Throughout the story, she is often seen struggling with discovering her fragmented identities, and may have an even harder time discovering themselves as people who display double consciousness traits. The plan was to eventually return to Cuba upon Castro’s fall, however she grows up in the United States and comes to age being considered as a Cuban-American. It is fairly obvious in this way where her fragmented identity comes from; there is subtexts that she is not Cuban enough for her parents, but still not American enough for significant others. The narrator’s political and ideological views drastically diverge from her family’s views. Therefore, this becomes a large source of exchanges had between her and her parents. This coming of age tail which hosts her search for her fragmented identity becomes emphasized when the changes in narration, and because of the first-person point of view of the unnamed narrator. I believe the author was very wise in leaving the main character unnamed; this furthers the point that one does not fully understand themselves, and by not labeling her with the name shows us a fragmented identity rather than a personality that is concrete, well known, and for the most part stable like most individuals’.

The unnamed narrator possesses a green sweater that she is wearing as she jobs has left the boat to emigrate from Cuba to Miami, this long journey was attempted by her parents to escape the political confinements of Fidel Castro a very well-known communist in Cuba. She is around 10 years old at this time. Her parents had all the right ideals in mind in order to break free from the oppressive political country, and escape to America. In addition to having the right ideals; I believe it was no easy feat for her parents. This transition in itself forced her to accept her new life with all the responsibilities that came with it in this brand-new place that she has never known.

As mentioned before, the author jumps forward in time to show the coming of age story in gradual increments, at the same time the author still reverts to the present which we know the story actually takes place. There are tiny glimpses or small jumps into the narrator’s future which give us the feeling that she’s gradually growing up. Certain memories are shown specifically more than others that call attention to significant parts of her life which give the audience a feeling that they may be experiencing her growing older.

Another fragmented identities spoken about in this text deals with the fact that she used to be a native Cuban and disagrees with her father’s mentality of what he believes Cuba is and how America may be superior in ways. Obejas writes “and I’ll say it’s a free country, and I can do anything I want, remember”. This is mocking and defying her father in this scene the narrator is talking back to her father possibly showing some distain for the American culture. This identity is fragmented from her father’s view or what a family unit should seem to believe. “And knowing that Nixon really wasn’t the one, and won’t do anything” this affirmation quote shows that the narrator is developing political opinions that differ from her father’s or her family units thus creating another fragmented identity from her father’s beliefs.

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In conclusion, for all the whys and wherefores revealed, and pointed out it is particularly difficult for United States’ Latinx citizens to negotiate transnationalism and fragmented identities. This is generally the case because individualities depicted as stereotypes are undeniably creations, however, community organizations and systems are creations in the same way. The fact they are creations, however, does not mean that they do not have visceral impacts on Latinx, and their culture.

Works Cited

  1. Adichie, Chimamanda N. “The Danger of a Single Story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.” YouTube, 6 Oct. 2009, www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg.
  2. Anzaldúa, Gloria E. “Chicana Artists: Exploring Nepantla, El Lugar De La Frontera.”
  3. NACLA, nacla.org/article/chicana-artists-exploring-nepantla-el-lugar-de-la-frontera.
  4. Adichie, Chimamanda N. “Machismo hurts men too | Alejandro Jimenez | TEDxMileHigh.” YouTube, 6 Oct. 2009, www.youtube.com/watch?v=tue7ECtTIMg.
  5. Garrett, Natasha (2011) TRANSNATIONALISM, HOME AND IDENTITY: PERSONAL ESSAYS. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)
  6. Obejas, Achy, 1956-. We Came All the Way from Cuba so You Could Dress like This?,
  7. “We Came All the Way from Cuba so You Could Dress like This?”1994. Print.
  8. The Souls of Black Folk. Du Bois, W. E. B. (1903). The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Dover Publications.
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Transnationalism And Double Consciousness In The 21st Century. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 29, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/transnationalism-and-double-consciousness-in-the-21st-century/
“Transnationalism And Double Consciousness In The 21st Century.” GradesFixer, 18 Mar. 2021, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/transnationalism-and-double-consciousness-in-the-21st-century/
Transnationalism And Double Consciousness In The 21st Century. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/transnationalism-and-double-consciousness-in-the-21st-century/> [Accessed 29 Feb. 2024].
Transnationalism And Double Consciousness In The 21st Century [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Mar 18 [cited 2024 Feb 29]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/transnationalism-and-double-consciousness-in-the-21st-century/
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