Chapter

African American Watersheds

Anissa Janine Wardi

in Water and African American Memory

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780813037455
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813042343 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5744/florida/9780813037455.003.0001
African American Watersheds

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This chapter establishes that water—fluid, shifting, and indeterminate—is the material center of this book, and is employed as a framework for theorizing survival and trauma, diasporic and regional connections, and physical and psychological dislocations. Beginning with the transatlantic trade voyage, in which Africans were taken from their homelands and placed in the holds of slaving vessels—and during which, estimates suggest, one-third of the captives died—this project reveals that the confluence of death, loss, migration, and water is endemic to African American culture. August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean and Langston Hughes' “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” illustrate the indelible relationship between bodies of water and human bodies. Water is ancestrally embodied in these works, and encounters with it therefore often function as both confrontations with traumatic memory and rites of healing. Thus, ancestral communion is achieved by confronting the realm of the dead through water immersion. Further, waterways, carriers of memory, are interrelated and often morphing into one another, suggesting that the Middle Passage is an assumed presence in bodies of water.

Keywords: watersheds; African Diaspora; ecocriticism; Langston Hughes; August Wilson; Gem of Ocean; trauma

Chapter.  10819 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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