An Autoethnographic Analysis of “Our Time”
The 1960’s were a time of civil revolution for the black community. The civil rights movement was in full swing and the black community was determined to find their own identity. The antagonist to the civil rights movement was the association in the American imagination of black people with ugliness, danger, and deterioration because black life seemed to stem from the urban ghetto – the polar opposite to the “square world” of the white man. Some people living in these areas held a very different world view than those abiding by the norms of society. In this world, all the glamour, praise, and attention go to the slick guy, the “player”, or the “gangster” because they represented rebellion against a world that hated the community. In this world, it was unacceptable to be “good” and to be in was to be out of touch with the norms of right and wrong of the “square” world. This stark contrast of worldviews is cleverly portrayed in Wideman’s “Our Time” through the recollection of events by his mother, Robby, and himself, making it an autoethnographic / transcultural text in the sense that both worldviews are both self-portrayed and examined through the other viewpoint.
In order to analyze Wideman’s work it is imperative to understand the fundamentals of an autoethnography. Mary Louise Pratt describes an authoethnography in her work, “Arts of the Contact Zone: A text in which people engage with representations other have made of them…Autoethnographic texts are representations that the so-defined others construct in response to or in dialogue with those texts (ethnographies) … [T]hey involve a selective collaboration with and appropriation of idioms of the metropolis or the conqueror. These are merged or infiltrated to varying degrees with indigenous idioms to create self-representations intended to intervene in metropolitan modes of understanding…Such texts constitute a marginalized group’s point of entry into the dominant...
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