Monday, May 20, 2013

Somehow they manage to bring in Nietsche as well.

Back to Zora Neale Hurston.

I thought I'd do a little more research on Hurston's life in order to add to the upcoming discussions. I found this:

Guantanamo, Eatonville, Accompong: Barbecue and the Diaspora in the Writings of Zora Neale Hurston

To quote, "Hurston’s lifelong interest in questions of cultural provenance seems activated by the opportunity to depict African ritual yet suppressed, silenced, when it comes to the native origins of barbecue."

Barbecue, eh? Now, to any of my gentle readers who may indeed be anthropologists, literary theorists, or a member of any of the learned groups whose job, or perhaps lifework, it is to analyze such patterns in literature: please do not take offense.

But, barbecue?? Cooking food over a fire? I honestly couldn't stop laughing as I read through it. I'm a Southern girl, and I loves me a good barbecue, but I don't think it ever occured to me to think of it as anything other than food. Food cooked over a fire. I may be going out on a limb here, but I'll argue somewhat emphatically that that is something that occurs all over the world. Sometimes a barbecue is just... a barbecue.

Still, if the May 21st Spring Book Group discussion proves me wrong, I will soak my words in barbecue sauce, grill them until the letters fall apart, and devour them happily.

I will never question again "barbecue’s torrid colonial history, its turbulent and rhizomatic outward journey from Guantanamo Bay to Eatonville and elsewhere..."

The source I have terribly lampooned:
Warnes, A. (2006). Guantanamo, eatonville, accompong: Barbecue and the diaspora in the writings of zora neale hurston. Journal of American Studies, 40(2), 367-389. Retrieved from


  1. Joanna -

    Respectfully, I believe I need to "discuss" your idea that "barbecue is just .... a barbecue." While I am not able to agree with the thesis postulated by the article ("barbecue's torrid colonial history"? - HUH?), for it seems as though it is being put forth as yet another "vehicle" for repression (no, sorry - I did NOT read the article). I must agree with you: humankind has "barbecued", i.e., roasted meat over open fires, since fire was discovered. I have a difficult time making the "jump" from this very basic, very human use of a "tool" (fire) as an instrument of oppression. Of course, the elements of what "barbecue" would evolve into - an organized gathering of celebrants, where the food is cooked and served outdoors, certainly DID become oppressive, particularly when there were those who cooked, served and cleaned up (and, perhaps, ate something very different), and those who were served, ate what was prepared for them, and were cleaned up after by others - could certainly be argued as being oppressive (especially to the former group). But, this is not the element I wish to discuss here. As an anthropologist, I do believe that even Zora Neale Hurston would agree that there is a deeply embedded, ritualistic, anthropological aspect of food and the traditions surrounding food that would certainly include barbecue (I guess I would add that all you have to do is ask anyone from the Carolinas, Memphis, St. Louis, Texas or any other place with a long history regarding barbecue - how to prepare, how to sauce, and how to accompany it), and you would find a very different "right" answer as to how to undertake the "correct way" to the "perfect barbecue". Food is perhaps the most deeply engrained and ritualistic part of our varied "traditions" - each culture celebrates various "events" with ingredients which, at their purest form, may be the same, but in the END composition, may be very, very different (perhaps one of the best examples: BREAD. It may be flat, and made of corn in the Mexican tradition; flat and made of either wheat or chickpea flour in the Native American and Indian tradition; raised with either baking powder or yeast ..... its variations are endless throughout the cultures of the world - the taste, all delicious!!) Food, and its various means of preparation, which also vary widely the world round, based upon tradition, or availability of cooking fuel/source, is,however, an essential part of human survival - regardless of cultural origins or background. It is interesting, to me at least, to think about how Ms. Hurston's life-long interest in anthropology, and particularly, her support of encouraging a pride in "Negro" or "black culture", which is long-standing, and very rich, indeed. I believe that much of Richard Wright and others in the African American community's criticism of Ms. Hurston's use of "dialect" and including traditions from her community's culture, in such a strong, compassionate and informed way, was very threatening to them (particularly since it came from a woman), and hence, they felt the need to portray it negatively. It is, indeed, interesting and representative of the deep and strongly felt and held "convictions" we, as members of various cultures, backgrounds and traditions, continue to cling to, even in our "modern" world. Food for thought, certainly ...... :-)

  2. Wonderful response, Suzanne! I appreciate your insights about the ritualistic and cultural aspect of food and its traditions of preparation, serving, eating, etc. For me, as well, it was the leap between BBQ and "torrid colonial repression" that simply called out to be lampooned. LOL. But that in no way belittles the cultural tradition of BBQ. In fact, I could totally get behind a paper that investigated the use of the rich cultural traditions such as BBQ and how that is a signifier of so much hidden nuance.

    Also, I thought a lot about the "hero's quest" in Hurston's book. As you mentioned, her African American contemporaries objected to her "voice" (the impetus, I would surmise, is because they were indeed threatened by her as a women, and a "difficult" one, at that). But, as an anthropologist, she drew on deep human impulses in a mythological way, and as such, was one of very few women who depicted a woman as her own hero, on her own personal quest. I find it fascinating that we are still fighting these battles today, but in a different form (but that is yet another blog post. :-) )

    If I were living in Saranac Lake, I would most certainly host a library BBQ to celebrate this book!

    So, what are you reading next?

    1. Joanna -

      The Book Group will re-visit Ms. Hurston, having chosen her autobiography, DUST TRACKS ON THE ROAD, for our September book. I am interested in exploring this extraordinary woman a bit more - how significant her contributions were to the cannons of American literature, particularly as an African American woman. She would DEFINITELY make MY guest list for one of those "chose 5 people from history to invite to your dinner party" - I can only IMAGINE how interesting and lively THAT party would be!! From all I have read of her, she was rather known for being the "life" of parties she attended. I would very much enjoy her wit, wisdom and forward-thinking attitude. But, we "difficult" women need to stick together, I think! :-)

      I enjoy your posts very much - so glad to have you as a member of our little Book Group!
      Hope it is less rainy where you are than it has been here of late!
      Be well.
      Suzanne :-)