Birzeit University, Conference on American Studies

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Research Title: 
Cultural Coding and Decoding Practices in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Tar Baby
Abdel Karim Daragmeh
Sat, 2006-04-01
Research Abstract: 

This paper falls into history and memory studies in the post-colonial tradition, particularly the controversy over the pastness of the past and its relevance, irrelevance or partial relevance in the present. The paper marks out moments of reallocation of the recourses of history and memory in two Morrison texts: Song of Solomon (1977) and Tar Baby (1981). In addition to the concepts of racial injustice, economic exploitation of the subaltern, commitment to black history and cultural heritage, all common themes in the critical canon on Toni Morrison, the novels also represent a conflict between several discourses of value coding within the black community itself . The divergence between these discourses opens a space in which members of the black community can look beyond a cruel past and a stagnant present to rethink the way the black society organizes itself , a move which , to a significant extent , determines its social , economic , and political condition in the present. By introducing alternative social meanings, Morrison engages in a multi-layered cultural coding which questions hegemonic practices beyond which it becomes hard for members of the black community to move freely. It is these deconstructive moments that the paper brings into focus through an examination of the emergent cultural formations in the two texts.