Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

The Necessity of Playfulness and Combating Arrogance

nmofokeng's picture

A couple weeks ago, I shared a youtube clip over twitter that was a response to the meme "Sh*t ____ says." In this case, the video ridiculed stereotypes that African Americans hold against Africans. Alice responded:

 This video is intense. What do you think about how it focuses exclusively on one group's ignorance? 

Having revisited Maria Lugone's articulation of world-traveling which details the ideas of arrogant perception and playfulness, I feel better equipped to respond to this question. The people who created this video, assuming they are Africans, feel themselves to be the victims, for lack of a better word, of arrogant perception. Wherein they feel that the African American gaze does not seek to engage with Africans but rather sees them as objects exterior to their own substance. Lugone aptly captures the idea of engaging across worlds, or simply between persons, as a kind of grafting of one's substance onto another - essentially taking in each other in order to deepen mutual udnerstanding. This video, on the other hand, is a manifestation of frustration with being marginalized and misrepresented/misunderstood by, what is in this case, a dominant discourse; noting that the recently immigrated African population in the US is a minority in comparison to the larger, more established African American community.

Lugone would push both groups to recognize their arrogant perspectives and the agonistic jousting that can be considered within the framework of a larger dominant discourse. This is where the pithy reproach of black on black violence, here taken to mean all harmful and unproductive interactions, has currency because the intraracial tensions echo the notion of divide and conquer. The racial sub-groups are engaged in the type of playfulness that Lugone would like to defect from in giving leverage to her alternate connotation, which entails an openness to mutual understanding. The unagonistic platform for interactions that allows for a breaking down of boundaries and the attainment of profound mutual perception. In this way, arrogance can be scuttled and replaced with a playful attitude.

As some of us prepare to travel, Lugone's alternate reading of the word "playful." It is only in the latter mindset that we can have symbolically productive experiences that will enrich our continued pursuit of meaning around literacy.


alesnick's picture

thank you

Thank you for so richly and deeply answering my question.  Your use of Lugones here does deep justice to that text, and at the same time you maintain and sound your own voice and perspective.  In tapping her discourse you don't lose yours.  It's wonderful.

The idea of play as a context for "mutual perception" outside of agonistic binaries, outside of violently created and policed boundaries, is potent. I am wondering how it might come into play for our group as we continue to pull our travel experience into text for our course(s) -- as we process.  To me, there is something open-ended about play, and also something deeply social, and not entirely rational.  Play is in the doing, not in the rule book.  

Maybe arrogant perception can come from a wish to dominate, yes, but also from fear, from fear of not knowing . . . I am thinking that moving without knowing has a place here.  You?