goto Appendx main menu Emancipation Theory : Milton S. F. Curry
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 I found prominent black architects in particular actually mocking theory and demarcating it as an exclusively white terrain and the site of elite rhetoric
In a convoluted way, I began this essay in the third grade, where my interest in architecture originated, there, one black among others. It was also in that space of intellectual primacy that the forces that would most profoundly influence my educational and professional pedigree would come into existence. The forces of which I speak are those of alienation and identity. 

Entrenched in discourses of difference, otherness, subalterity, marginality, and the like, my initial thoughts for these  inaugural remarks in this new discursive space had more to do with my status as an individual within any one of these categories than with any presumed group identity. And by group identity, I am recalling instances in which I am constantly asked to explain myself relative to outdated, racist, and ignorant perceptions of what I am supposed to represent to any number of different constituencies at any one time. In addition, I am often addressed as if  I  were still an outsider, whether in an educational or professional context. At a recent church service I was told that I looked like a preacher, simply because I was clean-cut, dressed in a suit and tie, and was black and male. At architecture juries, I am perceived as the mad black nationalist, for bringing cultural issues to the fore. In some black circles I am perceived as a traitor because I attended elite, predominantly white universities. In some white circles I am treated as the "exotic" because my own subjectivity and acculturation cut across so many social and cultural boundaries. For some I am too white. For others I am too black. 

The complexity of these negotiationsthese shiftings of identity between black, American, heterosexual, male, professional, academic, etc., led me to a closer examination of areas within my own discipline of architecture that acted to perpetuate these circumstances where overdetermination by others is total. I set out on parallel paths: one line of inquiry was to define those internal mechanisms (internal to the institution of architecture) that perpetuated myths of categorization, stereotype, and cultural ignorance, and the other was focused on the dynamic of how other disciplines and society as a whole affect the discipline of architecture in ways that uphold these stereotypes and deficiencies. 

I found chronic and pathological inconsistencies in the mainstream logics of several so-called architectural theorists, as well as broader problematics within other disciplines and society as a totality. It was not until this crisis that I realized that the rules of engagement were one-sided: I was constantly being asked to relinquish any cultural differences or ethnic "baggage" to conform to normative paradigms, while the normative paradigms neither shifted nor inflected to accommodate what seemed Appendx 1 page break 64 | 66 like my own alienated subjectivity. This is precisely where alienation and the construction of identity (racial, national, social, sexual, etc.) intersect.   I found architectectural thoery ... to be a haven for the production of an elite and guarded discourse that claims cultural authority without sufficiently grounding itself in the lived experiences of those whose lives are affected by its dissemination. 
A second and equally important set of discoveries were explicitly connected to the notion of "theory." I found architectural theory (as defined thus far in its incubancy) to be a haven for the production of an elite and guarded discourse that claims cultural authority without sufficiently grounding itself in the  experiences of those whose lives are affected by it. I also found a profound reluctance on the part of contemporary revolutionary intellectuals in architecture (of which there are extremely few) to use theory as a site of resistance and critical dialogue. Instead I found prominent black architects, in particular, actually mocking theory, and demarcating it as an exclusively white terrain and the site of elite rhetoric. 

In architecture there has long existed an interdisciplinary ideal for the field. Although the cultural/economic status of the architect has Appendx 1 page break 66 | 67 diminished in the Americas, it has only recently been problematized as being at variance with the advancement of multiple subject positionalities. Women, blacks, Africans, Native Americans, gays and lesbians, and a whole host of "others" have been at the forefront of attempts to recover the ideal of America as illuminated in the founding documents of the union (however hypocritical these documents may be). The problems of subalterity, however, are far more complex than a diversity brigade parading around the college campus or civic square. 

Representational paradigms, new visual media, and veiled political agendas have made it increasingly difficult to distinguish between progress and regress (how many of us watched with sorrow and ambivalence the Senate confirmation hearings of Judge Clarence Thomas?). Moreover, the different perspectives within which to frame these constantly shifting realities are diminishing, the site of resistance becoming an ever-narrowing corridor of escape.Appendx 1 page break 67 | 68  The onslaught of "bourgeois blackness" has prevented an entire class strata from being overtly political. This brand of blackness advocates buying into the dominant cultural and economic regimes that legitimize racism, and it does it under the guise of capitalism. Using one institution to legitimize another, class stratification has become a cornerstone of colonial and postcolonial strategies of political subdivision; the space of resistance is broken down into a spatial panoply, making it virtually impossible to garner solidarity based on anything but class, pitting the black middle class against the black underclass, for example. 

The seemingly monolithic viewpoint of black Americans toward issues of social change agendas and the dearth of divergent voices among self-appointed and group-appointed spokes-persons has added to the confusion. By insisting on singular group identities (i.e., black, heterosexual, Democrat, churchgoer, etc.) and excluding those who do not fit the profile (black, homosexual, non-churchgoer, Republican, etc.), these leaders have bought into white institutional thinking, which defines solidarity as sameness. They seek to reinstate the same characterization of individualized Afro-American life that abolitionists promoted in their publication of slave narratives: "Reviews and advertisements for the narratives routinely noted that 'slaves had a simple but moving story'  to tell—use of the singular noun testifying to belief in an undifferentiated sameness of existence."1 next page

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