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Destination Gorée: A Dialogic Analysis of the Dialectic of Un-Belonging and Belonging As Rehearsed and Performed Through Diasporic Tourism


Since the beginning of the triangular African slave trade, many African Americans have held a fascination with Africa as demonstrated through the recirculation of the “return to Africa” meme found in their storytelling, religious practices and music. From sequestered spaces of un-belonging such as plantations and Jim Crow segregation, African Americans have rehearsed and repeated tropes of the simultaneous duality of pain and transcendence that the earliest African slaves had encoded. Over the course of time, few African Americans could successfully fulfill their dream to return home to the Promised Land, on the other side of their pained and terrorized lives that their collective narratives had assured. Not until the Post Civil Rights Era have descendants of the legacy of slavery completed the actual ritual of the return to Africa. Since the 1970’s diasporic tourism by African Americans to popular sites of memory like Gorée Island in Senegal has increased. By illuminating the inextricable relationships between hegemonic and cultural narratives, Black Atlantic and mainstream American religions, and African American musical traditions, I analyze the “performance of transformation” that occurs at sites of memory such as the Maison Des Esclaves, the Slave House, on Gorée Island in Senegal. To explicate this transformational process, I engage dialogues between ethnographic recordings, historical data, news reports, interviews and personal memoir writing. Drawing from Critical Race Theory, Ethnomusicology, and Performance Studies, I situate the dialectic of un-belonging and belonging with an overlay of the rehearsal/performance paradigm onto the ritual process. By using the metaphors of music and theater, I will validate diasporic tourism as a means of redressing cultural alienation and un-belonging. As sequestration persists today in hyper-segregated spaces like Ferguson, Missouri and the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, diasporic tourism may serve as an antidote to the problems in those spaces.

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