Early in the course I like to have student perform a close reading of Chimamanda Adichie’s A Thing Around Your Neck. By doing this, I hope to effectively introduce students to the inherent multiplicity of communication. I will encourage students to find a way to attune their own way of communicating to another composer’s, namely for the sake of intertextuality in argumentation. I think it would be great to show them how the tension in the monolingual power structure is violent, and we should work to resist such violence being done to those who do not fit the colonial mold.
With this lesson plan, I ask my students to critically engage with the stories to pull out the moments when Adichie shows that an attunement is needed to communicate across language barriers. In almost all of the short stories, the characters negotiate the communicative spaces between them, which produces the art of critical thinking. We see worldviews shift with each interaction as people need to find a commonality between them, while also critically and creatively using the resources available to them. They use communication as a means to an end, which is often for safety, for communion, or for important information that needs to be shared. I would ask my students to focus on “A Private Experience” where we see this dynamic clearly. Women of different backgrounds and life stories must find a common ground to understand each other and their surrounding while they survive in their situations. From the beginning, we see Chika use non-verbal features to try to understand “the woman”:
I ask discussion questions that allow students to see the meaning behind the language that was communicated non-verbally through a study of aesthetics. This text uses the space between Chika and “the woman” where non-verbal communication is happening to show how Chika gives meaning to “the woman” and her stakes in this situation by looking at her clothes. Chika puts what she sees in the context with space and time. This, in addition to the verbal language spoken later, gives new meaning to the situation and their involvement. When discussing this text in class, I will ask my students to examine the “quiet” space in between them, and see how the narration shows how communication and meanings are generated with a multiplicity of verbal and nonverbal language usage.
This lesson allows students to practice rhetorical readings and analyses, while also seeing power dynamics rhetoric. And the violence of standardization. I feel as though my education was always at the mercy of white hegemonic power systems that sought to mold me into what Homi Bhabha calls a “reformed, recognizable Other”. I was told to always strive to fit into an identity that I was never meant to be in. My pedagogical stance works to fill in the gaps of what was my educational training so that I can help other students, and the public, to not worry about fitting a certain “standard” that never intended to encompass all of who we are.