African and Caribbean Culture Is The Foundation of the Gothic Movement
Shanna Collins
2594

A.) Commenters dissing this piece (and its authors) know the European roots of all things goth, sure. The goth scene showcases Eurocentrism relentlessly (arguably not its best feature). Consider that this article is (imperfectly) attempting to widen that discussion.

B.) Consider who benefits from this article — most notably goth-inclined folks with African and Caribbean roots that goth culture systemically devalues. Why are commenters in such a hurry to deny goths of color even one article’s worth of a stake in the aesthetic tradition?

C1.) As for the actual claims of goth’s roots in non-European cultures, there’s a good argument for it. Take a gander through any literary history of the gothic (e.g. Nick Groom’s lovely little book Gothic: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press). The gothic was — yes — essentially an idea formed by Europeans, but it was one specifically used to describe the cultural other. From Roman times to Anne Rice, the gothic entails a mystified conception of people on the “outside” of a given culture. Hence in Nosferatu, it’s vampires (cast as Eastern Europeans of Jewish origin); in Macbeth, it’s witches (old, unmarried, unchristian women), and in Wilkie Collins, HP Lovecraft, Poe, Conrad, and countless others, it’s the symbolically “black” identities of the world. Whether we’re talking about the austro/visi-goths or about gothic architecture, the social construction we’ve inherited is of these things as “them” and not “us.” This dialectical tension is why Siouxsie and the Banshees sing about silks and jewels and hyenas. Yes, the gothic is a largely western tradition, but it is not nor can it be solely western. THAT’S the point of the article — that and like I said, making outcast kids feel connected to a bigger history, which is a decidedly good thing.

C2.) Specifically, Groom and many others (not least of whom being Toni Morrison) argue pretty convincingly for slavery in the US as being the functional “Original Sin” on which the American Gothic (to take just one modern exponent) is predicated. And if you’ve read either any postcolonial theory (e.g. Paul Gilroy) or classic English lit (e.g. Aphra Behn), then you’ll know that this is not just an American thing. If the gothic symbolizes the return of the repressed (and it does), then its modern aesthetics are wrapped up in both a fearful denial of the outsider identity AND — layered now atop that — a denial of the west’s ugly history with that fearful denial.

D.) “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and “She’s In Parties” are borderline reggae songs, people. Bauhaus use a melodica solo to imitate Augustus Pablo, for instance. The Cure’s “The Hanging Garden” is predicated on African drums playing a clavé rhythm. The Sisters of Mercy frame their exoticism by filming videos in northern Africa, calling releases “Reptile House,” quoting the Afrolocated poem Ozymandias, and singing about tickets to Syria. Like, have y’all never noticed this? Let’s not get too precious. (All this to say nothing of the fact that nearly every meaningful forward advance in “dark” music of the last ten years has been steeped in blackness.)

TLDR: the article has valid points even if they’re overstated; to get butthurt over it basically looks like you’re bullying black kids who are searching for semiotic kinship. Also, read more.

Source: me = active as goth musician since the early 90s, Ph.D., teaches courses on punk and gothic history, wrote some books.

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