“Do You Realize How Loaded Fried Chicken is as a Metaphor Here?”
Black Diasporic Identity, as described by Stuart Hall in “Cultural Identity and Diaspora,” can be broken down into two main features. However, it is crucial to first establish that Hall also characterizes Identity as something that must be placed within context; it is something that is “from a particular place and time, from a history and a culture which is specific”(222). And since Identity is shaped by its context, the formation of a Black Diasporic Identity is, by no means, a static process because cultural identities are “constantly producing and reproducing themselves anew, through transformation and difference”(Hall 235). Hence, Hall considers cultural identity to be dynamic, simultaneously defined by both “the vector of similarity and continuity; and the vector of difference and rupture”(Hall 226). Accordingly, one key feature of Black Diasporic Identity is a shared, collective identity that draws together all people with a common origin or in other words, from the same roots. The second key feature is the Difference that are present among people who are supposedly classified as ‘One’ because they have ended up in different places and have subsequently lived through different histories. Acknowledging this importance of Differences in the shaping of cultural identity, Black Diasporic Identity is thereby composed from both the Sameness and the Difference of experiences.
Although Adichie’s Americanah does represent both key features that Hall discusses, Adichie particularly draws upon the notion that Black Diasporic Identity emerges from Difference. One instance in which this occurs was when Ifemelu admits her jealousy of Paula, Blaine’s ex-girlfriend, to Blaine and subsequently expresses her exasperation in being unable to find any commonalities with Blaine in the same ways that Paula could. Taking fried chicken as an example, Ifemelu tries to tell Blaine that “‘for you and Paula, fried chicken is battered. For me, fried chicken has no batter. I just thought about how you both have a lot in common’”(Adichie 409). In having Ifemelu comment on how Americans batter their fried chicken while Nigerians do not, it seems unlikely that Adichie wastrying to paint Ifemelu as the petty girlfriend, jealous of her boyfriend’s exes. Instead, Adichie specifically takes the loaded fried chicken metaphor in order to point out that Differences do exist between Blaine and Ifemelu and those differences shape their cultural identities, respectively. Subsequently, what truly unsettles Ifemelu is not that Blaine would make fried chicken differently than how she would make it but the fact that such a difference does exist and cannot be disregarded. In other words, there are great differences in the experiences that Blaine has had, as an African-American man, and in the ones that Ifemelu has had, as a woman who had immigrated to the United States from Nigeria relatively recently, in the United States. And as Ifemelu reconciles with the notion that she cannot completely identify with Blaine, this only strengthens Hall’s argument that though there are “many points of similarity, there are also critical points of deep significant difference which constitute ‘what we really are’ or rather — since history has intervened — ‘what we have become.’”(225). This difference is also explored later in the novel when Blaine is organizing a protest against an act of racism that had taken place on campus and had expected Ifemelu to attend but “she merely preferred to go to Kavanagh’s going-away lunch…”(Adichie 426). The differences in their experiences with systemic racism in the United States is clearly reflected in Blaine’s anger and Ifemelu’s apathy. In this way, Adichie represents how the differences in cultural identity across different Black Diasporic communities are produced by differences in their experiences.
(Side Note: The title of this blog post is a quote that comes from a comment that Blaine makes on p.409 of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.)
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Americanah. New York: Anchor, 2013.
Hall, Stuart. “Cultural Identity and Diaspora.” Ed. Jonathan Rutherford. Identity, Community, Culture, Difference (1990): 222–237.