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Nehemie Pierre
Professor John Glenn
June 14th 2013
Theory Exercise 3
Co-Optation in its self means an election in which members of a committee (or similar group)
vote to fill a vacancy on that committee or in basic terms to: elect as a fellow member of a group.
Barbara Christian was an author and professor of African American Studies at the University of
California. She has published over 100 articles and several books. She is well known for Black Women
Novelists: The Development of a Tradition. She died in 2000 from Cancer. The name of the article I
used is The Race for Theory. Barbara Christian has said about Co-optation that her "concern, then is
a passionate one, for the literature of people who are not in power has always been in danger of
extinction or co-optation, not because we do not theorize, but because what we can even imagine, far
less who we can reach, is constantly limited by societal structures. Whats she is saying here is that
people of literature are being spoken for. Their voices are pried from them leaving them voiceless; they
are treated like children who do not know whats best for them, as if they do not have brains.
In Ralph Ellisons Invisible Man we can see this theory come into play on page 139 when
Dr.Bledsoe calls the narrator a Nigger. The narrator it seems has gone through a lot to distinguish
himself away from that term and the person who has helped him build himself up is now throwing him
into that group based upon his actions. Another example would be where Dr.Bledsoe decides for the
narrator that he is to go to New York to work and find money for his final year of college. He abruptly
tells him he has 2 days to close his affairs. He doesnt allow the narrator any other option and hes
unwilling to hear him out. Another example would be on page 221, the narrator has just walked in on a
Union Meeting and the group labels him a fink. The group asks the narrator if he wants to join the

Union but many members oppose so they decide that he cant be in the group. They didnt even give
him a chance to decide for himself if he wanted to be in the Union group. We can also see Co-Optation
when the narrator is now the Spokesperson for the Brotherhood and hes told several times hell be the
instrument to voice the concerns of the group. But he makes the mistake of portraying Tod Clifton as
a heroic icon to the public when he gets killed by the police. The Brotherhood opposes him and he is
told he isnt to allow his emotions or personal beliefs to come through during speeches. He is here for
their use and purpose only.
In terms of the writing, culture, and African American Literature the theory Co-optation plays a
large role. White people have tried to speak for blacks in the past stating slavery wasnt as horrendous
as portrayed and that its time blacks stop using it as leverage. Which I think is ridiculous! Nobodys
telling the Jews to forget the Holocaust. Plenty of talk show hosts also like to speak for celebrities. The
government speaks for the poor. My generation speaks for me even though I, myself oppose everything
they stand for. Many people are left in the dark as other people with more money or knowledge speak
for them.