A Rhetoric of Cultural Contract

Tuyen D. Nguyen, Gerald Powell


This analysis utilizes Ronald Jackson’s (2002) theoretical framework, Cultural Contracts of Identity, to explore the negotiation process of black identity, via Malcolm X, the central character in Spike Lee’s cinematic production of X. Jackson’s theory punctuates three socio-communicative constraints, otherwise known as cultural contracts, with which one can examine black identity—ready-to-sign, quasi-completed, and cocreated. Jackson used the term cultural contracts to refer to “the end product of identity negotiation; hence every ‘signed’ or agreed-upon cultural contract has a direct impact on one’s identity” (p. 49). As such, the study underscores the fluid dialectical tension echoing between one’s contract and one’s identity. The focus here, then, is on explaining how one’s identity is contingent upon the present and ensuing contracts. Select passages from the film X clearly articulating a compromise in Malcolm’s identity to establish a change in worldview, where possible, serve as the impetus for this analysis.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/ijel.v2n2p3

International Journal of English Linguistics   ISSN 1923-869X (Print)   ISSN 1923-8703 (Online)

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