For lab 6, I chose to create a network analysis graph for the seventeenth chapter of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s _Americanah. _Each node on the graph represents a different character in chapter seventeen. The main character, Ifemelu, is located in the center because most relationships revolve around her. Each node has an id number and an attribute number associated with it. These values can be found in the “Nodes” table that I have uploaded to Box. Each id number serves as a means of identifying each character; no two characters have the same id number. However, the attribute that I chose to keep track of was skin color. So, each character’s attribute is numbered either one, two, or three. If the attribute is one, that means that the skin color of the character is black. If the attribute number in two, the skin color of the character is white. If the attribute number is three, the skin color is either unknown or not explicitly stated. In the “Edges” table (also located on Box), I have listed all of the interactions between the characters in chapter seventeen organized by source and target. The id and attribute numbers are necessary to reference in order to understand these interactions without looking at the network analysis graph.
Because Adichie reflects on what it means to be black, American, and African throughout the novel, I thought that creating a network analysis graph tracking the attribute of skin color would be particularly fascinating, and it was. As I tracked the attribute throughout the chapter, I realized that skin color was often implied by the words Adichie used. However, I felt as though just because skin color may have been implied, I could not take responsibility for deciding the skin color of a particular character or group of people solely based on a conversation or description from the book. I chose to create a graph tracking the attribute of skin color as opposed to race because I feel like this book is all about contesting preconceived notions of what it means to be black, American, and African. Just because a person is black, it doesn’t mean that he or she is from Africa, nor does it mean that he or she is not American. As challenging as it was to keep up with the attribute of skin color, I think it would’ve been even more challenging, maybe even impossible, to create a network analysis graph showing the race of the characters without inferring from interactions and descriptions in the text. When deciding what the different categories for the skin color attribute would be, it seemed unfair to me to have only three categories, but because I was often unaware of the exact shade of a character’s skin tone, I felt like I would have to do even more guessing if I didn’t just keep it to black, white, and unknown/unidentified.
Something interesting that I noticed after creating this visualization was that the skin color of almost all of the characters who were given names was identified, but the skin color of those who were just named by their titles was often left to the reader to infer based on the conversations, interactions, and descriptions. Depending on the reader’s personal biases and prejudices, it would seem to me that he or she would make personal decisions about the skin color of the characters’ whose skin color is not explicitly stated or described. This network analysis graph has also allowed me to see some of the bigger political and ideological statements that Adichie is making with this novel. Because the skin color of characters who are not explicitly named is left up to the reader to determine, it seems as though Adichie is trying to articulate the fact that skin color doesn’t matter as much as we may claim it does, that people of all skin colors fit into many different categories. She exemplifies this as she does not include the skin color of many of the characters: “foreigners,” “rich folk,” “poor folk,” “North,” “South,” “Liberals,” “Conservatives,” “library guard,” “patient,” “another,” “telemarketer,” “movers,” “woman,” “playing children,” etc.