Mapping Commonplaces: Replanting The Mayflower

By Kwesi Billups

Introduction

Throughout the course of the semester, students in my College Writing Seminar have embarked on a semester-long journey to investigate the rhetorical situations of various locations around the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. Some students chose to work with street intersections, while others chose more historically documented and culturally relevant locations such as Black Broadway or local theaters. Of the locations offered to my class, presented on a class map, I chose to work with The Mayflower Hotel for reasons that I am, frankly, unsure of. And, although I’ve lived in the D.C. metropolitan area for around 14 years, I had never heard of what I would learn to recognize as one of the foremost luxury hotels in the city. I began the semester lost on how to approach my analysis of a commercial entity as a regional sociopolitical actor, but I would find that my lack of familiarity with The Mayflower would provide so many more avenues by which to deconstruct the built environment of the hotel.

Below are the links to the components of my analysis of The Mayflower Hotel:

Cultural Description

Political Description

Rhetorical Analysis

Annotated Bibliography

Project: Rhetorical Analysis of Text

Commonplace Book

As you check out the works featured on this site and my final project, join me in Replanting The Mayflower. Check out my presentation HERE.

 

At the end of this journey, I propose “replanting” The Mayflower because representation grants social capital in high-end spaces. The Mayflowers rejection of D.C. cultural symbols speaks volumes to it’s consumer base, but even more to the demographically excluded populations.

When I visited the hotel for the first time, I was, simply put, awestruck. I wondered how a palace in the heart of Downtown D.C. could have evaded my awareness for so long. It didn’t take very long for me to recognize why I hadn’t heard of The Mayflower. For all of it’s grandeur, I recognized that it wasn’t built for me. And beyond having been built towards attracting a certain demographic, the current atmosphere of the hotel sustains what my research would suggest are long-held standards. During my visit to the area, I encountered four homeless individuals in what could not have been more than a 200 foot walk from the metro station to the front door of the hotel, but that fact was lost on me after entering the palace known as The Mayflower Hotel. Furthermore, there wasn’t a single D.C. flag on the exterior of the hotel, noting the cultural isolation that the Mayflower seeks to maintain.

Set on creating the perfect environment for professionals, socialites, and politicians to engage in their respective pursuits, The Mayflower Hotel has hosted countless dinners and events to feed its image of high-class living to those with the means to pay for it. The interior of The Mayflower Hotel astoundingly reflects the cultural field that it serves as, and the escape from the bustling urbanism of Downtown Washington D.C. In truth, The Mayflower is an an oasis from the vibrancy of the the city, into an environment of indulgence. What anthropologist Edward Hall termed an “extension,” The Mayflower Hotel instilled its values into the very built structure of the site, allowing the exclusions laden within the social framework of the hotel to extend beyond the limited time and space of human interaction.

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