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Title: Ethnicity and the Post-Modern Arts of Memory
Author: Michael M.J. Fischer
in: James Clifford and George E. Marcus (eds.): The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography.
University of California Press: Berkeley, 1986
Ethnicity and the Post-Modern Arts of Memory
Michael M.J. Fischer
I. Conclusions and Re-Visions
"History as celebrated by Mnemosoune is a deciphering of the invisible, a geography of the supernatural. . . . It throws a bridge between the world of the living and that beyond to which everything that leaves the light of day must return. It brings about an "evocation" of the past.... Memory appears as a source of immortality...." Jean-Pierre Vernant
"Our period is not defined by the triumph of technology for technology's sake, as it is not defined by art for art's sake, as it is not defined by nihilism. It is action for a world to come, transcendence of its period- transcendence of self which calls for epiphany of the Other." Emanuel Levinas
This paper brings together two indirectly related ethnographic phenomena of the 1970s and 1980s - the florescence of ethnic autobiography and the academic fascination with textual theories of deferred, hidden, or occulted meaning (1) - in order to ask whether they can revitalize our ways of thinking about how culture operates and refashion our practice of ethnography as a mode of cultural criticism. just as the travel account and the ethnography served as forms for explorations of the "primitive" world (see Pratt in this volume) and the realist novel served as the form for explorations of bourgeois manners and the self in early industrial society, so ethnic autobiography and autobiographical fiction can perhaps serve as key forms for explorations of pluralist, post-industrial, late twentieth-century society.
The recent proliferation of autobiographical works that take ethnicity as a focal puzzle seems to be poorly accommodated within the traditional sociological literature on ethnicity. Works such as Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior (1976), Michael Arlen's Passage to Ararat (1975), and Marita Golden's Migrations of the Heart (1983) are inadequately comprehended through discussions of group solidarity, traditional values, family mobility, political mobilization, or similar sociological categories. Immigrant novels of rebellion against the family, intermarriage, and acculturation are more relevant to these sociological conceptions.
What the newer works bring home forcefully is, first, the paradoxical sense that ethnicity is something reinvented and reinterpreted in each generation by each individual and that it is often something quite puzzling to the individual, something over which he or she lacks control. Ethnicity is not something that is simply passed on from generation to generation, taught and learned; it is something dynamic, often unsuccessfully repressed or avoided. It can be potent even when not consciously taught; it is something that institutionalized teaching easily makes chauvinist, sterile, and superficial, something that emerges in full-often liberating-flower only through struggle. Insofar as ethnicity is a deeply rooted emotional component of identity, it is often transmitted less through cognitive language or learning (to which sociology has almost entirely restricted itself) than through processes analogous to the dreaming and transference of psychoanalytic encounters.
Second, what is discovered and reinvented in the new works about ethnicity is, perhaps increasingly, something new: to be ChineseAmerican is not the same thing as being Chinese in America. In this sense there is no role model for becoming Chinese-American. It is a matter of finding a voice or style that does not violate one's several components of identity. In part, such a process of assuming an ethnic identity is an insistence on a pluralist, multidimensional, or multifaceted concept of self: one can be many different things, and this personal sense can be a crucible for a wider social ethos of pluralism.
Third, the search or struggle for a sense of ethnic identity is a (re-)invention and discovery of a vision, both ethical and futureoriented. Whereas the search for coherence is grounded in a connection to the past, the meaning abstracted from that past, an important criterion of coherence, is an ethic workable for the future. Such visions can take a number of forms: they can be both culturally specific (e.g., the biblical strains of black victories over oppression) and dialectically formed as critiques of hegemonic ideologies (e.g., as alternatives to the melting pot rhetoric of assimilation to the bland, neutral style of the conformist 1950s),
Two preliminary examples are both retrospective accounts expressing surprise at the power of politically charged crystallizations. In American Immigrants in Israel (1981), Kevin Avruch quotes an American who wryly recalls exploding at SDSers who attacked Israel in 1967, giving them Israel's case in great detail: "At the time, I didn't know where that attitude and all that information came from." Similarly, Marita Golden remembers being in high school when Martin Luther King was assassinated:
"The days after King's death saw an invisible barricade of tensions rise between the white and black students at Western High School. The black students did not know then that in a few months many of us would repudiate our white friends, no longer finding them "relevant." Finding instead their mere presence inconsistent with a "commitment to the struggle," which is what our lives became overnight. (p. 15)
These passages illustrate a lack of explicit knowledge, a sense of the buried coming to the surface, and the compulsion of an "id-like" force. The id, as Freud originally used the term, was merely das Es, the it-ness of experience, made particularly potent for the Germanspeaking child, who is referred to in the neuter-das Kind-and who only gradually develops an acknowledged, engendered, individuated self. The recognition of something about one's essential being thus seems to stem from outside one's immediate consciousness and control, and yet requires an effort of self-definition.(2) Ethnicity in its contemporary form is thus neither, as the sociological literature would have it, simply a matter of group process (support systems), nor a matter of transition (assimilation), nor a matter of straightforward transmission from generation to generation (socialization).
In some ways, the contemporary reinvention of ethnic identity through remembering is nothing new. The Pythagorean notion of memory (which fascinated Plato) also conceived of the world as one of oblivion, of superficial appearances behind which lay the hidden realities. Only the soul that engaged in memory exercises, in recollections, in preserving the knowledge of this world when proceeding to the next and avoiding the waters of Lethe (or Ameles) when returning to this world from the celestial realms would be able to escape the cycles of rebirth, the flux of meaningless repetitions, and the entropy toward reductions of human beings into mechanical or bestial ciphers. Only through memory, honed by constant exercise and effort, could one purge the sins of past lives, purify the soul, ascend and escape from oblivious repetitions. (3)
So, too, contemporary ethnic re-creations are given impetus by the fear not merely of being levelled into identical industrial hominids, but of losing an ethical (celestial) vision that might serve to renew the self and ethnic group as well as contribute to a richer, powerfully dynamic pluralist society. In exploring why white America produces biographies, while black America produces autobiographies, Arnold Rampersad (1983) points out that autobiography (at least in its most potent forms) is predicated on a moral vision, on a vibrant relation between a sense of self and a community, on a retrospective or prophetic appeal to a community of spirit, be it religious or social, or on what Hans-Georg Gadamer might call a feel for a moral tradition.
Ethnic anxiety, that feeling welling up out of mysterious depths, is not the only interesting aspect of contemporary expressions of ethnicity. Rather, they seem to be a reflex of more general cultural processes. To a Westerner, late twentieth-century society globally seems to be characterized by surface homogenization, by the erosion of public enactments of tradition, by the loss of ritual and historical rootedness. Cultural elements seem to be increasingly fragmented, volitional, arbitrary matters of personal style. Celebrations and rituals in the United States, for instance, often seem to be ironic, reflecting goodnatured nonbelief, skeptical, hedonistic, and commercial in overtone.(4) And yet, clearly, these are reactions to the superficialities of such situations: as Benjamin and Freud in differing ways pointed out, language itself contains seclimented layers of emotionally resonant metaphors, knowledge, and associations, which when paid attention to can be experienced as discoveries and revelations. Indeed, much of the contemporary philosophical mood (in literary criticism and anthropology, as well as in philosophy) is to inquire into what is hidden in language, what is deferred by signs, what is pointed to, what is repressed, implicit, or mediated.
What thus seem initially to be individualistic autobiographical searchings turn out to be revelations of traditions, re-collections of disseminated identities and of the divine sparks from the breaking of the vessels. These are a modern version of the Pythagorean arts of memory: retrospection to gain a vision for the future. In so becoming, the searches also turn out to be powerful critiques of several contemporary rhetorics of domination.
In a period when the writing and reception of ethnography are subjects of much interest and debate among anthropologists (see Marcus and Fischer 1986), the perspectives on ethnicity embodied in autobiographical literature suggest new ways of reading and writing ethnographies.
II. Disseminations and Pro-Vocations
"The word's power does not consist in its explicit content-if, generally speaking, there is such a thing-but in the diversion that is involved in it." Chaim Nachman Bialik
The strategy of this paper is threefold: ethnographic listening, attention to cultural criticism, and attention to experimental writing. First of all, the strategy is to listen to the voices of several ethnic groups through autobiographies. Autobiography was chosen because, like ethnography, it has a commitment to the actual. Autobiographical fiction was also included because the modalities of veracity in our age can no longer (if they ever could) be limited to the conventions of realism. Indeed, as Murray Baumgarten rightly points out, ever since the massive linguistic disturbances of Nazi Deutsch, Stalinist Russian, and other forms of twentieth-century double-think, including the deadening language of American officialese, "realism as trust in language is no longer readily available"; it is as if "surrealist montage, cubist collage, and existentialist parable are the only appropriate possibilities" (1982:117). Moreover, the conventions of realism, especially as practiced in traditional ethnography, themselves contain and are made coherent through allegorical metaphors (see Clifford in this volume).
Indirection (see: Bialik above) is inherent in language use and should be exploited consciously rather than ignored, denied, and allowed to mislead. During the past two decades ethnic autobiographers have produced brilliant explorations aimed at rediscovering the sources of language, and thereby also the nature of modern reality.
In thinking about how to read, analyze, and interpret these contemporary autobiographical texts, it occurred to me that the ethnic search is a mirror of the bifocality that has always been part of the anthropological rationale: seeing others against a background of ourselves, and ourselves against a background of others. The juxtaposing of exotic customs to familiar ones, or the relativizing of taken-forgranted assumptions, has always been the kind of cultural criticism promised by anthropology. This bifocality, or reciprocity of perspectives, has become increasingly important in a world of growing interdependence between societies: members of cultures described are increasingly critical readers of ethnography. No longer can rhetorical figures of the "primitive" or the "exotic" be used with impunity: audiences have become multiple."Bifocality" moreover must increasingly be a shorthand for "two or more" cultures in juxtaposition and comparison. Successful cross-cultural comparison requires at least a third case to avoid simplistic better-worsejudgments, to foster multiple axes of comparison,(5) and to evoke a sense of the larger universes in which cultures are situated (see also Marcus in this volume). Cultures and ethnicities as sets are more like families of resemblances than simple typological trees.
The ethnic, the ethnographer, and the cross-cultural scholar in general often begin with a personal empathetic "dual tracking," seeking in the other clarification for processes in the self. One thinks perhaps of the great Islamic scholar and Catholic mystic Louis Massignon, who used Sufism as a proxy for his own dilemmas in a post-Christian, anti-mystical world. Examples could be multiplied. Among the most sensitive and best anthropological works are those that bring personal engagements of this sort into play, albeit usually only as a subtext, rarely highlighted or explicitly acknowledged. One thinks of the association between the late Victor Turner's engagement with Ndembu ritual and symbols and his turn to Catholicism; of Stanley Tambiah's work on Buddhism in Thailand, which, unlike so much written about Buddhism by Westerners, treats it with respect as a potent political force, in an oblique attempt to understand its dynamics in his own troubled homeland of Sri Lanka; and perhaps even of Strauss, whose work on American Indian mythologies might be understood as an act of atonement for a world destroyed, parallel to the creation of the Talmud-that is, a preservation together with a critical apparatus permitting regenerative use by future generations .(6) Such engagement need not be ethnic or religious in content: Steven Feld's accounting of Kaluli aesthetics, utilizing his performer's knowledge and skills as well as his academic ones, is one of the finest recent examples. He is able to provide not merely a convincing description but, more important, a critical apparatus (7) that gives the reader a set of conceptual tools with sensory and cognitive bases radically different from our own.
It should be clear that I am not advocating a reductive reading of ethnographies in terms of the biographies of their authors. It is true that professionals may adjust their readings of ethnographies according to their knowledge of the writers. This makes reading richer and more informed. It allows the reader to bring to the text many of the nuances, tacit understandings, and implicit perspectives that informed the writer-to bring, as Plato might say, a dead text to fuller life. (8) But in the case of casual or unsophisticated readers, reading in terms of the biography of the writer can be invidious and destructive, explaining away the text rather than enriching it. What I am suggesting instead is a reading of ethnographies as the juxtaposition of two or more cultural traditions and paying attention both in reading and in constructing ethnographies to the ways in which the juxtaposition of cultural traditions works on both the conscious and unconscious levels. For many the search in another tradition, such as perhaps Golden's in Nigeria or my own in Iran, can serve as a way of exploring one's own past, now disappeared forever. One needs authentic anchorages that can allow a kind of dual or multiple tracking (between self and other), that generate a rich, sympathetic curiosity for detail and cultural logic, that can be subjected to mutual criticism or mutual revelation from both traditions. At the same time, one needs a check against assimilating the other to the self, seeing only what is similar or different. One must avoid comparison by strict dualistic contrast. A third, fourth, or fifth comparison inevitably involves multidimensionality, and a sense of larger universes of significance. In ethnic autobiographies, the trying on of alternative identities is one technique for achieving this multidimensionality.
The strategy for writing this paper, then, has been to juxtapose five sets of autobiographical writings, those of Armenian-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Afro-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Native Americans. The idea is to allow multiple sets of voices to speak for themselves, with my own author's voice muted and marginalized as commentary. While it remains true that I stage these voices, the reader is directed to the originals; the text is not hermetically sealed, but points beyond itself. Parallel writings from my own ethnic tradition are evoked in the introductions and conclusions as points of further contact, in order, as Tzevtan Todorov puts it (1982/1984: 250-5 1), to avoid "the temptation to reproduce the voices of these figures 'as they really are': to try to do away with my own presence 'for the other's sake' ... [or] to subjugate the other to myself, to make him into a marionette."
What emerges as a conclusion is not simply that parallel processes operate across American ethnic identities, but a sense that these ethnicities constitute only a family of resemblances, that ethnicity cannot be reduced to identical sociological functions, that ethnicity is a process of inter-reference between two or more cultural traditions, and that these dynamics of intercultural knowledge provide reservoirs for renewing humane values. Ethnic memory is thus, or ought to be, future, not past, oriented.
If multiple voices are engaged in this experiment, so, too, it is hoped, will multiple readerships. By invoking the discourses of a number of different groups, access is provided to them for rejoinder. The discourse of the text is not sealed by a professional rhetoric or authority that denies standing to nonprofessional interlocutors. At the same time, it draws members of these different ethnic discourses into the comparative project of anthropology. It does not allow ethnics to protest merely on the terms of their intuitive understandings of their own rhetorics, but attempts to conceive of such intuition as but one valid source of knowledge.
Finally, the ability of texts such as those reviewed in this paper to deliver cultural criticism without the stereotypic distortions that traditonal cross-cultural categorizations have often produced is an important model for ethnography. No greater indictments of racism in America exist than Charlie Mingus's Beneath the Underdog, Raul Salinas's "A Trip Through the Mind Jail," the angry writings of Frank Chin, the portraits of trauma by James Welch or Gerald Vizenor. None of these, however, merely indicts, and certainly none blames only oppressors outside the self and ethnic group; all fictively demonstrate the creation of new identities and worlds. Rather than naive efforts at direct representation, they suggest or evoke cultural emergence (see Tyler in this volume). One of the reasons for the relative sense that these portraits are less stereotyped is their attention to the ineffectiveness of textual techniques- that is, the self-conscious employment of such devices as transference, dream-translation, talk-story, multiple voices and perspectives, the highlighting of humorous inversions and dialectical juxtaposition of identities/traditions/cultures, and the critique of hegemonic discourses. In the fashionable jargon of the day, they illustrate intertextuality, inter-reference, and the interlinguistic modalities of post-modernist knowledge. On the practical level, such selfconscious and virtuoso technique could contribute to a reinvigorated ethnographic literature, one that can again fulfill the anthropological promise of cultural criticism: of making our taken-for- granted ways recognizable as sociocultural constructions for which we can exercise responsibility.
In the working draft of this paper, the five sources (ethnicities) of ethnic autobiography each provided a separate section. I attempted to suggest something about the range or historical trajectory of autobiographical writing within each ethnicity, as well as to highlight in each section a different sense of, and technique for capturing, ethnicity. That organization, although close to the ethnographic discovery strategy, proved unwieldy for readers. In the present draft, I have reversed the hierarchical stress: each section focuses on a writing tactic, yet I retain the division by ethnicity because there does seem to be some connection between particular experiences of ethnic groups and the techniques used to capture, reveal, or exorcise those experiences. This does not mean that any tactic or technique is used exclusively by writers of a given ethnicity. (Quite the contrary: all these techniques are available to, and are used by, writers of all ethnicities.) However, what a simple organization by technique alone would endanger is the sense of historical trajectory of writing in each ethnic tradition. (9)
A simple organization by technique alone also leads to the danger of reducing the polyphony and texture of multiple styles of any ethnic writing tradition into a mere example for an univocal argument.
Among the elements of texture (apart from style, multiple techniques, and dialogue with predecessors) are explorations of psychoanalytic and feminist perspectives. It is striking the degree to which contemporary autobiographers are fond of deploying psychoanalytic language and/or logic to describe or model ethnic processes. Somewhat less innovative are the ways ethnicity is engendered. Cultural heritage is often figured in paternal or maternal imagery. Children pattern themselves, after all, on both same and opposite sex parents (or other adults) in complex, often reactive, ways. One ethnographic way to ask if and how contemporary debates about gender roles are reflected here is to pay attention to both male and female authors, male and female imagery.
We proceed from the pain of silence to the wisdom of laughter.
My ancestors talk
to me in dangling
Each word a riddle
On sunny days
They put out roots
and coil around
Next spring a full
Diana der Hovanessian , "Learning an Ancestral Tongue" (10)
Michael Arlen's Passage to Ararat (1975) is an archetypical text for displaying the "transference" mechanisms of ethnicity, and for coming to terms with an id-like force, experienced as defining one's self, yet coming from without. Crucial here is the conquest of an anxiety that manifests itself through repetition of behavioral patterns, and that cannot be articulated in rational language but can only be acted out. The analogy here is with the third of the three modes of communication routinely distinguished in psychoanalytic therapy: cognitive, rational, conscious investigation; translation from dreams into linear, textlike verbalizations (thereby introducing the distortions of the mediating language); and transference, in which no text is produced, but rather a repetition toward the analyst of behavior patterns previously established toward some prior significant other.
Michael Arlen's ethnic anxiety begins with the silence of his father about the Armenian past. By attempting to spare children knowledge of painful past experiences, parents often create an obsessive void in the child that must be explored and filled in. Arlen claims he has no obvious childhood experiences except the warmth and family happiness of eating in the Golden Horde Restaurant (a favorite, as well, of William Saroyan's). Yet the silence of his father is a dramatically enacted ambivalence full of import for the son: the father attempts and spectacularly fails to become English, changes his name, (although a writer) does not write or talk about Armenians, marries another exile (a Greek-American), dresses "with the meticulous care of the idle or insecure," attempts to hold court at the St. Regis Hotel, comes home to meals "devoid of taste or personality," paces in "a little room euphemistically called the library," sends his children to boarding school, and eventually moves to America when anti-foreign speeches are made in Parliament. In America, he feels himself an ineffectual Armenian, abetted by his uncertainty about how to treat his children; yet he lands his first American job with what his son remembers as a virtuoso triumph of Armenian wile: movie producer Louis Mayer asks him what he is going to do; he responds that he has been talking to Sam Goldwyn (who had told him to try racehorses). Mayer: How much did he offer you? Arlen, Sr.: Not enough. Mayer: How about $1,500 for thirty weeks? Arlen: I'll take it.
Michael Arlen's statement about the Golden Horde Restaurant being his only real Armenian childhood experience is followed by a statement of ambivalence about his father. Indeed his text is structured -beginning, middle, and end-with paternal imagery. Beginning:
"I was only slightly curious about my Armenian background-or so I thought, although if I had understood how to acknowledge such matters, I might have known that I was haunted by it. Mostly I was afraid of it.... What was I afraid of? ... Probably of being exposed in some way, or pulled down by the connection: that association of difference ... with something deeply pejorative ... And in the end I came to hate my father for my fear.... I loved him too ... He was my father. But also I was afraid of him. Something always lay between us-something unspoken and (it seemed) unreachable. We were strangers." (1975:7)
Arlen describes the ambivalences (paralleling his father's) generated in himself: the childhood fears that his Anglo-American camouflage would come undone (terror for himself when he sees a Jewish boy being beaten; a Scottish boy asserting that Arlen could not possibly be English); the fear of getting too emotionally close to Armenians; and above all, being unable to read about the massacres of the Armenians by the Ottomans (becoming angry, but irrationally not at the Ottomans). (11)
To exorcise this anxiety, Arlen visits Soviet Armenia. Initially the ambivalence recurs: inability to feel anything at the monuments; anger at the tourists' slurs and stereotypes about Armenians confided to him as apparently simply an American tourist. Eventually, however, there is engagement, a movement outside of himself, a recognition of connections between his personal dilemmas and those of other Armenians. Arlen ignites the anger of his Armenian guide by asking about Armenian submissiveness to the Ottomans, their collusion in their own second-class status. The guide accuses him of wanting to tear down his father ("Fatherland, father. It is the same thing" 1975:981):"'All that Anglo-Saxon coolness and detachment.... Not like a proper son!' . . . And then Sarkis suddenly took my hands in his, and I looked into his face and saw that he was crying" (ibid: 99).
Following this cathartic breakthrough, a picture of an eighteenthcentury merchant from Erzurum brings an associative flash. The face reminds Arlen of his father: "burning eyes in a composed, impassive face": "I realized at that moment that to be an Armenian, to have lived as an Armenian, was to have become something crazy ... crazed, that deep thing-deep where the deep-sea souls of human beings twist and turn" (ibid: 103).(12) His father had attempted to free him of the pain of the past, but suddenly Michael Arlen remembers his father telling him "with suprising severity and intensity" (P. 139) when he was eight to learn to box. Arlen speculates on the effects of centuries surrounding majority population, Armenian of provocation from the protest, mob response (the classic dynamic, Margaret Bedrosian comments, of a bully committing a misdeed on the sly, then feigning being wronged when the victim cries out; and she cites the Ottoman interior minister Talaat Bey: "We've been reproached for making no distinction between the innocent Armenians and the guilty, but that was utterly impossible in view of the fact that those who were innocent today might be guilty tomorrow" [Bedrosian 1982: 2341). Such an environment leads to a
turning inward: "The eyes [of the portrait] seemed almost to burn out at me. Burning eyes in a frozen face ... did he set his expression, freeze part of himself, his face-all save the eyes, which no man can control-and tap his finger on the coffee cup, and curl and uncurl his hand inside his well-cut pocket ... and manage?" (102 - 3) - Such an environment Arlen speculates leads to arts of miniaturization, in this case not a creative expression through smallness, but an obsessive gesture, an effort to become invisible.
Anxiety confronted, diagnosis explored, the book ends again with the father, with dreams as an index of the liberation achieved. Michael Arlen recalls his father's anxiety dreams about his father: not being able to understand his Armenian. Michael Arlen reflects that he, Michael, no longer dreams so frequently of his father (his passage to Ararat has been liberating). As he puts it, the need to set the father free has been met (P. 292).
Arlen's text is straightforward and self-conscious,(13) describing ethnic anxiety as an approach-avoidance to a past that is larger than oneself, that is recognized by others as defining of one's identity, and yet that does not seem to come from one's own experience. It makes one feel not in control of one's own being. It is a historical reality principle: individual experience cannot be accounted for by itself. It expresses itself in repetitions. (14) Yet he concludes weakly on a false note. He claims his is a tale of conquest, of finding peace and security: "How strange to finally meet one's past: to simply meet it, the way one might finally acknowledge a person who had been in one's company a long while, "So it's you" (253). Anxiety, he seems to say, is relieved by establishing continuity with the past where previously there was breach, silence, anxiety. There seems to be almost a failure here to create for the future, something perhaps figured in the text by the absence of his American-Greek mother.
Michael Arlen is but one of a gradually growing number of Armenian literary voices, several of whom have been reviewed in a recent dissertation by Margaret Bedrosian. The theme of puzzlement, of obscure fathers, is a strong recurrent one, but maternal imagery can be equally strong. (15) In another medium, the painter Arshile Gorky uses images of his mother and transferencelike techniques of indirection, repetition, and reworking. Gorky (born Vosdanig Adoian in 1904 of a line of thirty-eight generations of priests) was a survivor of the massacres, child of a mother who died of starvation at thirty-nine, not eating so that her children might live. He chose the names "the bitter one" (Gorky) and Achilles (Arshile) whose wrath kept him from battle until a new wrath impelled him to act. Abstraction and expressionism were for him techniques, not of spontaneity and the autonomous unconscious, but of masking vulnerable truths. During World War II, he issued an invitation for a course in camouflage: "An epidemic of destruction sweeps through the world today. The mind of civilized man is set to stop it. What the enemy would destroy, however, he must first see. To confuse and paralyze his vision is the role of camouflage" (quoted in Bedrosian 1982: 355). His paintings are carefully reworked images: of his mother, of his natal village near Lake Van, of the family garden in that village, of the Tree of the Cross used by villagers to attach supplications to God. His slogans were clear: "From our Armenian experience will I create new forms to ignite minds and massage hearts!"; "Having a tradition enables you to tackle new problems with authority, with solid footing."
Transference, the return of the repressed in new forms, and repetitions with their distortions are all mechanisms through which ethnicity is generated. They also suggest possible writing tactics. Three uses of transference and repetition can be distinguished in recent ethnographic writing. First, there is the discovery or eliciting of psychological patterns of transference proper among ethnographic subjects, as in the work of Gananath Obeyesekere (1881), where, moreover, such systematic patterns generate new social forms. Second, there is the analysis of hange through intended repetitions that in fact work through misappropriation or distortion. The classic such highlighting of the indirection of cultural dynamics is Marx's observations on the French Revolution using borrowed language and costumes from the Roman Republic and on history never working out the same way the second time. (16) Marshall Sahlins's recent book on Captain Cook and the structural changes Hawaiian society underwent in the period following his death similarly exploits the delineation of intended repetition or reproduction of cultural forms leading to unintended distortion, inversion, and change. Third, and perhaps most intriguing, there is the suggestion of Vincent Crapanzano in Tuhami (1880) that in part the dynamic of the interviews between himself and Tuhami was one of mutual transference, with Tuhami placing the ethnographer in the uncomfortable role of curer. Crapanzano suggests that many ethnographic situations partake of this ambiguity: informants present and tailor information as if the anthropologist were a government official, a physician, or other agent of aid or danger; the anthropologist is placed in positions that constrain his actions, and he, too, creates roles for the informant. In other words the emergence of ethnographic knowledge is not unlike the creation of ethnic identity. Crapanzano hints at this also in an article reporting a possession case, where he interviews the husband, Muhammad, and his wife interviews the wife, Dawia. (17) Not only do the possessed couple present different versions of the same event, but these versions depend upon the interlocutors, there being perhaps even a mild rivalry between the two ethnographers. By recognizing such dynamics of gaining information and insight, anthropologists' informantscollaborators gain a more dynamic role, and we begin to see our own bases of knowledge as more subtly constructed through the action of others. Our knowledge is shown to be less objective, more negotiated by human interests, and the subject for greater responsibility in the interactions and ethical honesty of fieldwork (in Tyler's sense in this volume).
Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior (1975) is an archetypical text for displaying ethnicity processes analogous to translations of dreams. just as a dream needs to be translated into a text or linear verbal discourse so that it can be analyzed by someone who has not experienced the visual imagery, so Kingston's text is developed as a series of fragments of traditional stories, myths, and customs imposed by parents, but not adequately explained, at critical points of her childhood, which thus are embedded in consciousness to be worked out through, and integrated with, ongoing experience. This process of integration is analogous to that experienced by the analised in psychoanalytic therapy, who must translate from the imagery of dreams into verbal discourse so that both he and the analyst can reason through it. The process of articulating what it means to be Chinese-American, for Kingston, is the process of creating a text that can be interrogated and made coherent.
The first fragment, "No Name Woman," is the tale of a father's sister who has an illegitimate child, is forced by the enraged villagers to have the child in a pigsty, and who then commits suicide. The story, says Kingston, was told to warn young girls ("now that you have started to menstruate" ), but also to test the American-born children's ability to establish realities: to distinguish what is peculiar to one's family, to poverty, to Chinesenes. The obscure story gains force as Kingston considers the alternative possible interpretations it might contain: was this aunt coerced (a figure of female obedience) or was she an active temptress: indeed why, since she was married to a husband off in America, was she still in her natal home rather than in her husband's parents' house-previous transgressions? The aunt became an allegory of internal struggles for the adolescent Kingston: all young women wish to be attractive to the opposite sex, but selectively: how to make a Chinese fall in love with me, but not Caucasians, Negroes, or Japanese? Ambiguities explode: women are, of course, devalued in Chinese society, yet this aunt's father had had only sons before the aunt was born and had attempted to trade a boy-infant for a girlinfant: presumably, he loved his only daughter and perhaps encouraged her rebelliousness.
The ambiguities of the woman's role are elaborated in "White Tiger." Kingston was taught she would grow up to be wife and slave, yet she was also taught the song of the warrior woman a variant of the great Nishan Shaman legend (18) -who avenged her family like a man. The story of Fa Mu Lan, the warrior woman, is of going up the mountain into the clouds, where she learns spiritual and physical strength, biding her time until at twenty-two she returns to become a warrior. The parallel for Kingston is the unreal devaluation of girls in her Chinese communal setting, from which she finds an escape into American society, where she can become a strong person in her own right. Like Fa Mu Lan, she feels she must stay away until strong enough to return and reform the stifling Chinese immigrant community.
"Shaman" is about the ghost stories Kingston's mother told as work stories to chill the heat in the family laundry; tales of heroes who would eat anything in great quantities ("The emperors used to eat the peaked hump of purple dromedaries ... Eat! Eat! my mother would shout ... the blood pudding a wobble in the middle of the table."); stories of wartime horrors. Her mother was a woman of accomplishment and strength: she had a diploma from a school of midwifery, and knew how to recite genealogies to talk back her children's frightened spirits after nightmares and horror films. Such familial powers can also be repressive ("Chinese do not smile for photographs. Their faces command relatives in foreign lands - "send money" - and posterity forever - "put food in front of this picture"") and regressive (whenever she would return home, Kingston would regress into fear of ghosts, nightmares of wartime airplanes, and lethargic illness).
These and other "talk stories" in the volume (and the companion volume Chinamen) show how stories can become powerful sources of strength, how they work differently for each generation, how they are but fragmentary bits that have to be translated, integrated, and reworked. ("Unless I see her life branching into mine, she gives me no ancestral help.") Part of the fragmentary context of the stories, of the unexplained customs, of the paranoia about non-Chinese, and of the general secrecy about origins is grounded in survival tactics that the immigrants developed against the discriminatory immigration policies of the United States against Asians. People changed names, lied about their ages and ports of entry, and generally covered their tracks so that their lives became unintelligible to their children (who being half-American were not entirely trustworthy either). Non-Chinese are called ghosts, but for the American-Chinese children, ghosts are the bizarre fragments of past, tradition, and familial self overprotectiveness that must be externalized and tamed.
"Dream-work" can be prospective, as well as retrospective: daydreams as well as working through past experiences. Frank Chin, Jeffrey Paul Chan, and Shawn Hsu Wong, as well as Kingston, utilize the dilemmas of Chinese-American males to explore further the novelties of Chinese-Americanness suggested in "White Tiger." Kingston there describes the need to get away from Chinatown to gain the strength to redeem (recover, change, and create) her identity. The further task is to construct or find images that are neither Chinese nor European. There are no clear role models for being ChineseAmerican. Being Chinese-American exists only as an exploratory project, a matter of finding a voice and style. Among the exploratory tactics are efforts to claim America, to assert aggressive sexual identity, to imaginatively try on other minority experiences, and to question both hegemonic white ideological categories and those of Chinatown.
This project is doubly important for writers: for personal selfdefinition, and also to overcome those publishers and critics who consistently reject any writings contradicting popular racist views of AsianAmericans as either totally exotic, as no different from anyone else (denial of culture), or, finally, as model minorities (humble, wellmannered, law-abiding, family-oriented, hard-working, educationseeking).
In response, as Elaine Kim describes (1982), Frank Chin calls himself a Chinatown cowboy, insisting on his roots in the American West and his manly ruggedness. This pose is particularly useful against the exotic stereotype of Chinese as "pigtailed heathens in silk gowns and slippers, whispering Confucian aphorisms about filial piety." The pose is also useful against the model minority stereotype used: (a) to depreciate blacks; (b) to deny the history of Chinese-Americans (Chinese do not turn to the government for aid because for so long the government was hostile to their legal status and they thus had to hide from the government, with the consequence that poverty, suicide, and tuberculosis flourished in Chinatown unnoticed by white society); (c) and to emasculate Asian-American males. Chin recalls the classic situation in school where blacks and Chicanos are asked why they cannot be like the Chinese: stay out of trouble, mind your folks, study hard, and obey the laws: "And there we chinamen were, in Lincoln Elementary School, Oakland, California, in a world where manliness counts for everything, surrounded by bad blacks and bad Mexican kids ... suddenly stripped and shaved bare by this cop with no manly style of my own, unless it was sissiness" (quoted by Kim, p. 178).
If these racist, ideological stereotypes need be countered, so, too, Chinatown needs to be exposed. Chin images Chinatown as decaying beneath an exotic facade, as a senile living corpse, populated by inhabitants imaged as bugs, spiders, and frogs, engaged in activities imaged as funerals (preservation of decaying pasts under ivory masks). Heroes cowboys must escape to survive. Like Kingston, Chin moved out, preferring to build strength in Seattle, returning only on temporary forays to the battleground of change in San Francisco. In his writing, Chin attempts to create a tough, aggressive, back-talking young male hero, an adolescent sexuality and aggression that are perhaps signs of a new voice and identity not yet found.
Jeffrey Paul Chan, Kim notes, writes not dissimilarly: both use the image of Chinatown as a chicken coop. In his search for a new style for the Chinese-American, Chan also plays with the roles of other minorities, especially that of the American Indian. The Indian is attractive because he has (to outsiders) unquestionable roots in America. This is a theme that both Kingston and Shawn Hsu Wong also develop: the need particularly of Chinese-American males to mark and appropriate the land. Wong's narrator is haunted by the ghosts of grandfathers who built the railroads, imagining their struggles, their letters home to China, and even fantasizes himself as an old night train filled with Chinamen, running along the tracks, heart burning like a red hot engine. These grandfathers laid roots in the land, like "roots of giant trees," like "sharp talons in the earth of my country." Rainsford, the narrator of Homebase (1979), has a white girlfriend, who patronizes him, telling him that he is the product of the richest and oldest culture in the world, a civilization that invented many of the components of modern life, making him feel even sharper anxiety about having nothing of his own in America. He rejects this "love," and she, classically, tells him to go back where he came from: go home. But home is here. It is an American Indian who shows him how to find his American roots: he should retrace where his people have been, all over America, see the town he is named after. He does this, determined that America "must give me legends with spirit," and dreaming of a reconciliation with a Chinese-American girl in Wisconsin whose grandfather from China had fled the West Coast. In Chinamen, Kingston, too, emphasizes the theme of men claiming America, writing of railroad workers-heroic and masculine at times such as the strike of 1869: bare-chested, muscular young gods-victimized, kept womanless, dying in the wilderness. But, says one of them, "We're marking the land now."
Dream-work-simultaneously the integration of dissonant past fragments and the daydreaming "trying-on" of alternative possible identities-is both descriptive of one way (or one set of ways) ethnicity works and suggests a writing tactic of fragments. Here, too, Crapanzano's Tuhami, referred to above, might serve as an example of a recent ethnographic text that exploits this tactic. The reader is presented with a puzzle: to help the author analyze bits of interviews in which the informant draws equally on reality and fantasy for metaphors with which to describe the impossibilities of his existence. Tuhami is a member of Morocco's subproletariat; the style of his discourse perhaps illustrates what Pierre Bourdieu provocatively calls the truncated consciousness of many members of such subproletariats.(19) If so, Crapanzano's recording of Tuhami might provide an access to the discourse of an emergent new social class, analogous to the emergent discourse of Chinese-American writers' concern with chicken coops and railroads, cowboys and Indians. Other similar writing tactics are easily imaginable, such as the use of the juxtaposed viewpoints of different informants and/or authors (20) and Rashomonlike descriptions from different perspectives . (21)
Alternative Selves and Bifocality
Two recent black autobiographies by Charles Mingus and Marita Golden develop the notion of multiple selves and examine the reality constraints on enacting alternative selves. They also explore the use of alternative selves to challenge dominant hegemonic ideologies, the one by applying an ethnic aesthetic (thus being ethnographic in style as well as content), the other by pioneering the bifocality that anthropology has always promised. Alice Walker, another black writer, notes: "When I look at people in Iran and Cuba, they look like kin folk" (Bradley 1984: 35-36). This is echoed by Maxine Hong Kingston and American Indian writer Leslie Marmon Silko, who portray young men in American uniform in southeast Asia severely disturbed by the inability to distinguish the enemy from kinfolk. As a humanist cultural criticism of nationalist, class, and other hegemonic political discourses, these observations signal the potential for a powerful counter rhetoric, similar to those developed by the small nations of Europe, those on the wrong side of history, whose "disabused view of history" is the "source of their culture, of their wisdom, of the 'nonserious spirit' that mocks grandeur and glory" (Kundera 1984).
Mingus's Beneath the Underdog (1971) utilizes a tripartite self as narrator; a telling to a psychiatrist as the overall narrative frame; and an obsessive focus on a father figure. The tripartite self is introduced on the first page, and reflected upon again near the last (p. 255): an inborn, ever-loving gentle soul who always gets taken; a frightened animal that, from experience, learns to attack for fear of being attacked; and a distanced third who stands apart watching the other two. The three selves appear throughout the text as alternating, interbraided voices-like the call-and-response of a jazz session-keeping the reader alert to perspective and circumstance.
Equally striking is Mingus's textual strategy of posing the autobiography as a telling, a talk-story, to a Jewish psychiatrist ("remember saying you came to me not only because I'm a psychiatrist but also because I'm a Jew? And therefore could relate to your problems?" p. 7). This allows the author to play with four subdevices, like improvisatoryjazz themes that reappear periodically. First, there are the psychological devices of fabrication (involving the reader in sorting out the puzzles of identity, control by the self versus control by outside forces), and changing the subject or crying (signals of blockages, avoidances, pain, and irrational compulsions). Second, the theme of pimping is used as a multi-register metaphor. It describes the narrator's use of women as a childish way to prove his manhood (breaking out of subordination and dependency-the pimp as master-by imposing subordination on others). It is a metaphor of economic survival, of the dilemmas of black musicians who cannot make it on music alone, but must prostitute themselves and others, meaning among other things a regressive dependence on women ("He wanted to make it alone without any help from women or anyone else," p. 132). That is, narrator as both pimp and prostitute. And it is a bitter description of the racist economic system controlled by whites ("Jazz is big business to the white man and you can't move without him. We just work-ants," P. 137). The third device is recurrent dreams about Fats Navarro, a Florida-born Cuban musician who died at twenty-six of tuberculosis and narcotic addiction, who serves throughout the book as an alter ego to whom the project of writing a book is confided. The book is to achieve liberation, both economic (fantasies of fat royalties) and spiritual. The dreams include meditations on a death wish, centering on the idea that one can die (only?) when one works out one's karma, precisely what was denied Fats.
Finally, the use of the father figuration is, of course, also part of the narration to the psychiatrist- the fourth subdevice-but it also introduces an element of choice and retracing of genealogical connection ("Some day I may choose another father to teach me," p. 96). Mingus's father appears first in his childhood traumas (being dropped on his head, having his dog shot by a neighbor, kindergarten accusations of being a sexual pervert, and above all paternal beatings and threats of castration for bedwetting, later discovered to be due to damaged kidneys). The father gave him his first musical instrument, but being emotionally unresponsive also set up a longing for a real father. (The father's own anxiety structure is analyzed as stemming from being a frustrated architect condemned to life in the Post Office, and as manifesting itself by teaching his children a false, racist sense of superiority on the grounds that they were light-skinned.) Midbook, Mingus returns to find out about his father, and hears yet again that he is not fully black, that he is a descendant of Abraham Lincoln's cousin, and that "a lot of talking about freedom ... [is] a waste of time 'cause even a slave could have inner freedom if he wanted it." "That's brainwashing by the white man." "Careful, boy-you ain't totally black." (95)
White connections are not the only troubling ones. Class prejudices within the black community also threaten young Mingus. The father advises: "So tell them your grandfather was an African chieftain named Mingus" (96). There is also a certain amount of play with alternative ethnic masks. Mingus grows up in Watts and is light-skinned; in the mirror he thinks he can see strains of Indian, African, Mexican, Asian, and white, and he worries that he is "a little of everything, wholly nothing" (50).
Mexican is a major alternative identity ("Mexican Moods"). (22) His first girlfriend when aged five was Mexican; so was a girl who almost snagged him into marriage at seventeen. Later, in San Francisco, a Jewish musician had tried to give him a break in a white union: he was accepted as Mexican until a black musician turned him in. Jewishness is another ethnicity played with, particularly through his Jewish psychiatrist and the psychiatrists at Bellevue, who initially seem like Nazis threatening lobotomy, but who eventually midwife a feeling of respect and love: "The truth is doctor, I'm insecure and I'm black and I'm scared to death of poverty and especially poverty alone. I'm helpless without a woman, afraid of tomorrow.... it was easy to be proud and feel contempt and say to these beautiful women, "I don't want your dirty money!" so that was one good thing that happened in Bellevue, having a feeling of love and respect for them again.... My music is evidence of my soul's will to live beyond my sperm's grave." (245-46)
The wild humor, excessive sexuality, and anguish of Mingus's style help pose the contradictions and puzzles of his ethnic search: the differences among the women upon whom he depends-two mistresses, a middle class black wife, and a blond nurse; the tentative trying on of other minorities' identities; the hint of exploring African connections; and the sense of mixed blood or heritage. Mingus's critique of racism is poignant, macabrely humorous, a verbal jazz-blues, sophisticated in style and technique, wielding an ethnic aesthetic to bring the reader to a perspective and understanding.
Marita Golden's Migrations of the Heart (1983) explores the African connections more directly, and illustrates a different form of critique, perhaps less innovative in style, but pioneering an old promise of anthropology to be a "bifocal" mode of cultural criticism. Golden marries a Nigerian and goes to Nigeria to reexperience her Americanness. The marriage fails. The story is a painful, yet eventually strengthening, recognition that identity is not to be constructed with the free will of romantic fantasy. There are reality principles that constrain: traditions, growth patterns, and dynamics beyond the ego. Several schemata structure Golden's text: repetitions of the father figure, countervailing but secondary mother figures (mother, mother-inlaw), rebellions and gradual tempering into mature womanhood, and a skillful portrait of the devastating dynamics of an intercultural marriage that does not work.
The patriarchal figures (father and husband) with which she struggles seem to be the primary vehicles for ethnicity-work.
"[My father] was as assured as a panther ... he bequeathed to me-gold nuggets of fact, myth, legend.... By his own definition he was "a black man and proud of it." . . . Africa: "It wasn't dark until the white man got there." Cleopatra: "I don't care WHAT they teach you in school, she was a black woman.". the exploits of Toussaint Ouverture. (3-4)
"He was a hard, nearly impossible man to love when love meant exclusive rights to his soul ... he relied [on his many women] ... to enhance the improvisational nature of his life." (3-4)
Her African lover, then husband, is almost a double to her father. His assurance first attracts her: "enveloped in the aura of supreme confidence that blossomed around all the Africans I had ever met ... I'd read about my past and now it sat across from me in a steak house, placid, and even a bit smug.... I rubbed my fingers across his hand. "What're you doing?" he asked. "I want some of your confidence to rub off on me," I said." (50-5 1)
Both men have areas of reticence she cannot penetrate. With her father the mutual lack of understanding is manifested in his demand that she get rid of her "natural" hair-do, in his (and her) inability to share grief when her mother dies, and in his taking up with another woman, whom she resents. With her husband, the mutual lack of understanding lies in his familial and patriarchal traditions, for instance, his sharing of economic resources with his fraternal group at the expense of his conjugal family. Initially she finds the patriarchal, masculine Nigerian culture attractive:
"Lagos is an aggressively masculine city, and its men exude a dogmatic confidence.... it was this masculinity that made the men so undeniably attractive. Nigeria was their country to destroy or save. That knowledge made them stride and preen in self-appreciation. This assurance became for an AfroAmerican woman a gaily wrapped gift to be opened anew every day." (84)
Ultimately, she feels the assumptions of this culture to be devastatingly denying of her sense of self. Women, she is told by another wife, are forgiven almost everything as long as they fulfill the duty to set the stage on which their men live. Life is complicated in Nigeria, particularly when her fiance resists marriage until he feels financially independent, when she finds a job and he cannot, later when he demands a child before she is ready, and when he gives money to raise his brother's children at the expense of her comfort.
The primary frames of Golden's book are the portraits of a marriage gone awry, partly for reasons of culturally conflicting assumptions, and of a woman gradually freeing herself from dependencies and unexamined notions of identity. But what is important here are the reflections on what it is to be a black American-again, an identity to be created, and a sociological reality to be struggled for. just as Africa is initially an over-romanticized image of "my past," an image of self-confidence, one that inevitably is shaken by a closer lookNigeria has its own problems, an American does not slip so easily into an African set of roles-so, too, America is not to be accepted in its realities of racism or individual fantasies (such as those of her father). Golden returns from her ordeal in Africa to Boston (Boston because it is not Washington or New York, where she grew up and where there are too many regressive pulls). There she finds the racial atmosphere almost unbearable. One has the feeling, however, that she will now help to change the situation simply by being a stronger, richer person.
This use of Africa is what anthropological cultural criticism ought to be about: a dialectical or two-directional journey examining the realities of both sides of cultural differences so that they may mutually question each other, and thereby generate a realistic image of human possibilities and a self-confidence for the explorer grounded in comparative understanding rather than ethnocentrism. It is perhaps what Margaret Mead promised in Coming of Age in Samoa and Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies,and failed fully to deliver. These influential books helped Americans see that American adolescent patterns of rebelliousness and American sex roles were not 11 natural," but culturally molded, and so might be altered through different child-rearing methods. Such cultural criticism of America worked by juxtaposing alternative patterns elsewhere in the world: that is, real world examples, not utopian fantasies. In today's more sophisticated world, we know that the Samoan and New Guinea societies are more complicated than Margaret Mead described, as also is America. Marita Golden's narrative points to some of the complexities on both sides of any cultural divide that need to be addressed in contemporary anthropological efforts at cultural criticism (see further Marcus and Fischer 1986).
And Louie would come through- Within the dark morada average
melodramatic music, like in the chains rattle and clacking prayer
mono-tan tan taran! Cruz wheels jolt
Diablo, El Charro Negro! Bogard the hissing spine to uncoil waiting
smile (his smile is deadly as tongues
his viasas!). He dug roles, man, of Nahuatl converts who slowly
and names-like blackie, little wreath
Louie ... rosary whips toftay one another
Jose Montoya, "El Louie" Bernice Zamora, "Restless Serpents"
Perhaps the most striking feature of Mexican-Amcrican writing, present in other ethnic writing too, but brought to its most explicit and dramatic level here, is interlinguistic play: interference, alternation, inter-reference. This was the subject of the first Armenian poem cited above. It is clear in the texture of black English. Some Mexican-American writers use Spanish, others English, some have alternating/mirroring pages or chapters of Spanish and English (reciprocal translations). Chicano literary journals (El Grito, Entrelinas, Revista Chicano-Riquena) are resolutely bilingual. Spanish phrases occur within the flow of English, and Spanish words and grammatical structure take on changes influenced by English. Indeed, for some pochismo or calo, the Chicano slang, takes on a privileged role. Says Bernice Zamora:
"I like to think of Calo as the language of Chicano literature ... It is evolving as a literary mode, and the writers I enjoy most for their consistency of Calo are Cecilio Camavillo, Jose Montoya, and Raul Salinas. I am fond of Calo because of the usage of English phonemes with Spanish gerund or verb endings ... eskipiando [skipping] ... Indios pasando we watchando ... I teach Calo with the premise that it is a conflict of languages resolved." (Quoted in BruceNova 1880: 208)
Ricardo Sanchez provides an example of bilingual insistence:
"Soy un manitc, por herencia y un pachuco por experiencia [I am a native New Mexican by heritage and a pachuco by experience] ... I was born number 13, the first one in the family to be born outside of New Mexico and Colorado since somewhere en el siglo 16 [in the sixteenth century] ... soy mestizo [I'm a mestizo], scion to the beautiful and turbulent reality of indo-hispanic concatenation, ay, mi abuela materna [my maternal grandmother] was born in the tewa pueblo of San Juan, there between taos and espafiola ... un mundo, ni espafiol ni indfgena: ay, mundo de policolores [a world neither spanish nor indian. ay, world of polycolors] when mindsouls se ponen a reconfigurar [start to restructure] new horizons." (Bruce-Nova1880: 2 2 1)
But of far more interest than simply linguistic interference or code switching, and the education debate generated over bilingualism, is the fact, as Michel Serres puts it, "Il faut lire l'interference comme inter-reference" (it is necessary to read interference as inter-reference). (23) What keeps the interlinguistic situation vital is not merely the continuing waves of Mexicans entering the United States and the flow back and forth across the border, so that gradual disappearance in an English environment is less likely, but the cultural vitality of references to Mexican history, Spanish civilization, and pre-Columbian civilization, as well as to particular Chicano styles (such as the pachuco "zoot suit" subculture of El Paso and Los Angeles celebrated in Montoya's "El Louie," a figure paralleling the black Staggerlee (24) " or cultural environments (such as the Penitentes cult of New Mexico described in the opening poem of Zamora's "Restless Serpents").
Poetic autobiography-and the outright novelistic fiction of Rudolfo Anaya, Ron Arias, and Rolando Hinojosa-has perhaps been more boldly experimental here than prose autobiography. But, if one considers Jose Antonio Villarreal's Pocho (1959) as a veiled auto- 0 biography (it is often counted as the first major Chicano novel, although Villarreal does not like the label "Chicano"), then together with Ernesto Galarza's Barrio Boy (1971), Richard Rodriguezs Hunger of Memory (1981), and Sandra Cisneros's ("semi-autobiographical") The House on Mango Street (1983), prose autobiography has set out many of the thematic preoccupations of Chicano, writing.
Villarreal establishes the themes of immigration, dealing with Mexican religious and sexual inhibitions, and familial relations in Pocho. In The Fifth Horseman (1974) he reworks the Mexican genre of novels about the 1910, revolution so as to create a positive ancestral figure for the contemporary Chicano: a protagonist who after the "success" of the revolution refuses to join the victorious army in plundering the people, and, staying true to the revolution, flees to the United States. Villarreal's father, indeed, fought for Pancho Villa, coming in 1921 first to Texas and then to California. (Both father and son returned eventually to Mexico; the son recently once again returned to the States.) Galarza's Barrio Boy styles itself as originating in oral vignettes, and thereby explores the preoccupation of Chicano writers with preserving what has been largely an oral culture, albeit attached to the worlds of Hispanic literacy. Rodriguezs Hunger of Memory is an argument for English as the medium of instruction in schools, retaining Spanish only as a language of intimacy; its descriptions of the two very different worlds are intended to deny that success in North America can be accompanied by retaining the communal richness of the barrio. Rodriguez has roused a storm of controversy, exposing deep class divisions among Mexican-Americans, but also pointing to the ambiguity of middle class Mexican-American writers using the figure of the poor as a vehicle of expression rather than writing about their own experiences. Many Chicano commentators acknowledge the didactic nature of Chicano writing in the I 96os as a key component ofthe rise of a political movement. Cisneros is one of a number of writers who have begun to write more directly of themselves; she uses a fragmentary, richly evocative, vignette style, in English.
The antagonism/anxiety directed towards Rodriguezs autobiographic argument, as well as the commentary on the political didacticism of earlier Chicano writing, pose the key issues for the creation of authentically inter-referential ethnic voices, as well as alerting us to the diversity within the ChIcano (not to mention the larger Hispanic American) community: diversity of class, of region (in Mexico; Texas vs. California vs. Chicago), ofgenealogy (pride in Spain vs. pride in pre-Columbian ancestry).
The most famous poems of the Chicano movement, for example, Rudolpho's "Corky," Gonzales's "I am Joaquin," Alurista (Alberto Urista)'s Floricanto en Aztlan, and Abelardo Delgado's "Stupid America," are open searches for enabling histories of Chicano identity. "I am Joaquin" builds on Mexican history, picturing the United States as a neurotic evil giant (invader of Mexico; demander of assimilation into a whirlpool or melting pot that would deny Mexican-Americans their ancestry) and the Chicano nation as a counter giant in the process of creation through blood sacrifices (of the past and perhaps future: the example of Israel is posed). Alurista, influenced by Carlos Casteneda, constructs a somewhat different heroic past, centered less on H ispanic- Mexican history, and more on a pre-Columbian mythos (flori-canto, "flower-song," is a Spanish translation of the Nahuatl for "poetry"); Aztlan, the region of northern Mexico including what is now the southwestern United States, is a realm of ancient wisdom, far older than the Anglo settlements and more in tune with the harmonies of nature and the universe. Delgado's short poem exposes the inability of Anglo America to recognize in Chicanos their rich antiquity, creative modernity, and synthetic fertility. Chicano knives can be put to use in creative sculpture, as in the past santeros carved religious figures; Hispanic modernity in painting (Picasso) outpaced Anglo, and barrio graffiti could be much more, given the chance; literature, too, can be powerfully synthesized out of a bicultural situation: witness this poem:
stupid america, see that chicano
with the big knife
in his steady hand
he doesn't want to knife you
he wants to sit on a bench
and carve christfigures
but you won't let him.
he is the picasso
of your western states
but he will die
with one thousand masterpieces
hanging only from his mind.
Inter-reference here encompasses both folk tradition (santeros) and high modernism in the Hispanic world (Picasso), bringing them to consciousness in Anglo America (the English medium), while criticizing the oppression and cultural deprivation imposed by America.
The search for enabling histories and myths in much early Chicano writing took the form of seeking out cuentos (stories), and much of the literary ideology was one of capturing and preserving an oral culture. Galarza's Barrio Boy presents itself as a written version of oral vignettes told to the family. Tomas Rivera's y no se lo trag— la tierra (and the earth did not part) alternates a short anecdote with a longer vignette vividly recreating archetypical crises and dilemmas of the exploited poor Chicanos of Texas; the effect is of a collective voice of the people, powerful and searing, with that eternal, but not ahistorical, quality of folktales, the quality that Walter Benjamin identified as coming from shared experience. Curers and grandparents, often female (curanderas, abuelitas), figure as important sources of tradition, of mysterious knowledge, and of cultural strength: the curandera Ultinia in Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me Ultzma (1972) is one of the richest of these figures; Fausto in Ron Arias's The Road to Tamazunchal (1975) is a comic male abuelito counterpart. Both Anaya and Arias move beyond retelling of' oral folk culture, using "magical realism" to create a richly inventive universe pregnant with Chicano associations. Ultima is still a healing figure, using traditional lore on the side of good. A former encyclopedia salesman, Fausto is already a very modernist old man, who instead of passively yielding to failing health, brilliantly creates an active end game, hanging out with a young teenager, inventing relations with a Peruvian lama herder, transporting himself to ancient Cuzco, acting as a coyote to bring wetbacks into the United States, and teaching them how to earn a living without working by playing corpse. Thanks perhaps to knowledge gained from his encyclopedias, Fausto's end game is full of allusions and parodies. Rolando Hincjosa's Rites and Witnesses (1982) works the oral mode in a wildly comic, but less magical, direction, being largely constructed of dialogues set in major institutions that manipulate his characters' lives in mythical Klail City, Belken County, south Texas (a bank that knows everyone's genealogies and business, in all senses, the better to stay one step ahead of them in manipulating real estate, politics, careers, ranching, and banking; the Army, which brings together a Chicano from Klail City and a Cajun from Louisiana to fight in Asia under Sgt. Hatalski). Satire here functions like a hall of mirrors to reality, rather than attempting to create a counter world. It is a series of mirrors that reflect deeply, with a scalpel's precision, revealing ever deeper layers like a cuento de nunca acabar (story without end).
Two autobiographical poems that like "Stupid America" depend less on creating new myths of Mexican or Aztlan pasts illustrate the richness of inter-reference: Raul Salinas's "A Trip Through the Mind jail" (1969) written in jail and dedicated to Eldridge Cleaver, reflecting on the destruction of his childhood barrio in Austin, Texas; and Bernice Zamora's "Restless Serpents." Salinas elegantly reviews the trajectory of childhood and youth, thereby making a powerful indictment of the oppression in these barrios. The first half of the poem describes childhood scenes of playing in chuck-holed streets, learning game playing that turns aggressivity inward, bribing girls with Juicy Fruit gum (an apt euphemism, using a prepackaged, sterile consumer good from outside for seducing tabooed objectives), ethnic rejection at school, and being scared by La Llorona (the weeping woman who inhabits streams and kidnaps naughty children). The second half parallels the first in the transformations of youth: hanging out at Spanish Town Cafe, the "first grown-up (13) hangout" (13 = marijuana), sniffing gas, drinking muscatel, chased by the llorona of police sirens, painting graffiti (pachuco "could-be artists"). The barrio is gone, but "You live on, captive in the lonely cell blocks of my mind." The poem, dedicated to Cleaver, names Chicano barrios across the States. The poem's description is a powerful indictment, but the poem's result is strength: "you keep me away from INSANITY'S hungry jaws," providing "identity ... a sense of belonging," which is "so essential to adult days of imprisonment."
We turn finally to Bernice Zamora's Restless Serpents. The beauty here, in part, lies in the way she injects a female (she rejects "feminist") (25) point of view, counterposing it as a healing potential against the self-destructiveness of the male worlds depicted by Salinas, Montoya ("El Louie"), and the Penitentes cult she describes. The cult of flagellation during Easter week is fascinating and attracts her to its pilgrimage center; but as a woman she is not allowed into the center. She offers an alternative imagery, of locomotion to the center (swimming instead of riding up dry arroyos), of natural cycles of life-giving blood (instead of the exclusively male death-dealing blood sacrifices of flagellation and mock crucifixion). The serpents perhaps are the selfrenewing (periodically skin-shedding) images of ancient Mexico (the descending plumed serpent gods). As Brucc-Nova (1982) puts it, at the beginning of Zamora's 58-poem book, the mythic beasts are restless, wanting their due; the cosmic order is out of phase, the rituals are wrong, inwardly turned, self-destructive aggression; at the end an alternative ritual, nuanced in the imagery of communion and the sex act, male ingested by female, soothes the serpents. Other women writers too use this subtle technique of undermining an initial point of view and showing it in a different light through women's eyes. Evangelina Vigil's "Dumb Broad" describes a woman in fast 8 a.m. bumper-to-bumper traffic with both hands off the wheel, the rear view mirror turned perpendicular, as she teases her hair, fixes her lipstick, puts on eyeshadow, and so on; the poem ends triumphantly with her "sporting a splendid hair-do," tuning the radio, lighting a cigarette, and being handed coffee, the refrain "dumb broad" now, as it ends the poem, being subverted, almost a commuter's "El Louie."
It could be said that inter-reference is what ethnicity is essentially all about, but rarely is the contribution of interlinguistic context so clear and so obviously rich as a vehicle for future creativity: between English and Hispanic worlds; among subcultural styles, mass culture, and "high" culture; between male and female worlds. The subversiveness of alternative perspectives (feminist, minority) for the takenfor-granted assumptions of dominant ideologies, and the polyphony of multiple voices (English, Spanish), are models for more textured, nuanced, and realistic ethnography. (26)
"...the yet unseen translation where Indians have been backed up into and on long liquor nights, working in their minds, the anger and madness will come forth in tongues and fury"
Simon Ortiz, "Irish Poets on Saturday Night and an Indian"
Dicksters must learn better how to balance theforces of good and evil through humor in the urban world
Gerald Vizenor, Wordarrows
Perhaps nothing defines the present conditions of knowledge so well as irony. Ever more aware, in ever more precise ways, of the complexity of social life, writers have had to find ways to incorporate, acknowledge, and exploit our increasingly empirical understandings of the context, perspective, instability, conflict, contradiction, competition, and multilayered communications that characterize reality. Irony is a self-conscious mode of understanding and of writing, which reflects and models the recognition that all conceptualizations are limited, that what is socially maintained as truth is often politically motivated. Stylistically, irony employs rhetorical devices that signal real or feigned disbelief on the part of the author towards her or his own statements; it often centers on the recognition of the problematic nature of language; and so it revels-or wallows-in satirical techniques. (27)
Recent Amerindian autobiographies and autobiographical fiction and poetry are among the most sophisticated exemplars of the use of ironic humor as a survival skill, a tool for acknowledging complexity, a means of exposing or subverting oppressive hegemonic idcologies, and an art for affirming life in the face of objective troubles. The techniques of transference, talk-stories, multiple voices or perspectives, and alternative selves are all given depth or expanding resonances through ironic twists. Thus, talk-stories or narrative connections to the past, to the animated cosmos, and to the present are presented as the healing medicine not only for Indians but for Americans and modern folk at large. Searing portraits of Indian pain are wielded to expose white poets' appropriations of Indian holism with nature as romanticizing, trivializing, and hegemonic whitewashing. Openness to construction of new identities is promoted by the fact that almost all writers acknowledge a creative sense of being of mixed heritage.
N. Scott Momaday, perhaps the high priest of the healing power of the word ("The possibilities of storytelling are precisely those of understanding the human experience") (28) is a skillful experimenter with multiple voices and perspectives. His first memoir, The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969), traces the migration route ofthe Kiowas from Montana to Oklahoma, each chapter told in three voices: that of eternal legendary stories; that of historical anecdote or ethnographic observation, often a single sentence or two in impersonal, flat, descriptive or scientific prose; and that of a personal reminiscence, often lyrical and evocative of a mood. Personal experience, cultural norm or generalization, and visionary tale are thus interbraided so as to capture, and re-present in mutual reinforcement, the separate levels of meaningfulness, while at the same time exposing and heightening the rhetorical vehicles that shape these levels. A lean, sparse, yet sharp and multidimensional, poetic effect is achieved.
In a second memoir, The Names (1976), Momaday plays with childhood fantasies, seeing himself sometimes as a white confronting hostile, dumb, unappealing Indians, and at other times seeing himself as the Indian. Such options come both from his experience and his genealogy. Momaday is Kiowa on his father's side, and his mother styled herself as an Indian, although only one of her great grandmothers was Cherokee. She was not accepted by the Kiowa, and the family moved to New Mexico, where Momaday had experiences with the Navajo, Tanoan Pueblo, and being a member of a gang of white toughs. Momaday's life history, his physical features, and his ideas about the potencies of story telling are incorporated into the character of John Big Bluff Tosameh (along with the introduction to The Way to Rainy Mountain) in his Pulitzer-prize winning novel House Made of Dawn (1968). The focal character of this novel, Abel, is a victim of illegitimacy (not knowing his father or his father's heritage, Navajo perhaps) and exclusion by other Indians. Abel is a transformation of the figure of Ira Hayes (the Pima Indian who helped raise the flag at Iwo Jilra and after the war fell mortal victim to the role, provided by white society, of outcast alcoholic Indian). Abel, too, is a veteran, but his problems are primarily caused by Indians and non-Anglos. He is an embarrassment to Tosameh by fulfilling the white stereotypes of the violent, superstitious, inarticulate Indian. He is redeemed by returning to his dying grandfather and entering a ceremonial race the grandfather had once won. Through the ritual he is able (Abel?) to recall the Navajo prayer song, "House Made of Dawn," which earlier he had unsuccessfully sought.
Leslie Marmon Silko (a mixed blood Laguna)'s Ceremony (1977) deals with the same issues in very similar ways. She, too, uses the device of an Indian traumatized by war (in his memories the killing of Japanese merges with the death of his uncle Josiah; his prayers to stop the Philippine rains cause him guilt for the drought and loss of animals suffered by his family and people: "Tayo didn't know how to explain ... that he had not killed ... but that he had done things far worse"). She, too, uses character types to explore the proper integration with the present world. Tayo, the protagonist, is half-Mexican, half-Laguna, and thus looked down on by his long-suffering Christian Laguna aunt. The latter's son, Rocky, adopts white outlooks and education, and is thought to be the family's great hope to escape Indian Poverty. He, however, is killed in the Philippines (wrong solution), causing Tayo to add survivor's guilt to his confusions. Enio, Harley, and Leroy are the stereotypic Indian veterans who try to recapture their sense of belonging to America by drinking and telling stories of their more potent days. Emo carries around a little bag of teeth of Japanese soldiers he has killed, and eventually turns his frustration on his fellow victims, killing his two buddies. It is Tayo in the end who represents the path out of" the mixtures and confusions of the Indian-and of modern America.
His redemption comes through two old medicine men, particularly Old Betonie who lives on skid row in Gallup. Old Betonie not only insists that one must confront the sickness-witchery in oneself and not take the easy way out, writing off all whites ("It was Indian witchery that made white people" ), for witchery works largely through fear, but he also insists that the healing ceremonies themselves must change ("things which don't shift and grow are dead" ). Indeed, his ritual implements consist of cardboard boxes, old clothing and rags, dry roots, twigs, sage, mountain tobacco, wool, newspapers, telephone books (to keep track of names), calendars, coke bottles, pouches and bags, and deer-hoof clackers: "In the old days it was simple. A medicine person could get by without all these things. All these things have stories alive in them" (123). Ceremonies and stories are notjust entertainment: "They are all we have to fight off illness and death" (2). Tayo must confront the witchery in himself, in his fellow veterans, and in America. The climax occurs along the chain-link fence of a uranium mine near an atomic test site. The problem of the Indian is analogous to that of the whites:
Then they grew away from the earth ... sun ...
plants and animals ...
when they look
they see only objects
The world is a dead thing for them ...
They fear the world.
They destroy what they fear.
They fear themselves.
Humor is a critical component of the healing talk-stories that restablish connections to the past, to the cosmos, and to the present. Humor is a survival skill against witchery and evil. Gerald Vizenor, a half-Chippewa (Anishinabe) Indian activist, is a major practitioner of the fine art of the trickster. Wordarrows (1978) is a series of portraits drawn from his experience as director of the American Indian Employment and Guidance Center in Minneapolis, which also informs his comic novel Darkness in St. LouisBearheart (1978). He says he refused to work with the Communist Party, which attempted to support his organizing activities, "because in addition to political reasonsthere was too little humor in communist speech, making it impossible to know the hearts of the speakers" (1978: 17). The portraits in Wordarrows are full of sadness, but also small absurdist victories. There is Baptiste Saint Simon IV or "Bat Four," told by his father that he is stupid and a backward and a fool, who tries to become a trickster, balancing energies of good and evil, but "hard as he tried, and in good humor, he failed as a trickster and settled for the role of a fool. Evil was too much for him to balance. As a fool ... he was a brilliant success," talking hilarious nonsense to get his case dismissed in court, to weasel money out of his social worker, and so on (1978: 54). There is the "conference savage," or "nomadic committee bear," who never washes or changes his clothes, goes to all the conferences, and sleeps with white women as a kind of "foul bear racism test." And there is the story of the cripple who sells his wooden leg for a drink (the leg has a label on it to be mailed back), for which the white moral is "stop drinking," but the tribal moral is to find free booze with a wooden leg. No wonder there is thus also "Custer on the Slipstream," a Bureau of Indian Affairs employee and reincarnation of Custer, who suffers his own nightmares of humiliation at the hands of the Indians, and so spends all his time in his padded chair. Darknes in St. Louis Bearheart, which gets a preview in Wordarrows, is an absurdist comedy set after the collapse of American civilization, after oil runs out and the government takes back the trees on the reservations for fuel, forcing a pilgrimage of the Indians from their sacred forest lands, led by Proude Cedarfair (clowns and tricksters). Along the way they meet and overcome a series of enemies, such as Sir Cecil Staples, the monarch of unleaded gasoline, who wagers five gallons worth of gas against the bettor's life; the fast-food fascists, who hang witches from the rafters to season before cutting them up for take-out orders; and the government regional word hospitals, modelled on the BIA, set up on the theory of Congress that social problems and crime are caused by language, words, grammar, and conversations. (Sir Cecil Staples's mother had been sterilized by the government for having illegitimate children while on welfare; so she became a truck driver and took to kidnapping children from shopping malls, raising them in her truck, and when they were grown, setting them out at rest-stops.)
James Welch (of Blackfeet and Gros Ventre parentage) uses a grimmer sort of ironic comedy. His novel Winter in the Blood is about a Blackfeet man whose emotions become frozen (shadowy inversions of Michael Arlen's eighteenth-century Armenian merchant) in an inverted Western: the cowboy here is the Indian whose horse is out of control and who watches helplessly as a death occurs (the tableau happens twice, framing the text). Welch also writes poetry. With sensitive irony, in "Arizona Highways" Welch writes of love for a Navajo girl: he feels cut off from his ethnic (general Indian) roots by his education and craft as a poet; he feels white ("a little pale"), flabby ("belly soft as hers"), and overdressed ("my shoes too clean"). Instead of being an inappropriate lover, he tries to be a spiritual guide, but feels himself instead a malevolent ghost. Such irony can be searing, as in "Harlem Montana: just of the Reservation":
We need no runners here. Booze is law ...
When you die, if you die, you will remember
the three young bucks who shot the grocery up,
locked themselves in and cried for days, we're rich
help us, oh God, we're rich.
Several meanings coalesce here, as Michael Castro points out (1983: 165): the image of desperation in poverty, the despair of having locked themselves in from both white and Indian worlds, unable to use the riches of either. The imagery of the inability to discover and express one's identity, of being adrift and lost between worlds, recurs:
In stunted light, Bear Child tells a story
to the mirror. He acts his name out,
creeks muscling gorges fill his glass
with gumbo. The bear crawls on all fours
and barks like a dog. Slithering snake-wise
he balances a nickel on his nose. The effect
a snake in heat. ("D-Y-BAR")
Castro again: Bear Child cannot find himself, let alone the traditional wisdom and power of his bear namesake and totem; his attempts at recovery through acting out his name are but a pathetic charade, and Welch leaves him at the bar, "head down, the dormant bear."
These images of pain are cautions against the trivializing, superficial romanticism with which many whites attempt to appropriate Indian consciousness. "Many Indian writers perceived [Gary] Snyder's acclaimed book [Turtle Island] as part of a new cavalry charge into their territory by wild-eyed neo-romantics seeking to possess not merely their land, as had the invaders of the previous century, but their very spirit" (Castro 1983: 159). Thus Silko:
Ironically, as white poets attempt to cast off their Anglo-American values, their Anglo-American origins, they violate a fundamental belief field by the tribal people they desire to emulate: they deny their history, their very origins. The writing of imitation "Indian" poems then, is pathetic evidence that in more than two hundred years, Anglo-Aniericans have failed to create a satisfactory identity for themselves. (Quoted in Castro 1983: 213)
Again, commenting on Maurice Kenny's (a Mohawk) refusal to play 16 savior and warrior, priest and poet ... savage and prophet, angel of death and apostle of truth," Castro says (169):
Kenny comically reminds us of how the eagerness of spiritually starved whites to romanticize the Native American denies the Indian's contemporary reality and humanity, at the same time obfuscating the fact that what America has become is now our common problem:
Again I spoke of hunger:
A "Big Mac" would do, instant coffee
plastic pizza, anything but holy water.
Irony and humor are tactics that ethnographers have only slowly come to appreciate, albeit recently with increasing interest. A number of analyses now exist of previously unnoticed or misunderstood ironies (either intended or unintentionally revealing) in past ethnographic writing-see Crapanzano in this volume, James Boon 1972) on Uvi-Strauss, Don Handelman (1979) on Bateson. Increasingly attention is being paid to the uses of laughter among ethnographic subjects (Bakhtin 1965, Karp 1985, Fischer 1984). Ethnographers are pointing out the rhetorical devices they employ (Marcus and Fischer 1986). Considerable potential still exists, however, to construct texts utilizing humor and other devices that draw attention to their own limitations and degree of accuracy, and that do so with aesthetic elegance, and are pleasurable to read, rather than with pedantic laboredness. The stylist closest to such an ambition in anthropology is, perhaps, Levi-Strauss (and in literary criticism, Jacques Derrida). This, I recognize, is a personal judgment, and neither Uvi-Strauss nor Derrida are unproblematic. They are less models to emulate than examples on which to build in more accessible, replicable ways. For the time being, pedantic laboredness is also difficult to avoid, because editors and readers still need to be educated to understand such texts. Subtlety is a quality that seems often (but not necessarily) to run counter to the canons of explicitness and univocal meaning expected in scientific writing. But, as Stephen Tyler has eloquently pointed out, the demand for univocal meaning is often self-defeating (Tyler 1978).
III. Re-Collections and Introductions
Postmodern knowledge ... refines our sensitivity to differences and reinforces our ability to tolerate the incommensurable.
Jean-Francois Lyotard, ThePostmodern Condition
Ethnicity is merely one domain, or one exemplar, of a more general pattern of cultural dynamics in the late twentieth century. Ethnic autobiographical writing parallels, mirrors, and exemplifies contemporary theories of textuality, of knowledge, and of culture. Both forms of writing suggest powerful modes of cultural criticism. They are post-modern in their deployment of a series of techniques: bifocality or reciprocity of perspectives, juxtapositioning of multiple realities, intertextuality and inter-referentiality, and comparison through families of resemblance. Insofar as the present age is one of increasing potentialities for dialogue, as well as conflict, among cultures, lessons for writing ethnography may be taken from writers both on ethnicity and on textuality, knowledge, and culture.
Ethnicity. Substantively what have we learned? First, that the different ethnicities constitute a family of resemblances: similar, not identical; each enriching because of its inter-references, not reducible to mechanical functions of solidarity, mutual aid, political mobilization, or socialization. It is the inter-references, the interweaving of cultural threads from different arenas, that give ethnicity its phoenixlike capacities for reinvigoration and reinspiration. To kill this play between cultures, between realities, is to kill a reservoir that sustains and renews humane attitudes.
In the modern, technological, secular world, ethnicity has become ¥ puzzling quest to those afflicted by it. But rather than establishing a sense of exclusivity or separation, resolutions of contemporary ethnicity tend toward a pluralistic universalism, a textured sense of being American. (We are all ethnics, in one sense', perhaps; but only some feel ethnicity as a compelling force, (29) only some have an ear for the music of its revelations.) Not only is the individualism of ethnic searches-posing the struggles of self-definition as idiosyncratichumanistically tempered by the recognition that parallel processes affect individuals across the cultural spectrum, but the tolerance and pluralism of American society should be reinforced by this recognition. The recreation of ethnicity in each generation, accomplished through dream- and transferencelike processes, as much as through cognitive language, leads to efforts to recover, fill in, act out, unravel, and reveal. Though the compulsions, repressions, and searches are individual, the resolution (finding peace, strength, purpose, vision) is a revelation of cultural artifice. Not only does this revelation help delegitimize and place in perspective the hegemonic power of repressive political or majority discourses, it sensitizes us to important wider cultural dynamics in the post-religious, post-immigrant, technological and secular societies of the late twentieth century. In these societies processes of immigration and cultural interaction have not slowed; quite the contrary. There is increasingly a diversity of cultural tapestry that is not-as many have assumed-being homogenized into blandness. The great challenge is whether this richness can be turned into a resource for intellectual and cultural reinvigoration.
The possibility always exists that the exploration of elements of tradition will remain superficial, merely transitional to disappearance. In the first generation of immigration, problems are communal and family-related; in later ones vestiges remain at the personal level, and they, too, will disappear. This is the traditional sociological stance: the Yiddish theater is replaced by assimilated Jewish writers like Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, and Saul Bellow, and they, too, will pass. There is, however, another, more exciting possibility-that there are cultural resources in traditions that can be recovered and reworked into enriching tools for the present, as Arshile Gorky deploys his mother through his painting. It is, suggests Robert Alter (1982), not Roth, Malamud, and Bellow who define a Jewish renaissance in America indeed, they are totally encapsulated in immigrant adjustments-but rather, the establishment of a new serious, post-orthodox, Jewish scholarship by such writers as linguists Uriel and Max Weinreich, historians Jacob Neusner and Gershom Scholem, philosophers Hannah Arendt and Emanuel Levinas, and literary critics Harold Bloom and Robert Alter himself, all resolutely modern, yet able to involve the past in a dialogue generating new perspectives for the present and future. (30) Or more generously, as Murray Baumgarten suggests (1982), what is enduring about Malamud, Roth, Bellow, Singer, and Henry Roth is the interference between Yiddish and English that the texture and idiom of their English preserves, reworks, and gifts back with new richness to English; and the inter-references to dual or multiple cultural traditions. Jewish ethnicity and other ethnicities have always grown in an interlinguistic context. The future of Jewish writing may depend upon the creation of a renewed inter-referential style: Cynthia Ozick (1983) would do it through the recreation in English of a liturgical and midrashic voice; Shmuel Agnon and Jorge Luis Borges do it through a mirroring play in which ancient narratives are placed in modern settings with resolutions echoing ancient texts. One of the most important of contemporary Jewish projects in ethnicity is Jewish feminism, particularly by those who feel themselves orthodox (e.g., Greenberg 198 1; Heschel 1983; Prell-Foldes 1978). For here is a context, par excellence, demanding hiddush (creative interpretation), informed knowledge of the texts and traditions of the past so rich that new possibilities may be discovered.
Writing Tactics. Contemporary ethnic autobiographies partake of the mood of meta-discourse, of drawing attention to their own linguistic and fictive nature, of using the narrator as an inscribed figure within the text whose manipulation calls attention to authority structures, of encouraging the reader to self-consciously participate in the production of meaning. This is quite different from previous autobiographical conventions. There were once times and cultural formations when there was little self-reflection, little expression of interiority, and autobiography served as a moral didactic form in which the sub . ect/narrator was little more than a sum of conventions, useful today primarily for exploring the logic and grounding of those moralities (Fischer 1982, 1983). Romantic poetics made the author/narrator and his or her interiority central: knowledge itself was thought inseparable from the cultivation of individual minds. Realism again de-emphasized the individual, elevating social and historical references, making the individual the locus of social process: this is the moment of the classic immigrant-assimilation story of struggle between marginal individual and on the one side family/community and on the other side noncommunal society. The characteristic of contemporary writing of encouraging participation of the reader in the production of meaning-often drawing on parodic imitation of rationalistic convention (Kingston, Mingus, Vizenor), or using fragments or incompleteness to force the reader to make the connections (Kingston, Cisneros, Momaday)-is not merely descriptive of how ethnicity is experienced, but move importantly is an ethical device attempting to activate in the reader a desire for communitas with others, while preserving rather than effacing differences.
Ethnography as Cultural Critique. Rather than repeat the ethnographic codas to each of the five writing tactics discussed in part II of this paper, which conceptually belong here,(31) it is best to end with a challenge, a call for a renewed beginning. Not much ethnography yet exists that fulfills the anthropological promise of a fully bifocal cultural criticism. Or rather, what exists was drafted with less sophisticated audiences in mind than exist today on all the continents of our common earth.
Cultural criticism that operates dialectically among possible cultural and ethnic identifications is one important direction in which the -current ferment about ethnography seems to lead. If this is true, then finding a context for ethnographic projects in the provocative literature on modern ethnicity can only enhance their critical potential.
NOTE: My use of "post-modern" in this essay follows that of Jean-Francois Lyotard (1979): it is that moment of modernism that defines itself against an immediate past ("post") and that is skeptically inquisitive about all grounds of authority, assumption, or convention ("modernism"). Lyotard's definition allows for cycles of modernism that decay and renew, as well as drawing attention to the various techniques for questioning and deorienting/reorienting-techniques ranging from surrealism in the arts to developments in the natural sciences (fractals, catastrophe theory, pragmatic paradoxes, undecidables). Alternative definitions of post-modernism as either an unlabeled aftermath of early twentieth-century modernisms Ð or, as Fredric Jameson would have it, a retreat from politically charged modernism back into bourgeois complacency Ð empty the term of any substantive meaning and (in Jameson's case) assert unsubstantiated negative political evaluations. An allied usage of post-modern to that employed here, and to which I am also indebted, is that of Stephen Tyler (see this volume).
1. For reasons of space, this second phenomenon will have to remain an undersong, only alluded to periodically. "Occulted" is a key term from Stephen Tyler's essay in this volume, an essay with which the present paper is intended to resonate. "Deferred" invokes Jacques Derrida's efforts to show how metaphors depend on and create new displacements from meanings in other texts, how no text exists in and of itself. "Hidden" refers to Walter Benjamin's attempts at "revelation" or recovery of meanings sedi mented in layers of language. Others who have become theoreticians of interest for the present mood include Harold Bloom (like Derrida, concerned with intertextuality in his terms, "the anxiety of influence"); Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan (as semioticians interested in the dynamics of what Freud called "the soul," locating what is repressed, implicit, mediated, or what Tyler calls the "unsaid"); Wilhelm Dilthey, Clifford Geertz, and Victor Turner (as exploring constructivist understandings of symbolic meaning, in Geertz's phrase "models of and models for"); Hans-Georg Gadamer (for his articulation of meaning elicited through the juxtaposition of historical horizons and cultural traditions); Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault (for their inquiries into the hegemonic power of language); Max and Uriel Weinreich and Michel Serres (for their concerns with inter-reference and interlinguistics). It is no coincidence that the interest in these authors-renewed interest in the case of Freud, Nietzsche, and Berjamin - (a reaction against the New Criticism of the 1960s in literature, and against Parsonianism in anthropology) appears contemporaneously with the florescence of ethnic autobiography. There is a commonality of inquiry characteristic of the present moment.
2. On Freud's usage, see Bruno Bettleheim (1983).
3. On Pythagorean and Platonic notions of memory, see Jean-Pierre Vernant (1965/1983).
4. Wilcomb E. Washburn, in Victor Turner, ed. 1982, 299.
5. This was the subject of a conference organized by M. C. Bateson at Coolfont, West Virginia, in June 1984, under the auspices of the Intercultural Foundation, with support from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Georgetown University Center for Intercultural Studies.
6. The Talmud discusses the minutiae of temple worship, a form of worship long gone by the time the Talmud was written. It thereby transformed what once were rules of ritual into a tool for developing argumentation and dialectical skills (Neusner 1981). So, too, Levi-Strauss has tried to collect myths, many of which no longer function in their original contexts, and, by collating them and suggesting procedures for interpreting them, has made them live again as the subjects of intellectual discussion and intellectual growth (see Handleman 1982). No one, for instance, will ever again be able to analyze a single incident, symbolic figure, or single myth variant apart from other variants and other relevant myths, or be able to ignore the notion of myth as a kind of language with rules of syntax and meanings generated systematically through contrastive differences of usage of incidents, characters, or symbols.
7. Feld's account moves from a textual analysis of a poem built around the call of an abandoned child, to an analysis of the Kaluli typologies of birds based on sounds, to a musical analysis of songs such as those used in the Gisaro ritual, to the Kaluli rhetorical analysis of the ways words are made poetic, and to an analysis of the Kaluli vocabulary and theory of music, in which sonic structure is coded in metaphors of the movement of water. Kaluli music, poetry, aesthetics, and epistemology in general are built around sound, in striking contrast to Western epistemology, which privileges vision (see also Tyler 1984).
8. See Plato's Phaedrus and the commentary on it by Jacques Derrida in his Disseminations.
9. For instance, Amerindian writing draws on a long tradition of philosophical, mythic, and simply humorous engagement with trickster figures. Black autobiographical writing is also a long-established tradition. One can trace it back to the slave narratives of Muslim West Africans (and others) brought to America, and, more immediately in the modern period, black autobiographies contributed to the core development of the post-World War II civil rights movement. That movement is hard to conceive of with out thinking of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (1952), Claude Brown's Manchild In the Promised Land (1965), Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), The Autobiography ofMalcolm X (with Alex Haley, 1973), Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice (1968). Chinese-American (like Mexican-American) writing has generated class-linked differential reactions. Some Chinese-Americans whose families did not experience the railroads, sweatshops, and Chinatowns resent Kingston's books as giving further credence to stereotypes. Male writers, such as Frank Chin and Jeffrey Paul Chan, have also criticized Kingston for pandering to stereotypic exoticism, rather than creating alternative visions (Kim 1982).
10. Compare William Saroyan carrying fragments of his father's writings on scraps of paper, like seeds that inspire his imagination (Here Comes There Goes You Know Who, p. 36).
11. Compare Saroyan's distorted anger at his father (ibid., p. 36).
12.. Compare Saroyan's comic version, as Bedrosian (1982: 287) aptly characterizes it: "Homeless except for each other, forced to create an entire heritage through a chance meeting, demonstrating through their boyant, child-like spirits that life is comic after all, [and adding further historical-epic depth] these Armenians remind us of the irrepressible and wacky daredevils of Sassoon."
13. "What [is] one to make of such a story? I use the word 'make' in the sense of 'to fashion'; or . . . 'to re-create"' (p. 177).
14. Michael Arlen the writer, his father the writer; the father as the immigrant toAmerica, the guide in Soviet Armenia, the eighteenth-century Erzurum merchant; the Armenian heritage in general.
15. See for instance the two lovely poems by David Kherdian about an old man ("Dedeh Dedeh") and an old woman ("Sparrow"), each representing the Armenian past, reproduced in Bedrosian (1982).
16. See the opening passages of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.
17. "Muhammad and Dawia" in V. Crapanzano and V. Garrison, eds. (1977).
18. On the Nishan Shaman, see Stephen Durant (1979). in the Manchu story, the resolution between the statuses of (a) the powerful female shaman who teases and taunts the wealthy and powerful and (b) the widowed daughter-in-law (urun, "work woman") is to take the shaman's implements away, making her again merely an urun. This, as Kingston's version shows, is hardly a necessary resolution.
19. "The Disenchantment of the World," in Algeria 1960 (New York: Cambridge University Press, (1979).
20. Recent examples of such "polyphony" are Birds of My Kalam Country by Ian Majnep and Ralph Bulmer (1977), and Piman Shamanism by Donald M. Bahr, Juan Gregorio, David I. Lopez, and Albert Alvarez (1974).
21. See the discussion of N. Scott Momaday below, or in anthropology see Richard Price's First-Time (1983) in which oral accounts are juxtaposed to archival ones; or Renato Rosaldo's longot Headhunting (1880) which pursues a similar goal more discursively.
22. The name of the album that in 1962 he said was his best.
23. L'Interfirence (1972:157), cited by Baumgarten (1982:154), who develops the notion himself with reference to Jewish-American writing, especially Yiddishinfluenced writing, but not limited to that set of inter-references.
24. See Greil Marcus's chapter on Sly Stone in his Mystery Train (1975).
25. Feminism, Zamora says, ignores race. The Chicana's relation to Chicano men she says is different from that of feminists with their men, owing among other reasons to the loss of Chicano men to white women. She sees a parallel problem for black women. (See interview in Bruce-Nova 1980: 214.)
26. See again here note 21 above.
27. Hayden White, from whom this characterization is adapted, has described the efforts of nineteenth-century historiography and social theory to overcome the irony of the Enlightenment-by rhetorical strategies of romance, tragedy, and comedy-only to end in an even more sophisticated and thorough irony (White 1973). For the present century, see Marcus and Fischer (1986), Lyotar (1979), and the recent essays of Tyler, including the one in this volume.
28. From the introduction to Vizenor's Wordarrows.
29. See George Lipsitzs "The Meaning of Memory: Class, Family, and Ethnicity in Early Network Television" (forthcoming) for an analysis of mechanisms operating im perfectly and ultimately unsuccessfully to homogenize, coopt and suppress interest in ethnicity.
30. Eric Gould makes a similar point in contrasting the work of Edmond Jabo with the Jewish ethnic novels of mid-century America (Gould, ed. 1985: xvi).
31. The idea of the paper was that the sections of part II should be staged "to speak for themselves." Because the first draft did not achieve this goal in a way readers found illuminating, the second draft (printed here) has reverted to a more traditional authorial guiding voice. A third, future version, when both author and readers have become more expert, would again remove the intrusive interpretations to this place of re-collection and reconsideration-by reader and author-as to how to do it better.
The ideas for this paper were first developed in a course at Rice University on American Culture, and I am indebted to the student participants. For stimulating discussions I would like to thank members of the Rice Circle for Anthropology (in 1982-84 comprised of George Marcus, Stephen Tyler, Tulio Maranhao, Julie Taylor, Ivan Karp, Lane Kaufmann, Gene Holland, myself, and occasional others), as well as the participants in the seminar "The Making of Ethnographic Texts," particularly Renato Rosaldo, who led the discussion of the first draft of this paper, and James Clifford, who made helpful suggestions at a later stage.
This paper is dedicated to the memory of my father, Eric Fischer, who read from it at his last seder table (while it was being delivered in Santa Fe) and who died as it was being polished a year laterjust before Shavuot. His own first and last English-language books- The Passing of the European Age (Cambridge, Mass., 1943) and Minorities and Minority Problerns (Takoma Park, Md., 1980) - are very much concerned with similar issues.
The ideas for this paper were first developed in a course at Rice University on American Culture, and I am indebted to the student participants. For stimulating discussions I would like to thank members of the Rice Circle for Anthropology (in 1982-84 comprised of George Marcus, Stephen Tyler, Tulio Maranhao, Julie Taylor, Ivan Karp, Lane Kaufmann, Gene Holland, myself, and occasional others), as well as the participants in the seminar "The Making of Ethnographic Texts," particularly Renato Rosaldo, who led the discussion of the first draft of this paper, and James Clifford, who made helpful suggestions at a later stage.
This paper is dedicated to the memory of my father, Eric Fischer, who read from it at his last seder table (while it was being delivered in Santa Fe) and who died as it was being polished a year laterjust before Shavuot. His own first and last English-language books- The Passing of the European Age (Cambridge, Mass., 1943) and Minorities and Minority Problems (Takoma Park, Md., 1980) - are very much concerned with similar issues.