…pour my life into a paper cup…
We had an “interesting” discussion in class today. One person dominated (look back over the blog for my thoughts on this) and I’m not entirely sure we discussed what was a very interesting text (Blood Narrative by Chadwick Allen), but there was a long breakdown interdisciplinary debate over this:
Should a “minority” writer identify as a writer, as a minority, or as both.
I felt like saying “this is shockingly similar to the dilemma I’ve been batting around on my blog, as to who can write about what, and I think it’s important to think about perception,” but I was mostly silenced by someone who needed to point out, among other things, that human beings just “deficate excrement.”
Yeah– I didn’t get that either.
This was a moment where I think the view of the rhetorician was really useful. Let’s say, just as a random example, that bell hooks were to stand up and say “I am a writer.” She is (she’s more than JUST a writer, and she’s fantastically talented), but her neglecting to say “African American” wouldn’t have nearly the impact that some of the other students in class thought it would. Anyone in the room, with the ability to see, would identify her as such, and her subject matter would also illustrate this point. It’s not like her author functionality (can we employ that term this way) can erase race. Of course I don’t think hooks would ever try, but I wanted a well known example. It might have been more ironic to choose Morrison, now that I think about it. 🙂
That is, of course, not to neglect the relevance of how one wishes to package and present herself (himself). There are many “minorities” as it were who “pass” (I’ve often asked people if I qualify as either one of these things– it’s not clear that I’m part Cherokee if I don’t point it out, unless people notice that I’m acting like a Cherokee, and that becomes a long performative argument for another post). In some sense, it becomes powerful for those people to declare themselves to be “X type of writer.” We see much more of this with gender/sexuality issues (the power of being “out” as it were, or declaring that one is transgender).
I wonder, though, if the other disciplines represented at the table (history, anthropology, American studies, Native American studies, architecture and library science) don’t give a little too much authority to what the author claims. Several people were trying to claim that one could erase ethnicity by claiming to simply be a writer.
That doesn’t work, I don’t think. Maybe small scale. Perhaps I could, in a gaming studies article, erase my Cherokee-ness (I tend to think I’d more be leaving it dormant than hiding or removing it), but if one is talking about issues of ethnicity, and is an ethnic minority, the audience is going to figure it out/construct that.
That’s why Aristotle created that triangle, isn’t it?
I really didn’t get why it was such a savage argument. It sort of distressed me, since there were a number of great things in the text (including a triangular relationship I’m going to try to write about here tomorrow– I need Photoshop and I’m too tired to Photoshop right now).
If anyone from that class is reading, sorry to dog it. I just don’t GET it sometimes.