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Cultural Identity and Diaspora
Transcript of Cultural Identity and Diaspora
“Far from being grounded in a mere ‘recovery’ of the past, which is waiting to be found, and which, when found, will secure our sense of ourselves into eternity, identities are the names we give to the different ways we are positioned by, and position ourselves within, the narratives of the past.” (p. 225) Cinema and "the blacks of the diaspora."
Cultural identity issue: who is this new subject and from where does he/she speak?
Every enunciation is positioned: a particular place and time, a history and a culture that are specific.
The person who speaks and the subject that is being spoken of are never identical and are never exactly in the same place.
Identity is not something fixed, it is a “production” that is always in process, and constituted inside representation, never outside of it.
There are two different ways of thinking about “cultural identity”: as “essence” and as “positioning”. Identity as “unifying”: a “true self” shared by people with a common history and ancestry that hides behind the many artificial and imposed “selves”.
This “oneness” would be the “essence” of the black experience that should be explored, uncovered, rediscovered and brought to light through cinematic representation.
Frantz Fanon: ”… directed by the secret hope of discovering beyond the misery of today, beyond self-contempt, resignation and abjuration, some very beautiful and splendid era whose existence rehabilitates us both in regard to ourselves and in regard to others.” (p. 223)
“an act of imaginary unification”: imaginary coherence on the experience of dispersal and fragmentation, which is the history of all enforced diasporas. Cultural Identity
Diaspora While Africa was a case of the unspoken, Europe was a case of an endlessly speaking – and “endlessly speaking us”. It is about exclusion, imposition and expropriation.
With the European presence, it was introduced the question of power – it interrupts the innocence of the whole discourse of ‘difference’ in the Caribbean.
It had the role of the dominant in Caribbean culture.
In visual representation, it had positioned the black subject within its dominant regimes of representation.
“We are often tempted to locate that power as wholly external to us, but this power has become a constitutive element in our own identities.” American presence: the ‘New World’ presence. It is not much about power, but ground, place, territory. In this relation, the Caribbean would be a juncture-point where many cultural tributaries meet;
The American presence is also related to continuous displacements: the original pre-Columbian inhabitants, the Arawaks, Caribs and Amerindians, who were permanently displaced from their homelands and decimated; other peoples displaced in different ways from Africa, Asia and Europe; the displacement of slavery, colonization and conquest.
Caribbean cinema shares this preoccupation with movement and migration with many other ‘Third Cinemas’, but it is one of their defining themes, and it is destined to cross the narrative of ever film script of cinematic image. Difference Stuart Hall Graziella Mendez Cardoso Bridi
Juliana Stadnik de Lima Armet Frances' photographs: an act of imaginary reunification. His work reconstructs, in visual terms, “the underlying unity of the black people whom colonization and slavery distributed across the African Diaspora”. Cultural identity as “unifying” to restore a an imaginary fullness against the the transportation, slavery and migration of the past.
It is also a form of resistance to confront the fragmented way in which that experience has been reconstructed within the dominant Western regimes of cinematic and visual representation.
This conception of Cultural Identity ”played a critical role in all post-colonial struggles which have so profoundly reshaped our world” (p. 223). It is only through this second conception of cultural identity that the trauma of the “colonial experience” can be understood.
“Cultural identities are the points of identification, the unstable points of identification or suture, which are made, within the discourses of history and culture. Not an essence but a positioning.” (p. 226)
The paradox of ”similarity and continuity” and ”difference and rupture".
In this perspective then, difference persists, but alongside continuity. Homi Bhaba: “the ambivalent identifications of the racist world… the ‘otherness’ of the self inscribed in the perverse palimpsest of colonial identity.”
The dialogue of power and resistance, of refusal and recognition, with and against the European presence is almost as complex as the ‘dialogue’ with Africa.
In terms of popular cultural life, it is nowhere to be found in its pure state. It is always already fused, syncretized, with other cultural elements.
Then, Hall raises a question: “how can we stage this dialogue so that, finally, we can place it, without terror or violence, rather than being forever placed by it? Can we ever recognize its irreversible influence, whilst resisting its imperializing eye?”
Example: a Caribbean filmmaker or writer, in dialogue with the dominant cinemas and literature of the West. None of the people who now occupy the islands originally ‘belonged’ there. The Arawak presence remains today as a ghostly one, visible mainly in museums and archeological sites, part of the barely knowable or usable ‘past’.
There can be few political statements which so eloquently testify to the complexities entailed in the process of trying to represent a diverse people with a diverse history through a single, hegemonic ‘identity’.
The ‘New World’ presence is therefore itself the beginning of diaspora, of diversity, of hybridity and difference, what makes Afro-Caribbeans people already people of a diaspora. And the diaspora experience as he intends here defined, not by essence or purity, but by the recognition of a necessary heterogeneity and diversity; by a conception of ‘identity’ which lives with and through difference.
It is because this New World is constituted for them as a place, a narrative of displacement, that it gives rise so profoundly to a certain imaginary plenitude, recreating the endless desire to return to ‘lost origins’. Final Remarks So, through a series of metaphors, Stuart Hall tried to put in play a different sense or their relationship to the past; a different way of thinking about cultural identity; to theorize identity as constructed within representation; and hence, within cinema, not as a mirror held up to reflect what already exists, but as a form of representation which is able to constitute them as new kinds of subjects.
Communities are to be distinguished not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined.
Diaspora identities are those which are constantly producing and reproducing themselves anew, through transformation and difference. So, the vocation of modern black cinema is to allow them to see and recognize the different parts and histories of themselves, to construct those points of identification, those positionalities they call in retrospect their ‘cultural identities’.
“We must not therefore be content with delving into the past of a people in order to find coherent elements which will counteract colonialism’s attempts to falsify and harm … A national culture is not a folk-lore, nor an abstract populism that believes it can discover a people’s true nature. A national culture is the whole body of efforts made by a people in the sphere of thought to describe, justify and praise the action through which that people has created itself and keeps itself in existence.” Outline: 1. Introduction 2. Two perspectives on cultural identity 7.Conclusion 3. "Difference" 4. Presence Africaine 5. Presence Europeene 6. Presence Americain "Weird, or just different?" http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_weird_or_just_different.html 'doubleness’ of similarity and difference Martiniquains and Jamaicans:
the same and the different • Same: belong to the marginal, the underdeveloped, the periphery, the ‘Other’ – we are always ‘South’ to someone else’s El Norte. • Different: each has negotiated its economic, political and cultural dependency differently The common history (transportation, slavery, colonization) has been profoundly formative. It unified them across their differences. But it does not constitute a common origin, since it was, metaphorically as well as literally, a translation. ‘Play’ metaphor "How, then, to describe this play of 'difference' within identity?" • 1st: instability, permanent unsettlement, the lack of any final resolution. • 2nd: it reminds them the place where the ‘doubleness’ is most powerfull: varieties of Caribbean musics, such as reggae, zouk, salsa, bouyon, calypso, soca, reggaeton and punta Sense of difference which is not pure ‘otherness’:
Derrida's differance • ‘to differ’ and ‘to defer’ (postpone);
• Meaning is never finished or completed, but keeps on moving to encompass other, additional or supplementary meanings;
• Without relations of difference, no representation could occur. But what is then constituted within representation is always open to being deferred, staggered, serialized. Site of the repressed Apparently silenced beyond memory by the power of the experience of slavery. However, Africa was, in fact present everywhere. Africa, remained and remains the unspoken, unspeakable ‘presence’ in Caribbean culture. It is ‘hiding’ behind every verbal inflection, every narrative twist of Caribbean cultural life. This was/is the ‘Africa’ that ‘is alive and well in the diaspora.’ Africa of diaspora, which only existed as a result of a long and discontinuous series of transformations. 1970s: Afro-Caribbean identity became historically available to the great majority of Jamaican people, at home and abroad. Jamaicans discovered themselves to be ‘black’ and to be the sons and daughters of ‘slavery’. (profound cultural discovery) They discovery it through the impact of popular life of the post-colonial revolution, the civil rights struggles, the culture of Rastafarianism and the music of reggae – the metaphors, the figures or signifiers of a new construction of ‘Jamaican-ness’. ‘New’ Africa of the New World, grounded in and ‘old’ Africa. African Presence • Africa as an origin of their identities. • The original ‘Africa’ is no longer there. It too has been transformed. History is, in that sense, irreversible. • Africa must at last be reckoned with by Caribbean people, but it cannot in any simple sense by merely recovered. Benedict Anderson: ‘an imagined community’ of Africa. It ‘has acquired an imaginative or figurative value we can name and feel’. ‘Homeward’ journey • Tony Sewell’s book: “Garvey’s Children: the Legacy of Marcus Garvey”: story of a ‘return’ to an African identity. • Derek Bishton’s text: “Black Heart Man”: story of a white photographer ‘on the trail of the promised land’. These symbolic journeys are necessary for us all. This is the Africa we must return to – but ‘by another route’: what Africa has become in the New World, what we have made of ‘Africa’: ‘Africa’ – as we re-tell it through politics, memory and desire. Jamaican, Rastafarian, precursor of reggae movement, “taking their music out of the socially deprived areas of Jamaica and onto the international music scene”. Bob Marley Thank you!