Sunday, April 08, 2007

My theoretical push most often follows the logic of Slavoj Zizek and his critique of modernity

The Spear can only be Broken by the Wound that Caused It
Ever since my manner, my writing and my work has become super theoretical one issue has persistently dogged me wherever I go. It pops up during my hysterical internal monologues over sections of my thesis ("oh crap, did I just accidentally reify the split I was trying to pass through?"), questions from Chamorros and others in response to my zany blog posts ("what the hell does "patriotic blowback" mean?") and from people who find my notion of being an "indigenous Lacanian" disturbing. What exactly is this issue, this question that haunts me?
Where does my critique emerge from in relation to modernity?
Okay, so maybe in that form it doesn't sound like something alot of people would ask on an everyday basis, but nonetheless it is this kernal that is always confronting me in my work, and by work I mean academically or what I produce explicitly for academics as well as intellectual work I do for anyone else anywhere.
The phrase "relation to modernity" is the key here, because basically when I critique the United States, when I articulate what decolonization means to me, and what it should be for others, from where am I positioning myself in relation to the thing that I am decolonizing or the framework I am critiquing? Do I place myself outside of modernity, do I root my articulation in something outside of it, or before it? Or do I position myself inside of modernity, making a critique and seeking to dissolve it from within?I am an indigenous subject/non-subject, I am put into that position and I occupy it and chose to continue to occupy it. Yet, given the obvious friendliness of my work with "non-indigenous" theories and scholarship (Zizek, Lacan, Weezer, Evangelion, Pikachu) doesn't this affinity provide an easy autocritique of what I do? To put it another way, am I just reproducing, through my critiques of the ways Chamorros are representing themselves and their culture, the very thing I am attempting to critique, namely the impossibility of the Chamorro?
Depending upon what day of the week it is, my critical relationship to modernity changes, and regularly shows up in the different ways I relate to “indigeneity.” How I articulate it, how I occupy it, and how I resist it (my paper earlier this year on Whale Rider a perfect example). Some days I refuse to give European modernity that much credit, and I insist on the existence of something else, whether in the forms of alternative modernities or alternate epistemologies. Only through attempts to embody and inhabit these forms will real critiques of modernity take place. I work hard to articulate a Chamorro in defiance of the anthropological monopoly on it, which continues to colonize through the very concepts and tendencies that have yet to be decolonized and dealt with in very real ways. (for example, the dilemmia of indigenous peoples is that we are stuck with and stuck in culture, and the predicament of culture is that it is supposed to be stuck, static, and therefore indigenous peoples when entering modernity and modern representation are basically trapped within frameworks of oppressive and colonizing authenticity. In order to be visible to be audible we have to work to retain that cultural position, but speech, representation, like the vision of the T-Rex in Jurassic Park are all predicated on movement, a change, that which culture as it is dominantly articulated, not supposed to do). Some very vibrant recent examples that I've found of this strategy are coming from indigenous epsitemologies in Latin America, the Carribean and the Pacific.
Lately however, my days have not tend to be of the above type. While the hope for something different, outside of modernity remains with me and always makes cameo appearances, my theoretical push most often follows the logic of Slavoj Zizek and his critique of modernity, which provides an interesting way of giving it too much credit to it and giving it not enough credit at the same time. For him the logic of critiquing modernity lies in a line from Richard Wagner’s Parsifal, “Die Wunde schilesst der Speer nur, der si schlug,” “The wound can only be healed by the spear which made it." Or to echo the sentiments of Indian philosopher J.L. Mehta, when confronted with European modernity, “there is not other way open” save to pass through it." This meaning that modernity in its very production, in differing ways, provides the very means for its dissolution. To seek something outside of modernity, or more importantly for issues of indigeneity, something before it, is the most obvious way of ensnaring yourself in it.
Interestingly enough, in my paper Everything you Wanted to Know About Guam, but were Afraid to Ask Zizek: Part 1, I provided a different reading of his "spear" and "wound" spiel.
"The wound can only be healed by the spear that caused it," is therefore like the advice of a doctor, who’s advice is that what the patient needs is a good doctor’s advice, this wound comes with its own logic and its own trap. Colonizing impulses dictate that once wounded, it is the colonizer that Chamorros are to turn to, and to insist bitterly or wait patiently to be given access to that which has hurt them. To me, this is the response that leaves the wound misrecognized, unattended, festering in mythology, eventually becoming something akin to the grotesque thing from Franz Kafka’s story, “A Country Doctor." It becomes a sore so huge and gaping it begins to take a life on a life of its own, precisely because of the lack of understanding as to its purpose or source...posted by Sahuma Minagahet at 1:22 AM

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