[Rocio G. Davis, Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, Johanna(Bookos-z1.Org)

December 8, 2017 | Author: MN Qomaruddin | Category: Immigration, Mass Media, Ethnic Groups, Multiculturalism, Catalonia
Share Embed Donate

Short Description

Download [Rocio G. Davis, Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, Johanna(Bookos-z1.Org)...


Aesthetic Practices and Politics in Media, Music, and Art

Routledge Research in Cultural and Media Studies

1. Video, War and the Diasporic Imagination Dona Kolar-Panov 2. Reporting the Israeli-Arab Conflict How Hegemony Works Tamar Liebes 3. Karaoke Around the World Global Technology, Local Singing Edited by Toru Mitsui and Shuhei Hosokawa

9. Media Reform Democratizing the Media, Democratizing the State Edited by Monroe E. Price, Beata Rozumilowicz, and Stefaan G. Verhulst 10. Political Communication in a New Era Edited by Gadi Wolfsfeld and Philippe Maarek 11. Writers’ Houses and the Making of Memory Edited by Harald Hendrix

4. News of the World World Cultures Look at Television News Edited by Klaus Bruhn Jensen

12. Autism and Representation Edited by Mark Osteen

5. From Satellite to Single Market New Communication Technology and European Public Service Television Richard Collins

13. American Icons The Genesis of a National Visual Language Benedikt Feldges

6. The Nationwide Television Studies David Morley and Charlotte Bronsdon

14. The Practice of Public Art Edited by Cameron Cartiere and Shelly Willis

7. The New Communications Landscape Demystifying Media Globalization Edited by Georgette Wang, Jan Servaes, and Anura Goonasekera

15. Film and Television After DVD Edited by James Bennett and Tom Brown

8. Media and Migration Constructions of Mobility and Difference Edited by Russel King and Nancy Wood

16. The Places and Spaces of Fashion, 1800–2007 Edited by John Potvin 17. Communicating in the Third Space Edited by Karin Ikas and Gerhard Wagner

18. Deconstruction After 9/11 Martin McQuillan 19. The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero Edited by Angela Ndalianis 20. Mobile Technologies From Telecommunications to Media Edited by Gerard Goggin & Larissa Hjorth 21. Dynamics and Performativity of Imagination The Image between the Visible and the Invisible Edited by Bernd Huppauf and Christoph Wulf 22. Cities, Citizens, and Technologies Urban Life and Postmodernity Paula Geyh 23. Trauma and Media Theories, Histories, and Images Allen Meek 24. Letters, Postcards, Email Technologies of Presence Esther Milne 25. International Journalism and Democracy Civic Engagement Models from Around the World Edited by Angela Romano 26. Aesthetic Practices and Politics in Media, Music, and Art Performing Migration Edited by Rocío G. Davis, Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, and Johanna C. Kardux

Aesthetic Practices and Politics in Media, Music, and Art Performing Migration

Edited by Rocío G. Davis, Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, and Johanna C. Kardux

New York


First published 2011 by Routledge 270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 Simultaneously published in the UK by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2010. To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk. © 2011 Taylor & Francis The right of Rocío G. Davis, Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, and Johanna C. Kardux to be identified as authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Aesthetic practices and politics in media, music, and art : performing migration / edited by Rocío G. Davis, Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, and Johanna C. Kardux. p. cm. — (Routledge research in cultural and media studies ; 26) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Emigration and immigration in motion pictures. 2. Ethnicity in motion pictures. 3. Emigration and immigration on television. 4. Ethnicity on television. 5. Ethnicity in the theater. 6. Ethnicity in music. 7. Arts and society. I. Davis, Rocío G. II. Fischer-Hornung, Dorothea, 1949– III. Kardux, Johanna C., 1954– PN1995.9.E44A37 2010 700'.4552—dc22 2010007759 ISBN 0-203-84472-6 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN13: 978-0-415-88290-3 (hbk) ISBN13: 978-0-203-84472-4 (ebk)

In Memoriam Juan Bruce-Novoa Cherished Friend—Distinguished Scholar


List of Figures Introduction: Aesthetic Practices and Politics in Media, Music, and Art




PART I Border Crossings and (Trans)nationalism in Film 1

Paradigms of Attitudes Toward Immigration: Science Fiction Films as Allegories in the Mid-Century




No Country for Old Certainties: Ambivalence, Hybridity, and Dangerous Crossings in Three Borderland Films




Bodies and Hybrid Tropes: Border Crossings in Recent Films




From Alien Nation to Alienation: Tracing the Figure of the Guest Worker in Fatih Akin’s Gegen die Wand




“Lunch with the Bigot”: 9/11 in Bollywood’s Filmic Imagination MITA BANERJEE




PART II Migrant Adaptations in Television 6

Invisible Ethnicity: Canadian Erasure, Vanishing Dutchness




Performing Linguistic Identity and Integration: The Politics of Interpellation in the Catalonian Media




The Trans/migrant in the Spotlight: Space and Movement in Brazilian Telenovelas



PART III Traveling Sounds: Music and Migration 9

Migratory Objects in the Balkans: When the Sound of the Other Sounds Strangely Familiar 145 MARIA BOLETSI

10 Variations on a Fugitive’s Song: The Performance of Disappearance and Forced Migration in Chile



11 Immigration and Modernism: Arnold Schoenberg and the Los Angeles Émigrés



PART IV Performing Ethnicity and Migration: Cultural and Artistic Practices 12 Ethnic Nostalgia: Ethnicity as Cultural Practice in the Twenty-First Century



13 Connoisseurs of Urban Life: Aesthetic Practices and the Everyday among Japanese Migrants in New York City OLGA KANZAKI SOOUDI


Contents 14 “All Islands Connect Under Water”: Ping Chong’s Undesirable Elements Series

xi 227


Contributors Index

245 251



Scientists inspect the brood of clones spawned from the Thing’s severed hand and fed on human blood.


Gort revives the dead Klaatu in a parody of Dr. Frankenstein’s reanimation of his monster.



The border-crossing in Welles’s A Touch of Evil.



Santiago (Gael Garcia Bernal) and the border guard in Babel.


Babel’s Amelia (Adriana Barraza) in a nearly lethal crossing attempt.


Llewelyn (Josh Brolin) flees to Mexico in No Country for Old Men.


Undershirt inside out: American Jonathan and Ukranian Alex’s peaceful dialogic interaction with regard to clothing disturbs binary oppositions as surely as spectacular confrontation.



2.3 2.4 3.1


Performing confl icted hybridity: Idi Amin as self-styled border crosser, a “true son of Africa” and “King of Scotland.” 56


Tough American journalist Lauren retransforms into a Latina as she increasingly identifies with the maquiladora victims.


Cahit (Birol Ünel) and Sibel (Sibel Kekilli) in Gegen die Wand.


Upending the traditional: Cahit (Birol Ünel) and Sibel (Sibel Kekilli) in Gegen die Wand.


4.1 4.2

xiv Figures 5.1

Salim meets his end in the World Trade Center in the 9/11 attacks in Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota (What If?).


The Muslim matriarch in Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota (What If?).


Photo still from the TV program Tenim paraula (We Have the Word).



Estadio Victor Jara in downtown Santiago.



A graffiti bearing the faces of Victor Jara and Pablo Neruda in downtown Santiago.


Arnold Schoenberg and his wife, Gertrud, and daughter, Nuria, arrived in Los Angeles in 1934.


Arnold Schoenberg stands in the front garden of his home in Brentwood, California, a well-to-do residential neighborhood about four miles west of UCLA, ca. 1948.



Horst Krause as Schultze playing on stage.



Idealized everyday life: snapshot of New York City, used with permission of Kazuyo Nakano.


UE: 92/02—Rome, Italy (2004). Presented at RomaEuropa Festival, October 2004.


5.2 7.1

11.1 11.2


Introduction Aesthetic Practices and Politics in Media, Music, and Art Rocío G. Davis, Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, and Johanna C. Kardux

Current cultural practices invite us to consider the representation of migration beyond written texts. A decade into the twenty-fi rst century, media culture has become a prime driving force in politics, culture, society, and everyday life. We can argue that the media—readily accessible to everyone— provide models for cultural perspectives and positions, and new forms of identity. In many ways the media have become today’s dominant culture, with visual, aural/oral, and digital forms of media culture increasingly replacing book culture among large sectors of the world’s urban population, requiring a fundamental revision of the notion of literacy. Media have also become prime constituents of socialization, with social-networking sites, blogs, Twitter, YouTube, and other similar vehicles shaping our lives in significant ways. Indeed, as Douglas Kellner maintains, media culture is more crucial than ever as a force that shapes our worldview: Radio, television, fi lm, and the other products of the culture industries provide the models of what it means to be male or female, successful or a failure, powerful or powerless. Media culture also provides the materials out of which many people construct their sense of class, of ethnicity and race, of nationality, of sexuality, of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Media culture helps shape the prevalent view of the world and deepest values: it defi nes what is considered good or bad, positive or negative, moral or evil. Media stories and images provide the symbols, myths, and resources which help constitute a common culture for the majority of individuals in many parts of the world today.1 Simultaneously, our world has become more transnational than ever: migration marks the experiences of increasing numbers of the world’s population. Migration, with its attendant deterritorialization, has become one of the defi ning characteristics of the contemporary world. Innovative forms of media and art—movies, television series, television commercials, the Internet, art installations, photography, and comics, for example—suggest that the performance of migration in contemporary media, art, and music have become multilayered cultural products that demand renewed theoretical


Rocío G. Davis, Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, and Johanna C. Kardux

frames for interpretation. However, as Russell King and Nancy Wood point out, the richly interdisciplinary fields of media studies and migration studies have rarely been studied together. 2 Given the overlaps between issues of (im)migration and media, we need to address how their interconnection has become part of our understanding of the world’s global cities and, more important in the context of this volume, the paradigms through which we think about ethnicity and nation. If cultural representations intervene in collective beliefs, then art, media, and music clearly influence the ways the experience of migration is articulated and recalled, and thus directly and indirectly impact the development of public policy. These discourses not only present experiences and attitudes, but also create values that operate in shifting cultural and political environments. Wood and King suggest that the media intervene in the migration process and its representation in three ways: (1) through the images transmitted from the destination country or by the global media, which then serves as a source of information for potential migrants; (2) media constructions of migration in the host country affect the kind of reception, the experience of inclusion or exclusion, migrants encounter; and (3) because of new global distribution strategies, media originating from the home country play a dynamic role in the increasingly transcultural identity and politics of diaspora communities. 3 This invites us to think of how art, media, and music support processes of what might be considered a form of cosmopolitanism, understood as a way of imagining and forming communities across national borders and cultural boundaries. As a way of envisioning and representing migrants and their histories, these artistic products become iconic strategies of multilayered image making. In the introduction to their volume Multiculturalism, Postcoloniality, and Transnational Media, Ella Shohat and Robert Stam call for “polycentric media studies” and suggest we think in terms of “comparative or transnational multiculturalism, of relational studies that do not always pass through the putative center” of U.S. media.4 In this volume we would like to take up this challenge and move beyond concepts of the monocultural, illustrating how groups, not only in the U.S. but also in countries like Canada, Germany, Spain, Brazil, and India, to name a few of the areas covered in this volume, construct ethnic identities—the implications of being ‘foreign’ or ‘alien,’ the notions of homeland and hostland, the value of memory and meaning in the country migrated to and from—through media that are simultaneously local and global. The global flow of cultures, images, and capital elicits transnational, transcultural, and transdisciplinary approaches, which often also include battles over the control of cultural politics and capital. Images of imagined multicultural or transcultural communities are often packaged in mass-media tropes, thereby eliciting intense identification or goading equally intense resistance. These kinds of border crossings occur not only across nation-state borders but across disciplines as well, in texts and contexts within and across nation-states, cultural and



social borderlands. It is, as Mary Louise Pratt has demonstrated, in the contact zones between cultures that an enriching struggle among cultures enables a continuing process of cultural recreation and innovation. 5 Concepts such as hybridity, métissage, and creolization, among numerous other cross-, inter-, and transcultural conceptualizations, attempt to account for what Homi K. Bhabha has called the “third space” of the circulation and transformation of culture—some emphasizing more the transformed object that is the product of cultural migrations, and others focusing more on the dynamic tension among the given elements entailed in the process. If transnationalism can be defined as the processes by which populations on the move forge and sustain multistranded social relations that link their societies of origin to those of settlement, it is the media, music, and art that often play a defi ning role in building social fields that cross geographic, cultural, and political borders. ‘Transmigrants’ frequently develop a vacillating concept of home, referring with changing emphasis to a sometimes more and sometimes less removed country of origin or to a sometimes less and sometimes more welcoming country of reception.6 Moreover, the successive images of the countries that these transmigrants consume—in advertising, television, or the Internet—lead them to continually revise previously accepted or remembered versions of their countries of origin and those of the present country of migration. Importantly, because of the democratization of many forms of media, they in turn increasingly participate in the continuing artistic dialogue that multiplies perspectives or visions of places, positions, and possibilities. In imagined worlds distributed around the globe, according to Arjun Appadurai, social structures like birth, kinship, work, and leisure act as stabilizing factors in human experience but are also themselves affected by human mobility. Often it is within mediated representations of these very categories that ‘global neighborhoods’ of a transnational character develop. Several of Appadurai’s paradigmatic concepts are particularly fruitful in the analysis of the relationship of migration and media: the “ethnoscape” defi nes the particular landscape of moving persons who constitute the shifting world; the “technoscape” marks out the structures of global configurations of technology, moving at high speeds across various kinds of previously impervious boundaries; and “mediascapes” delineate the distribution of electronic capabilities to produce and disseminate information, making large and complex repertoires of images, narratives, and ethnoscapes available to viewers throughout the world.7 Appadurai goes on to demonstrate how these new forms of electronically mediated communication are beginning to create “virtual neighborhoods,” beyond and across national borders within large-scale media and data networks.8 Thus, an “alternative cartography of social space,” of transitory migratory circuits, is created, resulting in transnational spaces envisioned as multisided imagined communities—very much in Benedict Anderson’s sense9 —the boundaries of which stretch across borders.10 In this context,


Rocío G. Davis, Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, and Johanna C. Kardux

media are often a source of agency, with migrants not only changed by the country to which they migrate but also in turn producing changes in the receiving country. In Kellner’s words, “As the human adventure enter[ed] a new millennium, media culture continued to be a central organizing force in the economy, politics, culture, and everyday life.”11 Further, media in combination with global migrancy offer forms of resistance and transformation. As several essays in this volume attest, migrants often strategically use mass media, such as fi lm and television, and the visual and performance arts to claim cultural space, social visibility, or a political voice. To understand, thus, the way our global world is being shaped and how these images further influence the way we understand or articulate our experiences, beliefs, positions, and policies, we need to consider the structural strategies and possibilities of the media. Earlier versions of the chapters in this volume were originally presented at the 2008 biennial conference of the Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and the Americas (MESEA), held at the Leiden University in the Netherlands. The conference theme, “Migration Matters: Immigration, Homelands, and Border Crossings,” elicited a significant concentration on arts- and media-related presentations, testifying to the importance of reading new forms of the arts and media as complex artifacts that reflect processes of personal creativity in the context of the particular social and political discourses within which they are produced and received. Indeed, as the chapters show, the media and arts become a vital part of the dialectic of the production of these artifacts as they construct images that establish paradigms of symbolic representations. These paradigms are later reproduced and circulated, subjected to further revisions, enabling new forms for representing issues related to migration. In different ways, the chapters widen the ways these representations may be analyzed: attending to how issues of migration are performed in the context of political discourse; reading the enactment of nostalgia in trans- and interdisciplinary ways; inviting us to discuss how globalization and transnationalism make us rethink traditional borders between nation-states and disciplines; suggesting renewed defi nitions of notions such as ‘home,’ ‘homeland,’ ‘exile,’ ‘migration,’ ‘immigration,’ ‘identity,’ and ‘ethnicity’ within globalized and simultaneously localized ethno-, techno-, and mediascapes. The chapters in Part I of this volume, entitled “Border Crossings and (Trans)nationalism in Film,” discuss the ways in which, from the 1950s to the present, movies have performed migration in their representation of migrants and their histories of border crossings and attendant interethnic and interracial interaction and confl ict. Whereas the earlier movies are produced within the context of the immigration nation (predominantly the U.S.) and represent the receiving culture’s often ambivalent or confl icting responses to immigration, from the 1990s on fi lmmakers from the migrant communities or in the migrants’ homelands have utilized fi lm to intervene into the process of image making and contribute to the processes of



cultural transformation to which migration gives rise. Though their underlying ideological and political agendas regarding cultural and ethnic mixing may differ, the aesthetic practices of many of these movies foreground the cultural hybridization to which geographical and metaphorical border crossings give rise. In the opening chapter, Juan Bruce-Novoa illustrates how early science fiction movies allegorically played out contemporary problems such as immigration. The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Thing from Another World, two now-classic movies that were both released in 1951, offer opposing paradigms of U.S. attitudes toward immigration. While Day portrays the desirable aliens who contribute positively to the melting pot, Thing presents immigration as disastrous dehumanization through foreigners bent on undermining U.S. culture. In Thing, alien migration portends increased vigilance and reinforced borders, whereas in Day, the future belongs to marginal peoples who traverse borders to receive the alien’s message of global cooperation. Thing communicates jingoistic nationalism; Day, idealistic internationalism. Although these movies were a response to international and post-World War II issues such as U.S. policy toward the human rights of migrating peoples and capitalist industry’s demands for both cheap and highly skilled foreign labor, the opposing attitudes toward immigration that they portray still persist today. The subsequent chapters in this section discuss a wide variety of fi lms that use the crossing of geographical boundaries, particularly the paradigmatic U.S.-Mexican border, to explore psychological, cultural, and metaphysical ‘borderlands.’ Taking Orson Welles’s A Touch of Evil (1958) with its depiction of the U.S.-Mexican border as a place of corruption and violence as a touchstone for all later borderlands movies, Page Laws argues that even in the work of liberal American directors such as Welles and, more recently, the Coen brothers in their 2007 movie No Country for Old Men, the act of migration and the hybridization to which it gives rise are surrounded by racial and sexual ambivalence. Even the Mexican-born writers and directors Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo Arriaga in their 2005 movie Babel produce problematic self-images that hegemonic U.S. culture has subtly instilled in Mexican consciousness. As Laws points out, the real borders in these films are not geographic: A Touch of Evil, Babel, and No Country for Old Men are philosophical films about the permeable boundaries between, and consequently the mixed nature of, good and evil, humanity and inhumanity, free will and fate, honor and dishonor, godliness and godlessness. Focusing on the metaphorics of border crossing, Cathy Covell Waegner argues that bodies as such become complex borders in the six recent feature films she discusses, including Bordertown, The Last King of Scotland, and Lone Star. Developing film critic James Monaco’s notion of the cinematic trope further in the light of postcolonial theory on hybridity and border crossing, Waegner argues that in these movies, both geographical borders


Rocío G. Davis, Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, and Johanna C. Kardux

and the body as metaphorical border do not only divide, but also function as what Waegner, following Homi K. Bhabha and Mary Louise Pratt, calls “third-space contact zones.”12 In Waegner’s interfi lmic reading, the torn, marked, exchanged, or transformed bodies from the various movies reflect struggle and mutual interaction among cultures, nations, and ethnicities. The camera lens and the cross-section viewing developed in Waegner’s chapter offer sharp and complex cinematic perspectives of bodyborder crossing that grant insight into the complexities of migration in the contemporary world. The last two chapters in this section focus on fi lms that narrate the experience of migration from the migrants’ perspective. Whereas the science fiction fi lms Bruce-Novoa discusses view migrants literally as ‘aliens,’ Gegen die Wand (Head On), a 2004 film by the eminent German Turkish filmmaker Fatih Akin, takes an inside perspective on the migrant experience of alienation. In her essay, Tessa Lee shows that the movie, which was both an international box-office and critical success, rejects the social-realist genre of earlier so-called migrant and minority cinema in Germany, while simultaneously moving beyond a simplified, multiculturalist celebration of diversity and hybridity. Whereas earlier ethnic cinema tended to reinforce and perpetuate binary oppositions and stereotypes by portraying the migrant as either an exotic/erotic projection or as helpless and oppressed, Gegen die Wand initially uses stereotypes and the ethnic gaze only to subsequently dismantle them. Set in Germany and Istanbul, the movie features bordercrossing protagonists who experience cultural and linguistic alienation in both places. Challenging the notion of essentialized difference between what is considered ‘German’ and ‘other,’ the movie opens up transnational spaces in which identity and alterity have to be negotiated, thus positing not only a hybrid, but also a new German culture. Looking at Bollywood’s reaction to 9/11 through the concept of life writing, Mita Banerjee suggests that the 2006 Bollywood fi lm What If? uses the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the ensuing global ‘war on terror’ to exorcise what may be India’s own skeleton in its closet: negative Hindi perceptions of the Muslim minority, depicted in the fi lm as cocaine addicted, morally misguided, and deeply Westernized. Contrasting the film with the life writing of Indian American poet and critic Amitava Kumar, who has himself become the target of anti-Muslim hate speech, Banerjee’s chapter exposes and criticizes the logic of the Hindu nationalist undercurrent of the fi lm. What seems at fi rst a straightforward story about migration and cultural hybridity, depicting Hindu and Muslim characters who appear to move effortlessly between India and the U.S., in fact masks a deeply troubling Hindu nationalism. While seeming to celebrate multiethnicity, Banerjee argues What If? aims to contain the threat of Muslim infringement on Hindu culture. In Part II, “Migrant Adaptations in Television,” the focus shifts from fi lm to television as a mediascape in Canada, Catalonia (Spain), and Brazil.



Canadians and the Dutch, Dutch Canadian fiction writer and scholar Aritha van Herk argues, share a peculiar reticence about performing or acknowledging their cultural heritage. Van Herk frames her argument about the ‘invisible ethnicity’ of Dutch Canadians by analyzing two popular television advertising campaigns. Exploiting national clichés and exposing Canada’s cultural dependence on the U.S. while adamantly decrying them, Canadian beer company Molson’s famous “My Name Is Joe! And I Am Canadian!” television ad ironically erases Canadian identity in the process of proclaiming it. Similarly, the popular Canadian ad campaign of the Dutch Internet bank ING Direct exploits what Van Herk (quoting Canadian writer Douglas Glover) calls the “cultural blankness” that the Dutch share with the Canadians to sell the bank’s product, an Internet savings account. The invisible ethnicity of Dutch Canadians is not only an asset to business that makes the Dutch a model minority in Canada, but as Van Herk concludes, the seeming lack of a distinct cultural identity shared by Canadians and the Dutch may also be read more positively as a mark of generative tolerance and cosmopolitanism. While Van Herk analyzes commercial television ads in Canada, Klaus Zilles studies two Spanish government-commissioned media campaigns on Catalan public television (Televisió de Catalunya) that are designed to encourage the use of the Catalan language in intercultural contexts. These campaigns try to dissuade the local population from the widespread practice of using Castilian Spanish by staging foreign-looking and foreign-sounding people who, for example, are encouraged to speak Catalan or are shown to have mastered the language. Although Televisió de Catalunya deploys these promotional strategies to destigmatize and empower subordinate groups in an intercultural environment, Zilles uses Althusser’s theory of the Ideological State Apparatus to demonstrate that some of the messages conveyed in the television broadcasts serve to “interpellate,” that is, to hail “autochthonous” media audiences and to constitute them as subjects within the prevailing ideological structure. Thus they reveal an essentialist concept of national identity in the guise of an interculturalist message. Drawing on Appadurai’s concept of the mediascape, Gundo Rial y Costas analyzes the ways migration has been represented in the popular Latin American genre of the telenovela. The few Brazilian telenovelas that deal with migration concentrate on earlier European migrants to Brazil and ignore or marginalize contemporary migrants within Brazil or emigration from Brazil. Narrating tales of social ascent, these productions participate in the project of nation building. The telenovela América (2005), the main focus of Rial y Costas’s chapter, however, tells the story of a young Brazilian girl who realizes her ‘American Dream’ by migrating to the United States, where she joins a migrant community. While other telenovelas contribute to a national Brazilian imaginary and consolidate the nation-state, América portrays and evokes sympathy for the marginalized lives of illegal migrants and transmigrants in the Latino diaspora.


Rocío G. Davis, Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, and Johanna C. Kardux

The chapters in Part III, “Traveling Sounds: Music and Migration,” serve as a reminder that, as people migrate, music and song are among the cultural productions that travel with them, contributing to the construction of memory and identity as well as bearing witness to change and transculturation. In her prize-winning chapter, Maria Boletsi studies the migration of cultural objects and the fight for their ‘ownership’ through the journey of a popular song in the Balkans.13 In her documentary fi lm Whose is This Song? (2003), Bulgarian fi lmmaker Adela Peeva travels across the Balkans in search of the purported ‘owner(s)’ of the song, which appears in all Balkan countries in different versions. Each nation or ethnic group claims the song as theirs and rejects the possibility of its importation from other nations. In her chapter Boletsi examines what happens to notions of self and home when what is unmistakably ‘ours’ proves to carry traces of alterity and migration. The song’s performance throughout the Balkans can be interpreted as a sign of commonality in the cultural identity of Balkan peoples; however, cultural similarities in the region are covered up and recast as differences. The sound of the other’s song is perceived as a disquieting cacophony, Boletsi concludes, precisely because it sounds strangely familiar. The connection between song and national or political identity is also evident in Nicolás Salazar-Sutil’s chapter. During Augusto Pinochet’s military rule in Chile from 1973 to 1988, much of the state-sponsored violence fuelled an antimilitary protest culture that was creatively and powerfully orchestrated in song and chant. Voicing protest against the disappearances of opponents of Pinochet’s regime, the Chilean singer Victor Jara’s song “El Aparecido” (“The One Who Appears”) became the opposition movement’s anthem after Jara was imprisoned and executed in 1973 for his political activism. As Salazar-Sutil argues, the song shows that the loss of life or rights by violent repression does not necessarily amount to the nonappearance or complete effacement of an individual or group. In fact, the power of Jara’s song depends upon the tragedy of loss and absence, and the performance of disappearance can be read as a refusal to accept death, a fugitive existence, and political exile. In the last chapter of the music section, Kenneth H. Marcus examines the involvement of modernist composer Arnold Schoenberg within the circle of émigré artists who fled Nazi Germany and Austria and settled in Los Angeles. Following his immigration to America in 1933, Schoenberg was closely involved with issues of migration and modernism. Exploring Schoenberg’s cultural production within the context of the émigré community, Marcus argues that Schoenberg and his fellow immigrants navigated between American support for European artists and an American nativism that distrusted these artists. This juxtaposition resulted in a particularly troubled view of Heimat and the reconstruction of ‘homeland’ in the host country. The chapters in Part IV of this volume, “Performing Ethnicity and Migration: Cultural and Artistic Practices,” call critical attention to



ethnicity and migration as performative, artistic, and aesthetic practices. In his essay on Michael Schorr’s fi lm Schultze Gets the Blues and Louise Erdrich’s novel The Master Butchers Singing Club, which both appeared in 2003, Marcus Embry examines the viability of ethnicity as a paradigm in present-day cultural criticism. Focusing on Germans and German-Americans in the U.S., the two works seem to tell a classic ethnic tale and to espouse a multiculturalist agenda. However, the fact that they both end in silence and memory suggests to Embry that ethnic cultural practice is not only becoming increasingly nostalgic, but also that it is moving towards a globalized practice that may eventually subsume and erase ethnicity in the twenty-fi rst century. Whereas most studies of migration concentrate on material and economic factors in the formation of migrant communities, Olga Kanzaki Sooudi explores the nonmaterial and noninstrumental concerns that motivate many young Japanese migrants to move to New York City. In search of greater horizons for both their creative work and for self-fulfi llment, these migrants often prefer an uncertain existence in New York to their more traditional, affluent lives in Japan. For many of these Japanese, Sooudi argues, migrant life is conceived as an artistic life: as one whose primary values are creative self-expression and the pursuit of beauty. Drawing on Georges Bataille’s work in her analysis of these migrants’ self-narrations, Sooudi argues that everyday culture is a constitutive site for understanding the meanings and value of living as a migrant. Guided by what one could term a higher aesthetic understanding of the everyday, these migrants feel that the diversity and dynamism of New York City offer a more sublime experience of urban life than that attainable in Japan. Ping Chong’s innovative installation artwork Undesirable Elements/ Secret History, the subject of Roberta de Martini’s essay, performs migration by exploring the effects of migration and ethnicity on individuals in each of the specific communities in which the work is produced. In each of the more than forty distinct performances of this installation work in the U.S., Japan, and the Netherlands since 1992, Chong, an American of Chinese descent, collaborates with a group of local people who share the experience of living in a culture different from the one into which they were born, of being ‘undesirable elements’ in their culture of origin and/or the culture in which they presently live. Applying theories by Marc Augé, Richard Schechner, and Victor Turner, de Martini analyzes the way Chong’s ongoing installation work explores specific notions of ‘place,’ ‘belonging’ and ‘identity’ in each of the communities in which the work is performed. The diverse but intersecting perspectives offered by these chapters on the ways media, art, and music call attention to the current process of immigrant acculturation and transculturation illustrate the ways shifting configurations of our global world are enacted. Issues of resistance and transformation, multilayered claims to cultural space, social recognition, and political visibility become vital when we comprehend the strategies behind these


Rocío G. Davis, Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, and Johanna C. Kardux

artistic endeavors. Ultimately, we understand how the multiple permutations of the migrant experience in art and media—aesthetic embodiments of processes of remaking by re-presenting the self—reproduce the contingencies and possibilities of their creators. The unique advantage of reading these media texts from interdisciplinary perspectives lies, to an important extent, in the ways they evince the migrant process of continuous renegotiation of images of the past and the homeland, even as they directly engage the present and create new homes for themselves. As migrants act upon their present contexts, producing and consuming the images that illustrate their positions, they are compelled to revise their memories and narratives of the past. It is in this tension between newly elicited images and idealized memory, the weight of the past and the demands of the present, official versions and personally imagined accounts that we comprehend how, in our global world, migration truly matters.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The editors wish to thank Deanna Stewart and Heather McIlvaine for their expert help with copyediting and gracious assistance in preparing this volume for publication.

NOTES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

Kellner, Media Culture, 1. King and Wood, eds., Media and Migration, viii. Wood and King, Introduction, 1–2. Shohat and Stam, eds., Multiculturalism, 17, 4–5. Pratt, Imperial Eyes, 4. Basch, Schiller, and Blanc, Nations Unbound, 7–22. Appadurai, Modernity at Large, 33–37. Ibid., 193. See Anderson, Imagined Communities. Gutiérrez and Hondagneu-Sotelo, “Introduction,” 504. Kellner, Media Spectacle, vii. See Bhabha, Location of Culture, 53–56; Pratt, Imperial Eyes, 4. Maria Boletsi won MESEA’s 2008 Young Scholars Excellence Award for this chapter.

WORKS CITED Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Refl ections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Rev. ed. London and New York: Verso, 1991. Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.



Basch, Linda, Nina Glick Schiller, and Cristina Szanton Blanc. Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritorialized Nation-States. London and New York: Routledge, 1994. Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. Gutiérrez, David G., and Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo. “Introduction.” Special issue, “Nation and Migration: Past and Future,” American Quarterly 60, no. 3 (Sept. 2008): 503–21. Kellner, Douglas. Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and Politics between the Modern and the Postmodern. London and New York: Routledge, 1995. . Media Spectacle. London and New York: Routledge, 2003. King, Russell, and Nancy Wood, eds. Media and Migration: Constructions of Mobility and Difference. London and New York: Routledge, 2001. Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. London and New York: Routledge, 1992. Shohat, Ella, and Robert Stam, eds. Multiculturalism, Postcoloniality, and Transnational Media. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003. Wood, Nancy, and Russell King. “Media and Migration: An Overview.” In Media and Migration: Constructions of Mobility and Difference, edited by Russell King and Nancy Wood, 1–22. London and New York: Routledge, 2001.

Part I

Border Crossings and (Trans)nationalism in Film


Paradigms of Attitudes Toward Immigration Science Fiction Films as Allegories in the Mid-Century Juan Bruce-Novoa

Guard yourself from the terrible empty light of space, the bottomless Pool of the stars. (Expose yourself to it: you might learn something.) “Quia Absurdum,” Robinson Jeffers

Science fiction allegorically stages contemporary problems through the lens of impossible events. From depicting a laboratory-assembled ideal man in Frankenstein to H.G. Wells’s prophecy of worlds at war, from allegorized social confl icts in Metropolis to Bioy Casares’s prescient exploration of virtual romance in La invención de Morel, science fiction introduces visions of alternative resolutions to fundamental crises. While immigration may not be remembered as a major sociopolitical problem in the post–World War II U.S., especially in comparison with its position among the concerns of the U.S. electorate (tied with the Iraq War according to an NPR newscast of May 30, 2008), it actually did represent a multifaceted issue of political and cultural concern. And the fi lm industry has always exploited social concerns in its search for larger markets. Although a few films directly stage immigration, like George Pal’s When Worlds Collide (1951), interplanetary in this instance, others, like the two studied here, dealt with the topic more obliquely and closer to home.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT The Great Depression, combined with security concerns about the impending European conflicts, produced a sharp drop in immigration between 1930 and the end of WWII at which time it averaged just over 50,000 persons annually, its lowest point in the century. However, as the country emerged as the world’s leading economic power, untouched by violence, postwar immigration figures rose rapidly toward previous historical high marks until they approximated 60 percent of the figures for the period


Juan Bruce-Novoa

between1920 and 1930. This demographic influx forced the U.S. to factor new global migrations into its social and political policy.1 As the 1940s wound down, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was deployed on multiple fronts to respond to pressing needs. The humanitarian crisis of war-ravaged Europe was paramount with its millions of unsettled refugees and displaced persons. “By 1946 there were still about a quarter of a million Russian, Armenian, Assyrian, and Saar refugees demanding international care; and also about some 111,000 German refugees and 212,000 Spanish refugees,”2 and that represents just a portion of the post-WWII global situation. In addition, an inordinate number of war brides were returning with decommissioned soldiers. Exacerbating the situation was the thorny question of the Bracero Program, which during the war had brought into the country more foreign labor than the average number of immigrants, not all of whom returned when their contracts expired. The program survived under various guises to reach 107,000 workers in 1949, almost double its wartime high, and continued to rise to 192,000 in 1951;3 President Truman’s 1951 Report on Migratory Labor supported the agribusiness position that it had to be continued. The U.S. State Department’s stand on Bracero Program renewal was that it was needed to combat communist influence in Mexico—thus subsuming immigration under cold war international politics. Public Law 78 (July 1951) renewed the Bracero Program. The mere existence of this conscious, multifaceted agenda of immigration control bespeaks a deep concern for the opposite: uncontrolled illegal immigration.

FILM ANALYSIS Hollywood addressed alien encroachment in a number of fi lms, some directly on topic—like The Stranger (1946), G.I. War Brides (1946), I Was a Male War Bride (1949), Border Incident (1949), A Lady Without Passport (1950)—and others that can be viewed as implicit commentaries, like the two science fiction films destined to become classics that I am studying here. Although The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Thing from Another World, both from 1951, are commonly considered responses to the post-WWII realignment into the cold war,4 I will read them as stagings of paradigmatic U.S. attitudes and responses to uninvited alien incursion into the homeland. Theoretical justification can be extrapolated from Gregory Pfitzer’s postulation that science fiction films extend the U.S. myth of frontier expansion into the realm of space exploration, reading/writing aliens through the Native American image. 5 Pursuing Pfitzer’s intuition, one could suggest that if science fiction appropriates the frontier myth, it implicitly addresses the Spanish/Mexican presence, which after the Mexican-American War raised questions of immigration along the new international border.

Paradigms of Attitudes Toward Immigration 17 The analysis can be contextualized by recalling Diedrich Diederichsen’s observation on Hollywood’s tendency to divide migrants into two distinct types: those who productively contribute to the melting pot and their opposites, the phobically perceived, natural disaster-like subhuman floods of evil masses that threaten to undermine the national welfare. Of course, alien visitation films share a fear of the unearthly, nonhuman origins of the migrant. Both aliens considered here begin as undesirables: more than merely the unknown, they present a potential threat materialized in the violation of earthly boundaries presumed inviolable. In terms that are lost on present-day viewers, both aliens’ ships are tracked during their unauthorized entry by a form of radar, a twentieth-century invention for defense raised to cult status during World War II. Furthermore, both ships exceed earth’s scientific and military capacities of the time, in Thing by the enormity of the ship’s weight, and in Day, its speed outstrips that of a ‘buzz bomb,’ the term for the German missiles that terrorized the British during the war. However, while one alien confi rms its menacing potential, the other wins over key elements of the cast with whom the audience can relate, hence ameliorating the initial apprehension. The respective positive or negative charge is communicated through production details, even from the opening shot. The title The Thing from Another World appears from a dark nowhere, gradually burning up and out through a blackened screen void of specific geographic location to convey a secretive, isolated destructiveness that emerges out of a negatively marked unknown. In contrast, The Day the Earth Stood Still zooms in all at once, clearly set against a dappled backdrop of the bright, starry cosmos itself set against vast outer space, and as the movie credits fade in and out, the cosmic scenes fade from one into the next to imply movement that eventually approaches earth. Credits in Thing, on the other hand, are set against a single shot of a frozen, windswept, desolate night, reminiscent of the opening of William Wyler’s Wuthering Heights (1939). The intertextualities purposefully tap opposite associations: in Day, the heavens are associated with clear, bright illumination; in Thing, with a hostile darkness that harbors nightmarish beings. Day’s opening scenes establish an international context. As the saucer flies over many nations, their languages are heard discussing the object’s global transit; the alien vessel fosters world unity by becoming the common object of attention and the subject of multiple discourses. Thing opens on an icefrozen Alaskan U.S. military base where only English is spoken. Informed of an unidentified flying object near an even more isolated base “two thousand miles north,” Captain Hendry remarks, “It could be Russians, they’re all over the pole like flies,” evoking a cold-war context wherein two superpowers clash on civilization’s fringe with no sense of the rest of the global participants. In Day, suspicion of the Russians is also expressed, but just briefly, only to be countered by Klaatu, the alien played by Michael Rennie, who always insists on earth’s multiplicity of nations and peoples, underscoring the global openness of the film’s vision, especially in his intolerance of traditionally closed borders. In contrast, Thing’s numerous cold-war allusions and

18 Juan Bruce-Novoa references—and the Arctic setting itself—reinforce a context of ideological conflict in the primary metaphor of mid-century terminology. Both films respond to alien arrival by dispatching military forces to surround the ship but within radically different contexts. Thing’s ship lands at night, sliding under surveillance to immediately disappear under the ice, distant from human observation; hence it must be found and brought within a controlled space. Day’s flying saucer appears in Washington DC at midday in full sight in the middle of that combination of public/private space called a baseball diamond in a park where common people play America’s game. Thing’s alien is brought back encapsulated in ice, while Day’s walks out under his own power and speaks a message of peace. Yet both elicit fear and violence from soldiers, producing a state of confl ict between humans and aliens that results in numerous casualties. The Thing kills several scientists and some sled dogs and wounds a few soldiers; Gort, Klaatu’s robot companion, melts down military equipment, including a tank from which not all of the crew escapes, and disposes of two soldiers. Yet the aliens’ attitudes and characters differ on almost all points of comparison. Both films depict humanlike aliens, but whereas Klaatu looks and speaks quite normally, the Thing is a grotesque giant incapable of speech. Klaatu dons earthly dress to move among humans and gain understanding; the Thing has no costume changes, maintaining his visual distance. Klaatu in Day not only speaks, he also displays admirable rationality in his ability to enunciate calm, measured alternatives to the panicky opinions of the earthlings. The English-born Michael Rennie gives Klaatu that upper class foreign air with a British accentuation commonly used by Hollywood to characterize esteemed, elite, yet different cultures, like those of Rome or Greece. Rennie also utilizes human gestures—facial, like smiles and bemused surprise in his eyes, or bodily, like a friendly open hand to show diamonds to a boy or a good-bye wave to the female lead—gestures that bring him closer to the audience within a shared code of bodily expression. Key to this rapprochement is Klaatu’s use of small motor movements to handle everyday objects like chalk, a flashlight, or a small music box, gestures associated with homo faber. Deprived of even Hollywood’s semblance of a foreign language, the Thing is limited to animal expression: snarls, screeches, and growls—“grotesquely inarticulate grunting.”6 In addition, he is allowed no fine motor movements, and his facial gestures are severely restricted; in effect, he gets little screen time and no close-ups to capture facial nuance, although for at least one critic this constituted one of the film’s best virtues: “The monster’s unseen presence creates an aura of escalating fear that elevates the picture into a classic exercise in suspense rather than a mere ‘monster movie.’”7 When seen, his body movements are writ large: broad sweeps of the arms, running, diving through windows. Likewise, his tool is a long four-by-four wooden bludgeon held in one clawlike hand—nothing small-motor there. The crux of the contrast comes in each alien’s meeting with scientists. In Thing, the scientist tries to reason with the alien and pleads with the Thing to understand what he is being told and to collaborate with earthlings,

Paradigms of Attitudes Toward Immigration 19 but he receives for his effort one of the Thing’s sweeping blows. Klaatu, however, seeks out Dr. Barnhardt, even breaking in to his office to correct an equation the genius cannot resolve. Klaatu not only converses with the scientist in clear English, he communicates in the esoteric language of astrophysical mathematics and gives him information to facilitate the earth’s exploration of space—an ability that, ironically, turns out to be a key element in earth’s impending decision between peaceful interplanetary coexistence or destruction at the hands—eyes—of Gort. While the Thing must be destroyed at the end, Day closes with Klaatu eloquently delivering to a gathering of representatives from every nation a dual message—a warning against extending earthly inhumane warfare into the cosmos coupled with an invitation to join the advanced planets in a league of peaceful coexistence: “Your choice is simple. Join us and live in peace. Or pursue your present course—and face obliteration. We will be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.”8 Klaatu in effect offers freedom based on the assumption of a rational tendency toward the higher good that should lead humankind to rise above its baser tendencies, albeit by giving up a degree of ‘legal due process’; additionally, they are free to choose between two or more alternatives of action. The Thing, by pursuing violent domination of his hosts, forces earthlings into only one

Figure 1.1 Scientists inspect the brood of clones spawned from the Thing’s severed hand and fed on human blood. Screenshot, RKO Radio Pictures, 1951. Directed by Christian Nyby. Produced by Howard Hawks.

20 Juan Bruce-Novoa response: self-defensive violence. Key to the difference is Klaatu’s return to outer space, whereas the Thing would stay, multiply, and colonize earth. In addition, the Thing’s body is coded as inhuman, capable of self-regenerating its limbs or complete new clones, all through the ingestion of human blood. The scientists describe him as more vegetable than animal, comparable to carnivorous earth plants. In contrast, doctors certify Klaatu’s body to be human, and he carries it elegantly. The script describes him as an “impressive man—a man of tremendous dignity and presence. He has the tolerant superiority that comes with absolute knowledge.”9 Verbal and gestural codes convey the aliens’ affective dispositions. The Thing conveys aggression and pain without any attempt to seek human reciprocity. Meanwhile, Klaatu’s small gestures constitute affective signs in communicative encounters. His humanlike features permit him close contact with humans and give him the opportunity to build a nurturing relationship with a young boy, which in turn allows him to express sympathy, joy, affection, and even humor in verbal utterances. He also establishes a discursive play between himself and several earthlings, thus opening a setting for complex affective performance that humanizes him. As expressions of feeling and emotions, affect is linked to affection, love, and sexuality, and once again the difference is stark. Immigrants and aliens present threats on many levels, perhaps the most basic to the family, at the heart of which in patriarchal cultures is the woman/mother/daughter/ potential wife. Any attack on her represents an attack on the community; any successful liaison with her raises the specter of miscegenation that, like other facets of cultural production concerning the migration theme, carries a positive or negative charge. We can view possible relationships on two fronts: aliens relating lovingly and/or sexually to humans or influencing love/sex relationships between humans they contact. Portrayed as totally menacing, the Thing does not enter into a loving relationship, yet he does threaten the potential love interest between Captain Hendry and Nikki, the lead scientist’s secretary. In scene one, the rapid-fi re, overlapping dialogue interweaves the main plot—the Arctic scientific station besieged by a monster alien—with two subplots: the love interest and the reporter’s search for a story. Interdependent, the resolution of the main plot threat facilitates wrapping up the other two. The Thing interrupts the Hendry/Nikki romance by distracting Hendry, although ironically also forces the lovers to adjust their roles: Hendry transforms from common seducer to heroic protector and Nikki from hard-living, hard-drinking, active equal to softer, domestic, passively submissive female. When humans battle the alien most fiercely, the Thing swipes his mighty arm at Nikki, threatening the protagonist’s object of desire. The alien threat is responded to by granting Nikki the key role of suggesting how to kill the Thing, an answer coming from the heart of the family space and the woman’s domain in mid-century U.S. culture, the kitchen: one kills a vegetable by cooking it. Publicity photos emphasized

Paradigms of Attitudes Toward Immigration 21 the traditional male/protector–female/protected relationship by ostensibly placing Hendry between Nikki and the unseen Thing. At the end, with the Thing dead, scene one is reprised to wrap up the two remaining subplots: Hendry, his men, and the reporter are gathered again, but now Nikki has joined them as they fi nally hear the reporter send his story to the outer world, ending with the fi lm’s famous warning, “Watch the skies.” In the background Hendry’s men and Nikki persuade the captain to marry her. The alien threat domesticates the youthful, playful singles: They initially recall the drunken, failed sexual encounter of their fi rst meeting (prior to film action) and later play erotic drinking games, turning them into the promise of yet another socially compliant couple; in the last scene their game becomes traditional with Nikki serving her man coffee. Hence, the defeat of the alien coincides with, and even facilitates, resolution of the love-interest plotline. In Day Klaatu disturbs the courtship between Helen Benson (played by Patricia Neal) and her fiancé. As a war-widowed mother, Helen is impressed by Klaatu’s instant rapport with her young son—to say nothing of his good looks. Their relationship builds through verbal contact and semi-intimate, though indirect, communications. Although their relationship remains platonic throughout, Rennie and Neal are given an erotically charged, albeit sublimated, scene. Alone in a dark elevator suspended between floors while the earth stands still for an hour, the two achieve open communication at a moment when time is both held and filled with ultimate significance concerning, as George Bataille would insist, life’s resistance to death’s unrelenting threat; significantly, Annie Potts titles her chapter on deconstructing orgasm “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”10 The jealous fiancé eventually becomes the Judas figure responsible for Klaatu’s death at the hands of the military.11 And when the military closes in on Klaatu, he performs an act of communion when he entrusts Helen with his life—and by extension, that of the entire human race—an act that also endows her with the power to communicate (the famous Klaatu barada nikto command) with the most powerful being in the universe, Gort, whose powers extend to resuscitating the dead. While North’s final draft of the script made Helen and Klaatu’s attraction more blatant during a scene in the spaceship while they await the fi nal meeting,12 director Wise eliminated it during filming, judiciously leaving the relationship implicit in the gestural code. At the end, Klaatu directs his last gesture on earth toward Helen. Any interpretation of mid-century fi lm must take into consideration that all movies were played on the stage of post-WWII concerns. In this regard, Day features a handsome, superintelligent, friendly, sensitive male who assumes the role of the pater familias vacated by Helen’s husband, who was killed in the war. By having Bobby, Helen’s fatherless son, schematically explain to Klaatu earth’s history of violent warfare while at Arlington National Cemetery, Klaatu is symbolically invested as the father’s replacement and heir. Thus, viewers can read Klaatu’s effort to save the earth from


Juan Bruce-Novoa

self-destructiveness as the continuation of the father’s heroic sacrifice for world peace, while it simultaneously plays off it to heighten the urgency of the venture. Klaatu’s message to the world can be read as a pitch for a supremely powerful United Nations, made to an international audience cast with a majority of Third World faces. Admittedly, Klaatu’s proposal has a Hobbesian ring with its stress on giving absolute power for settling intergalactic confl icts to a Leviathan-style police force with no single planetary affiliation, a barely veiled plea for the investiture of an effective U.N. military enforcement unit. This is consonant with Klaatu’s role as patriarchal surrogate in that he can be seen to advocate the harmony of the multiracial, multicultural global family, the faces of which director Robert Wise populated the audience gathered to receive Klaatu’s message.13 The Thing, on the other hand, betrays a wont toward tyrannical leadership that at mid-century would have stirred comparison to that of WWII Axis leaders. Bodies of scientists hung upside down like slaughtered animals to be bled for the creation of a master race would have evoked familiar images in 1951. Characters envision the Thing’s plans for new types of concentration camps for humans to supply blood for eugenics experiments designed to populate the world with alien superclones that would then overwhelm the host culture. The human species, encumbered by emotion and sentiment—read ‘liberalism’—would be displaced by the pragmatic, undocumented other. The image of a couple dozen embryonic Things spawned by the earth scientists in their laboratory would have reminded the audience of reports of Nazi and Japanese human experiments. In short, beyond his characterization as nonhuman, the Thing is linked to an array of feared and hated images from viewers’ then-recent memories. Both films reinforce these positive and negative portrayals by referencing another Hollywood blockbuster archive, Gothic fi lm. While the Thing’s bulk and stance may remind viewers of Frankenstein, his elongated hands; talonlike fi ngers; and exaggeratedly high, rounded, hairless head bear a physical resemblance to Murnau’s vampire in Nosferatu (1922). This association is reinforced by an array of draculesque elements: His voyage from some mysterious origin to a center of modern civilization to establish his reign, his nonhuman nature within a human frame, his apparent invulnerability to sophisticated human weapons coupled with a vulnerability to a simple one, his ability to renew his physical power and propagate his kind through the absorption of human blood, and his particular threat to women—all link him to Dracula. Even the situation of humans held captive in a dark, labyrinthine construction from which they cannot escape without risking death parodies a Gothic commonplace. Like Dracula, when trapped the Thing flies into the night through a window, and his ultimate entrapment and death at the hands of a group of frightened humans echoes more than one Dracula film, as his melting away also recalls the count’s body disintegrating before our eyes. At the core of this array of draculesque elements is his thirst for human blood to regenerate himself. John Baxter

Paradigms of Attitudes Toward Immigration 23 stated the case clearly: “The Thing is the furthest beachhead ever established by Germanic horror on the body politic of American technology.”14 Douglas Brode, in turn, linked Day to Frankenstein, the other major Gothic fi lm franchise, although he did not further develop his intuition.15 Whereas the Thing produces fear of his dark nature and mysterious inhumanity, Klaatu unsettles and frightens humans because he is intelligent beyond their comprehension, capable—like Dr. Frankenstein—of inventing a gigantic humanoid who follows behind his master to devastate anyone who offers opposition. Gort even momentarily threatens Helen before carrying her inside his and Klaatu’s laboratory-like inner sanctum within the ship. Yet, as with so much in Day, conventional expectations are diverted into alternate resolutions. Rennie’s gaunt facial features bear a family resemblance to Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein: a high, square forehead and sharply drawn nose and cheekbones, underscored by hollow cheeks and a square chin. His body lacks Karloff’s bulk, yet the scene in which Rennie pulls at his coat sleeve will remind the alert viewer of Karloff’s ill-fitting coat that exposes much too much wrist. However, Klaatu’s human dimensions and normal character within the resemblance link him to Dr. Frankenstein, especially when seen alongside his giant robot. Gort’s size equates him to the Karloff figure but in a cutting-edge, futuristic version. The parody smoothes Frankenstein’s grotesque bulk and scruffi ness into the fluid lines of a silvery, metallic, minimalist unitary body of awesome proportions and power. Gort’s forehead also soars high, although his sweeps back into a perfectly symmetrical dome. Karloff’s heavy, knotted brow, a sign of the dullness of Frankenstein’s intervened brain, morphs into a fi nely drawn, straight-edged ridge over Gort’s rounded, opaque visor that lifts to disintegrate opponents with his death ray. The famous bolts in Frankenstein’s neck are echoed in a pair of stacked disks that frame Gort’s head at the height of human ears, dotted with round indentations to suggest porosity to sound—the sign of communication ability. The parodic twist comes when Gort restores life to the murdered Klaatu in a scene reminiscent of Frankenstein’s reanimation, with Klaatu placed in an apparatus and engulfed in an electric field and high-pitched sound soaring to crescendo as life is restored to his corpse. The roles and relationship between man and “monster,” however, are reversed with the invented figure reanimating the “real man.” The original, earthly pair of Frankensteins, whose experiments proved calamitous, are reprised here and shown to have evolved positively to the point that they can now realize the goal of defeating death. Klaatu then opens this futuristic possibility to the human species in the form of the opportunity to suppress its death instinct by controlling its vicious lower nature. Klaatu offers earth the chance to enter a Leviathan compact in which baser human tendencies would no longer menace them.


Juan Bruce-Novoa

Figure 1.2 Gort revives the dead Klaatu in a parody of Dr. Frankenstein’s reanimation of his monster. Screenshot, Twentieth Century Fox, 1951. Directed by Robert Wise. Produced by Julian Blaustein.

IMMIGRATION SUBTEXT Fundamentally, The Thing from Another World and The Day the Earth Stood Still represent opposing paradigms of U.S. attitudes toward immigration. The former incarnates Diederichsen’s “natural disaster-like dehumanized floods of evil masses,” populations whose utility fades when they violate the limits of movement and reject assimilation in favor of maintaining their alien difference. Moreover, they remain and multiply, threatening to overwhelm the host with unassimilable hordes of different beings who not only would compete for resources but also could bleed dry their hosts, outnumbering and eventually eliminating them completely. Offered the opportunity to mediate their situation, these aliens demonstrate an inability to communicate because they have scorned the host’s language. Day exemplifies Diederichsen’s desirable aliens, “migrants who productively contribute to the melting pot.” Their foreignness distresses those segments of society charged with security, but those who appreciate their superior skills welcome them and/or the highly developed humane sensitivity displayed by the visitors. Klaatu offers earthlings an unexpected and

Paradigms of Attitudes Toward Immigration 25 unprecedented leap in their evolutionary process, while Thing holds out the threat of more incursions of unwanted aliens. Day ends in the convocation of the international community to which Klaatu promises future respect for borders as long as earthlings reciprocate, albeit by allowing open access to the interplanetary police. Furthermore, the fi lms speak from divergent ideological positions on global relations that have contextualized the development of the migration topic. Recalling what has been said previously about the opening scenes and their establishing settings, the oppositional positions are clear. Day reflects the position that despite national, political, and cultural difference, in reality the world is an open space across which the essential topics, from the basic questions of survival to those of the highest aspirations of the human species, are shared and should be freely discussed in democratic form. Migration, then, should also flow unencumbered to facilitate the exchange of ideas that produces understanding and the peaceful resolution of differences. Klaatu lands on a baseball diamond, a space measured and marked off for peaceful competition under rules and a tradition of fair play, located just blocks from the Washington, D.C., monuments to those principles raised to political reality, or so it was still believed in 1951. However, the film recognizes that its position is not shared by the political and military elite who prefer to control movement of everything from people to ideas, an elite that at that point would have to be forced by the people to relinquish their nationalistic intransigence in favor of the free migration of a great organizational paradigm. Thing expresses the mistrust of international exchange, with everything taking place in restricted, closed areas besieged by a force that can neither be understood nor allowed to coexist within the group’s borders. From the beginning, a siege mentality is conveyed by the inhospitable climate, and at the end the famous warning to “Watch the skies” shows that the initial impression has been confi rmed, now at the higher level of interspecies warfare. Within this context, migration would always be dangerous. While Day presents migration in positive terms, Thing locates it in the negative quadrant. In simpler terms, Thing presents the scenario of undocumented workers employed in lower-paying jobs. Unlike the Braceros, contractually limited to agricultural work and required to repatriate when finished, the undocumented immigrants move throughout the labor force and tend to remain, to bring or establish families, and to reproduce at a higher rate than the host population. While providing necessary basic labor, they are believed to overburden social programs, from schools and health facilities to all manner of community services. The Thing causes blood resources to be diverted from humans to its cloned offspring, and the cloning itself diverts academics from their research to nurture the alien’s offspring. Day represents the highly trained and educated aliens sought by institutions to fill positions for skilled professionals. They promise to maintain or enhance the host’s standard. They are well paid for their services instead of creating


Juan Bruce-Novoa

extra social burdens, and if they do stay, their children should function at a level equal to that of their parents. While the former could be epitomized by the figure of undocumented agricultural or service-sector workers, the latter is represented by physicians, nurses, university professors and, recently, computer specialists. In 1951 perhaps the most famous real-life avatar of Klaatu would have been Einstein: Klaatu gives a doctor a sample of an advanced medicine and Dr. Barnhardt the key to interplanetary travel that has eluded him, and he instructs Bobby on the marvelous scientific and social developments that might await humankind. Images from the two fi lms reinforce these conclusions. The Thing sets up his area of operations in the station’s ‘greenhouse,’ and his offspring resemble plants or fruits. The inside of Klaatu’s saucer epitomizes futuristic design: huge flat-screen monitors, light-effusing walls, motion or voicereading controls. Their speech patterns appropriately signal the immigration figure each allegorizes. The Thing is like the Third World peasant alien with limited knowledge, reflected in the foreignness of the unintelligible and ungainly noises he emits. Klaatu embodies the European “high-culture” immigrant, capable of speaking English better than his hosts. Cyndy Hendershot’s insightful reading of Day as a pro-scientists movement film calls Klaatu a messianic scientist in line with the developers of the atom bomb, an alien avatar of Einstein.16 Whereas the Thing never changes his foreign appearance, Klaatu assimilates to human dress. The Thing hovers on the periphery of the human camp and even fights with man’s best friend, the dog, whereas Klaatu resides at the heart of the human community, a family-style boarding house, where he befriends Bobby. Both are feared, but we shun the Thing and sympathize with, even desire, Klaatu. The topic of the female as the focus of conflict over alien migration reflects this basic dichotomy. Klaatu is desired by both the lead female character and the camera lens, simply because he is represented as and determined to be not only the same species but phenotypically the same race as the dominant ‘Caucasian’ group of U.S. film viewers at the time. Moreover, his British accent, cultured manner, and sensitive personality make Klaatu the kind of alien that could improve the nation’s fundamental racial block without altering its basic self-image. The Thing is officially pronounced to be of another species, and his phenotype offers little to be desired. Mixing with him could only mean self-annihilation, making miscegenation unthinkable. It should be remembered that only in 1967 did the Supreme Court, in Loving vs. Virginia, strike down laws banning interracial marriage, then still operative in seventeen states.17 When we consider the preference of fi lmmakers, the news media, and politicians in this play of paradigmatic attitudes toward immigration, there is no contest: Many more films have followed Thing’s example.18 Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Starman (1984) are the most notable on a short list of Day-style films. The Numbers Web site lists only eleven “Friendly Aliens” fi lms between

Paradigms of Attitudes Toward Immigration 27 1977 and 2008,19 whereas fourteen unfriendly ones appear in the 1950s alone.20 Immigration policy follows the same tendency. Much more space and time is given to the “invasion” by “illegal” or otherwise negatively marked aliens than is given to the immigration of desirables. Even the proposals for formalizing immigration at the lower levels of work emphasize a commercial need-based approach that would require aliens to enter the United States unaccompanied by family members and with a strict time limit on the sojourn. As for those undocumented immigrants who manage to stay under the legal radar for a lengthy period of time and fi nd work, legislators tend to imagine them also in the Klaatu model, that is, as initially undesirables who have proven themselves to be contributors to the national well-being, despite the protests of a militant sector of the public who, like the army in both films studied here, saw only one viable response, the arrest and violent suppression of any resistance. 21 In other words, immigration policy, then and now, tends at worst to see alien incursions into the United States in terms of the Thing, while at its most liberal it tries to rhetorically recostume the Thing’s feared progeny as Klaatu’s ideal children. 22

NOTES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19.

Cohn, “Immigration.” Grahl-Madsen, Land Beyond, 186. The Farmworkers’ Web site. Röwekamp, “Thing,” 29; O’Donnell, “Science Fiction,” 169; Cook, History, 498. Pfitzer, “Only Good Alien.” Röwekamp, “Thing,” 26. Brode, Films of the Fifties, 44. North, Day. Ibid. Potts, Science/Fiction, 71–101. Brode, Films of the Fifties, 51. North, Day. In response to my question about the last scene, Robert Wise responded that as a statement against the reactionary mood regarding both freedom of expression and racial intolerance, he had consciously chosen to feature faces from different races, cultures, and geographic origins in the last scene. This gives more significance to the fact that the scientist who has collaborated with Klaatu to organize the summit of alternative world leaders is told by the military, just before Klaatu emerges from the ship to address the crowd, that the meeting must be suspended. As important as the threat is to the audience gathered, the makeup of the audience is perhaps even more threatening to the establishment. Baxter, Science Fiction, 106. Brode, Films of the Fifties, 49. Hendershot, “Atomic Scientist,” 33. Oyez Project, 3. Cook, History, 499. “Box Office History.”

28 Juan Bruce-Novoa 20. Terpstra, “Aliens in Film.” 21. Ewing, Enforcement. 22. Both fi lms were later remade: The Thing (MCA/Universal,1982), and The Day the Earth Stood Still (Twentieth Century Fox, 2008). The remakes strip the originals of their mid-twentieth-century cold war context and hence void the immigration link as I read it in the originals. The Thing remake retains the isolated base invaded by an extraterrestrial, but lack of discipline makes coordinated resistance impossible. The alien’s shape-shifting capability allows him to assume even human form. Also, the alien’s arrival millennia before the time of the action makes him a prehuman presence, which perhaps explains why there is no clear line to separate the earthly ‘we’ from alien ‘other.’ Thus migration must be read, if at all, as the alien already within, but nonetheless threatening. The difference between the two versions is encapsulated in the last scene of each fi lm. In the 1951 version, with the alien destroyed, a core of the earthling defenders listens to the reporter character warn the world against future foreign invasion by stating “Watch the skies.” A defi nite ‘we versus they’ is affi rmed. In 1982 the last two surviving earthlings sit together with no assurance that the menace is over—either of them could be the next host for the alien. Without ‘we versus they’ clarity, “Watch the sky” becomes “Let’s sit here a while and see what happens.” Read as immigration, it’s too late to watch the border. Similarly, the 2008 The Day the Earth Stood Still replaced the earth’s nuclear threat to the cosmic union of peaceful planets with humankind’s ecological threat to the earth itself. This threatens the well-being of the advanced planets because earth is one of the few inhabitable planets available in the cosmos. Yet the second Klaatu is never seen as similar in species because he inhabits a body generated from genes stolen from an earthling. And he never gets the chance to enlighten the earth’s leaders but instead only reveals his mission to a select few. The destruction of the earth commences but is then stopped when Klaatu sees the female character hug her adopted son. The 1951 version’s dramatic close—the need to fulfi ll the United Nations ideals relevant to the mid-twentieth century—is reduced to the pathos of an irrational faith in humankind’s ability to suddenly change its behavior and, by extension, address the ecological crisis before destroying the earth. The remake’s real proposal, the necessary extinction of the human race in order to save the earth—a message deserving serious treatment and even the chance to be played out, as in On the Beach (1958)—gets short shrift. Klaatu abandons his task over a melodramatic hug between an unconvincing and unsympathetic mother/son duo. Regarding immigration, the superior alien, who could improve the homeland, albeit at the cost of the extinction of the human homelanders, gives up the effort and leaves earthlings to their own dubious devices.

WORKS CITED Bataille, Georges. L’Erotisme. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1957. Baxter, John. Science Fiction in the Cinema. New York: A.A. Barnes & Co., 1970. “Box Office History for Friendly Alien on Earth Movies.” The Numbers Web site. http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/series/FriendlyAlien.php (accessed October 10, 2008).

Paradigms of Attitudes Toward Immigration 29 Brode, Douglas. The Films of the Fifties: Sunset Boulevard to On the Beach. New York: Citadel Press, 1992. Cohn, Raymond L. “Immigration to the United States.” EH.Net Encyclopedia Web site. http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/cohn.immigration.us (accessed May 31, 2008). Cook, David A. A History of Narrative Film. 3rd ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996. The Day the Earth Stood Still. Directed by Robert Wise. Produced by Julian Blaustein. Screenplay by Edmund H. North. Twentieth Century Fox, 1951. Diederichsen, Diedrich. “Opening Lecture.” In Masses and Monument—Migration and Hollywood. Film series. Cologne: Kölnischer Kunstverein, April– May 2004. http://www.koelnischerkunstverein.de/migration/english/archiv/ fi lme_0504.html (accessed May 18, 2008). Ewing, Walter A. Enforcement Without Reform: How Current U.S. Immigration Policies Undermine National Security and the Economy. East Lansing: Julian Zamora Research Center, Michigan State University, 2008. The Farmworkers’ Web site. http://www.farmworkers.org/migrdata.html (accessed October 11, 2008). Grahl-Madsen, Atle. The Land Beyond: Collected Essays on Refugee Law and Policy. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff, 2001. Hendershot, Cyndy. “The Atomic Scientist, Science Fiction Films, and Paranoia: The Day the Earth Stood Still, This Island Earth, and Killers from Space.” Journal of American Culture 20, no. 1 (Spring 1997): 31–42. Jeffers, Robinson. The Double Axe and Other Poems. New York: Liverright, 1977. North, Edmund H. The Day The Earth Stood Still. Revised final draft of screenplay. February 21, 1951. http://www.scifiscripts.com/scripts/TheDayTheEarthStoodStill.html(accessed June 3, 2008). O’Donnell, Victoria. “Science Fiction Films and Cold War Anxiety.” In History of American Cinema. Vol. 7, The Fifties: Transforming the Screen, 1950–1959, edited by Peter Lev, 169–96. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. The Oyez Project Web site. Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). http://www. oyez.org/cases/1960–1969/1966/1966_395/ (accessed June 11, 2008). Pfitzer, Gregory M. “The Only Good Alien is a Dead Alien: Science Fiction and the Metaphysics of Indian-Hating on the High Frontier.” Journal of American Culture 18, no. 1 (Spring 1995): 51–67. Potts, Annie. The Science/Fiction of Sex, Feminist Deconstruction and the Vocabularies of Heterosex. London: Routledge, 2002. Röwekamp, Burkhard. “The Thing from Another World.” In Movies of the 50s, edited by Jürgen Müller, 26–31. Cologne: Taschen, 2005. Terpstra, Carolyn. “Aliens in Film: A Commentary.” Monsters Web site, edited by Michael A. Delahoyde. http://www.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/alien.fi lms.comment. html (accessed June 7, 2008). The Thing from Another World. Directed by Christian Nyby. Produced by Howard Hawks. Screenplay by Charles Lederer. RKO Radio Pictures, 1951.


No Country for Old Certainties Ambivalence, Hybridity, and Dangerous Crossings in Three Borderland Films Page Laws

All border towns bring out what’s worst in the country. Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston) to Susan Vargas (Janet Leigh) in A Touch of Evil, 1958

When Miguel Vargas, a Mexican detective improbably played by Charlton Heston in Orson Welles’s A Touch of Evil, makes the statement above to his white American bride (played by Janet Leigh), they have suffered extreme indignities on both sides of the border dividing the fictitious town of Los Robles, the “Paris of the [U.S.-Mexican] Border.” Ironically enough, Vargas has earlier boasted about their two countries’ history as good neighbors: “One of the longest borders on earth is right between your country and mine. Open border. Fourteen hundred miles without a single machine gun in place.” The conflicted character Mr. Vargas was of course speaking circa 1958, when the real President Eisenhower had just started Operation Wetback to make the open border a bit less so. Every subsequent U.S. administration has tried to tighten the open border even more, waging war on drugs, illegal immigration, and terrorists (from Mexico or the Middle East). Tony Payan, author of The Three U.S.-Mexico Border Wars: Drugs, Immigration, and Homeland Security, suggests that the ultimate goal of the U.S. may well be a Foucauldian Panopticon border—the very antithesis of “open.”1 There would be no need of machine guns, with every inch observed by high-tech cameras and sensors and/or blocked by a wall. Elsewhere Payan writes, “The border is a paradoxical place. It is at once a place of opportunity and entrapment. It is a place of wealth and poverty. It is a place of freedom and violence.”2 Popular culture has long embraced the paradoxical nature of the border and its border, the borderlands. The term “borderlands discourse”3 in cultural studies arrived along with Homi Bhabha’s concepts of hybridization and mimicry,4 enabling fresh discussion of the old paradoxes Payan mentions above. Some of the most egregious cultural stereotypes of the dirty,

No Country for Old Certainties


dangerous, promiscuous Mexican Other have been blunted by political correctness. But deep ambivalence still surrounds the act of migration (racially, sexually, geographically), even in the work of liberal American directors such as Orson Welles (A Touch of Evil) and, nowadays, the Coen brothers (No Country for Old Men). And true to the nature of hybridized cultures, even Mexican-born writers and directors such as Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo Arriaga (Babel) exhibit the ambivalent self-images that hegemonic U.S. culture has subtly instilled in the Mexican psyche. The three films selected—Touch of Evil, Babel, and No Country for Old Men—are linked in ways both obvious and not. All three are philosophical fi lms about the mixed nature of good and evil, humanity and inhumanity, free will and fate, honor and dishonor, godliness and godlessness. All three feature border crossings both at legal points of entry and in the open barren desert that has killed many hundreds of illegal migrants. 5 From any of the three, one can conclude that it is easy to cross into Mexico and hard to cross back to the U.S., especially for Mexicans. Two of the three (Touch of Evil and No Country for Old Men) feature the borderlands motel as a locus classicus of personal danger, sexual threat, and mayhem.6 Both fi lms also feature graphic strangulations, the most intimate form of murder. Babel features a car ride into Tijuana (from the point of view of two American children in a car driven by their Mexican nanny’s nephew) that can be seen as a perfect counterpoint to the famous car shot (from the point of view of a seemingly conscious camera) that begins Touch of Evil. Touch of Evil, a deeply ambiguous classic film noir, serves in effect as a touchstone for all borderlands cinema discussion. William Nericcio makes the following claim for the film’s seminal status: Touch of Evil represents a veritable Rosetta stone for analysts of Mexican American culture and for those interested more broadly in border discourse. Think of the space depicted in Welles’ fi lm: the border town and the half-breed, la frontera y el mestizo: a space and a subject whose identities are not fractured but fracture itself, where hyphens, bridges, border stations, and schizophrenia are the rule rather than the exception.7

A TOUCH OF EVIL AS FOUNDING TEXT You’re a mess, honey. Tanya (Marlene Dietrich) to Hank (Orson Welles) in A Touch of Evil, 1958 Just as Police Captain Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) directed police operations in Los Robles, so Welles directed his film; both ended up “framing” their subjects, Quinlan using planted dynamite to frame a Mexican


Page Laws

immigrant who was guilty anyway, and Welles using his camera to ‘frame’ everyone.8 By the end of the fi lm, the Mexican Vargas has taken over as the literal “recorder” of events—using a tape recorder rather than a camera to catch the corrupt Quinlan.9 Welles/Quinlan lies floating on his back— now a literal wetback—in the fi lthy Rio Grande, shot dead by his faithful partner Pete who had previously been the guardian of his reputation and legend. It is the ultimate plot reversal in a truly hybridized, boundary-shattering fi lm text. But Welles began the reversal process from the onset in his fi rst encounter with the subject matter. In the words of Jack Beckham, he “flip[ped] the U.S.-Mexico binary.”10 The changes Welles made during the adaptation process—the fi lm is based on the novel Badge of Evil by “Whit Masterson” plus a screenplay by Paul Monash—serve to highlight Mexico versus America, with Mexico often coming out on top.11 The good guy is the Mexican detective Vargas (married, contrary to the source novel, to an American wife); the bad guy is the American police captain Quinlan. The most troubling scene—the fake rape and drugging of Susan Vargas—happens not in ‘dirty’ and ‘unsafe’ Mexico but in ‘clean’ and ‘safe’ America. And yet the fl ipping of the binaries is itself further muddled. The Mexican detective Vargas is played by the obviously American Charlton Heston, coming right off his appearance as the lawgiver Moses in The Ten Commandments (1956). Neither brown face nor shoe polish in his hair and moustache can conceal Heston’s heritage and persona (associated, later in his career, with right-wing groups like the National Rifle Association). Likewise, a Russian (Akim Tamiroff) plays Uncle Joe Grandi (supposedly an Italian-Mexican American), a German (Marlene Dietrich) plays a Gypsy/ Mexican, a Hungarian (Zsa Zsa Gabor) plays a Mexican madam, etc. Jill Leeper calls the phenomenon at work “overdetermination” and sees it as Welles’s way of emphasizing the fi lm’s inherent hybridity and “constructedness”: “When characters are overdetermined by discrepancies between their real-life personas, their fi lmic identities, their appearance, their voices and accents and their associated musical motifs, spectators cannot form a simple, sutured emotional identification with those characters.”12 In his eagerness to explore what Leeper calls “the sexual psychology of race hatred,”13 this is exactly what Welles wants—i.e., a sort of Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt to lead his audience to political questioning and enlightenment.14 Other strategies for hybridizing the text include the sometimes cacophonous mixture of musical styles on the soundtrack, composed of the already mixed genres of jazz, rock and roll, and mariachi, which Leeper calls “doubly hybrid.”15 Plotwise, the fi lm is also obsessed with hybridized people or ‘half-breeds,’ including the man who killed Quinlan’s wife years before the action of the film begins. Welles includes two interracial couples (rather than one) in his adaptation of the original novel: the Vargases (Heston and Leigh) and the couple Manelo Sanchez (Victor Millan) and Marcia Linnekar (Joanna Moore).

No Country for Old Certainties


Donald Pease and others also point out that the fi lm noir genre is itself hybridized from other genres. It exists because of its capacity to “draw out of the fi lm genre from which it emerges—the detective fi lm, the cowboy western, the sci-fi thriller—an element which cannot be accommodated by that genre’s conventions.”16

MOSES IN BROWN FACE AND THE SWEATER GIRL:17 A TOUCH OF EVIL’S FAMOUS OPENING SHOT Welles’s famous long-tracking shot18 begins with a close-up on a crude bomb with an egg timer detonator. It is being held in a man’s hands, and we see him set it to three minutes and some twenty or thirty seconds. The only musical background is an urgent Latin beat on conga drums. There’s an off-camera trill of a woman’s laughter, and the camera turns away from the bomb to peer down an arcade, lit up for nighttime shopping. We are briefly in the POV of the bomber. Framing the shot, we see signs (e.g., “Girls”) indicating a raucous brand of nightlife, somewhat like the type that used to prevail near New York City’s Times Square. A momand-pop shop selling vegetables and fruits, a proto-convenience store, can be seen in one of the arcade openings. Other signage is written in a mix of English and Spanish. A couple approaches the camera. They disappear from the frame, moving left to right, and our bomber also darts from left to right (from the viewers’ perspective). The ‘conscious’ camera follows him, fi rst showing his shadow on a wall and then the man himself running up to an American convertible. The bomber crouches to open the convertible’s trunk and place the bomb. The camera then cranes up19 to a higher angle, a more omniscient POV, to see a couple approaching (perhaps it is the same one we saw before). We pull out, higher still, which lends the shot an added sense of irony. Here Welles uses the classic formula for fi lm suspense. When asked to explain film suspense to Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock used a very similar example of a time bomb ticking away under a table. It is only suspenseful if the audience knows about the bomb and the onscreen characters do not. The couple enters the convertible; the woman opens her own door. The car pulls forward away from the camera, which anticipates its move by waiting at its high post. Loud guitar and rock music blares as ‘our’ convertible emerges from the side street onto the main street, flanked on either side by a shopping arcade, an Old World-inspired style of architecture. 20 We pull back to see the car, its headlights on, coming straight at the camera that, seemingly conscious of the danger, moves back from it. Now the suspense is manipulated by a series of events that block the car, that impede its forward motion and make it therefore more likely to blow up ‘in our faces.’ A traffic cop with his back to the camera halts the car to let pedestrians, some of them American servicemen with girls in tow, scurry


Page Laws

across the street. The camera decidedly pulls back in retreat from the danger now. We see a medium-long glimpse of a two-wheeled peddler’s cart, our fi rst clear sign of ethnicity, move across the street. A man pushes the cart, which displays sombreros of the type that grace the heads of stereotypical somnolent Mexicans in American westerns. The policeman’s directing traffic is an odd sight, given it is nighttime. A painted white line divides the street (and the frame) into two lanes or halves. The peddler has made it across the two lanes with his cart. Our target convertible approaches, and another cop, his back to the camera, stops it for pedestrians to cross. Lights from the arcades form pools on the dark pavement. The camera suddenly takes an interest in and starts to follow a new couple. It is Janet Leigh, to the left of and slightly back from the camera, plus Charlton Heston, who wears a moustache and a dark suit. The target convertible turns next to them, and Heston glances at it warily because of its sheer proximity. The convertible passes them and moves out of the frame, but the camera sticks with its new target. Heston and Leigh catch up to and pass the convertible, stopped yet again as its driver rises in his seat to see why. We now see and hear the reason for the new blockage: a herd of five or six bleating goats, an embarrassing sign of peasant culture in an urban environment where cars belong.21 The cops try to shoo the goats out of the street while Heston and Leigh look on, amused. Leigh tosses her sweater over her shoulder in a gesture of abandon, but she wears her purse across her chest, perhaps as protection against snatchers. Heston holds her close as they continue to walk toward the camera. The convertible approaches them again, still moving menacingly toward the camera. Long, thin, black shadows fall at various angles across the lit up pavement. Another, smaller pushcart with bicycle wheels crosses between the camera and our target couple. Suddenly we see a white kiosk in the road, marked with black and white stripes and with a traffic barrier up against its wall so as not to obstruct traffic. There is a casual air of coming and going around this kiosk. The couple passes on the near side of the kiosk; the convertible on the far side. We see one more ethnic pushcart cross right to left. A male voice speaks and says, “You folks American citizens?” It is unclear if the border officer is addressing our walking couple or the couple riding in the convertible. All are now in dangerous proximity to the camera and fill almost the whole frame. In this little contest to answer the officer first, Leigh pipes up and says, “I am, yes!” Her voice has a note of pride in it. Meanwhile Heston reaches into his pocket for an ID. The convertible, inches away, obviously contains American citizens as well.22 The man is a heavy-set businessman type; the girl is a blonde, considerably brassier than Leigh in dress and demeanor. We can also see two helmeted guards talking to each other in the background and a sign that reads “U.S. Customs and Immigration.” “Where were you born, Miss?” asks the immigration officer. “Missus,” says Mrs. Vargas (Leigh), looking at Mr. Vargas (Heston).

No Country for Old Certainties


Figure 2.1 The border crossing in Welles’s A Touch of Evil. Screenshot, Universal International Pictures, 1958. Directed by Orson Welles. Produced by Rick Schmidlin and Albert Zugsmith.

“What?” says the officer, a bit incredulous at the couple’s different races. “Philadelphia,” Mrs. Vargas answers to his previous question. Philadelphia, with its connotations of ‘mainline’ upper-class WASP society, is the perfect contrasting place of origin to Mexico. The less aggressive Mr. Vargas finally speaks up: “The name is Vargas.” The immigration officer is suddenly and unexpectedly friendly. “Jim, ya see who’s here?” he drawls to a colleague behind the Vargases. They all turn their heads from the camera and look over their shoulders to see Jim. “Sure. It’s Mr. Vargas,” Jim answers. The convertible, forgotten by the officers but not the viewers, ticks away. “Out on the trail of another dope ring?” Jim continues. “On the trail of a chocolate soda for my wife,” Vargas answers, emphasizing the unaccustomed word ‘wife’ with the shy pride of a newlywed. The couple leaves, to our momentary relief, only to circle back into the frame (and danger) for more chatting with the guards about the drug lord named Grandi whom Vargas has recently arrested. The guards are admiring; Vargas is modest.


Page Laws

The blonde floozy in the convertible remarks, “I’ve got this ticking noise in my head.” It is a shamelessly obvious way for Welles to hammer home the imminent danger. Zita even repeats her complaint as the convertible drives off onto American soil. The camera retains its loyal interest in the Vargas couple, who have stepped aside to have a romantic moment. And at the first sign of the impending ‘forbidden’ interracial screen kiss a loud boom comes from close by, just out of the frame. There is a quick cut—the very fi rst cut of the entire movie—to a flaming car rising into the air from the force of the explosion. Key elements of the film have been fi rmly established in microcosm: the confl ict between dark and light, the war of the sexes, the racism of the border guards toward Mexicans with the exception of big-shot detectives. We realize we are in a curiously hybridized world of mixed cultures and decidedly mixed moral signals. The interrupted kiss and Vargas’s running off to investigate will prove disturbingly typical of his character. He is a man who chooses ego-boosting police work over his rather irritating wife’s gratification and even her personal safety, time and time again. 23 Mrs. Vargas, for her part, will repeatedly place herself in harm’s way, as if to insist greedily on attention and gratification (sexual or otherwise) in any wild form those might take. These newlyweds are not as innocent as they appear. And they are about to meet their match in the good cop gone bad, Hank Quinlan.


Mike: My Mom says Mexico is dangerous. Santiago: Yes. It’s full of Mexicans. Babel, 2005 Babel is the third fi lm in Mexican writer Guillermo Arriaga and Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s border trilogy that includes Amores Perros (2000) and 21 Grams (2003). All three feature braided plots that require the viewer to actively participate in creating and discovering the relationships between seemingly disparate narrative strands. Babel is particularly challenging in this respect as it is set in Morocco, Japan, California, and Mexico. The overt plot connection—a hunting rifle that impacts all the characters’ lives—is a tenuous one, only revealed toward the end. The covert but stronger connection is the theme of miscommunication (a ‘babel’ of tongues) caused by intercultural but also intracultural misunderstandings. The fi lm opens on desert scenes that turn out to be in Morocco (though very similar landscape can be found in the Mexico plot). Two Moroccan shepherd boys are shown living (rather happily) in circumstances Americans would quickly label as impoverished and, certainly by Western standards,

No Country for Old Certainties


alien. Sibling rivalry arises over a rifle purchased by their father to kill jackals. Later while in the hills tending their goats (once again a clear symbol of a peasant, preindustrial world), they practice with the rifle, using a distant tour bus for their target. The bus ominously halts on the desert road, all in a long shot from the boys’ POV. We cut to an American boy named Mike (Nathan Gamble) and his sister, Debbie (Elle Fanning), playing hide-and-seek indoors in an affluent home. Their nanny, Amelia (Adriana Barraza) is speaking Spanish. Low angle, straight-on shots give us the POV of the children crouching in hiding. Amelia answers a phone call from the children’s father, who evidently is far away. Something bad has happened to the mother, who is now hospitalized. The father fights back tears to chat normally with Mike about his school day, which featured hermit crabs. A medium shot of the children’s bedroom—it is evidently later that same evening—shows Amelia tenderly putting them to bed and then returning to comfort Debbie. They have recently lost a baby brother to SIDS, and the children remain confused and grieving, particularly without their parents on hand. But the relationship with their nanny is positive and nurturing. A silent shot of the family pool shows abandoned toys floating, another sign of both wealth and melancholy. A shot of Amelia in her own migrant ‘maid’s’ room reveals a statue of the Virgin Mary on her bureau, a bit of Catholic Mexico in this hybridized household. Another phone call from the ‘master’ causes Amelia consternation. “Today is my son’s wedding,” she gently protests into the phone. An American voice answers back, “I’ll pay for a better one! I’m sorry, but you have to do this.” ‘This’ seems to involve missing her son’s wedding, despite a promised leave, to stay with the children. Amelia tries to mobilize her network of fellow Mexican nannies, a whole subculture of Mexican migrants embedded in these affluent American residential neighborhoods, but she has no luck farming the kids out to a colleague. Her nephew Santiago (Gael Garcia Bernal) arrives in a rundown red American car blasting Mexican music from its radio, a rosary dangling from its rearview mirror. The greeting scene, shot through the car windows, shows Santiago skeptical about taking the children along with them to Mexico. He expresses his doubts to Amelia as they load the trunk, unaware that the children know a good deal of Spanish and are picking up on his suspicions of them. A red translucent decal of the Virgin Mary graces the back windshield of the car, further evidence of Catholic Mexico come to California. The Spanish/Mexican influence is also evident from a shot of the neighbor’s house, an ‘Old California’-style hacienda. After a return to the Moroccan plot (where we see the bus shooting from the victims’ point of view) and an introduction to the Japanese plot concerning a deaf teenage girl bereft of her mother and suffering a breakdown in communication with her father and peers, we return to the Amelia-andthe-kids-go-to-Mexico plotline, often jumping thousands of miles in sharp,

38 Page Laws unexpected (unmatched) cuts. The effect of the unexpected cuts is that of crossing a border we did not even know was there. The three narratives established in the fi lm present us few or none of the ‘border postings’ that conventional film editing usually provides. We ‘cross’ from one story to another, one narrative thread to another, one language to another (Arabic, English, Spanish, sign language, Japanese) quite abruptly. We have been ‘globalized’ against our will and mostly without our understanding. We cut from goats in Morocco to a shot from a moving vehicle showing crosses on a highway fence. The music, one of our few global-positioning aids in this fi lm, is loud, fast, ebullient and . . . Mexican. We realize we are in the car with Amelia, Debbie, Mike, and Santiago, and we are passing— barely slowing down at all—a border post between the U.S. and Mexico. Easy in. Difficult out. We are now in a border town (probably Tijuana) and in a film sequence that consciously or unconsciously mimics Touch of Evil’s opening shot, but with differences. First, of course, this film is in color—very much so. And in Iñárritu’s palette the dominant color for Mexico is red. Santiago’s car is red. The Virgin Mary decal is red. The street signs, many tiled buildings, and walls in Tijuana are red. We share the POV of the children in the moving car—both their fascination and their fear. We see, with fascination, a shop window full of religious statues and icons of the type that adorn Amelia’s room. Mike repeats his mother’s warning that Mexico is dangerous. He has already been indoctrinated with American cultural imperialism. Santiago, angry at the insult, answers back, really to the absent mother rather than to the child: “Yes. It’s full of Mexicans.” He says the line in English, and Amelia immediately looks at him disapprovingly. To her the children are still blameless, and she feels protective of them. Another shot from the moving car shows, from the American POV, a reason why Mexico is dangerous. We see meat covered with fl ies, all primed to give an unwitting American tourist the aptly named intestinal disorder ‘Montezuma’s Revenge.’ A worker at the butcher’s shop ineffectually waves at the fl ies, unconsciously fulfi lling another stereotype: the ‘lazy’ Mexican worker. The car moves on. Still in the POV of the children in the car, we spot provocatively dressed women (prostitutes) and an iconic burro oddly painted like a zebra. Even the animals practice fl imflam in border towns. Then we are back on the highway alongside another cross-covered fence. Do the crosses commemorate the lives lost in futile attempts at crossing? The American-style highway gives way to a dirt road, and we roll into Amelia’s home village, where we are greeted by her grown son, the groom. There follows an indoctrination to village life, including instructions from Santiago on how to wring a chicken’s neck. Its gushing blood provides a rare match cut to the blood on Cate Blanchett’s neck back on the bus in Morocco. She, too, will be unwillingly indoctrinated into village life in Morocco, which for her will include surgery without anesthesia performed

No Country for Old Certainties


by a vet. The Japanese narrative proceeds with the young deaf woman coming to terms, very painfully, with the suicide of her mother, her relationship with her father, and her own sexuality. The hyper-urban sophistication of life in Tokyo contrasts sharply with the mostly rural scenes in Morocco and Mexico. The Moroccan plot ends badly for the boys and their family. Brutal police, convinced by American diplomats that they are looking for terrorists, shoot and kill one of the adolescent shepherd boys. His brother gives himself up, and he and his father will face the tender mercies of those same police. Back in Mexico, the wedding winds down to a drunken end, with Santiago unwisely insisting that he is sober enough to drive Amelia and the kids back to the children’s home in the U.S. This sets up the abortive legal border crossing back into America that turns into Amelia and the children’s nearly lethal desert ordeal. Santiago’s resentment of Americans and general hotheadedness have already been established before the sequence begins; we know he has been in trouble with the law before. First, he nearly wrecks the car by falling asleep at the wheel. He decides to cross at Tecate, a more isolated spot than where they came over, and then proceed to San Diego. The American border is guarded by a Hispanic-looking guard who is ‘all business,’ perhaps overcompensating for his own insecurities. He and Santiago immediately clash when Santiago tries to make a weak joke. In response to the question,

Figure 2.2 Santiago (Gael Garcia Bernal) and the border guard in Babel. Screenshot, Paramount Vantage, 2005. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Produced by John Kilik and Steven Golin.

40 Page Laws “Where are you coming from,” Santiago answers, “Mexico.” The guard is not amused, even when Santiago quickly complies with a more specific answer. A black border guard comes out of his kiosk, adding to the irony of the oppressed further oppressing the oppressed. The officers are suspicious about the white children asleep in the back of this brown man’s car. When Debbie stirs, the Hispanic border guard asks if Amelia is her “auntie” and she truthfully replies “no.” The longer Santiago sits and waits for the guards to let him pass, the more likely it is that they will discover he is intoxicated. The inevitable happens. The Hispanic guard smells the alcohol on his breath and orders him out of the vehicle. Another vehicle arrives behind Santiago’s car, and the flustered cop barks orders for Santiago to pull forward and then park. Santiago panics, stomps on the gas, and speeds away, setting up a terrifying chase into the desert with the border guards in pursuit. Further panicking, Santiago orders Amelia and the kids out of his car. He speeds off into the blackness of the desert, and the camera stays with Amelia and the children, who are increasingly terrified at having been left alone in the desert at night. Amelia comforts the children as well as she can. When she wakes in the morning, she goes for help, leaving them unprotected and rapidly dehydrating. When she is fi nally able to attract a patrolling border guard’s attention, they are unable to locate the children. We catch a glimpse of other young Mexicans—children themselves—in the paddy wagon. We later discover that Mike and Debbie are rescued in time, but it turns out that Amelia herself was illegal the whole time and is summarily deported.

Figure 2.3 Babel’s Amelia (Adriana Barraza) in a nearly lethal crossing attempt. Screenshot, Paramount Vantage, 2005. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Produced by John Kilik and Steven Golin.

No Country for Old Certainties


Iñárritu’s and the viewers’ sympathies clearly lie with Amelia, guilty only of wanting to see her only son’s wedding and perhaps of the bad judgment of getting into a car with her drunken nephew (whose fate is never mentioned). Her illegal status, after sixteen years in America and loyal service to Debbie and Mike’s family, seems a minor technicality, a foolish denial of the Mexican and American cultures’ symbiotic interdependency—in short, of their hybridity.


Deputy Wendell (Garret Dillahunt): It’s a mess, Sheriff. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones): If it ain’t, it’ll do ’til the mess gets here. No Country for Old Men, 2007 Hervé Aubron, writing in Cahiers du Cinéma, has declared No Country the darkest of the three films in question, a “minor movie” (a play on the musical meaning of ‘minor’ as well as its meaning of ‘lesser’). He does, however, place it in the same lineage as Hitchcock’s Psycho and The Birds,24 a family tree standing root-to-root with Touch of Evil. “Minor movies,” Aubron continues, always open as “cartes postales” that feature landscapes. So it is with No Country. The landscape featured on this visual ‘postcard’ is classic borderlands desert—empty here at the start, but soon to be filled with a herd of deer being hunted by our protagonist Llewelyn Moss (quite believably embodied by Josh Brolin). He wounds a deer—nature red in tooth and claw—and follows the blood trail over a little rise. In a long shot, we see a gathering of pickup trucks. Zooming in, POV of Llewelyn, we note a landscape of corpses (they turn out to be Mexican drug dealers) strewn in and about the pickup trucks. The tableau of the dead and dying even includes a dead dog. This is the “mess” referred to by the sardonic sheriffs in the previous epigraph: a borderlands drug deal turned deadly. We hear the words of the epigraph in the drawl of a Texas sheriff (Ed Tom Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones). Bell has already waxed existential about what the modern world has become. As a young sheriff, he says, he did not even bother to carry a gun. But nowadays, the world has grown vicious. We soon witness another scene in a county jail that fully supports his changed, more cynical worldview. At the delivery of the epigraph, it is the fi rst time the sheriffs have seen the carnage, but it is the third time for us as viewers. For Llewelyn, on his fi rst trip to the site, has made a fateful move. First, he discovers one of the Mexicans is still alive in the cabin of his pickup truck and asking for “agua.” Llewelyn, as he matter-of-factly informs the dying Mexican, has no ‘agua’ to give him and calmly shuts the door of the truck. He follows


Page Laws

another blood trail (the film contains a half-dozen or more such trails) to a nearby rise where “the last man standing” in the shoot-out (a “Mexican stand-off” to use one of the few insulting stereotypes not mentioned in these movies) sits dead against a tree. Nearby Llewelyn fi nds and takes a case containing 2 million dollars. He carries this and the dying Mexican’s gun back to his double-wide trailer home, where his wife Carla Jean (played by Kelly McDonald) greets him with affectionate barbs. That night, in bed with his wife, Llewelyn makes a decision that turns out to be his second very admirable mistake. He gets up, “fixing to do something dumber than hell,” as he tells his wife. He returns to the desert murder site bearing ‘agua’ for the stricken Mexican, whom he finds is already dead. But he is spotted, attacked, and nearly killed by a new group of Mexicans accompanied by a live pit bull dog, who lunges for Llewelyn’s throat when Llewelyn finally manages to shoot him after an astonishing ride by both dog and man down some river rapids, possibly on the Rio Grande. The Mexicans continue to hunt Llewelyn down—the hunter has become the hunted—throughout the course of the film. But these Mexican killers are the least of Llewelyn’s problems. They are human beings, mean but sane. Llewelyn’s real nemesis is an inhuman killing machine named Anton Chigurh (pronounced somewhat like ‘sugar’).25 As played by Spanish actor Javier Bardem in a Prince Valiant haircut, Chigurh is anything but sweet. Earlier in the fi lm (the scene in the county jail referred to earlier), we saw Chigurh, arrested and in handcuffs, being led into a sheriff’s office and seated in a chair to await further processing. The cheerful young deputy, chatting away on the phone, momentarily turns his back on the prisoner in the chair. “I’ve got it under control,” he says to the phone caller—his last, all-too-ironic words (not unlike the “I keep hearing this ticking” line in Touch of Evil). We then witness, in frenetically paced two-shots, one of the most gruesome strangulation scenes ever filmed, a match and more for the strangulation of Uncle Joe Grandi by Hank Quinlan in A Touch of Evil. Like its progenitor scene, it is a sick wedding of sex and violence. In Touch of Evil, the sexuality is supplied by a skimpily clad Janet Leigh rolling about in a fitful drug-induced sleep on the bed. The two men, Quinlan and Grandi, tumble and roll around her in their struggle to the death. In the Coen brothers’ version (a possible, though not necessarily a conscious, homage to Welles), the young deputy fights madly to escape his attacker who is digging the chain of his handcuffs into his throat with incredible force. Chigurh is the ‘smiling villain’ (cf. Hamlet) who takes sensual pleasure in his craft. He finally breaks through the flesh of the deputy’s neck, sending blood spurting orgasmically into the air. The scene ends with Chigurh on his back with his spent victim (Zack Hopkins) lying on top of him, also on his back. The homoerotic connotations are troublingly clear, and Bardem’s eyes are unforgettable for their expression of lustful savagery. He sighs with satisfaction. We have seen but the fi rst of many killings by this unstoppable force, Nemesis; he is Llewelyn’s real problem. Hired by

No Country for Old Certainties


one of the drug dealers’ bosses, a Texas businessman in a high-rise office (whom Chigurh later kills in a fit of professional pique because he has hired on a supplemental killer, played by Woody Harrelson), Chigurh will follow Llewelyn to the crack of doom. Both men are skillful stalkers and clever with both their hands and heads. It is just that one of them, Chigurh, has no heart. Chigurh’s encounters with various ‘service’ personnel are particularly frightening. Each one represents Texas ‘good ol’ boy’ values that we recognize as genuinely good. The service station attendant invariably calls him “Sir.” He is saved, all unknowingly, by a coin toss Chigurh magnanimously offers him. The hefty lady attendant at the Mosses’ trailer park refuses to be intimidated by Chigurh’s insisting he be given Llewelyn’s work address. She, also all unknowingly, is saved by a toilet flush that indicates a potential witness is near. The night manager of the motel (shades of Dennis Weaver in Touch of Evil) where Chigurh finds Llewelyn holed up is not so lucky. He is slaughtered. So is the motorist who stops to help Chigurh. He is felled like a steer by a device created for that very purpose: felling cattle. Chigurh shows less emotion than a butcher. On the track of Chigurh (who is on the track of Llewelyn), we have Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, a character Aubron calls “un vieux shérif métaphorique” from the era of “les bons vieux films.” In this world, however, nothing is clear for Bell. He has become “une figure impuissante,”26 rendered powerless by the relentless nature of the evil that men like Chigurh embody. He still spouts (slightly racist) homilies, e.g., “Supposedly, a coyote won’t eat a Mexican.” And the Coens, like Welles, show him ironically repeating some of Chigurh’s exact gestures, such as sitting on the sofa, drinking milk, and looking at his reflection in the TV screen in the Mosses’ deserted trailer. The scene in which Sheriff Ed Tom Bell chats with a deputy in a café is doubled by another café scene in which he listens to the right-wing ravings of a truly stereotypical Southern sheriff, worried about kids with “green hair” and “bones in their noses.” Bell plays along, pretending to agree with his colleague. “Signs and wonders,” he responds. But while quick with a sardonic joke, Bell is never quite quick enough to catch up to Chigurh, except in one motel room where Chigurh inexplicably stays in hiding, thus sparing Bell’s life. Bell retires at the end of the movie, saying, “I feel overmatched.” He is actually the one person with the skills and instincts (cf. Detective Hank Quinlan in Touch of Evil) to catch Chigurh. Chigurh’s rival Llewelyn thinks he has the skills and almost succeeds. But he is indeed overmatched. The Coens elide the scene where death catches up to Llewelyn at yet another motel. Did he relax his guard to drink a beer by the pool? Did he commit adultery with the good-time girl coming on to him by the pool? Was it Chigurh or the Mexicans who actually killed him? The viewers, contrary to the conventions of Hollywood films, never know. The ending, including Bell’s dream about his father, is ambiguous, mixed, thoroughly ambivalent. It is a hybrid world of Mexicans in America and Americans in Mexico (where Llewelyn flees to escape Chigurh, only to return). Easy in. Difficult out.


Page Laws

Figure 2.4 Llewelyn (Josh Brolin) flees to Mexico in No Country for Old Men. Screenshot, Paramount Vantage, 2007. Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. Produced by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, and Scott Rudin.

Llewelyn is only admitted back into the U.S. because he convinces the border guard he is a fellow Viet Nam veteran. The real borders in this borderland film are not geographic. They are the all-too-permeable borders between good and pure evil, the rational and the irrational. And in this film, the irrational—death—takes the hybridized form of a Polish 27 killing machine played, in a Wellesian gesture of overdetermination, by a Spanish actor.

CONCLUSION This country’s hard on people. Ellis (Barry Corbin) to Sheriff Bell, No Country for Old Men It’s not often you see a Mexican in a suit. Carla Jean’s momma (Beth Grant) to a Mexican drug dealer stalking Llewelyn No Country for Old Men Mexico in the American imagination remains, for many, a dangerous “dark chasm,”28 the source of 70 percent of all the drugs consumed in the U.S. (mostly by Americans) at a profit of 80 billion dollars. 29 And yet the greater fear in the American imagination remains the fact that

No Country for Old Certainties


Mexico is, as Santiago quips, “full of Mexicans”—brown-skinned aliens just ready to pour over the border, probably illegally. The fact that the border has always been permeable in both directions and that the cultures long ago mixed into a hybrid appears moot. White Anglo “fantasies” of “cultural, racial, and sexual purity” persist. 30 The abuses of the colonizers (economically and culturally now clearly the Americans) rebound to injure American culture and are mimicked, however unconsciously, by the oppressed. In Touch of Evil, for example, Miguel Vargas complains that Quinlan has abused his power by planting evidence and roughing up his prisoners. But then Vargas, back on the Mexican side of the border, himself runs roughshod over citizens’ rights, crying, “I am a husband, not a policeman!”31 No purity there. Borderlands cinema, in the form of these three films, bears witness to uneasy migrations and porous borders both literal and figurative. Payan suggests that the various wars on drugs, illegal immigrants, and would-be terrorists have all failed miserably: “The equivalent of an escalation . . . has not paid off.” He suggests that the only logical political step is “debordering,” a reopening of the borders to be accompanied, one hopes, by an opening of minds. It is, he continues, “likely [to] become a historical necessity for both countries.” 32 The three films discussed here, violent and aesthetically ‘dangerous’ as they are, all point the way beyond the bloody borders that divide us.

NOTES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

7. 8. 9. 10. 11.

Payan, Three Wars, 122. Ibid., 59. José David Saldivar quoted in Pease, “Borderline Justice,” 76. Ibid., 77. Pease traces the intellectual debate between Stephen Heath and Homi Bhabha over their interpretations of Touch of Evil. Payan cites 464 deaths of “undocumented workers” in the borderlands deserts in 2004 alone. According to Peter Wollen in “Foreign Relations,” 21–22, the same art director who designed the motel set in Touch of Evil, Robert Clatworthy, designed Janet Leigh’s other ill-fated motel stop in Psycho only two years later. The squirrely night man played by Dennis Weaver in Touch of Evil is a possible progenitor of Anthony Perkins’s Norman Bates in Psycho, as well. Nericcio, “Of Mestizos and Half-Breeds,” 48. Rollins, “‘Some Kind of a Man,’” 39. Ibid. Beckham, “Placing Touch of Evil,” 133. Scott Newstok says Welles’s interest in hybridity led to the switching of the interracial Vargas couple from an American husband/Mexican wife to an American wife/Mexican husband; to Welles’s moving the action to fictional Los Robles; to his emphasizing the theme of marriage (by doubling the interracial couples); and to the “interruption of the Vargas honeymoon . . . with the intrusion of a violent external event” (34). Newstok also reads the fi lm as Welles’s series of “fugal variations” on Othello (36).


Page Laws

12. Leeper, “Crossing Musical Borders,” 240. 13. Ibid. 14. Welles was fascinated with the cause of Mexicans and Mexican Americans. He lived with Mexican actress Dolores Del Rio and then married Rita Hayworth, a.k.a. Margarita Carmen Cansino. More pertinent still is Welles’s expressed political interest in defending Mexican rights during the 1942 Sleepy Lagoon incident and the Zoot Suit Riots of June 1943. An L.A. sheriff was found to have planted evidence in the Sleepy Lagoon incident, which prompts a comparison with the character of Hank Quinlan, the corrupt American police captain whom Welles plays. A number of critics mention these events, including Beckham, 133–34. 15. Leeper, “Crossing Musical Borders,” 229. 16. Pease, “Borderline Justice,” 80. 17. Although usually an epithet for Lana Turner, critics such as Terry Comito (Touch of Evil, 12) also use it for Janet Leigh, and it seems to fit well. I came across Comito’s analysis of Touch of Evil too late to include it in this chapter. 18. Even the physical fi lm itself ended up hybridized, though certainly against Welles’s wishes. There are three versions of Touch of Evil, none of which is purely Welles’s own because the editing process was removed from his control. The version I am using is the third one (chronologically), constructed by fi lm scholars in 1998 in an effort to restore Welles’s original intentions as expressed in his famous fi fty-eight-page memo to the studio. The three-anda-half minute continuous shot that begins Touch of Evil is perhaps the most discussed and analyzed long take in fi lm history. The remarks below are my own, recorded before reading secondary sources, except as specifically noted. 19. I have borrowed the terms “cranes up,” “dollies in,” “dollies back,” etc. from Iván Zatz (57–58) to replace my own original, less accurate term ‘tracks back.’ 20. Film historians tell us that Welles shot this whole sequence in Venice, California, a city whose architecture supposedly echoes that of Venice, Italy. 21. Zatz says the animals are sheep (60) and symbolic of “preindustrial” life in Mexico. He’s right about the symbol but surely wrong about the species. 22. Some critics (e.g., Gilles Menegaldo, “Le regard et le corps du désir dans The Lady from Shanghai et Touch of Evil d’Orson Welles,” Cycnos, 13, no. 1:3–21) say the blonde in the car is a Mexican stripper, perhaps because her name is Zita. She looks and sounds Anglo-American to me, however. Zita may be her stage name. 23. Zatz makes much of this point (70–71), as does Pease (82). 24. Aubron, “Minor Movies,” 76. 25. Steve Vineberg notes that Chigurh is Polish in Cormac McCarthy’s original novel, which was very closely adapted by the Coens. 26. Aubron, “Minor Movies,” 76. 27. Payan, Three Wars, 20. 28. Ibid., 27. 29. Calvo, “‘Lemme Stay,’” 73. 30. Payan, Three Wars, 20. 31. Donald Pease points out that both the ‘good cop’ Vargas and the ‘bad cop’ Quinlan in Touch of Evil give in to sadism and torture, topics still frequently in the news in 2009. 32. Payan, Three Wars, 14–15.

No Country for Old Certainties


WORKS CITED Aubron, Hervé. “Minor Movies.” Cahiers du Cinéma 625 (July–August 2007): 76–78. Babel. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. Produced by Paramount and Paramount Vantage, 2006. Beckham, Jack M. “Placing Touch of Evil, The Border and Traffic in the American Imagination.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 33, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 130–41. Calvo, Luz. “‘Lemme Stay, I Want to Watch’: Ambivalence in Borderlands Cinema.” In Latino/a Popular Culture, edited by Michelle Habell-Pallàn and Mary Romero. New York: New York University Press, 2002. Comito, Terry, ed. Touch of Evil: Orson Welles, Director. Vol. 3, Rutgers Films in Print. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1985. Evces, Mike. “Touch of Evil and Ecological Optics: Toward a Demystification of Conventional Film Editing Practice.” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 8, no. 2 (Spring 1994): 103–9. Higham, Charles. Orson Welles: The Rise and Fall of an American Genius. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985. Jaafar, Ali, and Fernanda Solórzano. “Border Crossing.” Sight and Sound 16, no. 7 (July 2006): 14–17. James, Nick. “Blood Money: The Coen Brothers.” Sight and Sound 17, no. 7 (July 2007): 20–27. Leeper, Jill. “Crossing Musical Borders: The Soundtrack for Touch of Evil.” In Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music, edited by Pamela Robertson Wojcik and Arthur Knight. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001. Nericcio, William Anthony. “Of Mestizos and Half-Breeds: Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.” In Chicanos and Film: Representation and Resistance, edited by Chon A. Noriega. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992. Newstok, Scott L. “Touch of Shakespeare: Welles Unmoors Othello.” Shakespeare Bulletin 23, no. 1 (2005): 29–86. No Country for Old Men. Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. Produced by Paramount Vantage, 2007. Payan, Tony. The Three U.S.-Mexico Border Wars: Drugs, Immigration, and Homeland Security. Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2006. Pease, Donald. “Borderline Justice/States of Emergency: Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.” CR: The New Centennial Review 1, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 75–105. Rollins, Brooke. “‘Some Kind of a Man’: Orson Welles as Touch of Evil’s Masculine Auteur.” The Velvet Light Trap, no. 57 (Spring 2006): 32–41. A Touch of Evil. Directed by Orson Welles. Produced by Universal Pictures, 1958; restored version, 1998. Wollen, Peter. “Foreign Relations: Welles and Touch of Evil.” Sight and Sound 6, no. 10 (October 1996): 21–23. Zatz, Iván. “‘Tan lejos de Dios’: The Production of Space and the Meaning of Power in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 33, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 130–41.


Bodies and Hybrid Tropes Border Crossings in Recent Films


Cathy Covell Waegner

Bodies become complex borders in numerous new feature fi lms. Physical bodies are far more than the mere narrative characters in the fi lms considered here: Leaking blood and tears, a body—usually that of a border crosser—is a porous cultural space like the border itself, often a dangerous “no (wo)man’s land” where protection from violations of all types is absent. 2 The torn bodies and their ripped clothing, as well as interethnic relationships, are frequently the battleground for contesting loyalties. By extension bodies of water as a fluid “third space” divide, as well as offer hope for connection. 3 The masking or exposing performance of bodily transformation often transgresses cultural and moral boundaries. With a supporting cast of the slippery high-tech border crossers of globalization (for example, cell phones, Internet graphics, digital and television cameras, jets, search helicopters, transnational companies), these applications of body, among many others, serve as double-edged cinematic tropes revealing the promises and failures of contemporary hybridity. The corpus of fi lms to be analyzed in this article comprises the following prize-winning productions: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2006), Bordertown (2006), The Last King of Scotland (2006), Lone Star (1996),4 Everything Is Illuminated (2005), and Borat (2006). These fi lms employ a spectrum of border crossings and uses of the body motif. The obvious crossing of national and continental borders by the protagonists in all of the movies is intertwined with more abstract, usually forbidden, crossings of other erected borders; for example, the often-arbitrary line is consequentially crossed between legality and illegality (The Three Burials), accepted and rejected ethnicity/gender (Bordertown), privileged and punished cultures (The Last King), socially accepted relationships and tabooed ones (Lone Star), present and past (Everything Is Illuminated), and—in controversial parody—authenticity and masquerade (Borat). The bleeding, marked, exchanged, (re)emerging, detaching, intruding, recollected, fluid, masked, transformed, or even resurrected bodies all serve to call into question the attempt to maintain—often brutally—hierarchical borders based by and large on inherited privilege, misused authority, economic power, and assumed cultural and gender superiority.

Bodies and Hybrid Tropes


DYNAMIC HYPHENIZING ON THE SCREEN: HYBRID TROPES Hybridity is a tenet of current cultural theory, which sees the impurity arising from the unsettling effect of migrancy as the (largely positive) sign of our times. This migrancy can be either the physical movement of peoples from one geographical area to another or a personal migration in Weltanschauung or lifestyle, as in a Ukrainian youth’s adoption of Western clothing styles. Postcolonial theorists have taught us that hybridity reflects the mutual interaction of cultures, that the oppression of precolonial societies by colonizing ones is seldom a one-way street of influence by the hegemonically stronger power. As Ashcroft and others have pointed out, the interaction can reflect vigorous resistance on the part of the endangered, disadvantaged party or, both consciously and unconsciously, a dialogic process of negotiation, of mutual transculturation, or of “recovery and reinscription.”5 The movies at hand do not only depict varieties of the more confrontational type of border-crossing interaction with cruel oppression, as in Lone Star when the ‘wetbacks’ attempting to hide among watermelons in the back of a rickety pickup truck are shot without warning by a patrolman or when the protagonists fight for their defiant interracial relationship. These films, however, can also encode peacefully dialogic moments, often in an ostensibly trivial (physical) gesture of interaction: At the climax in Everything Is Illuminated, for instance, during what the viewer expects to be a scene of great insight for the young protagonists in American Jonathan’s ancestral town in Ukraine, they show their newfound closeness by discussing hybrid clothing; Jonathan

Figure 3.1 Undershirt inside out: American Jonathan and Ukranian Alex’s peaceful dialogic interaction with regard to clothing disturbs binary oppositions as surely as spectacular confrontation. Screenshot from Everything is Illuminated, Warner Independent Pictures/Telegraph Films/Big Beach Films/Stillking Films, 2005. Directed by Liev Schreiber. Produced by Peter Saraf and Marc Turtletaub.

50 Cathy Covell Waegner points out to Ukrainian Alex, who incongruously always dons American jogging suits and hip-hopper bling-bling jewelry, that Alex is wearing his Fruit of the Loom undershirt inside out.6 Manzanas and Benito stress the complex doubleness of hybridity: “[W] hile hybridity induces fusion and blending into an organic whole, it also describes a dialectical articulation, a constant interaction between opposites that refuse to fuse into a single one.”7 For Manzanas and Benito, the permeable border between those two opposites can be seen in the semiotics of the hyphen: “Hybridity, with the hyphen as its graphic design, is the representation of the border not as a separating line but as a vast contact zone.”8 Those hyphenizing contact zones, analogous to the borders (such as the Rio Grande) in the fi lms discussed here, are “double-voiced”9 in that they, like the notion of hybridity itself, call for a bringing together as well as a maintaining of separation. Recent cultural theory, especially when concerned with heterogeneous diasporic communities, encourages views “beyond the hyphen” when the hyphen seems simply to join fi xed ethnicities;10 Manzanas and Benito’s instrumentalization of the hyphen can be maintained, however, by adding the component of dynamism and stressing the hyphen’s contingency. It is indeed the complicated process of confrontation and interaction rather than the fi xity of the groups on either side of the border that the fi lms considered here show so graphically, as multiple forms of body encounters unfold on the screen.11 In his groundbreaking book on film interpretation, Monaco sees cinematic tropes as dynamized metaphors or idioms.12 The active visualization of the turn of phrase ‘to have blood on one’s hands’ in The Last King of Scotland can serve as an illustration of Monaco’s approach: The Scotsman Nicholas Garrigan’s fi rst act as Idi Amin’s doctor is to treat Amin’s bleeding hand; following a later attack, Garrigan realizes his responsibility in furthering Idi Amin’s violent course when he literally finds his own hands covered with blood. Monaco would agree that the sequential movement of film allows an image to take on successive, interactive layers of meaning, all of which remain retrievable in the viewer’s visual memory processing, as with a palimpsest, but constantly flow in cinematic motion. Monaco’s concept of the active trope thus dovetails with the dynamism of the contactzone hyphen, particularly in interfilm viewing as described in point 2. The body tropes in the selected fi lms are hybrid in at least three senses: 1. They show mutual interaction between cultures/nations/ethnicities, reflecting the porousness of the borders that ostensibly separate them. Idi Amin dresses in a kilt and his Scots protégé dresses in traditional Ugandan clothing; this physical exchange results in an explosive hybridity. 2. On a meta level, the tropes from the various fi lms take on more signifi cance when we view them in interaction with each other. In this respect the tropes themselves become contact zones or ‘third

Bodies and Hybrid Tropes


spaces’ in which interaction and confl ict are visually and dynamically articulated. The trope of ‘blood on hands,’ for example, refl ects this dynamic interfi lm articulation: As in Last King, in the movie Three Burials the trope implies border patrolman Mike Norton’s personal and cultural guilt in shooting down Melquiades Estrada and then fi nding his hands covered with blood. The trope expands to include the aggressive defi ance refl ected in the blood on the factory worker’s hand in Bordertown when she wounds her male attacker, as well as the oppression of the white sheriff who requires payoffs from the ethnic business owners in Lone Star (blood on the money that is changing hands), and even extends to the provocation of Borat holding body liquids in his hands, fl aunting a bag of his feces. 3. The twenty-fi rst-century tropes under discussion here frequently combine human and technological components: for instance, in Bordertown Lauren Adrian downloads photos of mutilated maquiladora women on her laptop while jetting across the American-Mexican border to conduct her investigative journalism. Each section of this chapter will analyze a fi lm in terms of its main body trope, and then view it in connection with the other films via a third-space ‘secondary trope.’ For instance, in the fi rst section, which focuses on Three Burials, the dominant motif of ‘exchange of bodies’ is investigated; then a secondary motif in Three Burials will be discussed, ‘reanimation,’ which also appears significantly in the other movies in the corpus, and some of these appearances will be pointed out and interpreted. Thus a consideration of each fi lm will be balanced by a networking among the movies at hand. Not unexpectedly, the various body tropes cannot always be strictly separated from each other. Blond American Lauren’s deliberate change into a dark-haired Latina in Bordertown is dealt with as an example of ‘transformation of body’; but since she is returning to her childhood Mexican identity, it could conceivably have been discussed in connection with the motif of ‘recrossing borders.’ This overlap, however, suggests yet another way in which the tropes function as “contact zones” rather than illustrate a strictly categorized taxonomy. The camera lens and the cross-sectional viewing developed in this article offer sharp and complex cinematic perspectives of border crossing that grant insight into the troubles and triumphs of concrete migration phenomena in our contemporary world. Huddart points out ways in which hybridity can inform “intervention,” not merely description, in civil rights discourse;13 similarly, we can see the engagement of contemporary fi lmmakers as aesthetic intervention in human rights politics, making the analysis of the body-border tropes more than simply an academic exercise. Indeed, perhaps the analysis can be considered a modest form of involvement in those politics.

52 Cathy Covell Waegner EXCHANGE OF BODIES AND REANIMATION The characters’ desires and fears flow through the corpse in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, animating it to become an active border (re)crosser that/who in a sense motivates and controls the action. The corpse of the wetback Melquiades gradually changes places with the U.S. border patrolman Mike Norton, whose personal decay compared with the posthumous rise of Melquiades shows the symmetrical structure of the fi lm and develops the main trope of the fi lm: exchange of bodies. The exposition of Three Burials involves a classical long-term but continuously perilous border crossing. After the Mexican border crosser Melquiades has established himself in farm work with Pete Perkins, who has befriended him, Mel is eventually shot by Norton. By physically crossing the nations’ border, Melquiades, despite his acceptance in the Texas town, has also crossed the line between legality and illegality. The film makes clear, however, that by carelessly shooting Melquiades and then leaving his body in the desert, a move Norton would doubtless not have risked with a U.S. citizen, the patrolman himself passes into what should be punishable criminality. Pete’s quixotic retributive actions make explicit the de facto similarities and moral differences between the officer and the wetback. In order to keep his promise to bury Melquiades in his Mexican hometown in case Mel died in the U.S., Pete kidnaps Mike and forces the officer to journey ‘south of the border’ with him and Melquiades’s corpse. First Mike has to dig up Melquiades’s body, put on the Mexican’s work clothes, sit at his table, and drink from his cup. During the arduous trek to Mexico, Mike tries to flee and hide, experiences fear, is dragged ‘back’ across the border, and almost dies; all of this resembles what illegal immigrants often experience. Parallel to this, Melquiades’s corpse is put in his finest clothes, is groomed, and even ‘rides’ its/his own horse. Improbably dodging powerful search copters, Pete tries to protect and preserve the corpse from decay in various ways, once grotesquely with automobile antifreeze. These developments show how the roles of the illegal alien Melquiades and the superior border patrol officer Mike are carefully reversed. Together the bodies become a canvas for traded roles and feelings, with the borders they have crossed leaving visible marks. Although the two bodies exchange places, a secondary trope of reanimation serves as a metaphorical common denominator. Pete tries to reanimate and honor Melquiades’s identity by restoring his physical dignity and by building a home for the corpse in what Melquiades probably envisioned as his hometown. Despite his physical and social decay throughout the movie, Mike undergoes a double process of reanimation. First, he literally becomes reanimated when the Mexican woman—whom he once injured when she was trying to cross the border—heals his snake bite. Second, he also experiences reanimation through becoming aware of what he has done and what effects his actions have had. Pressured by Pete, he fi nally begs Melquiades’s soul for forgiveness.

Bodies and Hybrid Tropes


A process of reanimation, often connected to role reversal, can be witnessed more than once in the corpus of films at hand. In Bordertown, Lauren reanimates her friend Diaz’s presence when she sits in his chair, taking over his newspaper office after he is killed for his commitment to fi nding the factory girls’ murderers. His body cannot be saved, but he is reconstituted via the work that Lauren, who now embraces her Latina heritage in both her physical appearance and her engagement, continues. The overall structure of Lone Star arises from the unearthing of the old sheriff’s skull and thus his life of prejudicial power. Scarcely a single one of the characters in the border towns of this movie, most of them ethnic subjects, is unaffected by Sheriff Charlie Wade’s earlier transgressions. Even decades after his death those scars and effects have not disappeared, and in order to come to terms with the present, the various characters, all border crossers, must reanimate Wade’s presence. The film conveys this by constantly integrating flashbacks that display the injuries and interconnections. Whether with regard to national, inner, or moral borders, these movies show that migration and the shuffl ing from one side to the other do not leave the parties’ hybrid bodies unaffected. Reanimation must take place in order for them to adapt to new scenarios and begin the healing process. The reanimations show that identity is a constant hyphenizing, not only with one’s own past but also with disparate influences that leave marks along the way.

REEMERGING AND RESURRECTING BODIES The sliced-up bodies of the maquiladora girls, mostly Indios, buried in the shifting desert sand, reemerge throughout Bordertown and become the gory site of battles between powerful, self-serving masculine forces and women defending themselves at the most basic physical level; the struggle against hegemonic North–South (economic) colonization merges into a gender confrontation infl icting bleeding, often fatal, wounds. Treated as mere bodies by being sexually abused, murdered, and hurriedly buried, women keep disappearing throughout the film. They seem powerless in comparison with their upper-class murderers, even when the women’s dead bodies eventually reemerge, dug up or found by locals in Juárez, Mexico, serving as grisly evidence of an unfair distribution of power, an exclamation mark at the end of a long, unheard cry for help. The police refuse this help by covering up for the murderers as instructed by the executive floor of the maquiladora factory, emphasizing the disposableness of these women workers, these human bodies so subsidiary to the mighty legal body of the international corporation. This legal body seems to swallow up the human ones, nihilizing their value in the eyes of the collaborating government. During the series of murders, the American journalist Lauren (Jennifer Lopez) arrives in Mexico, at fi rst actually participating in the women’s


Cathy Covell Waegner

exploitation: She wants to boost her career by writing a sensational article publicizing the Juárez murder cases. We encounter Lauren as a tough American businesswoman who constantly talks on her cell phone to parties back in the States and completely ignores her own Mexican roots. As she becomes involved in the story, however, her long-forgotten Mexican self reemerges, indicated by both physical changes and by shifts in her attitude as she speaks Spanish more frequently and begins to approach the Juárez case with honest dedication. At the climax of this change, her repressed childhood memories reemerge, reminding her that her Mexican parents were shot while trying to emigrate to the U.S. The worthlessness of her parents’ illegal bodies in the eyes of the border patrol guards closely links Lauren’s family history to the similar fate of the Juárez women. The impetus for her ongoing change is Lauren’s growing friendship with Eva, the only girl to have survived an attack by the Juárez murderers. With regard to a secondary trope in the movie, resurrection of the body, we see the abused and presumed dead Eva dramatically resurrecting from her shallow, sandy grave, a picture leading us to hope that the voice of the subaltern is not dead. Her resurrection emphasizes that Eva, standing for all the other murdered Indio women, is not just a mere body—she is a person. However, Eva is not granted a start in a new life, as one would expect following a resurrection, for she is hunted by the murderers and the police alike, which again underlines the discrepancy between the rights of the powerful that take everything they want in unlimited legal freedom and the powerless, who lack even the most basic human rights. In The Last King of Scotland Garrigan is crucified, as it were, hung on hooks by Idi Amin, but he is resurrected with the help of a Ugandan doctor who wants Garrigan to make Amin’s atrocities known in Europe. This Ugandan doctor thus takes on the role of “savior” that the careless young Scottish doctor proudly claimed for himself when he fi rst set foot in the “adventure park” that Uganda was for him in the beginning. The resurrection of one young Scotsman, however, stands in sharp contrast to the deaths of uncountable Ugandan citizens, including the rescuing doctor, which draws attention to the questionable differentiation between lives and their unequal value. In Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen’s satirizing Kazakhstani character breaks in on an American church service, where he is encouraged to renounce his sins and seems to experience an awakening. When his eyes have apparently been opened to their religion, Borat is reborn in the eyes of the people attending the service. By tricking them into believing that he is actually a ‘poor ethnic other,’ Cohen as Borat reveals the Americans’ at least partially self-serving desire to show him the right way, to guide him from savagery to salvation. Taking the protagonists from ‘reemerging,’ which is quite earthbound, to the more transcendent ‘resurrection,’ the movies enable them to overcome the border between life and some type of death while at the same time,

Bodies and Hybrid Tropes


however, reminding us how this border constitutes inequalities between the people whose lives are valued and those who are thoughtlessly pushed across this border, their value as human individuals ignored.

DETACHING BODIES AND BLOOD ON HANDS In The Last King of Scotland, the missing persons and the massacred hundreds of thousands of Ugandans, not to mention the forcibly expelled Ugandan Asians, all victims of Idi Amin’s political and ethnic cleansing, are scarcely balanced by the one plane full of hijacked Europeans, plus the stowaway Garrigan, who spectacularly escape from Amin’s terror regime. Throughout this motion picture, President Idi Amin, who named Scotsman Nicholas Garrigan his personal physician, pleads with Garrigan to help him create a better Uganda with the Scotsman’s ‘superior’ knowledge. Amin’s skewed vision of a stronger and pure country, free from the control of the former English colonizers, can ironically only succeed with the influence of the ‘white man.’ Garrigan, a temporary expatriate, enjoys his status and thrives on lust of numerous kinds, but finally realizes that he must detach himself from Amin’s destructive grasp. The trope of detaching bodies is supported by the secondary trope of blood on hands, showing the involvement and/or guilt of the characters, which makes the detachment difficult but necessary. A horrifying film sequence shows the mutilated body of one of Amin’s wives. Her limbs were literally detached by Amin’s henchmen after she committed adultery with Garrigan and sought an abortion. Carrying the Scotsman’s seed within her, she is thus monstrously separated from society because of adulterous miscegenation. Her deformed body, shown in a gruesome “hybrid” rearrangement of her detached limbs and torso, gives the viewer an impression of how, in certain cultures and situations, the mixing of ethnicities and classes can have devastating consequences. Her grotesquely reordered body symbolizes a macabre “new creation” resulting from radical punishment of what is viewed in Idi Amin’s brutally dictatorial culture as a transgressive border crossing. Some types of cross-culturalism are supported by Amin, however. He is fascinated by the Scottish culture and even gives his children Scottish names. Presumably the Scots’ attempts to liberate themselves from British imperialism attract him, and he feels connected with the Scots through their courage and stamina and reinforced in his efforts to throw off British economic control. Wearing kilts on some occasions of state, Amin paradoxically claims to be a “true son of Africa.” The ambiguous film title points to Amin’s distortedly artificial hybridity and stresses his conflicted arrogation of some cultures coupled with simultaneous detachment from others.14 On both the personal and cultural levels, Amin immediately appropriates the Scotsman Garrigan, who has let fate decide the destination of his expatriate journey. The movie captures at least two common images of


Cathy Covell Waegner

the white man in Africa: Garrigan is continually driven by his desire for the unknown, for exoticism; in his partial transformation from the role of (erotic) colonizer to that of superior savior on the ‘dark continent,’ Garrigan, however randomly, shoulders a ‘white man’s burden.’ The Scotsman savors his white privilege within Amin’s inner circle, only belatedly assuming responsibility for his actions. The ‘colonizer’ in him is nonetheless still alive, making his inner detachment from Uganda an easy one—but the physical detachment is life threatening. With regard to the relevant secondary trope, Garrigan—as mentioned earlier—literally fi nds blood on his hands after Amin’s enemies have attempted to assassinate the dictator. This is a crucial scene in the movie, even a moment of enlightenment. It is the point when Garrigan’s carefree

Figure 3.2 Performing conflicted hybridity: Idi Amin as self-styled border crosser, a “true son of Africa” and “King of Scotland.” Screenshot from The Last King of Scotland, GB/ USA, Fox Searchlight Pictures, DNA Films, and FilmFour Productions, 2006. Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Produced by Lisa Bryer and Andrea Calderwood.

Bodies and Hybrid Tropes


mind and endangered body merge, and he realizes how deeply his heedless actions have involved him in Ugandan affairs. In other words, he himself has also become, at least to a certain extent, a son of troubled Uganda. In a shocking version of the ‘blood on hands’ motif, the Ukrainian grandfather Alexander in Everything Is Illuminated unexpectedly slits his wrists in a bathtub. Having miraculously survived a Nazi fi ring squad in his home village and emerged physically unscathed from a heap of dead bodies, he disguised, indeed repressed, his Jewish origins to establish himself in the city of Odessa. In the ensuing decades, anti-Semitism controlled his statements and even his mindset. After fi nally coming to the realization—through an unplanned return to the site of the massacre—that he has unconscionably betrayed his identity as a Jew, he is wracked by guilt. Apparently only the blood of his suicide can enable him to posthumously pass back across the transgressed ethnic border and to rest in peace, allowing his family to embrace their rediscovered Jewish heritage. His belated death thus has an effect of atonement. The mixed function of ‘blood on one’s hands’ presented here—it can reflect guilt or, as with the Ukrainian grandfather, the expiation of guilt— correlates with the double-voicedness of hybridity. Similarly, immersion and detachment are the two sides of the coin of this cinematic culturecrossing, both inviting but fraught with danger.

INTRUDING BODIES AND PHYSICAL RIVER CROSSINGS The Texas town of Frontera in Lone Star is depicted as the epitome of a contact zone in Pratt’s sense, a hybrid community with African Americans, Native Americans, and white Americans mingling with the Mexican (American) majority. The mysteriously missing Sheriff Wade, part of the white minority in his community, held great authority as symbolized by the sheriff’s star, but he dramatically abused it to enforce his own law. The flashbacks often show Wade entering ethnic clubs or bars. These venues can be seen as symbolic national territories into which Wade intrudes as an exploiting colonizer, letting the ethnic subjects conduct their business only as long as they play according to his profit-seeking rules. In the scene that takes place in an African American bar, Wade is obviously an unwelcome intruder. The black customers are in the majority, yet when he demands extortion money from black barman Otis, none dare to oppose Wade. Otis’s objection is directly punished with violence on the sheriff’s part. The unequal distribution of power is emphasized by Wade’s aiming a gun at Otis while all the latter can find to protect himself with is a chair. Wearing a sheriff’s badge makes Wade a legal intruder, his actions authorized, no matter how inhuman or cruel they are. The main trope of intruding bodies and the secondary trope of physical river crossings are combined in a scene that shows illegal Mexican immigrants crossing the Rio Grande, at first glance a stereotypical moment


Cathy Covell Waegner

calling for alertness among the authorities policing the national border. The immigrants’ role as intruders is put into a different perspective, though, with Anselma’s near drowning. She has to be dragged to the other side and enters the U.S. passively, where she is reluctantly helped by the established café owner Mercedes. The river triggers a flashback of Mercedes’ own immigration to the U.S. that reveals her as a former illegal immigrant and thus an intruder herself, her Mexican fiancé having been killed outright by Sheriff Wade when the young man was helping illegal aliens (IAs) cross the border. The dividing line between illegal intruder and integrated citizen blurs. Who is the bigger threat to the community—the corrupt and violent sheriff or the illegal immigrants trying to overcome the fast-flowing river of division? The Rio Grande in this movie not only represents a third space where cultures can clash and meet, but also a place where present and past merge.15 The riverbank is the site where the American boy Sam Deeds and the Mexican girl Pilar rendezvoused in their youth. In the present they are falling in love again, meeting at the river once more, reflecting on their relationship. Eventually they discover that Pilar’s mother, Mercedes, had an affair with Sam’s father, which makes them half-siblings. Having crossed physical, ethnic, and social borders through their sexual encounters, the incestuous couple fi nds the third space of the river a rule-free zone for their trysts, although their future remains insecure. Bordertown contrasts Eva’s and Lauren’s border crossings. Again the Rio Grande is the site of an illegal crossing. Eva shivers in the cold water while she holds her few belongings over her head to keep them dry, and her river crossing puts her life in jeopardy. In contrast, Lauren’s legal crossing takes her from the U.S. to Mexico on a plane. Her crossing involves modern transportation and technology, including a mobile phone and an electronic notebook. Although Eva is the intruder in the legal sense, Lauren proves to be the actual intruder in the beginning of the movie, since she interferes with the private and professional lives of the townspeople in Juárez. In a scene foreshadowing his development, water marks young Dr. Garrigan’s passage into a new life in The Last King of Scotland. He and his freshly graduated classmates run toward the motionless, clear water of the Scottish loch. When jumping into the water they disrupt the quiet of nature and stir the smooth surface of the lake. When Garrigan arrives in Uganda he jumps in at the deep end, knowing nothing about Africa, soon riling up the power hierarchy among Amin’s subordinates. As the dictator’s favored intimate, Garrigan lounges in a swimming pool, but it is unsavorily murky, like the reigning political situation. Step by step these films deconstruct the idea of an ethnic other as intruding body, revealing the corrupt authorities or the Euro-American travelers as the disturbing intruders. Rivers are used in the films at hand to represent a constant flow, a place where past and present fade into each other, where right and wrong, legal and illegal tend to dissolve, often determining the river

Bodies and Hybrid Tropes


crosser’s fate on the one hand, and on the other letting them overcome not only physical boundaries but also legal, social, and mental boundaries.

RECOLLECTION THROUGH BODY AND RECROSSING BORDERS The intercultural wartime atrocities and betrayal at the banks of the Brod River in Ukraine that lie at the heart of Everything Is Illuminated cannot be erased by fifty years of the river’s flow or even by the expanse of the Atlantic. Repressed by some characters and memorialized by others, the remembrances are distilled into a recollection through body trope, which director Liev Schreiber embeds in his fi lm in at least two different yet interconnected ways. While recollection is an impulse for many events, it is also interwoven with the physical ‘re-collection’ of memories, thereby creating a wordplay on the linguistic root of the trope. Jonathan Safran Foer, a young Jewish American, is obsessed with the search for new “souvenirs” of his family members. He creates an unorthodox family tree that spans the wall of a large room, which consists of memorabilia in Ziploc bags that contain such concrete remnants as dentures and a used condom. The memory wall helps him reconstruct his ancestors’ pasts and map his own identity in the process. Jonathan embarks on a quest in his father’s Ukrainian riverbank hometown of Trachimbrod, crosses the border from present to past and making recollection and ‘re-collection’ the double ur-motif of the film. In contrast, Alexander Pierchov, the narrator Alex’s grandfather, has tried to mask his identity. As already pointed out, the Jew narrowly escaped the riverside mass execution in Trachimbrod during the war, and this cataclysmic event leads to his complete and utter denial of his Jewishness. In a recollecting vision, Pierchov sees once again the moment in which he almost died. Through the act of flinging his jacket with its yellow Star of David onto a pile of dead corpses, he believed he could bury his Jewish identity and past. In the course of the film it becomes clear, however, that although he might be able to bury a part of his self, he is not able to bury his resurfacing memories. Augustine is one of the few survivors of the massacre in Trachimbrod and has felt guilty her entire life for what she considers her undeserved salvation. She tries to reduce her guilt by keeping the recollection of the town and its citizens alive through gleaning its relics from the town ruins. Her house resembles a memorial or a museum, crammed with boxes that contain mementos: glasses, clothing, rings, photographs, toys, and even dust. For all three of these characters, recollection is irrepressible and, particularly in Jonathan’s case, propels future events. The secondary trope of recrossing borders points to a common denominator among all the different fi lms in this corpus. When comparing recrossing borders with the earlier act of crossing borders in the fi rst place, we cannot help but notice the protagonists’ metamorphoses.


Cathy Covell Waegner

As Jonathan is recrossing the ocean to the U.S., we can hear Alex’s voice offscreen utter the statement “Everything is illuminated in the light of the past,” and at the busy airport in New York Jonathan improbably reencounters several characters he met in Ukraine earlier during the fi lm. However, these characters seem to have undergone a sea-change, and the clear hyphenation between his Ukrainian and American heritages slips. It seems as if Jonathan has indeed acquired enlightenment during his travels. By experiencing his roots he has sharpened his vision of the present, and he now realizes that it is a site for reshaping and action, not simply re-collecting. When Nicholas Garrigan leaves Uganda in The Last King of Scotland, he is still alive but traumatically wounded. His social and cultural border crossing and the consequent forced recrossing of those borders have violently thrust him back into his old world, which will presumably never be the same for him. Not only does this recrossing of borders form the last stage of his grim comprehension that border crossing, negligently taken lightly at fi rst, can initiate life-and-death reactions; his individual irresponsibility has also become inextricably linked with questions of (inter) national responsibility—but whether Garrigan will now act on his realization moves beyond the bounds of the fi lm. Borat has changed as well on his re-arrival in Kazakhstan. The fi rst time he crossed the border to the U.S., Borat was fi lled with naïve expectations of what the U.S. would be like, but he is frequently disillusioned and suffers rejection after rejection (albeit elicited by actor/screenplay writer Cohen’s exaggerations). By the time Borat returns to his native country, it is clear that although his personal expectations of life in America have altered during the trip, he has found ways to benefit from his insights. In a confl ation of the naïve Borat and the conman Cohen who enacts the Borat persona, Borat becomes a trickster who dazzles his fellow citizens with all the technical gadgets of the stereotypical New World way of life—and with his new African American wife, who joined him in Cohen’s taboobreaking undertaking of shocking ‘traditional’ America.

BODY AS TRICKSTER’S MASK AND TRANSFORMING BODIES As has already been implied, in the mockumentary Borat the British Jewish actor Sacha Baron Cohen performs a deliberately offensive feat of hybridity. Literally and performatively wearing anti-Semitic ‘Kazakhstani-face,’ as Borat he uses his brazenness and body—leaking a variety of fluids—to cross all thinkable borders and to expose the hypocrisy of many border erectors. Cohen/Borat’s television camera allows this provocative trickster entry to all of the supposedly safe spaces in American culture. The reception of this hilarious but simultaneously appalling fi lm shows that Cohen’s exposures evoke laughter—but do his violations also leave scars?

Bodies and Hybrid Tropes


Tolerance, patience, and clemency are pushed to their limits when iconoclastic Borat literally and figuratively bursts into U.S. society from backward Kazakhstan and exaggerates American values. Examining the trope or strategy of trickster masking, we must admit that Cohen is masterly since his persona of Borat is considered authentic by all who encounter him during his travels crisscrossing the American continent—even though Borat violates moral and cultural borders, diverts body liquids from their “intended uses,” and disrespects the American historical and cultural background; in every imaginable situation, Borat reacts in the least appropriate way. A postviewing analysis needs to tackle the difficult task of splitting the intricately hyphenated actor-Cohen/character-Borat. The character Borat tries to camouflage his outlandish persona by adopting exaggerated American habits and social rules. From outside the frame of the fi lm, however, it is Cohen’s intention to pretend to be the reporter from Kazakhstan and to carry the spontaneous situations to their extremes, the fake Kazakhstani camera team—in reality Cohen’s crew—always gazing at and capturing them. As the out-of-the-frame creator of this rigged border crossing, Cohen provokes and holds up a mirror to mainstream America, disclosing its double standards and gullibility. When the protagonist is allowed to harangue at a rodeo arena, dressed in a ‘stars-and-stripes’ shirt, he slowly comes to the scene’s mortifying climax amid boos and hisses, while in the background a horseman holding an American flag stumbles and falls. Symbolically, Cohen, through Borat, makes the Americans come down to earth again with regard to their self-proclaimed tolerance and acceptance. The character Borat evokes aggression and creates embarrassment, as well as arouses a certain compassion among the audience, thus taking on the roles of both antagonist and protagonist in the movie. Observing Pamela Anderson, the popularized ideal embodiment of American female physicality on television, ‘genuine’ Borat idolizes her ridiculously, constantly making a fool of himself, but in his naïveté and overt emotionality he simultaneously reveals himself to be the complete opposite of the American plastic society that Anderson represents. Depicting a worst-case scenario of border crossing, Cohen delivers extreme examples of exaggerated physical trickery and its consequences, using the means of (sometimes cruel) comedy. In Borat borders are recklessly and comically crossed on purpose, and although the informed movie viewer is always at least partially aware of Borat’s disguise, Cohen’s victims in the presumably unstaged encounters between Borat and the unwitting Americans are not. With regard to a secondary trope of transforming bodies, we see that the crosser’s deliberate transformation of his or her own body does not, however, always have a satirical effect in our film corpus. Wearing traditional Ugandan clothes, Dr. Garrigan in The Last King of Scotland also mimics the native culture through his outer appearance and ostensibly puts aside parts of his ‘white man’ self, successfully disguising any discomfort. In such a constructed hybrid situation, the crosser might

62 Cathy Covell Waegner have the opportunity to switch from one culture and its values to another, keeping them separate. Cohen as Borat seems to succeed in this, but Garrigan is in danger of losing his equilibrium when the artificial transformation lasts too long and the stakes of the role-play become too high; it therefore shapes up as a perilous but fi nally instructive tightrope walk for him. Showing another expedient balancing act, Bordertown depicts a temporary loss of character traits and ideals since Latina Lauren acts and looks Americanized. The more time she spends in Mexico, however, the more her origin comes to light. She had disguised her heritage and camouflaged her outer appearance largely subconsciously, and she retransforms her appearance into a Mexican one, concretized by her wearing the local barrettes in her hair, as she increasingly identifies with the maquiladora victim Eva. In contrast to these border crossers, whose transformation of their bodies or appearance and dress eventually reflects inner processes of realization, Sheriff Wade of Lone Star remains stubbornly unregenerate. His skeleton, accidentally dug up by treasure hunters, attests only to physical decay; the sheriff’s star, tarnished but recognizable among the bones, is an objective correlative of his inability to interact with others in his hybrid border space in any way other than through the brute force of the authoritarian and unenlightened colonist. As we have seen in these movies, body fluids, injuries, souvenirs, and outfits can symbolize inner change and a marked shift in the characters’ personal values and hybrid identities. But perhaps paradoxically, the

Figure 3.3 Tough American journalist Lauren retransforms into a Latina as she increasingly identifies with the maquiladora victims; the film lighting here (photo on the right) reinforces the physical darkening of her appearance. Screenshot from Bordertown, Möbius Entertainment/El Norte Productions/Nuyorican Productions/ Mosaic Media Group, 2006. Directed by Gregory Nava. Produced by David Bergstein, Cary Epstein, Barbara Martinez-Jitner, and Tracee Stanley-Newell.

Bodies and Hybrid Tropes


movies also often show the protagonists returning to their roots—albeit stamped by mistreatment and the wounds of prejudice, by violence and cruel impressions, occasionally by insights, fulfillment, and as in the fi lm Borat, a humorous (though somewhat unfair) moral victory.

TURNING THE UNDERSHIRT INSIDE OUT The body tropes depict a hyphenizing, hybridizing impulse dynamically working in two directions, showing both division and interchange. Cinematically, wearing the Fruit of the Loom undershirt inside out in Everything Is Illuminated can disturb hierarchies and binary oppositions as surely as the spectacular exchange of body roles in Three Burials. We have seen how state-of-the-art technology can both attempt to capture the transgressors and enable the unsettling migrant to stir up and challenge hegemonies. The layering of hybrid tropes in this fi lm corpus not only creates metainteraction and contrast, but also the double-edged body tropes themselves challenge the policing of body borderlands and show that the crossing and subverting of borders through hybridity are usually controversial, even perilous, but often enriching and always audaciously exciting.

NOTES 1. This article was written by a project team led by Cathy C. Waegner, University of Siegen/Germany: Bianca Festini Brosa, Christine Plicht, Tanja Reiffenrath, Marius Reisener, Sanjaya Senadheera, Anne Schülke, Natalie Wiertz. 2. Often a sign of violence in these fi lms, Margrit Shildrick sees female “leakiness” as a key positive aspect in recent feminism: “I recommend instability, multiplicity, the incalculable, and above all leakiness as the very ground for a postmodernist feminist ethic” (Leaky Bodies, 12). 3. Homi Bhabha’s concept of the “third space” of interstitial encounter underpins his major work, The Location of Culture. 4. Lone Star is the only twentieth-century fi lm in this article’s corpus, but it is included because of its pioneering application of multiple hybrid tropes of border crossings. 5. No doubt the most widely referenced pairing of the terms “recovery and reinscription” is located in Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffi n, Post-Colonial Studies Reader, 184. 6. We cannot prove that Alex’s undershirt is actually an American one, but Jonathan’s symbolic gesture of interrelating to Alex through the young Ukrainian hip-hopper‘s clothing is nonetheless highlighted at this key point in the movie. Throughout the film the two young men interact transculturally through question and answer about their respective habits. 7. Manzanas and Benito, Intercultural Mediations, 70. 8. Ibid., 71. The term “contact zone” is derived from Mary Louise Pratt’s influential Imperial Eyes. With the theoretical component of “dynamism,” the hyphen is still a valuable theoretical tool despite the now generally accepted

64 Cathy Covell Waegner

9. 10.

11. 12. 13. 14.


practice of not hyphenizing double ethnicities in journalistic and academic writing. The still-powerful term is used throughout Mikhail Bakhtin’s Dialogic Imagination. See for instance Ty and Goellnicht, eds., Asian North American. Although hyphenization is not a specific theme in Joel Kuortti and Jopi Nyman’s valuable volume Reconstructing Hybridity, the introduction and the articles point to reconsiderations of the discourse on hybridity, especially concerning fi xed ethnicities on either side of a liminal connecting space. Young succinctly stresses an additional level of complexity, the reflexivity of the two-way hybridity of the third space: “hybridity is itself an example of hybridity” (Colonial Desire, 22). Monaco, How to Read a Film (originally published in 1977 with a slightly different title); cf. particularly the chapter titled “The Language of Film: Signs and Syntax,” subchapter “Signs.” Huddart, “Hybridity and Cultural Rights,” 21–41; 39. The fi lm title refers to biographical Idi Amin’s astonishing self-proclaimed status as “King of Scotland.” In an article written upon Amin’s death in 2003, the foreign affairs editor of the British newspaper The Observer, Peter Beaumont, sees this proclamation as part of Amin’s outrageous intercultural self-invention: “In parallel to the bloodshed Amin was also remoulding his personality. He declared himself King of Scotland, having already promoted himself to field marshal and awarded himself the VC [Victoria Cross]. In one of his more bizarre moments, he wrote to the Queen in 1975: ‘I would like you to arrange for me to visit Scotland, Ireland, and Wales to meet the heads of revolutionary movements fighting against your imperialist oppression.’” (Peter Beaumont, “Idi Amin Dada, VC, CBE . . . RIP,” The Observer, August 17, 2003. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/aug/17/peterbeaumont.theobserver, accessed February 4, 2010). Lone Star uses an unusual cinematic technique to show this seamless crossing from present to past and back: “a single pan shot to link different time periods” (Stam and Raengo, eds., “Introduction,” Literature and Film, 21).

WORKS CITED Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffi n, eds. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 1995. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Edited by Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982. Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1994. Huddart, David. “Hybridity and Cultural Rights: Inviting Global Citizenship.” In Reconstructing Hybridity: Post-Colonial Studies in Transition, edited by Joel Kuortti and Jopi Nyman, 21–41. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007. Kuortti, Joel, and Jopi Nyman, eds. Reconstructing Hybridity: Post-Colonial Studies in Transition. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007. Manzanas, Ana María, and Jesús Benito. Intercultural Mediations: Hybridity and Mimesis in American Literatures. Münster: Lit Verlag, 2003. Monaco, James. How to Read a Film: Movies, Media and Beyond. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. London and New York: Routledge, 1992.

Bodies and Hybrid Tropes


Shildrick, Margrit. Leaky Bodies and Boundaries: Feminism, Postmodernism and (Bio)Ethics. London and New York: Routledge, 1997. Stam, Robert, and Alessandra Raengo, eds. Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005. Ty, Eleanor, and Donald C. Goellnicht, eds. Asian North American Identities Beyond the Hyphen. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004. Young, Robert J. C. Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race. London and New York: Routledge, 1995.


From Alien Nation to Alienation Tracing the Figure of the Guest Worker in Fatih Akin’s Gegen die Wand Tessa C. Lee

In 2004 a German fi lm took the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival for the fi rst time in eighteen years.1 A dark love story about two rebels who meet in a psychiatric ward after attempting suicide, Fatih Akin’s Gegen die Wand (released in English under the title Head On) was not only a critical success around the world but also a box office hit at home, in Germany. That the film’s two leads, like Akin himself, were ethnic Turks makes the achievement the more remarkable. Here was a case of an apparently minor—and minority—movie making it big as a major fi lm. Although the fi lm’s protagonists—Cahit and Sibel—are indeed marginalized figures, Gegen die Wand presents no clear victims, which one might expect of a film centered on despondent minority characters. As the New Yorker critic Anthony Lane put it in his adulatory review: “[O]ne of the virtues of [Akin’s] movie is its refusal to play the blame game. He is in the business neither of mauling Germany for its treatment of Turkish workers nor of turning on his own kind. He simply recognizes that, wherever one nation is playing host to another, be it with good or ill will, there is an unmissable chance—call it an obligation—for both parties, host and guest, to tell stories of themselves.”2 As “a German film with a Turkish soul,”3 the movie “resists easy assimilation into the existing matrix of cultural stereotype,”4 or simply put, “it rocked against all cultural ascriptions.”5 What seems to have taken some German critics by surprise was that it took an apparently multicultural fi lm to revive “German romanticism.”6 Not only does the fi lm not assign blame, it goes so far as to place the responsibility for the protagonists’ lives squarely on their own shoulders and agency. The few “native” Germans represented in the fi lm are well intentioned but essentially irrelevant, beginning with the German psychiatrist who tries to counsel Cahit after his suicide attempt by earnestly quoting song lyrics from the rock band The The. His professional counsel, however, is quickly and poignantly dismissed by Cahit. The fact that the German psychiatrist is named Schiller, like the foremost poet and proponent of German humanist idealism, signals that Cahit is refusing to submit himself to the authority of a native German and ultimately to the norms of traditionally conceived German society and culture.7 This is also corroborated by

From Alien Nation to Alienation


Figure 4.1 Cahit (Birol Ünel) and Sibel (Sibel Kekilli) in Gegen die Wand. Screenshot, Wüstefilmproduktion, 2004. Directed by Fatih Akin. Produced by Fatih Akin, Andreas Schreitmüller, and Stefan Schubert.

Cahit’s relationship to Maren, his sometime girlfriend and the only “native” in this fi lm who has any kind of relationship to the protagonists, albeit one that seems to be limited to rather untender sex. Her position is not one of authority or power, either, as had been customary in earlier fi lms that dealt with ethnic minorities in German society. Indeed, in this fi lm it is the native Germans who seek acceptance from the nonnative protagonists, not the other way around. Any significant confrontations with overt racism, prejudice, or ethnic discrimination are thus absent from the film because the conflicts occur only between or among the Turkish dramatis personae in the fi lm. The native Germans, when considered at all, are portrayed as being rather oversolicitous of the protagonists’ feelings. The fundamental perspective of the fi lm stands in stark contrast to the so-called migrant and minority literature and cinema in Germany, which began in the sixties and seventies with the signing of the fi rst bilateral recruitment agreements by the Federal Republic with other nations (Italy in 1955, Greece and Spain in 1960, Turkey in 1961, Portugal in 1964, and Yugoslavia in 1968). Indeed, it is only when measured against the limited expectations of migrant cinema that the significance of a breakout film such as Gegen die Wand can be fully appreciated. The devastation of two world wars had taken its toll not only on Germany’s physical landscape but also on its able-bodied workforce. Moreover, improved working conditions such as better pension plans and a reduction


Tessa C. Lee

in working hours, as well as longer education and training periods and the redomestication of women, all contributed to an immense labor crisis in the then-booming economy. Although this deficiency was initially alleviated by the large numbers of expellees returning ‘home’ from former occupied territories in Eastern Europe and by the so-called transit workers from East Germany, the erection of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall forced the West German government to seek alternative resources for manpower by massively recruiting foreign workers. What was needed was a flexible reserve of deployable and expendable workers for unattractive, lower-paying, and physically demanding jobs, which would function as an economic buffer and also allow German workers upward socioeconomic advancement as a new underclass of foreign laborers came into being.8 Mainly from Mediterranean countries, these young and usually male alien laborers were initially ‘invited’ to work and live in Germany for one or two years, and the German government, industries, and media, as well as the recruits themselves, regarded their stay in Germany as a temporary one. However, German employers discarded the rotation principle soon after when they found it much more profitable to retain their trained and proven Gastarbeiter (guest workers) than to invest in a new recruit every other year. By 1973, when the oil price shock and the worldwide recession brought the steadily growing German economy to an abrupt halt, the FRG had recruited over 14 million foreign nationals, about 80 percent of whom had gone back to their native countries.9 With the economic downturn, the German government imposed a recruitment ban, or Anwerbestopp, to regulate the weakening labor market and dispose of the now-excessive labor reservoir that had once fueled an expanding economy. Faced with the sudden ultimatum to stay permanently or leave immediately with what was considered a generous Rückkehrförderungsmaßnahme, a repatriation package, many guest workers, especially those from Turkey, decided to stay, not merely because they could always return at a later time but also because the conditions in their home countries had not improved to the point where they could apply their acquired industrial skills and utilize their occupational qualifications. In addition to the markedly higher standard of living to which they had become accustomed, a secure welfare system including child support and unemployment benefits made the decision to stay even more attractive.10 Indeed, only with the recruitment ban did Germany begin to have a genuine ‘immigration situation,’ if it was not already a de facto immigration country.11 The temporary Gastarbeiter had become an unwanted permanent guest, a Dauergast. Despite this changing reality, German policy regarding foreigners and foreign residents was until recently, before the revision of and addendum to the citizenship laws beginning in 2000, devoid of any language that might suggest that Germany was becoming or was in fact already a country of immigration. Its vehement refusal to establish any kind of immigration legislation, although it had annually admitted more (im)migrants since the

From Alien Nation to Alienation


late 1980s than the recognized immigration states of Canada and Australia combined,12 harkens back to the German nationality law of 1913, whereby membership was based on ethnicity and ancestry and founded upon ius sanguinis, or ‘right of blood.’ This decree’s true colors were revealed decades later when hundreds of thousands of migrants from Eastern Europe, following the disintegration of the Soviet system and its satellites in the early 1990s, claimed German descent and were almost immediately granted German citizenship, whereas German residents of foreign ethnicity who were born into the language and culture of their adopted homes were still being denied the political rights and social protection that came with citizenship. As an immigration country in denial,13 Germany’s postwar identity was “rooted in a mismatch of self and self-understanding,”14 and it is under such “pathological” circumstances that the fi rst generation of guest workers settled in and the second and third generations of non-Germans were born and raised. Vulnerable to exploitative situations and without the same legal protection as their German counterparts, the fi rst wave of labor immigrants thus resisted assimilation into a country that was neither prepared nor willing to integrate them into the German social life. Their initial lack of knowledge of the German language and culture led to an eventual form of ghettoization that allowed them to preserve their traditional cultural values and in which the structure of a closely knit community provided stability and orientation. Due to the preservation of family and community structures as well as their native languages, the identity of migrants was defi ned essentially in terms of cultural segregation. The literary and cinematic productions by and about the fi rst wave of migrants in the sixties and seventies reflected, in general, this alienation, focusing on the plight of the marginalized Gastarbeiter. Their writings followed or coincided with other literary and social movements in Germany such as Konkrete Poesie (concrete poetry) and proletarian literature, Neue Subjektivität (new subjectivity), and the women’s liberation movement, which were seeking alternative forms of self-expression, individuality, and authenticity in the wake of the intense politicization of literature in the 1960s. As such, they were seen as part of the larger Betroffenheitsliteratur, a ‘literature of the affected’ that responded directly to social victimization and was thus “therapeutic writing by victims of social processes, articulating, objectifying, and establishing the commonality of experience by recording it in simple, conventional, usually autobiographical forms.”15 As scholars and critics today look back at this early genre of Gastarbeiterliteratur or Betroffenheitsliteratur, it is commonly held that its significance related mostly to its biographical content and sociopolitical implications rather than its inherent literary value. It served to inform Germans about the economic misery, the crisis of identity, and the cultural confusion experienced by the migrant worker. The inhospitableness of their host country, expressed in the term Bitterland (bitter land), became a central concern

70 Tessa C. Lee of fi rst-generation writers such as Franco Biondi, Rafi k Schami, and Aras Ören.16 The one-dimensional portrayal of the quietly suffering migrant and his or her experiences underwent a slight development with the emergence of women writers such as TORKAN and Emine Özdamar17 and the second generation of artists in the late eighties. Characterized by upward social mobility and transnational status, and no longer linguistically or educationally disadvantaged as their parents had been, this generation had to face not so much the question of whether to adjust and integrate into German society, but rather how to adapt oneself to a life ‘in between’ while learning, as Zafer Şenocak put it, “to walk on two shores simultaneously.”18 They were raised in the German educational system and were exposed to German culture by day but went home every evening to a very different location of socialization. This dilemma of living in two separate worlds was also aggravated by the fact that many of those who experienced exclusion, stigmatization, and threat from mainstream German society also felt imprisoned by their own families. As they attempted to come to terms with individual life in Germany, their most pressing issue showed itself to be a lack of orientation and the consequent difficulty of living with multiple identities in the absence of any single identity, that is, the lack of one prime source of identity. Their displacement was not so much a linguistic one, but rather a cultural one within themselves and their families. The literary products of second-wave writers of foreign descent, in particular of Turkish descent, reflect changes in themes and topoi as their quest for identity developed into a request for acknowledgment and acceptance of their difference. The tone changed as well, from a largely accusatory or lamenting cry to a far more self-critical and self-reflective voice. Concurrently, however, these intercultural writers were also scrutinizing the social and cultural conditions in which their literary works were received, contesting that for far too long their writings had been relegated to the confi ning and patronizing category of Gastarbeiterliteratur and that their works had been defi ned and managed by German cultural mediators, who with ‘missionary’ eagerness wished to contain the imported cultures of their ‘permanent guests’ as separate and separated entities. For their artistic endeavors, categories had to be ‘invented’ or upheld, which led and continues to lead to separate anthologies and magazines, separate publishers, and discriminatory distribution channels. Thematically, they also had to limit themselves to their ‘otherness.’ As such, literature by foreign-born and foreign-descent writers had always been the slightly-less-than-respectable pages of German letters—at times poignantly critical, stimulating, and always fascinating to be sure, but locked up in a separate drawer from the main documents of German culture and kept from actively influencing public discourse on (national, or for that matter, global) politics and culture. According to Leslie Adelson,

From Alien Nation to Alienation


there lies an inherent risk of missed opportunity in regarding migrant literature as merely a colorful addition to German literature. As she insightfully points out, such ethnocentric interpretations of this kind of literature—by whatever name we may call it—fail to challenge the “epistemological and political implications of the notion that German literature has as its center something distinctly German to which foreign elements can be added or subtracted.”19 What is at stake is not the appropriate label for the “foreign ‘addendum’ but the fundamental need to reconceptualize our understanding of an identifiable German core of contemporary literature.”20 To accommodate difference as only an exotic enrichment to an allegedly essential body of German texts entails the homogenization of historical specificity of the race, culture, and gender of what the majority culture terms ‘otherness,’ and thus would preclude “rigorous analysis of the construction of differences in their social, historical, political, and cultural specificity.”21 However, difference has always been a constituent of German writing, if not of all literature, and as such, the literary works of foreign-born writers should be posited neither at the margins of nor as a subcategory of (and thus substandard to) ‘essential’ German literature. A similar trend can be traced in German cinema. What writers and directors of minority literature and cinema during the seventies and eighties, whether immigrant or indigenous, had in common then was the fact that all were more or less restricted to a certain theme—that of the so-called Ausländerproblem, the foreigner issue; the word itself is already problematic because it construes the foreigner as a problem and not the external circumstances that make his or her integration into German society problematic. This was by no means the fault of the artists themselves (or not their fault alone) but was the result of the constraints of the fi nancial criteria by which only those screenplays and manuscripts were selected to be produced or published that depicted the ‘problems’ of and difference from the ‘other.’ Their artistic endeavors had to be limited to their ‘otherness,’ as Kemal Kurt, a second-generation German writer of Turkish descent, once deplored: “[N]onnative authors only have a chance when they can prove that they don’t belong.”22 Aside from the countless social and mostly didactic documentaries that represented the migrant as a marginalized victim, numerous feature films during the 1970s and 1980s committed the same sins as their literary counterparts. Dutifully exposing the hardships of the foreign guest worker, this German ‘cinema of the affected’ portrayed the migrant as either an object of desire and erotic/exotic projection, as in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974), or as a helpless and oppressed woman who either is killed, imprisoned, or oppressed and eventually rescued by a German, as in Helma Sander-Brahms’s Shirin’s Wedding (1975), Tevfik Baser’s Goodbye to a False Paradise (1988), and Hark Bohm’s Yasemin (1988), respectively. To be sure, these sociocritical filmmakers were driven by a commitment to social justice and an analytic interrogation of their fascist and, in the case

72 Tessa C. Lee of Sander-Brahms, sexist legacies. However, using the migrant as a political vehicle for venting their own personal critiques of contemporary German society unwittingly reinscribed the marginalization and victimization of their subjects: The speechless migrant (usually of Turkish origin and male) and his family were encountered as vastly different and in need of our pity and help. However well-meaning and historically important these films were, in the end, rather than exposing the external as well as the internal determinants of the migrant’s alienation and of the hindrance of a genuine dialogue with the ‘other,’ these films fed on reductive binary oppositions, reinforcing stereotypes of the mute migrant as being incompatible and noncommunicative. The fact that the plots were familiar story lines, readily found in newspapers and other media reports about the guest worker, made it all too convenient as well to overlook the fact that these were fabricated, imagined images. According to film scholar Deniz Göktürk, the abject figures in these films address a hegemonic audience by evoking the viewer’s pity and sympathy, emotions that essentially affirm and perpetuate the static configuration of oppressor and oppressed. 23 Borrowing from the black British and British Asian cinema, wherein a shift from a “cinema of duty” to “the pleasure of hybridity” has been detected since the mid-1990s,24 Göktürk comparatively examines the migrant cinema in Germany and detects a similar trajectory for Turkish German cinema. If the first generation of films of ethnic cinema such as the works of Tevfik Baser dealt with migrant questions as “social issues in content, documentary-realist in style, firmly responsible in intention,”25 positioning its subjects in relation to social crisis and attempting to articulate ‘problems’ and ‘solutions to problems’ within a framework of center and margin, native German and nonnative communities, the second generation of Turkish migrants developed a much more aloof and multifaceted film style. Thomas Arslan’s Geschwister (Brothers and Sisters, 1997), Kutlug Ataman’s Lola und Bilidikid (1998), or Ayşe Polat’s Auslandstournee (Tour Abroad, 2000) are representative of the work by a few of the emergent filmmakers who, experimenting in their own way with the notion of hybridity, willfully extricate their protagonists from conventional culture-clash situations. Their outsiders’ perspectives afford the viewer what Homi Bhabha has termed a transnational “third space,” a niche in the cultural imaginary wherein the established concept of a pure national narrative and culture is productively challenged by border crossers and migrant communities within the host country. 26 With their demand to narrate the nation from the margins, a new generation of minority filmmakers has grown beyond subnational niches and entered into transnational networks.27 Fatih Akin (born 1973) also belongs to this generation, whose cinematic creations defy the one-dimensional role of the alienated guest worker and his marginalized descendents. Born to Turkish guest workers in the Nordic port city of Hamburg, Akin rejects any reduction of his artistic freedom to topical specifications: “I’m not a guest worker but a German . . . I want the label immigrant movie to become insignificant one day. What kind of

From Alien Nation to Alienation


strange genre is this anyway? I want people to say that this one is a romantic film, a drama, a melodrama, that movies are classified according to these categories.” 28 Nor does he see himself as the spokesperson of the Turkish minority living in Germany, to be rubber-stamped as an exemplary case of successful integration. As one of his many interviews after receiving the prestigious Golden Bear reveals, Akin asserts himself above all as a fi lmmaker without the hyphenated identity baggage that many of his literary counterparts and other minority colleagues are expected to struggle with: “I hope that films like this [Head On] will fi nally be taken out of the emigrant [worker] and guest worker compartment and be accepted as an integral component of the German film culture.”29 In the end, however, even the national designation as a German filmmaker seems not as relevant to Akin as the universal right as an artist to claim an unmitigated creative force that is neither bound by national identity nor quelled by ethnicized expectations, as evidenced by his impressively diverse oeuvre. From documentaries such as Denk ich an Deutschland— wir haben vergessen zurückzukehren (We Have Forgotten to Return Home, 2001) or Crossing the Bridge—The Sound of Istanbul (2005), to light-hearted romantic comedies such as Im Juli (In July, 2000), to a melodramatic gangster ballad Kurz und schmerzlos (Short Sharp Shock, 1998), Akin’s films emphatically position him as a filmmaker who freely crosses national, topical, and genre boundaries. What becomes more pronounced in Gegen die Wand than in his previous films, however, is the relocation of German culture in the lives of its ‘foreign’ residents, the protagonists being clearly moved from a position of powerlessness and ‘inferiority’ to that of a self-reliant, self-governing agency. In “reterritorializing,” to use Deleuze and Guattari’s term, 30 the once-abject figure of the alienated guest worker and repopulating the public spaces that before were usually reserved for ‘native’ Germans, Akin is “telling our stories not any longer from the margins but from the center of society.”31 Gegen die Wand, which literally means ‘against the wall,’ is the fi fth feature film of this writer-director and, as the audience discovers soon enough, is not just a metaphor. The fi rst scene ends with Cahit, the antihero protagonist, steering his car at full speed—head on—literally against a brick wall. The reasons for his suicide attempt are not initially made clear but are not of major concern for the moment. With remarkable economy, Cahit, a fortysomething Turkish German, is introduced in the opening sequences as an alcoholic drifter who collects empty bottles after concerts in one of Hamburg’s raucous clubs for a living, only to spend it on drinking himself into a perpetual stupor. He survives his suicide attempt and in the psychiatric hospital meets Sibel, a fellow patient and also of Turkish ancestry, whose introductory lines are that of a marriage proposal: “Are you Turkish? Would you marry me?”32 A look at her bandaged wrist leads us to presume correctly that she also, although still young and quite vivacious in her approach to Cahit, has

74 Tessa C. Lee experienced something that has made her choose a self-destructive path. In her case, that something is her traditional Muslim family by whom she feels trapped and shackled. Marrying a fellow Turk without any sexual or emotional strings attached would, according to Sibel’s calculation, get her out of the suffocating embrace of her conservative father and brother and allow her to fi nally pursue the free, and indeed promiscuous, lifestyle she has always wanted: “I want to live,” she says to Cahit when asked about her suicide attempt. “I want to live, I want to dance, I want to fuck. And not just one guy. You understand?”33 Cahit does understand but feels indifferent and is persuaded only after Sibel demonstratively slits her wrist a second time, this time right before Cahit’s eyes. Their sham marriage, in the alchemical course of the movie, turns into mutual acceptance, as Sibel’s ferocious and unapologetic appetite for life does not leave Cahit untouched in his dogged indifference to life. At the very moment when both realize that they could be happy together yet, their marriage of convenience blossoms into apparently authentic emotion. Despite its subversive approach, the film in a strange way reaffirms the traditional concept of an arranged marriage, a union that does not begin with love but slowly grows into it. That the arrangement was made not by the parents but to escape them renders this act self-subversive in that the two Turkish Germans reappropriate the traditional idea of marriage and give it a modern twist, but also uphold their sham marriage as best they can. By its twists and turns the traditional becomes subversive and the subversive, traditional.

Figure 4.2 Upending the traditional: Cahit (Birol Ünel) and Sibel (Sibel Kekilli) in Gegen die Wand. Screenshot, Wüstefilmproduktion, 2004. Directed by Fatih Akin. Produced by Fatih Akin, Andreas Schreitmüller, and Stefan Schubert.

From Alien Nation to Alienation


These ironic and subversive reversals occur throughout the fi lm, most notably in the sequence where Sibel, as she begins to realize her growing attachment to Cahit, decides to cook him a traditional Turkish meal. In what many might have recognized as the ‘ethnic feast’ scene, in which a culture is represented and ‘celebrated’ by way of its cuisine, Sibel proceeds to shop for and then prepare her Turkish meal, which as she explains to Cahit she had learned to cook from her mother. As a Turkish song plays in the background, each step of the preparation is fi lmed in meticulous and loving detail, and the scene illustrates like no other the growing tenderness and affection between the two protagonists as they rediscover the importance of their shared cultural bonds. But here too the traditional is subverted as this scene abruptly ends when after a short, violent argument, Cahit storms out and Sibel flushes the rest of the uneaten meal down the toilet—and with it any expectation for further exotic consumption of the ‘other’ culture. Here again, Akin both exploits and rejects the ethnic gaze for its easy sentimentality and patronizing celebration of cultural difference, and all-too facile reduction of culture to cuisine. Akin’s playful employment of the stereotypical, only to dismantle and expose it as a stereotype thus overturned, can be witnessed once more when the young female relatives of Sibel gather around to share freely and even to make fun of their husbands’ sexual behavior in the marital bedroom. The fact that these revelations are presented so naturally, and above all in Turkish, subverts yet once more the preconceived image of the silent and powerless Turkish woman to whom the (Turkish) language is only one of obedience. The deconstruction of monolithic Turkish life in Germany does not end here. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that Gegen die Wand is as much the story of Cahit fi nding himself as it is the coming-of-age story of Sibel, who after surviving several suicide attempts, onerous family conditions, and physical abuse, seems to have come out of it—in spite of it all—a more mature and responsible woman. For Cahit was not the only one who felt driven against the wall by life in contemporary Germany; also Sibel who, in taking life head on, nearly fatally slams into the wall of repressive traditional norms, both in contemporary Germany as well as in Turkey. If the characterization of migrant life in German society has all too often been abstracted to preconceived representations of class (namely, the working class), gender (namely, the oppression of women in Islamic cultures), and national homogeneity (namely, Turkey as the home to which all Turks belong and must return one day), in Akin’s rendering it undergoes the most thorough subversion: Cahit does belong to the working class, being firmly positioned at the lower end of the social hierarchy; Sibel is indeed an oppressed woman and victim of her immediate male-dominant community; and both find each other only back in Turkey where Sibel seems to have found a new beginning and where Cahit comes to find and be (re)united with her after his prison term. Akin recasts all these surface stereotypes but employs them only so as to arrive at a complex representation of the multiple positions and relations

76 Tessa C. Lee that Turkish residents hold within Germany and, in fact, in Turkey as well. Cahit’s alienation, for example, cannot be explained by his alien status alone, that is, his ‘foreignness’ and inability or unwillingness to become a contributing member of German society. Rather, the film suggests in passing that his alienation is more personal than that: He’s in despair at the loss of his German wife. The film reveals this biographical detail precisely at the moment, during Cahit and Sibel’s marriage proceedings at city hall, when it is revealed that both Cahit and Sibel are in fact German citizens. The surprise at hearing the official pronounce them both German is quickly overshadowed by the fact that Cahit, who seems incapable of feeling anything, is also at that very moment revealed to be a grieving widower. Sibel, although on the verge of becoming a victim of an honor killing, is nonetheless depicted as wild and untamable and not any less on a selfdestructive mission than her male counterpart. Her insatiable appetites and self-indulgence, which subsequently lead to the death of another man and a prison term for Cahit, stand in stark contrast not only to Cahit’s indifference to life but also to the preconceived idea of the subservient and silently suffering Muslim woman. As it turns out, Turkey also does not correspond to its image in the popular imagination: It offers the protagonists no Heimat, no home where security and self-actualization are guaranteed, but rather it is a dangerous and foreign territory where violence threatens to erupt and in which Sibel as well as Cahit feel culturally and linguistically alienated and out of place. The country of origin, in this case represented by Istanbul, in which Sibel seeks refuge and redemption after Cahit is sentenced to a seven-year prison term for killing one of Sibel’s lovers, is shown to be a claustrophobic space where danger lurks in dark, narrow alleys; the hotel rooms are as confi ning as a prison cell; and the nightlife and streets exude an anonymous hostility. In fact, what the majority of Germans would consider as the home of their fellow Turkish citizens is exclusively experienced by the protagonists, as well as by the spectators, as a space of Westernized modernity with its hotel bars, fast-food diners, and glitzy discotheques, but also with its concomitant pitfalls and impersonal relationships. It becomes clear that Cahit is alienated not only in Germany, having been an outsider and eventually outcast there, but in Turkey as well. Having no close ties to the land of his ancestors, Cahit fi nds himself in Istanbul with no family, relatives, or friends. His alienation is accentuated when communication with Selma, Sibel’s cousin and their only ally, breaks down due to his lack of knowledge of his mother tongue. Significantly, Cahit can only communicate with her in English, a language foreign but neutral to both of them and which Selma, being a modern, independent, and sophisticated career woman, also speaks. Linguistically as well as culturally, Cahit is estranged from the land of his parents. However, Cahit’s alienation differs from that of his father’s generation of Turkish guest workers in that the source of alienation is not so much a geopolitical, linguistic, or religio-cultural one, but rather a psychological

From Alien Nation to Alienation


and emotional alienation from one’s social context, which is in a certain way self-infl icted and self-imposed. As the last third of the movie takes place entirely on the shores of the Bosporus, it renders visible the extent to which alterity is experienced beyond the borders of Germany. And as Cahit, in the last scene of the film, takes off without Sibel to Mersin, the hometown of his deceased parents, it visualizes yet again that migrant experiences are not limited to life in the so-called host country but also extend over to the country of ‘origin.’ The ambiguous, open ending of the story also opens up transnational spaces that can and must be negotiated by the migrating individual beyond the territories of the nation-state. Going back to Mersin, his ancestoral village, may or may not result in a successful renewal of life and a new beginning for Cahit, who fi nds himself on the road once again as he tries to come to terms with his fragmented self.34 The intentional withholding of an all-too-easy ending creates a tension that underscores the realism of Akin’s portrayal of Turkish life in contemporary Germany and renders his narration at once more suggestive and more plausible. Throughout the narrative, Akin establishes common stereotypes only to deconstruct them in an offhand manner by transforming Turkish life into irreducible, communal stories. Infusing them nonetheless with the universal themes of love and self-invention and discovery, he rejects the pedestrian celebration of cultural otherness and does not shy away from presenting negative, indeed stereotypical, images of the ‘other.’ In so doing, Akin challenges the notion of essentialized difference between what is considered ‘German’ and ‘other’ and rejects one’s ethnicity as the only site of identity formation. The audience is still, or rather once more, betroffen—‘affected’—as had been the readership a generation ago by the Gastarbeiterliteratur and Betroffenheitsliteratur, the guest-worker literature of the affected. This time, however, it is not by the ‘poor’ and oppressive conditions that we are betroffen—moved and touched—but by a human drama at once universal and unique. Akin’s transnational issue of (migrating) identity and alterity thus represents not only a hybrid culture but a new German culture, period—one with which the German audience, and indeed the global viewership, might identify briefly at the limits of identity.

NOTES 1. The fi lm subsequently also won top prizes at major European fi lm festivals, such as the European Film Awards, the German Film Awards, Festival de Cine (Sevilla), the Goya Awards, Guild of German Art House Cinemas, Ourense Independent Film Festival, and many more. In all, it received twenty-three awards and eleven nominations across the world. 2. Lane, “Head On,” 145. 3. Akin, interview with Anke Kapels and Matthias Schmidt, 228. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.


Tessa C. Lee 4. 5. 6. 7.

8. 9. 10.

11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16.

17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30.

Suner, “Dark Passion,” 18. Busche, “Punk oder türkische Folklore?” Zaimoglu, “Sex, Drogen und die Schocks der Moderne,” 213. In fact, Akin was partly inspired by Friedrich Schiller’s Die Räuber (1781), a socially critical play from the Sturm und Drang period, in which the inimical rivalry between two brothers lead to the demise of everyone involved. See Akin’s interview with Daniel Bax, 3. Cf. Herbert, History of Foreign Labor in Germany, 209–30. Bade, Ausländer, 54. Rather than return to their homes, many guest workers brought their families to join them in Germany. This also explains why the total foreign population residing in the Federal Republic continued to rise from 2.5 million in 1972 to 3.5 million in 1980, after a slight decrease during the five years following the recruitment ban. Although the percentage of foreign nationals in the total West German workforce dropped from 12 percent in 1973 to 9 percent in 1978 and to 7.7 percent in 1990, in the long run the recruitment ban resulted only in changes in the demographic structure of the foreign population, with the increase in the (nonworking) family members of the remaining guest workers. Cf. Bade, Ausländer, 46; and Migration in European History, 243. Bade, Ausländer, 235. See Bundesministerium des Innern, Aufzeichnungen, 3–4: “There is consensus that Germany is not an immigration country nor shall become one.” Sanders, “Laws of Belonging,” 174. Fischer and McGowan, “From Pappkoffer to Pluralism,” 1–22. In particular, the Italian-born Biondi and the Syrian-born Schami, who migrated to West Germany in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, respectively, and who had worked as guest workers despite their educational achievements back home and in Germany, positioned themselves at an oppositional vantage point from which the then-new genre of guest worker literature could operate as a collective of workers of all nationalities. Recognizing the stigma of the appellation Gastarbeiter and being fully aware of the irony inherent in the term ‘guest’ and ‘worker,’ they defiantly reappropriated the word by consciously employing and utilizing the oxymoronic significance of ‘guest worker’ as a political instrument to promote solidarity among immigrant workers, and more generally, among the working class tout court, whether foreign or domestic. Along with other migrant intellectuals and writers, they initiated the series Südwind Gastarbeiterdeutsch (South Wind Guest Worker German), an anthology intended to be produced by and for nonnative speakers. Cf. Chiellino, ed., Interkulturelle Literatur in Deutschland. See also Biondi and Schami, “Literatur der Betroffenheit,” 136–50. Their most representative works being: TORKAN, Tufan; Özdamar, Das Leben ist eine Karawanserei. Şenocak, “Plädoyer für eine Brückenliteratur,” 65–69. Adelson, “Migrants’ Literature?” 382. Ibid., 383. Ibid., 384. Kurt, Was ist die Mehrzahl von Heimat? 116. Cf. Göktürk, “Verstöße gegen das Reinheitsgebot,” 99–114. Malika, “Beyond ‘The Cinema of Duty’?” 202–15. Ibid., 207. Bhabha, “DisseminNation,” 291–322. Cf. Göktürk, “Beyond Paternalism,” 248–56. Interview with Udo Taubitz, 2. Interview with Katharina Dockhorn. Cf. Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka, 16ff.

From Alien Nation to Alienation 31. 32. 33. 34.


Akin, “Ich mag offene Enden,” 159. Gegen die Wand. Ibid. Although the spectator is led to believe that Sibel is acting out of a sense of responsibility for her daughter and new partner, the claustrophobia that pervades the last scene in which she is packing her things in the tiny bedroom intensifies the suspicion that Sibel, too, has not quite arrived yet. The miseen-scène is noteworthy in that it also raises the viewer’s expectations of an imminent reunion and happy ending with Cahit, which remains unfulfilled. For a similar interpretation, see Akin, “Ich bin kein Gastarbeiter.”

WORKS CITED Abschied vom falschen Paradies (Goodbye to a False Paradise). Directed by Tevfi k Baser. Studio Hamburg Produktion, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, Ottokar Runze Filmproduktion, 1988. Adelson, Leslie. “Migrants’ Literature or German Literature? Torkan’s Tufan: Briefe an einen islamischen Bruder.” The German Quarterly 63, nos. 3–4 (1990). Akin, Fatih. “Das Zornige gehört auch zu mir.” Interview with Katharina Dockhorn. EPD Web site. http://www.epd.de/1stgate_epd/ thementexte2/19191_28985. htm (accessed on March 15, 2006). . “‘Ey, das ist nur eine Geschichte.’” Interview with Daniel Bax. Die Tageszeitung, March 11, 2004. . Gegen die Wand: Das Buch zum Film mit Dokumenten, Materialien, Interviews. Cologne: Kiepenheuer and Witsch, 2004. . “Ich bin kein Gastarbeiter, sondern ein Deutscher.” Interview with Udo Taubitz. Stuttgarter Zeitung: Wochenendseiten, March 20, 2004. . “Ich mag offene Enden.” Interview with Lars-Olaf Beier and Matthias Matussek. Spiegel 24 (September 2007). . “Interview with Anke Kapels and Matthias Schmidt.” Stern 12 (March 2004). Angst essen Seele auf (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul). Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Filmverlag der Autoren, Tango Film, 1974. Auslandstournee (Tour Abroad). Directed by Ayşe Polat. Mira Film, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, 2000. Bade, Klaus. Ausländer, Aussiedler, Asyl: Eine Bestandaufnahme. Munich: Beck, 1994. . Migration in European History. Translated by Allison Brown. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003. Bhabha, Homi K. “DisseminNation: Time, Narrative, and the Margins of the Modern Nation.” In Nation and Narration, edited by Homi Bhabha, 291–322. London and New York: Routledge, 1990. Biondi, Franco, and Rafi k Schami. “Literatur der Betroffenheit.” In Zu Hause in der Fremde: Ein Ausländer-Lesebuch, edited by Christian Schaffernicht, 136–50. Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1984. Bundesministerium des Inneren. Aufzeichnungen zur Ausländerpolitik und zum Ausländerrecht in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Stand Januar 1991. Bonn: BMI, 1991. Busche, Andreas. “Punk oder türkische Folklore?” Die Zeit, Nr. 1, March 11, 2004. http://www.zeit.de/2004/12/Gegen_die_Wand (accessed on March 15, 2006). Chiellino, Carmine, ed. Interkulturelle Literatur in Deutschland: Ein Handbuch. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2000.

80 Tessa C. Lee Crossing the Bridge—The Sound of Istanbul. Directed by Fatih Akin. Corazón International, 2005 Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Translated by Dana Polan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1985. Denk ich an Deutschland—wir haben vergessen zurückzukehren (We Have Forgotten to Return Home). Directed by Fatih Akin. Megaherz TV Fernsehproduktion, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, 2001. Fischer, Sabine, and Moray McGowan. “From Pappkoffer to Pluralism: On the Development of Migrant Writing in the German Federal Republic.” In Turkish Culture in German Society Today, edited by David Horrocks and Eva Kolinsky, 1–22. Oxford: Berghahn, 1996. Gegen die Wand. Directed by Fatih Akin. Produced by Wüste Filmproduktion, 2004. Geschwister. (Brothers and Sisters). Directed by Thomas Arslan. ZDF Das kleine Fernsehspiel, 1997. Göktürk, Deniz. “Beyond Paternalism: Turkish German Traffic in Cinema.” In The German Cinema Book, edited by Tim Bergfelder, Erica Carter, and Deniz Göktürk, 248–56. London: British Film Institute, 2002. . “Verstöße gegen das Reinheitsgebot: Migrantenkino zwischen wehleidiger Pfl ichtübung und wechselseitigem Grenzverkehr.” In Globalkolorit: Multikulturalismus und Populärkultur, edited by Ruth Mayer and Mark Terkessidis, 99–114. St. Andrä/Wördern: Hannibal, 1998. Herbert, Ulrich. A History of Foreign Labor in Germany, 1880–1980. Translated by William Templer. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990. Higson, Andrew, ed. Dissolving Views: Key Writings on British Cinema. London: Cassell, 1996. Im Juli (In July). Directed by Fatih Akin. Wüste Filmproduktion, 2000. Kurt, Kemal. Was ist die Mehrzahl von Heimat? Bilder eines türkisch-deutschen Doppellebens. Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1995. Kurz und schmerzlos (Short Sharp Shock). Directed by Fatih Akin. Wüste Filmproduktion, 1998. Lane, Anthony. “Head On.” New Yorker, March 14, 2005. Lola und Bilidikid. Directed by Kutlug Ataman. Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Zero Film, 1998. Malika, Sarita. “Beyond ‘The Cinema of Duty’? The Pleasures of Hybridity: Black British Film of the 1980s and 1990s.” In Dissolving Views: Key Writings on British Cinema, edited by Andrew Higson, 202–15. London: Cassell, 1996. Özdamar, Emine Sevgi. Das Leben ist eine Karawanserei, hat zwei Türen, aus einer kam ich rein, aus der anderen ging ich raus. Cologne: Kiepenheuer and Witsch, 1992. Sanders, Stefan. “Laws of Belonging: Legal Dimensions of National Inclusion in Germany.” New German Critique 67 (Winter 1996): 147–176. Şenocak, Zafer. “Plädoyer für eine Brückenliteratur.” In Eine nicht nur deutsche Literatur, edited by Irmgard Ackermann and Harald Weinrich, 65–69. Munich: Piper, 1986. Shirins Hochzeit (Shirin’s Wedding). Directed by Helma Sander-Brahms. Westdeutscher Rundfunk, 1975. Suner, Asuman. “Dark Passion.” Sight and Sound 15, no. 3 (March 2005): 18. TORKAN. Tufan: Brief an einen islamischen Bruder. Hamburg: Perspolverlag, 1983. Yasemin. Directed by Hark Bohm. Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, 1988. Zaimoglu, Feridun. “Sex, Drogen und die Schocks der Moderne.” In Gegen die Wand: Das Buch zum Film mit Dokumenten, Materialien, Interviews, Fatih Akin. Cologne: Kiepenheuer and Witsch, 2004.


“Lunch with the Bigot” 9/11 in Bollywood’s Filmic Imagination Mita Banerjee

It seems that the events of September 11, 2001, have brought with them a necessity in the humanities to profoundly rethink everything that we have held almost sacred, especially in the realm of postcolonial theory and ethnic studies. Whereas ‘migration’ and the hybridity that ensued from it were long seen as solace and antidote to every kind and form of religious and ethnic fundamentalism, the events of 9/11 seemed to prove that migration and the hybrid cultural formations which result from it could in fact coexist with fundamentalism. Biculturalism was no protection against the resurgence of fundamentalism; even worse, it is now seen by many to have fuelled this very fundamentalism. This, then, seems a particularly troubling moment for the humanities—a moment in which we may in fact have to rethink the very premises of our own work, including, perhaps, the premise that nothing is automatically exempt from bigotry. At the same time, postcolonial studies and many other fields of research have long held that writing, the practice of writing itself, may be an antidote to such bigotry; and it is an antidote in its very insistence on the process of identity formation rather than on the stable categories on which fundamentalism seems to rely. My attempt in this chapter, then, is to forge a dialogue between religious bigotry on the one hand and life writing1 on the other—between an anti-Islamic sentiment expressed in Bollywood’s fi lmic reaction to 9/11 and the life writing of an Indian American poet and critic, Amitava Kumar, who has found himself entangled in precisely such anti-Islamic sentiment. The religious bigotry in which I am interested in this chapter is not that of Islam, but of anti-Islamic sentiment, a sentiment which, disturbingly enough, can be seen as underlying Bollywood’s reaction to 9/11. Bollywood is a deeply Hindu scenario, a scenario that may veil the undercurrents of religious nationalism, even fundamentalism, through lip service paid to the idea of India as a multiethnic society. Bollywood’s filmic reaction to 9/11, Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota (If This Happened Then What Would Have Happened, which I will refer to in the following simply as What If?) thus addresses a number of fundamental ideas but whose interconnections, however, the film never addresses. First, in the film India is seen as a country deeply enmeshed in the workings of global capitalism, a capitalism that is Western in its origin

82 Mita Banerjee and may constitute a potential threat to the Indian nation. The challenge inherent in the film, then, is the Hindu mastery of Western-style capitalism. The Hindu Right, as Jigna Desai has noted, is therefore ambivalent in its attitude toward Western capitalism: It needs Western capital, but is at the same time suspicious of it. According to Desai, [a]lthough the Hindutva appear ambivalent about globalization’s impact on India, they have been quite active in the liberalization of the Indian economy and wooing of nonresident Indian investment. At the same time, they have found it necessary to distinguish and secure their own position, especially with the rise of a cosmopolitan class that benefits even more greatly from the liberalization of the economy, and to consider diasporic cultural production and producers contaminated by the West . . . [I]t is the nonresident Indian and his remittances and investments, along with his Western taint, that must be negotiated.2 The challenge is thus to reconcile Hindu ideals with a capitalist lifestyle, a lifestyle that must not, however, taint Hindu values. The challenge of the film, in this case, is the protagonist’s migration to the U.S., the epitome of Western capitalism in more senses than one. Yet I will argue in the following that this is a migration curiously devoid of hybridity, or rather, that the hybridity that ensues from the Hindu protagonist’s migration is only a surface matter. Second, India’s entanglement in global capitalism leads to India being a dystopian, transnational space itself; this transnationality, in turn, is conflated with the filmic narrative into India’s multiethnic and multireligious communities. There is an implicit battle, then, not only between Westernization and Indian ideals, but also between Muslim adulteration and Hindu purity. Migration and transnational capital are therefore superimposed on one another by the filmic narrative; Hindu and Muslim characters move between India and the U.S. in a seemingly effortless way. Yet while some of the characters succeed in mastering transnational capitalism, others are annihilated by it. The aim of this chapter, then, is to inquire what role 9/11 plays in this deeply troubling vision of migration, and to ask whether What If? is, in the final instance, a narrative about migration at all, or is instead about the ideal of a Hindu homeland that possesses the uncanny ability to duplicate itself anywhere in the world. What might have been a story about migration may in fact be a story about reduplication; or rather, the surface layer of Indian professional migration may be a subterfuge masking what is in fact a deeply troubling nationalism. To return to my initial idea of our having to rethink the very premises of postcolonial study, the reactions to 9/11—filmic, cultural, or political—may well point to the extent to which the very language of postcolonial studies (with hybridity, border crossing, and cultural fusion as its watchwords) may in fact have been co-opted by narratives that are anything but progressive. Thus, I will try to argue in this

“Lunch with the Bigot”


chapter that even as migration and hybridity are key, on the surface, to the filmic narrative of What If?, its gist—and ideational core—may turn out to be the complete opposite of these very concepts: It may turn out to be, above all, a search for cultural and religious purity in the face of global capitalism and the necessity of migration that often comes with it. Religious bigotry, in other words, may be couched in the very language of migration, a language we may, prior to the events of and reactions to 9/11, have deemed sacrosanct. Finally, an analysis of What If? must also take into account the media’s continuing role in shaping our responses to 9/11. As What If? indicates, 9/11 has become a topos not only for Hollywood but also for Bollywood film. Bollywood’s answer to the events of 9/11is interesting for two reasons: fi rst, because India has its own history—and present—of anti-Muslim violence; and second, because Bollywood has long been known for being shot in Western locations. These locations, however, never actually intrude into the story proper. Thus, the Swiss Alps only form the idyllic backdrop to what is, in fact, an Indian story. As Meenakshi Shedde puts it, Bollywood discovered [the West] as an exotic place, minus the sophistication. In Hindi fi lms, [Western characters] usually look bemused as if something bizarre yet charmingly naïve has hit them. There is no acknowledgment of any human contact or awareness of the local culture. The Hindi film inhabits an insular, self-contained world that borrows only externals from others. 3 Bollywood’s answer to 9/11 may therefore be expected to address these two concerns: How is a film about 9/11 possible, even for a fi lm industry known for its leaps of imagination, without addressing either potential anti-Muslim sentiment or the U.S. as a nation, a nation traumatized by the terrorist attacks? What If? is a deeply troubled and troubling narrative; it may be troubling precisely because the topic—the Islamic terrorist attacks of 9/11—lays bare deep-seated ambivalences within Bollywood’s cultural imagination itself. As critics have long argued, Bollywood is itself a border-crossing narrative. It is, first and foremost, a Hindu film industry famed for its Muslim megastars. Although Meenakshi Shedde has argued that Bollywood’s vision is a utopian idyll precisely because of its proximity to the ideology of Bahut Jyaada Pyaar (BJP), the Hindu nationalist party, this vision is flawed from the outset by its cast. Despite this flaw or rather, because of it, actors, too, reiterate the idyll of Bollywood’s Hindu vision, a vision it shares with India’s conservative Hindu party, the BJP. As Mukherjee quotes one of the actors, “It’s true, there is neither pollution nor corruption in [the West]. But what is missing is BJP—Bahut Jyaada Pyaar.” This acronym symbolizes “much love” for the Indian community in all its variety, but also evokes the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party, the party of the people


Mita Banerjee and the most dominant force in the Indian coalition government. But this is who we are.4

Bollywood’s master narrative, and the narrative it is fond of telling about itself, is one of Indian multiethnicity, a multiethnicity that functions, however, under the roof of Hindu nationalism. I believe it is this master narrative that Bollywood’s filmic answer to the 9/11 attacks attempt to tell, and could be said to fail at telling. As I will try to show in the following, the fi lm is haunted by the specter of communal violence in India; what is more, it could be said to engage in a communalist violence of its own, an epistemological violence that sanctions only a particular kind of desire.

ROMANCING THE ENEMY: BORDER CROSSING IN THE WORK OF AMITAVA KUMAR From the perspective of the Hindu Right, then, Bollywood is not Right enough; its scenario, in other words, must be purged of those who enact it. There is, as the Hindu Right has argued, miscegenation at the very heart of Bollywood’s enactment, if not its narrative and cultural imagination. It is in this respect that Indian American critic Amitava Kumar has referred to his own interview with a Hindu fundamentalist, Mr. Barotia, which in its written version is aptly titled “Lunch with a Bigot.” What is striking is that this obsession of the Hindu Right not only with Hindu-Muslim miscegenation but with Bollywood as a major site of this miscegenation at once points directly to just how central Bollywood has been to Hindu nationalism’s concern with cultural purity. Kumar writes: The list of complaints was familiar and quickly wearying. Mr. Barotia began with the names of all the male Indian film stars who were Muslim and married to Hindu women. . . . These women had been forced to convert, he said, and now Muslims were having sex with them, thereby defiling them.5 For the Hindu Right, then, the media—and given its transnational mass appeal, Bollywood in particular—thus forms a site of contestations, a battle ground on which national, religious, and ethnic identities are staged. Bollywood’s staging of religious transgression—and its capitalizing on such transgression through the filmic romance between Muslim men and Hindu women both on-screen and in real life—is therefore deeply troubling for the force of the Hindutva, as Mr. Barotia’s heated response indicates. Bollywood flaunts before the Hindu fundamentalist’s eyes a deeply adulterated romance that, unfortunately for him, is not only a fi lmic fiction but a reality of everyday life. Hindu fundamentalist reactions to Bollywood’s religious miscegenation, then, may make apparent the ways in which the

“Lunch with the Bigot”


media can both trigger and contain fundamentalist reactions in contemporary India. As I will argue in the following, What If? contains the threat of Muslim infringement on Hindu culture and nationhood in both a national and a transnational sense. I would like to read What If? not only through this very flaw in Bollywood’s own logic, a logic which is also at the heart of the BJP’s own striving for cultural—and religious—purity, but also through Amitava Kumar’s own deeply personal engagement with Hindu-Muslim tensions in contemporary India. Hindu fundamentalism may therefore be resisted through life writing and through writing the lives that the Hindu Right perceives as threats to the integrity of the Indian nation-state. As Kumar himself puts it, it is highly ironic that he, the border crosser, should now find himself face to face with bigotry, a bigotry which has come to haunt not only his imagination but his very life as well. In the summer of 1999, when India and Pakistan were engaged in a confl ict . . . , I had gotten married. In the days leading up to my wedding, I often told myself that my marriage was unusually symbolic: I was doing my bit to help bring peace to more than a billion people living in the subcontinent because I am an Indian Hindu and the woman I was about to marry, Mona, is a Pakistani Muslim . . . .I wondered whether I . . . could walk around with a placard hung from my neck, saying MARRIAGE FOR PEACE. The article I eventually wrote for an Indian newspaper was what fi rst brought me to Mr. Barotia’s attention.6 Kumar himself traces the irony that his life should have enacted what his writing had long been about. If his vision, seen in Passport Photos as well as in Bombay—London—New York, had always been a transnational, border crossing one, how apt that he of all people should eventually have fallen in love with and married a person from across the border—and from the wrong side of the border. The Indian nation space, Kumar reminds us, is riddled with and ridden by its own fault lines, those of Hindu-Muslim conflict. Having dedicated his work to the crossing of international borders (Bombay— London—New York), Kumar thus finds himself trapped in the minefield of intranational, of communal, borders. As he goes on to note, “My name had appeared on a hit list put on a Web site in the year 2000. . . . [It] was on a list of individuals who were regarded as enemies of Hindu India. There was special anger for people like me, who were Hindus but, in the minds of the list’s organizers, traitors to Hindutva, the ideology of a resurgent, anti-[L]eft, ultranationalistic Hindu cause.”7 The ambiguity of the situation—the irony that he, the transnational intellectual, should have been trapped in homemade terror—is the reason for another border crossing in Kumar’s most recent writing. It is at this juncture in his life that Kumar resorts to a different register—from the poetic prose of his essays on transnationalism to the helpless, even grim,


Mita Banerjee

contours of nonfiction. The gap in logic, and the logic of personal irony, is hence marked by a shift in register. It is thus that Kumar has found himself driven to a mixture of languages, an adulteration, literally, of the language of both the poet and the writer. The absence of poetry in Husband of a Fanatic, Kumar’s most recent book, may well be a disappointment, one which marks the enormity of the subject of the book itself. This absence of poetry, the refusal of the aesthetic to hold, marks Kumar’s own deeply personal surprise that he, of all people, should have been haunted by religious fundamentalism.

The Aesthetics of Bigotry It is this adulteration, this uneasiness and even incompatibility of registers, that marks and mars What If?. Read from this perspective, then, the flaw in the filmic design may actually be a good sign, in Kathryn Khoo’s terms; it may be the marker of an ambiguity within Bollywood’s Hindu nationalist vision that refuses to be contained. The film is so troubled because it is a narrative that unravels before it has even begun; this troubledness may perhaps actually be solace. How does life writing intersect with Bollywood’s imaginary in the lives that What If? chose not to write, but could have written and should have written if its answer to 9/11 had truly been meant to confront, head on, the skeletons in Bollywood’s own closet? Is 9/11, then, the specter of India’s own complex and multilayered past because it exposes, once and for all, the ambiguities riddling its Hindu nationalist vision? In What If? India is a deeply claustrophobic space, a space of adulteration, of illicit desires created by Western capitalism: Indian youth chainsmoking marijuana on jeeps and joyriding through Mumbai, middle-aged women prostituting themselves for their drunkard husbands, and Muslims engaging in money laundering. It could be argued, of course, that there is something strangely reconciling in this shared degradation; in What If? Muslims and Hindus alike wallow in the mire of moral decay created by the presence of Western consumerism in India, which can be seen to embrace—and conquer—by thematizing emigration to America. If India is at the wrong end of global capitalism, it may be better to exploit the West where it is most vulnerable: on its own territory. The key paradox of the narrative and its own riddle, however, is the fact that America is the only space in which the idyll of Indian-ness can function. In What If? border crossing has already occurred before the characters embark for the U.S.; it is India, not the U.S., that is marred by multiculturalism. Because border crossing has already happened, then, because America has already effected a breach in India’s national design, the safest way to uphold Indian cultural purity, paradoxically, is to immigrate to America. The fi lm’s vision of the West in India could not be more dystopian. Hybridity is both the symptom of and the cause for this dystopia, and it is a hybridity that announces itself through both racial and cultural

“Lunch with the Bigot”


adulteration. The fi lmic narrative of What If? is haunted by the specter of miscegenation. Whereas Bollywood’s fi lmic narratives have been known for their reluctance to feature any but Indian characters, it is therefore a signal disruption of this rule that there should be a white character at the core of the fi lm. Mrs. Punj, the mother of Hemant, one of the fi lm’s protagonists, turns out to be white, and she turns out to be American; to make matters worse, not only is she white, but she is white trash. Surprisingly, then, Bollywood turns out to be culturally literate in terms of Western social imagination; it perpetuates what is in fact the Western white middle-class stereotype of the social detritus of ‘white trash.’ The West taints what it touches with its cold white hand. Bollywood’s vision of the presence of whiteness—and of white trash—in an Indian home could not be more disturbing. Not only are Mrs. Punj’s children biracial, but one of them is divorced as well. Unable to forget her ex-husband, Kalpa has succumbed to depression and—in a plot element that illustrates the predilection of the fi lmic narrative for the contrived—is seen vomiting all over the house. Moreover, we witness this dystopia brought about by an American white trash presence in an Indian home through the unbelieving eyes of Tilottima, the son’s wife. She is reduced to the life of a servant in an American home, and a ‘white trash’ home at that; this, at least, is what the fi lmic narrative implies. [Tilottima on the phone, cooking prawn curry.] Tilottima: I even told him, it’d be nice. What honeymoon? He left a day after the reception. Kalpa [sitting at the table in the living room]: What a stench! Mrs. Punj [working out in the living room, wearing a pink top and sweatpants]. [The doorbell rings]: Tilli-tama, open the door! Tilottima: My hands are soiled, Aunty. Mrs. Punj: Wash your hands and open the door. And call me Mom! Tilottima: [to her friend on the phone]: My prawns are getting burned, but I got to answer the door. Mrs. Punj: Who is it? Tilottima: Papa-ji—[she opens the door to her father-in-law, who wordlessly enters the room; she is back on the phone]. Tell me how much I have to pay. The prawns are good. No, the forms will take about a year. The guarantee papers haven’t arrived. [Kalpa is shown beginning to vomit.] Mrs. Punj: Tilo-mita, what’s happening to Kalpa? Tilottima: My prawns will get burnt, Aunty. Kalpa: Wow! The smell of those prawns! Mrs. Punj [to her daughter]: Come on to the bathroom. Only interested in her cooking. Tilottima [still talking to her friend on the phone]: Sounds like, she’s throwing up. Pregnant? How can she be pregnant? She’s divorced.


Mita Banerjee Okay, I’m quitting now. I can’t make too many long-distance calls from here. [Her father-in-law wordlessly takes the phone from her and hangs up.] Tilottima: Thanks. Mrs. Punj [to her daughter]: Feeling better, baby . . . Kalpa: Mom, I’m dying.

Polyester Femininity The narrative of social degeneracy, however, does not remain confi ned to the presence of whiteness in contemporary India; what is far more troubling in the fi lm’s logic is that it has swept out to encompass the Hindu majority as well. Here too, degeneracy is gendered; according to the ideology of Hindu nationalism, it is women who bear the burden of upholding Indian tradition. Namrata, then, is the epitome of Hindu degeneracy, a Hindu woman who turns out to be a modern dancer. Degeneration is inseparable from Westernization; the presence of the West, in a familiar argument, brings about the decay of both Indian culture and Indian morality. In the minutely detailed script of Bollywood’s femininity, Namrata can be spotted at one glance as a fallen woman. She can be recognized as a fallen woman, moreover, not only because of what she does—dance—but because of what she wears: polyester. Polyester fabrics, in Bollywood’s gendered narrative, turn out to be much more than an innocent prop; instead, precisely because polyester is an industrialized fabric, it epitomizes the presence, and the tainting presence, of the West in contemporary India. Polyester, in other words, is much more than a fabric; it is a way of life. As Alexandra Schneider has suggested, there is a highly nuanced iconography to Bollywood’s vision of womanhood, a vision that distinguishes the morally desirable from the fallen woman, the heroine from the vamp. According to this bifurcated vision, the heroine wears only cotton, silk, and natural fabrics, fabrics in soft colors and serene floral prints; she does not wear too much jewelry and is chastely attired in sari or traditional clothing. The vamp, on the other hand, wears nylon or polyester, all synthetic materials, and she is hence inextricably connected with the West. This vamp wears too much color, her outfit is rich in geometric patterns, she wears too much jewelry, and to make matters worse, she wears a push-up bra.8 The heroine wears only soft colors, and she wears only cotton; in donning polyester outfits, the vamp has clearly succumbed to the lures of Western industrialism. It is this iconography that What If? takes up through the very opposition between Tilottima, the Hindu bride, and Namrata, the fallen dancer. The film’s dance scene is intriguing in its mixed aesthetic, an aesthetic that mixes—and this too is symptomatic—Hindu and Muslim iconography. Namrata’s moves bespeak a many-armed Hindu goddess, but the male harem she is surrounded by indexes Islam, not Hinduism. Western-style

“Lunch with the Bigot”


modernity, then, enables and even brings about the transgression of communal borders, a transgression which, in Bollywood’s moral scenario, is as despicable as the medium in which it is articulated: modern dance. The scale from modern dance to illicit sexual encounters, moreover, is a sliding one. Not only does Namrata, the fallen Hindu woman, toy with Muslim religious concepts on the dance floor, but she goes on to seduce her young male dance partners as well as a Muslim character, Salim; obsessed with her sexual allure, he has become a mute spectator of her art. What is striking, then, is that in What If? Bollywood has jettisoned its own rule of spatializing illicit desire. As Meenakshi Shedde and a host of other critics have argued, the point of Bollywood’s transnationalism, or the transnationalism of its fi lmic locations, is precisely that it separates India and the West in both moral and spatial terms. Thus, Bollywood’s heroines frolic in the hay or try on a seductive dress in a Swiss boutique—only to eventually exchange these foreign props and locations for an Indian sari demurely worn back home in India. As Shedde argues: There is an inherent ambivalence in the representation of repressed sexuality and the liberties offered by the West. One example is Dilwale dulhaniya le jaenge, where a wild encounter with Shah Rukh Khan in the haystack cannot compromise the virginity of the film’s heroine, Kajol. Even Karishma Kapoor in Hero No. 1 is a chaste and obedient young woman wearing a shalwar kameez at home; yet, given the opportunity, she tries on a tight-fitting miniskirt in a Swiss boutique. But such lascivious eroticism never leads to good, honest sex. The politics of consumption and unfulfi lled desire are interdependent.9 What is striking about the spatial logic of What If? is that consumption has come to encompass the Indian nation-space: It is not that the heroine has to travel to Switzerland (or for that matter, to Manhattan) in order to try out both illicit desire and dubious costumes; it is, rather, that Manhattan has already crossed over into India. What is so disturbing, in Bollywood’s own moral terms, is that What If? portrays an India where the sari or, for that matter, the shalwar kameez has already lost out; there is no need for a Manhattan boutique in which Namrata can try out seductive getups because she has found her very own boutique in Mumbai; or rather, for the little clothing she wears, she does not need a boutique. Whereas the moral comfort of Bollywood’s imaginary used to consist in the solace that sanctioned love and illicit desire were distinct in spatial terms—the Swiss haystack versus the Indian conjugal bed—what is so disturbing about What If? is that these spaces have been jumbled. What If? is a troubled narrative, then, because it transgresses not only against Bollywood’s own moral code, but against the spatial logic of this code. Namrata’s Muslim lover, Salim, matches her predilection for the industrialized: Namrata wears polyester, and Salim snorts cocaine (which,

90 Mita Banerjee incidentally, is an artificially manufactured drug). It may therefore come as no surprise that Salim, the degenerate Muslim, is a loan shark and stockbroker by profession. Moreover, Salim is effeminized not only by his obsession with a fallen Hindu woman and his addiction to an industrialized, Western drug but also by his blind obedience to his own mother, the godmother of Muslim capitalism. Even as the fi lm contemplates Salim’s economic literacy—he is, after all, constantly on the phone with Wall Street—this quality is at once eclipsed by his subservience to his mother, the Muslim matriarch. The image of an innocent woman, even if she is an innocent Muslim woman, kneeling at the feet of a Muslim matriarch could not be more blatant in its demonizing of Muslim aggression—an aggression fuelled, the film implies, by Western capitalism. Matriarch [sitting on a high chair, as if on a pedestal: in the background, there is a row of veiled women in black, who mutely look on]: Come over, Zubeida. [Zubeida kneels at her feet, kissing her hand.] Your son has disgraced me. Female relative [leading Salim and Javed outside on the balcony]: Amma says you must wait. Zubeida [pleading, holding on to the matriarch’s hand]: He’s a child, he made a mistake. Even I am ashamed of what he did. But Amma, he is a very nice child, please, save my son. The policeman is a very vindictive man, my son is being framed . . . For god’s sake, save his life!

Figure 5.1 Salim meets his end in the World Trade Center in the 9/11 attacks in Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota (What If?). CAT Films, 2006. Directed by Naseeruddin Shah. Produced by Shabbir Boxwala and Prashant Shah. Photo still from the TV program Tenim paraula (We Have the Word), courtesy of Mediapro and Televisió de Catalunya.

“Lunch with the Bigot”


Matriarch: But your son stole? Zubeida: Yes, but . . . Matriarch [raises her hand to silence Zubeida]: Then speak no more, I won’t help. Look, when you’re hungry, you may steal two loaves. Justified. But here’s one who has evil on his mind. God help me, no. [She draws herself up, looking down on Zubeida.] Zubeida: But Amma . . . Matriarch: Shut up. Salim [on the balcony with his brother, overhearing the conversation]: Amma seems to be in a foul mood today. Matriarch [to her audience in the back row]: Don’t you people realize, sometimes even I can be in a tough situation. But here you are, always asking. Gafoor. Call Salim. Gafoor: Brother, Amma is calling you. Matriarch [withdraws her hand from Zubeida, looking dismissive; then patting Zubeida on the cheek]: Go my child, I never help frauds.

Hindutva in the Eye of the Storm What is striking, then, is that the narrative design of What If? turns out to be entirely lopsided. If the fi lm purports to be a narrative not only about the attacks of 9/11 but also about the cast of characters’ immigration to the U.S.—a plot element that enables 9/11 to be addressed in the fi rst place—it is curious that this immigration should take place only in the fi nal minutes of the fi lm. It is this lopsided design, too, that may be telling: The fi lm is haunted by the specter of Indian degeneracy—a degeneracy that is resolved, paradoxically, on American soil. The key twist in the narrative, then, is that the 9/11 attacks become the solution to India’s degenerate present. The fi lm’s Muslim character, Salim, is destroyed by his illicit desires even before he embarks for the U.S., and it is he who fi nally embraces the attacks of 9/11 by becoming their deserved victim. [Salim in an office in the World Trade Center, looking tired and dejected; his head is on the table. The calendar in the background shows September 10. His cell phone rings. Salim turns wearily and answers the phone.] Salim: Who . . . ? Javed [calling his brother from the car]: Javed here. Salim: Who’s Javed? Javed: Yes Brother, you’re over there? Salim: Sujit uncle is with you? Javed: No, Sujit uncle is feeling ill, he won’t come. Salim: Where are you?


Mita Banerjee Javed: Just outside New York. I’ll be there at nine sharp. And listen Brother, that secretary . . . keep your hands off her, she isn’t Namrata. Salim [looking at the blonde secretary who has just brought him coffee]: Thank you. My hands are off. [As she leaves, the secretary changes the calendar to September 11.] Salim [to Javed on the phone]: This Sujit uncle keeps on taking ill, is he alive or dead? Javed: He’ll be here day after tomorrow. Salim: Have you told him about me? Javed: He has a branch in Columbus, Ohio, said something about sending you there. Salim: What Columbus, Ohio . . . instead . . . send me to exile on an island . . . do islands of paradise exist anymore? Just let me take my mother along. I wish for nothing else. [The camera zooms in on the calendar.] [An airplane is shown flying directly toward the World Trade Center. Salim realizes that the end has come; he opens his arms as if to embrace the plane.]

The film’s core idea is ultimately the self-destruction of Islam, or the annihilation of Indian Muslims by their Middle Eastern fellows. In What If? Indian money is fi rmly in the hands of Muslim loan sharks, loan sharks who then are rightly killed by the terrorist attacks. Islam may utilize cutthroat capitalism, but it cannot ultimately control it; rather, Islam is controlled by it. Ultimately, it is his embracing of capitalism that leads to Salim’s

Figure 5.2 The Muslim matriarch in Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota (What If?). Screenshot, CAT Films, 2006. Directed by Naseeruddin Shah. Produced by Shabbir Boxwala and Prashant Shah.

“Lunch with the Bigot”


destruction; how fitting that he should have been in the World Trade Center at the moment of the attacks. The 9/11 attacks become the paradoxical self-annihilation—the suicide, even—of Muslims outside of India, as Salim’s outstretched arms imply. There is a sense of purging—a purging of the Indian nation on American soil—that takes place through the terrorist attacks. To return to my initial reading of Bollywood’s fi lmic location, the Twin Towers have indeed become the Swiss Alps at the end of What If? precisely because they merely form the backdrop to what is in actuality an Indian story. The Twin Towers are the Swiss Alps, then, because What If? is a story of Indian retribution. In the end, who survives the terrorist attacks in the fi lm? Who, in fact, is in the eye of the storm of both global capitalism and the terrorist attacks? Crucially, it is the Hindu couple, Hemant and Tilottima, who are saved by the filmic narrative from the havoc of a world system running amok. Here, too, Bollywood’s cultural narrative turns out to be gendered. If Namrata has precipitated Salim’s doom by wearing polyester, Tilottima, the obedient Hindu wife, saves herself from the 9/11 attacks and her husband from bereavement by wearing cotton. In the iconography of Bollywood’s femininity it is, therefore, no wonder that the one character who turns out to be saved from the 9/11 attacks should be wearing not a polyester outfit, but a jean jacket made of cotton. In this shunning of Western dress, Bollywood may well be said to engage in its own khadi campaign, the campaign once used by Mahatma Gandhi in his rally for homespun clothing and against British mercantilism. Knowing how to navigate the icy waters of consumer capitalism, by putting on a jean jacket the Hindu bride resists the immorality implicit in consumer capitalism by picking the next-best thing to homespun clothing: cotton. Yet, Tilottima is saved by the narrative and from the 9/11 attacks not only because she is wearing cotton, but also because she eventually exchanges her jean jacket for the sari. At this point in the narrative, the fi lmic plot could not be more contrived, and it is this contrived quality, I believe, that points to the leaps the narrative has to take in order to salvage the master narrative of the Hindutva from the seemingly all-encompassing snare of global hybridity: Tilottima is saved from being in the crash of United 101 into the Twin Towers because her boarding pass miraculously gets stuck to the bottom of her bag in the airport restroom, which she has entered in order to exchange the jean jacket for the sari. The jean jacket may be cotton, then, but it is not quite an Indian garment. In this as in many other cases, Bollywood’s moral lesson is hardly subtle: Tilottima is saved from the 9/11 attacks by wearing a sari. It is in the incongruence of the ending that the narrative starts to unravel; it is in this, the most bizarre of Bollywood’s scenic imaginations, that the impossibility of containing what cannot be contained fi nally becomes apparent. As we watch the Twin Towers collapse, the music is strangely cheerful; and it is cheerful because, it could be argued, Hindu purity has

94 Mita Banerjee been salvaged from the ruins of border crossing. The Hindu couple, therefore, is the eye of the storm in What If?’s border-crossing dystopia. As the towers of the World Trade Center crumble, Tilottima is shown boarding a bus that will take her home to Hemant; the serenity of the music—itself an indication that the Hindu bride has been spared from the tragedy of the attacks to which she would have fallen victim had she not exchanged her jean jacket for her sari in a restroom where her airplane boarding pass miraculously got lost—contrasts with the visuals of the 9/11 attacks. America, then, becomes not a space in its own right but the ark, if using Christian imagery is permitted here, to save the Indian nation. Crossing over to America is safe, so to speak, because America has already crossed over into India. If India has become deeply adulterated due to the presence of white trash in its own home, then this adulteration can be undone, paradoxically, in America, and it can be undone through the sanctity of the Hindu family. America has become the Noah’s ark of a degenerate Indian nation, the ark through which the nucleus of the Hindu couple can rebuild a Hindu homeland abroad. What ensues from the wreckage of 9/11 is the Noah’s ark of the American nation, depleted of Americans. What matters, the film reminds us, is only the Hindu couple, which has withstood the adulteration of transnational capitalism and has survived the 9/11 attacks as a reward for this resistance.

CONCLUSION: TOWARD A BROWN ATLANTIC? A paper on Bollywood’s reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, may be spectacularly out of place in a volume concerned with Europe and the Americas. I believe, however, that this failure may itself be symptomatic. At the outset of writing this chapter, I had believed that a look at Bollywood’s reaction to 9/11 could well be key in addressing the project that Jigna Desai has called “the brown Atlantic.” How could such a fi lm, in other words, not address the intersections between India and the U.S.? My point, however, is that the fi lm invokes the concept of the brown Atlantic—of India’s connection to other national, even transnational, spaces— without fulfilling it. What would or could have been at stake, therefore, is the way in which ‘Americanness’ is configured elsewhere. Yet the opposite is true in What If? as it eventually turned out. The fi lm is a narrative about Indianness posing as an American narrative. The brown Atlantic, in this scenario, is a narrative about Indianness minus the Atlantic—a narrative about Indian immigration to the U.S. from which the Atlantic, surprisingly, is missing completely. It is this gap, the absence of the Atlantic from the very concept of the brown Atlantic, that turns out to be programmatic for Bollywood’s Hindutva vision of Indianness: for only if the gap, the Atlantic, is not thematized to begin with, can the Hindutva function as a seamless

“Lunch with the Bigot”


transnational narrative. It is in this sense that the Hindu Right may well have mastered the logic, indeed, the very diction of transnationalism, but it is a transnationalism, it must be noted, that emphatically disavows the presence or even the idea of cultural hybridity. To return to the bigot, then, Mr. Barotia is quoted once more at the end of Amitava Kumar’s description of their lunch date, giving his own response to 9/11. Kumar writes: Mr. Barotia had given me a set of typewritten sheets collected under the title “Wake Up! America! Wake Up!” These pages, each one carrying exhortations printed in emphatic bold letters and followed by a series of mercilessly underlined sentences, were his response to the tragedy of September 11. . . . The inciter, the instigator QURAN is the CRIMINAL CULPRIT, which incites millions of Muslims around the World to the ghastly, ghostly crimes of this enormous destructive nature. . . . The ten-page text ended with a question not about September 11 but an earlier unresolved crime that is still an obsession for many conspiracy theorists in America and to which Mr. Barotia was only giving a new twist: “Who was behind the planning, plotting and planting the Death of the Dearest JFK? The answer: “It was ISLAM, ISLAM and ISLAM, the ever valiant villain.” 10 It is in this respect that Kumar’s account of his marriage to a Muslim woman may be much more than a story about India, just as What If? in fact may be more than a story about India as well. What may be at stake, rather, is the specter of a new discourse, a discourse that may well be global in scope. As William Dalrymple has written in praise of Amitava Kumar’s book: “At a time when hatred of Muslims—Islamophobia—is beginning to outstrip even anti-Semitism as the principal modern expression of bigotry and hatred against the Other, Husband of a Fanatic is an important and timely book” (dust jacket). For this very reason, it may actually be important to insist on the linkage of What if? to the concept of the brown Atlantic. For if ‘Islamophobia’ has indeed become a global discourse, it may have come to encompass—if for profoundly different historical reasons—Bollywood’s fi lmic imagination as much as the United States’ current war on terror.

NOTES 1. For a detailed study of the intersection between life writing, ethnic performance, and (ethnic) autobiography, see Davis, Aurell, and Delgado, eds., Ethnic Life Writing and Histories. 2. Desai, Beyond Bollywood, 184. 3. Shedde, “Switzerland,” 10. 4. Shedde, “Switzerland,” 19 (my translation). 5. Kumar, Husband, 6.

96 Mita Banerjee 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Ibid., 10–11. Kumar, Bombay, 1–2. Schneider, ed., Bollywood, xx. Shedde, “Switzerland,” 17. Kumar, Husband, 10–11.

WORKS CITED Davis, Rocío, Jaume Aurell, and Ana Delgado, eds. Ethnic Life Writing and Histories: Genres, Performance, and Culture. Münster: Lit Verlag, 2007. Desai, Jigna. Beyond Bollywood: The Cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film. New York: Routledge, 2004. Kumar, Amitava. Husband of a Fanatic: A Personal Journey through India, Pakistan, Love, and Hate. New York: New Press, 2005. . Bombay—London—New York. New York: Routledge, 2002. . Passport Photos. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. Schneider, Alexandra, ed. Bollywood: das Indische Kino und die Schweiz. Zürich: Museum für Gestaltung, 2002. Shedde, Meenakshi. “Switzerland: A Disneyland of Love.” In Bollywood: das Indische Kino und die Schweiz, edited by Alexandra Schneider. Zürich: Museum für Gestaltung, 2002. Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota [What if?]. Directed by Naseeruddin Shah. CAT Films, 2006.

Part II

Migrant Adaptations in Television


Invisible Ethnicity Canadian Erasure, Vanishing Dutchness Aritha van Herk

In a short story entitled “The Indonesian Client” in Canadian writer Douglas Glover’s collection Bad News of the Heart, a character declares that “he preferred Canadians because, like the Dutch, they are culturally blank, an asset in modern business.”1 What a bleak dismissal, likely to arouse in Canadians and the Dutch not a little indignation. Cultural blankness proclaims a terrible lack, reads a figurative absence that condemns the aesthetic practices of these two different peoples to a nadir of affect in the larger world. But this summation also incites questions about how such incognito cultures situate themselves in a global Zeitgeist wherein ethnicities are celebrated even as they are transformed through the process of migration. Whereas the character reads this presumed blankness as an “asset,” his summary also implies a certain inscrutable vacancy, suggesting that both the Dutch and Canadians are tabula rasa in terms of their performance of culture. Yet Canadians and Netherlanders appear to share what might be considered the most desirable trait of people moving throughout and within a global culture: Citizens of these two nations and heritages practice a transnational invisibility, ghosts within the architecture of particular nationalisms, but effective in terms of transmutation. Both, it would seem, demonstrate themselves capable of transition, self-effacement, and even convenient disappearance, articulated as a peculiar reticence about overtly performing or acknowledging their heritage. This concatenation of Canadian and Dutch idiosyncrasies enunciates a shared elusiveness, a virtual invisibility that appears to transcend or escape cultural markers. Glover’s fictional designation effectively invites an examination of the chameleonic capacity of these two nationalities and their similar embracing of alternative rather than oppositional culture. Raymond Williams usefully defines this as the difference “between someone who simply finds a different way to live and wishes to be left alone with it, and someone who fi nds a different way to live and wants to change the society in its light.”2 Certainly both the Dutch and the Canadians manifest little interest in changing global society. But is this diffidence really the case, or is it merely a convenience of cultural depiction? Does such compunction exist because both occupy a nation sufficiently diverse that performing ethnicity is difficult, unnecessary, or itself


Aritha van Herk

redundant? And if the ‘performative’ aspects of Dutch and Canadian identity are equally contingent, then how do these two minor cultures impersonate themselves? In light of this comparison, it becomes a challenge to examine how Dutch migration leaves traces and is traced in a relatively new culture like Canada’s. Does Dutch ethnicity in the North American settler nation speak to its country of origin, or does it suffer a peculiar disconnect and fi nd allegiance more with a generalized European culture? It is said of the Netherlands that the Dutch practice an embracing and embraceable cultural tolerance. At the same time, in Canada they are considered an ethnic group that quickly erases its visibility, audibility, and any other identifiable characteristics. Model citizens, Dutch immigrants are noted for assimilating as quickly as possible, as if seeking protective coloration. In contrast to those who embrace a fiercely nostalgic yearning for home, they are quick to adapt and quicker still to shift their allegiance from their country of origin to their country of opportunity. Although more than a million Canadians report some Dutch ancestry,3 it is as if they are determined to disappear, abjure their heritage, and melt into the mainstream. The effect is an invisible ethnicity that speaks to a taciturn culture in world terms, even while the Dutch have spread across the globe. How, then, is that ancestry declared and at the same time evaded? It is useful to consider how this diaspora has quietly proceeded “without the stabilizing allusion to an original homeland or essential identity”4 through some examples of the Dutch presence in Canadian culture, particularly as read and written within recent advertising and Canadian literature. It is also imperative to keep in mind the extent to which Canada’s cultural entity is a troubled and troubling proposition. A benign Siberia, a gentler if not kinder America, a geographical extravaganza, an imaginary homeland, a culinary disaster, and an outright fashion victim, Canada could be construed as a dangerous place to be Dutch because the two collude in that already mentioned undemonstrative and difficult-to-identify cultural identity or heritage. The flavor of ‘Dutch’ in a Canada that prefers more visible indicators is faint; the hyphen connecting ‘Dutch-Canadian’ is more a marker of mutually disappearing categories than a declaration. Why then trace or extend these connections? In terms of migration, homelands, and border crossings, the cross-pollination between Dutch and Canadian is a tenuous matter at best, not likely to raise eyebrows or to create a tsunami wave of change in any cosmopolitan discourse. The two cultures simply seem to match one another in their adaptability; in that respect theirs is an interesting marriage of convenience. In public and aesthetic terms, they recite a parallel practice, both of them performing a curious deviation from the usual displays of sociosymbolic identity. In April 2000, a subsequently famous advertisement for Molson Canadian beer vividly depicted the conundrum shared by Canadians and the Dutch. In the ad, a young man who identifies himself as ‘Joe’ stands in a theater with a screen behind him on which various clichés of Canadian

Invisible Ethnicity 101 culture (fur traders, lumberjacks, and dogsleds) are visually depicted while he ‘rants’ about what a Canadian is and is not, with especial emphasis on how Canadians are different from Americans. 5 Much viewed and discussed, the “I Am Canadian” ad gave rise to multiple copycats and parodies. There is nothing at all Dutch about the ad; one could tender the argument that the focus on beer might bear a remote cousinage to Dutch drinking tastes, but that would be a stretch. As has been pointed out by cultural critics, the ad’s popularity is doubtless due to its exploitation of the very clichés that the actor decries in the piece. To be Canadian is to speak a mélange of apology and foot-shuffl ing self-abnegation, leavened by an enthusiasm for hockey and a “we are the second biggest!” brag. For all Joe rants, he takes his cues from the American delineation of Canada and the extent to which the world continues to confuse the two nations. Moreover, the ‘Canada is NOT’ syndrome becomes the underlying structure for the lesson that occurs on the stage in front of those clichéd images, all to the soundtrack of Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” march, the staple of American graduation ceremonies and a covert witness for Joe donning the mantle of ‘Canadian,’ as if to declare his (and the nation’s) rather tenuous adulthood. In a more recent television commercial, fi rst aired in February 2009, an elegant man in a three-piece suit paces back and forth behind the glass at the edge of a hockey arena, where a group of children practice Canada’s national sport on the ice. In a marked but elegantly deployed Dutch accent, he advises the viewer to “stick to the fundamentals,” and to “grow your savings” with ING Direct. He promises that “every dollar you save, whatever the amount, will grow with high interest, and never shrink with fees and service charges. Your money will be safe but working hard, just like you.”6 Frugality incarnate, ING Direct’s Canadian ad campaign features not a Canadian, but Dutch actor Frederik de Groot. Born in 1946 in Bilthoven, Utrecht, De Groot is the epitome of the muted hyphen that would characterize a Dutch-Canadian, although he is very much a citizen of the Netherlands. The ad succeeds because De Groot possesses a perfectly attractive (but not too attractive), middle-aged but not old, bland but utterly trustworthy—and for some reason compelling—face. His most famous phrase, “Save your money,” is pronounced with a clear, precise intonation in English, but carries beneath it an unmistakably Dutch cadence. De Groot has come to be known to Canadians as the ‘save-your-money guy.’ Although the orange colors associated with ING clearly gesture toward the Dutch national color and ING’s head office in the Netherlands, few Canadians (except those of Dutch ancestry) would likely recognize these references. These two Canadian television ads, one for beer and one for fi nancial services, seem hugely dissimilar from one another, any comparison spurious. In fact, they serve as interesting reflections of the invisible ethnicity shared by Netherlander and Canadian; they perform overt demonstrations of the very cultural absences that are key to Canada’s configuration. Direct


Aritha van Herk

and yet chameleonic, both ad campaigns use the strategy of a declarative, even lecturelike approach rather than the minidramas favored by the advertising world. And in their performativity, both tread a zone of remarkable cultural dilution—the promise of distinctiveness blurred by migratory transformation. They manage to suggest a porous cultural identity and a fractured social unity, even as they appear to endorse a fundamental national personality. The dichotomy implied by the “I Am Canadian” commercial is the invisible but defi nite border etched between the powerful and self-confident United States and the large but small, rich but geeky, orphan-adopted-bythe-world Canada. As Jonathan Kay of the National Post opined, Joe is as irritatingly self-effacing a backpack flag snob as a Canadian can be. “He is not on stage for the vulgar (American) task of propagandizing, but for the proper (Canadian) task of ‘educating.’”7 Joe is polite, ‘nice,’ and only warms up and permits himself to boast when he gets to zed over zee (the alphabet makes him almost passionate!), hockey, and Canada’s geographical size. But he retreats from his own enthusiasm and ends with characteristic Canadian politeness, saying “thank you” as if grateful that anyone has bothered to listen. Although it is tempting to read this miniature exposé at face value, irony plays a large part in its performance and in the Canadian response to its success, primarily manifested as embarrassed pride. Here, Canada is ironic target and ironic destination: It is home to irony, the migratory center and locality of irony. And ironies proliferate. Directed by an American, Kevin Donovan, the advertisement did feature a Canadian actor, Jeff Douglas, but Douglas moved to Los Angeles to advance his burgeoning career after the commercial’s success. So much for practicing what you preach. Most interesting for hyphenation purposes, the images that the ad decries (the lumberjack, fur trader, and dogsled) are images of Canada made popular by a nineteenth-century Dutch migrant, Cornelius David Krieghoff. Born in Amsterdam in June of 1815, Krieghoff is arguably the painter most responsible for the endlessly proliferating perceptions of Canada as a land of lumberjacks and quaint Franco-Canadians costumed for snow. He was trained in genre painting in Germany, then in 1837 sailed to New York and enlisted as a volunteer in the American army in the war against the Florida Indians. His reasons for doing so are not known. We only know that he met a Quebecois woman named Louise Gauthier, married her in 1840, and then moved to what was nascent Canada, British North America, where he settled fi rst in Toronto and then Montreal. His genre art did not sell readily, and he was forced to work as a housepainter until he was persuaded to move to Quebec City and to take as his subject ‘typical scenes’ of the Canadian countryside, those scenes presenting so much of what has become cultural cliché: Indians, hunting, horses, snow scenes, sleigh rides, canoes, and the fur trade. Success followed, and his work began to enjoy commercial recompense. Still considered a major Canadian painter (he died in Chicago

Invisible Ethnicity 103 in 1872), his work is now enthusiastically appraised and is well represented in exhibitions of traditional Canadian art, even if his idealized versions of First Nations people are somewhat skeptically regarded. Indeed, in the early twentieth century, Franco-Canadian critics pronounced themselves less than pleased with Krieghoff’s hearty application of Dutch genre painting to French Canadian culture. Jean Chauvin reproached him with liking “the common people, carousing, noisy merrymaking, and knock-about farce,” and with putting his farmers “in huts that looked more like pigsties.” Two years later Maurice Hébert derided Krieghoff’s characters in violent language. “What Prussian faces they display, or should we say Bavarian or Dutch snouts! One of the men lifts a glass of spirits, rubs his belly, licks his chops, and slobbers, all in a grossly stupid manner.” Gérard Morisset took up these judgements on his own account, and amplified them. According to him, “this painter is a gay dog who does not disdain to souse with his monied clientele; he turns out pictures, as a manufacturer would, which are within everybody’s grasp because of the carousing that he depicts, the besotted faces of his figures, the rather crude comedy of his genre scenes, and his autumn landscapes with their violent and loud colours.”8 Transplanted Dutch traits are thus given a sound and prejudicial thumping; critics did not approve of Krieghoff’s subjects and the influence of seventeenth-century Dutch genre paintings on his depiction of Canada. And the snobbish dismissal of Krieghoff as a painter who first drank with his clients and then succeeded only because he churned out pictures that appealed to their limited tastes firmly locates him beyond a refined cultural identity. Whereas there is obvious evidence of Dutch tonality in his paintings, Krieghoff also manages to convey certain attitudes that have become stringently Canadian, identifiably noted for brisk weather and roughly attired denizens. What is even more interesting is the extent to which Krieghoff infiltrated art itself. The art historian Arlene Gehmacher is succinct: “He was much imitated in his own time, and the enduring value of Krieghoff’s works has encouraged forgery in ours. Seldom in the past thirty years has an auction of Canadian art not included at least one painting ‘by,’ ‘attributed to,’ or ‘after’ Krieghoff.”9 The sincerest form of flattery is forgery. Robertson Davies, a twentieth-century fiction writer who chronicled the doubtful cultural aspirations of early Canadians, quietly amplified the Krieghoff effect. Davies included in his personal lineage some vague Dutch ancestors alongside his Welsh and English origins. Dutch characters appear in his novels in genre roles, as sidelined officials or merry great-grandmothers, but his deployment of them as characters is telling, and useful for their illumination of Canada’s attitude to culture. In Davies’ novel What’s Bred in the Bone, the critic and art collector Francis Cornish is invited to work in


Aritha van Herk

collusion with a German countess on an art fraud scheme during the time of the German Reich. When Cornish says that he is not entirely comfortable marching under “the Devil’s banner,” he is reminded rather sharply that he can do so and learn a great deal, or he can return to Canada, “back to your frozen country, with its frozen art, and paint winter lakes and wind-blown pine trees, to which the Devil is understandably indifferent.”10 Cornish chooses instead to learn from the Devil and thus gains enormous knowledge about art, which is tested when he is asked to “‘go to the Netherlands and kill a man’” (metaphorically speaking) who is trying to sell to the Reich a fake painting, one that is claimed to be made by Hubertus van Eyck.11 This passage in the novel brings together the same phlegmatic assumptions previously suggested about the Dutch and Canadians. Francis is chosen for his knowledge of art but also because he possesses “‘a very nice strain of common sense’” enhanced by his family background in banking, for bankers “‘manage to look and sound so trustworthy, even when they are not.’”12 Dutch bankers, if one is to believe the Canadian ING commercials, are especially trustworthy. In dealing with the elegant and hospitable Dutch Ministry of Art, who are most interested in whether the disputed painting is real or fake because “‘a great masterpiece by Hubertus van Eyck was a national treasure and could not leave the country,’”13 Cornish must exert more than colonial dexterity. The judge in charge of the inquiry, appointed by the Dutch government and named Huygens (to remind readers of the famous seventeenth-century Dutch mathematician), “looked precisely as a judge should” and mirrors Cornish, who behaves precisely as an expert should.14 Cornish proves that the painting is not the work of a Dutch Master but a fake by pointing out that it includes as an iconographical detail a New World monkey, “‘unknown in Europe until the sixteenth century.’”15 Because Hubertus van Eyck died in 1426, it is not possible that he was the painter; the “New World monkey” introduces the appropriate measure of both doubt and proof. In this novel, Canadian Francis Cornish and the Dutch match one another in terms of their steely determination to sort true from false, but also in their businesslike approach to the problem. As reflectors, investigators, and observers, neither Cornish nor the Dutch are seduced by the Devil or his banner, as if to foreshadow the canny Canadian investors who will choose ING over other, less reliable banks. Objective if interested, both Dutch and Canadian are characterized as introverts that hold their own counsel. Not so the poor Flemish buffoon who faked the picture and was humiliated by Cornish and the Dutch jury. His end is both literal and metaphorical. “‘He lived in Amsterdam in one of those lovely old houses on a canal. You know how they have projecting mounts for cranes hanging over the canal bank, so that in the old days those merchant houses could have goods hauled up to the top floor for storage? Picturesque old things. It seems Letztpfennig hanged himself on his crane, right out over the canal.’”16 Not quite Dutch, Letztpfennig (last penny) has a German name and a ‘Flemish’ provenance;

Invisible Ethnicity 105 he does not possess the impenetrable surface of the Dutch judge and the Canadian art master, who share the inscrutable assets of cultural dexterity and cultural “blankness.” Robertson Davies’ most autobiographical novel, Murther and Walking Spirits, traces his own family background, including his mother’s descent from a Dutch immigrant who moved fi rst to Pennsylvania and then to Ontario, Canada. In that unveiling of protagonist Gil Gilmartin’s family history, the Dutch ancestors depicted are forced by their author to represent a national type. The Vermuelens are “cautious,” “strong on the dignity of cousins,” and determined survivors.17 When it seems that the American Revolution is about to rob her of all she owns, rich widow Anna Vermuelen determines to canoe with her children to Canada. As the initiating tale of the ancestors who parade toward the present, Gil Gilmartin’s greatgreat-great-great-grandmother is stock Dutch.18 Her actions are motivated not only by self-protection (especially in terms of money) but also by pure Dutch stubbornness. She escapes to Canada with her wealth by sewing her gold into her petticoat, which underscores the predictable identification of the Dutch as thrifty and practical. “Anna has determined to survive, and not to survive empty-handed; if the canoe sinks, she will sink a wealthy woman.”19 Of course, Anna does more than survive. A later character relates: “[S]he was a tough old party! . . . Escaped from the Yankees after the Revolution in the States, and licked it up here with her children in a canoe . . . and got her Loyalist’s rights in money, and cracked it all into a general store. And she throve.”20 The Dutch trait of sticking to their own, with their invariably clannish “Dutch backbone,” is tediously and reductively repeated throughout Murther and Walking Spirits. 21 At the same time, Davies gestures toward similar encapsulations of the Canadians that those same Dutch become. A descendent of Anna Vermuelen and the father of the main character, Brochwel Gilmartin thinks about the necessities of survival as he takes shelter from bombardment in an old tomb during the Italian campaign of 1944. As a Canadian, he is inescapably a provincial . . . But we provincials, he reflects, have our place, and an important one, for we are not beguiled by the notion that the fate of mankind and of human culture lies wholly in our hands. The others—the French, the English and even the Poles—probably enjoy some such delusion. The Americans certainly do, for they are natural-born crusaders, forever in the right, even when they are least aware of what they are crusading about. But we provincials, who are compelled by a dozen reasons, some of them not wholly mistaken, to tag along in such crusades as this, are also in our way the patient lookers-on in these political and cultural convulsions, and perhaps we have cooler heads when it comes to weighing the importance of what is being done. 22


Aritha van Herk

Here is Joe’s (“I Am Canadian”) ancestor, proudly provincial, determined to get back home to the challenges of daily life, sensitive about the role of a tag-along nation, and most of all, not one of the power brokers of the world but wonderfully blank, even potentially suburban. As a Canadian, Brochwel is not without the ability to appreciate culture, but like the Dutch, he is sensible, watchful, and even doubtful. He knows his peripheral place, and he appreciates the cultural unimportance to which others consign him. It is in this pragmatic sphere that Douglas Glover’s attribution of cultural blankness as an asset to business reverberates and foreshadows the Dutch actor De Groot’s exhorting Canadians to take care of fundamentals and “Save your money.” ING Direct’s use of De Groot offers a fascinating subtext of cross-cultural attitudes toward value and identity. In Canada, ING is a virtual banking company that works online rather than out of hard real estate. As a branchless direct bank that offers services over the Internet, phone, ATM, or by mail, ING is one of the few global fi nancial establishments to penetrate a deeply conservative Canadian banking market. The company’s economic provenance or fi nancial stability is not at issue here, but its advertising campaign reflects a perspicacious awareness of the cultural phlegmaticness that Canadians share with the Dutch. In the many ads that have been aired on television, de Groot speaks matter-of-factly to viewers, talks to them about their money and how to put it to good use in a way that bypasses the fancy promises and inscrutable terminology of other banking institutions. Ad lore claims that de Groot was chosen as the spokesman for ING in Canada so that customers would not be surprised that the bank was foreign (Dutch). In effect, de Groot’s repeated presence in the ING ads is effective for the very reasons that are premised by Robertson Davies and Douglas Glover: He exudes common sense and performs as a living testimonial of the assimilated immigrant, one who cannot quite erase his or her accent but who has become wholly Canadian. At the same time, the accent suggests his knowledge and experience, and it is equally likely that another segment of the audience reads him as an urbane citizen of the world. In fact, the real de Groot is an urbane and linguistically dexterous citizen of the world: Unusually, he is the spokesman for ING’s French Canadian ads as well as the English, his Dutch-accented French obviously as persuasive as his Dutch-accented English. Like the product he advertises, de Groot’s face is generic and yet utterly reassuring. His speech is not austere but sober, his address measured and direct. Exuding trustworthiness, he elicits trust. The ads are predicated on a subtle mixture of Canadian reticence and Dutch thriftiness, the very gray area of transculturation that has so haunted both Dutch and Canadians in terms of their erasable profi les. But the success of the commercials is unmistakable, and unlike the “I Am Canadian” ads, de Groot’s endorsements continue to appear, his image becoming a stable reference for the success of ING Direct. In one ad (shot in 2006) about how to pinch pennies, a different character (young and female) refers to his presence in other ads by saying, “And like

Invisible Ethnicity 107 the guy with the accent says, ‘Save your money.’”23 So de Groot (or his projected image) has found fans, even elicits responses and comments from postings. One text comment asks, “Who IS the guy with the accent anyways?” And another declares, “This guy is the only reason I opened a bank account with ING. He’s a trademark like Mr. Clean, the Marlboro Man or Cap’n Crunch.” Another reads, “No matter how many times I watch the ING commercials with this guy in it, I never get bored.” What is it about de Groot’s portrayal of a sage giving advice about saving money (that most unexciting and rectitudinous activity) that appeals to Canadians? It is, I would argue, his very Dutchness that speaks to a similar sense of thrift and economy, immigrant acceptance coded by submerged origin. Douglas Glover’s previously cited story, “The Indonesian Client,” enables a complementary reading of how the mutual camouflage of the two cultures, each in league with the other’s quintessential invisibility, is replicated. Glover’s profoundly disaffected narrative depicts the politics and pressure of a postmodern enterprise wherein the inflation of a company’s value is an orchestrated performance entirely divorced from what the company presumably sells. In fact, the actual presence of a ‘product’ is questionable; the business that the story uses as the setting for its character revelations is murky and almost mysterious. Again, like ING Direct, this company is virtual rather than real, and its product invisible. The narrator of Glover’s story, whose task is to serve as “idea man, a copywriter,”24 sees his environment as one of a series of migrations; he is part of that new workforce of denationalized characters who can pack up and move in a moment, their baggage a laptop computer and one suitcase of generic designer clothes. The perfect Canadian, he has made himself valuable by virtue of his global experience: “I [was] from Toronto, where I had edited trade magazines before a series of buyouts and job tenders sent me on an international tour: Brussels, Capetown [sic], Vienna, San Remo, Kuala Lumpur and Winston-Salem. I had stock options in a company once called Trans-Ocean but since renamed eight times and now calling itself eTrans. com.”25 It would be less than generous to speculate about ING’s fi nancial woes in recent years, but it is almost as if Glover has used the company as his template. His narrator is called upon by the company’s CEO to perform as a human blank slate, whereas Bove, the CEO, keeps the narrator on the company payroll because of his prosaic and naked Canadianness. When Bove arrived, he said I could stay, that he had had his eye on me since Vienna, that he preferred Canadians because, like the Dutch, they are culturally blank, an asset in modern business. Canadians are like suburban architecture, shopping malls and McDonald’s franchises, he said. They are forerunners of the universal world culture. 26 This instrumentalization of Canadian and Dutch traits speaks to what is perceived as a virtual invisibility that transcends—or would that be


Aritha van Herk

better described as ‘escapes’?—their cultures. Both share a defi nite reticence about performing any manifest and explicit heritage. In Glover’s story, Bove, who is Dutch, is depicted as “large, bland and featureless,” characteristics that do not deter him from success. 27 Indeed, those same aspects perform well by persuading others to invest in a company without a defi nable national or monetary allegiance or profi le. The name ‘Bove’ plays on the Dutch boven, or above, over, and beyond, higher than anything else. Bove himself is a powerful impresario in this detached world, where even migration is virtual and where cultural context is anorexic and meaningless. Here is the zone of postnational, pan-global business, where the lingua franca is money, and the question of identity is either better left undeclared or utterly irrelevant. The narrator attributes to Bove a clichéd Netherlandishness: “His whiteblond hair and eyebrows, his Buddha-like corpulence, his strange, whispery voice (in which he affected an accurate but slight Midwestern accent) seemed, all in all, to project what might be called a negative affect.”28 The enviable ability of the Dutch to emulate and reflect is here only too heavily scored. This character is physically the opposite of de Groot (who is quite attractive) as the ING ‘projection,’ but they effectively serve the same ends. And Glover’s narrator himself occupies a Canadian equivalent. He says, and here he is usefully compared to the figure of Joe in the “I Am Canadian” ad: Once I wanted to write the Great Canadian Novel. I had even composed the opening sentence: As they ate breakfast, it began to snow. Once I watched Saturday night hockey games on television with my father, dreamed of going to live on Baffi n Island with the Eskimos and masturbated to fantasies of Jesuit martyrs writhing upon the stake. Once I slept with a sixteen-year-old figure skater named Paula Singleton, who simply and passionately opened her shirt for me one afternoon on her family room carpet. 29 His thwarted desire to achieve the ultimate in cultural goals—the oxymoronic “Great Canadian Novel” is deflated by the predictable opening sentence (“As they ate breakfast, it began to snow”) of the unwritten novel—declares his own emulation of Canada’s terminal disease: the cultural cliché. At the end of the story, terrified by eTrans.com’s stock price eclipsing every possible barometer of value, the narrator abandons his global carapace and decides that he will flee the digitized hell of his job. In contrast to Davies’ Anna Vermuelen of Murther and Walking Spirits, who sews her fortune into her petticoat, he leaves behind his “wallet, bulging with IDs, licenses, credit cards, debit cards, ATM cards, even cash” and walks away from this artificial and borderless land of greed and its trans-national capital to head for Baffi n Island, archetype of the Canadian north as refuge and hideout. 30

Invisible Ethnicity 109 Buried in Glover’s story is the most tenuous but telling of observations: “I realized that I had believed in what was hidden simply because it was hidden, and, hence, that I had all along somehow put more faith in the thing that I did not know (because it was hidden) than in the thing that was right before my eyes.”31 This migratory hide-and-seek is an indication of the extent to which movement can both erase and highlight a particular cultural configuration. Such disguise itself serves as a marker for the fluid geography of invention and acculturation. Both the Dutch and Canadians, then, appear to occupy a similarly contingent cultural configuration that is nevertheless desirable for its very chameleonic qualities. Are both reticent about overt expression of their particular character because both understand a multicultural discourse? The embracing and embraceable tolerance of the Dutch is legendary to the extent that such tolerance is considered a duty more than a virtue. Much space has been devoted to discussion of how that behavior functions as a form of social pragmatism; it is said that given their population density, if the Dutch didn’t ignore one another, their lives would be unbearable. If that is the case, performing Dutch ethnicity must necessarily comprise a controlled and noninterruptive experience. But transplant that subtle disregard to a Canada where, ironically, performance of any sort is acceptable (witness the “diversity not assimilation” quote), yet all overt performance is regarded with suspicion (as per the “I Am Canadian” ironies), and the two merge in a fascinating blend of camouflage and self-abnegation. The secretive and the hidden are a peculiar refuge for those for whom what is not known is most desirable. Such à perte de vue, then, makes the two cultures mutual illusionists, ghosts haunting their own invisibility. Ultimately, how does Dutch trace itself in a culture like Canada’s? The Krieghoff story (Dutchman as importer of what is crude and recondite but nevertheless an exporter of what becomes folklorically Canadian), Davies’ generalized and readily identifiable stock characters with their stock traits and Glover’s abnegation (Dutchman as magician of effacement, inspiring literal and symbolic Canadian erasure—heading out for the great welcoming North) all speak to similar sleights of hand that occur between Canada and the Netherlands. They are together encapsulated by that utterly persuasive “guy with the accent” who acts out ING Direct’s ingenuous appeal to a subdued culture of thrifty good sense. It is sadly true that Dutch Canadians seldom brandish their country of origin as a point of pride. Instead, those hyphenated citizens find allegiances with a general European culture more than with the precise specificities of ‘Dutchness,’ whatever that might comprise—pannekoeken, Sinterklaas, the color orange, or water management. In the past, the Dutch were prized as immigrants because of their diffidence about maintaining or continuing their cultural traditions. Integration occurred almost magically, with Dutch migrants erasing their differences as quickly as possible. Their desire was to become invisible, the only trace of migration once the accent retreated a name, possibly a

110 Aritha van Herk bone structure and religion, although even the rigid power of Calvinism quickly dispersed. But the tantalizing question remains. How is it possible to declare an ancestry and at the same time evade it? How can a culture that seeks actively to efface itself and at the same time creates a fascinating and virtually secret subtext that decrees a seductively reliable provincialism be measured? If migration has enabled the Dutch to reinvent themselves, can the same chameleonic sleight of hand work for Canadians? A troubled and troubling concept, identity draws lines between those who exploit others and those who are enslaved, who can live where, who can and cannot vote, those who do and those who do not have basic human rights. Given the extent to which ideologies of identity and difference have enabled social hierarchy and oppression, the reluctance of both the Dutch and Canadians to model a distinctive and unambiguous character could fi nally, if it is not sensible self-preservation, be interpreted as a mark of cosmopolitanism. That is why de Groot becomes the spokesman for a multinational bank—he exudes a delicious cosmopolitanism. People are different, the cosmopolitan knows, and there is much to learn from our differences. Because there are so many human possibilities worth exploring, we neither expect nor desire that every person or every society should converge on a single mode of life. Whatever our obligations are to others (or theirs to us) they often have the right to go their own way . . . [T]here will be times when these two ideals— universal concern and respect for legitimate difference—clash. There’s a sense in which cosmopolitanism is the name not of the solution but of the challenge. 32 Kwame Anthony Appiah’s wonderfully subtle and sophisticated defense of those who are citizens of the world rather than adherents to a particular doctrine is a persuasive way to interpret those seemingly ‘blank’ Dutchmen and Canadians. Abjuring local and narrow allegiances in favor of an assimilative receptiveness may thus be considered not a vacant lack of cultural distinction but a generative tolerance, and far more complex and interesting than a mere business asset. Ultimately, all of the examples examined here demonstrate a vernacular nuchterheid (the Dutch word for matter-of-factness). As a practicing Dutch Canadian myself, I gauge my cultural demonstrativeness by one of Anna Vermuelen’s ironic injunctions: “Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg.” Behave like an ordinary person; that’s crazy enough.

NOTES 1. Glover, “Indonesian Client,” 102. 2. Williams, Problems, 41–42.

Invisible Ethnicity 111 3. See details of ethnic origin cited in Canada’s 2006 Census, http://www12. statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2006/as-sa/97–562/p2-eng.cfm. 4. Brooker, Cultural Theory, 71. 5. Molson Canada, “I Am Canadian.” The words used by Joe in his rant are as follows (CAPS indicate his shouting): [Clears throat] Hey. I’m not a lumberjack, or a fur trader . . . and I don’t live in an igloo or eat blubber, or own a dogsled . . . and I don’t know Jimmy, Sally, or Suzy from Canada, although I’m certain they’re really, really nice. I have a prime minister, not a president. I speak English and French, NOT American. And I pronounce it ‘ABOUT,’ NOT ‘A BOOT.’ I can proudly sew my country’s flag on my backpack. I believe in peace keeping, NOT policing, DIVERSITY, NOT assimilation, AND THAT THE BEAVER IS A TRULY PROUD AND NOBLE ANIMAL. A TOQUE IS A HAT, A CHESTERFIELD IS A COUCH, AND IT IS PRONOUCED ‘ZED,’ NOT ‘ZEE,’ ‘ZED!’ CANADA IS THE SECOND-LARGEST LANDMASS! THE FIRST NATION OF HOCKEY! AND THE BEST PART OF NORTH AMERICA! MY NAME IS JOE! AND I AM CANADIAN! 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23.

ING, “Fundamentals.” Kay, “I am . . . ”. Vézina, “Krieghoff (Kreighoff).” Gehmacher, “Kreighoff.” Davies, What’s Bred in the Bone, 331. Ibid., 339. Ibid., 342. Ibid., 343. Ibid., 345. Ibid., 351. Ibid., 354. Davies, Murther, 57, 54. Ibid., 89. Ibid., 76. Ibid., 173. Ibid., 211. Ibid., 277–78. ING, “ING Girl.”

112 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32.

Aritha van Herk Glover, “Indonesian Client,” 100. Ibid., 101–2. Ibid., 102. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid., 103–4. Ibid., 116. Ibid., 109. Appiah, Cosmopolitanism, xv.

WORKS CITED Appiah, Kwame Anthony. Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006. Brooker, Peter. Cultural Theory: A Glossary. London: Arnold, 1999. Davies, Robertson. What’s Bred in the Bone. Toronto: Macmillan, 1985. . Murther and Walking Spirits. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1991. Gehmacher, Arlene. “Kreighoff, Cornelius David.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params= A1SEC893543 (accessed January 12, 2010). Glover, Douglas. “The Indonesian Client.” In Bad News of the Heart, 99–116. Urbana-Champaign, Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 2003. ING. “Fundamentals.” Advertisement. ING Web site. http://www.ingdirect.ca/en/ landingpage/tvspot/index.html (accessed January 12, 2010). . “ING Girl.” Advertisement. YouTube Web site. http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=85dvCedxG9g (accessed January 12, 2010). Kay, Jonathan. “I am . . . Nationalistic.” Toronto National Post, April 14, 2000, sec. A. Molson Canada. “I Am Canadian.” Advertisement. Canadian Content Web site. http://video.canadiancontent.net/5-molson-i-am-canadian.html (accessed April 26, 2010). Used with the permission of Molson Canada 2005 (Copyright 2000). Vézina, Raymond. “Krieghoff (Kreighoff), Cornelius.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. http://www.biographi.ca/009004–119.01-e.php?&id_nbr= 5079&&PHPSESSID=26uo634gsinmsd4fkph99buf54 (accessed November 2, 2008). Williams, Raymond. Problems in Materialism and Culture: Selected Essays. London: Verso, 1980.


Performing Linguistic Identity and Integration The Politics of Interpellation in the Catalonian Media Klaus Zilles

Audiences of Catalonian public television (Televisió de Catalunya) are regularly exposed to an astonishing abundance of messages with intercultural content. Television shows and promotional campaigns revolve around immigrant cultures and languages, foreign residents, mixed marriages, Catalans of ‘exotic’ extraction, international cuisine, Catalans traveling or residing abroad, and a multitude of programs and advertisements that showcase and promote the use of the Catalan language among locals and foreigners. It is this last category that I propose to examine here more closely in view of the import generally attributed to linguistic distinctiveness as a vehicle of national identity. The subsequent analysis of two examples of this genre reveals how seemingly similar messages can contain radically opposed ideologies. Both of the televised campaigns are overtly designed to encourage performance of Catalan national identity through the use of the Catalan language among locals and foreigners: The fi rst is part of a promotional multimedia campaign entitled Ajuda’m, parla’m en català (Help Me, Speak to Me in Catalan), and the second campaign consists of a series of televised miniepisodes entitled Tenim paraula (We Have the Word), in which nonnatives display their command of the Catalan language. Catalonia is an autonomous province in the northeast of Spain; it lost its self-government following the Spanish Civil War in 1939 and did not regain its regional autonomy until the death of the dictator Francisco Franco and reinstatement of democracy in 1975. During the thirty-six years of the Franco regime, a traditionalist authoritarian nationalism was enforced that actively sought to suppress any linguistic and cultural manifestations of national identities that were not Castilian, a policy which predominantly affected Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Galicia. For Catalonians, this meant that the Catalan language was banned from all public, educational, religious, and cultural domains. Owing to a vigorous oral culture and quotidian acts of civil resistance during Franco’s totalitarian regime, the Catalan language endured and made an astonishingly quick recovery after the caudillo’s death and Spain’s transition to a constitutional monarchy. In the ensuing years, the

114 Klaus Zilles Catalonian government implemented a proactive policy that reinstated the Catalan language in education, the media, politics, and commerce. Since then, Catalan nationalists have been engaged in a continuous, nonviolent struggle with the Spanish central government in Madrid for cultural, linguistic, economic, and political emancipation. At the same time, Catalonia, a wealthy region with one of the fastest-growing immigrant communities in Europe, has also turned into a gathering and meeting place of diverse cultures and peoples. Thus, in March 2003, Catalonian television audiences and press readerships found themselves directly spoken to by a government-sponsored campaign entitled Ajuda’m, parla’m en català (Help Me, Speak to Me in Catalan), which carried the slogan “Tu ets mestre” (You are a teacher).1 The press and radio campaigns were devised essentially to enhance the communication of the TV ad, which opens with a tracking shot of its three Catalan protagonists and portrays each against the backdrop of their respective environments: a chef at the entrance of his restaurant, an elderly female shopper outside a market hall, and a teenage skateboarder in front of a graffiti-covered wall. Then, in rapid succession, the camera captures the restaurant owner working with a black cook in the kitchen of the restaurant, the shopper being served by a young Asian saleswoman at a butcher’s stall in a market, and a “conversation” between the Catalonian youth and his fellow skateboarder, Hassan, at a public square in Barcelona. 2 A male voice-over informs the audience that “[e]ach year, in Catalonia, more than 65,000 people who come from outside learn Catalan. But in order for them to speak it, you are the best teacher [sic].”3 The ad closes with a shot of the immigrant cook addressing the audience with the words “Help me, speak to me in Catalan!” In alternative versions of the ad, the closing plea is made by the skateboarder or the saleswoman. “In all three cases,” according to the official government press release, “a Catalonian addresses an immigrant in Catalan.” The three immigrants represent some of the more visible ethnic groups that have immigrated to Catalonia in recent years: an adult black African man, a young Asian woman, and a teenage boy from a North African country. Similarly, they represent the typical professional, business, and leisure-time contexts in which fi rst-generation immigrants might be expected to interact with the host community. The Catalan government (la Generalitat), or more specifically, the Consortium for Linguistic Normalization (Consorci per a la Normalització Lingüística, CPNL), commissioned this campaign to encourage Catalonians to use Catalan when addressing non-Catalonians, implicitly dissuading native Catalonians from the widespread practice of using Castilian (Spanish) with foreign-looking and foreign-sounding people.4 According to the CPNL, this tendency may already have resulted in a general disinclination on the part of immigrants and foreign residents to study Catalan. As a consequence, they are failing to integrate into the regional Catalonian

Performing Linguistic Identity and Integration


cultural and linguistic environment, choosing instead as their reference the wider, national context of Spain. This is particularly significant in the context of the ongoing geopolitical and historical debate over Catalonia as a ‘nation without a state,’ said to be suffering linguistic, cultural, economic, and political discrimination at the hands of the central Spanish government. As a result, many Catalonians advocate political resistance to the Spanish hegemony and strive to construct and promote an image of Catalonia as a nation with its back to Spain and its arms open to Europe. The Consortium for Linguistic Normalization deserves praise for its intentions and the initiative; for its efforts to promote cultural integration, social harmony, language preservation; and for raising self-awareness among Catalonian natives rather than scapegoating the immigrants. However, this study is not so much concerned with the linguistic aspects and policies of the campaign as with the media portrayal of ‘self’ and ‘other’ and the representation of cultures in contact in the regional media. Analyzing the various modes of representation serves to shed light on the identity politics practiced in the media, which Catalonians encounter with remarkable frequency when they watch television, listen to local radio stations, read the press, or browse Web pages in Catalan. The principal methodology of this study hinges on Louis Althusser’s critique of the practice of subject interpellation. In Althusser’s theory of ideology, interpellation is the mechanism through which subjects are made to acknowledge their existence as participants in the dominant ideology of the particular society to which they belong.5 I submit that Althusser’s theory of ideology, although dating from the 1970s, continues to speak to the nationalist state’s practice of hailing its subject. I argue that those media messages that are concerned with immigration and cultures in contact confront their audiences with deliberate constructions of ‘self’ and ‘other’ and thus make them scrutinize, rethink, and remake their idea of a Catalonian identity in the face of a growing multicultural reality. Along these lines, the Help Me campaign is an ideal stepping stone for examining the politics of subject interpellation in the Catalonian media. Following the description of the campaign’s TV ad provided earlier, the subsequent text analysis is indebted to the Barthesian practice of showing how the denotative message of a text (here the audiovisual text of the ad) is likely to betray connotations that may be decoded within the larger system of the society that produces and consumes them.6 Thus, the initial expository sequence of the ad introduces the three protagonists of the story while the denotative significant, or the ‘linguistic’ anchor, of the message appears superimposed in a rectangular yellow frame on the lower half of the screen: “You are a teacher.” After having seen the entire ad with its optimistic bid for acculturation, we see that the most plausible, connotative message of this sequence would be a declaration of encouragement and goodwill to Catalan society, something along the lines of the following: ‘You are a valuable part of the Catalonian community—represented here


Klaus Zilles

by three tolerant, open-minded individuals, a business owner, a shopper, and a teenager—which enthusiastically takes in all those coming from outside Catalonia as long as they are willing to integrate linguistically (and by extension, culturally). For that to happen, you must take a proactive, assertive attitude toward this integration process. You can make a difference.’ To visualize this message, the fi rst performance of an intercultural encounter is set in the kitchen of a restaurant. A Catalonian man, whom we are supposed to take for the owner, and a black cook are busy with pots, pans, and ingredients. Then, the Catalonian, while stirring the contents of a saucepan, turns to his coworker and asks him: “Shall I reduce the sauce?” (Redueixo la salsa?). Here, the surprise effect of the denotative message takes the implicit appeal for hospitality and accommodation one step further. In the elliptical shorthand typical of advertising language, the ad sketches out a narrative revolving around the theme of immigration. In this context, the viewer takes for granted that the power structure places the Catalan at the top. However, the Catalonian’s question shows that the audience was mistaken and that the black man is the supervisor, or may even be the owner. Moreover, the scene seems to entail the promise of empowerment and upward mobility of a traditionally subordinate group (a moot promise as the subordinate group is not part of the target audience). The second encounter between outsider and native takes place at a butcher’s stall at the market. The elderly lady asks the young Asian girl behind the counter: “Let me have two cuts of beef, love” (Posi’m dues mitjanes de vedella, maca.). The use of the verb vosté in its formal address, the engaging smile, and the typically endearing use of maca (‘love’ or ‘darling’), signal an overall disposition to go out of one’s way to be friendly and to treat the interlocutor as an equal. The last example of intercultural contact takes place at one of the many open areas in the inner city of Barcelona that are frequented by skateboarders. “Hassan, did you skateboard in your country, too?” (Hassan, al teu país també feies skate?) the local boy asks his friend, and we are supposed to surmise that the possibilities for intercultural relationships can go beyond the professional rapport of the workplace or the superficial (albeit cordial) acquaintance between a salesperson and a customer. In fact, friendship can be forged across the cultural divide, and curiosity about the ways of life in the other’s country cuts both ways; indeed, it is one of the staples in intercultural communication. And yet—in the face of the overwhelming presence of favorable messages identifiable in the ad—if we enter other variables into the equation, a slightly different reading emerges that reveals a decidedly uneasy relationship between the denotative signs (captions, voice-over, and dialogue) and the unspoken messages produced by the elliptical style of the advertising narrative. Indeed, the process of subject interpellation in the ads can hardly be adequately decoded without scrutinizing the nonverbal communication of both characters who have speaking parts—namely the Catalonians—and

Performing Linguistic Identity and Integration


those who have nonspeaking parts, i.e., the immigrants. Additional visual variables that need to be factored in are cinematographic aspects such as the mise-en-scène and the camera language. Thus, upon watching the initial tracking shot once more while concentrating on the characters’ relationships with the camera, we observe that the ‘autochthonous’ protagonists are clearly aware of being captured on fi lm and follow the lens with their gaze as it tracks them, thus acting out a relationship of complicity with the very device that controls the visual and narrative authority in the ad. This rapport is predictably absent in the relationship between the camera and the three immigrant characters. The restaurant episode, for instance, portrays two characters busy in the kitchen, and the camera opens with a close-up of a hand that is tossing food in a pan over the stove. The camera pulls back from the hand to a medium shot of the immigrant, showing his profile in the foreground and the Catalonian man in the background. The focal point of the deep-focus photography is the person speaking in the background, which results in a fuzzy foreground and blurs the black cook’s face. If one plays the footage in slow motion, one can actually observe how the cook turns and moves his lips, presumably in reply to the other man’s question, but both his words and his image dissolve and smoothly merge into the next scene. The sequence calls for closer scrutiny. As is characteristic of the narrative style of commercials, the portrayal of the relationship between the two characters relies on stereotypes and remains as fuzzy as the cook’s face. Clearly, though, the purported owner or manager is asking his employee’s advice on how to prepare a certain dish, thus acknowledging the immigrant’s greater expertise. However, the surprise maneuver of empowering the immigrant character only works if the expected, ordinary situation is the exact opposite, thereby overtly confi rming the customary power structure inherent in the binary opposition between the empowered mainstream and subordinate immigrant. What is more, the black cook is oblivious to the camera and, as with the other two immigrants, the recording devices pay no heed to what he might have to say—and, disappointingly, in which language he might say it. A variation of this pattern is repeated in the market episode. As the image fades up from the previous scene to focus on the face of the young Asian woman, the camera lens is gazing over the shoulder of the customer who is placing her order. Again, the deep-focus shot blurs the foreground and brings into sharp focus the face of the young Asian woman. Her face is serene and distant; she blinks and breaks into a friendly smile as she passively awaits the customer’s request. Then the camera abruptly reverses its perspective to assume the immigrant’s point of view. The editing, though, is strangely discontinuous, and both the mise-en-scène and the visual perspective of the butcher are not congruent with the previous shot. Now observing the customer from the direction of the butcher’s stall, the camera (and the butcher) towers over the customer, gazing at the elderly woman from


Klaus Zilles

an exaggerated angle that does not match with the previous frame in which both characters appeared to be roughly at the same height. With the immigrant thus elevated by the camera from a subordinate to an empowered position, the ‘reduced’ customer assumes a distinctly obsequious body posture, breaks into a saccharine smile, and places her order. We’ll never know the butcher’s side of the exchange. Like her counterpart in the kitchen, she is not given a voice and seems oblivious to the camera. While the two women proceed to conduct their business, the male voiceover, in typical advertising fashion, cuts in commandingly and drowns out any further conversation that might have taken place. Whereas the woman’s polite request seems to transmit an appeal for collaboration and gentle coercion toward acculturation in an atmosphere of respect and even affection, an examination of the visual presentation reveals a subtext that belies the explicit message of the audiovisual presentation. The ostentatious effect of raising the immigrant up from her customarily subordinate position, which is procured through a dramatic change of the camera angle representing her gaze, substantiates the fact that this is not the conventional point of view. What is more, the physical elevation of the Asian woman in this mise-en-scène jars with her dispassionate, detached facial expression and her complete and utter silence, passivity, obedience, meekness—to mention only a few of the attributes her attitude calls to mind. This is where the seemingly smooth, cohesive surface of the audiovisual text breaks open to reveal beneath it a palimpsest inscribed with the notorious rhetoric of ‘us/them,’ ‘self/other,’ or ‘dominant/subordinate,’ i.e., an essentialist concept of identity that in this video footage unmasks itself as a carefully staged composition with an ideological agenda. In Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, Althusser formulates the thesis that “[i]deology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence.” 7 Here, the ideological agenda strives to foster and enhance an illusion by prompting the principal actors to ‘perform’ a representation of social harmony and integration between immigrated individuals and representatives of the host community, seeking to gloss over (but not quite succeeding) the distressing reality of a community that has made the transition from out-migration to in-migration over the brief period of two decades. Questions of motivation and justification notwithstanding, the close reading of the audiovisual text reveals some of the pitfalls of using the strategies of the advertising narrative in a political and ideological context: Once it has been acknowledged that the coherence of the text is achieved to a great deal through the spectators’ very own desire for the conclusive and the constructive and, ultimately, for order, the text begins to show its fault lines and basically deconstructs itself. Upon freeze-framing through the skateboard episode, we notice the same fractured, contradictory message that underlies the previous episodes. Again, the camera renders Hassan the

Performing Linguistic Identity and Integration


teenage skateboarder voiceless, nondescript, even unresponsive—simply placed in the scene as an excuse for presenting a mere semblance of intercultural communication. This pattern is brought to its climax in the closing sequence, which returns to the restaurant kitchen setting. The focal point is the black chef, who is now center stage. At last facing the camera, he has been given a speaking part only to parrot the catchphrase of the ad. Clearly reminiscent of storefront advertising icons such as the cigar-store Indian or the blackamoor, he wields his cooking ladle, flashes a broad smile, and pleads: “Help me, speak to me in Catalan!”8 In this ad, each instance of directly addressing the TV viewer is an example of subject interpellation with the objective of getting the viewer to realize that he or she is being addressed. Once the viewer has ‘turned around,’ that is to say, has responded to the call, he or she immediately becomes a subject within the logic of the ad’s ideological structure. The subject (small s) becomes Subject (capital S). The individual agent is subjected to the ideology, i.e., he or she responds to the appeal to act out the possibility of subjecthood. Thus, the media, which proliferate the message and carry out the interpellation, become part of the mechanism of the Ideological State Apparatus. The interpellated subject, in the ideology of the ad, buys into the idea that it is the wish of the immigrant to learn Catalan; that to be fluent and literate in Catalan will somehow help her or him find a job, be upwardly mobile, be treated respectfully by the paying customer, and make friends among the natives. The questionability of these assumptions, I believe, is fairly obvious from the outset. Understanding and speaking Castilian (Spanish) is indispensable in Catalonia’s present linguistic reality, thus making the acquisition of Catalan an additional burden that must figure low on many immigrants’ lists of priorities, considering the precarious situation in which many of them fi nd themselves. However, once the hailed Catalan subject has heeded the call and acknowledged that he or she is being addressed (being spoken to in Catalan, having identified with the protagonists, having felt the need to empathize with the immigrants), he or she is likely to accept that the assumptions that constitute the ideological thrust of the ad are true. He or she has become Subject to the ideology. It is intrinsic to the abbreviated, fragmented advertising narrative to display predictable situations and constellations, to sketch them out in terms of familiar iconographies and stereotypical representations, often indifferent—and indeed oblivious—to the actual concerns of the ‘reality’ they purport to portray. The Help Me campaign is a case in point in that it flaunts this obliviousness by alleging to broadcast an appeal for help without knowing or heeding the appellants’ desires. What, though, would happen if a campaign with a strikingly similar brief (promoting the use of the Catalan language with foreigners) literally turned the stage over to ‘those coming from outside,’ as a forum for them to express themselves in


Klaus Zilles

Catalan, about the Catalan language and culture, and to an overwhelmingly autochthonous audience? The second campaign, entitled Tenim paraula (We Have the Word), seems to fulfi ll this objective—namely, to encourage Catalonians to address nonnatives in Catalan—by showcasing those who have learned, mastered, and even grown fond of the local idiom. In Catalan, Tenim paraula may signify ‘We have a word,’ or ‘We have the word/It’s our turn to speak,’ or perhaps in a wider context, ‘We stand by our word/promise.’ In contrast to Help Me, the very title of We Have the Word explicitly fulfi ls the promise to turn the stage, and the speech act, over to the nonnatives, thus giving them a voice of their own and placing them in the limelight. Unlike the slice-of-life approach of the Help Me campaign, We Have the Word focuses on the spoken and written word while the camera has been given virtually no leeway for manipulation or distortion of the visual message. The campaign features foreign-born Catalan speakers—most are clearly nonnative speakers, although many appear to be near-native—who make brief statements or minipresentations in Catalan. The audiovisual presentation is as straightforward as it is effective. Each episode of Tenim paraula lasts between forty-five and ninety seconds and opens with a bright red screen on which a lighter-colored frame is slightly outlined. To the sound of a jaunty tune, an animated whirl of white letters in different sizes starts tumbling onto the screen, slowly fi lling it from the bottom up. Once the screen is completely covered, the letters tumble out of the frame again, leaving behind the letters spelling out Tenim paraula. Now the camera cuts to a medium shot of the informant against an off-white backdrop. Invariably, after the informants introduce themselves in their native language, they are briefly interrupted by the red screen announcing their name and country of origin. When the camera returns to the speakers once more, they make their brief presentations in Catalan while key words in multicolored typescript pop up on seemingly random sections of the screen, often playfully emphasized by additional symbols such as colored arrows, equal signs, smiley faces, stick figures, and the like. Once the speaker concludes, the red screen fades back up and the voiceovers of two very youthful-sounding native Catalan speakers, a male and a female, briefly revisit the main themes of the presentation, employing the featured idiomatic expressions in different contexts, illustrating their usage, introducing regional variants, or simply commenting on, or underscoring, the nonnative speakers’ statements in a light-hearted, cheerful fashion. Again, their spoken comments are accompanied by key words and phrases spelled out in white typescript on the red screen, while the same cheerful jingle that initiated the episode provides a smooth conclusion. In keeping with the motto expressed in the title, the basic idea revolves around a Catalan word or expression that the foreign speakers particularly like or that has caught their attention because it sounds droll, is onomatopoetic, or may result in linguistic confusion as it may have a radically

Performing Linguistic Identity and Integration


different meaning in the speaker’s native language. Thus, a British speaker confesses that he has a weakness for the numerous Catalan expressions that consist of two similar sounding words such as paying bitllo-bitllo (cash), to walk xino-xano (leisurely), or to call someone a baliga-balaga (a goodfor-nothing). A woman from the Czech Republic declares that whereas all languages have onomatopoetic expressions for ‘to whisper,’ the Catalan version, xiuxiuejar, is the most accurate rendering of the sound one makes when whispering, and a native from Iceland talks about the misunderstandings that arise in her bilingual home owing to the fact that caca in Icelandic means ‘cake.’ All the participants in the program are amateurs who volunteer or are approached by the producers with the request to speak about a Catalan expression that intrigues or captivates them. Moreover, it is a testimony to the true empowerment of the participants that many of them take the liberty to stray from the set pattern in order to communicate more pressing concerns such as sharing a brief glimpse of their immigrant experience, explaining cultural idiosyncrasies of their homeland, articulating a metaphysical concept, or even issuing circumspect political messages. As a result, a Canadian citizen repeats the appeal made by the “Help me, speak to me in Catalan” campaign, exhorting Catalonians to reply in Catalan when addressed by foreigners in that language. A Swiss German man discovers (in heavily-accented Catalan) a certain virtue in his inability to produce the difficult sound of the initial r in Catalan, and he demonstrates that pronouncing the name of the local football club, Barça, comes a lot easier to him than the name of their archrival, Real Madrid. The author of the Catalan–Japanese dictionary, Ko Kazawa, confesses that his intense concentration on his project caused him to neglect his infant son, a fact that didn’t come to his attention until he had all but concluded the dictionary with the fi nal entry—zum-zum (a humming or buzzing sound). It is hardly a coincidence that the majority of the participants who veer from the relative triviality of the show’s format—making philosophical or political observations rather than talking about cute Catalan expressions— come from developing, occupied, or otherwise struggling nations. Thus, a man from Guinea-Bissau breaks into song and then shares his philosophy of life, which he fi nds perfectly conveyed by the sound of the Catalan words brillar com el sol (shine like the sun), while an expatriate from Chineseoccupied Tibet issues a political declaration regarding the importance of freedom of speech. Similarly, a disenchanted Senegalese immigrant issues a defiant message in a linguistic mix between his native language and Catalan, which he dedicates “to the immigrants and the Spanish constitution,” and a woman from the Chinese minority in Malaysia instructs the audience in the linguistic, cultural, and territorial diversity of her Chinese heritage. Currently, the program comprises some forty miniepisodes featuring Catalan speakers from all continents, numerous ethnic groups, and a representative array of people of diverse social and professional backgrounds

122 Klaus Zilles who have successfully integrated both linguistically and culturally.9 Here, the subjects are hailed by the Ideological State Apparatus with a message that says, “You there, listen to these foreigners and marvel at their proficiency in Catalan and their passion for your language.” By confronting Catalonian television audiences with an outside look at their own language, they are compelled to reexamine their own attitudes toward linguistic practices and policies and toward immigration as an important factor in the survival or demise of their language. Again, the target audience are the autochthonous Catalonians and the native speakers of the Catalan language. However, quite unlike the immigrant characters in Help Me, the protagonists of We Have the Word are experienced by the audience as a multitude of destigmatized, empowered individuals, both female and male, visible and invisible minorities, from developed and developing countries, some very articulate, some struggling, but all of them speaking in the first person: “We have the word.” Indeed, the ‘we’ may even prompt in some viewers the desire to be included in this promising new conception of Catalonia and the Catalan identity. In fact, all speakers featured in Tenim paraula have become proficient in Catalan as a result of their close contact with the host culture. Many of the speakers make reference to the process of language acquisition through their relationships with their Catalan friends, partners, spouses, or coworkers. Unlike the simulated, strictly one-sided ‘conversations’ in Ajuda’m

Figure 7.1 Photo still from the TV program Tenim paraula (We Have the Word), courtesy of Mediapro and Televisió de Catalunya.

Performing Linguistic Identity and Integration


(Help Me), each episode of Tenim paraula brings the audience face-to-face with the significance of genuine intercultural communication. Thus, the campaign appears to represent a truly commendable effort to deconstruct the self–other binary by reserving the place in the limelight to both ‘us’ the newcomers and ‘us’ the host community. Or so it would seem at fi rst, unless the observer takes a step back and looks at the larger context within which the nonnative speakers’ messages were placed. The immediate feature that seems to beg the question is the division of each episode into a nonnative and a native section, which once again reproduces the seemingly unavoidable portrayal of identity mainly in terms of difference. Why not leave well enough alone and let the presentation of the nonnative stand on its own and speak for itself? Once again, the politics of identity are caught in the trap of polarization between ‘self’ and ‘other.’ Indeed, ‘the other’ is given his or her say because the locals, the autochthonous producers of the series, have granted it to them, although not without claiming the last word in the matter by intervening from a position that is at once anonymous, authoritative, and corrective. And whereas the native voice-overs generally manage to be encouraging without being condescending, they still leave one with the impression that the nonnatives’ messages somehow need endorsement from the natives. From whichever way one scrutinizes the power constellation inherent in the self–other binary, the ‘self’ must invariably come out on top. This last observation might strike one as an inordinately harsh criticism of an ostensibly well-intentioned public relations campaign, were it not for the fact that the Tenim paraula series was eventually replaced by a spinoff entitled Més paraules (More Words), which features, instead of immigrants, Catalonian born men and women, all of whom are native speakers and published authors. Thus, the fundamental us–them hierarchy, which in Tenim paraula was merely incipient, imposed itself completely in Més paraules, dispensed with the ‘other’ and established beyond any doubt who is in command of ‘more words.’ It is not clear why the series could not simply have been continued under the title Tenim paraula, featuring native and nonnative participants side by side. It might be going too far to suggest that this decision on the part of the producers is a deliberate, premeditated effort to showcase immigrants and foreign residents in a disenfranchised position versus the natives. Rather, it appears to betray a pervasive, subliminal tendency to make more or less subtle distinctions in the portrayal and representation of ‘those coming from outside,’ as the Ajuda’m spot tellingly calls the foreign residents. In Althusser’s theory, ideology is the illusory relationship we have with the harsh, hard-to-stomach reality. Thus, when being hailed by the Ajuda’m campaign spot, or an episode of Tenim paraula, the target audience can revel in the illusion that they live in a society that is dealing with growing, and potentially threatening, phenomena such as immigration, transculturalization, and hybridization in a positive, constructive way, while at the

124 Klaus Zilles same time contributing to the preservation of one’s native language and cultural patrimony. And yet, the notion that a genuine process of integration is under way is at odds with the subliminal messages that chart the relationships portrayed in the footage strictly in terms of asymmetrical constellations of natives and nonnatives. In the fi nal analysis, then, both Ajuda’m and Tenim paraula have missed the opportunity to empower and integrate the new and the long-standing Catalonians. Instead, they refer us back to the all-too-familiar hierarchical relationship between those who need help and those who grant it and between those who grapple for words and those who abound in them.

NOTES 1. The video fi les of this campaign and other similar promotional video material, all with English subtitles, are available on the Centre de Documentació en Sociolingüística de les Illes Balears (CDSIB) Web site at http://www.uib. es/catedra/camv/CDSIB/multimedia.htm (accessed December 30 2009) 2. According to the official press release “a conversation” takes place between the two youths (“una conversa entre dos joves”). As we shall see presently, only the local characters have been given speaking parts. See CPNL. 3. See CPNL. 4. For examples and analyses of similar campaigns commissioned by the Catalan authorities, see Buffery, “Spreading the Word.” 5. Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy, 85–126. 6. See for example Barthes, “Rhétorique de l´image,” 40–51. 7. Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy, 109. 8. Statues called blackamoors characteristically represent a stereotypical depiction of a black cook or domestic standing outside an establishment displaying a menu or suchlike. For more details, images, and a classification of these figures, collectively called cigar-store Indians, see http://xroads.virginia. edu/~MA01/Index/cigar/figures.html (accessed December 30, 2009). 9. I am indebted to Carles Gener from Mediapro for providing me with a tape of the episodes of Tenim paraula.

WORKS CITED Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. Translated by Ben Brewster. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001. Barthes, Roland. “Rhétorique de l´image.” Communications 4, 1964. Buffery, Helena. “Spreading the Word and Sticking Your Tongue Out: The Dual Rhetoric of Language Advertising in Catalan.” In Advertising and Identity in Europe: The I of the Beholder, edited by Jackie Cannon, Robin Warner, and Patricia Odber de Baubeta. Bristol, U.K.: Intellect, 2000. Consorci per a la Normalització Lingüística (CPNL). “Cada any, a Catalunya, mes de 65,000 persones que venen de fora aprenen el Català. Peró perqué el parlin, tu ets el millor mestre.” CPNL Web site. http://www.cpnl.org/viure/ actualitat/2003/030319.htm (accessed December 30, 2009).


The Trans/migrant in the Spotlight Space and Movement in Brazilian Telenovelas Gundo Rial y Costas

Despite the fact that only a tiny percentage of the global population is on the move and actively participating in migration processes, migrants are frequently regarded as a menace and often stigmatized by a derogatory semantic. Observed from a global perspective, and in spite of the increasing number of networks and organizations, the general support for and lobbying by and on behalf of migrating people continues to be limited, often confronted by biased views, paranoia, and fear of the migrant-other. As a consequence, it is no wonder that the majority of the world’s population does not actively support Kofi Annan’s 2006 report on migration and development, in which international migration is described as highly beneficial when supported by the right policies. Though I agree with Annan’s position, I propose to add another dimension that would help us gain a broader vision of the complexity of the phenomenon of migration. Such an understanding, which is urgently needed, should attend not only to migration processes themselves but also to the production and reception of the images they evoke. In our globalizing world, these images are often created and distributed by mass media and circulate in “mediascapes,”1 often operating on a global level. Mediascapes are a vital and integral source of collective imaginaries and often serve as the basis for public debates in the contested spaces where public opinion is shaped. For this reason, this chapter shall be grounded in a theoretical approach that focuses on the construction and circulation of media images. I shall attend to Appadurai’s writings2 on cultural global flows that are sometimes interrupted or modified by so-called ‘disjunctures’ and represented through different forms of landscapes or -scapes. Specifically, we shall examine particular imagescapes called mediascapes and their double meaning. First, they refer to the places where these images are produced—which means TV stations, the cinema industry, newspapers, and the Internet—and to the imaginations and the images of the world they produce, often mixing the fictive and the real. Second, they are accounts of different bits of reality in the form of characters, stories, and texts, which serve as the basis for social actors to transform them into imagined lives for themselves as well as for the lives of others. 3 In this context, the


Gundo Rial y Costas

performative through reiteration has special relevance, due to the agency of the social actors4 and the ongoing dialectic process of image construction, reception, and interpretation. With this in mind, I will focus on the cultural production of Brazil, a country with a strong oral tradition. A modernized version of this tradition continues through audiovisual narratives called telenovelas, which are often regarded as Latin America’s most emblematic genre5 and which also function as a forum for public debates, often integrating fragments of the real. Specifically, I will argue that a crucial shift in migration patterns in Brazil was accompanied by a particular telenovela that thematized these processes, in which migrants and their sufferings were placed at the center of the story and presented them in mediascapes in their new homelands abroad. I will depart from a cultural history perspective6 and the current media research in Brazil, which considers telenovelas as the source for new medial narrations of the nation.7 My approach traces the way in which the culture industry in Brazil has appropriated and represented the migrant and his or her routes in telenovelas through mediascapes. Pinpointing various points of convergence and unifying threads, I will unveil the dialectic and disjunctive connection between these audiovisual narratives and migration history. To effectively analyze the construction of new forms of medial imaginations, I will base my analysis on Gloria Pérez’s innovative series América.

THE BRAZILIAN DREAM FACTORY In order to grasp the importance and impact of telenovelas on daily life in Brazil, as well as the mutual influences between media images and the social imaginary, one has to understand the close-knit connection between television, power, and the question of identification in this country. Therefore, I shall briefly explore the emergence and development of the format and its impact on Brazilian society. Due to an established and multifaceted oral tradition, the publishing industry in Brazil has not developed at the same pace as that of other countries on the continent, making it “an odd country out” in Latin America.8 In addition, the strong influence of African music and the power of oral narratives sustained and enriched a tradition based more on song and voice than on writing. With the introduction of the radio in the twentieth century, the format of the melodrama, imported from France and England by means of the feuilleton novel, underwent a continuation on the radio in a format called radionovelas. After fi lms were introduced, that format was transformed with a strong performative element into teleteatro, as the series were broadcast live. After these two intermediary stages, the Brazilian telenovela fi nally developed as an independent and specialized genre in the late 1960s.

The Trans/migrant in the Spotlight 127 The media conglomerate Rede Globo played a crucial and decisive role in this regard as it consolidated the form of the telenovela on various levels. First of all, Rede Globo hired well-known playwrights to produce sophisticated scripts that would be relevant to Latin America. The series, each of which lasted from six to eight months, differed in specific ways from the open-ended North American model that could continue for years. Second, professional theater actors were contracted, and special attention was given to the quality of fi lming, which led to the invention of the term padrão de qualidade (pattern of quality). Third, Rede Globo broadcasted the telenovelas daily, which created a captive audience. Thus, by innovating narrative, production, and broadcasting practices, Rede Globo configured a new genre and contributed to the establishment of a new tradition in Brazil. Because many Brazilians could not afford to go to the movies often, they generally spent more time watching television. Soon, the small screen became a reference system for the Brazilian public, a new form of narrating the nation. Of note, however, is the fact that the increasing nationalization of the telenovela was due in particular to a close relationship between Rede Globo and the military dictatorship, which resulted in the channel receiving special privileges and which led to the constitution of a hegemonic media empire.9 Fantasy worlds in distant places and with ‘exotic’ people such as Arabic sheiks and French kings and queens (influenced by the Mexican melodrama), the staple of the 1960s telenovelas, changed in the 1970s. The focus then shifted to Brazil and its citizens, their hopes and the problems of their daily lives.10 At that time, a threefold structure of telenovela broadcasting emerged: Six days a week, the programming began with a romantic series, then a comedy, and fi nally, at prime time, the drama social.11 These drama social increasingly integrated current debates about culture and politics into their storylines, served as a discussion platform, and inadvertently created images that became part of the Brazilian collective memory, providing frames of reference for national identification. The inclusion of interviews with people on the street or sequences from TV news further consolidated this medium into an alternative knowledge system for many people, particularly for those with limited access to education and print media. The importance of these media products for the Brazilian public is notable even as one strolls around the cities of Brazil. The faces of the actors of current telenovelas are ubiquitous on billboards, on kiosks, and on the front pages of a whole industry of telenovela magazines. Far from being limited to pulp magazines, photos of telenovela actors and reports on their (fictitious) lives in articles ranging from sensationalist discovery stories to sociological observations appear in quality magazines such as Istoé or Veja. The photographs of these smiling actors appear on all kinds of products, from telephone cards to T-shirts, pens to bed linens. The actors are on TV almost continuously; apart from their telenovelas, they are interviewed on talk shows, star in commercials, and appear as guests on other programs.


Gundo Rial y Costas

Further, comedy programs that parody the latest intrigues and passionate kisses of the telenovelas are particularly popular. In addition to the overwhelming cultural and audiovisual presence of telenovelas and their heroes, the popularity of these programs has radically reconfigured the social habits of large segments of the population. During prime time, when the major telenovela is being aired, the streets are less crowded than usual as people stay in to watch. The broadcasting of a telenovela’s last chapter becomes a city-wide event, as people crowd together in front of their televisions or in bars to witness the antagonist’s ruin or the separated lovers’ reunion. At many hair salons and shops, the staff and customers huddle together and watch little portable TV sets, mesmerized. In this context, it is no wonder that Rede Globo, by far the most important producer of telenovelas in Brazil, is also referred to as the “Brazilian Hollywood” or the “Brazilian Dream Factory.”12

Narrating the Nation—Immigration to Brazil Having established the telenovela as a vital forum for discussion of current topics and a source for the national imaginary and identification, I will focus on how this format interprets and actualizes the narrative of migration history. This argument will fi rst be contextualized within the history of immigration to this country. Brazil’s status as a major immigration country began with the arrival of the Portuguese in the late fi fteenth century, which led to the mixing of the Portuguese and the indigenous population, the so-called mestiçagem.13 In the centuries that followed, the influx of ships with people and goods from Europe was accompanied by slave ships from Africa, a dark chapter of forced migration in Brazilian history. Several waves of European immigrants from Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain in the nineteenth century followed the (forced) African migration, which numbered in the millions. In the early twentieth century, a significant number of Japanese migrants arrived and, a few decades later, people from Middle Eastern countries such as Syria and Lebanon entered the increasingly multiethnic country.14 The government urged the immigrants to assimilate to Brazilian culture and established Portuguese as the only reference language.15 In spite of these multiethnic immigration processes and the massive and visible presence of people from other parts of the world on the streets of Brazilian towns and cities, the Brazilian telenovela industry only selectively incorporated them into their tales, focusing in particular on Italian immigrants. Regarded as positive and deployed as a model for nation building in Brazil, the representation of Italians shrouded the visibility of other migrant groups, who rarely appeared in audiovisual productions.16 A strong migration of Italians to the two Rede Globo cities,17 São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and some of the authors’ own family backgrounds contributed to this almost exclusively Italian narrative of immigration history.

The Trans/migrant in the Spotlight 129 This privileged the European aspect of Brazilian identity to the detriment of the multifaceted reality of Brazil. The titles of the immigration telenovelas clearly signal their potential for nation building: Os Immigrantes (The Immigrants) was broadcast between 1981 and 1982, Vida Nova (New Life) in 1988, Terra Nostra (Our Homeland) in 1999, and Esperança (Hope) between 2002 and 2003. All these titles echo the colonialists’ desire to rename ‘new’ territories. These narratives have strong symbolic connotations and recount the immigration history in Brazil; they often start with a couple in a small village in Europe and then continuing in Brazil, narrating the histories of adventure, hopes and dreams, loss, arriving in the new homeland, and the processes of integration. This is narratively constructed in Os Immigrantes, for example, on two levels, an onomastic one and a temporal one. The former can be traced by the names of the three protagonists who are all called ‘Antonio’ although they come from Italy, Portugal, and Spain. They allegorically symbolize their respective homelands and the historic migration movement to Brazil through independent, yet often intertwined, family histories. As the story progresses from the arrival of the Italian immigrants in the late nineteenth century to the present, it also transmits a sense of belonging and medially historicizes the migration processes through its linear narrative.

Narrating the Nation, Part Two—“To Make America” A useful concept that can be deployed for another kind of Brazilian telenovela was originally developed by the Brazilian historian Boris Fausto to describe migration to Latin America: “to make America,” which he used as the title of his book.18 This notion, which originally referred to processes of migration to Brazil, has now been revised and describes moving away from the country, stressing new forms of emigration and transmigration in telenovela narratives. For a long time, emigration was on the margins of the Brazilian social imaginary, in so far as it was almost exclusively related to the Brazilian borderlands and rarely entered mainstream life. In the 1960s, workers began to migrate within geographically limited areas, in particular the mine workers and traders in twin cities bordering on Bolivia, Colombia, Guayana, and Peru,19 and the Brasiguayos’s (Brazilian Paraguayans) agricultural migrations to Paraguay; the historically debated region of South Brazil was rather an exception to this pattern. 20 On a smaller scale, they left for the old colonial empire Portugal. 21 Emigration to the United States was particularly due to two reasons. First, the phenomenon of the city of Governador Valadares, with the creation of a collective imaginary of a “land of opportunity” in North America, after the establishment of U.S. fi rms in that region and the initiation of a steady commerce. 22 Second, there is the emigration that occurred during the military dictatorship, 23 often linked to Brazilian musicians such as Tom Jobim and Vinicius Moraes. But only in

130 Gundo Rial y Costas the 1980s was a more sustainable level of emigration to the U.S. observed, and new migration patterns developed. Of particular relevance here is the emergence of transnational social spaces, with a new and dynamic potential for the making of social ties and relationships, which can be even stronger than those occurring in the space of one’s geographical origins. 24 Closely linked to this development is the notion of transmigration. This term, going beyond established binary and static defi nitions of migration, refers to persons who move and live in new social spaces. These migrating subjects maintain networks in at least two societies, the home and host societies, and participate in both of them. 25 Consequently, these terms do not refer only to leaving a country, but describe the spaces and routes covered by migrants who oscillate between leaving and coming back. The telenovela Pátria Minha (1994) was the fi rst attempt at depicting the new migration patterns of Brazilians leaving their country. However, in this series, these aspects were explored rather marginally: the theme was engaged only in the fi rst few chapters, limited to only one narrative thread which was soon discontinued. No attention was paid to more dynamic processes such as transmigration. Pátria Minha (My Homeland) was the last of a trilogy (following Vale Tudo and O Dono do Mundo) that describes corruption and righteousness in Brazil. It focuses on the dispute between a rich family in Rio de Janeiro and others of a more humble background, structured around an event in which a young girl witnesses the rich businessman Pellegrini kill a person in a car accident and try to get away with it by bribing possible witnesses. The narrative centers on the girl’s hesitation and fear about the consequences of testifying against him, thus symbolizing the struggle for honesty and righteousness. In a parallel narrative thread, Pedro, who has returned from the U.S. with his wife, Ester, and his son, Gabriel, is shocked to learn that his family has had to move to a shantytown. When the owner of this property, the above mentioned Pellegrini, gives orders to demolish the slum settlement, Pedro organizes a revolt against him. This plot summary shows how the theme of migration, although present, does not significantly determine the structure of the narrative. In general, one could link the ‘homeland’ in the title of the telenovela to a possible life choice between the U.S. and Brazil. The telenovela argues in favor of the homeland, even transmitting a warning regarding what might happen to one’s family if one decides to leave home. Pedro’s story is a short but vivid subplot about a family’s emigration from Rio de Janeiro. After eight years in New York, Pedro, Ester, and Gabriel return home. Although they made a reasonable living there, both parents had to work at jobs for which they are overqualified. Despite the fact that their son will not have the same future prospects as in the U.S., homesickness for family, friends, food, the beach, and the excitement of watching their favorite football team fi nally convinces them to return for

The Trans/migrant in the Spotlight 131 good. Back in Brazil, they encounter a deplorable situation: their family had lost all the money from the remittances that Pedro had sent home and were reduced to living in a favela, a shantytown. However, from this point on, no reference is made to immigration or life in the United States, as the drama then focuses on Brazil’s problems with power, democracy, and corruption. Gilberto Braga, the author of this telenovela, draws a picture in which migration might bring wealth at a considerable cost and at the same time lead to problems, as the migrating family has to cope with reintegration when they return home. Life has continued, people have changed, and their home (country) is not as it used to be. Far from representing the migrants as ‘winners’ as a result of their passage abroad, they are shown in an in-between state, as people who had a dream but failed to achieve it completely. The character of the son, Gabriel, illustrates this point in particular ways. Socialized in the U.S. and speaking English at school, he has become culturally American. Moving back to Brazil and the life of poverty that awaits his family is even more daunting for him. This is symbolized, for example, by the fact that he played the cello in New York but can no longer do so in Rio. Yet, as the representation of emigration was limited to the first chapters of Patria Minha and to a secondary narrative thread in the multiplot, the repercussions in the Brazilian public were limited and did not spur general debates about leaving the country or not. These fi rst attempts at depicting emigrants and their lives were fi nally reinforced in 2005 with the transnational migration saga América. This telenovela, written by Gloria Pérez, which aired for eight months and was immensely successful with audiences, placed the migrants’ passages, lives, and destinies at the center of the narrative, and portrayed the people who traveled between various host societies. The story centers on Sol, who tries to fulfill her own American dream by leaving Brazil and her boyfriend, Tião, behind. Numerous parallel plots follow the lives of other people who also try to fulfi ll their dreams of moving to the U.S., becoming famous in Brazil, reuniting with a lost love, or building their own home. The plotlines focus primarily on Tião’s and Sol’s families, with settings in diverse places within three countries. In Brazil, the settings include the rural areas of the state of São Paulo on the farm of the widow Dona Neuta, in the mansion of the industrial magnate Glauco in the affluent South Rio de Janeiro, and in a street in the lower middle-class area of Vila Isabel in the rather poor North Rio de Janeiro. Then, in Mexico, they are set on the border, in a small, poor village near El Paso. Finally, the locations in the U.S. include an immigrant’s boarding house in Miami run by a Mexican woman, Consuelo; the house of a university lecturer, Ed; and the loft and art studio of a rich teacher, May. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the transnational references, these settings help showcase a panorama of Brazilian society, only marginalizing the representation of the poorest segment of the society.


Gundo Rial y Costas

The 203 chapters of América focus on the lives of almost a hundred characters (numerous even for a Brazilian telenovela), but with a special focus on Sol. After being caught and deported twice, she fi nally manages to cross the border into the U.S. and lives among other, mostly illegal, Latin American migrants in Miami. There, she works at a wide range of odd jobs: preparing sandwiches, cleaning houses, posing as a tableau vivant, babysitting, dancing as a go-go girl in a nightclub, and testing medicine for a pharmaceutical enterprise. After some time, Sol falls in love with the middle-class university lecturer Ed, with whom she has a baby. Despite the manipulations of the villain, May, and her deportation in the last part of the series, in the end, Sol remains with her new love from the United States. The telenovela places particular focus on the difficulty of raising money for passage and getting into the U.S., which tightened its migration restrictions considerably after 9/11, and on the problems of living there illegally in silence. Unlike in Pátria Minha, in América, the protagonist Sol is from a shantytown and the majority of the migrants depicted are also from rather humble backgrounds. They have to fight for survival, frequently working at degrading jobs inferior to the ones they had back home, and they are often exploited or ignored in the new land of dreams.

NEW PROTAGONISTS OF THE NATION’S NARRATION: EMIGRANTS AND TRANSMIGRANTS Contemporary migrants tend to be marginalized by the Brazilian telenovela industry. On the occasions in which they are integrated into the narratives, they appear as historical characters, separated from the present and idealized as part of the process of nation building. Thus, in important ways, América breaks with the existing representational practices in telenovelas and opens up a new and paradigmatic space within which migrants and their experiences become a central issue. The ordeals of leaving the country, going through the rites of passage, through liminal spaces, 26 and arriving in the new homeland are brought to light. For the fi rst time in Brazilian telenovela history, the passage and the liminal spaces are visualized by Brazilians leaving their country, flying into Mexico, contracting a coyote to guide them through the desert, and fi nally crossing the border into the U.S. As a consequence, América connects to the existing debate about Latinos entering the U.S. and the meaning of the borderlands for them. 27 New dynamic forms and patterns of migration are introduced that stress the routes, not the roots, 28 and place (trans) migrants at the center of attention. América achieves this through its narrative structure, which stresses the rites of passage as well as ordinary life. All of the narrative threads in this telenovela are connected to the locations in Rio de Janeiro, the

The Trans/migrant in the Spotlight 133 U.S.-Mexico border, São Paulo, and Miami and depict different types of (trans)migrants. First, the Brazilian protagonist, Sol, is a tourist turned emigrant and then transmigrant who faithfully sends remittances back home. Second, the North American rodeo champion, Nick, who commutes between the U.S. and Brazil, embodies the typical cosmopolitan transmigrant who does not have any problems leaving and entering the different countries. A different but very common type of migrant is shown by the coyotes who operate on a transnational level in Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. Finally, the illegal Latin American migrants living in Miami also turn into transmigrants when they win the coveted green card at the end of the telenovela. These characters include Inesita, Rosario, and Mercedes, whose perilous passage through the Mexican desert before entering the U.S. is part of the drama. In the beginning, the number of viewers of América was not as high as expected, leading Rede Globo to commission a sociological survey a month after the initial screening, an established practice when audience ratings are weak. 29 A discussion group was convened in which a group of telenovela experts, called noveleiras, watched some of the chapters together with academics and executives from Rede Globo. They came to several conclusions regarding specific flaws in the program and realized that the audience could not fully identify with the characters, which led them to stop watching the program. One of the major reasons for this was understood to be Sol’s original reason for going to the U.S. as a tourist in order to visit Disneyland. It appeared that many spectators could not develop empathy for and identify with a telenovela character who left her country for such frivolous and self-serving reasons. Gloria Pérez thus revised the script and, consequently, Sol’s destiny by converting her into an emigrant rather than a tourist. Flashbacks were inserted into the narrative structure to modify the plot. These references portray Sol talking to her family and deciding to work in the U.S. to raise money for her stepfather’s heart operation. As a consequence, the girl’s original motivation—considered selfi sh and therefore rejected by the viewers— was transformed into one of love for her family. 30 Moreover, it was contextualized within existing migration patterns of Brazilians who emigrate and send remittances back home. The modifi cations were accepted by the Brazilian public and regarded as positive, as reflected by a substantial and steady increase in audience numbers.

MEDIAL REENACTMENTS AND NARRATIVE CONSTRUCTIONS OF BORDER CROSSINGS In the following, I will stress the specific case of the narrative of América and the way in which medial reenactments may place migrants and migration into the limelight of medial and public interest.


Gundo Rial y Costas

Gloria Pérez combines real and fictitious elements in her telenovelas. In América, factual and well-researched accounts of border crossings and migration are incorporated into the fictional narrative plots. The author interviewed people who had emigrated to the U.S., received a dossier from the U.S. Embassy about border crossings into the country, and used interviews by a historian who had interviewed more than 700 Brazilians living in New York as the basis for her narrative. 31 The collected material and the resulting story were charged with a specific meaning by the author, linking the real to the dramatic. In some cases in América, real elements or objects become leitmotifs for the whole plot. For example, Sol crosses the border into the U.S. hidden in a TV cardboard box. What might appear exaggerated or ridiculous (and typical of melodrama) actually reenacts the documented case of a Cuban woman who mailed herself in a TV cardboard box to the U.S. via the Bahamas. 32 The author fictionalizes this factual event to represent the desperation and difficulty of immigrant dreams. The continuation of the narrative illustrates this. After the box containing Sol arrives at the unsuspecting Ed’s apartment, she tries to sneak past him out to the streets. Ed is entranced by the young woman’s face; he keeps thinking about her nationality, makes constant references to the box she arrived in, and is angry when his fiancée fi nally throws it away. His obsession with the “cardboard box woman” becomes so strong that Ed, who assumes that the woman is from Latin America, begins to look for her in the areas of Miami with a dense Latino population. When he fi nds her, Sol is working as a go-go dancer in a Latin bar. This may be read on several levels: the image of Sol arriving in a cardboard box that previously contained a television set playfully points to the protagonist in a telenovela. Further, Ed’s search for Sol may refer to the Westerner’s desire for the exotic or unknown, symbolized by the Brazilian woman. 33 Pérez links the diverse geographical spaces in which the migrants in the story live through her intelligent use of cut techniques: Sol’s fi rst border-crossing attempt, with the Mexican sisters Inesita and Rosario and their Aunt Mercedes, connects to scenes in Miami in which Consuelo, Mercedes’ sister, describes her experiences to the newly arrived Brazilian woman, Helô. At the same time, the story of Consuelo’s crossing into the U.S. in a van under a box of vegetables is being told from two perspectives: by Consuelo herself as someone who has arrived, and by Mercedes, who is still on the border. The position of the listeners is also important. Helô, who hears the story from Consuelo, has arrived legally from Brazil with her husband, whereas Consuelo’s daughters, Inesita and Rosario, have been separated from their mother at the U.S.-Mexico border and are now at the mercy of a coyote. The shifts back and forth from the two locations, Miami and the U.S.-Mexico border, reflect migration as a movement between two spaces and as a connection that needs to be drawn in order to reunite Consuelo’s family.

The Trans/migrant in the Spotlight 135 NEW IMAGINARY HOMELANDS—QUO VADIS BRAZILIAN MIGRANT? The representation of new homelands in América is constantly linked to physical migration and border(lands), and the migrants are an integral and characterizing part of the story. The migrant narrative must be regarded as a significant thematic innovation, as the structural pattern of Brazilian telenovelas will usually stress social ascension in Brazil rather than transnational geographical movement. If the structural pattern is of a geographical nature and involves migration, then it has traditionally been represented as moving from the periphery or the outskirts of a big Brazilian city to the urban center, or it has depicted the movement from one region to another, generally from the northeast to the south. If it focused on transnationality, its purpose involved highlighting processes of immigration to Brazil. This strategy was aimed at consolidating the representation of the nation-state, using audiovisual means to participate in the project of nation building. That probably explains why the depiction of emigration has not played a major role in audiovisual representations. América further introduced the issue of the consequences of the Brazilian diaspora to the U.S., a phenomenon that has barely made an appearance on TV but has found its way into Brazilian collective memory, through popular music in particular. The previously mentioned examples of the Brazilian musicians Tom Jobim and Vinicius Moraes during the military dictatorship created the image of affluent Brazilian intellectuals or musicians working in Hollywood or on Broadway during their exile. Cultural references to other types of migrants were less present, let alone documentation of the ones who entered the country illegally through the U.S.-Mexican borderland. These migrating subjects, often with limited economic resources and forced to live in the shadow of the existing society due to fear of being deported, were not made visible, at least in the format of the telenovela, until América was aired. The voices of these people were simply not heard in Brazilian melodrama. I am aware that América does not reproduce the voices of the unheard. Still, I argue that through Pérez’s ethnographic research for the series, we may at least retrace the echoes of these voices.34 Interceptions at the Mexican-American border, shootings of immigrants by minutemen35 as if these people were animals, the hardships in the new homelands due to the lack of economic, social, and linguistic resources, and the psychological and physical harassment by coyotes all evidence this subaltern underpinning. The latter examples are also mirrored in a transnational and distorted way by the characters in Consuelo’s boarding house in Miami. Consuelo, the illegal owner, only accepts Latin American boarders. Mexicans, Brazilians, and Cubans live together, creating a microcosmic mundo latino, a Latin American world, and a distorted mirror of the existing Latino diaspora in the U.S. They interact socially in different ways, often frequenting a Latin


Gundo Rial y Costas

bar where they dance to tropical rhythms such as salsa, merengue, rumba, and bachata, sung by Geraldito, an exiled Cuban who also lives in Consuelo’s boarding house. In this way, the migrants construct an imagined panAmerican identity based on shared cultural values, such as language, food, and immigrant destiny.36 The construction is complemented by references to the migrants’ illegal status, integration problems, and fear of learning and speaking English. A sharp contrast between the locations in the telenovela also accentuates the differences between Latinos and U.S. citizens. On the one hand, there are the poor Latino areas in Miami, the infamous Little Haiti and Little Havana, where Latinos live with other migrants from Asia and Africa and have little contact with the mainstream U.S. population. On the other hand, the U.S. teachers Miss May and Miss Jane live in spacious, richly decorated apartments surrounded by mansions in an upscale area of downtown Miami. The characters from these different places meet at work, a school with an integrated kindergarten attended by Ricky, the child of a Brazilian couple at Consuelo’s boarding house. Due to their different perspectives on life and education, the teachers often have difficulties dealing with the Brazilian parents. This confl ict allegorizes the more general problems of the integration of Latinos in the U.S. For example, Ricky is scolded by the teachers because he kissed a classmate. The parents are called in, and Miss May and Miss Jane complain about Ricky’s “Latin American conduct,” which they deem inappropriate in the U.S. On another level, this allegorical construction is reflected in the two teachers’ repeated conversations with the Brazilian-born auxiliary teacher, Tony. The latter defends the Latinos’ contribution to the American Dream and argues that their presence enriches the country’s culture. In particular, Miss May has prejudices against the Latino immigrants, describing them with generalizations that refer to their supposed laziness, unpunctuality, and untrustworthiness, fearing a possible “invasion” by them. The stereotypical semantics linking Latin Americans to problems and danger are further emphasized by conservative views about Latino immigrants and a polarizing semantic of ‘we’ and ‘you’ that places U.S. citizens and immigrants into different categories. Against this backdrop one might argue that Latin American migrants in the U.S. are represented in América as if they are living in a dynamic in-between state. On the one hand, there are some tendencies which testify to the construction of a new form of Latino diaspora in the U.S., which is, however, still in a decisive moment of development, as many of its integrants are only in that country for a limited time span or oscillate between several countries as transmigrants. On the other hand, there are clear hints at their marginalization by the majority of U.S. citizens and the latter’s lack of interest in integrating these new groups into a new multicultural national project.

The Trans/migrant in the Spotlight 137 CONCLUSION In the preceding analysis, and following Appadurai’s theoretical approach, I have mapped several mediascapes referring to the construction of images of the migrant and migration in telenovelas ranging from early ones of the consolidation of the Brazilian nation-state to ones that depict emigration to the U.S. To provide a background for the medium, I emphasized the relevance of these telenovelas for Brazilian society. By historically contextualizing migration to Brazil and referring to several audiovisual narratives, I highlighted a shift in migration patterns and noted the emergence of a new representation pattern: one that also depicts emigration and transmigration, as we can see through the example of América. There, the migrants and their daily lives are foregrounded in an innovative way, including negative aspects such as the dangers of border crossing and living illegally in the new country. In this way, I have tried to contribute to studies that deconstruct, and therefore challenge, the stigmatization of migrants. Critically speaking, I am aware that in a medium like the telenovela, which is crucially influenced by market demands, subaltern migrating subjects might not speak for themselves; but at least there are some echoes of their voices. As these audiovisual products are intended to arouse people’s emotions, one could argue that they spur empathy and a feeling of solidarity with migrants, which may initiate public debates about the improvement of their condition as stigmatized social actors. Regarding América, similar reactions have been observed. As a matter of fact, after this telenovela was aired, interest in migrants and their fate increased in Brazil, which led to other projects that engaged this situation. The latter was exemplified by extensive media coverage and the creation of virtual spaces on the Internet for people who had crossed the border into the U.S. and who wanted to share their experiences or support others in similar situations. 37 This contributed to the consolidation of a debated media space in the Brazilian public that had never before dealt with these types of migration processes. Now it remains to be seen if the varied mediascapes in América about migrants and their routes will be followed by others, thus paving the way for privileging representations of migration that stress cultural diversity and the emancipatory potential of the subaltern and marginalized.38

NOTES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Appadurai, Modernity 1996, 52. Appadurai, Modernity; and idem, Disjuncture and Difference. Appadurai, Disjuncture and Difference, 52. Butler, Excitable Speech, 7. Monsiváis, Aires de Familia, 231. Bhabha, Location, 7; and Clifford, Routes, 37. Vasallo Lopes, Internacionalização e Interculturalidade, 16.


Gundo Rial y Costas

8. In Brazil, printing presses were not introduced until the nineteenth century, more than 250 years after Mexico. 9. Cruz Brittos, Rede Globo, 5. 10. Hamburger, O Brasil, 105. 11. Talk given by the telenovela dramatist Rubens Rewald at the Research Center for Telenovela and Television (Núcleo de Pesquisa em Televisão e Telenovela) at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP), on April 21, 2007. Occasionally, a historical series was aired in place of a comedy, and later in the evenings, at 10 p.m., experimental ones were broadcast. 12. Cf. Alencar, Hollywood Brasileira. 13. As shown by Alencar’s idealized foundational fictions, such as Iracema and O Guarani, which depict romances between indigenous people and Portuguese immigrants. See Sommer, Foundational Fictions, 154. 14. In 2008, there were numerous celebrations of the centennial of Japanese migration to Brazil. Nowadays, some of the descendents have chosen to return to Japan, mostly for economic reasons. They are called dekasseguis. 15. Amaral and Fusco, “Shaping Brazil,” 2. 16. For instance, the history of the slave trade and the arrival of African slaves was almost totally omitted from the narratives. And in telenovelas such as A Escrava Isaura (1977–78), the protagonist of African origin was played by a white actress. An exception was Sinha Moça (1986), which tells the story of the hardships of African immigrants in the years before the abolition of slavery in Brazil. 17. Rede Globo’s headquarters and production studios are in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. These two cities are also used as specific economic and cultural reference points on a national level. In the telenovelas, this is highlighted through the repeated focus on images of the Rio de Janeiro beach landscape and of São Paulo city life. 18. Cf. Fausto, Fazer a América. 19. For an excellent iconographic CD-ROM by the Brazilian border research group Retis, see Machado, Albúm Iconográfico. 20. The southern state Rio Grande do Sul had reached independence in the nineteenth century; see the minisserie (short telenovela) Casa das Sete Mulheres (2003). Since then, the frontiers with Argentina and Uruguay have been particularly elastic and permeated by smuggling and migration processes; see Chiappini, Cone Sul. 21. As depicted by Walter Salles’s fi lm Terra Estrangeira (1996), about a Brazilian and his migration ‘the other way round’ to Portugal and then Spain. 22. Cf. de Oliveira Assis, Emigrantes Brasileiros, 199. 23. Hoerder, Cultures in Contact, 531. 24. Pries, Transnational Social Spaces, 5; Portes, Conceptual and Methodological Developments. 25. Basch, Glick Schiller, and Blanc, Nations Unbound, 7; Dias, Redes, 2. 26. Van Gennep, Les Rites de Passage, 24; Turner, Ritual Process, 94–96. 27. This is particularly due to the Chicano debate in the U.S. (cf. Saldívar, Border Matters) and to the elaboration of the spiritual, and cultural metaphorization by Gloria Anzaldúa (Anzaldúa, Borderlands; idem, Interviews). One has to remark, however, that the Chicanos’ claim has a historic precedence. Therefore it is not aimed at a new territory as the one of the Brazilians in the U.S. diaspora, but at one that belonged to their ancestors. 28. Clifford, Routes, 37. 29. In Brazil, the audience is measured by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics (IBOPE). If a telenovela does not reach a set target rate, the producers develop strategies to modify the narrative.

The Trans/migrant in the Spotlight 139 30. See Castro’s article “Novela das Seis” about this issue. 31. See Sebe Bom Meihi’s corresponding and superb ethnographic study, Brasil Fora de si. 32. See the media coverage and the articles by the journalists Daniel Castro, A Hora do Pesadelo; and Laura Mattos, Beijinho. 33. Regarding fi lm theoretical approaches on “denotation” and “connotation” see Monaco, How to Read a Film, 181. 34. See Spivak’s discussion of the concept of the “subaltern,” questioning representation and asking who is represented by whom; Spivak, “Subaltern,” 271, 273, 278. Later, the author noted that the subaltern has lost its defi nitive power, as it was originally used to defi ne the subject of the unheard, but was currently used by all groups to claim what it did not yet have (Spivak, “Reader,” 281). 35. Minutemen are self-organized groups of xenophobic Americans who try to defend the U.S.-Mexico border by violent and inhumane means, such as shooting people trying to enter the country. 36. Following Anderson, I use the term ‘imaginary,’ as the author Gloria Pérez constructs a Luso-Hispano-American diaspora hybrid that does not exist in reality, as people from Brazilian and other Latin backgrounds usually do not mix in the U.S. See Kothe, “Migração.” 37. Cf. the pages of the Brazilian Web site Acontece.com (http://www.acontece. com), which offered (transnational) migrants columns for manifesting their experiences. 38. I am grateful to the Núcleo de Pesquisa em Televisão e Telenovela, Universidade de São Paulo, its staff, and particularly to Professor Immacolata Vasallo Lopes for providing me access to their media archive and for stimulating conversations about the intriguing and colorful world of the telenovela.

WORKS CITED Acontece.com. http://www.acontece.com (accessed December 10, 2009). Alencar, Mauro. A Hollywood Brasileira: um Panorama da Telenovela no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: SENAC, 2002. A Escrava Isaura. Telenovela. TV Rede Globo, 1977/1978. América. Telenovela. TV Rede Globo, 2005. Amaral, Ernesto Friedrich, and Wilson Fusco. “Shaping Brazil: The Role of International Migration.” http://migrationinformation.org/Profi les/print.cfm?ID=311 (accessed December 3, 2008). Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 1994. Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 1987. . Interviews/Entrevistas. New York: Routledge, 2000. Appadurai, Arjun. “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Economy.” In The Anthropology of Globalization, edited by Jonathan Xavier Inda and Renato Rosaldo. Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell, 2003. . Modernity at Large. 1996. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2007. Assis, Gláucia De Oliveira. “Emigrantes Brasileiros para os Estados Unidos e a (Re)construção da Identidade Etnica.” In Raizes e Rumos: Perspectivas Interdisciplinares em Estudos Americanos, edited by Sonia Torres. Rio de Janeiro: Editora 7 Letras, 1997.


Gundo Rial y Costas

Basch, Linda, Nina Glick Schiller, and Cristina Szanton Blanc. Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritoralized Nation-States. New York: Routledge, 1994. Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture, 7. New York: Routledge, 1994. . Nation and Narration. New York: Routledge, 1990. Bolaño, César and Cruz Brittos, Valério. Rede Globo: 40 Anos de Poder e Hagamonia. São Paulo: Paulus, 2005. Butler, Judith. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. London: Routledge, 1997. Casa das Sete Mulheres. Telenovela. TV Rede Globo, 2003. Castro, Daniel. “A Hora do Pesadelo.” Folha de São Paulo, April 17, 2005. . “Novela das Seis da Rede Globo terá Reencarnacao.” Folha de São Paulo, May 6, 2005. Chiappini, Ligia, and Maria Helena Martins. Cone Sul: Fluxos, Representações e Percepções. São Paulo: Hucitec, 2006. Clifford, James. Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997. Cruz Brittos, Valério. Rede Globo: 40 Anos de Poder e Hegemonia, 5. São Paulo: Paulus, 2005. Dias, Leila, and Rógerio Silveiro. Redes, Sociedades e Territorios, 2. Santa Cruz do Sul: EDUNISC, 2005. Esperança. Telenovela. TV Rede Globo, 2002/2003. Fausto, Boris. Fazer a América. São Paulo: Edusp, 1999. Hamburger, Esther. O Brasil Antenado. Rio De Janeiro: Editora Jorge Zahar, 2005. Hoerder, Dirk. Cultures in Contact: World Migrations in the Second Millennium. London: Duke University Press, 2002. Kothe, Mercedes G. “Migração, Integração, Identidade.” Agora 2, no. 2 (July/ December 1997): 55. Machado, Lia Osario. Albúm Iconográfico da Fronteira Continental do Brasil. CD-ROM. Rio de Janeiro: CNPQ/UFRJ, 2003. Margolis, Maxine. An Invisible Minority: Brazilians in New York City. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1998. Mattoss, Laura. “Beijinho, Beijinho, Tchau, Tchau.” Folha de São Paulo, November 4, 2005. Monaco, James. How to Read a Film. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981. Monsiváis, CARLOS. Aires de Familia. Mexico City: Anagrama, 2000. Os Imigrantes. Telenovela. Bandeirantes, 1981/1982. Pátria Minha. Telenovela. TV Rede Globo, 1994/1995. Portes, Alejandro, and Josh DeWind. Conceptual and Methodological Developments in the Study of International Migration. New York: Center for Migration Studies, 2004. Pries, Ludger. Transnational Social Spaces. London: Routledge, 2001. Rewald, Rubens. “Telenovela e Teledramaturgia.” Unpublished lecture presented at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP), April 21, 2007. Saldívar, José David. Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Salles, Walter. Terra Estrangeira. Rio de Janeiro: Rio Filme, 1996. Sebe Bom Meihi, José Carlos. Brasil Fora de si: Experiencias de Brasileiros em Nova York. São Paulo: Parabola, 2004. Sinha Moça. Telenovela. TV Rede Globo, 1986. Sommer, Doris. Foundational Fictions. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

The Trans/migrant in the Spotlight 141 Spivak, Gayatri. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, edited by Cary Nelson. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987. . The Spivak Reader. New York: Routledge, 1996. Terra Estrangeira. Directed by Walter Salles. Videofi lmes, 1996. Terra Nostra. Telenovela. TV Rede Globo, 1999. Turner, Victor. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. 1969. New York: Gruyter, 1995. Van Gennep, Arnold. Les Rites de Passage [The rites of passage]. 1909. Paris: Mouton, 1969. Vasallo Lopes, Immacolata. Vivendo com a Telenovela: Mediações, Recepção, Teleficionalidade. São Paulo: Summus Editorial, 2002. . Telenovela, Internacionalização e Interculturalidade. São Paulo: Loyola, 2003. Vida Nova. Telenova. Rede Globo, 1988–1989.

Part III

Traveling Sounds Music and Migration


Migratory Objects in the Balkans When the Sound of the Other Sounds Strangely Familiar 1

Maria Boletsi

The intensification of cross-cultural exchange and the dissolution of boundaries as a result of global movements and communication have almost become commonplaces that accompany a celebratory view on globalization and postnationalism. In practice, however, this loosening of national and cultural borders often generates a vehement adherence to notions of national purity and fierce confl icts over the origins of cultural commodities that enter the global market. The free travel of elements due to processes of globalization and the simultaneous intensification of nationalism and ethnic violence in the last two decades do not form a paradox, but are directly associated. People resort to nationalism in their effort to regain some sense of certainty about their identity and status in the world. As Arjun Appadurai writes: where the lines between us and them may have always, in human history, been blurred at the boundaries and unclear across large spaces and big numbers, globalization exacerbates these uncertainties and produces new incentives for cultural purification as more nations lose the illusion of national economic sovereignty or well-being. 2 Paradoxically, then, the cultural objects that nations come to share as a result of movement and migration are precisely what divides them, especially when there is disagreement about their ownership or national ‘origins.’ Greek coffee and Turkish coffee is one and the same thing, but if you call Greek coffee ‘Turkish’ in Greece, or vice versa, you are most likely to receive strange or angry looks. And I suspect that many people in the Netherlands, the country where I live, would not like to be reminded that their most typical national product—the tulip—originated in Turkey and Central Asia and was only introduced to the Netherlands in the sixteenth century. People are unwilling to concede that things they are convinced are theirs—their national property, their cultural heritage—are actually foreign, migratory objects. In an attempt to conceal the foreign origins of ‘domestic’ cultural objects, a process of ‘barbarization’ of neighboring nations and their


Maria Boletsi

culture is often set in motion. Normally, the construction of the other as ‘barbarian’ is supposedly grounded in irreducible difference. However, the construction of difference as a precondition for the barbarization of the other can have diverse and even opposing motivations. To put it differently, in the construction of the other as barbarian, radical difference is always the fi nal product, but not necessarily the starting point. The process of barbarization can thus also be motivated by our similarity to the other, which can be just as threatening to the self as difference. As a result, the barbarian can be identified not only in the ‘absolute Other,’ but also in the face of a neighbor—a neighbor with whom we might share a past and have a lot in common in the present; yet, precisely because of that commonality, we wish to solidify the borders between us in the most steadfast way possible. In this chapter, I probe the above phenomenon in the context of nationalism by focusing on the migration of cultural objects in the Balkans and the fight for their ‘ownership.’ More specifically, I follow the migratory journey of a popular song in the Balkans as it unravels in Bulgarian fi lmmaker Adela Peeva’s documentary fi lm Whose Is This Song? (Chia e tazi pesen? 2003).3 The fi lm’s journey across Balkan nations becomes an occasion for exploring the complex function of geographical and ideological boundaries in the Balkans, as well as the violence and hostility to which migratory objects can give rise when they trespass foreign territories and unsettle national narratives. The film underscores the thin line that separates hospitality from hostility when a foreign object (the song) and its human carrier (here, the filmmaker) cross Balkan borders and turn up at the threshold of each nation.4 At the beginning of her documentary, Adela Peeva explains how she embarked on the journey of making Whose Is This Song? in a voiceover: I was in Istanbul with friends from other Balkan countries—a Greek, a Macedonian, a Turk, a Serb and me, a Bulgarian. There I heard the song I want to tell you about. As soon as we heard the song, everyone claimed this song came from his own country. Then we started a fierce fight—whose is this song? I knew from my childhood the song was Bulgarian. I wanted to fi nd out why the others also claimed the song was theirs. The fi lm starts with a warm and hospitable image: a group of friends from different Balkan countries sitting around the table in a tavern in Istanbul, eating, drinking, listening to live music, having fun. It is a celebratory microcosmic image of a multicultural community enjoying a multicultural feast. This is how things would go in the best-case scenario of globalization. However, such idealized imagery of cross-cultural encounters in a borderless world has more often than not been

Migratory Objects in the Balkans 147 disproved by reality. In the fi lm, this image is soon disrupted when the people around the table get into an argument regarding the origins of a song that the Turkish band is playing in the background. Seventy minutes later, the fi lm ends with a dark image of fi re and chaos, as fi remen and civilians from a Bulgarian village struggle to put out a forest fi re, initiated by fi reworks and gunshots during a celebration of the Bulgarian struggle against Ottoman rule. This transformation of happy multiculturalism into an image of violence and destruction is gradually laid out in the fi lm. The object of controversy is a haunting song, the ownership of which appears to be claimed by every Balkan country. Peeva, holding the memory of the song from her own childhood in Bulgaria, is surprised and intrigued to discover that there are more suitors involved. She therefore sets out on a journey with her fi lm crew across the Balkans, passing through Turkey, Greece, Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia, Serbia and, fi nally, Bulgaria, in search of the song’s origins and its ‘owner(s).’ She soon realizes that the song is sung everywhere in the Balkans and has been adapted into different genres in every region: a sentimental song in an old Turkish melodrama, a love ballad, a song about poverty and the lower classes, a military march, a religious hymn, a song for a gypsy femme fatale, a patriotic anthem to arouse the national spirit. In each of its transformations, the song serves disparate cultural and political objectives and becomes invested with a different national imaginary. 5 Peeva seeks out and visits people who can provide her with information about the song in each country she visits. Almost all the people she meets stubbornly claim the song as their own and devise elaborate stories to prove that the song’s origins are indissolubly linked with their nation. The fi lmmaker’s encounters with her interviewees become occasions for deep-rooted nationalism, strong feelings of superiority and difference, and negative stereotyping of the neighboring nations to manifest themselves. Contrary to the common saying that music unites people; contrary to the celebratory spirit of European unity and togetherness that is supposedly represented annually by the Eurovision song contest; and, fi nally, contrary to the fi lmmaker’s own initial intentions to follow a song that unites the Balkans, the documentary becomes an exploration of nationalism, hostility, and ethnic confl icts that still impose rigid boundaries among Balkan nations. In a world of increasing globalization, migration, and multiculturalism, the fi lm shows people in the Balkans to be fighting for the copyright of cultural objects, with an unshakable belief in the myths about their origin and a steadfast denial of their migratory nature. The documentary demonstrates the absurdity of any attempt at proving cultural purity and ownership. In so doing, it foregrounds the paradox of people who seem to have so much in common, yet who would be willing to defend the authenticity and uniqueness of their culture and history to the death.


Maria Boletsi

The fi lm treats the song as a migratory object. Of course, treating an object as ‘migratory’ presupposes the acknowledgement of this object as a foreign entity, migrating into ‘our’ space. Instead, the fi lm shows that the song’s foreign identity is concealed in each nation as the song is integrally incorporated into each country’s national myth. The disruption of notions of self and home when what is supposedly ‘ours’ turns out to carry traces of foreignness, becomes one of the key elements in the film and in my theoretical ventures in this chapter. If the neighbor is constructed as a barbarian so that the national self can sustain its superior identity, what happens when this barbarian other is shown to share cultural products that are the same, only slightly different? What happens when the self is forced to recognize a (minimally altered) image of itself in others? I will argue that the unsettling of certainties and local habits that takes place in the fi lm turns fi xed boundaries and distinctions into spaces of negotiation. In these spaces, the migratory object acquires agency over sovereign national narratives. My discussion of the song as a migrating object will be framed within the particularities of the situation in the Balkans. Although they are filtered through this local context, the issues raised in the film resonate well beyond the Balkans and expose their relatedness to several other contexts. This chapter centers on Peeva’s documentary and is not an independent ethnographic study of the song featured in this documentary.6 Therefore, my discussion of the song is inevitably filtered through the fi lm’s representation of the song’s travels and functions in each national community. This does not mean that I align myself with the film’s perspective. As I develop my arguments through my engagement with the fi lm, I am often critical of the narrative the film constructs, which is only one of the several possible narratives that could be told about the song’s travels and reception. Migrating objects need human agents who transfer them on their passage through places. They are indexes of people in transit—migrants, refugees, travelers.7 In each country, an encounter takes place between these migrants or travelers and their host nations. In this encounter, acts of ‘hospitality’ unfold in relation to the people as well as to the cultural objects they carry with them. In the film, on a first level, hospitality pertains to the reception of the song by each nation. On a second level, the filmmaker is a guest in each country and in the home of each person she visits. Standing at the boundaries between nations, she faces the laws of hospitality and the easy passage from hospitality to hostility or even violence. And yet again on a third level, a cultural object (the song) enters Peeva’s filmic narrative and raises the question of hospitality in relation to the fi lmmaker’s treatment of her object. Can the hospitality of the filmmaker—and by extension, of artists or cultural analysts with regard to their objects—be an unconditional welcome, or is it always regulated by certain laws set by the host? The antagonistic and often authoritative relation of host to guest is acted out in the film on multiple levels. I will show that the film manages to complicate and pluralize the meaning and functions of the concept of hospitality and of its constituent agents.

Migratory Objects in the Balkans 149 MYTHS, STEREOTYPES, NATIONALISM, AND OTHER STORIES OF BALKANISM In Whose Is This Song? the director chooses to be actively present in the documentary as protagonist and narrator, with occasional voice-overs. She positions herself from the beginning as a Bulgarian fi lmmaker—an insider within the complex constellation of the Balkan nations—and explains her personal relationship to the song. Her position as an ‘insider’ is, however, contestable. Despite her Bulgarian nationality, she is as much an outsider in the countries she visits as she is an insider. Accordingly, her journey can also be viewed as an ethnographic quest for the origins of a song. Such an approach would presuppose a participant-observer’s perspective. Nevertheless, her ambiguous position raises the question of what it means to be an insider or outsider in the Balkans. And the answer to this question is dependent on whether the Balkans are perceived as a homogeneous community or not. Peeva’s status as an insider would be supported if the Balkans are viewed as an indivisible semantic space and a homogeneous cultural entity, widely defi ned by shared Byzantine, Ottoman, and more recently, communist legacies. According to this representational mode, quite prevalent in the West, not much difference is recognized among Balkan countries.8 For example, in Samuel Huntington’s influential book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, differences between the Muslim and Orthodox populations in the Balkans are bypassed. Huntington’s study presents all Balkan nations as culturally similar and united under one signifier, denoting (Western) Europe’s ‘other.’9 This oversimplified image, which allows no serious consideration for internal confl icts, tensions, and contradictions within the Balkans, is quite dominant in Western popular and academic discourse. This image is sustained by biased or totalizing popular media representations, as well as by the insufficient knowledge of Europeans and Americans with regard to the complexity of Balkan issues. When Balkan issues and confl icts seem difficult to grasp, they are often ascribed to the Balkans’ alleged irrationality. Whose Is This Song? challenges this representational mode. As the film traverses the Balkans in search of the song, the viewer finds herself amidst a multiplicity of viewpoints and conflicting interpretative networks, which make a unified metanarrative of the region’s history untenable.10 The geographical and ideological boundaries of each Balkan nation are perceived as fi xed, yet at the same time they are highly contested and are colliding with the boundaries of other neighboring nations. But in their constant interpenetration, these boundaries are not zones of negotiation: They remain thin lines, triggering confl ict wherever they intersect. As the people interviewed in the fi lm vehemently declare their nation’s exclusive ownership of the song (with only two exceptions),11 the discussion about the song often leads to monologues about their nation. In their statements, the boundaries of their


Maria Boletsi

respective nations are invested with truth value, which makes them almost naturally opposed to those who fi nd themselves on the other side of the border. In their words, the nation emerges as a superior entity, its singularity based on exclusionary mechanisms and, primarily, on the ‘othering’ and vilification of the other Balkan nations. Here are a few examples: In Albania, a group of people in the street react strongly to Peeva’s suggestion that the song might be Greek or Serbian. One of them remarks, “Serbs can never do a song like this. The Serbs have no traditions.” Later on in the fi lm, an accordion player in Bosnia states that the song is so beautiful that it cannot be anything other than Bosnian. Upon hearing that the Serbs claim the song as well, an old Bosnian woman who sang the song in her youth exclaims, “My foot! It is ours!” In Serbia, a Christian Orthodox priest objects to the song’s assumed Romany origins, arguing that the Romany have no tradition and identity of their own but live parasitically on the traditions of others. There are undoubtedly gradations in the hostility with which people react to the suggestion that the song may not be originally theirs. Variations in people’s reactions depend fi rst of all on nation-specific parameters, such as recent or more remote historical traumas and memories. This is especially evident in the former Yugoslavia, where recent war traumas and suffering have led to increased anxiety and intolerance. Moreover, it is particularly in small rural villages and isolated regions closer to the borders of each country that Peeva faces the most fierce fanaticism and intractable nationalist positions. However, the reactions Peeva monitors are also determined by personspecific factors (disposition, profession, gender, age), as well as by the specific dynamics that developed from people’s encounters with the fi lmmaker. Remarkably, the majority of Peeva’s interviewees are men, whose reactions to the fi lmmaker are shaped not only by their own beliefs and prejudices, but also by the gender dynamics between them and the (female) fi lmmaker. Many of the men whom Peeva interviews interpret their encounter with the filmmaker in antagonistic terms. They therefore try to counter her position of power as a filmmaker and their supposedly passive position as her film’s ‘subjects’ by claiming their male superiority and overprojecting their masculinity. This antagonism is often expressed through aggressive comments and hostility, sexist clichés about gender roles, or sexual innuendo. In that spirit, Stovan, a Bulgarian armorer, tells Peeva: “What is a man without a knife? The same as a lady with no jewels.” His statement is not only a way of validating his profession as an armorer, but also a way of projecting his masculinity. A group of teenagers on motorcycles in Bulgaria indulge in racial slurs against Turks, Romany, and anyone who is not Bulgarian, while playing with knives: “The Turks and Gypsies are the worst nations. I feel like crushing them only at the sight of them. If they are not Bulgarian, they deserve a knife. We Bulgarians have to always support each other.”

Migratory Objects in the Balkans 151 The racial tension in this scene is combined with sexual aggression. This is registered not only in their words, but also in their appearance (some are half-naked) and in the look in their eyes, suggestive of sexual provocation toward the fi lmmaker. The gesture of tossing their knives, which accompanies their ‘death threat’ against all non-Bulgarians, is also a way of daring the fi lmmaker, who stands out among the other people present on the scene due to her threatening foreignness, both as a woman and as a fi lmmaker.12 The fi lmmaker’s role in these confrontations is hardly neutral and should not be overlooked. At points, Peeva seems to capitalize on the gender-related antagonism in order to elicit provocative statements and reactions. Certain scenes border on sensationalism. Therefore, most reactions in the aforementioned scenes need to be put in context. In order to understand them better, we have to treat them as what they are, literally reactions to the fi lmmaker’s presence and (not always neutral) inquiries. Stovan the armorer’s words are thus a response to Peeva’s question, “Do Bulgarians and knives go along well?”—a question that in itself anticipates a specific response. In the reactions of the Bulgarian teenagers, we need to add three other combined factors that frame the boys’ hate speech: Peeva suggests to them that the song may be Turkish; the lyrics of the Bulgarian version celebrate the struggle against the Turks; and fi nally, on that specific day, the Bulgarians in the region celebrate the Bulgarian uprising against the Turkish occupation. What is more, it is certainly no coincidence that when Peeva suggests the foreign origin of the song to her interviewees, most of the time she tests them by attributing the song to their nation’s ‘historical enemies.’ “Do you know that people say the song ‘Clear Moon’ is Turkish?” she asks the teenagers, as well as another group of people present in the Bulgarian celebration. The response she gets is thus as provocative as it is provoked: “This is the anthem of all Strandzha. You risk to be stoned if you say that it was a Turkish song.” The more that people’s reactions in front of the camera are portrayed as irrational or aggressive, the more the fi lmmaker’s supposed neutral position is sanctified and takes on an air of superiority. In the encounters that the film stages, national, racial, and religious fanaticism mix with gender problematics. The fi lmmaker’s interventions sometimes amplify instead of reduce the tension. However, what is common in the reactions of the people she interviews is their consistent wish to stay divided and not be placed under a ‘Balkan umbrella.’ Their mutually exclusive national narratives, based on the myth of the purity, homogeneity, and continuity of the nation, make it impossible to tell the history of the region—and of the song’s origins—in a way acceptable to all its actors.13 The Western construction of the Balkans as a unified signifier is debunked in the film, as the (Western) viewer’s stereotypical image of the Balkans is tested against a more complex reality. Consequently, Peeva’s initial intention to fi nd out the truth about the song’s originators turns out to be a


Maria Boletsi

utopian project. In the course of the fi lm, the question of the song’s origins is obscured, and it becomes clear that the song operates as a cultural commodity in the service of nationalism. Whose Is This Song? leaves the viewer with a rather bleak image of Balkan nations. Their nationalism, stubbornness, parochialism, and hostility surface as dominant elements of their disposition. Even in light-hearted or comical scenes the viewer is tempted to laugh at and not with them, as the comic effect is often caused by the irrationality that supposedly typifies the Balkan character. While the film is deconstructing certain Balkan stereotypes, it also helps confi rm others. Some of the stereotypes projected in the film correspond with Western representations of the Balkan character. The Balkans, according to Balkan historian Maria Todorova, have served as a repository of negative features, upon which the self-congratulatory image of the ‘European’ has been constructed. Since the beginning of the twentieth century “Balkanization” denotes “a reversion to the tribal, the backward, the primitive, the barbarian”; the Balkans are associated with industrial backwardness, irrational and superstitious cultures, and a lack of advanced social relations.14 Along the same lines, Slavoj Žižek points out that the Balkans have functioned as a site of “fantastic investments” and as “the Other of the West”: the place of savage ethnic conflicts long ago overcome by civilised Europe, the place where nothing is forgotten and nothing learned, where old traumas are being replayed again and again, where symbolic links are simultaneously devalued (dozens of cease-fires broken) and overvalued (the primitive warrior’s notions of honour and pride).15 As Žižek argues, the myths about the Balkans and the accompanying commonplaces about the region as “the madhouse of thriving nationalism” are a construction of the Western gaze, which takes pleasure in the spectacle of ethnic passions. ‘Balkanism,’ a term coined in analogy to ‘Orientalism’ to designate the Western representational mode and discursive construction of the Balkans, is sustained not only by the Western media and academia. It is also practiced by a number of Balkan intellectuals and fi lmmakers, who reiterate existing stereotypes and reaffi rm the othering of the Balkans by “perpetuating a trend of self-exoticism.”16 Peeva’s documentary also contributes to the negative stereotyping of the Balkans. Balkan men in the film often appear crude and uncivilized, projecting a macho attitude and confi rming the patriarchal structures of their societies.17 Other interviewees, such as a Turkish fi lmmaker who had his days of glory in the sixties and a Greek musician on the island of Lesbos, are shown to be irremediably nostalgic, caught up in the past and refusing to keep up with the present.18 The latter attitude confi rms the stereotype of the static Balkan (or more generally Eastern) universe, resistant to progress and unable to live up to the challenges of the future. In an article about the

Migratory Objects in the Balkans 153 fi lm in the International Herald Tribune, Peeva states that her film “makes us laugh at ourselves.”19 Self-mockery can surely be an act of self-criticism and self-reflection, but it can function just as well as a self-indulgent or, indeed, a self-exoticizing act. However, in my view, the stereotypical elements in the film do not neutralize its critical potential. The fi lm succeeds in capturing the complexity of the situation in the Balkans, preserving the contradictions and diversity of its material. It gives voice to confl icting standpoints without making a choice among them. It demystifies Balkan national narratives and the myths around the origins of cultural commodities, and it thereby unsettles the certainties on which several stereotypes rest. In the end, the question of to whom the song belongs, though painfully pertinent to the people in the film, ceases to be the crux of the film. What turns out to be relevant is not the song itself as an entity and the retrieval of its original intact form or of its ‘rightful owners,’ but the performative aspects and operations involved in its cross-cultural translations. Nonetheless, the fi lm is at the same time about ownership, mastery of the other, and appropriation of the other’s elements as parts of the self.

BALKAN HOSTS AND GUESTS: THE LIMITS OF HOSPITALITY The song’s different versions are involved in a politics and ethics of hospitality—a notion with a long tradition and heavy signification in the Balkans. The song’s reception by each host-country on its journey as well as the fi lmmaker’s visits to Balkan countries and her reintroduction of the song as a foreign object to the people in these countries are worth examining as occasions of hospitality. The notion of hospitality is explored in the film on multiple levels, which reveal the tension between the roles of host and guest and mobilize the discourse on hospitality, making it more permeable. By following manifestations of hospitality, I will argue that the operations that take place in the fi lm problematize the supposedly self-evident opposition between host and guest and invite productive negotiations of the meaning and practice of hospitality. In Of Hospitality, Jacques Derrida makes a significant distinction between “absolute hospitality” and “conditional hospitality”—or what he calls the “pact of hospitality.” The ideal of absolute hospitality requires the opening of the host’s home not only to a foreigner with a name and a defi nite status but also to “the absolute, unknown, anonymous other.”20 It is hospitality graciously offered to the other, without any demand from the other or any imperative or sense of duty for the host.21 Conditional hospitality, on the other hand, requires a process of interrogating, identifying, and naming the foreigner before welcoming her. 22 In the latter case, the host maintains sovereignty over his home. He exercises this sovereignty by fi ltering and choosing guests in a process that involves exclusions, violations, and

154 Maria Boletsi violence. 23 The guest has to obey the rules that the host has determined. This kind of hospitality becomes a reaffi rmation of the law of the same. 24 The guest is welcome as long as she is subjected to the host’s law. In his Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas, Derrida makes a similar distinction between “an ethics of hospitality” and “a law or a politics of hospitality,” and he is concerned with the relationship between the two. 25 The former (ethics) seems to correspond to what he calls “unconditional,” whereas the latter (law or politics) corresponds to “conditional” hospitality. As Mireille Rosello notes, an ethics of hospitality would be “infi nite and beyond any human law,” while a politics of hospitality involves “limits and borders” including “national borders and state sovereignty.”26 While these two kinds of hospitality seem to be mutually exclusive, Derrida does not really present us with an either/or choice between politics and ethics. As Rosello argues, the two concepts are incompatible and yet inseparable, destined to “cohabit” in a chaotic state of constant tension, which is “what hospitality is precisely all about.”27 The song in question is involved in a highly conditioned politics of hospitality. It arrives at a certain historical moment at the threshold of each country as a foreign guest, possibly carried by migrants or nationals returning from abroad. Its reception by the host nation, however, happens on a very specific condition: that the guest’s identity be erased and reappropriated by the host. The guest-song becomes the sacrificial victim in an act of cannibalism, in which the guest is devoured by the host and lives on within the host’s body after the traces of its alterity have disappeared. The song’s assimilation suggests the host’s fear of the guest’s potential transformative force, which has to be minimized through domestication. According to Derrida, the foreigner can be welcomed either as a guest or as an enemy. This ambivalence indicates the thin line between hospitality and hostility, which is also inscribed in their common Latin derivation (hostis).28 The invasion of foreign elements into one’s national or cultural space often entails anxiety, induced by the feeling that one’s identity is being threatened. The total appropriation, then, of foreign, migratory elements so that their alterity is swallowed up by the national narrative, is a way of dealing with the (presumed) threat of the other. It is a mechanism not exclusive to the Balkans. Cultural commodities carried by migrants to Western European countries (and elsewhere) often become an integral part of the host country, and their foreign origin is either forgotten or deliberately suppressed.29 In these cases, the host nation strives to turn migratory objects into sedentary constructions as a means of solidifying its national identity. The song’s emergence in all of the countries Peeva visits is an unmistakable sign of cultural exchange and commonality in the cultural identity of Balkan peoples. The film, Gergana Doncheva remarks, supports “the view of the Balkans as sharing a common legacy in terms of lifestyles, everyday social practices, and compatible sensitivities.”30 But it is a song everyone sings differently. The different lyrics in the song’s various versions denote

Migratory Objects in the Balkans 155 the overlapping signifiers floating over the Balkan space in their attempt to attach themselves to the same cultural signified (the song) by writing over each other. This common signified—the song—poses a problem to the process of national identity construction. As this process is based on difference and cannot tolerate a great degree of similarity with the other, it also cannot easily legitimize the slightly altered repetition of the same song in the neighboring nations. Acknowledging this similarity in terms of mutual influence or common heritage with its neighbors would prevent the national self from constructing the neighbor as an inferior other—a barbarian—and itself as a superior subject. Therefore, the most common ways to deal with the other’s threatening similarity are either to ‘legitimize’ it as a case of one-sided imitation of the self by its envious, culturally dependent others, or to label it as a shameless act of theft. Indeed, most of the people that appear in the documentary perceive cultural exchange as a unidirectional process. In this process, they deny having received from the other, since they see themselves as the only agents offering elements to the other as gifts. According to this logic, neighboring nations are seen as empty receptacles with a less solid history and tradition, capable only of passive reception. These other nations are sometimes allowed to borrow and modify ‘our’ song, only on the condition that the real, ‘original’ version is explicitly recognized as ‘ours.’ In the perception of the national subject, the national ‘we’ here remains the exclusive source of dissemination of culture.31 The perpetual acknowledgement of the neighbor’s cultural debt to the national self is thus an essential condition of this form of hospitality. Breaching this condition results in the neighbor turning into a malicious agent, a thief, an enemy. Therefore, the moment that other nations dare to claim the song as their own and thus refuse to acknowledge their presumed cultural debt to ‘us,’ then the ‘gift’ to the other is perceived as stolen property and provokes indignant reactions. It is no longer something ‘we’ generously offered, but something ‘they’ took away from ‘us.’ Indeed, since hardly anyone in the fi lm recognizes the song’s foreign descent, its foreign versions are more often perceived as theft than as a gift to neighbors. The offer that turns into theft, or the ‘gift’ that turns into ‘stolen goods,’ can be correlated with the easy transition from hospitality to hostility, when hospitality is predicated upon strict rules of compliance. By knocking on people’s doors in the Balkans and reintroducing the song as a foreign guest, Peeva spreads confusion. The foreign song they hear resembles the one they take to be their own and is subsequently received as their beautiful song’s ugly and evil twin, who returns and threatens to overthrow the host’s authority. The song’s reappearance as foreign is perceived as an abuse or violation of the host’s space, and therefore often results in hostile feelings not only toward the foreign version of the song but also toward the human agent who carries it into the nation’s space. Here, this agent is the filmmaker, who often plays a tape with a foreign adaptation of

156 Maria Boletsi the song or with her comments and questions constantly suggests that the song might be foreign (as when she asks some Bulgarian teenagers, “Do you know that people say the song ‘Clear Moon’ is Turkish?”). The fi lmmaker is not received as an insider—as ‘one of us’—in the countries she visits. She is usually seen as a guest and, thus, a foreigner. However, she is not treated as an absolute and neutral outsider either. With her status as Bulgarian, she is sometimes welcomed as a ‘known’ or ‘identifiable’ foreigner. The hospitality she receives in these cases is still far from unconditional: The host welcomes her on the condition that she aligns herself with his discourse and that she has earned (or will repay) his hospitality. It is with such conditions in mind that a Bosnian musician greets and welcomes her: “My Bulgarian friend. You Bulgarians recognized Bosnia fi rst when it was worst for us.” On other occasions, however, she faces more suspicion and hostility than a filmmaker from outside the Balkans might face, because she is seen as a potential spy or agent provocateur—a semi-outsider with inside knowledge and with an unclear political agenda. Peeva is distrusted because she provokes her hosts and tries to elicit information and reactions from them. In so doing, she constantly walks a tightrope between trust and distrust, hospitality and hostility. Twice she is physically threatened for daring to suggest the song’s foreign origins. One of these occasions is during a feast in a Serbian tavern, organized in her honor by a group of Serbs that she met during the shooting of her film. Everyone is having a great time, drinking, singing, telling jokes, and laughing. However, the celebration takes a dramatic turn when Peeva decides to play the Bosnian religious version of the song on tape, in order to monitor the people’s reactions. Upon hearing the song, everyone’s expressions change. The fi lmmaker realizes that in the eyes of her host, she has crossed a sacred boundary. The laws of hospitality that they had implicitly set for their ‘Bulgarian guest’ have been violated. At first they turn against the Bosnians and their version of the song: “The Bosnians are fools. They have abused a beautiful love song and turned it into a war appeal.” But soon afterward they redirect their hostility against the fi lmmaker. They wonder why she cares so much about the song and suspect her of political provocation. They angrily stand up and depart, leaving their honorable guest alone, because they suddenly develop doubts about her intentions. They conclude that they had wrongly identified this foreigner as a friend. Their defi nition of ‘friend,’ however, presupposes that this person endorses their own law and narrative. “The curtain has fallen. We know who you are,” they say to the whole film crew. But when Peeva again poses the question “Who are we?” their answer makes clear that it is precisely their ignorance of their guests’ real identities that has transformed their warm hospitality into fierce hostility: “I don’t know who you are. Who actually are you? Do you have any ID? Any license to shoot here at all?” Conditional hospitality requires full identification of the stranger. When the stranger’s identity in this case is suspected to be misleading and

Migratory Objects in the Balkans 157 uncertain, her status as a guest disintegrates. The foreigner is seen as an intruder that threatens the host’s authority. Anyone who encroaches on the host’s sovereignty is regarded as an “undesirable foreigner, and virtually as an enemy.”32 The series of questions about her identity is part of the interrogatory process for the identification of the foreigner, which for Derrida is part of the pact of hospitality. Her rights as a guest are withdrawn and yield to prohibitions (they question her license to shoot there). Official identification is now demanded as proof (an ID). The hostility of the hosts almost turns into physical violence when a man threatens to knock her down on the floor. Although the incident in the Serbian tavern is very upsetting for the filmmaker and leaves her with a bitter feeling (“This was too much for me,” she says), the friction in this scene is productive. It exposes the conditions in which hospitality is grounded, as well as the coexistence and clashes between different laws and practices of hospitality. “A completely harmonious and pacified level of interaction,” Rosello writes, “may not be the best test of successful hospitable gestures.”33 Clearly, the confrontations and violence in this scene are not markers of a successful hospitable encounter. However, had the feast been peaceful and without disruptions, it would likely have confi rmed the roles of the guest as powerless and subordinated to the host’s law, and of the host as retaining absolute sovereignty. Such hospitality “without risk” often “hides more serious violence.”34 The disruption of an artificially harmonious version of hospitality in this scene, confrontational as it may be, creates the conditions for a renegotiation of the typical roles of host and guest, and perhaps a critical rethinking of hospitality itself. The filmmaker stands at the significatory boundaries of Balkan cultures, which is where, according to Homi Bhabha, the problems of cultural interaction emerge and where “meanings and values are (mis)read or signs are misappropriated.”35 The fi lmmaker’s intervention generates tension in the unifying operations of each discursive community and endangers the stability of its borders because it forcibly encumbers it with alterity. The varying lyrics attached to each version of the song, as well as the different performances of it in every region, change its aesthetics, its genre, the way it is perceived, and the feelings it stirs in each national community. However, while each version subscribes to a different national imaginary, it would be misleading to assume that each national imaginary is represented and expressed by a single version of the song. This assumption would presuppose the cultural unity and homogeneity of each national group. Such a reductive reasoning is contradicted by a more complex reality, which is partly represented in the film but also reaches beyond the film’s scope. In Greece alone, for instance, the fi lm records three versions of the song: The fi rst one is chanted by some old men in a café, the second is performed by the local singer Solon in a tavern, and the third one is sung by the popular Greek singer Glykeria during an open-air concert. All three versions involve

158 Maria Boletsi completely different lyrics—their themes range from a love song to a poor man’s lament—and their performances differ considerably in style. And all three of them are recorded on just one Greek island, Lesbos. 36 By presenting three versions of the song on the same Greek island, the fi lm projects the heterogeneity of cultural forces within just a fraction of the same national space. In doing so, it suggests that national borders do not coincide with cultural borders. Instead of delimiting national territories, the song’s different versions become points of intersection of variegated cultural forces that traverse national borders in ways that cannot be charted by traditional geographical divisions. The song thereby reveals that the strictly defi ned national identity of most people in the fi lm does not always coincide with their cultural identity. In fact, the two are in many cases inversely analogous: the more that people from different nation-states share the same cultural practices, the more rigidly their national identity is projected as unique. However, cultural and aesthetic forms follow a different course from that of national borders, thereby challenging the transparency of the latter. The intricate cultural reality laid out by the song’s cross-cultural translations (some of which are present within the same national space) sketches the song’s own complex cross-cultural map, which is not even limited to Balkan space. Versions of it can also be found across different continents. On the YouTube Web site, for example, Peeva’s film has sparked an array of testimonies and videos that record different versions of the song from Balkan, Arabic, Asian, and even Western European countries.37 The wide range of reactions to the film and discussions about the particular song on YouTube as well as on various blogs turn Peeva’s fi lm into an open, neverending project. However, whenever Peeva plays the song to people as it is performed in another country, the dissonant sound of the other’s song is disquieting and is perceived almost as cacophonous precisely because it sounds strangely familiar. As Sigmund Freud has also argued, “it is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of strangeness and hostility between them.”38 Freud identified this phenomenon as “the narcissism of minor differences” and used the term in relation to aggression and violence in ethnic conflicts. As he writes in Civilization and Its Discontents, “it is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and in ridiculing each other—like the Spaniards and the Portuguese, for instance, the North Germans and South Germans, the English and Scotch, and so on.”39 The recognition of similarity with the other endangers the superior identity of the national self, which is based on difference and opposition. The construction of the other as an inferior enemy or barbarian presupposes radical difference. Nevertheless, sometimes the barbarization of the other starts with the exact opposite realization: not that of absolute

Migratory Objects in the Balkans 159 difference, but rather of the similarity of the self with other groups that are situated outside of its community, society, or nation but, as its neighbors, are still close to the space of the self. In practice, the others against which the self constructs its superior identity are not always an absolute, unintelligible other, but people quite similar to the self. This similarity is perceived as threatening to the superior identity of the self. The threat that the neighbor poses can be even more powerful than the threat from faraway barbarian enemies, precisely due to its proximity. Constructing the neighbor as enemy or barbarian must always assert radical difference, which enables the following reasoning: You are totally different from me, therefore I do not (bother to) understand you or treat you as equal. The barbarization of the other, then, often takes place in order to conceal or eliminate commonality. Conceding how similar we are with our neighbors can sabotage our identity construction because basing our identity on difference is the easiest way to achieve self-definition. Difference is the prerequisite for the process that Hayden White calls “ostensive selfdefi nition by negation”: “I may not know the precise content of my own felt humanity, but I am most certainly not like that.”40 When others prove to be quite similar to us, we are unable to define ourselves against them, and we therefore tend to repress or pretend not to notice our similarity with them. Ultimately, the fi lm exposes the paradox that what keeps Balkan peoples divided are the things they have in common. In each national text these similarities are (mis)read as differences or, where they cannot be circumvented, they are interpreted as elements of the self that have been imitated, stolen, or abused by others. “Why Turkish and not Albanian?” an old man in an Albanian music school protests. “Maybe the Turks took it from us. We are one of the most ancient peoples.” Later in the film, the men in the Serbian tavern, who have just listened to the Bosnian version of their song, cry out: “This is theft, simple abuse. Outrageous!” But the sound of the other sounds familiar to the people of each nation because they recognize in it part of themselves and their cultural heritage. Yet, this sound is discomforting because it belongs to the other. The song exposes the other as a slightly altered version of the self. In the other’s song, people hear themselves as other. While the song’s performance in all these nations seems to bridge the absolute distance between self and other, it simultaneously generates a split within the self, by forcing people to perceive the inherent otherness in themselves. Herein lies much of the song’s unsettling force and its estranging effect, registered so graphically in the distressed or hostile reactions of many of Peeva’s interviewees.

THE HOST’S DISPLACEMENT: DISOWNING THE SONG In the last sequence of the fi lm, the filmmaker fi nds herself in Bulgaria, in a place on Strandzha Mountain called Petrova Niva, where many Bulgarians


Maria Boletsi

get together every year to celebrate the Bulgarian struggle against the Ottomans. During this feast, the song is also being performed. When Peeva mentions to the Bulgarians present at the scene that the song is claimed to be Turkish, she is told by her own people this time that she runs the risk of being stoned. “I’ll hang the one who says the song was Turkish on that oak tree,” an old man cries out. In the other countries she had passed through so far, the filmmaker was a foreigner/guest, and in some cases she experienced the transformation from guest to enemy. Now she is ‘at home’ in Bulgaria, and yet she still fi nds herself in the position of the foreigner. More precisely, her position here is that of an insider who, by questioning the national ‘truths,’ turns into a hated foreigner and runs the risk of being expelled from the community.41 In the end, Peeva poses as a stranger among the people of her native land; her journey outside the borders of her national community has exposed to her the impossibility of a singular national truth in the Balkans. Consequently, a shift takes place within the fi lm and the fi lmmaker herself: Setting off from a secure position within the safety of her national boundaries, she eventually loses the ground beneath her feet. This feeling of displacement becomes a moment of insight. She, as well as the (Balkan) viewers of the fi lm, is invited to engage in self-reflection, which requires a distancing from oneself, a viewing of oneself as other (a stranger). Her challenge to the ‘truth’ of the song’s origins and to its secure place within her national narrative entails the questioning of her own identity, which has been (at least partly) shaped within this narrative. The song, which Peeva in the beginning referred to as ‘hers,’ has now escaped her and can no longer be in her possession—nor in anyone’s possession. Peeva starts her cinematic narrative in the mode of a fairytale, with her voice-over promising to tell us about the journey of a song, in the hope of untangling the truth about its ‘owners.’ In the fi nal shots of the documentary the camera is recording a raging forest fi re that lights up the night sky—the toll for the fi reworks, gunshots, and canon fi ring during the Bulgarian celebration in Petrova Niva. In addition to being painfully real, the function of the fi re in the fi lm is evidently symbolic, evoking the good old stereotype about the Balkans as the ‘powder keg’ of Europe.42 The director’s voice-over returns here for the last time, announcing the unexpected outcome of her fairytale and her disillusionment at the subversive turn that it took: My song changed beyond recognition. I was standing alone in the crowds waiting for the celebration to be over. When I fi rst started searching for the song I hoped it will unite us. I had never believed that the sparkles of hatred can be lit so easily. The use of voice-over often functions as an authoritative device of imposing coherence upon a filmic narrative. Peeva’s voice-over can also be seen

Migratory Objects in the Balkans 161 as an attempt by the ‘host’ to retain mastery over her narrative and her object-guest (the song). But in its fi nal appearance in the end, her voice-over is there to concede defeat. Her attempts to lead her object in the direction she initially wanted—a song that unites—have failed. The song’s foreignness invades the director’s narrative and shifts its initial intentions. To be sure, the filmmaker also plays a role in this change of direction in the fi lm. Although she expresses her wish to see the song operate as a unifying factor, in her role as an interviewer throughout the fi lm she often provokes hostile reactions and causes commotion, which all increase the fi lm’s marketability. In the end, the documentary still tells a story; and just like every good story, this one also needs the element of peripeteia: surprising changes in the plot, without which it would probably be much less gripping.43 I would argue that, in her attitude toward her object, the director performs her own act of hospitality. Her hospitality is certainly not unconditional, but it has a less authoritative and intrusive character than the conditional hospitality with which many people in the film receive her and the song. The director comes to accept the ‘guest’ of her film (the song) in its migratory nature, without proof of its origins and without wishing to own it. She welcomes the other together with the challenge of its difference—an act that always implies a certain risk, as there is no guarantee as to the outcome of this encounter.44 She thereby allows her guest, the song, to take place in the place that she offers it.45 As a result, the guest/object brings about a slight shift in the host’s initial plans and a repositioning of the host. Sometimes it is the guest that “becomes the one who invites the one who invites”—“the host’s host.” The master then enters the home through the guest and by the grace of the guest.46 In the film, Peeva and the Balkan viewer become for a while foreigners in their own ‘home,’ be it Bulgaria, another Balkan country, or the Balkans in general. As a result, the roles of host and guest in the fi lm become fluid rather than predetermined positions. The film problematizes the opposition between host and guest and helps redefi ne the dynamics between them. It deprives the host of the sense of absolute mastery and invites a revisiting of the boundary between owning and disowning, exercising and giving up power, standing still and traveling.47 For Rosello, this fluidity is essential for the workings of hospitality: “If the guest is always the guest, if the host is always the host, something has probably gone very wrong.”48 In the end, the song invites this viewer to reenter the Balkan space without her previous certainties and sense of mastery, but as a guest in her own home, a home which is being critically reassessed under the impact of the song’s foreignness. In a region such as the Balkans, where most nations are premised on boundaries that ostracize foreignness, turning these boundaries into spaces of negotiation is not an easy task.49 However, and for that reason, it becomes all the more significant when an act of hospitality such as that performed by this fi lm leads to a small broadening of boundary lines. This


Maria Boletsi

broadening in Peeva’s fi lm does not develop smoothly and does not lead to any resolution of conflict; on the contrary, it incites confrontational scenes and hostility. But it is only on such uncertain and contested terrains that change can be initiated and productive criticism can be performed. The unsettled feeling with which the viewer is likely to leave the fi lm is already a sign of a small broadening of our once-secure horizons. In the aforementioned process, I argue that an ethics of hospitality can be articulated in relation to migratory objects. The operations of the song in the film do not prescribe an ideal model for dealing with migrating objects or people, but rather reveal the contestations and tensions between the aesthetics and politics of migratory objects. 50 Moreover, they create boundary spaces on which new relations can emerge in the continuum between sameness and difference, hosts and guests, neighbors and enemies. The song’s operations, as revealed in the fi lm, do not describe a “free-floating aesthetics that somehow transcends national borders,” but address aesthetic practices that are subject to, and at the same time contest, specific cultural and political constraints linked to migration and movement. 51 The migration of objects to new cultural contexts often requires a small remolding of the aesthetic space of the self: elements in our everyday life, the things around us that we love, the songs we sing. These objects invite a reconfiguration of the same so that it can ‘host’ the aesthetics of the foreign object without fully absorbing its traces of otherness. In the case of this song, the rules of the host (that is, of each Balkan nation) demanded the appropriation of the object to enhance the authority of the national myth. The same ideological mechanism often demands the integration or assimilation of migrants in the Balkans, as well as in Western European countries and elsewhere. However, the success of such mechanisms is never defi nitive or permanent because migrating people as well as objects have a palimpsestic existence: they continue to carry traces of foreignness from their previous journeys and the places they have been to, traces that can resurface as a result of critical interventions.

MIGRATORY OBJECTS AS PALIMPSESTS In the palimpsest, “even when the writing is completely erased, it is still visible in the traces it leaves behind in the parchment.”52 According to Inge Boer, the palimpsest is not only located in the object itself, but also in “readings that partially overlap as the process of interpretation is traced.”53 In the case of the song, the object itself was reinvented by every nation, in an attempt to conceal its palimpsestic traces from other places and periods. In Whose Is This Song?, then, the act of “rereading” that Boer talks about is performed as the fi lm revisits the song through its diverse Balkan hosts. Peeva’s filmic “rereading” denaturalizes each version of the song as an authentic national product. In doing so, it foregrounds the song’s protean

Migratory Objects in the Balkans 163 qualities and reveals the palette of cultural translations that have taken place in its appropriation by each ethnic group. Moreover, the song in the fi lm highlights what the palimpsest always implies: the continuous presence of the past in the present. 54 As a carrier of different versions of historical memory, the song rekindles historical traumas and triggers hostility. The event of the song in the fi lm exposes the plural, confl ictual histories in the Balkans through the different versions of the song. The song’s palimpsest reveals sharp-edged pangs of history that keep haunting the present. In the fi lm, traces of history pop up everywhere—in each country’s geography, discourse, culture, and songs—and seem to have taken control of the present. It is against this obsession with history that a taxi driver in the Republic of Macedonia strongly reacts: All the Balkans live with history. Why look where Alexander the Great went? Was he Macedonian or Bulgarian? I don’t care. . . . We are much too preoccupied with history, that is our fault. Now in the twenty-fi rst century I need work, a good life, fifteen days to go to the sea after I have worked for a whole year. I need nothing else. The taxi driver’s wish to overcome the Balkan family feuds about origins and historical ownership is correlated with the urgent need to start living in the present rather than fighting over the corpses of the past. This does not mean that the past should not play a part in the present—that would be untenable as well as undesirable. The past in the present, however, could be translated into a productive and motivating force rather than a means of distraction from, which turns into the destruction of, the present. The process of working through the past involves creating awareness of history’s conflicting narratives and unresolved character. On the most basic level, it is the awareness that the same song is sung in different ways. Migratory objects, as agents of constant transformation and contestation, bring every nation face to face not only with its blind spots in the present, but also with conflicting versions of its past. These confl icting pasts resonate in the present in the song’s different versions. As an embodiment of commonality and difference, the song of the other is the song of the self, but not quite. It is in this sense that it is a barbarian song—its cacophonies contaminate the cultural and national coherence of the self. Consequently, its difference from version to version, even when this difference sounds minimal, is often construed as so absolute and impenetrable as the unintelligible mumblings (the ‘bar bar’) of the barbarian.55 The fi lm, however, forces its interviewees and viewers to face the familiarity of this barbarian song, and it thereby creates the possibility of communication between the self and its ‘barbarian’ neighbors. The fi lm presents us with the challenge of facing the ‘barbarian’ neighbor as a worthy interlocutor, even as a version of ourselves, rather than as an

164 Maria Boletsi inferior, incomprehensible other. The song’s familiar basis points to a common language that, if recognized as such, could transform the other’s ‘bar bar’ into an intelligible idiom. At the same time, the space of negotiation that the song’s repetition creates does not eliminate difference: Each version of the song retains its traces of alterity, which function as a reminder of that part of the other that the self will not be able to appropriate, make fully comprehensible, or erase. The strange entanglement of similarity and difference embodied by the song confronts the self with its own slightly altered mirror image: Through its different versions, the song gives rise to the uncanny experience of the alterity in the self. Its travels in the film become a testimony of the fact that we can never really own what we think belongs to us, including our languages, our cultural practices, our own selves. The figure of the neighbor is often constructed as ‘barbarian’ precisely because the neighbor, being the closest to the self but not quite identical, carries the danger of exposing the self to the inconsistencies of its own language. This exposure brings about a disappropriation of the self’s own language and culture. Getting close to the neighbor thus involves a feeling of discomfort, a certain risk, and a loss of what we think is ours. But it also contains a promise for discovering new ways of relating to our home and cultural ‘belongings,’ ways that are less territorial and more inclusive, less focused on ownership and more on hospitality. To say, then, that the sound of the other sounds strangely familiar, is also to understand that the sound of the self is at the same time the sound of the other—not always an absolute other, but simply an other, our next-door neighbor.

NOTES 1. This chapter builds on an earlier article published in a significantly different form in Boer, Uncertain Territories with the title “Between Hospitality and Hostility: Crossing Balkan Borders in Adela Peeva’s Whose Is This Song?” 2. Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers, 7. 3. The documentary fi lm, released in 2003, has received a lot of critical acclaim. Prizes it has received include a nomination by the European Film Academy for Best Documentary Film 2003; Special Jury Prize at the Golden Rython Festival 2003; the FIPRESCI Award and the Silver Conch Prize at the Mumbai International Film Festival 2004; the Gibson Impact of Music prize at the Nashville Film Festival 2004; the Prix Bartok at the Twenty-Third Ethnographic Film Festival 2004; and the Silver Knight Award at the International Film Festival Golden Knight 2005. 4. Peeva has dealt with controversial Balkan issues in her other fi lms as well: in The Unwanted (Izlishnite, 1999) on the problems of Bulgaria’s ethnic Turks, as well as in her last project, Divorce Albanian Style (Razvod po albanski, 2007), on the thousands of Albanian families who were forcibly separated for marrying foreigners by Enver Hoxha’s regime during the communist era in Albania. 5. One could even contend that we cannot speak about the ‘same song’ anymore. In this chapter, I refer to the travels of the ‘same song’ in a somewhat catachrestic manner, which also follows the fi lm’s choice of identifying the

Migratory Objects in the Balkans 165




9. 10. 11.

12. 13. 14. 15. 16.

17. 18.

19. 20. 21. 22. 23.

different songs as versions of the same song. With the ‘same song,’ the fi lm refers to the musical piece (the melody) that remains the same in the various appropriations. However, the mode of execution, the musical genre, and most of all the lyrics change considerably, and in most cases each version is thematically unrelated to the others. The volume The Walled-Up Wife, edited by Alan Dundes, comprises comparable but independent foklore studies of the ballad of “The Walled-Up Wife” in its different versions as they appear primarily in Eastern Europe. The volume approaches the ballad from various perspectives and thematizes the nationalistic proprietory claims to the ballad made by earlier scholars from various neighboring nations. These claims strongly evoke the nationalistic attitudes to the song by people in neighboring Balkan nations, as reflected in Peeva’s documentary. Due to the advanced communication systems today, the physical movement of human agents is not always necessary. But on the assumption that the song was spread around the Balkans in earlier times, migration and travel must have been the main vehicles for its dispersal. Iordanova, Cinema of Flames, 6–7. The term ‘West’ is highly relational. When employed in relation to the Balkans, it usually denotes Western Europe and the U.S. In other contexts (for example, in relation to the Orient) the term would possibly include the Balkan countries as well. Whether the Balkans are European or not is an object of academic and political debate; see Todorova, Imagining the Balkans, 7. According to Huntington (and others), the Balkans are not part of Europe and the West: “Europe ends where Western Christianity ends and Islam and Orthodoxy begin” (Huntington, Clash of Civilizations, 158). Iordanova, Cinema of Flames, 89. A composer in FYROM asserts that the song cannot be Macedonian because there is no such beat in his nation’s folklore. Also, a Dervish in the same country says that the song came with the Turks a long time ago. In the latter case, it is easier for him to concede that the song has Turkish origins because he shares with the Turks the same religious (Muslim) background. The scene takes place during a Bulgarian celebration of the uprising against the Turks. Iordanova, Cinema of Flames, 89. Todorova, Imagining the Balkans, 3, 11. Žižek, “Ethnic Dance Macabre.” In the online version of Žižek’s essay that I have used there are no page numbers available. Iordanova, Cinema of Flames, 21. Todorova recognizes the similarities between the two kinds of discourses (Orientalism and Balkanism), but refuses to see Balkanism as a subspecies of Orientalism and discusses the significant differences between the two terms (see her “Introduction” in Imagining the Balkans, 1–20). According to Todorova, Balkanist discourse is singularly male (Imagining the Balkans, 15). In her review of the fi lm, Doncheva notes about the Greek musicians in the fi lm: “Their melancholy is too intense; their yearning for lost youth is so strong, that suddenly a wave of nostalgia comes over the silver screen” (Doncheva, “Searching for an Enthralling Song”). Wood, “Strains of a Balkan Ballad.” Derrida, Of Hospitality, 25. Ibid., 83. Ibid., 27. Ibid., 55.

166 Maria Boletsi 24. Yeğenoğlu, “Liberal Multiculturalism,” 8–9. 25. Derrida, Adieu, 19. Derrida’s Adieu constitutes a reading of Levinas’ Totality and Infi nity as a “treatise of hospitality” (Derrida, Adieu, 21). 26. Rosello, Postcolonial Hospitality, 11. 27. Ibid. 28. Derrida, Of Hospitality, 45. 29. There are also many cases in which the foreign identity of certain cultural elements is foregrounded, especially when a country wishes to promote its multicultural profi le. However, the foreign cultural elements that are being projected and even ‘advertised’ in this process—foreign cuisine and restaurants are cases in point—are often subject to stereotypical representations that serve the economy and ideology of the host nation. 30. Doncheva, “Searching for an Enthralling Song.” 31. This logic is also reminiscent of colonial ideology and is in many ways comparable to the ‘civilizing mission’ of the Western powers, who ventured to bless inferior nations with the generous gift of civilization and to impose their cultural standards on others. 32. Derrida, Of Hospitality, 54–55. 33. Rosello, Postcolonial Hospitality, 173. 34. Ibid. 35. Bhabha, Location of Culture, 50. 36. It is worth noting that the most popular Greek version of the song is entitled “From a Foreign Place” (“Apo xeno topo”) and is a song about a migrant girl coming to Greece from “a foreign place,” allegedly from Asia Minor in Turkey. Part of this version is performed by the singer Glykeria in the fi lm (many thanks to Prof. Evangelos Calotychos at Columbia University for pointing out the title and the importance of this song’s content to me). This version not only thematizes migration, but it also foregrounds the song’s own migratory nature: the song, just like the girl it talks about, is also a foreign tune from a foreign place (Turkey) that migrates into Greek space. Although a small fragment of this song is recorded in Peeva’s fi lm, it strikes me that neither the title nor the lyrics of this version are addressed or explained in the fi lm, despite the interest it obviously excites by being a migratory song about migration. Such a version, which explicitly projects the song’s foreign, migratory nature, would somewhat contradict the fi lm’s representation of the song’s versions as strictly embedded in a single national narrative in each country. This particular version could thus be a hitch in the fi lm’s narrative, according to which Balkan nations perceive the song as an authentic national product and suppress its foreign traces. 37. Versions from Lebanon, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Poland, and even Norway, among many others, are mentioned or uploaded. One comment on Peeva’s fi lm posted on YouTube reads: “There are more versions in one country. There are two Bosnian, three Macedonian, two Greek, two Turkish, two Bulgarian versions of this song.” 38. Freud, “Taboo of Virginity,” 205. 39. Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, 61. Michael Ignatieff views Freud’s idea of the “narcissism of minor differences” as the key to understanding the ethnic warfare of the 1990s, especially in Eastern Europe. In a chapter entitled “The Narcissism of Minor Differences” in The Warrior’s Honor: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience, Ignatieff brings Freud’s theory to bear, for example, on the mutual hatred between Serbs and Croats, despite their intertwining histories, customs, languages, and identities. For another application of Freud’s idea to ethnic confl icts, see Volkan, “The Narcissism of Minor Differences Between Opposing Nations.”

Migratory Objects in the Balkans 167 40. White, “Forms of Wildness,” 5. 41. It should be noted here that the part of the fi lm that takes place in Bulgaria is shot at a particular rural region near the border with Turkey, where nationalist attitudes are apparently fierce. Thus, the reactions from Bulgarians in the fi lm cannot be considered as representative of the whole country. In this sense, by selecting that specific region at that specific moment (the celebration of the liberation from the Ottomans), the fi lm is slightly misleading in cultivating the suggestion that the aggressive reactions Peeva receives by people on the Strandzha mountain is generalizable and typical for the country’s mentality. To a certain extent, the same selective principle runs through the rest of the fi lm as well. 42. This scene in the documentary can be associated with the fi nal scene of Goran Paskaljevic’s fi lm Cabaret Balkan (1999), also released as Powder Keg (Bure baruta). See Doncheva, “Searching for an Enthralling Song.” 43. ‘Peripeteia’ is the sudden reversal of fortune in any narrative, a moment where there is a clear change of direction. 44. See also Derek Attridge’s discussion of the act of opening oneself to the other and its implications, in Attridge, “Innovation, Literature, Ethics,” 20–31. For Attridge, this act always involves a risk, “since by defi nition there can be no certainty in opening oneself to the other, every such opening is a gamble” (27), but one that is worth taking. 45. Derrida, Of Hospitality, 25. 46. Ibid., 124–25. 47. See also Rosello, Postcolonial Hospitality, 18. 48. Ibid., 167. 49. For a conceptualization of boundaries not as dividing lines but as contact zones and spaces of negotiation, see Boer, Uncertain Territories. 50. The term ‘operations’ here refers to a form of agency, not (necessarily) personbound, that manifests itself as a critical intervention produced by encounters between confl icting narratives, power strands, knowledge regimes, and cultural discourses. The song could be seen as the ‘catalyst’ for these critical operations and interventions that unfold throughout the film. My use of ‘operations’ loosely departs from Michel Foucault’s use of the term in the context of discursive operations or operations of power and knowledge. Foucault’s use of the term ‘operation’ often refers to discursive acts that are involved in, or coincide with, the production of knowledge and power in a given discursive formation; he also employs the term to refer to processes that enable action to ‘speak’ by turning it into language. (See for example Foucault, The Order of Things, 69, 80, 116, 172, 347; or Foucault’s essay “On the Archaeology of Sciences”). I also take my cue from Jan Hein Hoogstad’s introduction of Foucault’s concept to a broader medial landscape. Hoogstad coins the concept of “medial operations” to refer to the ways in which media shape knowledge, and to theorize the ontological and epistemological ramifications of shifts between media (a description of this concept can be found at Hoogstad’s “Medial Operations” Web site, http://medialoperations.com). This broader application of the term to various media enables me to use it for the song’s operations. 51. Durrant and Lord, eds., “Introduction,” 11. 52. Boer, Disorienting Vision, 19. 53. Ibid., 19. 54. Boer, Disorienting Vision, 195. 55. According to its Greek etymology, the word ‘barbarian’ is supposed to imitate the incomprehensible sounds of the language of foreigners that sound like ‘bar bar.’


Maria Boletsi

WORKS CITED Appadurai, Arjun. Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006. Attridge, Derek. “Innovation, Literature, Ethics: Relating to the Other.” PMLA 114, no. 1 (1999): 20–31. Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1994. Boer, Inge. Disorienting Vision: Rereading Stereotypes in French Orientalist Texts and Images. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2004. . Uncertain Territories: Boundaries in Cultural Analysis. Edited by Mieke Bal, Bregje van Eekelen, and Patricia Spyer. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2006. Derrida, Jacques. Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas. Translated by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999. . Of Hospitality (Anne Dufourmantelle Invites Jacques Derrida to Respond). Translated by Rachel Bowlby. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000. Doncheva, Gergana. “Searching for an Enthralling Song.” Review of Whose Is This Song?. Special issue, KinoKultura: New Russian Cinema; Bulgarian Cinema, 5 (December 2006). http://www.kinokultura.com/specials/5/song.shtml (accessed December 28, 2009). Dundes, Alan, ed. The Walled-Up Wife: A Casebook. Madison and London: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996. Durrant, Sam, and Catherine M. Lord. “Introduction.” In Essays in Migratory Aesthetics: Cultural Practices between Migration and Art-Making, edited by Sam Durrant and Catherine M. Lord. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2007. Foucault, Michel. “On the Archaeology of the Sciences: Response to the Epistemology Circle.” In The Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984. Vol. 2, Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology, edited by James Faubion and translated by Robert Hurley and others, 279–96. London: Penguin Books, 2000. . The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. 1966. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and its Discontents. 1930. Edited and translated by James Strachey. New York: W. W. Norton, 1967. . “The Taboo of Virginity (Contributions to the Psychology of Love III).” 1918. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 11, edited and translated by James Strachey, 191–208. London: Hogarth Press, 1957. Hoogstad, Jan Hein. “‘Oh Baby, I Like It Raw’: Engineering Truth.” In Sonic Mediations: Body, Sound, Technology, edited by Carolyn Birdsall and Anthony Enns, 93–108. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2008. Huntington, Samuel. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996. Ignatieff, Michael. The Warrior’s Honor: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience. New York: Henry Holt, 1997. Iordanova, Dina. Cinema of Flames: Balkan Film Culture and the Media. London: British Film Institute, 2001. Rosello, Mireille. Postcolonial Hospitality: The Immigrant as Guest. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. Todorova, Maria. Imagining the Balkans. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Migratory Objects in the Balkans 169 Volkan, Vamik D. “The Narcissism of Minor Differences between Opposing Nations.” Psychoanalytical Inquiry 6 (1986): 175–92. White, Hayden. “The Forms of Wildness: Archaeology of an Idea.” In The Wild Man Within: An Image in Western Thought from the Renaissance to Romanticism, edited by Edward Dudley and Maximillian E. Novak. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972. Wood, Nicholas. “The Strains of a Balkan Ballad.” International Herald Tribune, November 16 2004. http://www.iht.com/articles/2004/11/16/song2_ed3_.php (accessed December 28, 2009). Yeğenoğlu, Meyda. “Liberal Multiculturalism and the Ethics of Hospitality in the Age of Globalization.” Postmodern Culture 13, no. 2 (2003). http://www3.iath. virginia.edu/pmc/issue.103/13.2yegenoglu.html (accessed December 28, 2009). Žižek, Slavoj. “Ethnic Dance Macabre.” The Guardian Manchester, August 28, 1992. http://www.lacan.com/zizek-ethnic.htm (accessed December 28, 2009).

10 Variations on a Fugitive’s Song The Performance of Disappearance and Forced Migration in Chile Nicolás Salazar-Sutil

SUBJECT: AS THOUGH THEY WERE ALIVE This text could be read as if it were a four-part fugue, beginning with the exposition of a subject or motif that will be elaborated and developed in due course. The word fugue derives from the Latin fuga, which means the act of fleeing or chasing; in the musical sense, voices may be said to chase one another in the course of a contrapuntal composition such as a fugue. The Latin term is also linked etymologically to words such as ‘refuge’ or ‘fugitive,’ all terms indicative of an act of fl ight. The conceptual fugue I am embarking on here uses the basic structure of this musical technique and the metaphor of the musical chase to take the reader through an analysis of the acts of disappearance that took place during the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile (1973–1988). I will argue that state-sponsored terror and disappearance during the Pinochet years did not efface the voice of the opposition, but on the contrary, it elicited a powerfully orchestrated political vocalization that was deployed performatively in the way of protest song and street chanting. Given the human need to repair and replenish loss, one could argue that exile, detainment, and political assassination can be conducive to a memorializing performance or “memory machine,”1 which I will refer to as a performance of disappearance. I will contend that disappearance does not have to be understood as a terminal event or the complete silencing of a political apparatus by violent means; rather, it may be understood as a regenerative and reinscriptive process that triggers a performative and memorial revocalization. In sum, the disappeared necessarily become those who must be given back their voice. Or, as Paul Virilio puts it, “the aesthetics of disappearance renews the enterprise of appearance.”2 Drawing on Virilio’s notion of “aesthetics of disappearance,” Ackbar Abbas also points out that disappearance in certain cultural contexts does not imply nonappearance, absence, or lack of presence, but that it should be seen as an opportunity. It is not disappearance that endangers the need for perpetuity in life, but misrecognition, or the recognition of things as something else.3 Likewise, Dwight Conquergood notes that the site of refuge (or fugitiveness, for that

Variations on a Fugitive’s Song


matter) is a liminal space where people must fall back on the performance of their traditions as an empowering way of securing stability, which is one of the reasons why performative behavior intensifies during refugee or exilic crisis.4 In short, my concern in this chapter is the power of performance as memorialization and loss substitution, what Joseph Roach famously called a “model of surrogation,” that forgets its antecedents in order to reinject life into instances of loss.5 Political disappearance during the Pinochet regime is particularly relevant from this perspective inasmuch as it resulted in different types of representations of those killed, exiled, imprisoned, or sent to concentration camps by the military dictatorship. Furthermore, disappearance elicited a performative wave in Chile’s resistance movement that culminated in the carnivalesque musical upsurge of the 1988 plebiscite, after which Pinochet was ousted from power. Despite the attempts of the totalitarian system to silence opposition, popular music nonetheless surfaced as a potent weapon of political resistance. To summarize, the underlying question of this text is whether disappearance, exile, or imprisonment can be seen as the de facto motivation for a program of musical denunciation that was so powerful as to deal a mortal blow to the military regime in a way armed struggle could not. This chapter is also intended as a discussion of some of the more memorable chants, songs, and rallying calls that featured in protest movements during the latter part of the Pinochet regime. These political vocalizations are read as memorializing speech-acts that called back into existence or demanded the reappearance of those men, women, and children victimized by state-sponsored terror. I will contend that although the oppression of the military regime in Chile amounts to a civil-rights abuse on a massive scale (more than three thousand people were killed and anywhere between three hundred thousand and 1.2 million were exiled or expatriated), the devastating effects of military rule were also, and paradoxically, conducive to a vibrant and highly creative regeneration process that led to the so-called transition period (transición) following Pinochet’s defeat in the 1988 referendum. As Michael Cullinane and Teresita Giménez-Maceda point out, dictatorships not only transform music, they also give birth to new musical expression. Songs effectively survive dictatorships because music performed in protest, even if clandestinely, becomes a part of identity across generations.6 In this way, music can become the backdrop for the performance of a political expressivity in spite of, and prevailing over, political oppression. It is worth noting here that with the collapse of military rule in Chile, protest music did not manage to fi nd clear points of reentry into Chilean culture. The traditional protest song and Chilean folk music are now gradually being displaced by a postdictatorship generation whose political message is largely spoken in the musical language of Latin pop, reggaetón, or other global musical idioms. Like the color revolutions of the postcommunist states in Central and Eastern Europe, left-wing opponents to the various military regimes in

172 Nicolás Salazar-Sutil Latin America overcame exile, torture, and death with a vivid and youthful counterdiscourse, whose musical exuberance opposed the commanding, often abusive, speech of the military. Adelaida Reyes neatly articulates the following question in the introduction to her book Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free: “[I]n the context of forced migration, which often inhibits speech and induces guardedness in migrants in the face of danger and as a result of trauma, would music as an activity more readily shared with others have particular advantages as a point of entry to other areas of life?”7 People cannot simply disappear—not from memory, anyway. Thus the accomplishment lies in the performance itself and not in the end, meaning that the end or raison d-être of performing disappearance is to create a new presence, and to invoke the ghosts of the dead as though they were alive.

ENTRY 1: THE APPARITION “El Aparecido” is a song written by Chilean singer-songwriter Victor Jara in 1967. Victor Jara is a well-known figure in the protest movement known as Nueva Canción Latinoamericana, which flourished on the subcontinent during the mid-1960s. The Nueva Canción, or New Song, movement was influenced by radical left-wing ideology as well as folk tradition, unionism, and a revivalist indigenous discourse. The Nueva Canción Chilena, or Chilean New Song, as the movement became known in Chile, originated in the work of Violeta Parra and her family, who in 1964 organized a famous musical fair and community center for political activism in Santiago known as the Peña de los Parra. The Chilean New Song was also associated with Salvador Allende’s left-wing coalition government in the early 1970s and later with resistance movements and exilic performance during the Pinochet years. Alongside Victor Jara and Violeta Parra, other key players of the Chilean New Song are the musical groups Quilapayún and Inti-Illimani, whose role in the safekeeping of political song and exilic performance in Chile and abroad cannot be stressed enough. Political anthems such as “El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido” and “Venceremos,” which was Allende’s election campaign song, have become well-known socialist hymns that established a lasting relationship between international socialism and Latin American folk music. As for Victor Jara, it is well known that he became the figurehead and inspirational leader of many New Song groups, not only because his music dealt incisively with a number of pungent political and social issues. Most important, Jara was imprisoned and executed in the Estadio Chile8 (now Estadio Victor Jara) in September 1973, which resulted in his consecration as one of Chile’s most cultic musical icons. In the song of the aparecido, or ‘appeared one,’ Victor Jara touches on the theme of a fugitive whose fl ight or fugue must keep pace if he is to stay alive (correlé, correlé, correlá). Running becomes a precondition for survival, not least because “crows with golden claws” (cuervos con garra de oro) have put a prize on the fugitive’s head. What is interesting here

Variations on a Fugitive’s Song


Figure 10.1 Estadio Victor Jara in downtown Santiago. Photograph by N. SalazarSutil.

is that the nameless and faceless character in the song is described as the “appearing one.” Rather than disappearing in the chase, flight constitutes a type of appearance in invisibility and speed. The appeared one is thus a haunted, spectralizing political presence that, despite its nonphysicality, is latent and powerfully felt. This is doubtless quite far from the classical notion of political appearance espoused, for instance, by Hannah Arendt. In Arendt’s view, the members of the polis are rendered political by an act of physical visibility in a shared and fi xed “space of appearance”—the agora.9 Rather than a concrete and material appearance, Victor Jara’s fugitive is continually on the run, “opening paths in the hillsides” (abre sendas por los ceros) and leaving “trails in the wind” (deja su huella en el viento). Crucially, the aparecido is blanketed by silence (Y lo cobija el silencio).10 The appeared one has an almost mythological or religious dimension. He is a ghostly leader whose communal bond delivers people through faith and promise from the oligarchic establishment and tyranny. As such, disappearance is not always a total dispossession of power but the constitution of an invisible political presence, a new type of political counterappearance through invisibility and nonmateriality. In order to create this apparition, the fugitive must always be relocating himself to the point of having no concrete identity, no defi nitive face, no fi xed home.


Nicolás Salazar-Sutil

The fugitive, whose name Victor Jara never discloses in this particular song, is in fact Che Guevara. At the time when the song was released in 1967, Che Guevara was understood to be in the mountains near Cochabamba, in Bolivia. After his death at the hands of the Bolivian Army, Guevara became known as Saint Ernesto de La Higuera, to commemorate the site of his ‘martyrdom.’ Che’s iconic image took on a performative life of its own, creating an irresistible combination of celebrity and rebel glamour. Today, Che Guevara T-shirts and headgear are synonymous with making a stand, although in many cases they are displayed in ways that bear no resemblance to the details of his exploits. The appeared one is commodified and memorialized as a means of popular self-expression through street fashion, film, and of course, music. As the appeared one becomes an icon that serves the purpose of personal self-validation as a fashion statement, so the performance of disappearance enables a given narrative to function symbolically, in a way that can be respatialized and revocalized in ever-changing contexts. “Crucifixion” at the hands of the powerful (cómo lo ha crucificado la furia del poderoso) transforms this Christlike political martyr into a quasireligious parousia, a spirit that cannot be killed again, which thus claims an advantage over the repressive state as an enduring performative memory. The notion of a new presence through memory is crucial to the performance of disappearance. Memory in the context of persecution functions as the performative energy that invites more and more people to find their way into a common space of memory to join their personal knowledge and experience to a wider, more emblematic meaning.11 The song is also an ominous anticipation of Jara’s own assassination. According to a report published by the Servicio Médico Legal (SML) and complemented by the Policía de Investigaciones de Chile (PDI), Jara was shot in the back of his head with a semiautomatic weapon. An autopsy carried out in 2009 found thirty-two bullet impacts in the artist’s head, torso, and legs. Witnesses claim the artist was repeatedly beaten (his hands were reportedly broken—after which he was asked mockingly to play the guitar) and that he was made to play Russian roulette before the assassination. As the agonizing death of this political martyr has only just become public in Chile following a legal case against the alleged murderer and a formal police investigation, the religious metaphor contained in the song, coupled with the culture of saint worship in the Latin-American tradition, make this song an ominous anticipation not only of the Argentine rebel’s fate, but also the artist himself, who would also be crucified, and who would also resuscitate in the songs and street art of the anti-Pinochet movement.

ENTRY 2: ALLENDE LIVES! The political apparition that is most regularly invoked by the resistance movement in Chile is not Che Guevara or Victor Jara, but President Salvador Allende, who committed suicide during the bombing of the Moneda

Variations on a Fugitive’s Song


Palace in September 1973. To this day, when Allende’s name is shouted out amongst his supporters, one may expect the crowd to reply “present!” This cry could be seen as a performative utterance, a speech-act that brings a state of affairs into being. To shout “present!” is thus to perform an appearance, if only through an act of memorialization, of Salvador Allende. The rallying cry engages a crowd and creates a shared space of re-presentation, where the ghost of the deceased is called back into a space of shared, lived-in experience. Compañero Salvador Allende! . . . presente! Ahora! . . . y siempre! [Comrade Salvador Allende! . . . present! Now! . . . and always!] Likewise, the watchword Allende Vive! (Allende Lives!) shouted by supporters of the former president is more than a constative statement of the people’s unity and loyalty. Once again, this is a performative commitment wherein the rallying cry does not ‘set out’ to describe a situation, an event, or an action: it is an event or an action. What is implied here is that the act of disappearance and forced migration in Chile did not efface political opposition. The killing of thousands of people led to a political séance whose participants poured into the streets to demand information on the victims’ whereabouts. If the elimination of the political opposition did not achieve its desired effect, it is because Pinochet’s terror campaign replaced a real presence with a performative one. Thus, the authoritarian voice of the military found a countervoice in the chanting and the shouting of political demonstrations, whose performative utterances sought to bring the ghosts back in order to haunt the political establishment created by Pinochet. In sum, the act of getting rid of the political enemy only led to the return of the victims in song and chant. International human rights groups recognized the case of ‘disappeared detainees’ in Chile largely through family members of the victims, particularly the Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos (AFDD). The AFDD has insisted on approaching political reconstruction as a matter of “Truth, Justice and Memory.”12 In this reconstructive process, the performance of disappearance has become a crucial technique in maintaining a historical memory alive. Performance is crucial to the continuity of a political present that is not severed from tradition and a sense of history, which is why the AFDD calls for a memorialization that will “give back the victims their faces, their stories, the secret places where they went through.”13 It is interesting that the relatives of the disappeared base their campaign not only on chants and song, but also on the faces of the victims—in other words, on the visual representation of disappearance. Like the famous Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, whose performative display is often noted by scholars, particularly by Diana Taylor, the families of the

176 Nicolás Salazar-Sutil disappeared in Chile armed themselves with photographs of the faces of their relatives in order to bring them back to the streets as though they were alive. Taylor notes that the mothers of the victims in Argentina insisted that the disappeared had names and faces, that they were people, and that people did not simply disappear; their bodies, dead or alive, were somewhere. Taylor adds, “[T]he mothers inscribed the time and dates of the disappearances. Instead of dismembering, remembering.”14 Crucially, the face on the placard, the date, and the chant insisted on the impossibility of total elimination. The point made by this artistic representation is that people do not forget, no matter how much violence is infl icted upon them. On the contrary, people may die; but while memory lasts, they remain apparent. Alongside this strategy of public visualization, performance of disappearance in Chile relied on hard-hitting slogans that emphasized the poignancy of the face of the victims. Dónde Están? (Where Are They?) and Nunca Más (Never Again!) became powerful captions under the black-and-white images of young men and women ‘disappeared’ by the Chilean state. The images and these seething questions carried on banners and shouted in the streets of central Santiago became a counter-interrogation maneuver that turned Pinochet’s heavy-handed state policy on its head. And although the performance of disappearance did not have an immediate political effect, General Pinochet eventually began to lose international support amid mounting allegations of human rights abuse. By the late 1980s the U.S. no longer deemed it necessary to back military dictatorships to prevent communism in Latin America, which is another important reason why the regime began to fall under sustained pressure from abroad to reestablish democratic rule in Chile.

ENTRY 3: PERFORMING NO The performance of disappearance reached its climax in October 1988, when General Pinochet faced a recall referendum. The country was polarized between opposite camps: YES versus NO. The Concertación de Partidos por el NO (Coalition of Parties for NO) mobilized a compelling media campaign characterized by a positive vision of a democratic future. The visual symbol of the campaign was a multicolored rainbow—a pronounced contrast to the uniformed and monochrome visualization of the Pinochet campaign. More importantly, perhaps, was the opposition’s musical slogan, which was vociferously proclaimed in a song that became an overnight media phenomenon. The song, entitled “Chile, la Alegría Ya Viene” (“Chile: Joy Is Coming”), mobilized an impassioned electorate and proved to be hugely important in the success of the opposition parties. The performance of disappearance thus focused on an optimistic representation of postdictatorship Chile, mobilized in an intense advertising campaign and a franja electoral (campaign spot) made memorable by yet another sing-along anthem that helped to

Variations on a Fugitive’s Song


choreograph the political success of the anti-Pinochet movement. The song speaks of a rainbow born after the storm and the blooming of a thousand new ways of thinking. The imagery of rebirth, of spring, and of explosive color thus becomes a central performative strategy to express the political pluralism of the democratic system. At the same time, the song’s imagery undermines the dictatorship, which is thus equated with an old-fashioned system, a stormy and colorless winter. The youthful and almost naïve confidence about the campaign remained undaunted despite attacks from Pinochet supporters. In spite of accusations from the YES campaign of an underlying communist plot, the musical assault orchestrated by the NO Coalition insisted on the idea of a ‘joyous democracy.’ By linking their campaign with song, theater, and radical street performance, the NO Coalition showed how the performance of disappearance could serve as a mark of democratic self-determination. It is worth noting that this was not only a highly performative event but also a media-oriented event, with the NO camp lining up Chile’s most famous soap-opera actors and musicians in their colorful TV and radio spots. More important, the influence of the media on Chilean politics led to the fi rst live debates on Chilean TV. One curious example of this took place in the UC-TV program De Cara al País, where guest politicians and pundits were allowed to discuss political issues with less restraint than

Figure 10.2 A graffiti bearing the faces of Victor Jara and Pablo Neruda in downtown Santiago. Photograph by N. Salazar-Sutil.

178 Nicolás Salazar-Sutil other such programs. In August 1988, only two months before the national referendum, the most compelling criticism of Pinochet’s regime was aired live when Ricardo Lagos, then-leader of the Party for Democracy (PPD), waved his index fi nger at the camera in a memorable, premeditated media gesture that became known as ‘el dedo de Lagos’ (Lagos’s fi nger). In a personal attack on General Pinochet, and as he glared straight into the camera, Lagos exclaimed: I will remind you, General Pinochet, that on the day of the 1980 plebiscite you said that you would not be a candidate in 1989. And now, you promise the country another eight years of torture, murder, and human rights violations. . . . I speak for fifteen years of silence. To me it seems vital that the country knows it faces an impasse, and that the only way to come out of this impasse in a civilized way, is through the triumph of NO.15 Lagos’s ‘fi nger’ caused a media furore. Silence was only the pregnancy of a powerful voice of resistance that paralyzed Chilean audiences on their living room sofas, as though they had, in fact, seen an apparition. The performance of disappearance was now no longer disguised in clandestine song. In one of the most poignant examples of the democratization of television in postdictatorship Chile, a member of the opposition was able for the fi rst time to point straight at General Pinochet, in order to spell out how fi fteen years of silence in the media and elsewhere had come to an end.

ENTRY 4: THE SONG OF THE EXILE The period of exile spanning the fifteen years of the military dictatorship is arguably one of the most significant chapters in recent Chilean history, at least from the point of view of the country’s social and cultural transformation. The forced migration of thousands of Chileans during the period between 1973 and 1988 was tantamount to a national taboo. With the return of hundreds of thousands of Chileans following the results of the 1988 plebiscite, two very different countries came to the fore. Many exiles found that postdictatorship Chile had little in common with their memories of Allende’s utopia, which added to what had become an increasingly bipolar democratic identity. As Pinochet’s economic policies had become central to his political vision, political opposition was ultimately won over not by force, but by the penetration of a neoliberal culture implemented by the so-called Chicago Boys. Chile was ‘normalized’ at an accelerated pace by the introduction of a revolutionary free-market economy that resulted in unprecedented economic prosperity. In the interim, the Chilean diasporic community did not partake of Chile’s cultural and economic transformation but continued to

Variations on a Fugitive’s Song


perform the memory of a bygone era. In their own ideology of home, notes Marita Eastmond, location was a political issue; it rested on maintaining a sharp division between the places of home and exile, and a moral obligation to return.16 In her work on identity, performativity, and exile, Jane Blocker notes that exile, like nationality, is performatively produced; that is, nationality and exile are not descriptive terms but rather active conditions, the limits of which are created performatively.17 According to this reading, many Chilean exiles would have had to broadly perform their banished (and vanished) Chileanhood in order to challenge presumed realities and imposed reculturalizations. Being an exile was tantamount to the fabrication of a hybrid performance that reflected both the nostalgia for home and the horror of the authoritarian legacy, what in Argentina is sometimes referred to as tanguedia, a performance of exilic disappearance.18 Chilean bands like Inti-Illimani, Quilapayún, and Sol y Lluvia made the theme of banishment a subgenre within the New Song movement. It is interesting that the idea of the bird in flight became a recurrent metaphor; Sol y Lluvia called it the “distance of the human bird” (el pájaro humano / usó la distancia en su exilio), which in spite of losing its strength after an extended flight will nonetheless defeat death in the end (venceremos a la muerte / a la muerte venceremos). In Patricio Manns’ famous song “La Exiliada del Sur” (“Exiled from the South”), featured on Inti-Illimani’s album Autores Chilenos and fi rst produced by the communist label DICAP, the theme of exile is addressed poignantly through the idea of an almost endless musical journey, at the end of which the guitar is broken and unstrung, but where the music continues to be played by a band of accompanying birds (banda de chirigües). In “Vuelvo,” a song from the 1979 album Canción para matar a una culebra, Inti-Illimani address the subject of the return to Chile in a less metaphorical fashion, highlighting the contradictions of the fi nal homecoming. The author speaks of a return to Chile that elicits “anger” and “suspicion.” Upon stepping into the country, the exiled must “contain his discontent.”19 The difficulty of the returning exile was not the disappeared homeland but the widespread indifference of a country that did not seek to actively involve exiles in a transition to democracy. ‘Home’ and ‘return’ became almost mutually exclusive realities, two identities that could no longer be performed in harmony. And yet, full reinsertion and reunification meant the exilic dichotomy had to be addressed in one way or another. In other words, exiles had to come to terms with a reality that was often traumatic or else opt out. Chilean exiles had to face a dilemma: the political views they espoused abroad and the country they had carried with them were no longer to be found in present-day Chile. Illapu, another well-known Chilean folk band that returned from exile in the late 1980s, phrased the dichotomy in a song that was to become a hit single in the early nineties: “More justice, fewer monuments.”20


Nicolás Salazar-Sutil

The country had prospered and rebuilt itself in a new guise, almost to the point of being a place beyond recognition for many returning exiles. Although the song indicates that the fugitive can still see traces of the “same old people,” postdictatorship Chile had changed so fundamentally that the protest song movement no longer found points of entry into a new democratic, freemarket society. As such, the performance of disappearance gradually lost its momentum as capitalist prosperity created myriad points of engagement and a new cultural precedent borrowed largely from a depoliticized and globalized popular culture. The collapse of left-wing ideology and the emergence of a free-market economy led to the commodification of the song of the exile. This new political climate had been replaced by a political centralisation that favoured economic performativity over protest song.

CODA: AS THOUGH THEY WERE ALIVE The aim of this chapter has been to investigate the performative power of disappearance. Victor Jara’s song for a fugitive is compelling, not least because it illustrates the paradox of disappearance: To disappear is in fact to appear again, only in a different guise. As a religious presence, a political representation, the space of disappearance is perhaps more real than the political ‘reality’ itself, more enduring than the political establishment it seeks to undermine. I would like to conclude with a general notion of the performance of disappearance—one that is applicable not only to the story of the fugitives and exilic refugees in recent Chilean history. Swiss philologist Karl Meuli made the interesting proposition, seldom cited in performance theoretical contexts, that theatrical performance may not have originated in Dionysiac rites, as it is often assumed, but in funeral rituals that sought to perform the disappearance of the dead. The mask was in fact the face of the departed, brought back to a space of ritual remembrance.21 Theatricality, according to this classified ethnological reading, is inherently a performance of disappearance. According to this reading, theatrical behavior, like the protest song, is in fact the re-presentation of someone or something that is not there, but which is re-membered and re-vocalized as though it were.

NOTES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Carlson, Haunted Stage. Virilio, Aesthetics, 52. Abbas, Hong Kong, 7. Conquergood, “Health Theatre,” 180. Roach, Cities of the Dead. Cullinane and Giménez-Maceda, “The Power of Song,” 49. Reyes, Songs, xiv.

Variations on a Fugitive’s Song


8. The Estadio Chile—renamed Estadio Victor Jara as a memorial to the protest singer—is a small sports complex located in downtown Santiago, only a few blocks away from the Moneda Palace. 9. Arendt, Human Condition, 198. 10. Jara, “El Aparecido” (my translation). 11. Stern, Remembering, 110. 12. Agrupación de Familiares. 13. Ibid. 14. Diana Taylor, “Making a Spectacle,” 80. 15. Lagos, “Dedo de Lagos” (my translation). 16. Eastmond, “Beyond Exile,” 230. 17. Blocker, Where is Ana Mendieta? 27. 18. The word tanguedia is a neologism that combines the words tango and tragedia, and it is used especially in reference to Argentine idol Carlos Gardel. See Julie Taylor, Paper Tangos, 42. 19. Manns and Salinas, “Vuelvo” (my translation). 20. Márquez, “Vuelvo para Vivir” (my translation). 21. Meuli, Der griechische Agon.

WORKS CITED Abbas, Ackbar. Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos (AFDD). Memoria y Justicia Web site. http://www.memoriayjusticia.cl/espanol/sp_derechos-afdd.html (accessed April 27, 2010). Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. Blocker, Jane. Where is Ana Mendieta? Identity, Performativity and Exile. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999. Carlson, Marvin A. The Haunted Stage: The Theatre as Memory Machine. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003. Conquergood, Dwight. “Health Theatre in a Hmong Refugee Camp: Performance, Communication and Culture.” The Drama Review: Journal of Performance Studies 32, no. 3 (1988): 174–206. Cullinane, Michael, and Teresita Giménez-Maceda. “The Power of Song.” In The Art of Truth-Telling about Authoritarian Rule, edited by Ksenjia Bilbija, Jo Ellen Fair, Cynthia E. Milton, and Leigh A. Payne, 46–51. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005. Eastmond, Marita. “Beyond Exile: Refugee Strategies in Transnational Contexts.” In Forced Migration and Global Processes: A View from Forced Migration Studies, edited by François Crépeau and Delphine Nakache, 217–37. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006. Jara, Victor. “El Aparecido.” In Victor Jara. DICAP, 1967. CD-ROM. . Victor Jara: Testimonio de un Artista. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988. Lagos, Ricardo. “Dedo de Lagos. Versión precisa.” September 11, 2006. Online video clip. YouTube Web site. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlLRHcFoUo M&feature=related (accessed August 12, 2008). Manns, Patricio. “La Exiliada del Sur.” Performed by Inti-Illimani. Autores Chilenos. DICAP, 1971. CD-ROM.


Nicolás Salazar-Sutil

Manns, Patricio, and Horacio Salinas. “Vuelvo.” Performed by Inti-Illimani. In Canción para matar una culebra. RCA, 1979. CD-ROM. Márquez, Andres. “Vuelvo para Vivir.” Performed with Illapu. In Vuelvo amor . . . Vuelvo vida. EMI, 1991. CD-ROM. Meuli, Karl. Der griechische Agon: Kampf und Kampfspiel im Totenbrauch, Totentanz, Totenklage, und Totenlob. Cologne: Deutsche Sporthochschule, 1968. Reyes, Adelaida. Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free: Music and the Vietnamese Refugee Experience. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999. Roach, Joseph. Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996. Stern, Steve J. Remembering Pinochet’s Chile. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006. Taylor, Diana. “Making a Spectacle: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.” In Radical Street Performance, edited by Jan Cohen-Cruz, 74–85. London: Routledge, 1998. Taylor, Julie. Paper Tangos. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998. Virilio, Paul. The Aesthetics of Disappearance. Translated by Philip Beitchman. Cambridge, MA: Semiotext(e), 1991.

11 Immigration and Modernism Arnold Schoenberg and the Los Angeles Émigrés Kenneth H. Marcus

BEGINNINGS The arrival of Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951) in Southern California in 1934 marked a milestone in the region’s cultural history.1 After almost a year on the East Coast, suffering through the cold and damp of Boston and New York, he longed for a place with a warmer climate where he might spend the rest of his days. 2 In joining a long list of health-seekers traveling to Southern California, he was one of the fi rst European exiles of the 1930s to venture so far west.3 He subsequently took an active role in what Erhard Bahr has recently called “exile modernism,” in which hundreds of refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria formed what Bahr refers to as a “Weimar on the Pacific.”4 Teaching fi rst at the University of Southern California (USC, 1935–36), then as a tenured professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA, 1936–44), Schoenberg in some ways serves as a model of the immigrant who succeeded. 5 Yet this was by no means entirely the case; he struggled to achieve recognition and acceptance as both a modernist artist and an exile. This chapter argues that Schoenberg, like his fellow exiles, navigated between American support for European artists and a suspicion of those same artists, both on artistic and political grounds. This dialectic resulted in a troubled view of Heimat for the exiles and the reconstruction of homeland in the host country. Let us begin with defi nitions. Modernism was an international aesthetic movement from the 1880s to the 1950s in which artists sought a conscious break with the past. It involved all of the arts—architecture, painting, sculpture, literature, photography, dance, and music—which made it a truly interdisciplinary movement. In Southern California it fi rst applied to the visual arts, a movement that historian Philip Ethington has referred to as Southern California Modernism, but I would like to broaden this term to include the performing arts in which there were common goals. Elsewhere I have written about a veritable ‘renaissance’ in Los Angeles during this period.6 This movement comprised men and women, American and émigré, who sought nothing less than a transformation of the arts in Southern California. As Ethington puts it, “Southern California Modernism ranks as one


Kenneth H. Marcus

Figure 11.1 Arnold Schoenberg and his wife, Gertrud, and daughter, Nuria, arrived in Los Angeles in 1934. He took a tenured position as professor of music at UCLA in 1936, the year this photo was taken. Used with permission of the Arnold Schoenberg Center, Vienna, Austria.

Immigration and Modernism 185 of the major contributions of Los Angeles to global culture.” It remains, he asserts, “a key example of the cultural creativity of cities.”7 By immigration I am referring specifically to the experience of exile. Immigrants had been coming to Southern California long before the arrival of the exiles, of course, and modernist artists of the early-twentieth century, such as architects Rudolf Schindler and Richard Neutra, made decided contributions to the development of early modernism in Southern California. The difference here is that whereas most European artists from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries came freely, the exiles did not. The very notion of exile, with its violent wrenching away from the homeland, meant that the artists who arrived during this period had direct experience with political or religious persecution or both, which often had a direct impact on their art. That experience strongly colored the exiles’ understanding not only of their political and cultural environment, but also of their very roles as artists within that environment. This brings us to a defi nition of Heimat, or homeland. Although the word is not directly translatable into English, it speaks of a very personal understanding of belonging, of putting down roots, of Wohlgefühl (a sense of well-being). Stated simply, without a sense of Heimat the émigré was doomed to constant struggle. The notion of Heimat was thus central to the émigré experience and strongly determined (or resulted from) their perception of acceptance or rejection in their adopted country. For the émigrés, many of whom like Schoenberg were Jewish, fleeing from the Nazis meant the search for a new home, or Heimat, often in a land that was utterly foreign to them. Although there were certainly émigrés who had no intention of staying longer than the extent of the war, others sought to put down roots. It is to this latter group that Arnold Schoenberg belonged, and his efforts in the modernist movement took on new meaning once he had become an American—indeed, Californian—artist and composer. To compose meant to search for new audiences, and the degree of acceptance of his music by those audiences directly influenced his personal notion of Heimat. The conundrum of Schoenberg and other exiles who sought to settle down was essentially as follows: that they had physically survived their recent ordeal of persecution, upheaval, and fleeing from their original homeland was surely a success in itself, yet as creative artists they had to continue to create. Yet for what purpose? Through which channels? And for which audiences? And if they could see only cant, hypocrisy, and cheap commercialism both in Los Angeles and in America as a whole, what could persuade them to remain or, at least, to believe that their sanctuary would provide a useful outlet for their talents? It is important to emphasize that émigré artists from Europe, especially those who made key contributions to modernism in Southern California, rarely did so alone. They readily joined forces with American artists to create a distinctive, if hardly uniform, modernist ethos. They seemed to agree that the movement in which they were engaged was new and that Southern


Kenneth H. Marcus

California in some ways provided an ideal setting for that movement. In essence, immigrant and native-born American artists who supported modernist ideals came to a region they perceived as having few cultural traditions or limitations—something they saw as setting Southern California apart from other, more tradition-bound regions of the country. Although this view was culturally myopic, it led to some interesting results, especially in the realm of music.

EXILE MODERNISM IN MUSIC European musicians brought to Southern California Modernism what local American musicians had thus far not been able to achieve: celebrity. Prior to the émigrés’ arrival, few major composers of international reputation had resided in Los Angeles. During and after the immigration of exile artists, that situation changed completely. How could it be otherwise when the two most influential composers of the twentieth century, Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, ended up living within eight miles of each other north of Sunset Boulevard?8 Thus whereas the exiles did not bring modernism to Southern California, they did register an abrupt break with the past. They were an illustrious group, to be sure, and they brought with them a hardedged cynicism coupled with a profound distrust of politics and even of the ideals of the Enlightenment itself.9 One reason that the exile musicians had such a strong influence on the modernist movement in Southern California is that many decided to stay.10 Aside from Schoenberg, who became a citizen in 1941, that list included his Austrian colleague Ernst Toch (1887–1964), who arrived in 1934 and became a U.S. citizen in 1940; and fellow Austrian Julius Toldi (1905–85), who arrived around 1936 and subsequently became a U.S. citizen.11 Other émigré musicians arrived in increasing numbers in the 1940s. Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895–1968) immigrated around 1940 and became a U.S. citizen in 1946; Russian/French composer Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) arrived in 1940 and took U.S. citizenship in 1945; Austrian composer/writer Alma Mahler-Werfel (1879–1964) came in 1940 and became a U.S. citizen in 1946; and Austrian composer Eric Zeisl (1905–59) arrived in 1941 and took U.S. citizenship in 1945.12 Most worked for the movie industry or became teachers; Stravinsky was one of the few to survive on commissions and performances alone. All struggled to accommodate American taste while continuing to draw on the modernist ideals they had learned in Europe. The act of fleeing to America naturally meant the beginning of an entirely new phase in Schoenberg’s life and career. In Berlin he had one of the most prestigious positions possible for an academic composer in the German-speaking countries: professor of musical composition at the Prussian Academy of the Arts in Berlin, which he assumed in 1926 after the

Immigration and Modernism 187

Figure 11.2 Arnold Schoenberg stands in the front garden of his home in Brentwood, California, a well-to-do residential neighborhood about four miles west of UCLA, ca. 1948. Used with permission of the Arnold Schoenberg Center, Vienna, Austria.

death of Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni in July 1924. In the United States, as was the case for many émigrés, Schoenberg had to start virtually from scratch. From November 1933 to May 1934 he had taught at the newly founded Malkin Conservatory of Music in Boston at a fraction of


Kenneth H. Marcus

the pay he had received in Berlin. To make matters worse, he had to deal with poorly prepared students, and the harsh climate played havoc with his health. That prompted him to seek a new Heimat in Southern California and, what was perhaps the most daunting, to create a new audience for his works among people who had little prior exposure to his music. What made Schoenberg’s music so ‘new’ in Los Angeles is that few composers of experimental music lived in Southern California at the time of his move to the region. Whereas such figures as William Grant Still and Charles Wakefield Cadman were important in Los Angeles music culture in the 1930s, their approach was largely Romantic and hence tonal, because they wrote in a traditional style that was readily accessible to the public.13 One local contemporary, Dane Rudhyar, did rely on modern idioms, but he had nothing like the renown that Schoenberg enjoyed. For local audiences or music students who were eager to learn about the latest, cutting-edge music, there was thus an almost complete lack of opportunity in Southern California. By all accounts, one had to travel either to San Francisco or to the East Coast to hear modern music. Schoenberg, in essence, represented modernism to them, not so much from what he taught as from what he had achieved. Through him they could glean some of the aura of the enfant terrible, the bête noire of modern music. Before broaching a defi nition of modern music, let us first consider the term ‘tonality.’ It implies an organized relationship of tones around a tonal center: the tonic or key. Using one of the major or minor keys of the diatonic scale (such as G major or E minor), the composer typically integrates the harmonic progressions of that key in building chords and cadences. Between the late seventeenth and early twentieth centuries, Western music was overwhelmingly tonal. In terms of aesthetics, the problem faced by many composers by the turn of the century was the belief that all of the possibilities of this system had already been explored and that there was little opportunity for innovation. Thus those composers who continued to write in a tonal style in the twentieth century, at least in the view of modernists, were ‘traditional’ or less cutting-edge than those composers who adopted newer forms of expression. In determining what constituted ‘modern music’ during this period, then, two of the most common approaches were atonality and twelve-tone composition. ‘Atonality’ refers to the absence of a recognizable key, which was an important transition from earlier types of composition. Resulting from a long historical evolution in harmony, atonality came into focus around 1908 in the work of several progressive composers, including Schoenberg, Béla Bartók, Aleksandr Skriabin, and Charles Ives. It gave composers more freedom by removing traditional restrictions from their work; specifically, it meant that they no longer had to rely on chords, harmonic progressions, cadences, and so on that pertained to a particular key. According to Schoenberg, atonal compositions “differed from all preceding music, not only harmonically but also melodically, thematically, and motivally.”14 To

Immigration and Modernism 189 admiring contemporaries, notably philosopher Theodor Adorno, atonality represented “Schoenberg’s hostility to culture” that contained the “expression of raw suffering, unmitigated by any convention.”15 Less dramatic commentators simply recognized the need for a new form of composition that was unencumbered by the past. As musicologist Bryan Simms states, atonality marked “a necessary expression of its time—the evolutionary outgrowth of a crisis in music at the turn of the century.”16 Twelve-tone composition grew out of atonality as composers searched for more concrete forms of expression. According to Schoenberg’s original approach to the twelve-tone idea, the composer establishes a tone row, or a fi xed ordering of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale (C, C-sharp, D, D-sharp, and so on up to the note of B). It is similar to a fi xed theme or melody in earlier music in that the tone row appears throughout a composition to provide structural unity.17 The presence of the tone row further means that the listener will hear a more limited number of intervals than in freely atonal composition, although both types of music avoid the use of a specific key and so have a very dissonant sound. Schoenberg, who pioneered twelve-tone composition in the early 1920s, further integrated such techniques as transposition and inversion of the notes to provide variation. Schoenberg’s delight with his newfound method of twelve-tone composition verged on the nationalistic; he famously declared to his students in Germany, “I have made a discovery thanks to which the supremacy of German music is ensured for the next hundred years.”18 This kind of nationalistic writing, which was by no means uncommon for Schoenberg during the 1920s, was essential to his identity as a modern composer. “When I think of music,” he wrote in 1921, “the only type that comes to mind—whether I want it to or not—is German music.”19 In other words, German music defi ned for him the idea of Heimat. By the time of his arrival in America, he was one of Germany’s best-known composers and the world’s foremost proponent of twelve-tone music. Yet if there is an irony in his work in America, it is essentially this: As a composer and teacher who was also a Jew, he was trying to communicate a cultural product from Germany, the country that had utterly rejected him. Regardless of the aesthetic appreciation he had for German music, he was propagating works from the same country that brought Hitler, Himmler, and Goering into power. Schoenberg was well aware of this irony, and he stopped using the term ‘German music’ (deutsche Musik) after his exile and used the more generic term ‘classical music’ instead.20 Nonetheless, there is no question where his competence and chief interests lay. Nor was this problem confi ned solely to Schoenberg, of course, but also to other Jewish colleagues, including Ernst Toch, Eric Zeisl, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold; indeed, we could call it the ‘Jewish dilemma’: German-speaking Jewish exiles in the arts who taught, wrote, or composed were in many ways doing propaganda for Germany or Austria, regardless of their political leanings.

190 Kenneth H. Marcus This was not the case with scientists. One cannot seriously speak of German biology or German chemistry or even German physics with any precision. One could, however, speak of German music, German letters, and German painting. Artists, especially Jewish artists who suffered persecution under the Nazis, faced a dilemma that few could completely overcome in their adopted country. As an example of the exiled composer trying to achieve acceptance in the host country, let us consider the fi rst work Schoenberg wrote in America, the Suite for String Orchestra in G.21 To the utter astonishment of his contemporaries, the composer chose to write this work in a tonal style. By writing a work with a readily identifiable key throughout, Schoenberg made a dramatic break with his own past after avoiding tonality for over two decades. Even more surprising, Schoenberg drew on baroque forms: the fugue, minuet, gavotte, and gigue—the latter three being types of dance music! Some parts of the score have a playful character, such as measures 91 through 96 of the fi rst movement (Ouverture) and the entire fourth movement (Gavotte). The happiness and gaiety that characterize these passages present a further contrast to much of his earlier work. Why the abrupt change? It began with his interaction with Martin Bernstein, a junior faculty member in the music department at New York University, whom Schoenberg met at a music festival in Chautauqua in upstate New York during the summer of 1934. Bernstein convinced him of the need for writing a work specifically for college students, something Schoenberg had never previously considered. As Schoenberg explained it, Bernstein told him of “the ambitions, achievements and successes of American college orchestras. I became convinced that every composer—especially every modern composer, and I above all—should be interested in encouraging such efforts. For here, a new spiritual and intellectual basis can be created for art; here, young people can be given the opportunity of learning about the new fields of expression and the means suitable for these.”22 Schoenberg continued these ideas and developed them fully into the Suite for String Orchestra once he arrived in Los Angeles. It seems that a garden party in the Hollywood Hills provided the inspiration for completing the work. Arnold, his wife Gertrud, and their young daughter Nuria were at the home of a friend and fellow émigré, Hugo Riesenfeld, on Sunday, October 14, 1934. Surrounded by other émigrés, including conductor Otto Klemperer, Schoenberg began writing more sketches for the work.23 Over the next two months he developed the rest of the Suite. Schoenberg intended the work as a fundamentally modern means to introduce students to the current possibilities of tonality. It was an astonishing goal, given the composer’s previous steadfast aversion over the past several decades to composing tonal music. Rather, its aim was to act as a bridge for students into the modern repertoire. By avoiding what Schoenberg humorously referred to as “Atonality Poison,” students could nonetheless develop “modern feelings, for modern performance technique,” with

Immigration and Modernism 191 an emphasis on “modern intonation, contrapuntal technique and phraseformation.”24 As he pointed out later in a letter to New York Times music critic Olin Downes, the piece could “lead them to a better understanding of modern music and the very different tasks which it puts to the player.”25 Assured of its educational value, Schoenberg wrote his friends in November 1934, while still in the midst of composing: “This piece will become a veritable teaching example of the progress that can be made within tonality, if one is really a musician and knows one’s craft: a real preparation, in matters not only of harmony but of melody, counterpoint and technique.” He continues that the work represents a “stout blow I am sure, in the fight against the cowardly and unproductive.”26 Because Schoenberg had begun teaching college-age students while continuing his progress on the work, such an idea made pedagogical sense. Despite these noble intentions, however, the piece ended up being performed at fi rst by symphony orchestras rather than student orchestras. Here Schoenberg was almost apologetic in his explanation to Downes of the Suite’s development. “Now, unfortunately,” he explained, “musicians to whom I showed the work when it was fi nished found it too difficult for pupils, but liked the music very much . . . And so it came to be that I agreed with the publisher’s wishes [G. Schirmer] to let it at fi rst be a normal concert work and only later to develop its original purpose.”27 It was a curious transition, to be sure, but one that reflected his uncertainty in adapting to American taste. The reception was not what we might expect for a tonal work. Conductor Otto Klemperer premiered the newly titled Suite in Olden Style for String Orchestra in Los Angeles with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in May 1935, which was broadcast live on local radio station KHJ, followed five months later by a performance with the New York Philharmonic. Olin Downes was particularly sharp in his remarks. “Only one thing more fantastical than the thought of Arnold Schönberg [sic] in Hollywood is possible,” he wrote mockingly, “and that thing has happened. Since arriving there about a year ago Schönberg has composed in a melodic manner and in recognizable keys. That is what Hollywood has done to Schönberg. We may now expect atonal fugues by Shirley Temple.”28 Other critics were similarly baffled by the composer’s supposed turnaround and as a result found little to laud in the work. One of the few who seemed to have something positive to say about Schoenberg’s experiment in educational composition was a student at the time of the work’s appearance. Composer Milton Babbitt, who was studying with Martin Bernstein at the time and had eagerly awaited the work’s completion, was intrigued. “What for Schoenberg was a multilayered link to the past was for us a multiple, if passive, connection to a tradition that we inherited primarily through its extensions. If the Suite was an edifying compendium for us, it was Schoenberg’s bridge between his old and new worlds, and he wasn’t about to burn his bridges.”29 That bridge, it seems,

192 Kenneth H. Marcus found little acceptance among the very audiences Schoenberg had hoped to reach—a difficult proposition for someone dependent on commissions for extra income.30 To Schoenberg’s evolving sense of modernism, however, it became increasingly important not to leave the possibilities of tonality behind. Whereas that choice was scarcely accepted by his European colleagues or even utterly rejected, the dialectic of support and suspicion is what confronted the composer in America. To Schoenberg, to be modern meant that one need not restrict oneself to only one type of composition. He addressed this belief in an article fi rst published in the New York Times in 1948, “On revient toujours,” in which he explained that both types of composition, tonal and twelve-tone, were admissible because he liked writing in both styles.31 Modernism to Schoenberg in Southern California thus meant not having to reject the past; on the contrary, it meant that one could also embrace that past.

TROUBLE IN PARADISE Like his fellow exiles, Schoenberg was dependent not only on how Americans viewed his music but also on the American political climate. This issue brings us to his inner circle of émigré friends, which included composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Hanns Eisler, writers Thomas Mann and Franz Werfel, composer Anna Mahler Werfel, and art collector Salka Viertel, among others, all of whom brought radically different political and cultural agendas to Southern California. They had differing notions of Heimat, but what held them together was their general sense of representing the last vestige of Weimar culture by some of its most prominent denizens. That circle of friends, however, could also prove to be a source of trouble. Let us consider one example in which American suspicions of European artists directly affected Schoenberg: the case of Hanns Eisler. During the Red-baiting era of the late 1940s and early 1950s, Hollywood was under grave suspicion by the federal government, which had launched the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) after the war to investigate alleged communist infi ltration in the country. Schoenberg came to regret his association with Eisler, a student from his Viennese period who was staying in Los Angeles during the war. Eisler had been productive during his exile, writing fi lm scores, cowriting a book on fi lm music with Theodor Adorno, and also completing Hollywood Songbook, a collection of songs based in part on poems by Bertolt Brecht.32 Unfortunately, Eisler had been a member of the Communist Party in Germany during the 1920s, which he had neglected to report on his application for American citizenship. After a brief criminal process against him in 1947, Eisler was forced to leave the country that same year.

Immigration and Modernism 193 What did this case have to do with Schoenberg? Eisler often visited his old teacher during his Los Angeles exile and even attended some of his private group classes. 33 This contact brought Schoenberg immediately under suspicion of the FBI. Schoenberg’s youngest son, Lawrence, recalled in an interview that after Eisler’s deportation, the FBI arrived at the Schoenbergs’ house in Brentwood to investigate any connection with Eisler. They went through their books, letters, and other papers; Lawrence remembered that his parents “were terrified about [the FBI] coming to the house. And then they looked in this library. They were looking through all the books.”34 Although the investigators found nothing incriminating, the experience was horrifying for the parents, who could only be reminded of 1930s Germany. The event showed how serious the situation had become for the Schoenbergs, who feared for their loss of freedom in a very different political climate in America than what they had experienced in America before the war. They had a large circle of émigré friends, any one of whom could have had communist leanings, which would only mean more trouble for Schoenberg. If democracy relies on the ideal of freedom, then any threat to that freedom for the émigrés entailed a loss in the perception of Heimat. Eisler himself formed close associations with many émigrés in Los Angeles. These included playwright Bertolt Brecht, actor Charlie Chaplin, and writers Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Berthold Viertel, and Lion Feuchtwanger.35 With the exception of Thomas Mann, all held political views decidedly to the left. Eisler was thus a sacrificial lamb—a warning to his fellow émigrés not to venture too far in radical political waters, and, most of all, not to indulge in communist beliefs. Schoenberg, who ironically chose not to support his former student, thought he had little to fear; yet the FBI searched his home nonetheless. Those figures who did support Eisler, including Igor Stravinsky, could expect similar scrutiny by the FBI.36 Such experiences made the prospect of Heimat in the host country an exceedingly difficult goal for many émigrés to achieve.

CONCLUSION Southern California Modernism was one of the pivotal art movements in the cultural history of California. It demanded a critical approach to one’s art, and it represented a break from past artistic expression. The field of music benefitted enormously from the émigrés’ contributions, and Arnold Schoenberg’s career in America provides us with an example of a modernist composer who helped to transform his field. His stated position in America, that one need not restrict oneself to twelve-tone music to be a modernist composer, formed an important part of that legacy. Despite the hardships and challenges that Schoenberg faced, he remained committed to the modernist ethos. As one of the fi rst of the European exiles of the 1930s to come out West, he attracted students and admirers


Kenneth H. Marcus

as a symbol of the new music, and those who longed to learn about or hear modern music often came to him. Yet unlike his career in Europe, his career in America was tenuous at best. Like many exiles, his longing for Heimat meant necessarily seeking acceptance in his adopted country, which in turn entailed reaching out to American audiences and tastes. His experiment in writing both tonal and twelve-tone music, even if it was inspirational to some, also came at a price. The suspicions of American audiences, regardless of the composer’s good intentions, meant that he had an arduous road to travel in bringing his evolving views of modernism to a reluctant public. In this chapter I have argued that Schoenberg, like other European artists, navigated between American support and rejection of his work and that this dialectic led to a troubled view of Heimat in the United States. Because the concept of Heimat was central to the émigrés’ self-conception, any threat to their sense of belonging to the new homeland could deeply upset their reconstructed identity. That identity for Schoenberg was as both a modernist and an exile, and his search for Heimat ultimately meant not only to feel at home but also to be able to overcome conflict.

NOTES 1. The earliest evidence of Schoenberg’s arrival in Southern California was his overnight stay at the Hotel Constance in Pasadena on September 16, 1934 (Lawrence Schoenberg, e-mail communication, October 12, 2006). 2. Arnold, Gertrud, and Nuria Schoenberg arrived at the Port of New York (in Hoboken, New Jersey) on October 31, 1933. They stayed in Boston, where Schoenberg taught at the Malkin Conservatory, until they moved to the Ansonia Hotel on Broadway in New York in March 1934 and departed for California in September of that year. 3. On the exiles in Southern California generally, see Bahr, Weimar on the Pacific; Crawford, A Windfall of Musicians; Brinkmann and Wolff, eds., Driven into Paradise; Heilbut, Exiled in Paradise; Merrill-Mirsky, ed., Exiles in Paradise; and Taylor, Strangers in Paradise. On Schoenberg in particular, see Marcus, “Judaism Revisited”; Meyer, ed., Arnold Schoenberg in America; Crawford, “Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles”; Lessem, “The Émigré Experience”; and Rubsamen, “Schoenberg in America.” 4. See Bahr, Weimar on the Pacific, 1–6. 5. Schoenberg was sixty-one at the time of his official appointment as professor of music on July 1, 1936, only a few months shy of his sixty-second birthday. Stevenson, “Music in Southern California,” 105; Zam, “How Schoenberg Came to UCLA,” 223–29; Crawford, “Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles,” 19–30; Rubsamen, “Schoenberg in America,” 472–73. See also Teaching Materials, UCLA. 6. Marcus, “Living the Los Angeles Renaissance,” 55–72; idem, “Judaism Revisited,” 307. 7. Ethington, “Images and Realities.” I would like to thank Phil Ethington for providing me with a copy of the paper. 8. Bahr, Weimar on the Pacific, 68–69, 311; Taylor, Strangers in Paradise, chap. 4; Crawford, A Windfall of Musicians, 232–33.

Immigration and Modernism 195 9. See Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment. 10. Compare with those major artists, overwhelmingly German writers and philosophers, who stayed in Southern California before returning to Germany after the war. That list includes writer Alfred Döblin (1878–1957), who stayed from 1940 to 1945; philosopher Max Horkheimer (1895–1973), who stayed from 1940 to 1949, although he became a U.S. citizen in 1940; writer Thomas Mann (1875–1955), who stayed from 1940 to 1952 and became a U.S. citizen in 1944; philosopher Ludwig Marcuse (1894–1971), who stayed ca. 1940 to 1961 and became a U.S. citizen in 1944; writer Leonard Frank (1882–1961), who stayed ca. 1940 to 1950; philosopher Theodor Adorno (1903–69), who stayed from 1941 to 1949; playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898– 1956), who stayed from 1941 to 1947; composer Hanns Eisler (1898–1962), who stayed from 1942 to 1948; and composer Paul Dessau (1894–1979), who also stayed from 1942 to 1948. 11. Schoenberg befriended Toch and wrote a letter of reference to help him get work; Arnold Schoenberg to Horace Kallen (New School for Social Research), December 6, 1933, Ernst Toch Collection, correspondence, box 36, folder 4, item 103. 12. Like Schoenberg, Zeisl befriended numerous émigrés, including Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Igor Stravinsky, and Ernst Toch (Eric Zeisl Collection, correspondence). 13. Marcus, Musical Metropolis, 7, 80–82, 132, 151, 156; and accompanying CD, tracks 4, 5, 18. 14. Schoenberg, “Composition With Twelve Tones (I),” in Style and Idea, 217. 15. Adorno, Philosophy of New Music, 177n10. 16. Simms, Atonal Music, 4. This section on atonality and twelve-tone music is indebted to Simms’s text. 17. MacDonald, Schoenberg, 134–42. 18. Quoted from “Introduction” to Schoenberg, “When I think of music” (1921), in Auner, ed., Schoenberg Reader, 159. 19. Schoenberg, “When I think of music” (1921), in Auner, ed., Schoenberg Reader, 159–60. 20. Danuser, “Composers in Exile,” 162. 21. The work can be heard on the Arnold Schoenberg Center Web site, under Suite im alten Stile (G-Dur) für Streichorchester. http://www.schoenberg.at/9_ webradio/jukebox/Orchestral Music_e.htm (accessed January 15, 2010). 22. Schoenberg, “Sketch of a Foreword to the Suite for String Orchestra (undated),” in Auner, ed., Schoenberg Reader, 267. 23. Jones, “Words and Music,” 6. 24. Schoenberg, “Sketch of a Foreword to the Suite for String Orchestra,” in Auner, ed., Schoenberg Reader, 267. 25. Schoenberg, “Analysis by Ear—Draft of a Letter to Olin Downes, October 1935,” in Auner, ed., Schoenberg Reader, 264. 26. Schoenberg, “Circular to My Friends on My Sixtieth Birthday: September 13, 1934,” in Style and Idea, 29. See also Sinkovicz, Mehr als zwölf Töne, 257–58. 27. Schoenberg, “Analysis by Ear,” in Auner, ed., Schoenberg Reader, 264. 28. Olin Downes, “New Suite by Arnold Schoenberg.” Also quoted in introduction to Schoenberg, “Analysis by Ear,” in Auner, ed., Schoenberg Reader, 263. 29. Milton Babbitt, “My Vienna Triangle,” 37. 30. Almost all of Schoenberg’s American compositions arose from commissions, quite in contrast to his European period, wherein a tenured position at the Academy of the Arts in Berlin allowed him far more fi nancial independence.


Kenneth H. Marcus

31. The article is reprinted in the collection Style and Idea, 108–10. 32. Two fi lms Eisler wrote the scores for during this period were Hangmen Also Die! (1943), whose score was nominated for an Academy Award, and None But the Lonely Heart (1944). His views on fi lm music and the Hollywood fi lm industry appear in Eisler and Adorno, Composing for the Films. For the score of the Hollywood Songbook, see Eisler, Hollywooder Liederbuch. 33. Natalie Limonick, interview with author. 34. Lawrence Schoenberg, interview with author. Schoenberg’s oldest son, Ronald, recalled the same event and the difficulties it brought his parents (Ronald Schoenberg, interview with author). 35. See Hanns Eisler Collection, correspondence, boxes 1–3. 36. On Eisler’s trial and letters of support, see Committee on Un-American Activities, Hanns Eisler Collection, correspondence, box 5. Stravinsky’s support for Eisler is also in Igor Stravinsky Collection, correspondence, box 30/ III. Martha Gellhorn wrote a scathing account of the Eisler hearing, “Cry Shame! An Eye-Witness Account of the Hanns Eisler Hearing Before the Thomas-Rankin Un-American Activities Committee,” reprinted in New Republic, October 6, 1947.


Archives Teaching Materials, UCLA—Teaching I. Arnold Schoenberg Center, Vienna, Austria. Igor Stravinsky Collection. Paul Sacher Stiftung, Basel, Switzerland. Ernst Toch Collection. Department of Music, Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles. Eric Zeisl Collection. Department of Music, Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles. Hanns Eisler Collection. Feuchtwanger Memorial Library, Special Collections, University of Southern California.

Interviews Limonick, Natalie. Interview with author. Tape recording. July 6, 2004. Los Angeles, CA. Schoenberg, Lawrence. Interview with author. Tape recording. June 12, 2004. Pacific Palisades, CA. Schoenberg, Ronald. Interview with author. Tape recording. June 17, 2004. Brentwood, CA.

Books and Periodicals Adorno, Theodor W. Philosophy of New Music. Translated and edited by Robert Hullot-Kentor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006. Auner, Joseph, ed. A Schoenberg Reader: Documents of a Life. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003. Babbitt, Milton. “My Vienna Triangle at Washington Square Revisited and Dilated.” In Driven into Paradise: The Musical Migration from Nazi Germany to the United States, edited by Reinhold Brinkmann and Christoph Wolff, 33–53. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Immigration and Modernism 197 Bahr, Ehrhard. Weimar on the Pacifi c: German Exile Culture in Los Angeles and the Crisis of Modernism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. Brand, Juliane, and Christopher Hailey, eds. Constructive Dissonance: Arnold Schoenberg and the Transformations of Twentieth-Century Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Brinkmann, Reinhold, and Christoph Wolff, eds. Driven into Paradise: The Musical Migration from Nazi Germany to the United States. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Crawford, Dorothy Lamb. “Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles.” The Musical Quarterly 86 (Spring 2002): 6–48. . A Windfall of Musicians: Hitler’s Émigrés and Exiles in Southern California. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009. Danuser, Hermann. “Composers in Exile: The Question of Musical Identity.” In Driven into Paradise: The Musical Migration from Nazi Germany to the United States, edited by Reinhold Brinkmann and Christoph Wolff, 155–71. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Downes, Olin. “New Suite by Arnold Schoenberg: Composition in Old Style for String Orchestra to Be Played by Philharmonic-Symphony—The Atonalist’s Progress.” New York Times, October 13, 1935, X7. Eisler, Hanns. Hollywooder Liederbuch. Corrected reprint by Oliver Dahin and Peter Deeg. Leipzig: Deutscher Verlag für Musik, 2008. Eisler, Hanns, and Theodor W. Adorno. Composing for the Films. 1947. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971. Ethington, Philip J. “Images and Realities of Cities in the 21st Century: Global Cities, Creative Cities, and Sustainable Cities.” Paper given at a symposium at Osaka City University, Japan, December 21–22, 2006. Heilbut, Anthony. Exiled in Paradise: German Refugee Artists and Intellectuals in America from the 1930s to the Present. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Edited by Gunzelin Schmid Noerr. Translated by Edmund Jephcott. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002. Jones, Isabel Morse. “Words and Music.” Los Angeles Times, October 21, 1934, part II. Lessem, Alan. “The Émigré Experience: Schoenberg in America.” In Constructive Dissonance: Arnold Schoenberg and the Transformations of Twentieth-Century Culture, edited by Juliane Brand and Christopher Hailey, 58–68. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Macdonald, Malcolm. Schoenberg. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Marcus, Kenneth H. “Judaism Revisited: Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles.” Southern California Quarterly 89 (Fall 2007): 307–25. . “Living the Los Angeles Renaissance: A Tale of Two Black Composers.” The Journal of African American History 91 (Winter 2006): 55–72. . Musical Metropolis: Los Angeles and the Creation of a Music Culture, 1880–1940. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Merrill-Mirsky, Carol, ed. Exiles in Paradise. Los Angeles: Hollywood Bowl Museum, 1991. Meyer, Christian, ed. Arnold Schoenberg in America. Report of “Arnold Schoenberg in America” symposium, May 2–4, 2001. Vienna: Arnold Schoenberg Center, 2002. Rubsamen, Walter. “Schoenberg in America.” The Musical Quarterly 37 (October 1951): 469–89. Schoenberg, Arnold. Style and Idea: Selected Writings of Arnold Schoenberg. Edited by Leonard Stein. Translated by Leo Black. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975.


Kenneth H. Marcus

Simms, Bryan R. The Atonal Music of Arnold Schoenberg, 1908–1923. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Sinkovicz, Wilhelm. Mehr als zwölf Töne: Arnold Schönberg. Vienna: Paul Zsolnay Verlag, 1998. Stevenson, Robert. “Music in Southern California: A Tale of Two Cities.” InterAmerican Music Review 10 (Fall/Winter 1988): 39–111. Taylor, John Russell. Strangers in Paradise: The Hollywood Émigrés, 1933–1950. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1983. Zam, Maurice. “How Schoenberg Came to UCLA.” Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute 3 (October 1979): 223–29.

Part IV

Performing Ethnicity and Migration Cultural and Artistic Practices

12 Ethnic Nostalgia Ethnicity as Cultural Practice in the Twenty-First Century Marcus Embry

In 1992, Berlin’s Treptow Park was memorable because of the Soviet-era statues, but more captivating was the make-believe village in the nearby woods. There was a nineteenth-century American West village complete with boardwalk, saloon, and farrier; and in the woods were tepees and a Native American village. Even for someone who had read Karl May and knew of Old Shatterhand and the overall German love for Western Americana, the village was too much.1 The simulacrum of the village was not what made it excessive; rather, the joy of the villagers was most amazing. It was a cultural Disney for grown-ups, some sort of ethnic festival that seemed much more American than German. At the beginning of the new, post–cold war Germany, it was a symbol of transition and stasis, of the various performances of cultures, memories, and history that are now assuming shape for the twenty-fi rst century. As discussions of ethnic literature have moved from the stately theories of Werner Sollors and his former students at Yale to the challenging biopolitics of Rey Chow, new ethnic texts have constantly appeared, demonstrating that the genre is comfortable and enduring. 2 Certainly the United States is more than ready to read itself as inherently ethnic, and even the presentation of Mormonism in John Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven is a tale of immigration, though the Mormons ‘immigrated’ from Palmyra, New York, to Missouri and then Salt Lake City, Utah. 3 In other words, ethnic difference has become central to telling an ‘American’ story. Two recent ethnic texts fit into this pattern: both Michael Schorr’s 2003 film Schultze Gets the Blues and Louise Erdrich’s 2003 novel The Master Butchers Singing Club tell of Germans and German descendents in America.4 Yet both tell the story with subtle variations that either confound the genre or confuse the critics. Contemporary discussions of ethnic festivals begin with Kathleen Conzen’s excellent analysis of festive culture in “Ethnicity as Festive Culture: Nineteenth-Century German America on Parade” in The Invention of Ethnicity, an article from a text and period that helped define the discussion of German and European ethnicity in American studies. 5 Conzen argues that the festive culture of Germany emigrated with the people during the nineteenth century, and that the Germans celebrated July 4 in their


Marcus Embry

new land by gathering in the park to drink beer and cook wurst. The longer-settled population (to use a term other than ‘native’) learned from this immigrant generation the benefits of the grill party, and thus was born one of the United States’ most sacred native traditions, the Fourth of July barbecue. Conzen succinctly demonstrates that all non-Native American traditions have immigrant/migrant roots of one form or another. Thirty years later, however, elegantly concise arguments such as Conzen’s are no longer sufficient. We commonly call these moments of cultural contact ‘contact zones’ characterized by transculturation. However, in the following chapter I will examine Schorr’s fi lm and Erdrich’s novel and their critical reception to argue that there is a traffic in these moments of tracing ethnicity’s roots, and as the traced routes crisscross, a pattern emerges that suggests ethnicity as cultural practice is changing. In this essay, I will present an outline of that pattern, and I will propose some parameters within which to interpret the change. Germans playing cowboys and Indians certainly do not challenge or disrupt Conzen’s model, and along with Karl May’s fantasies, such imagery captures the manner in which ethnicity was both inhabited and marketed in the twentieth century. Schorr’s Schultze Gets the Blues, however, provides us with a remarkably different narrative of German and American ethnic identities. Schultze is Schorr’s fi rst film, and it received positive reviews from U.S. critics. The fi lm’s basic plot is that Schultze and his two friends are forced to retire from the salt mines in Saxon-Anhalt, and the nonverbal Schultze subsequently encounters the enervation of retirement. His passion for the accordion is energized by zydeco music, and Schultze’s friends eventually pool their resources to send him to a zydeco music festival in New Braunfels, Texas. Once there, Schultze, still taciturn at best, rents a boat and journeys far into the swamps, where he eventually fi nds a blues hall full of people of all races; he subsequently dies on the houseboat of an African American woman who offers him simple hospitality. One of the fi lm’s most amazing moments is Michael Schorr’s commentary on the DVD edition. As he tells how he and his crew all came to New Braunfels, Texas, to film portions of the movie, he starts to laugh and describes how they all arrived in the middle of a three-day wurst festival in New Braunfels. He states that he didn’t know there were threeday wurst festivals anywhere. Clearly, this moment provides a fl ip side to Conzen’s article, and we can easily see Americans outdoing Germans in their attempts to do German things. This would seem a natural growth of ethnic cultural practice, something that reflects the traffic in ethnicity in the new century, or a classic “contact zone” in the ubiquitous phrase of Mary Louise Pratt.6 Nevertheless, Schultze’s silence and death at the end of the fi lm precludes this tidy reading. Though the movie is full of music, Schultze almost never speaks. His quiet is one of reserve, but Schorr presents his nature as fundamentally musical; we understand his grammar through his body and his accordion.

Ethnic Nostalgia


Figure 12.1 Horst Krause as Schultze playing on stage. Paramount, 2003. Directed by Michael Schorr. Produced by Jens Koerner.

His death completes the silence, a silence contrasted by the musical, celebratory memorial and burial his friends hold for him back home in Germany. Hailed as a joyous and lyrical movie by many critics, the movie’s silences are very troubling: they begin in the static world of the rural former East Germany; they continue through the retirement of the workers of that world and era; and they cannot be overcome by travel, cultural expansion/ education/exposure, or the love of friends old or new. Most critics note this fact, and many could not reconcile themselves to the end of the film, to the fact that Schultze does not survive his remarkable trip. In fact, one critic posits that the ending is only a “mock” funeral, and that perhaps Schultze will or has returned; another claims that we can see in the funeral crowd his new friends from the bayous or Louisiana (we cannot).7 Schultze’s death and silence are very troubling because up until the conclusion, the movie tells an ethnic tale with which we are familiar. In the hands of many other authors, from Willa Cather to Frank McCourt, the protagonist would have either started a new life in America or returned home; either way the protagonist would have engendered a new dialogue, a new grammar of ethnic


Marcus Embry

practice and cultural exploration and borrowing. The ending of Schorr’s fi lm suggests that ethnic practice in the twenty-fi rst century has much more dangerous parameters. Stephen Holden argues that Schultze is a “sweetly humanist fi lm . . . that enfolds you in a big, reassuring bear hug.”8 The fi lm’s lack of dialogue, he suggests, allows the film to be a surreal visual tour of a place so foreign to Schultze that he is “more like a benign visitor from another galaxy who has simply dropped out of the sky.” This accords with Roger Ebert’s comments that, “Schultze Gets the Blues is not entirely, or even mostly, a comedy, even though it has passages of droll deadpan humor. It is essentially the record of a man who sets himself into motion and is amazed by the results.”9 Clearly, Schorr has managed to produce a narrative that defies typical genre categorization. Presenting Schorr’s movie as a contemporary German film response to New German Cinema, Emily Hauze argues that Schultze is a response to Werner Herzog’s Stroszek (1976) and that the accordion figures prominently in both films as a vehicle or device that links Germans and Americans on several cultural levels.10 Exploring the landscape of cultural identity and musical sound and tradition, Hauze cleverly builds a context for Schorr’s film that both places it in the very good company of Herzog and also locates it as an example of the culturally complex post–cold war Germany. Hauze argues that although the films are separated by almost thirty years, both are interested in a version of the “American Dream,” and both use the accordion as a “symbol of an intact and mobile body capable of crossing cultural boundaries.”11 Hauze’s reading of the accordion recognizes the peculiar nature of the instrument: the manner in which it breathes along with the musician. Her remarkable analysis results in her positing the accordion as the protagonist Bruno’s partner in Stroszek; Schultze and his accordion share a similar link and breathe together, yet the musician and the instrument compete in musical directions. In other words, for Schultze, the accordion is a “link to his heritage,” and it is also “his key to a new mode of expression, in the form of ‘zydeco’ music.”12 Importantly, both Herzog and Schorr leave their accordion-playing, traveling protagonists dead at the end of each movie; Hauze asserts that unlike Bruno’s death, “Schultze’s death is not tragic; his dream has seen completion and he leaves behind a legacy: the brass band at his funeral haltingly plays his ‘zydeco’ tune.”13 Robert Pirro fi nds an even greater legacy in Schultze as he argues that Schorr’s film explores the multiculturalism of post–cold war Germany. He too fi nds the film hard to locate within genre; and like Hauze, Pirro also notes that Schorr concentrates his cinematic vision on a catalogue of the quotidian, the details of everyday life. But unlike Hauze, Pirro fi nds the roots of Schultze in the “Heimat films of 1950s German cinema.”14 This approach allows Pirro to conclude that Schorr updates the Heimat films in that “Schultze’s embrace of homespun values is multicultural, not provincial, extending to a foreign place and people.”15 Pirro proceeds to read the

Ethnic Nostalgia


fi lm as a dialogue about the contact zone between East Germany and West Germany, and he reads into this relationship the complicated North American racial and cultural politics represented by African American music in general and zydeco music in particular. Through this bold and problematic conflation, Pirro concludes that the fi lm is has a “substantive agenda of transcultural engagement and multicultural affi rmation” that recognizes “East Germans’ appreciation of the advantages of community and West Germans’ willingness to engage with, and incorporate, outsider cultures.”16 I belabor Pirro’s reading of Schultze because it explicitly reveals a common, if unacknowledged, element of the various readings of the fi lm—nostalgia. Clearly, the ending of the fi lm, Schultze’s death, is provocative; but so is his silence, and his death at the conclusion is a silence even more profound than his taciturn presence. Pirro asserts that Schultze’s friends come from Louisiana and play in the funeral march, Hauze locates his legacy in that same funeral march, and Holden and Ebert are so amazed that they ascribe either alien provenance or the uncanny to Schorr’s film. The uncomfortable silence of Schultze brings to mind another 2003 ethnic text involving Germans: The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich. In this remarkable text, Erdrich explores the German immigrants and their descendants living in her imaginary town of Argus, North Dakota. In her various novels, Erdrich presents us with Germans in the town of Argus, occasionally as primary characters, but her status as one of our premier Native American writers is based principally on her treatment of Native Americans in her novels. Predictably, this book about Germans generated unique critical comment and many attempts to reconcile it with her previous work. Steven Kellman incorporates Erdrich into a landscape of Midwestern writers such as Nobel laureates Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, and Toni Morrison, but this regionalism is based on a literary location defined long before Native American literature was incorporated into the American canon.17 In other words, Erdrich’s novel about Germans pulled her out of her Native American context and into a writer’s salon with the likes of Edgar Lee Masters and Hamlin Garland—no doubt strange, though probably not unwelcome, company for a Native American writer. As Thomas Austenfeld demonstrates, the roots of Erdrich’s Argus Germans are present in her other works, including her poems.18 And he, Lischke, and McNab all document Erdrich’s German heritage and her family’s origins in Germany, including the village from which her grandfather came, and fi nd corollaries for it all in Master Butchers.19 Austenfeld argues, “In placing German experience at the forefront of The Master Butchers Singing Club (2003), Erdrich articulates fresh facets of her writerly universe and opens the door to a considerable expansion of her literary repertoire.”20 Put another way, Erdrich opens the door to the exploration of another of her ethnic identities, her German one. One of the most amazing critical perspectives is A. M. Regier’s contention that Erdrich’s “German novel” in fact uses German and various other non-Native American descendants

206 Marcus Embry as an intertribal ghost dance. 21 Thus, the German tradition of the master butchers gathering to sing their songs, Männergesangverein, is equated to a ghost dance, a spectacular conflation of German and Native American identities and cultural practices. Eerily similar to Schultze Gets the Blues, The Master Butchers Singing Club is a text about music and whose central character is mostly silent. Many critics have noted the fact that Fidelis, one of the protagonists and the German immigrant most read as derived from Erdrich’s grandfather, is silent both by nature and also because of his role as a sniper during the First World War. His four sons fight on both sides of the Second World War, and Fidelis returns to Germany to visit in the conclusion of the book. Nevertheless, the end is a voiceless retrospective of the songs the butchers sang. As did Schorr, Erdrich ends this text in the silence of memory. Master Butchers has provoked more biographical readings than Erdrich’s other texts. Some have suggested the book was written to heal the wound caused by Erdrich’s ex-husband’s death; others have suggested it is the companion piece to her explorations of her Native American heritage. The latter is clearly the implication of Austenfeld’s hope that Erdrich’s literary repertoire will expand. Both of these perspectives hearken back to Schultze’s funeral at the end of Schorr’s film: Somehow, the only way to place these texts is as a memorial, as a testament to a silent past that finds small purchase in the present. Together, Schorr’s fi lm and Erdrich’s novel present us with a German American textual practice that moves back and forth across the Atlantic, historical reference, and the festive culture of Conzen. Conzen identifies what she calls the associational culture of Germany, Vereinswesen, and Erdrich’s butchers’ singing club fits into it as a Männergesangverein. However, unlike cooking franks in public spaces, the festive practice of men’s singing clubs has not found reinterpretation in America, or perhaps the presence of the practice in Argus, North Dakota, is the fi rst instance. In other words, we have moved from the elegance of Conzen’s cultural perspective in the 1980s to a very complicated traffic in ethnic cultural practice in the new century. Schultze comes to Texas from an enervated post–East Germany and fi nds an excessive American German ethnic practice. His journey into the swamps of Louisiana takes him deep into a heritage very removed from his own; yet he fi nds friendship and comfort there, and it is there he ends his journey. Likewise, Erdrich’s novel does not present us with any useful politics about the reservation or the plight of Native Americans, and though we can perhaps imagine an intertribal ghost dance on a global scale of intertribal participation, the point is . . . what? Were this Erdrich’s fi rst novel, I wonder if she would ever find recognition as a Native American author from those who guard the canon. Obviously, this traffic in ethnic practice crisscrosses the Atlantic, and it immediately invokes the idea of transculturation, not so much in Fernando Ortiz’s original articulation but rather in the manner in which Mary Louise Pratt uses the concept to describe the traffic of cultural practice. 22

Ethnic Nostalgia


More specifically, Pratt incorporates the notion of transculturation into the ‘contact zone’ to illustrate how cultural borrowing by subordinate peoples becomes incorporated into the subordinate peoples’ cultures. This process, as described by either Ortiz or Pratt, can explain our July Fourth barbecues, although it is disconcerting to read the dominant U.S. culture as subordinate. But in fact, Pratt allows for the continuing appropriation of cultural practices across the boundaries of subordination and hegemony, until the lines of descent are blurred and the provenance of cultural practice is often wholly misconstrued. Such is the case revealed by Conzen’s article. What lessons of transculturation do Schorr and Erdrich teach us, however? Does Erdrich really fi nd, as some critics want her to, a way in which to tell the story of Native American culture and history through German American heritage? Does Schultze fi nd in the depths of Texas and Louisiana an answer to the entropy of the peoples, practices, and industry of the former East Germany or a celebration of the multiculturalism of the former West Germany? Throughout the American studies in the ’90s, transculturation was heralded as constructive and productive even at the expense of the cultures brought together in the contact zone; yet these two examples from the new century produce very little. In fact, Erdrich and Schorr each manage to produce an example of Alberto Moreiras’s contention that transculturation is a “war machine.”23 Transculturation, in other words, serves to domesticate the conflict, allows us to read the cultural collision as interpolative rather than destructive. The odd, nervous receptions given these works by Erdrich and Schorr demonstrate that they reveal the scandal of ethnic cultural practice in the new century. Earlier I used the word ‘nostalgic’ to describe the ethnic practice in these texts because I propose that what we increasingly see with regard to ethnic texts is a process already evident in magical realism. Specifically, the cultural practices surrounding these texts mark a transition from the previous century to the present, or more specifically, from the previous era to our increasingly uneasy nomos of globalization. In “Magical Realism at World’s End,” Michael Valdez Moses argues that “‘Magical Realism’ expresses the nostalgia of global modernity for the traditional worlds it has vanquished and subsumed.”24 Noting the wide usage of the term and technique in literature across the globe, Moses questions whether magical realism can be a contemporary manifestation of a world literature. He argues that if magical realism heralds “the most recent phase of the globalization of the literature,” then it reveals itself as a form of an older, equally widespread genre: the romance. 25 Comparing magical realism to historical romance, Moses illustrates how both depend on the reader’s nostalgia, on a process wherein the modern reader is presented with nostalgia for lost premodern worlds. The presence of those lost worlds in literature reinforces modernity in that the modern reader can look back at what has been lost and thus know the path and sure arrival of him- or herself at the present. In other words, magical realism as world literature celebrates the arrival of


Marcus Embry

modernity at a Hegelian telos of realization, the world’s end. “The magical realist novel is not written by or for those who believe in the marvelous, but rather for those who would like to believe in the marvelous.”26 As Moses points out, even though we commonly ascribe naïveté or credulity to readers of magical realist texts, if the reader were really thus, then the texts would not produce the surprise and shock that makes reading them so appealing. We never do believe that humans can fly, for example, but we would like to believe that others believe they can. Magical realism has reached a point in our increasingly globalized world where it “serves as a form of global mediation: it hybridizes elements borrowed from Western and non-Western cultures, modern and premodern ways of life.”27 In it we see the breakdown of the global–local dichotomy, but that breakdown is evident not only in the literature but also in the cultural practice of reading magical realism. To put it another way, Moses asks if magical realism has become a world literature; and if it has, then romance, an earlier form of world literature, has paid the price for it. The once-fi ne point of postcolonial critique in magical realism becomes nostalgic, is transcended, and is ultimately subsumed. As a genre, it reveals as much or more about the readers as it does about the writers and the texts, and it is this perspective that I want to bring back to ethnic cultural practice and the primary texts in this presentation. What lessons of mediation or transculturation do Schorr and Erdrich teach us? Or more properly, what do we reveal about ourselves in our encounter with these texts? Both texts have produced very interesting, sometimes convoluted criticism. Schultze’s is quite spectacular since it was Schorr’s fi rst fi lm, and the disruption caused by Schultze’s death at the conclusion of the fi lm is evident not only in the reviews but also in the U.S. packaging of the film. The cover features a silhouette of Schultze leaping into the air and clicking his heels together. Not only is the image rather incongruous given the man’s girth, but it is also the exact same image used to package The Milagro Beanfi eld War, a film about New Mexico Hispanics that could not be further afield from Schultze and his accordion.28 Ebert writes that Schorr’s fi lm is a narrative not only about Schultze but also about the director himself: He [Schorr] creates the character, watches him asleep on the sofa, and then follows a few steps behind as Schultze backs away from the dead end of retirement. He begins his journey with a single step, as we know all journeys must begin, and arrives at last on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, where not all journeys end, and where Schultze must be as surprised as his director to find himself.29 Ebert’s conclusion elides the historical context of the fi lm, the breakdown of East Germany, the cultural connections evident in the deep roots of Germans and German polka in the Southwest, and the ability of music to

Ethnic Nostalgia


provide an avenue of cultural appropriation and exploration. Rather than encourage critical perspectives traditional to ethnic practice, Schorr’s fi lm encourages us to subsume ethnicity, to make ethnicity nostalgic so that we can transcend and erase it. “Surprised to fi nd himself” is an apt phrase to describe the critical perspective we encounter in the articles addressing Erdrich’s book about Germans as well. From attempts to globalize the ghost dance to hopes that Erdrich will somehow transform into a broader writer or another writer altogether, the critical reception of Erdrich has demonstrated a will to subsume the German ethnicity in The Master Butchers Singing Club. Certainly, the history of Germans immigrating to the frozen northern states is evident in the text, but what that immigration means in terms of ethnic practice is illusory at best. It is not possible to identify the moment when German cultural practices found transculturation in Native American Indian practices, as did the festive culture of the nineteenth century. Rather, the German cultural practices fade into a memory of song at the conclusion of the text. Like a beautiful melody hauntingly remembered, this amazing novel fades into nostalgia, transcends the historical context of Germans and Native American, and is erased. Most important, both texts produce readings that herald the multicultural nature of the societies within them. In Erdrich’s case, this is to be expected, but the appearance of a decidedly U.S. Americocentric reading of multiculturalism in West Germany is quite stunning. In both cases, Germans are read as multicultural partners of a sort: in the case of Erdrich as participants in a global intertribal ghost dance, and in the case of Schultze as partners in a global multiculturalism. And it is here that both texts force our critical perspective off the reservation, as it were; it is in this global multiculturalism that we can see the outline of the pattern of ethnicity in the twenty-fi rst century. As Rey Chow argues, “the ideal American ethnicity is something to be overcome and left in the past.”30 Locating the cultural practice of ethnicity in the biopolitics of the late twentieth and early twenty-fi rst century, Chow argues that ethnicity has moved beyond the boundaries of cultural identification in terms of national descent in the manner of Sollors and Conzen. Rather, Chow contends that ethnicity has come to mark a claiming of resistance that is associated with proletarian struggle. 31 Thus, the runaway commodification of late capitalism, the ability of the market to absorb and repackage all sites of resistance gives rise to the urge to be ethnic, to resist, as quickly as it encourages resistance as proof of modernity’s liberal tolerance. In Chow’s brilliant critique, we can see the same critical framework Moses used: The cultural practice of ethnicity tends toward nostalgia, transcendence, and, ultimately, subsumption. I contend that we are beginning to see that ethnic literature has the distinct possibility of becoming the next world literature to fall prey to the self-aggrandizing rationalizations of modernity.

210 Marcus Embry NOTES 1. Karl May (1842–1912) was a best-selling German author who was famous for his plethora of novels detailing life in the American West. His principal characters were a German immigrant named Old Shatterhand and his Native American companion/friend, Winnetou. 2. Sollors, ed., Invention of Ethnicity; Chow, Protestant Ethnic. 3. Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven. 4. Erdrich, Master Butchers; Schultze Gets the Blues. 5. Conzen, “Ethnicity as Festive Culture,” 44–76. 6. Pratt, Imperial Eyes. 7. Pirro, “Tragedy,” 69–92. 8. Holden, “From Bratwurst to Jambalaya,” 32. 9. Ebert, “Schultze Gets the Blues.” 10. Hauze, “Keyed Fantasies,” 84–95. 11. Ibid., 85. 12. Ibid., 91. 13. Ibid., 95. 14. Pirro, 70 (italics added). 15. Ibid. 16. Ibid., 79. 17. Kellman, “Cardiograms from the Heartland,” 467–76. 18. Austenfeld, “German Heritage,” 3–11. 19. Lischke and McNab, “Storytelling,” 189–203. 20. Austenfeld, 4. 21. Regier, “Revolutionary,” 134–57. 22. Ortiz, Cuban Counterpoint. Pratt cited above in note 6. 23. Moreiras, Exhaustion of Difference, 185–87. 24. Moses, “Magical Realism,” 105. 25. Ibid., 106. 26. Ibid., 115. 27. Ibid., 114. 28. Milagro Beanfi eld War. 29. Ebert, np. 30. Chow, Protestant Ethnic, 30. 31. Ibid., 42.

WORKS CITED Austenfeld, Thomas. “German Heritage and Culture in Louise Erdrich’s The Master Butchers Singing Club.” Great Plains Quarterly 26, no. 1 (2006): 3–11. Chow, Rey. The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. Conzen, Kathleen Neils. “Ethnicity as Festive Culture: Nineteenth-Century German America on Parade.” In The Invention of Ethnicity, edited by Werner Sollors, 44–76. New York: Oxford, 1989. Ebert, Roger. “Schultze Gets the Blues.” Review of Schultze Gets the Blues. Roger Ebert’s Web site. March 11, 2005. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs. dll/article?AID=200550301008 (accessed March 14, 2008). Erdrich, Louise. The Master Butchers Singing Club. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.

Ethnic Nostalgia


Hauze, Emily. “Keyed Fantasies: Music, the Accordion and the American Dream in Stroszek and Schultze Gets the Blues.” German Life & Letters 62, no. 1 (January 2009): 84–95. Holden, Stephen. “From Bratwurst to Jambalaya in a Cross-Cultural Odyssey.” Review of Schultze Gets the Blues. New York Times, February 18, 2005. Kellman, Steven. “Cardiograms from the Heartland.” Michigan Quarterly Review 43, no. 3 (2004): 467–76. Krakauer, John. Under the Banner of Heaven. New York: Anchor Books, 2004. Lischke, Ute and David McNab. “Storytelling and Cultural Identity: Louise Erdrich’s Exploration of the German/American Connection in The Master Butchers Singing Club.” European Journal of American Culture 25, no. 3 (2006): 189–203. The Milagro Beanfi eld War. Directed by Robert Redford. Screenplay by John Nichols. Performed by Ruben Blades, Sonia Braga. Universal Studios, 1998. Moreiras, Alberto. The Exhaustion of Difference: The Politics of Latin American Cultural Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001. Moses, Michael Valdez. “Magical Realism at World’s End.” Literary Imagination: The Review of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics 3, no. 1 (2002): 105–33. Ortiz, Fernando. Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar. 1940. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Pirro, Robert. “Tragedy, Surrogation and the Significance of African-American Culture in Postunification Germany: An Interpretation of Schultze Gets the Blues.” German Politics & Society 26, no. 3 (Autumn 2008): 69–92. Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. New York: Routledge, 1992. Regier, A. M. “Revolutionary Enunciatory Spaces: Ghost Dancing, Transatlantic Travel, and Modernist Arson in Gardens in the Dunes.” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 51, no. 1 (2005): 134–57. Schultze Gets the Blues. Directed by Michael Schorr. Performed by Horst Krause. Paramount, 2005. Sollors, Werner, ed. The Invention of Ethnicity. New York: Oxford, 1989.

13 Connoisseurs of Urban Life Aesthetic Practices and the Everyday among Japanese Migrants in New York City Olga Kanzaki Sooudi The greater New York City (NYC)1 area is home to the largest Japanese expatriate population in the world; unofficial estimates place the population at around 200,000. Generally, Japanese who go to NYC place themselves in two categories: corporate employees (chuuzaiin) and their families; or single, voluntary migrants—often called ‘lifestyle migrants.’ This chapter concerns this vast, latter group of people who desire a different kind of life from what is available to them in Japan and choose to leave home in search of self-fulfillment. Among these migrants, NYC is perceived as a place where one can fulfill one’s personal potential and live a fuller and freer life than in Japan. Although most studies in the social sciences privilege material and economic need and disadvantaged social status as factors in explaining migration, I want to suggest instead that we take seriously the self-understanding of these migrants, who are consistently weighted with nonmaterial and noninstrumental concerns. In particular, this chapter examines how the everyday and its representations by migrants constitute a crucial site for understanding the meanings of and motivations for migration to NYC. By making prolific use of a wide range of media including magazines, books (memoirs), television programs, photography, and blogs, migrants construct aestheticized (and often idealized) representations of everyday life in NYC that are then circulated back to Japan; these are consumed by their compatriots and other migrants-to-be, as well as by those who will never make the same journey. NYC is commonly understood among Japanese migrants to be a ‘world stage’ of vanguardist ideas: The transition from Japan is narrated as the move from a peripheral, insular space to one where moribund ideas and traditional influence can successfully be transcended. Many leave predictable jobs in Japan to undertake risky, dramatic jumps into noninstrumental fields such as art, dance, and design. Although some were artists before they left Japan, others abandon corporate and other conventional forms of office work to follow their artistic ambitions in NYC. What is interesting about these cases is that, for these people, migration does not entail a socioeconomic leap up but instead becomes a step that that almost inevitably leads down: Without infrastructural support, they come without work,

Connoisseurs of Urban Life


family, or friends and have to take on different kinds of part-time jobs to survive such as babysitting or working as waiters and bartenders, bike messengers, and hostesses. Many are undocumented and overstay tourist visas or travel to the U.S. on student visas without attending school. They often work illegally and almost always lack basic support such as health insurance. Yet they continue, and unskilled work becomes a way for them to survive as they pursue what they feel are higher ambitions: that is, engaging in their creative passions. In this chapter, I will look specifically at how migrants ‘perform’ migration through aesthetic practices—here, through representations of a particular notion of the urban everyday in visual and textual media. Aesthetics is used as the frame within which migrants and other Japanese narrate and represent the meaning of living in NYC. By juxtaposing Japanese representations of NYC back in Japan with narratives of migrant-artists themselves living in the city, I hope to demonstrate how the everyday is a crucial site that enables us to understand why these migrants go to NYC in the first place. These migrants see moving to NYC as providing them with a greatly expanded horizon of possibilities in their lives. Given that they move for nonmaterial and noninstrumental purposes, we cannot understand why they migrate without serious engagement with their own ideal of NYC as a place where one’s potential can be fulfilled. This potential is not realized simply by fi nding a better job, fi nancial gain, or social status. Rather, it comes from placing oneself in the city, imbibing its energies, having encounters (and also conflicts) with different people, and being inspired by its diversity and dynamism. They thus construct NYC as an urban space with special qualities, and migrants locate value in everyday life, in how one lives and experiences urban life. In this “everyday” they experience the city and discover what they came looking for.

EVERYDAY URBAN LIFE While working in NYC from 2005 to 2006 for a Japanese handbag designer, Yumiko Taguchi, I was given various tasks to complete that Yumiko judged would make appropriate use of my skills as a graduate student. Though her business and store were in Manhattan, Yumiko made most of her sales in Japan, where her bags were sold in upscale department stores like Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya and are often featured in fashion magazines like Elle Japon, Spur, Vingt-Cinq Ans, and Vogue Japan. She capitalized on her status as a long-term Japanese resident of NYC to boost her image and sales back home by presenting her work as being infused with a certain NYC spirit, a je ne sais quoi that one could not only feel but even absorb by carrying one of her bags. It was thus crucial for Yumiko that her business continuously renew and renarrate her NYC image, which she did in part through a ‘personal’ blog linked to her Web site’s homepage. The blog was regularly updated with

214 Olga Kanzaki Sooudi entries about personal experiences in the city that she thought would be of interest to readers in Japan. Interestingly, the actual products did not feature in her blog, which served to create an atmosphere and a context for her bags. I was charged with going around the city and taking photographs for the blog. As it turns out, the photos became very popular, more so than the entries, and people went back and looked at them repeatedly. My first impulse was to take photos of famous sites around NYC, thinking that the power of recognition would win people over. However, Yumiko rejected the idea, explaining that no one wanted another picture of the Statue of Liberty; rather, what people liked were photos of everyday life—people sitting in a café for Sunday brunch, the inside of a jazz club at night, street life, pets dozing at the feet of their owners on sidewalks, children dancing in Washington Square Park. The most recent popular photo was of a father and daughter on a two-seater bicycle, riding down the street in the sunlight. Such photos were attractive because they portrayed, as Yumiko put it, “real life” in NYC. But, “real life” or not, people clearly wanted to see the pleasant and aesthetically appealing—not just everyday life but beautiful everyday life, as one just might experience it if he or she lived in NYC. I will argue that Japanese migrants engage in a “poeticizing [and] aestheticizing of everydayness”2 in their lives in NYC. Aesthetics, successfully expressed through artistic and cultural forms, constitute a principal

Figure 13.1 Idealized everyday life: snapshot of New York City, used with permission of Kazuyo Nakano.

Connoisseurs of Urban Life


framework through which contemporary Japanese engage with the city of NYC. Harootunian explains how in the 1920s and 1930s, a new concern with “everydayness” developed in Japanese cities, primarily Tokyo and Osaka. This everydayness was part of a new urban discourse to understand the massive transformations in social life at the time. “Everyday modern life” was a dramatic change from old life routines centered on commodities and their constant proliferation. Modern life was thus identified with the notion of the urban, with the reality of the streets in particular, and with a sense of “constant eventfulness.” Yet, as Harootunian notes, this new form of modern life was most significant as a fantasy rather than a reality. It was not so much that everyone was living an idealized life in the cities, characterized by the consumption of new commodities and innovative social relations; instead, it was a fantasy life, “demanding to be fulfilled.”3 Even as social commentators and thinkers predicted that it would soon move far beyond the cities and penetrate every part of Japan, the urban everyday became a site for imagining social transformation and a whole new society altogether. The everyday was a “site for utopian aspiration,” more so in Japan than in Europe.4 Though by no means does this suggest that similar phenomena do not happen elsewhere, I argue that Japanese migrants today also imagine the urban everyday, in this case in NYC, as a site for utopian aspiration and inspiration. The streets of NYC, full of informal social encounters, spectacles, and commodity, become the stage on which and the material with which migrants articulate a narrative of migrant life and its promise. Yet simultaneous with the immense growth in interest in and enthusiasm for everyday urban life, a secondary discourse emerged in interwar Japan that sought a more creative alternative to the overconsumption and commodification of city life. This secondary discourse reacted to the apparent homogenization of modern capitalism by turning to the domains of art and culture, equating life and the essence of Japanese identity with it. By the “call to the memory of a past age or in their move to poeticize a mode of existence,” these thinkers “appealed to cultural forms and practices that claimed for themselves an as yet unrealized sociotemporality outside of a temporal and temporalizing present.”5 Even if modern capitalist society could only “atrophy experience,” and was thus the root of social problems, the everyday became “the only place for producing anew the redemptive power associated with tradition in the time of modernity.” Through artistic and cultural experimentation, people could imagine the future of society and of an as-yet incomplete modernity rather than linger on or mourn for a lost past. Ironically, for people across the social and intellectual spectrum, the growth of commodification did not spell the end of a better, more authentically Japanese or humane society, but rather they saw in it the “promise and design of an even more human order reached not by overcoming modernity . . . but being overcome by it, by bringing it to completion.”6 In this section, I will detail examples of how Japanese, in their engagement

216 Olga Kanzaki Sooudi with NYC, celebrate the city—much as people did in the 1920s and 1930s in the major Japanese cities of Tokyo or Osaka—and moreover, perceive in everyday urban life (in modern life) a similar kind of promise. Everyday urban life in NYC is portrayed as promising a fuller, richer, and warmer experience of life for the modern Japanese than what is available to them at home. This is done through the creation and dissemination (especially back in Japan) of aestheticized portraits of NYC life, from the architecture and the art to street scenes and other mundane moments of eating, watching, listening, and feeling. Aesthetics (as art and culture) is a cultural lens through which we may examine how Japanese modernity, constituted as an urban experience, is articulated and lived. As engagement with any place is not a one-way street, art/culture also allows individuals to defi ne their own identities as migrants, artists, and inhabitants of the city. As sociologist Richard Sennett has argued, the city is a place of unmitigated contact with alterity. Shock, sensation, and spectacle are experienced by anyone in a city. What is distinctive with these Japanese migrants is how these elements of urban experience provide the raw material with which they elaborate and understand their everyday lives and the very reasons they traveled to NYC in the fi rst place. Migration is commonly understood in sociological explanations as being motivated by material concerns; by threats to everyday existence such as a lack of employment and educational opportunities among a vulnerable population such as women, the poor, and minorities; and political or religious persecution. Even migrants who move not because they cannot survive everyday but because they aspire to a better life for themselves and their kin are said to move for similar pragmatic and instrumental reasons.7 But what is a better life, really? Is it always about better jobs, a bigger house, higher education, and access to health care? If this is the case, how does one explain why middle- to upper-middle-class individuals from an affluent society like Japan, which has a far more comprehensive social welfare system than the U.S., choose again and again to leave for NYC—often knowingly and willingly taking socioeconomic steps downward, taking risky jumps into the unknown? By looking at the life experiences and knowledge production of Japanese in NYC, we may draw an outline of what Japanese bring with them to NYC, such as the imperatives and fantasies of Japanese modernity, and what that entails for understanding what it means to be a modern person, as well as what they discover and create in NYC.

THE SUBLIME AND MIRACULOUS IN EVERYDAY LIFE One way of understanding how Japanese in NYC think about and articulate the city is through everyday, sensate experiences. Many accounts focus on experiencing the city through one’s body and senses (gokan)—through smells, sights, sounds, and tactile contact. Moreover, sensate experience

Connoisseurs of Urban Life


valorizes, more than anything, simply being in the city rather than the accomplishment of any kind of specific goal. When you want to go to New York, rather than to have some set reason or goal for going there, you just generally think, “I want to put my self inside of that city.” Of course, since you’re going there in any case, you go up to the viewing deck of the Empire State Building, have lunch in the restaurant in Central Park, and other such things. But New York is when “Going there becomes the number one goal.”8 Every journey has a goal, except when the destination is NYC. One may have things one wants to do or accomplish there—to visit particular sights or try certain foods on a short trip, or to successfully embark on a specific career or fi nd love if there eventually—but regardless of the nature of one’s sojourn, the real point of being in NYC, as opposed to anywhere else, is because it’s NYC. This is a very vague pronouncement; after all, what does it mean to just go somewhere to be there? What does that place offer, exactly, if it is ultimately not limited to material or instrumental opportunity or gain? Rei Shibata, a radio announcer who wrote the above passage, explains what NYC offers her in terms of the experiences she has there: sitting in a black church in Harlem on Sunday, listening to and feeling the reverberations of the singing voices in the choir rising through her body and to the ceiling; watching a woman walk her two dogs late at night while Shibata sits in a Spanish bar, savoring a drink. Like the photo of the fatherdaughter cyclists on Yumiko’s blog, these are voyeuristic and momentary representations of urban life—aesthetically rendered, but imperfectly, or rather, only partially captured by the photographer or the writer. These moments are, moreover, profoundly mundane and unexceptional: people go to church every week, one may sit in a bar and see people walking their dogs any day, or see interesting cyclists or families in the street. Their mundane nature contrasts sharply with more traditional ‘special’ attractions of NYC, such as visiting the Empire State Building or Central Park. Since these are scenes of daily life that one will surely encounter again and again, experiences that can potentially be indefi nitely repeated, their unique value does not come from the fact that they happen only once to a person. They are interesting precisely because they recur, but each time they can be something special. Representations of NYC life as in the above examples express a great enjoyment of everyday urban life, a valorization of the ordinary over the extraordinary. The careful and elaborate aestheticization of the actual experience, and descriptions of how they move the person who lives them, speak of their value and of being in NYC. But ultimately, the representations emphasize simply being in NYC—smelling the air, feeling the breeze, watching the traffic of people and vehicles, and savoring small moments like the beautiful red sheen on a vintage sports car in one of Shibata’s NYC photos.

218 Olga Kanzaki Sooudi Georges Bataille writes of enjoyment in terms of sovereignty. ‘Sovereignty’ is not solely the domain of kings and rulers but is something that every person may experience in moments. ‘Sovereign life’ is opposed to ‘productive life’—to fully enjoying the present moment rather than laboring in the service of the future. The sovereign is “the enjoyment of possibilities that utility doesn’t justify (utility being that whose end is productive activity). Life beyond utility is the domain of sovereignty.”9 Only when the necessities of life—such as food, shelter, and other basic means of existence—are fulfilled may one enter the sovereign. For Bataille, work, productivity, and even science are servile endeavors because they do not privilege the present moment; instead, these are all about laboring for something beyond the immediate, for a future goal. Sovereign experiences allow one to escape the “circle of constraint” that is daily life for something greater and more beautiful.10 In other words, sovereign experiences are fundamentally useless in the capitalist, utilitarian sense and serve no other end than being in and of themselves; their meaning arises from the moment of their occurrence. Bataille uses the image of a worker drinking a glass of wine to illustrate the notion of the sovereign: The worker’s wage enables him to drink a glass of wine: he may do so, as he says, to give him strength, but he really drinks in the hope of escaping the necessity that is the principle of labor . . . if the worker treats himself to a drink, this is essentially because into the wine he swallows there enters a miraculous element of savor, which is precisely the essence of sovereignty. It’s not much, but at least the glass of wine gives him, for a brief moment, the miraculous sensation of having the world at his disposal. The wine is downed mechanically (no sooner swallowed than the worker forgets it), and yet it is the source of intoxication, whose miraculous value no one can dispute. On the one hand, to freely take advantage of the world, of the world’s resources, as does the worker drinking the wine, partakes in some degree of the miraculous. On the other, it is the substance of our aspirations. . . . 11 Anyone may drink a glass of wine, even a lowly worker who cannot otherwise afford any luxury. However, because it is a quotidian event, anyone may potentially partake in it: experience of the sovereign is not limited to the wealthy and the powerful. Indeed, for Bataille, the bourgeoisie are the least sovereign of all social classes because their lives are devoted to and based upon capitalist accumulation of wealth. When the worker takes a sip of wine, he exists on a plane altogether different from the toil and tedium of the rest of his day. While, as Bataille notes, there may be a practical, rational explanation for why he drinks (to give him strength), he really drinks so that he may escape the “circle of constraint” that is life. The experience of drinking itself is “miraculous,” and it is characterized by its momentary nature.

Connoisseurs of Urban Life


The miraculous quality of the sovereign makes it extraordinary and gives it special meaning. The physical form of the event, then, can be quotidian; it’s the nature of it as unproductive, as beyond utility, that makes it amazing, moving. One could drive an automobile, for instance, but if the goal of driving were to deliver something or to get from one place to another or for work, then the automobile and the act of driving are both utilitarian, servile endeavors. If, however, one drives merely to enjoy it and to contemplate, then the experience becomes a sovereign one. Like all things miraculous, these moments are uniquely experienced and are over in an instant. The wine intoxicates the worker, but this will pass, and the rush of pleasure that comes from the fi rst taste dissipates as soon as it is felt. We may seek to represent the experience, but every endeavor to do so ultimately falls short of communicating the full magic of the moment that is always unique and over in an instant. Japanese representations of NYC may be read as attempts to communicate the sovereign moment as it occurs in everyday life in the city. These representations, as noted above, are highly aestheticized and celebratory of NYC life. Although the “aestheticization and poeticization” of everyday life has been a dimension of Japanese urban modernity since the early twentieth century and forms part of the imaginary frameworks that Japanese bring with them to NYC, art, architecture, poetry, and music are also nothing other than “the anticipation of a suspended, wonder-struck moment, a miraculous moment.”12 The search for enjoyment and wonder is both central to human life and antithetical to the “circle of constraint” of everyday life as defi ned by work, home, social obligations, and more broadly, our limits as humans. The miraculous shows itself in our world in myriad forms—as beauty, wealth, funereal sadness, violence—as glorious.13 Photographs and narratives about life in NYC, which are circulated back to Japan for people to consume, communicate the awe and wonder of NYC as found in the everyday. The moments illustrated are mundane, as in Shibata’s account or Yumiko’s photo: they can happen on any day, to anyone. But they are magical in their brevity, in the total enjoyment they give, and in their utter uselessness (in Bataille’s sense). By representing these transient experiences, the authors attempt to recreate the sovereign moment. In 2003, the popular Japanese men’s lifestyle magazine Brutus featured an issue devoted to NYC, titled “New York High and Low.” As the cover explains, the issue provided examples of high- and low-priced experiences of art, design, fashion, restaurants, and hotels in the city, interspersed with articles about successful New Yorkers. One of the locations featured is a cigar bar called Circa Tabac in Soho. Above a large photograph of a dimly lit bar lined with mirrors, boxes of cigars, and liquor, the caption states, “Have you not already decided that a beautiful woman and cigars are beyond your reach?”14 In the photograph, two men lean against the bar, and a young woman working there gently smiles behind it. The paragraph


Olga Kanzaki Sooudi

accompanying the photo serves less to provide concrete information than to meditate on the scene. Two men who lean against the bar. Perhaps they are on their way home from work; their neckties are gone and they are totally in the mood to relax. They puff on their cigars and down in a gulp the scotch poured to the brim of rough glasses. Isn’t it all a little too casual? When you think of a cigar bar, you think of lounging on a leather sofa, drinking cognac from a (Baccarat) glass—it has a HIGH image. . . . On top of that, the coquettishly charming Serena gazes into your eyes as she cuts your cigar. . . . Where could there be more luxury than this?15 Notably, the passage focuses on the small details of the scene—the cigars, the attitude and postures of the men at the bar, the seductiveness of the bartender, the textures of the glasses. Juxtaposed with the photograph, the piece embodies a NYC moment: beautiful, small, unique, ineffable. The picture of life at Circa Tabac attempts to portray the enjoyment of being in NYC, sitting in just such a place, drinking, smoking, gazing at a pretty girl—all useless activities insofar as they are purely about enjoyment of the present moment. Yet even a description of what the men at the bar are doing, or fantasizing about what one might do oneself in the same place, in the end only provide the vague outlines of the magic of that sublime moment. You may imagine yourself in the place of the author, a voyeur of the other two men, but the point of the passage is to incite a desire in the reader to be there him- or herself and to experience his or her own, unique enjoyment of the city. The sovereign experience is fundamentally unique; the desire to convey this uniqueness is evident in the focus on two particular men at the bar, who just happened to be there one day, and also because the piece centers on the experience of being in a particular place in a particular way, rather than about the place itself (i.e., the cigar bar or NYC as places of simple consumption, where one can get a special kind of cigar or liquor). Bataille notes that when talking about the sovereign, one may speak about what comes before or after it but not of the sovereign itself. The object of the thought that provokes a certain feeling or outburst of emotion, such as the object of laughter or of tears, may be known, but the nature of such thoughts is such that they ‘dissociate’ the object, thereby dissolving into thought. We may know what provokes uncontrollable laughter, but we are limited in trying to articulate it because the laughter, in the sovereign moment, is no longer just laughter; and in pointing to the object in question, we cannot grasp the totality, or rather the true nature, of the thought that the laughter dissolves into at the moment of experience. “In the face of what is sovereign,” thought dissolves, the object dissolves—the thought “rightfully pursues its operation to the point where its object dissolves into NOTHING, because, ceasing to be useful, or subordinate, it

Connoisseurs of Urban Life


becomes sovereign in ceasing to be.”16 Thus we may only speak about what the ‘dissolved object’ was and of ‘what determined its dissolution,’ but we cannot speak about the ‘nothing’ into which it dissolves, which escapes representation—that is, the sovereign itself. Similarly, NYC moves Japanese to emotion and excitement, and the scene at Circa Tabac exemplifies what ‘determines the dissolution’ of the object, NYC. Like Bataille, who can only speak about the conditions of dissolution, of the before and build-up to the sublime moment rather than the nature of the moment itself, the writer draws the scene of the sublime experience—the city (NYC), the location (a little cigar bar called Circa Tabac), the atmosphere (the pretty bartender’s peculiar charm, the roughness of the glasses, the dim lighting, the smell of burning tobacco)—and places it in time (two men on the way home from work, ties stuffed into briefcases, the end of a long day in the city). All of these are simultaneously highly specific and also very mundane; after all, one may go to cigar bars in Tokyo or in many other cities in the world. The idea of NYC, along with this specific scene, move the author—and it is assumed, the reader as well—to feel NYC deeply, psychically and physically. At the same time, the experience of the two nameless men at the bar, or that of the author, is highly unique and individual: like all sovereign moments, it cannot be repeated, recreated. To truly enjoy this, one must go to NYC, as the whole magazine exhorts. In other words, the scene embodies approaching the sovereign moment of utter enjoyment from all sides but stops short of giving it all away. It is not possible to give it all away (only to evoke), as one must experience it oneself—in person—to have an authentic taste of NYC. If anything, the inability to articulate the sovereign moment heightens the exclusivity of the experience as indelibly authentic and unique: here one moment, gone the next, ubiquitous but ungraspable. Rei Shibata traveled to NYC—her sixth trip—in 2004 to collaborate on a shoot for a “photo guidebook” of NYC. In her midthirties, she is a radio personality for Tokyo FM. The book’s dust jacket explains that NYC will “seduce through the photos,” and fifty-one select spots around the city are recommended, accompanied again by photos and commentary. Along with a photographer and a Japanese actress, Shibata walks the streets of NYC taking random photographs that portray Nyuu Yo-ku rashisa, or ‘New York-ness.’ In an essay included in the book, she describes moments that moved her most: [T]hat night I was sitting at a bar in a Spanish restaurant near Fifth Avenue, drinking as if I were here doing it all the time. When I glanced out of the window, I saw that a woman was walking her two dogs, even though it was after 10 p.m. “Is this just another night in Tokyo?” Such a natural passing of time, it seemed like an illusion. It was different from the speed and air of New York that I chased after, running,


Olga Kanzaki Sooudi in the past. There, in front of me, was the “everyday life (seikatsu)” that is ever-present. This kind of New York is really nice, too, I thought.17

On another occasion, she visits a church of Black parishioners, the Bathel Gospel Assembly in Harlem, during the Sunday service: As we arrived a bit late and sat down in a corner on the second floor, one after another, beautifully attired families gathered and sat down. Before long the mass began. In the full chapel, what suddenly rang out into the air was gospel singing from deep within the heart. Adults and children, everyone is smiling and swaying their bodies as they sing. In this way, they gather every week, dressing up and praying and singing together for peace in their everyday life. Feeling that a traveler had no right to intrude upon such a space, I was only moved, and could do nothing but sit there quietly. I think it was a moment when I was able to brush against the beautiful, simple everyday that exists in New York.18 In both examples, Shibata focuses on everyday life (seikatsu), which she fi nds new and exciting, far more moving than the tourist sites or any grand spectacle like a Broadway musical. When she was younger, on previous visits, Shibata says that she chased after the city as if it might escape her, associating NYC with speed, dynamism, and shock. But now an older and more experienced traveler, she seeks another NYC—the everyday life of the city—just as transient, but more rewarding. The two anecdotes demonstrate the intimacy of everyday life and of experiencing such minute, unique scenes of life. Like the author of the vignette at Circa Tabac, Shibata becomes part of the scene of the singing church or the view from a bar of the night street, but she remains a voyeur. At Circa Tabac we watch two anonymous men; here we see a random woman and many anonymous families. Being a voyeur, however, does not reduce the intimacy of the situation because seeing, feeling, touching the scene (the bar, the street, the church) is part of the sovereign moment of experience. Not only taking part in but also observing everyday life in the city is a fundamental aspect of Japanese enjoyment of NYC. The people and what they do in the stories and photographs are as much a part of the experience as the buildings, the food, the commodities, the things to do. At the same time, the notion of exactly what the city gives the Japanese sojourner remains vague, even in Shibata’s writing. Again, what comes across most strongly in these passages is their evocativeness of a particular kind of atmosphere and the depth of her feeling in reaction to it. She feels wonder at her ability to see and, for a moment, to be part of everyday life in NYC; and though she says she feels like an intruder, it does not stop her. Indeed, in the same essay she notes that the special quality of NYC is that “[i]t allows you into its circle at any time, from anywhere . . . and seems indifferent to who comes and goes from it.”19 But the fact that these are quotidian situations is

Connoisseurs of Urban Life


insufficient to explain their extraordinariness—their ability to move—even as in the first passage Shibata wonders if she might still be in Tokyo, watching a familiar scene that strikes her as natural. Rather, what is most striking to the reader in all three examples is the immense enjoyment of the person in the scene. The subject is not native New Yorkers but the Japanese, and they communicate their enjoyment through the aestheticized rendering of moments of everyday life. Through evocativeness and a marked lack of precision, the descriptions approach the sovereign experience of enjoyment, up to the point where the descriptions themselves lose force and the object of the experience (the scene) dissolves into uniquely lived feeling. Moreover, a tension exists between the impulse to describe and provide information about NYC (both practical, as in the case of the Circa Tabac example, and simply explanatory, as with Shibata) and the impulse to convey a sense of awestruck wonder, as one might feel in the presence of a masterpiece of artwork, listening to a moving concert, or witnessing a miracle, which necessitates openendedness in the representation of the unrepresentable. The accumulation of knowledge, such as the culling of detailed information about NYC in these texts is, for Bataille, a servile endeavor, simply another form of work, as the purpose of such work is its usefulness at some future point in time, such as the information provided in a guidebook becomes useful to the Japanese who buys it and goes to NYC. This practical knowledge helps one move about and navigate the city, but it does not convey the city’s magical draw. Further, the representations necessarily remain vague as they attempt to show the uniqueness of these urban experiences that are irreducible to rational explanation or detailed information. The deep sense of enjoyment inherent in these experiences is communicated through an attention to details of sensate experience (such as the reverberation of voices in a church, the texture of glass, or the leather of a sofa, the beauty of a woman).

“THERE WAS A GOOD SMELL COMING FROM NEW YORK . . . ” So Takenaga Hiroyuki, a Japanese cartoonist and longtime resident of NYC, stated in 2003 while explaining why he decided to leave Japan and go there, where he has remained now for almost two decades. He says that he had a feeling (nantonaku) that he should go there. His reasoning is vague and yet fi lled with an almost visceral certainty that something good would be waiting for him there, which he cannot clearly articulate except by referring to a “feeling” or a “smell.” Like Shibata or the visitor at Circa Tabac, Takenaga can only approach, à pas de velours, what NYC means. Ultimately, the magic of the city escapes accurate or, really, sufficient representation. At the same time, representable aspects are articulated through descriptions of sensory experience, scenes of everyday urban life, and in artistic forms such as writing, photography, painting, and music. All art, according to Bataille, is an idiom for expressing the anticipation of a


Olga Kanzaki Sooudi

miraculous, moving moment, whether it is sad, tragic, happy, or ecstatic. In Japanese renditions of NYC, then, artistic form has the potential to incite anticipation, excite, and provoke audiences (and the creators themselves) to wonder about what being in NYC would be for themselves, individually, should they go. Because being, moving, and living there are uniquely individual experiences, just as the sovereign moment is. Where words, guides, and information fail, art provides another language of communication. Art includes the works of art that are the aestheticized representations of NYC presented here, as well as more familiar or officially named forms of music, painting, design, and writing (and the list goes on). The Japanese architect Tadao Ando was in NYC as a young man and is today famous for building, among other things, the Museum of Modern Art in that city. He rushed to the top of the Empire State Building when he arrived in NYC in 1967, eager to see the city’s famous skyline. But his relationship with NYC began years before his arrival, in a small kissaten (a Japanese-style café) called Check in the Umeda district of his native Osaka. One of the stomping grounds of artists in postwar Japan, at Check the twenty-year-old Ando was introduced to jazz music; they played live shows, and he sat there with his cup of coffee night after night. To me, in my 20s, jazz, which in a negation of the traditions of [W] estern music, made one’s emotions burst forth freely through improvisation—reverberated in my heart like the shape of America—the country of freedom, open to everyone. . . . [But] the raw sounds of the jazz I heard there [in NYC] was a totally different thing from what I had heard in Osaka. Rather than a performance, it was more like a crying out, in search of something . . . so it felt to me. 20 The jazz Ando hears in NYC is not merely a performance for an audience, but a real “crying out” on the part of the musician: it has an authenticity and rawness that a mere performance would inadequately express. Moreover, he listens to it in NYC, one of the original homes of jazz, unlike Japan. Like a smell, a shiver that comes from listening to music in a church, or the sight of a passerby on a city street, Ando’s experience of listening to jazz in NYC evokes an atmosphere of immediacy, intimacy, dynamism, and enjoyment that words cannot fully capture. The experience evaporates in an instant, like the vapor rising out of a manhole on a busy NYC street or champagne bubbles floating to the surface and popping in a glass, both images that Shibata includes as photographs in her book.21 Thus NYC comes alive in the aesthetic practices of migrants—beautiful, interpretive renditions of the city through text, image, sound, and online communication. In parallel fashion, Japanese migration to NYC emerges as a meaningful endeavor as it is ‘performed’ in these narratives. These media, as we have seen, constitute an important site for understanding what is often left out in studies of migration—the role of fantasy and the

Connoisseurs of Urban Life


imagination, as well as the noninstrumental and nonmaterial. What better place than NYC, these narratives tell us, to test—or in writer Oda Makoto’s words, “confi rm my existence”—in a place that makes one feel so much and allows one, far from the social obligations of home, to concentrate on the beautiful, the ephemeral, and all the ‘useless’ and impractical things of the world? NOTES 1. From here on, I will refer to New York City as ‘NYC,’ unless the name is found in a quote or title. 2. Harootunian, Overcome, 14 3. Ibid., 115. 4. Ibid., 96–97. 5. Ibid., 97. 6. Ibid., 101. 7. As examples, see Constable, Maid to Order, on Filipina maids in Hong Kong; Parrenas’s Servants on domestic workers in Italy; and Hondagneu-Sotelo’s Domestica (also on migrant domestic workers in U.S.). 8. Shibata, Yamaguchi, and Sato, Olympus, 165. 9. Bataille, Accursed Share, 198. 10. Ibid., 199. 11. Ibid., 200. 12. Ibid. 13. Ibid. 14. “New York High and Low,” 65. 15. Ibid. 16. Bataille, Accursed Share, 204. 17. Shibata et al., Olympus, 166. 18. Ibid., 167. 19. Ibid., 165. 20. Interview with Tadao Ando, 35. 21. Shibata et al., Olympus, 46, 67.

WORKS CITED Bataille, Georges. The Accursed Share: Volumes II and III. New York: Zone Books, 1999. Constable, Nicole. Maid to Order in Hong Kong: Stories of Migrant Workers. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007. Harootunian, Harry. Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000. Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette. Domestica: Immigrant Workers Cleaning and Caring in the Shadow of Affl uence. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. Kushida, Hiroyuki. Casa Brutus Extra Issue: The Complete Grand Tour with Ando. Edited by Chisato Seki. Tokyo: Magazine House Co. (November 10, 2006): 30–35. “New York High and Low.” Special issue, Brutus Magazine, September 15, 2003. Oda, Makoto. Nandemo Miteyaro [I’ll go everywhere and see everything]. Ca. 1979. Tokyo: Iwanami Bunko, 2004.


Olga Kanzaki Sooudi

Parrenas, Rhacel Salazar. Servants of Globalization: Women, Migration, and Domestic Work. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. Sennett, Richard. The Uses of Disorder: Personal Identity and City Life. London: Faber and Faber, 1996. Shibata, Rei, Shin Yamaguchi, and Eriko Sato. Olympus & Tokyo FM at New York Presents @ New York: Nyuu Yooku Foto Gaidobukku. Tokyo: Aquahouse, 2004. Takenaga, Hiroyuki. NY ni sundemo shiawase ni narenai: NY byou o koete [Living in NY doesn’t make you happy: Overcoming the NY disease]. Tokyo: Gendaijinbunsha, 2003.

14 “All Islands Connect Under Water” Ping Chong’s Undesirable Elements Series Roberta De Martini

When the well-known American theater director, choreographer, performer, and video and installation artist Ping Chong created the fi rst performance of the ongoing series Undesirable Elements/Secret History in 1992, he realized that the idea he had had one year before had fi nally taken shape.1 In 1991, while teaching in Holland, he was fascinated by the diversity of languages and national and cultural origins among his students. Despite their diversity, however, there was something all of them shared. He therefore thought that he should do a new piece wherein the sound of different languages would be perceived as music. I wanted to do a show using multiple languages, that’s really the origins of Undesirable Elements: the idea of multiple realities, multiple cultures, multiple languages, and the music of language. Undesirable Elements is . . . a seated opera for the spoken word, it’s really about audio, it’s really about the sound of words and really about language.2 The inspiration for Undesirable Elements came when Carlos GutierrezSolana—executive director of New York’s Artists Space Gallery—asked Chong to create a performance that would take place inside the space of the art installation A Facility for the Channeling and Containment of Undesirable Elements that Chong had created for the gallery in 1992: “I had no idea of what I might do with the nascent idea until I was offered the opportunity to make a performance in my installation. It was at that time that the idea of Undesirable Elements began.”3 The installation’s space consisted of several circular areas that contained either black or mustard-colored liquids surrounded by a thick cover of rock salt, over which half-meter-high catwalks bent in a path through which visitors/spectators could pass. The catwalks crisscrossed the space and connected to the walls of the gallery at different angles, which suggested they went beyond the walls. Although the installation is significant in itself, it is the visitors’ presence in this space that gives it full meaning. The physical actions operated by each visitor—walking through this space and contemplating it—occur in a very peculiar space that potentially contains


Roberta De Martini

countless places within it. In fact, starting from the concrete, real kind of space each person is plunged into, they are all led to evoke and project into it other kinds of places and spaces that emerge from the depths of their souls. Depending on the different types of associations that arise from the experience, the space of the installation teems with different places. Contemplation is essential to Ping Chong’s installations and performances, as he acknowledges in the press release for Testimonial, the installation (part of the TransCulture exhibition) he presented in Italy in 1995 at the Venice Biennale: “I have said elsewhere that we live in a contemporary world without contemplation. I like to create installations that invite contemplation. To honor this idea, a single bench will be included for the viewer to reflect on the implications and resonances of Testimonial.”4 Indeed, numerous questions with open answers enter the visitors’ minds as they walk through the space of A Facility for the Channeling and Containment of Undesirable Elements: What or who are those ‘undesirable elements’? Are they traits? Are they people? What is ‘undesirable’? Who are the holders of undesirability? Are the rock salt areas and the colored liquid isles places of ‘containment’ into which those elements have been/are/will be ‘channeled’? And what about those who are channeled into the catwalks? The mental spaces—filled with places of memory and of imagination—from where various forms of undesirability emerge, are easily accessible. Making all possible connections, the visitor is the only one entitled to give sense to all the elements constituting this installation. The fi rst performance of Undesirable Elements took place when Ping Chong introduced a new element into the space of the installation: the bodies and voices of a group of men and women who become visible in pools of light inside the rock salt area while the spectators observe everything from the catwalks above. The performance adds a shared kind of exploration of spaces and places to the individual contemplation and reflections intimately experienced inside the space of the installation. Undesirable Elements/Secret History originated, as Ping Chong says, “with the purpose of exploring the effects of history, culture, and ethnicity on the lives of individuals in a community.”5 Since this project began in 1992, Ping Chong has created forty-two distinct pieces, and more are being produced. These works are the result of a collaborative process between Ping Chong and the performers. They constitute a group of people who, as Ping Chong says, “vary in many ways but share the common experience of having been born in one culture and now being part of another.”6 As he wrote in a letter, “Fundamentally, the project is fi rst and foremost to give voice to the Other. Otherness could also encompass gender difference, class difference, the able bodied vs. the disabled, the young vs. the old. In fact, the variation on Otherness is endless.”7 The performers are not necessarily professionals—“they are mostly not performers unless they happen to be performers”8 —but ordinary people selected by Ping Chong and his collaborators within the ‘anthropological

“All Islands Connect Under Water”


place’9 where the performance is going to take place. The script of each performance is the result of a series of interviews and research, conducted by Ping Chong and his team with a carefully selected group of performers, on historical events, aspects of cultures, and family histories. For this reason, Ping Chong considers this series an “oral history project.” The installation where the first performance took place is echoed by the space of each piece of the series: The performers are all located in a big semicircular-shaped area filled with rock salt, where lights create a small circular island around each performer. The structure of every piece has changed little from the first production. Each performer silently reaches the big rock salt island and begins to make repetitive ritual gestures. Then, one after the other, each performer says something in his or her language and names himself or herself, and then sits down behind a music stand with a script and a microphone on it. From that moment on, they address the spectators in English, in a multiple-voice narration.10 They begin with a sort of game about naming people in various cultures, gradually leading spectators into the spirit of the performance. The “Name Game” section of the performance is particularly significant: “it speaks to the importance of naming or identifying oneself in multiple ways; it also presents the idea that there are multiple ways one can name oneself.”11 The performers then continue with a peculiar chronology: a choral announcement of the year and the name of a geographical location introduce the spectators to different events that happened to individuals in different parts of the world. The passage from one story to another is signaled by everyone clapping in unison. Little by little, it becomes clear that the performers are narrating the stories of their ancestors as well as their own personal histories, both intricately connected to History. The narratives are primarily based on events relating to diversity, discrimination, prejudice, circumstances that forced people to leave their places of origin because of war, work, or political or religious persecution. They also recount joyful events of everyday life and special milestones that celebrate life, such as marriage and birth. These stories evoke moments of pure joy and of deep sorrow and sometimes include dances, poetry, songs, sacred hymns, and prayers performed in each performer’s mother tongue.12 Cultures are approached from the inside and the outside, and ironic reflections on common and often stereotypical aspects of cultures are sagaciously presented. Although Undesirable Elements may appear as a static work because of the near-total absence of physical movement, Ping Chong explains that movement is experienced from another perspective: I often describe the show as “a seated opera for the spoken word.” Although the cast is largely stationary and there is very little physical movement, the movement is actually audio. I manipulate who is speaking and therefore where the voice is coming from. This forces the audience to move their eyes, which subtly activates the audience to move their heads.13

230 Roberta De Martini

Figure 14.1 UE: 92/02—Rome, Italy (2004). Presented at RomaEuropa Festival, October 2004. Pictured (left to right): Leyla Modirzadeh, Angel Gardner, Ping Chong, Tania Salmen, Tek Tomlinson. Photograph and lighting design by Darren McCroom. Used with permission of Ping Chong and Company.

The performers remain seated most of the time but constantly relate to the space they are in; their positions and the continuous alternation of their voices generate a peculiar ‘counterpoint,’ perceived by spectators as a musical experience. Like instruments in an orchestra, they perform following the flow of a certain rhythm; there is no space for casual pauses, accelerations, or decelerations. They follow a ‘score’ and function like a real musical ensemble. In particular, the performance of the stories—articulated in alternating multiple-voiced narration—transforms the performers into a uniquely harmonic speaking body. The performance ends as it began; each performer names himself or herself in turn and says something in English about the moment of his or her birth. Then, they all ‘fade out,’ reiterating an identical set of simultaneous ritual gestures. “The result is a chorale for . . . voices and . . . cultures, ‘a straightforward haiku,’ according to Chong, ‘sung’ in unison or in parts that blend and build toward a unified statement about what it means to be an ‘undesirable element’ in our society and other societies around the world.”14 Because the fi rst performance of Undesirable Elements originated from the actual space of the installation, we can say it is site-specific. But a

“All Islands Connect Under Water”


careful analysis reveals that the really specific elements of this work are the performers and the place where the performance is created and performed. In Site-Specific Art, Nick Kaye approaches these kinds of ‘practices,’ giving a clear defi nition for site-specificity: If one accepts the proposition that the meanings of utterances, actions and events are affected by their ‘local position,’ by the situation of which they are part, then a work of art, too, will be defi ned in relation to its place and position. Reflecting this notion, semiotic theory proposes, straightforwardly, that reading implies ‘location.’ To ‘read’ the sign is to have located the signifier, to have recognised its place within the semiotic system. One can go on from this to argue that the location, in reading, of an image, object, or event, its positioning in relation to political, aesthetic, geographical, institutional, or other discourses, all inform what ‘it’ can be said to be. Site-specificity, then, can be understood in terms of this process, while a ‘site-specific work’ might articulate and defi ne itself through properties, qualities or meanings produced in specific relationships between an ‘object’ or ‘event’ and a position it occupies. After the ‘substantive’ notion of site, such site-specific work might even assert a ‘proper’ relationship with its location, claiming an ‘original and fi xed position’ associated with what it is.15 As it is true that it is impossible to ‘move’ site-specific performances and works of art, because “to move the site-specific work is to re-place it, to make it something else,”16 in the case of Undesirable Elements it is impossible to substitute even a single performer without changing the histories that form the basis of the piece (the result would therefore be another work!), since each performer is not acting out a role but re-presenting him or herself as a vulnerable person and offering him or herself completely to the spectator in a sort of ritual sacrifice. Indeed, the power of the piece ultimately resides in the performers’ honest connection with the spectators. Like the first production that was created with New Yorkers for New Yorkers, every piece of this series is created in a particular place with performers and for spectators from that place. The place, then, is the primary link between performers and spectators. It is therefore impossible to change this fundamental element without altering the essence of the work, which is meant to be particularly relevant to the local audience. For this reason, performances do not travel (apart from areas within a local vicinity). Once a piece has been performed for a certain period of time, it then ends and a new one begins in another place, with other performers, other histories, and other spectators. For this reason, these are ‘community-specific’ performances. The only exception was the special edition created in New York City in 2002 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the series, UE: 92/02. In this, the performers were chosen from the casts of earlier productions, and Ping Chong

232 Roberta De Martini himself appeared in it as one of the performers. In the following years, two new productions of the special commemorative performance were created: in Lille, France, in 2003; and in Rome, Italy, in 2004. Although performers and spectators did not come from the same place, these pieces offered other kinds of connections: The performers chosen from earlier productions were those whose personal histories had points of contact with these countries and cities. This illustrates that “although Undesirable Elements is designed for a specific community, it is entirely accessible to anyone outside of that community because it is always a microcosm of the human condition.”17 Apart from these special editions, the fundamental quality of these performances is their community specificity. Even the performances of the series that were created outside the U.S.—Gaijin: Undesirable Elements/ Tokyo, Japan (1995), Undesirable Elements/Rotterdam, Holland (1997), Undesirable Elements/Berlin, Germany (2003)—follow the same basic rule: Each new performance develops using a particular geographical place as the starting point from which and within which everything is built. In order to fully appreciate the sense of the entire Undesirable Elements/ Secret History project developed by Ping Chong over the last eighteen years, it may be helpful to explain the dynamics occurring between individuals and places. The notion of ‘place’ to which I refer is the one the anthropologist Marc Augé deals with in a number of studies such as Disneyland e altri nonluoghi (L’impossible voyage), A Sense for the Other (Le sens des autres), and Non-Places (Non-Lieux) in particular. In Non-Places, for example, he centers a long chapter on the notion of anthropological place18 that opens with a defi nition of ‘place’: . . . the one occupied by the indigenous inhabitants who live in it, cultivate it, defend it, mark its strong points and keep its frontiers under surveillance, but who also detect in it the traces of chthonian or celestial powers, ancestors or spirits which populate and animate its private geography; as if the small fragment of humanity making them offerings and sacrifices in this place were also the quintessence of humanity, as if there were no humanity worthy of the name except in the very place of the cult devoted to them.19 Things become more complicated when we consider that the same place could be occupied by individuals who are not “indigenous” at all. With the passage of time, a place that is lived in, practiced, and defended becomes a unifying factor for those located within it: “[the group’s] actual origins are often diverse, but the group is established, assembled and united by the identity of the place.”20 It seems to me that the real point is the sense of belonging to a place, since the “identity of a place” is reflected in the “identity of the individual” who lives in it and vice versa: “[I]t is the spatial arrangements that express the group’s identity . . . , and that the group has

“All Islands Connect Under Water”


to defend against external and internal threats to ensure that the language of identity retains a meaning.”21 When an individual is forced to leave a particular place and group of origin (the anthropological place) to relocate to another place that defines him or her as ‘other,’ the person immediately perceives the burden of that detachment on various levels. First, there is the sense of loss from an originary group. The spatial and cultural distance from the origin and the destination are obvious. This distance may pose a threat for the destination group and its identity, but also for the spatial borders that socially mark off the place where those who consider themselves ‘autochthonous’ have settled and with which, with the passage of time, they have learned to identify themselves. Similarly, places change when numbers of ‘autochthonous’ inhabitants leave it, or when a group of ‘allochthones’ settles in. Places and the individuals that live in them are inextricably tied together, and it is not possible to imagine changes in one without detecting corresponding modifications in the other: “When bulldozers deface the landscape, the young people run off to the city or ‘allochthones’ move in, it is in the most concrete, the most spatial sense that the landmarks—not just of the territory, but of identity itself—are erased.”22 Time helps immigrants connect to the new place and group of people, although origins always play a fundamental role in identity perception. As Augé notes, “to be born is to be born in a place, to be ‘assigned to residence.’ In this sense the actual place of birth is a constituent of individual identity. It often happens in Africa that a child who is born by chance outside the village receives a particular name derived from some feature of the landscape in which the birth took place.”23 With the passage of time, identity absorbs and incorporates some of the peculiar traits of the new environment and of its inhabitants. A new hybrid sense of belonging begins to exist that includes both realities. And yet, it is possible that feelings of fear, distance, and rejection in the group of the autochthonous may endure toward the foreigner, who may still be perceived as such even after a long time has passed, even generations. Therefore, the perception of belonging to two cultures at the same time often complicates immigrants’ sense of identity as they grapple with situations and feelings of liminality. The sense of never completely being part of one group or another is extremely confusing. The psychoanalyst Erik H. Erikson already spoke of “identity crises” in the fi fties, and he connected identity crises to the experience of immigration. In several books—Childhood and Society; Identity and the Life Cycle; and Identity, Youth, and Crisis, among others—Erikson explains how identity continuously shapes and reshapes itself during the entire life cycle since it is a result of the interaction between the individual and the society. For this reason, history and culture play important roles in the formation of personality. The identity crisis is a phenomenon quite common to second-generation immigrants,


Roberta De Martini

but it may affect the fi rst generation as well. This happens when, for example, after many years spent far away from the place of origin, an individual returns home (even if only temporarily). The experience may be traumatic as the originary place and people are likely to have changed, as has the individual because they all inescapably “live in history.”24 The emigrant, who may at this point be perceived in part as a stranger even by the members of his or her original group, can only with difficulty consider him- or herself an integral part of that group. From his or her point of view, though an underlying point of connection between ‘before’ and ‘after,’ between ‘here’ and a new ‘elsewhere’ persists, a gap has opened on the surface. Wherever he or she happens to be, he or she will always be the stranger, the alien, the one who lives on the fringe of the society. Liminality from the place of destination now reaches backward into separation from the place of origin. This condition has been analyzed by ethnographers, sociologists, and anthropologists, particularly in the last four decades of the twentieth century. We may start with mentioning The Rites of Passage (Les rites de passage, 1909), Arnold van Gennep’s seminal work, which discusses rituals in different kinds of societies (see in particular Chapters 2, 3, and 9, which focus on the rituals of parting, margination, and aggregation). This work has been particularly inspiring for a great number of researchers. Victor Turner, for instance—especially in The Anthropology of Performance; Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors; From Ritual to Theatre; and The Ritual Process—focuses on those phases of transition he calls “liminal”: Liminality is a term borrowed from Arnold van Gennep’s formulation of rites de passage, “transition rites”—which accompany every change of state or social position, or certain points in age. These are marked by three phases: separation, margin (or limen—the Latin for threshold, signifying the great importance of real or symbolic thresholds at this middle period . . . ), and reaggregation.25 The concept of ‘liminality’ remains one of the main issues in Victor Turner’s theory and one that can be usefully deployed in this discussion of Ping Chong’s work. Thus, the ‘foreigner’—this special ‘traveler’ who is also an outsider, an ‘other’ by defi nition always provisionally anywhere, always on the move even if it looks like he or she has settled—lives in a ‘liminal’ place, on the borders of more than one world. This kind of place, that connects theoretically with Marc Augé’s notion of “non-place” is typical of our contemporary societies that he defines as “supermodern”: If a place can be defi ned as relational, historical and concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defi ned as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place. . . . Place and nonplace are rather like opposed polarities: the fi rst is never completely

“All Islands Connect Under Water”


erased, the second never totally completed; they are like palimpsests on which the scrambled game of identity and relations is ceaselessly rewritten.26 Clearly the word ‘non-place’ designates two complementary but distinct realities: spaces formed in relation to certain ends (transport, transit, commerce, leisure), and the relations that individuals have with these spaces. Although the two sets of relations overlap to a large extent, and in any case officially (individuals travel, make purchases, relax), they are still not confused with one another; for non-places mediate a whole mass of relations, with the self and with others, which are only indirectly connected with their purposes. As anthropological places create the organically social, so non-places create solitary contractuality.27 The space of non-place creates neither singular identity nor relations; only solitude, and similitude. There is no room there for history. . . . What reigns there is actuality, the urgency of the present moment.28 In each society, ‘alien’ elements are usually relegated to well-defined sections of cities. These places (or better yet, these non-places) are sometimes physically identifiable (as in the case of refugee camps, or detention centers where those who have entered a country illegally are ‘contained’ for a certain time); and sometimes they are not as easily identifiable because they are mentally defi ned. This second category of non-places to which immigrants are relegated is the one that develops every time these individuals are excluded from an anthropological place, from the opportunity for social integration because of fear, racism, prejudice, or injustice. The issue of the various ‘cultural islands’ that exist in cities and towns merit a longer discussion but exceed the aims of this chapter. Nonetheless, it may be interesting to remember that the multiple reasons that lead immigrants to move to urban areas not identifiable with mainstream spaces are generally economic considerations and the impulse to fi nd community, people from the same place, friends, relatives. In time, these areas may even be transformed into places (similar to villages) “where it is possible to fi nd traces of the identity of a group of individuals and traces of their relationship with other individuals,” “traces of their shared history.”29 However, these places remain ‘cultural islands’ on the margins of mainstream life. Ping Chong harnesses the image of the island to represent how individuals tend to perceive themselves and others in our “supermodern societies.” Since all forms of disconnection between people originate from ignorance about the other, and since this kind of lack of knowledge generates the fear from which stereotypes, prejudices, and distances derive, it is vital to intervene with the experience of ‘knowledge’ in order to create commonality. “Undesirable Elements,” Chong argues, is “a way of educating all of us, because we are all equally insular.”30 As he explains, “We live in a very


Roberta De Martini

diverse society, and yet we are all insulated from each other. So this show is an attempt to be a bridge for people, to know something about the diversity of the country and to learn to appreciate that richness instead of seeing it as threatening. That’s the idea, that’s how I decided to make this work.”31 The notion of ‘islands’ lies at the heart of Ping Chong’s installation A Facility for the Channeling and Containment of Undesirable Elements and the series Undesirable Elements/Secret History. Islands are presented as non-places where each individual (bearer or not of traits considered ‘undesirable’ by some other individuals) fi nds or closes him- or herself inside. To promote this idea, Ping Chong sought individuals of very diverse cultures and languages, women and men who experienced what it means to be considered ‘undesirable elements’ by the society in which they live or by the one they left behind. The city and its inhabitants are located in the context of a specific geographical area, a country with a specific position in relation to other nations. Choosing to create a new performance in a particular city with the help of some of the inhabitants implies having to deal not only with the history of that area and its people, but also with the histories of the nearby territories and those of the people related to them. It also involves learning not only the personal histories of several individuals who had to leave their countries, but also the history of these countries. Research conducted by Ping Chong, his team, the performers, and the people with whom they enter into contact is essential; every performer, in order to learn more about his or her own roots and past, ends up involving relatives, friends, and people from the same place of origin, asking them questions on their shared histories. In one way or another, all these people participate in the process of research, exploring the past starting from (and returning to) the present. The unpredictable results of the interactions between ‘personal histories’ and ‘History’ is surely one of the most fascinating aspects in the process of creation of Undesirable Elements. All of Ping Chong’s works inspire us to reflect on our place in contemporary society. Over time, his research and artistic focus gradually shifted from the personal to the social. His evolving consciousness of the multiplicity of identity has led him understand that he is no longer in a limiting, outsider position but placed in a favorable one that allows him to perceive things from different perspectives and therefore to engage numerous levels of reality. The main point that I want people to realize is, fi rst, the complexity of the cultural issue of being American. Second, there is no easy solution, there’s no black and white solution, which I think a lot of people want, on all sides. As is my role, I tend to take the point of view of the person not involved in the sense that I’ve always been cursed with looking and seeing two sides of things because I’m not just of one culture, I’m of two cultures or more. Cursed or blessed. I’m relatively comfortable

“All Islands Connect Under Water”


with that now. I’m comfortable with the role of being an outsider in most contexts. I’m comfortable with that and that means that in a way I’m not an outsider anymore, I suppose.32 With the help of his performers, Ping Chong reveals to the inhabitants of the place who decide to participate in or attend the performance a variety of realities and points of view. The section of the performance “What Do You Think of When I Say the Word . . . ?” (meant to explore some cultural codes that are often the object of stereotypes from different perspectives) clearly illustrates this. Here is a brief extract from the script of Undesirable Elements/Asian Pacific Americans (New York City, 2000): Moana: What do you think of when you hear the word Tonga? Cherry: A Japanese monster movie? Trinket: A country in Africa. Hiromi: Is it a British colony? Zahera: It’s a form of Roman dress. Cherry: Is it in the South Pacific? Trinket: Cannibals. Zahera: Do they wear grass skirts? Hiromi: It’s part of Polynesia. Cherry: Do you live in a grass hut? All: I have no idea. Cherry: Moana, what do you think of when you hear the word Tonga? Moana: I think of my parents, Tangata and Litia Niumeitolu and my siblings: Fui, Loa, Amelia, and David. I think of Grandpa Siaosi whose generous heart is Tonga. I think of my ancestors and all their lively stories that have been passed down to my family. I think of seven generations back and seven generations ahead. I think of food and smells and voices and movements and joyous times. It ain’t Tongan if there ain’t any food. I think of this place as home, but also as a home away from home. I think of pain. The pain of leaving home, a home I don’t even know because I left so young. I think of the pain of not knowing. I think of getting tired of explaining to people that I don’t know everything about Tonga. I think of struggle. I think of defi ning oneself. I think of speaking out. I think of being silent. Hiromi: What do you think of when I say the word Japan? [ALL CLAP ONCE] Trinket: Hai karate. Haiku. Monoethnic. Land of the rising sun. Samurai. Sumo. Big money. Paper-thin walls. Moana: Hiromi, what do you think of when I say the word Japan? Hiromi: Mosquitoes in summer. Plum and cherry blossoms in spring.


Roberta De Martini

Eight-dollar cups of coffee. Fabulous dinners that look great, taste great, with tiny amounts of food. School children in dark blue uniforms everywhere. Heavy smokers and nearsighted people. A place where democracy is not well understood. How can it be when expressing one’s opinion is not considered polite? Group consensus for a tiny little matter. Respect for elderly people. Respect for teachers. A culture of sharing. The best service in the world, even if you don’t buy anything. Rajio Taiso, radio calisthenics, every morning over the public radio station. Trains that are considered late if they are half a minute late. Earthquakes . . . you grow up with them and you get use to them somehow. Marriage ceremonies mixing Christian and Shinto rituals. Then when you die, Buddhist rituals. I think of the things I miss. Consideration for other people before oneself. The common courtesy of people there. . . . Moana: Cherry, what do you think of when you hear the word Philippines? Cherry: I think of a place I belong to and don’t belong to. I think of forgetting, wanting to forget. I think of pain. Hiromi: Cherry, what do you think of when you hear the word China? Cherry: I think of wanting to remember something that was never mine. I think of longing for something which is not mine. I think of it as the root of my being. I think of pain. 33 This simple exchange is extremely powerful and urges individuals to become aware that the way we experience life is always a matter of stance and perspective; the same things may appear acceptable or not, desirable or not, depending on the context and the point of view from which we experience them. Through the experiences of other individuals, we see the real consequences of judging and discriminating against people based on their geographical origin, skin color, sex, sexual orientation, age, or social class. Undesirable Elements performances demonstrate how stereotypes often interfere with and inevitably corrupt our perception of otherness and the other:

“All Islands Connect Under Water”


When the audience walks in they see six or seven people they know nothing about. Based on how they appear, the audience might make stereotypical assumptions or not about these unknown individuals. By the end of the performances they have learned that these are human beings just like them with hopes and fears and desires.34 Working on this series of works and doing the research aimed at a thorough knowledge of the places selected for the performances, Ping Chong and his staff engage with what Marc Augé calls the “intellectual status of anthropological place,” and this becomes very good material to work on with the inhabitants: “It is only the idea, partially materialized, that the inhabitants have of their relations with the territory, with their families and with others. This idea may be partial or mythologized. It varies with the individual’s point of view and position in society.”35 The performances of this series lead the participants (performers and spectators) to meet in another definite place (the ‘theater place,’ the ‘square place,’ the ‘museum place,’ or any other place suitable for the performance) that is located inside the ‘city place.’ Ping Chong conceives these works as a collective ‘route’ through the anthropological place where the performance takes place and through the places that have marked the lives of those who are physically present on the stage. Performers and spectators, together, come up to share an-‘other’ place that includes them all. The time necessary for the performance to take place coincides with the time necessary for ‘undesirable elements’ to emerge from the non-places to which they are relegated every day, to become visible, with a name, a personal history, and an identity. It becomes evident that each work of the series is, above all, a learning process as the spectators encounter the individuals in front of them. It is not by accident that each Undesirable Elements performance begins with the ritual act of naming oneself. The spectators fi nd themselves in the unusual situation of being part of a group of strangers who are opening themselves up to them, revealing the most secret aspects of their lives, sharing their personal history and experience of ‘existence/nonexistence,’ being considered ‘other.’ Indeed, something special happens in the ‘here and now’ of each performance, in that particular moment, exactly in that place, as spectators connect with the persons/performers. It is a form of communion, a peculiar feeling of oneness, a sense of complete connectedness, of being an integral part of a whole. Victor Turner calls this experience “spontaneous communitas”: As I argued in The Ritual Process: . . . spontaneous communitas is “a direct, immediate and total confrontation of human identities,” a deep rather than intense style of personal interaction. . . . Is there any of us who has not known this moment when compatible people— friends, congeners—obtain a flash of lucid mutual understanding on


Roberta De Martini the existential level, when they feel that all problems, not just their problems, could be resolved, whether emotional or cognitive, if only the group that is felt (in the first person) as ‘essentially us’ could sustain its intersubjective illumination. . . . Individuals who interact with one another in the mode of spontaneous communitas become totally absorbed into a single synchronized, fluid event.36

According to Victor Turner and Richard Schechner, these special moments may happen during rituals and, only in rare occasions, during performances. When this happens, these moments have the power to change who people are: A threshold (limen) is crossed and transformations take place. 37 The ideal theatrical place of Undesirable Elements/Secret History is experienced as a real ‘place of truthfulness,’ which is not simply the ‘site’ itself but a real place wherein each performer/person lives his or her identity in the most authentic way. It is an intense kind of reality, richer and more vital than the original anthropological reality from which everything started. 38 Framing Undesirable Elements is the idea, often printed in the playbills, that “All islands connect under water.” In a little more than an hour’s full immersion under the surface of what we generally consider reality, Ping Chong and his performers transport their spectators through invisible worlds and secret histories to discover with them that, lands usually perceived as islands are revealed under the surface of water to be simply summits of the same piece of land.

NOTES 1. Although the series originated in 1992 as Undesirable Elements, it is also frequently called Secret History. However, some of these works have been recently presented with special titles: Children of War (Fairfax, VA 2002); Native Voices—Secret History (Lawrence, KS 2005); Six Lives (Minneapolis, MN 2007); Inside/Out . . . Voices from the Disability Community (New York 2008); Tales from the Salt City (Syracuse, NY 2008); Secret History: The Philadelphia Story (Philadelphia, PA 2009); Invisible Voices: New Perspectives on Disability (Colorado Springs, CO 2009); Women of the Hill (Pittsburgh, PA 2009). 2. Chong, Autobiografi a d’artista. 3. Chong, Correspondence. 4. Chong, Testimonial, 1. 5. Chong, Ping Chong and Company, Official Web site, “Works: Ping Chong’s 30th Anniversary.” 6. Ibid. 7. Chong, Correspondence. 8. Ibid. 9. The concept of “anthropological place” to which I refer is the one Marc Augé introduces in Non-Places: it is a “. . . concrete and symbolic construction of space, which could not of itself allow for the vicissitudes and contradictions of social life, but which serves as a reference for all those it assigns to a posi-

“All Islands Connect Under Water”


11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37.



tion, however humble and modest. Moreover, it is because all anthropology is anthropology of other people’s anthropology that place—anthropological place—is a principle of meaning for the people who live in it, and also a principle of intelligibility for the person who observes it” (51–52). See “Anthropological Place,” the chapter devoted to this subject (42–74). The terminological choices I make in this article are crucial in order to fully understand and appreciate the nature of Ping Chong’s works discussed here (see Schechner, Between Theater and Anthropology; Environmental Theater; The Future of Ritual; Performance Theory). For this reason, I privilege terms such as ‘performer,’ ‘performance,’ and ‘spectator’ in place of ‘actor,’ ‘show,’ ‘play,’ and ‘audience.’ By doing so, I attend to practices that are also typical of many other experimental theater performances. For example, an essential element in performance requires that the performers do not engage with an entity as abstract as an ‘audience,’ but address each single ‘spectator’ who is living, here and now, in a unique experience that is always different from the one experienced by any other spectator. For this reason, I also prefer the verb ‘perform’ to ‘act’: the performers in Undesirable Elements are ‘acting’ only in the sense that they are ‘doing actions,’ but they are not ‘playing,’ they are not ‘characters,’ they are nothing other than themselves. Therefore, they ‘perform.’ Chong, Correspondence. Some recent productions have omitted the dances, songs, and poetry sections of the performance. Chong, Correspondence. Wehle, “Citizen of the World,” 25. Kaye, Site-Specific Art, 1. Ibid., 2. Chong, Correspondence. Augé, Non-Places, 42–74. Ibid., 42. Ibid., 45. Ibid. Ibid., 47–48. Ibid., 53. Ibid., 55. Turner, Dramas, 231–32. Augé, Non-Places, 77–78, 79. Ibid., 94. Ibid., 103, 104. Augé, Disneyland, 75. Ping Chong, quoted in Hughes, “Black Stage,” 4. Chong, Introduction to Secret History. Chong, “Notes,” 66. Chong et al., script of Undesirable Elements/Asian Pacific Americans, 21–23. Chong, Correspondence. Augé, Non-Places, 56. Turner, From Ritual to Theatre, 47–48. I explored this particular aspect of Undesirable Elements in my doctoral dissertation, Roberta De Martini, Tra Teatro e Rito: Undesirable Elements/Secret History di Ping Chong (PhD dissertation, Department of Discipline Artistiche, Musicali e dello Spettacolo, Università degli Studi di Torino, 2007). See Schechner’s Between Theater and Anthropology, “Performers and Spectators Transported and Transformed” in particular; and Performance Theory.


Roberta De Martini

WORKS CITED Augé, Marc. Disneyland e altri nonluoghi. Translated by Alfredo Salsano. Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 1999. Translation of L’impossible voyage: le tourisme et ses images. Paris: Éditions Payot and Rivages, 1997. . Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. Translated by John Howe. London/New York: Verso, 1995. Translation of NonLieux: Introduction à une anthropologie de la surmodernité. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1992. . A Sense for the Other: The Timeliness and Relevance of Anthropology. Translated by Amy Jacobs. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998. Translation of Le sens des autres: actualité de l’anthropologie. Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard, 1994. Chong, Ping. Autobiografi a d’artista (RomaEuropa Festival 2004). Interview. Produced by Cult. Edited by Fabrizio Grifasi. Directed by Gloria Rebecchi. Performers/Directors interviewed: Bill T. Jones, William Yang, Ping Chong, and Marina Abramović. Cult TV. Satellite Television. (Transmitted April and June 2005). . Correspondence with Roberta De Martini, May 2008–April 2009. . “Notes for ‘Mumblings and Digressions: Some Thoughts on Being an Artist, Being an American, Being a Witness. . . .’.” Ethnic Theater. Special issue, MELUS 16, no. 3 (Fall 1989–1990): 62–67.http://www.jstor.org/stable/467566 (accessed November 17, 2006). . Ping Chong and Company. Official Web site. http://www.pingchong.org (accessed March 8, 2006). . Secret History: A Documentary Theater Work by Ping Chong. Videocassette. Directed by Ping Chong. Video production directed by Hiromi Sakamoto. Created by Ping Chong in collaboration with performers Emerald Trinket Monsod, Vaimoana Niumeitolu, Hiromi Sakamoto, Tania Salmen, Patrick Ssenjovu, and Cherry Lou Sy. Ping Chong and Company, 2000. . “Testimonial, an installation for TransCulture, an international group exhibition at the Venice Biennale.” Press release. Provided by Ping Chong and Company, New York, 1995. . Undesirable Elements/Asian Pacific Americans (NEW YORK CITY, 2000). Performance. Created by Ping Chong in collaboration with performers Emerald Trinket Monsod, Vaimoana Niumeitolu, Zahera Saed, Hiromi Sakamoto, and Cherry Lou Sy. Directed by Ping Chong. Gene Frankel Theater, New York, April 7–9, 2000. . Undesirable Elements/Asian Pacific Americans (NEW YORK CITY, 2000). Script of the performance. Created by Ping Chong in collaboration with performers Emerald Trinket Monsod, Vaimoana Niumeitolu, Zahera Saed, Hiromi Sakamoto, and Cherry Lou Sy. Provided by Ping Chong and Company, New York. Revised April 9, 2000. Erikson, Erik H. Childhood and Society. New York: Norton, 1950. . Identity and the Life Cycle. New York: Norton, 1959. . Identity, Youth, and Crisis. New York: Norton, 1968. Gennep, Arnold van. The Rites of Passage. Translated by Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960. Translation of Les rites de passage. Paris: Émile Nourry, 1909. Hughes, Dana. “Black Stage, Voices in Color.” Ford Foundation Report 34, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 4–5. Produced by Ford Foundation Office of Communications. http://www.fordfound.org/pdfs/impact/ford_reports_spring_2003.pdf (accessed February 5, 2006).

“All Islands Connect Under Water”


Kaye, Nick. Site-Specifi c Art: Performance, Place and Documentation. London and New York: Routledge, 2000. Schechner, Richard. Between Theater and Anthropology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985. . Environmental Theater: An Expanded New Edition Including “Six Axioms For Environmental Theater.” New York: Applause 1994. . The Future of Ritual: Writings on Culture and Performance. Rev. ed. London and New York: Routledge, 1995. . Performance Theory. Rev. ed. London and New York: Routledge, 2003. Turner, Victor Witter. The Anthropology of Performance. New York: PAJ Publications, 1986. . Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1974. . From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play. New York: PAJ Publications, 1982. . The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Chicago: Aldine, 1969. Wehle, Philippa. “Citizen of the World: Ping Chong’s Travels.” PAJ 26, no. 1 (January 2004): 22–32. Project Muse Web site. http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/ journals/performing_arts_journal/v026/26.1wehle.pdf (accessed January 10, 2006).


Mita Banerjee is Professor and Chair of American Studies at the University of Mainz, Germany. Her research interests include postcolonial literature (The Chutneyfication of History: Salman Rushdie, Michael Ondaatje, Bharati Mukerjee and the Postcolonial Debate, 2002), ethnic American literature (Race-ing the Century, 2005), and the American Renaissance (Ethnic Ventriloquism: Literary Minstrelsy in NineteenthCentury American Literature, 2008). She is currently working on a project which explores the intersection between naturalism and naturalization in nineteenth-century American fiction. Maria Boletsi has recently completed her Ph.D dissertation in the Comparative Literature department and the Institute for Cultural Disciplines at Leiden University. Her doctoral research focused on the concept of barbarism and the barbarian in modern and contemporary theory, literature, and art. She has published articles on Jamaica Kincaid, C.P. Cavafy and J.M. Coetzee, on literary speech acts, migration, and on the concept of barbarism, in journals such as Comparative Literature Studies, Arcadia and Thamyris/Intersecting. She is also the co-editor of Inside Knowledge: (Un)doing Ways of Knowing in the Humanities (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009). Juan Bruce-Novoa was Professor of Latin American and U.S. Chicano/ Latino literatures and cultures, Film Studies, and Critical Theory at the University of California Irvine, and was visiting professor at Harvard, Mainz, Erlangen, Berlin, and Düsseldorf. He was the author of Chicano Authors, Inquiry by Interview; Chicano Poetry, A Response to Chaos; Restrospace, Essays on Chicano Literature, Theory and History; Martín Luis Guzmán: La sombra del caudillo, versión periodística, Only the Good Times, and Manuscrito de origen, (fiction), and Inocencia perversa/Perverse Innocence (poetry). Bruce-Novoa was a specialist on the image of Latin America in Hollywood film. He was editing a volume of essays on Mexican Jewish writers and had just completed his contribution to this volume when he passed away on June 11, 2010.

246 Contributors Rocío G. Davis is Professor of English at the City University of Hong Kong. She has published Relative Histories: Mediating History in Asian American Family Memoirs (University of Hawaii Press, forthcoming 2011), Begin Here: Reading Asian North American Autobiographies of Childhood (University of Hawaii Press, 2007), and Transcultural Reinventions: Asian American and Asian Canadian Short Story Cycles (Toronto: TSAR, 2001). She has co-edited Ethnic Life Writing and Histories: Genres, Performance, Culture (with Jaume Aurell and Ana Beatriz Delgado, LIT Verlag, 2007), Literary Gestures: The Aesthetic in Asian American Writing (with Sue-Im Lee, Temple University Press, 2006), and Sites of Ethnicity: Europe and the Americas (with William Boelhower and Carmen Birkle, Winter Verlag, 2004), among others. Roberta De Martini currently works at DAMS (Department of Performing Arts), University of Torino (Italy), in the area of Experimental Theater. She has a degree in American Literature from the University of Torino with a thesis on Jerre Mangione and the question of identity. She also holds a Ph.D. in Experimental Theater from the same University. In 2004, she worked with New York based Ping Chong and Company on Undesirable Elements: 92/02—Rome, Italy (2004). Her publications include essays on Christopher Hardman, Elia Kazan, The Living Theater, Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, Rabih Mroué, and Ping Chong. Marcus Embry is Professor of English at the University of Northern Colorado. His fields of interest include Ethnic US Literature, Latina/o Literature, and Literature of the Americas. He is currently completing a manuscript about Mexican Protestant immigrants in the Rio Grande Conference of the Methodist Church. Dorothea Fischer-Hornung is Senior Lecturer at the English Department of Heidelberg University, Germany. Her research focuses on minority cultures and performance in the Atlantic world. Among her publications are Holding Their Own: Perspectives on the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States, coedited with Heike Raphael-Hernandez, EmBODYing Liberation: The Black Body in Dance, coedited with Alison Goeller, and Sleuthing Ethnicity: The Multiethnic Detective in Crime Fiction coedited with Monika Mueller. She is founding co-editor of the journal Atlantic Studies (Routledge) and is currently President of MESEA, The Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and the Americas. Olga Kanzaki Sooudi teaches in Anthropology and Asian Studies at the University of Amsterdam. She received her PhD in Anthropology from Yale University in 2008. Her research focuses on Japanese modernity and forms of self-making, as produced through transnational practices and aesthetic production. She examined these themes through a study of



contemporary Japanese lifestyle migrants in New York City, particularly artists, conducting fieldwork and research in New York City and Tokyo. She is currently revising her dissertation for publication. Johanna C. Kardux is the Director of American Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Cornell. With Eduard van de Bilt, she has published Newcomers in an Old City: The American Pilgrims in Leiden, 1609–1620. She is co-editor (with Rosemarijn Höfte) of Connecting Cultures: The Netherlands in Five Centuries of Transatlantic Exchange. Her most recent research has largely focused on slavery monuments and public memory in the U.S. and the Netherlands. With Doris Einsiedel, she is co-editing a volume entitled Moving Migration: Narrative Transformations in Asian American Literature. Her present research involves an editorial project of collecting, transcribing, and translating historical documents related to, as well as letters and other writings by, two West African “princes” who were educated in the Netherlands in the mid-nineteenth century as part of a secret recruiting deal between the Ashanti ruler and the Dutch government. Page Laws is Professor of English and Dean of the Honors College at Norfolk State University in Virginia where she has taught since 1987. A comparatist, Laws has had a Fulbright in German Studies, a Fulbright Distinguished Chair for Cultural Studies at Karl-Franzens Universität in Austria, plus NEH summer seminar/institute fellowships in South Africa and France. As a public humanities scholar, she has served on the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the Norfolk Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Norfolk Commission Commemorating the End of Massive Resistance. Her research focuses on African American, comparative, and media studies. Among her recent publications are “Not Everybody’s Protest Film, Either: Native Son among Controversial Film Adaptations”; “Post and Neo-Colonial Pocahontas(es): Terrence Malick’s Updated Myth of La Belle Sauvage”; and “Astaire and Rogers: Icons of American Screen Romance.” Tessa C. Lee is assistant professor of German Literature and German Studies at Wheaton College, Massachusetts. She received her M.A. from Seoul National University and her Ph.D. from Yale University. Her recently published book Contested Homes: Locating Heimat in Contemporary German Literature investigates the notion of home and belonging in the works of Edgar Reitz, Barbara Honigmann and Aras Ören. Currently, she is examining the politics of identity in the cinematic and literary works of Turkish-German artists in post-Wall Germany. Kenneth H. Marcus is Associate Professor of History at the University of La Verne since 2001 and is also director of the university’s International



Studies Institute. He teaches courses in modern European history, California history, world history, and history methods. He holds a B.A. in history from UC Berkeley; an MBA from the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris in France; and a Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University, UK. He is the author of The Politics of Power: Elites of an Early Modern State in Germany and Musical Metropolis: Los Angeles and the Creation of a Music Culture, 1880–1940. He was commentator and co-producer of the short fi lm The Arias Troubadours: A Musical Dynasty, and has also made several recordings, including Some American Music for use in the classroom. He is currently writing a biography of composer Arnold Schoenberg in America. Gundo Rial y Costas is a PhD candidate in Latin American studies at Freie Universität Berlin and researches on the shifting of the concept of “America” in Brazilian telenovelas. He has a MA in humanities from Freie Universität Berlin. He has further studied at King’s College London, and also anthropology in Mérida, Mexico. He has published articles and essays in German, English and Portuguese on media in Latin America, and society and culture in the Americas. He also works as a translator. Nicolás Salazar-Sutil is a Chilean academic born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1976. His work deals with political performativity, theatre, performance and science, particularly the impact of modern mathematical notions on cultural discourse and practice. Salazar-Sutil trained as an actor at the Universidad de Chile and at the Drama Centre London. He received an MA-degree at Royal Holloway and he is currently finishing a PhD thesis at the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He lives in London with his child. Aritha van Herk is the author of five novels, Judith, The Tent Peg, No Fixed Address (nominated for the Governor General’s Award for fiction), Places Far From Ellesmere (a geografictione) and Restlessness. Her wide-ranging critical work is collected in A Frozen Tongue and In Visible Ink. Her irreverent but relevant history of Alberta, Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta, won the Grant MacEwan Author’s Award for Alberta Writing and frames the new permanent exhibition on Alberta history, which opened at the Glenbow Museum and Archives in Calgary in 2007. Her latest book, Audacious and Adamant: The Story of Maverick Alberta, accompanies the exhibit. Her current research focuses on representations of material culture as metaphor and metonymy. She is University Professor and Professor of English at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Cathy Covell Waegner teaches American Studies at Siegen University in Germany. She obtained degrees from College of William & Mary and



University of Virginia. In addition to her work on William Faulkner and Toni Morrison (including A Mercy), she has published on ethnicity in fi lm, international hip hop, minstrelsy, “postmodernist passing,” and 400 years of Jamestown. She co-edited the MESEA volume Literature on the Move: Comparing Diasporic Ethnicities in Europe and the Americas (2002) and served as MESEA treasurer for four years. Her current research focuses on Obama’s African American “political mothers” in the 1960s, and, in cooperation with Norfolk State University, she is undertaking a project for the Foundation for German-American Academic Relations on the immigrant “Other” and transcultural encounters in Virginia and North Rhine-Westphalia. Klaus Zilles is an associate professor at the Blanquerna School of Communication Studies at Ramon Llull University in Barcelona, Spain. A graduate of Heidelberg University (Germany), he has also studied at The University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1998, he received his Ph.D. in English and German philology from the University of Heidelberg. Klaus Zilles writes and publishes on Chicano literature, literature and fi lm, and identity politics in the media.


A accordion, 150, 202, 204, 208 acculturation, 9, 109, 115, 118 actors, social, 118, 125, 126, 137, 151 Adorno, Theodor, 189, 192 advertising, 3, 100, 116, 118, 119 advertising campaigns, 7, 100, 176; Molson Canadian Beer, 110– 102, 106, 108, 111n5; ING Direct, 101, 106–107, 110 aesthetics, 157, 162, 170, 188, 213, 214, 216; of bigotry, 86–88; of disappearance, 170 Ajuda’m, parla’m en català (Help Me, Speak to Me in Catalan), 113–114, 122–124 Akin, Fatih, 6, 66–77 allegory, 5, 15, 26, 129, 136 alien(s) (foreign/foreigners), 2, 5, 6, 16–18, 20–21, 24–27, 37, 45, 67–77, 234, 235; illegal, 45, 52, 58, 271 alien(s) (extraterrestrial): as metaphor for foreigners, 5, 6, 16–18, 20–22, 24–26, 28n22, 205 alienation, 6, 67, 69, 72, 76–77 Allende, Salvador, 172, 174–175 allochthonous groups, 233. See also nonnatives alterity, 6, 8, 77, 154, 157, 164, 216. See also otherness Althusser, Louis, 7, 115, 118, 123 ambivalence, 4, 5, 31, 43, 82, 83, 89, 154 América (Pérez), 7, 126, 131–137. See also telenovela American Dream, 7, 131, 136, 204 Anderson, Benedict, 3 Appadurai, Arjun, 3, 7, 125, 137, 145 Appiah, Kwame Anthony, 110

Arendt, Hannah, 173 Arriaga, Guillermo, 5, 31, 36 Arslan, Thomas, 72 Artists Space Gallery, 227 Ataman, Kutlug, 72 atonality, 188–189, 190, 191 Augé, Marc, 9, 232–234, 239, 240n9 Ausländer (foreigners). See alien(s) Auslandstournee (Tour Abroad) (Polat), 72 autochthonous groups, 233; Catalan media audiences and producers, 7, 120, 122; protagonists in Catalan media campaign, 117

B Babel (Iñárritu and Arriaga), 5, 31, 36–41 Balkans, 8, 145–167; Balkanism, 152, 165n16, Balkanization, 152 ‘barbarian’ other, 146, 148, 152, 155, 158–159, 163–164, 167n55 ‘barbarization’, 145–146, 158–159 Bardem, Javier, 42 Barraza, Adriana, 37, 40 Bartók, Béla, 188 Bataille, Georges, 9, 21, 218–220, 221, 223 belonging, sense of, 9, 129, 164, 185, 194, 232–233. See also home and Heimat Berlin, 186, 188, 195n30, 232; Berlin film festival, 66; Treptow Park (in Berlin), 201; Berlin Wall, 68 Bernal, Gael Garcia, 37, 39 Betroffenheitsliteratur (literature of the affected), 69, 77 Bhabha, Homi K., 3, 6, 30, 45n4, 63n3, 72, 157

252 Index bigotry, 81, 83, 85, 95; aesthetics of, 86–88 binary opposition(s), 6, 49, 63, 72, 117, 123, 130; U.S.-Mexico binary, 32 Birds, The (Hitchcock), 41 blogs, 1, 158, 212, 213–214, 217 body, 20, 22, 23, 28, 154, 202, 204, 216, 217; as cultural space, 48–63; body movements, 18; posture, 118; body tropes, 6, 48–63; speaking body, 230 Bollywood: reaction to 9/11, 6, 81–95; and gender, 88, 93; and transnationalism, 89 Borat (Cohen), 48, 51, 54, 60–62, 63 border crossing, 2–6, 31, 35, 38, 39, 45, 48–63, 63n5, 72, 82, 85, 86, 89, 94, 100, 134, 137, 146, 147, 204, 240. See also border(s): cultural, and border(s): national borderlands, 2–3, 5, 30–45, 132, 135, 137; Brazilian, 129, 139n19; discourse, 30, 31 border(lands) cinema, 30–45, 48–63 border(s): cultural, 25, 57, 145, 158, 233–234. See also border(s): national, and border crossing border(s): national, 2, 3, 4, 5, 16, 17, 25, 28n22, 44, 48, 50, 52, 53, 85, 145, 154, 157, 158, 160, 162, 233, 234; in Balkan, 146, 150, 154, 158, 160, 167n41; Canadian-U.S., 102; German, 77; U.S.Mexican, 5, 30–45, 50, 51, 52, 58, 131–133, 134, 135, 139n35 Bordertown, 5, 48, 51, 53, 58, 62 Bracero Program, 16, 25 Braga, Gilberto, 131 Brazil, 2, 6, 7, 125–139 “Brazilian Dream Factory”, 128 Brecht, Bertholt, 192, 193, 195n10; Verfremdungseffekt, 32 Brolin, Josh, 41, 44 Brown Atlantic, 94–95

C Canada/Canadian, 2, 6, 7, 69, 99–110, 111n5, 121; ‘Great Canadian Novel’, 108 California, 36, 37, 183, 185–188, 192, 193, 195n10 campaigns, promotional, 7, 101–102, 106, 113–115, 119–123. See

also advertising campaigns and media campaigns Catalonians, autochthonous, 113–124 Chile, 8, 170–180 Chong, Ping, and Company, 9, 227– 232, 235–237, 239–240 Chow, Rey, 201, 209 city/ies, 33, 72, 116, 127, 128, 129, 135, 138n17, 185, 212–225, 231–233, 235–236, 239; global, 2. See also Berlin, Los Angeles, and New York City citizenship, 68, 69, 186, 192; hyphenated citizen, 73, 109 clichés, 7, 100–101, 102, 108, 150 Coen, Joel, and Ethan Coen, 5, 31, 42, 43–44 Cohen, Sacha Baron, 54, 60–62 commodification, 174, 180, 209, 215 communication, nonverbal, 116, 202 ‘conscious’ camera, 31, 33 Consortium for Linguistic Normalization, 114–115 contact, intercultural, 7, 36, 113, 116, 119, 123; contact zones, 50, 57, 63n8, 102, 202, 205, 207 Conzen, Kathleen, 201–202, 206–207, 209 Corbin, Barry, 44 cosmopolitanism, 2, 7, 82, 110, 133 counterpoint, 31, 191, 230 cultural blankness, 7, 99, 105–106 cultural objects, 8, 145–148; copyright of, 147; ownership of, 8, 146, 147, 149

D Davies, Robertson, 103, 109; Murther and Walking Spirits, 105–106; What’s Bred in the Bone, 103–105 Day the Earth Stood Still, The (Wise), 5, 16–19, 21, 23–25, 28n22 deportation, 40, 132, 135, 193 Derrida, Jacques, Of Hospitality, 153– 154, 157; Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas, 154 deterritorialization, 1 diaspora, 2, 50, 82, 100; Latin American, 7, 135, 136, 138n27, 139n36, 178 Dietrich, Marlene, 31, 32 Doncheva, Gergana, 154 double-voiced discourse, 50, 57

Index Dracula, 22 drama social, 127

E Eisler, Hans, 192–193, 195n10; Hollywood Songbook, 192, 196n32 “El Aparecido” (The One Who Appears) (Jara), 8, 172–173 emancipation, 114, 137 Erdrich, Louise, Master Butchers Singing Club, The, 9, 201–202, 205–209 Erikson, Erik H., 233 ethnic cinema, 6, 72 ethnic conflicts and violence, 4, 145, 147, 152, 158, 166n39 ethnic gaze, 6, 75 ethnicity, 1, 2, 4, 6, 8–9, 34, 48, 50, 64n8, 68n9, 69, 77, 84, 201–202, 209, 228; Canadian, 7, 99–110; cleansing, 55; Dutch, 7, 99–110; invisible, 7, 99–110, 122; performative, 9, 95n1 ethnoscape, 3 everyday, the, 9, 212, 213, 215, 219, 222 Everything Is Illuminated (Foer), 48–49, 57, 59–60, 63 exclusion, 2, 70, 150, 153 exile(s), 4, 92; Jewish, 183–185, 189–190, 192–194; political, 4, 8, 20, 92, 135, 136, 170–172

F Facility for the Channeling and Containment of Undesirable Elements, A (Chong), 227, 228, 236 Fanning, Elle, 37 Festival, RomaEuropa, 230 Feuchtwanger, Lion, 193 film, 15–95, 201, 202–205, 207, 208, 209; documentary, 8, 72, 145–164, 164n3; detective, 30, 32–33, 43; Gothic 22–23; film noir, 31, 33. See also movies Foer, Jonathan Saffran, 59 Foucault, Michel, 167n50 Frankenstein, 15, 22–24 Freud, Sigmund, 158, 166n39 fugitive, 8, 170–180 fundamentalism, 81, 85, 86

G Gabor, Zsa Zsa, 32 Gamble, Nathan, 37


Gardner, Angel, 230 Gastarbeiter, 66–77, 78n16 Gastarbeiterliteratur 68–70, 77 Gegen die Wand (Head On), 6, 66–77, 79n32. See also Akin Generalitat, 114 genre painting, 102–103 Germany, 2, 6, 8, 66–69, 72–73, 75–77, 78n10, 78n16, 102, 128, 183, 189, 192, 193, 195n10, 201–209. See also Berlin Geschwister (Brothers and Sisters), 72. See also Arslan globalization, 4, 9, 38, 48, 82, 125, 145, 146, 147, 180, 207, 208, 209 global mediation, 208 Glover, Douglas, 7, 99, 106, 107–109 Göktürk, Deniz, 72 Grant, Beth, 44 guest, 66, 68–77, 78n10, 78n16, 145–164. See also Derrida guest worker literature. See Gastarbeiterliteratur Guevara, Che, 174 Gutierrez-Solana, Carlos, 227

H ‘half-breeds’, 31, 32 Harrelson, Woody, 43 Heimat, 8, 76, 184–185, 188–189, 192–194, 204 Homecoming, 179; home country, 2; homeland(s), 2, 4, 8, 10, 16, 28n22, 82, 100, 121, 126, 129, 130, 135, 179, 183, 185, 194; homeland security, 30; hometown, 52, 59, 77; imaginary homeland, 100, 135; ideology of, 179. See also Heimat and belonging hospitality, 146, 153, 156–157, 161, 164; ethics of, 153–154, 161; politics of, 153–154. See also Derrida Heston, Charlton, 30, 32, 34 Hitchcock, Alfred, 33, 41 Hindu fundamentalism, 81, 85–86 Hindutva, 82, 84–85, 91, 93–94 Hoogstad, Jan Hein, 167n50 Hopkins, Zack, 42 host, 148, 153–162. See also Derrida host country, 2, 8, 72, 77, 148, 153–154, 161, 166n29, 183, 190, 193

254 Index House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), 192, 196n36 human rights, 5, 51, 54, 110, 175–176, 178 Huntington, Samuel, 149, 165n9 hybridity, 3, 5–6, 30, 32, 41, 45n11, 48–51, 55–57, 63, 64n10, 64n11, 72, 81–83, 86, 93, 95 hybrid tropes, 48–51, 63 hyphenation 60, 102 hyphenizing, dynamic, 49

I identity/ies: Canadian, 100–110; Catalonian, 7, 100, 110; cultural, 1, 7–8, 70, 100, 102, 106, 136, 154, 158, 204, 233; Dutch, 7, 100–110; multiple, 70; national, 7–8, 73, 84, 113, 148, 154–155, 157–160; migrant, 69–70, 77, 154, 216, 233, 235; identity politics, 8, 115, 123; transcultural, 2 Ideological State Apparatus, 7, 119, 122 ideology, 83, 85, 88, 115, 119, 123, 166n29, 166n31, 172, 179–180 imaginaries: collective, 125; national, 7, 128, 147, 157 immigration, illegal, 15, 27, 31, 45, 52, 57–58, 136, 235 immigration policy, 27, 68, imperialism, cultural, 38, 55 Iñárritu, Alejandro González, 5, 31, 36, 38–41 inclusion, 2 “The Indonesian Client” (Glover), 99, 107–110 integration, 71, 73, 109, 113, 116, 118, 131, 162, 235 Internet, 3, 7, 48, 106, 125 interpellation, 7, 113, 115–116, 119. See also Althusser interracial couples, 33, 36. See also miscegenation intervention, 51, 151, 157, 162, 167n50 Invention of Ethnicity, The (Conzen), 201–202, 206–207, 209 Islamophobia, 95 Ives, Charles, 187

J Japan/Japanese, 9, 22, 36–39, 121, 128, 138n14, 212–217, 219, 221–225, 232, 237

Jara, Victor, 8, 172–174, 177, 180–181 Jones, Tommy Lee, 41

K Kaye, Nick, 231 King, Russell, 2, 10n2 Klemperer, Otto, 190–191 Krieghoff, Cornelius David, 102–103, 109 Kumar, Amitava, 6, 81, 84–86, 95

L labor, foreign, 5, 16, 68 language, 17–19, 24, 38, 68–69, 75–76, 82–83, 86, 103, 115–117, 120–122, 124, 128, 136, 164, 166n39, 167n50, 171, 224, 227, 229, 233–234; Catalan, 7, 113–116, 119–122; language policy, 113–114 Last King of Scotland, The, 5, 48, 50, 54–56, 58, 60–61 Leigh, Janet, 30, 32, 34, 42, 45n6, 46n17 life-writing, 6, 81, 85–86, 95n1 literature, migrant, 67, 69–71, 77 local, 2, 7, 9, 53, 62, 83, 110, 113, 116, 120–121, 123–124n2, 148, 158, 186, 188, 191, 208, 231 Lola und Bilidikid (Ataman), 72 Lone Star, 5, 48–49, 51, 53, 57, 62–63, 64n4 Los Angeles, 102, 183–186, 188, 190–193; Los Angeles Philharmonic, 191

M Mann, Heinrich, 193 Mann, Thomas, 192, 195n10 Männergesangverein, 206 May, Karl, 201–202, 210n1 Master Butchers Singing Club, The (Erdrich), 9, 201, 205–206, 209 McCroom, Darren, 230 media, 1–4, 7, 9–10, 26, 48, 72, 83–85, 114–115, 119, 125, 127, 149, 152, 167n50, 177, 212–213; digital, 1, 48; global, 2; media culture, 1, 4; mediascapes, 3–4, 6–7, 125–126, 137; media campaign, 7, 113–124. See also advertizing, blogs, film, Internet, television mediation, 208

Index melody, 164–165n5, 191, 209 memorialization, 59, 171, 175–175 memory, 2, 8–10, 50, 59, 147, 172, 172, 176, 179, 206, 209, 215, 228; historical memory, 163, 175; Brazilian collective memory, 127, 135; memory machine, 170 MESEA (Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and the Americas), 4, 10n13 Mexico/Mexicans, 5, 16, 32, 34–47, 51–54, 57–58, 62, 127, 131, 133– 135, 138n8, 138n27, 139n35 migration: forced, 128, 170, 172, 182; international, 125; patterns, 126, 129–130, 132–133, 137; performance of, 1 migrancy, 4, 49; lifestyle migrants, 212, 247 migrant cinema, 6, 67, 69, 71, 72 Millan, Victor, 32 mimicry, 30 minorities, ethnic, 7, 66–67, 73, 121 miscegenation, 20, 26, 55, 84, 87. See also interracial couples misunderstandings, intracultural, 36 mobility, 3, 70, 116 Modernism, 8, 183, 185, 188, 192, 194; California Modernism, 186, 193 Modirzadeh, Leyla, 230 Monaco, James, 5, 50, 64n12, 139n33 Monash, Paul, 32 Moore, Joanna, 32 Morocco, 36, 38–39 movies, 1, 4–6, 18, 21, 36, 42–43, 48–63, 66–77, 127, 186, 202–204, 237. See also film multiculturalism, 2, 6, 86, 147, 204, 207, 209; multiculturalist agenda, 9 multi-ethnicity, 1; in India, 81, 82, 84; in Brazil, 128 music, 2–3, 8–9, 32, 33, 37–38, 93–94, 145–168, 170–180, 183–196, 202, 204–206, 209, 219, 223–224, 227, 229. See also atonality, song, zydeco

N narcissism, of minor differences, 158, 166n39. See also Freud narrative, 3, 10, 36, 38–39, 48, 72, 77, 83–84, 86, 88–89, 91,


93–95, 107, 116–119, 126–137, 156, 163, 167n50, 174, 202, 204, 213, 215, 219, 225, 229; national, 146, 148, 151, 153–154, 160, 166n36 nation building, 7, 128–129, 132–135 nationalism, 5–6, 81–86, 88–89, 113–115, 145–147, 149, 152; nationality, 1, 69, 134, 149, 179 Native American, 16, 57, 201–209 nativism, American, 8 Netherlands, the, 4, 9, 99–101, 108–109, 146 New Braunfels, Texas, 202 New York City, 9, 33, 60, 85, 92, 102, 130–131, 134, 183, 190, 201, 212–225, 227, 237 No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen), 5, 31, 41–43 nonnatives, 67, 72, 120, 123–124, 205. See also allochthonous groups ‘non-places’, 232, 234–235, 236, 239, 240n9. See also Augé nostalgia, 4, 165n18, 179, 201–209

O Orientalism, 152, 165n16 otherness, 70–71, 77, 159, 162, 228, 238 outsider(s), 72, 76, 116, 149, 156, 205, 234, 236–237

P palimpsest, 50, 118, 162–163, 247 Panopticon (Foucault): and U.S.-Mexican border, 30 Parra, Violeta, 172 Pátria Minha, 130–132 Peevah, Adela, 8, 146–167 Pérez, Gloria, 126, 131–137 performance, 8–9, 20, 48, 102, 107, 113, 116, 157–159, 171–172, 175, 186, 190–191, 224, 227–241; of disappearance, 170–180; of ethnicity/culture, 99, 109, 201 Pinochet, Augusto, 8, 170–178 Polat, Ayşe, 72 practices, aesthetic, 1, 5, 9, 99, 212–213 Pratt, Mary Louise, 3, 6, 57, 63n8, 202, 206–207 Psycho (Hitchcock), 41, 45n6 public policy, 2

256 Index purity, 45, 82–86

R radionovelas, 126 recognition, social, 9 reenactments, medial, 133 Rede Globo, 127–128, 133 resistance, 2, 4, 9, 21, 27, 28n22, 49, 94, 171–172, 174, 178, 209 Rosello, Mireille, 154, 157, 161 routes, 126, 130, 132, 137, 202

S science fiction, 5, 14–27 Schechner, Richard, 9, 240, 241n10 Schoenberg, Arnold, 8, 183–197 Shohat, Ella, 2 Schorr, Michael, 9, 201–211 Schultze Gets the Blues (Schorr), 9, 201–211 senses, sensory experience, 217, 223 September 11, 2001 (9/11), 6, 81–96, 132 Shah, Naseeruddin, 90, 92 socialization, 1, 70 Sollors, Werner, 201, 209 song, 8, 66, 75, 121, 126, 143–169, 170–196, 206, 209, 229, 241n12; New Song Movement (Nueva Canción Latinoamericana), 179, 180; protest song, 170, 180 sovereignty, 145, 153–154, 157, 218 space, social, 130; transnational, 6, 72, 77, 82, 130 Spain, Catalonia, 6, 67, 113–124 Stam, Robert, 2, 64n15 stereotypes, 6, 30, 42, 75, 77, 117, 149, 152–152, 235, 237–238 Stravinsky, Igor, 186, 193, 195n12, 196n36 subaltern, 54, 135, 137, 139n34 subject, 7, 17, 31, 53, 57, 72, 115, 122, 130, 135, 139n34, 150, 155, 170, 223; subject interpellation, 115–116, 119

T technoscape, 3 telenovela, 7, 125–140 teleteatro, 126 television, 1, 3–4, 6–7, 48, 60–61, 99–112, 113–124, 125–140; Catalonian public television

(Televisió de Catalunya), 7, 113–124 Tenim paraula (We Have the Word), 113–124 terrorists, 30, 45, 93; terrorist attacks 6, 83, 92, 94 Testimonial (Chong), 228 Thing from Another World, The, 5, 15–29 “Third Space” (Bhabha), 3, 6, 48, 50–51, 58, 63n3, 64n10, 72 Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, The, 48–64 Tijuana, 31, 38 Touch of Evil (Welles), 30–47 transcultural engagement, 2–3, 63n6, 205; transculturation, 8–9, 106, 123, 202, 206–209 TransCulture (Chong), 228 transmigrants, 3, 7, 125–140 transnationalism, 1–2, 3–4, 6, 48, 70, 72, 84–85, 89, 95, 99, 131, 133, 139n37, 246; transnational capital, 82, 94 trauma, 83, 150, 152, 172, 179, 234 trope, cinematic, 5, 50, 63 Turkey, 66–80, 145, 147, 166n36, 167n41

U Undesirable Elements/Secret History, UE: 92/02, Gaijin: Undesirable Elements/Tokyo, Japan (1995), Undesirable Elements/ Rotterdam, Holland (1997), Undesirable Elements/Berlin, Germany (2003) (Chong), 9, 227–242 United Nations, 22, 28n22 U.S. Customs and Immigration, 34

V Van Gennep, Arnold, 234 Vereinswesen, 206 Verfremdungseffekt, 32 Viertel, Berthold, 193 Virgin Mary, 37–38 Virilio, Paul, 170 ‘virtual neighborhoods’, 3 visibility, 4, 9

W ‘war on drugs’, 30, 45; ‘war on terror’, 6, 95

Index Welles, Orson, 30–47 What If?, 81–96. See also Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota ‘white man’s burden’, 56 ‘white trash’, 87, 94 Whose is This Song? (Peeva), 145– 169 Williams, Raymond, 99 Wise, Robert, 21–22, 24 Wood, Nancy, 2


Y YouTube, 1, 158, 166n37 Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota (If This Happened Then What Would Have Happened); See What If? 81–96. See also Shah

Z Žižek, Slavoj, 152 zydeco (music), 202, 204–205

View more...


Copyright ©2017 KUPDF Inc.