Torn Between Two Lovers:
Continuous Approximations


O. Hugo Benavides

Fordham University, New York NY

Copyright © 2001 by O. Hugo Benavides, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.

  1. I guess I have always been an endless romantic. As a little kid I used to listen to this song without realizing how much of my life it would actually describe: Torn between two lovers, acting like a fool, loving both of you, is breaking all the rules. And in a sense I thought that the song would most probably refer to my own romantic inclinations and the choice of my future lovers. However, that seems not to have been the case. Rather, it has slowly, yet painfully, become apparent that the two lovers that my life and myself have been torn between are two different geographical homelands: On the one side, Ecuador, the place where I was born and where I was later to live my adolescence; on the other, the United States, specifically its New York City configuration, which was what my eyes and mind saw for the first twelve years of my life, and which was where I would choose to live in as an adult.

  2. What has become clear through the years is that both of these places have become home in one way or another. Yet neither of them can fulfill all the conditions that most people imagine their homes to do, such as providing safety, identity, connection, nurturing, and historical continuity. As the years have passed I have continuously struggled to make sense of this hybrid reality. At times I have been successful in fooling myself and thinking that I have reached some level of realization, only to 'realize' months or years later (yet again) that such initial understanding was only partial -- that as I continue to change, so does my past and my own understanding of it. What at first I thought to be a final breakthrough was really just a step, meaningful but still a mere step in a constant search for myself, my identity, and the source/ reason of my own life. This is what I now refer to as continuous approximations, and at my most lucid moments I accept that this is the best it will ever be. My life will be a continuous approximation into understanding these profound geographical and cultural dislocations that will forever define who I am and the acts that determine what my life is.

  3. At the same time, what started as a geographical, and possibly even a cultural dislocation, has slowly pervaded a whole other series of elements. In a profound way, my initial displacement has contributed to my choosing anthropology as a life-career that defines much of my thinking and cultural inquiry. This passion for anthropology is remarkable to me, since even assessing the discipline's colonial heritage is not enough to shake my grasp of its analytical tools. In this manner, I see both myself and anthropology as colonial products, our destinies inextricably linked, and more specifically that as similar products our problematics may be resolved in similar fashion. But the hybrid nature of my life not only has contributed to my career choosing but also has affected all other aspects: defining types and forms of social relationship, the transient nature of sexual identity, reconfigurations of national affiliations, commitment of artistic ventures, and political commitment. The list is endless, and as such, the list, is really my life or at least what defines my life . . . approximately.

  4. So in the last couple of years I have made several attempts to come to terms with these different aspects, and through them have realized that my own perceptions of racial, class, sexual and national categories have been (and are) continuously pervaded by my unique world view. Each of these attempts has provided another level of understanding that brings me closer to the hybrid source and secures that it will be permanently just out of reach. As a testament to this process, below I provide two different instances of these continuous approximations. The first section, "Preface: Dissertation Blues" was written in its entirety at the end of my initial doctoral fieldwork. In that "traditional" sense it wrote itself, because it was impossible for me to start writing about my own research topic before I got this personal stuff out of the way (sort of). But I only was able to get it out of the way to have it lodged in a much more central place in my new research interest into the national production of sentiments. This 'return' once again allowed me to reassess the nature of 'home'work within my anthropological training, and most particularly the contradiction that this entails: that of doing fieldwork at home, and therefore being at home and abroad at the same time. It is this contradiction that I explore in the following section which I have entitled, "Exploring One's Own: The Contradiction of Doing 'Home'work in Ecuador." Finally, the conclusion is yet one more attempt to bring myself up to date and yet gain, if possible, one more step in this continuous approximation that is such a central characteristic of our post-colonial times.

    And who, at the same time, as a human being, is far freer in a strange land than he has ever been at home. Home! The very word begins to have a despairing and diabolical ring.
    --James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

  5. I entered this debate by having lived a third of my life in Ecuador and the rest of it as an Ecuadorian in New York City (i.e., what has been theatrically referred to as a Guayaco en Hollywood). I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, 30 years ago and in little over a year after that I was brought to live in the third largest Ecuadorian city in the world, New York City. Since then I have been caught, transfixed, condemned, and forced to live in two worlds, that of mi pueblo, which was also that of my past, and that of el barrio, which was that of my immigrant group in a foreign setting, and that of my daily reality, the present (Martinez 1992; Anzaldúa 1987).

  6. Out of this contradiction came many things including this work, which in itself is a result of this continuous pull between two separate realities, very much in the Castañedean sense (Castañeda 1968 and 1971). You always live in the shadow of a separate world, never being complete, but always reaching to be in that other place which would make you whole, only to find that when you reached it you somehow had lost what you initially had. Out of this contradiction also came my interest in anthropology, where I found a group (although less numerous than I had initially hoped) of misplaced people, caught in the bridge between two or more amorphous and ever-changing mainlands (Eric Wolf, personal communication). It was out of this existential contradiction that I decided to return to Ecuador, literally to my past, for my fieldwork. It was not so much a search for my roots as it was a search for my own existence, as expressed in the following poem:
    There is another song,
    about a man whose life, like the river
    continually runs away from him:
    "Soy como el agua del rio,
    todo se me va en correr."
    Perhaps my life ran counter to my shadow.
    At times my shadow fled from me.
    Strange how you look around one day
    and you're home again, for a while,
    never more than a while, and you realize
    that somehow you made your way to the sea
    and that you had come home to understand
    how your life ran and the river runs.
    (Quintana 1995: 151).

  7. To say my fieldwork (or "home"work, see Sawalha n.d.) was ridden with anxiety and anguish, would actually be an understatement. There were times in the field when I thought I would not make it, when my own past was lost in the new reality in which I was immersed. Every single certainty that I had painstakingly constructed in my own life was challenged and questioned by completely opposite ones. And unlike what I would expect, these new-found certainties were seemingly working perfectly, giving nobody but me, at least in appearance, any kind of hardship. For example, I was given borrowing privileges to the social science library at Quito's Catholic University (PUCE) only to have them revoked by the Dean when he realized I was Ecaudorian and did not fit his image of what a "New York Professor" should look like. My own frame of reference had vanished completely, not leaving a single trace that I could hold on to. Steadily my own sense of being dissolved; all my assurance soon gave way, leaving me stranded in what became a foreign land, with no idea of how to act, what I was feeling, or what reality was any longer. In many ways it was like reenacting my future death (see Dorfman 1998 for a similar description during the U.S.-backed military occupation of Chile).

  8. But this is par for the course. I had fulfilled yet another rite of passage in my anthropological training, that of fieldwork. I had immersed myself in another culture. I had been questioned at the very core of all my cultural assumptions and through this brazen vantage point -- trial through fire, if you will -- had gained a critical understanding of cultural constructions. My fieldwork had changed me, forced me to give up who I was, and had allowed me to understand cultural differences in a more essential manner. Therefore culture shock was a given, not surprising and definitely nothing to write "home" about. But write I did, as much as I could, to my partner and friends, but also in my journal. I was desperately trying to hold onto whatever was me that was so rapidly being destroyed and annihilated, because the truth of the matter was that I thought I was home. Or at least I was supposed to be.

  9. I would agree that in many ways these were the travails of fieldwork, which in no way denies the wealth of the experience. Fieldwork is insightful to explore, problematize and acknowledge as a rich source of understanding and wisdom about the human condition (Fortier 1996; Rabinow 1977 and 1988; Dwyer 1988; Said 1989; Rosaldo 1986). Fieldwork is not simply a means to an end, but rather it provides important truths about the research itself. The motivations, empathy, existential shifts, reactions and transformations that result from fieldwork are essential elements of the investigation process, elements that could be used as windows to understand the reality that one is seeing and trying to recreate. At one small level, for example, just adjusting to shifts in cultural patterns -- such as the absence of schedules for buses -- becomes a useful tool for assessing the nature of cultural reality. At another, much larger level, the questions of my own identity, although traumatic, have also provided an insight into assessing different factors involved in the production of Ecuadorianness.

  10. In this vein, I think my experience was very much that of the indigenous anthropologist who returns home (Fahim 1982; Jones 1970; Hymes 1974; Nayarran 1993; Bennoune 1985; and Morsy 1988). I returned home with a whole set of methodological tools, only to find out that they did not work as they should, or more importantly, that they did not give me the status they gave others. I saw many foreign colleagues use these same tools to claim authority, while I only received contempt, or at best, disbelief. I remember the difficulty that I had setting up a meeting with representatives of FLACSO (Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales) in Quito, only to see them spending ample time having lunches and dinners with all their other foreign colleagues. It was an experience which was harsher than I ever could have imagined and which echoed in me Wilde's description of his own feelings during his imprisonment at Reading Gaol:
    But we who live in prison, and in whose lives there is no event but sorrow, have to measure time by throbs of pain, and the record of bitter moments. We have nothing else to think of. Suffering -- curious as it may sound to you -- is the means by which we exist, because it is the only means by which we become conscious of existing; and the remembrance of suffering in the past is necessary to us as the warrant, the evidence, of our continued identity. Between myself and the memory of joy lies a gulf no less deep than that between myself and joy in its actuality. (Wilde 1964: 71)
    And just as for Wilde, my deep pain and sorrow also became a source of enlightenment:
    One of the many lessons that one learns in prison is that things are what they are, and will be what they will be. . . . Whatever is realised is right (Wilde 1964: 102 and 122).

  11. Therefore, even though I thought I had learned enough about social differences and their construction both in Ecuador and the United States, I received yet another lesson, this time more global, and more painfully immediate to my own sense of being. Once again I learned the price one pays for being different and for acknowledging that difference. There was nothing wrong with what I was doing; the main problem was that I, whom Ecuadorians recognized a compatriot from the wrong class and race, wanted to do research. I was discriminated against for not fitting most of my compatriots' ideas of how I should look and behave.

  12. My fieldwork experience made me rethink my own identity and desire to call Ecuador my home. After initially returning to Ecuador when I was 12 years old, I had again left home, both my parents' and the country, at 21 to study abroad. And on my return to New York after the end of my fieldwork, I was reminded of why I had left it in the first place or why it could only be a home in the past. As I was leaving Ecuador once again to return to a new-found home, I kept thinking of James Baldwin's work (1988a, 1988b and 1984) and how important it was for him to go to "another country", where one can escape the initial constraints that tie us, even though we may find new ones (see also Leeming 1994). It must be another country, because staying home in those instances will only mean death. It could be a physical death through suicide or death at the hands of the powers that be (imprisonment, mental hospital, etc.), or the one Baldwin (1984) feared the most, an emotional one, a comatose state of sorts, which would only allow you to reproduce the imposed exploited image of yourself (Rhys 1982; see Kincaid 1997 for a similar discussion of issues surrounding her family and country of origin, Antigua).

  13. It is precisely this questioning of the role imposed for oppressed identities such as Latinos that has led me to where I am today. This is an area that has also slowly become a rich source of intellectual inquiry, see for example Anzaldúa 1987; Martinez 1992 and 1998; Rodriguez 1992. All of these works deal with the aftermath of never being fully who you are culturally, "of yearn(ing) for the other even when I am with the other: nowhere (to) feel complete." (Martinez 1992: 4). There is also an emerging literary concern of this same reality in the works of many Latino authors such as Ana Castillo (1986; 1996), Julia Alvarez (1992), Cristina García (1992), Junot Díaz (1997), and Jaime Manrique (1992 and 1997). Similar are the concerns of John Leguizamo's (e.g., Mambo Mouth, Spicorama, and his recent Broadway hit Freak), and of Coco Fusco's (1994 and 1995) and Guillermo Gomez-Peña's (1991; 1994 and 1996) performance art, which has incorporated the political/artistic aspect of this alienation or hyphenation of our latinized and immigrant bodies (see Taylor 1998; and Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998).

  14. This same reality has been addressed by Canclini's (1992) concept of the hybrid (lo híbrido). The híbrido expresses a reality of multiple identities, where there is no longer a single underlying truth, but a multiplicity of truths that have been produced at different moments and respond coherently to discrete and overlapping situations. However, this hybridity is not the same throughout Latin America and the Caribbean or even among groups from the same nation. Rather, it describes a blend of different traditions to create a new reality. The constant presence of the south in the north creates a Latino, Chicano, and Nuyorican identity. These identities themselves have then been able to offer cultural artifacts like salsa rhythms and soap operas (telenovelas) to the rest of the continent and the world, including their home countries. There is a dynamic reappropriation of symbols throughout the continent, very different from that expressed in el mestizaje, but in many ways not completely independent of it. El mestizaje (see discussion in Chapter 1), still largely misunderstood and conveniently mystified, is but the initial hybrid nature on which a Latino identity successfully wobbles.

  15. However, such identity politics makes it viable to be an exotic Latin American, that is, to be culturally very fashionable in academic and other circles to be Latino (Franco 1991; Gomez-Peña 1994). We now have magazines and journals that produce Latino-ness, such as Latin American Antiquity, Latin Inches, and Latina. These media support our identity and teach us about ourselves, even how to behave like ourselves; they also allow the non-other to learn about, admire and/or gaze at us. This is a result of many different forces -- the exoticization of culture by a transnational market; a politically revisionist policy of anglocentric circles; the appearance of the first generation of Latino immigrants in the white-collar job market; the intimate frustration about the collapse of leftist utopias in Latin America; and the increasing pauperization of Latin American communities.

  16. Nonetheless, these forces and many others have provoked a series of social conditions that makes it possible for Latin Americans to translate their identity and struggle into a fruitful Latino cultural experience. Yet at the same time the production of Latino-ness is linked to ever-growing mechanisms of excluding immigrants (e.g., Proposition 187 in California) from this nation's mainstream. In this sense, the production of Latino-ness and the fear of Latinos becoming the second largest ethnic group in the U.S. after whites are opposite sides of the same coin.

  17. Many of these concerns are present in the unequal and uneven pull between north and south experienced by Latinos. What is the nature of this hybrid Latino identity? How are so many essential contradictions maintained without breaking the Latin body at its seams? And finally, how do these essential contradictions inform traditional definitions of the nation, la patria (the country, patriotically speaking) and el pueblo (the people)?

  18. These are some of the more personal concerns that have triggered this investigation, starting with research on Ecaudorian history to the production of Latinoness through my own (and many other Latin American peoples') migration to the empire of the north. It is this "moving" research concern that initially triggered my questioning of Ecuadorian people in general and now looks to question them in their (our) new-found identity in the U.S. It is also important to state that these are the same issues that have caused me many, maybe too many, sleepless nights.

  19. In 1997 I returned to my home country of Ecuador to carry out a year-long ethnographic and archival research at the north Andean archaeological site of Cochasquí and in the country's capital, Quito. My research focus was to understand the contradictory ways in which the post-colonial Ecuadorian nation-state constituted a national history from a pre-Columbian past that is strongly fragmented along national, racial, ethnic, and class lines. After ten months the fieldwork was completed and with it I was successfully able to finish my dissertation entitled, Telling Stories, Producing the Nation, Archaeology's role in the Production of the Contemporary Ecuadorian Nation-State.

  20. However, what was not completed was a much larger, at times painful and always personal, query into three larger themes: first, the ramifications of doing research in one's home country; second, the general politics/poetics of fieldwork; and third, the constitution of the native object/ subject of anthropological research. I was to find months later that I was not alone in my "anguished" experience, that some of my own colleagues had had a similar troubling experience with the "natives," especially since we were constituted as being "natives" ourselves. For the present paper, I will start off with some of my field journal entries to explore what I consider to be relevant issues.

  21. On Jan 29, 1997, I write one of Billie Holiday's battle cries: "I've been down so low, down don't worry me." This mood, however, has shifted and by early May I write:
    I am at the airport in Quito on my way to [NY] for a couple of days. I got really nostalgic. I'm looking out the window at the Andes and I felt so much a part of it and I get really nostalgic and sad. Without me knowing it, I have become part of this country again. It is part of me and I know it'll be hard when I have to leave it again to reside in NY. This time around I calmed myself by saying that it is only for a couple of days and that I'll be back. And I'm really glad that I'll be back. But Ecuador is once again under my skin, I guess it has always been, but now I feel and am aware of it.
    And once again this mood will change. By the end of September it is Oscar Wilde's words from De Profundis that provide solace: "In the perturbed and fitful nights of anguish, in the long monotonous days of pain, it is myself I blame." And finally, on October 2, I write my last entry in the "field:"
    I'm not running away from anything. But maybe I am. [Maybe I] run away from my life. Because if I stay here any longer I will die, either physically or what's worse emotionally (just like Baldwin predicted). [I continue writing in Spanish later that same day.] Today I have thought a lot and I have decided I must leave. Today I have decided I can no longer live here. And it is very sad because I am saying good-bye to all that was mine but no longer is, it never will be. And I even said good-bye to the waitress, without her knowing I was leaving, without her knowing I was saying good-bye. It is funny, it is true that I haven't lived here in several years, but now it is conscious, I consciously say good-bye to Ecuador. I can no longer live here. It was once my home, but it no longer is.

  22. For many, my recounting of the problems I met during fieldwork prove to be disturbing at best and unfruitful at worst. I found that some members of my committee could not completely understand the issues I was referring to, and as a result I decided to present them as a preface rather than to incorporate them into my work fully. However, I deem they provided a guiding light of personal experience that strongly influenced my research and even more my inquiries into the production of anthropological knowledge. Even though the problematics encountered as a native researcher are inextricably linked to my own personal and subjective formation, this experience is not devoid of essential social significance. Rather, if this professional experience has such a personal impact, it is mainly because the structure of response was so embedded in relevant contemporary categories, i.e., western, post-colonial and native. These words, although not exclusive to, are still essential to our anthropological inquiry.

  23. In the field I was consistently met by disbelief from my compatriots, that I, somebody so similar to them racially/ethnically and class-wise, was carrying out anthropological research. This was truly unacceptable to some, while to others it was a disturbing element that had to be ignored, albeit unsuccessfully. Although I was not barredfrom my research site, I was consistently denied access to library holdings, archives, and institutional affiliation because of my "ambivalent" scholarly status. To be denied many of these privileges was harsh enough, but when they were effortlessly offered to "other" foreign scholars, or when non-Ecuadorian graduate students in my own program were introduced to me as established researches, my reaction -- that is, anger, resentment, and disbelief -- was impossible to contain.

  24. In this manner, the constant questioning coming from my "native" subjects made me question myself and brought into full view the tragically hierarchical scenario of anthropological research. It made me see, in a much more painful and immediate way than I wished, the essentially divisive procedures of anthropology. The discipline's history for the last century and a half has been solidly constituted within a colonial relationship that is far from extinct and embedded in its contemporary development. This is a reality even in post-colonial times when anthropologists have worked hard to disassociate themselves from colonial, neo-colonial, and imperial national policies. However, this only makes anthropology's contribution to western domination more interesting for its pervasive and subtle stronghold on the objects and subjects it is involved with.

  25. One question occurs: how does anthropology as a discipline and a field of knowledge constitute itself in such a way that makes it necessary to demarcate distance and hierarchy to those to whom it offers recognition and, in some sense, humanity? While doing my research it became offensively clear that the hierarchy of native objects and western subjects of research is a supporting pillar of the anthropological enterprise -- a discursive mold that allows the continued conversation to occur over the divide. Nonetheless, the conversation is ever more implicated and co-opted into new narratives of implicit hierarchical relations and explicit personal political commitment. In this light I believe the work of natives as Said (1989), Asad (1985), Fortier (1996), and non-natives like Rabinow (1977), Clifford (1988), Young (1995), have proven essential to start unmasking anthropology's hegemonic underscore underpinnings.

  26. However, these experiences must be taken further than a simple western (non-native) and native (non-western) dichotomy. Fieldwork proves to be a personal/professional experience useful to assess in the critical assumptions and theoretical baggage that we carry as workers of this collective (Fortier 1996). It was my own experience as a native anthropologist in Ecuador that was being rejected not on professional claims but on inherent disciplinary values; that is, the insights that I could offer from my hybrid perspecitive, initially cast aside by my Ecuadorian colleagues, were once again discarded by the anthropological establishment from the North. This is not unique since all scientific research is always assessed from disciplinary values assumed to be merely scientific.

  27. One value my work did not confer was recreating traditional hierarchical relations. My work did not lend itself to the easy reification of western/native typology and the maintenance of scientific hierarchical relations. It did not allow the traditionally accepted categories of an "unknowing" foreign anthropologist and "knowledgeable" native subject to be constituted,] Instead, I inverted these categories in ways that were personally disturbing to myself, to my foreign and native colleagues, and to my "native" objects of research. At the field site this meant that I constituted a new category for the local population. I could not be placed alongside the other foreign NGO (Non-Governmental) works who were present in the area, but neither was I really seen as a local Ecuadorian member of the site staff.

  28. However, I do not pretend that my work was an exercise in liberation; that is, I believe, one of the strongest traps in our discipline's path. My work did not liberate me or anybody from hierarchical relationships, it just inverted them. My freedom or that of any other similar-looking subject was constituted, and could only be so, in the imprisonment of others (Butler 1997). I could be constituted beyond control only if the majority of foreign colleagues and native subjects were limited in their traditional anthropological roles. Because of this I fled. In that Ecuadorian scenario I could only envision death, death of myself or the other, which in disciplinary terms, are one and the same thing. After a year of almost being made completely "invisible" through racialized mechanisms, I realized that my own identity of an accomplished scholar was slowly but steadily agonizing. At the same time, my status as a self-identified gay man in a country (one of the three in Latin America) that legally penalizes homosexual behavior further contributed to my growing fear, and sense of absence and abandonment.

  29. Finally, I am working on two initial conclusions. The first concerns the typology of western/native itself. As with all typologies, this one fails to portray social reality in its complexity and has exceeded its metonymic contribution. These terms not only do not fully capture the reality of contemporary (or even past) cultures but invent an unreal dichotomy that continues to define the colonial underpinning of anthropology. The second concern is that of fieldwork itself. As a close friend is fond of saying, "anthropology needs to check itself." It may be time for anthropologists (including so-called native ones) to stop following the native around, or looking at themselves through the native's gaze. Maybe a long, good, direct look in the mirror would do wonders for the discipline, or at least it would disturb the present hierarchical relationships by creating "others."

    What I have told you is the truth as I know it, but the truth as I know it has little to do with the truth.
    --Lillian Hellman, Maybe
  30. Recently, the writings of Gloria Anzaldúa (1987), Gayatri Spivak (1999), James Baldwin (1984), and Michel Foucault (1980, 1991), among many others, have allowed me to find much needed light and guidance in my hybrid path. For one, it has become increasingly clear that the West vs. non-West dichotomy is more of a stumbling block than a useful tool. As a creature of both worlds, I find it impossible, and therefore futile, to separate myself into one or more entity and fruitfully categorize myself within this dichotomy. This only makes me realize that such desparate need to separate oneself into discrete and bounded entities is only that -- a desparate attempt to abstract ourselves from reality. Perhaps it has taken academics this long to realize something that artists have been grappling with decades: that there are no bounded entities and that they have never really existed. Benedict Anderson's (1991) definition of national identities as imagined communities, holds true for many other aspects of our lives. We invent bounded entities and then try to fit our chaotic lives into them, at points going into the extreme of not assessing reality in its full complexity just to be able to fit within our own narrowly constructed parameters.

  31. Native Americans used to refer to the territorial boundary between Canada and the U.S. as a medicine line. Latinos and Latinas also have constructed, or our cultures have, medicine lines that run throughout our lives. For Native American warriors it was intriguing (and beneficial) to note how the U.S. cavalry and Canadian mounties would suddenly halt at this invisible line, unwilling to pursue them any further. In a similar fashion, most of us also seem to stop dead on our tracks when our own actions, or more fittingly, the understanding of our actions, would seem to lead us astray from our original homelands. And this is by no means fortuitous, since like the cavalry and the mounties, we very well know that the conscious foray into unknown territory would make so many of our identities crumble and collapse, and that 'the price of the ticket' might have to be paid with our own lives.

  32. In this regard, artists have always been more willing to explore these intertices and not be bothered by locating themselves on the margin of society. One of the lessons to be learned in this regard, I believe, is that by no means are artists uniquely located in this position. Rather, they are uniquely willing to engage with a reality that most others simply flee from. Unfortunately, academic work has also been unwilling to cross the medicine line and deal with the chaos that is life. On the contrary, academics have been more entertained with creating these abstract bounded entities and tightly guarding them afterwards through publication and tenure processes.

  33. I have begun to see the division between artists and scholars, or humanities and science, as more of an impediment than an actual opposition. As Doris Lessing (yet another hybrid soul, being both African and British) has argued (1987), literature and anthropology belong on the same shelf if their main objective is that of understanding humans in the full complexity of their reality. In this manner, cultural hybridity or displacement is a particular burgeoning area of interest that makes this artist/scholar dichotomy obsolete. If what one is searching for is the sense of what is behind the chaotic fixture that come into play, then the methods do not matter as much as the fact that they produce profoundly truthful products; not necessarily the final truth in itself but a capturing of a complex reality that is more in tune with its chaotic unfolding.

  34. More and more we have artistic and scholarly ventures that deal or at least attempt to assess the complexity of geographical and cultural dislocation. What comes across is the interlocking of one's life with one's work. Once again, for many decades artists seen that their work is not exterior to them; work connects not only to who they are but also to making them who they are. In this sense, scholars of hybridity (of whom I count myself as one) have become willing to place themselves and their personal identities in the middle of the intellectual foray. This has allowed them to express how their research interests and findings (as that of all scholars) cannot be separated from who they are as people. What is most probably a less profound question is how this approach will contribute to excluding these scholars from mainstream academic pursuits and tenured positions. After all, it is not a coincidence that most hybrid scholars have also been conveniently identified as minorities, who are desperately needed but never really taken into account by the academic establishment and institutions. For example, I have been invited to several university meetings where I am not even addressed by the administration until they realize that I am an eligible candidate for one of their affirmative action faculty positions.

  35. Yet this academic division, or the need of hybrid scholars to stay out of mainstream positions of power, is at the core of these debates. Especially since it is quite obvious that hybrid scholars (i.e., minorities and/or natives) are not, and never have been, free of colonial or domination implications. The research of scholars such as Foucault (1980) and Spivak (1999) point to the collaboration of all in the dominant hegemonic colonial enterprise. And this collusion is quite simply based on the need for resistance within any domination enterprise: you could not define domination unless somebody is suffering/resisting that domination. Domination needs a victim to fulfill its power-full nature, and between both dominator and dominated to construct a prison that locks all sides (since there are never only two) into a permanent position of struggle, and most importantly, of identity. It might be a prison, but it is one with clear bounded entities that allow for smoother forms of social categorization and identification. National Liberation scholars like Paulo Freire (1992) and writers like James Baldwin (1984) have reiterated the nature of oppressed and oppressor populations tied in a similar destiny unless they are able to consciously face their mutual contributions to their own prisons. And unfortunately, as the latest racial, sexual and economic debates throughout the world express, this is more of a challenge than a contemporary reality.

  36. Spivak (1999) has applied ideas to the post-colonial subject, rightfully emphasizing the suspicious construction of the native as subject. Far from being a simple victim of the conditions at hand, natives are, as all humans always are, active participants in their own realities and in the conditions under which they live. By no means is this a sophisticated form of blaming the victim as much as it is a particular step in realizing that constructing a victim does violence to political reality and serves to further disempower and annihilate the native subject. In this regard, the question is not so much one of physical or economic domination as one of internal and discursive domination. How do post-colonial subjects maintain themselves while implicated in a domination enterprise, when their colonial masters have supposedly left so many decades ago?

  37. In her movie Chocolat, Claire Denis struggles with these complexities, opening us into a scene where an African-American man "guides" a white African woman through her own country. The silence that the "native" subject espouses is both telling and painfully understood. There is not much to say, not much to gain from displaying the man's absurdity, and yet there is all to say, a world caught within that body that needs to be expressed before it implodes into complete chaos and death. Perhaps it is to this reality that the scene speaks when the woman silently and half-haphazardly looks steadily at her hands. These are the same hands that as a child were burned by her family's native servant (and her friend), who saw in her the enemy and rather than who she really was, a lost, frightened child.

  38. Perhaps this is the trap that we post-colonial subjects live in, seeing histories and ghosts in all the faces we see, and in the process missing the humanity that lies beneath. It is this same contradiction that Hanif Kureishi (1990: 3) has so eloquently elaborated in the opening lines of his prize-winning novel, The Buddha of Suburbia. All we must do is change the name and place, and our own stories seem to be being told. Or is that the trap, to think we are only part of old histories and thereby to deny our inherent human singularity?
    My name is Karim Amir, and I am an Englishman born and bred, almost. I am often considered to be a funny kind of Englishman, a new breed as it were, having emerged from two old histories. But I don't care - -Englishman I am (though not proud of it), from the South London suburbs and going somewhere. Perhaps it is the odd mixture of continents and blood, of here and there, of belonging and not, that makes me restless and easily bored [my bold].
    And as long as we realize we are going somewhere, half the battle is already underway.

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