The Latitude of the Fiction Writer: A Dialogue
Karen Tei Yamashita & Ryuta Imafuku
Text of References for inclusion with interview:
Just as none of us is outside or beyond geography, none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography. That struggle is complex and interes ting because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings.
---Edward Said. Culture and Imperialism.
As a woman I have a country; as a woman I cannot divest myself of that country merely by condemning its government or by saying three times "As a woman my country is the whole world." Tribal loyalties aside, and even if nation-states are now just pretexts used by multinational conglomerates to serve their interests, I need to understand how a place on the map is also a place in history within which as a woman, a Jew, a lesbian, a feminist I am created and trying to create.
---Adrienne Rich. "Notes Toward a Politics of Location." in Blood, Bread, and Poetry.
Yet it is no exaggeration to say that liberation as an intellectual mission, born in the resistance and opposition to the confinements and ravages of imperialism, has now shifted from the settled, established, and domesticated dynamics of culture to its unhoused, decentered, and exilic energies whose incarnation today is the migrant, and whose consciousness is that of the intellectual and artist in exile, the political figure between domains, between forms, between homes, and between languages. From this perspective then all things are indeed counter, original, spare, strange.
---Edward Said. "Movements and Migrations." in Culture and Imperialism.
Like it or not, "vulgar" American products---streamlined, plastic and glamorous---have been attractive to European audiences. Perhaps the problem is not really about a brash and material American culture, but rather about a fake antique Europe? American culture repositions frontiers---social, cultural, psychic, linguistic, geographical. America is now within. America is now part of a European cultural repertoire, part of European identity.
---David Morley and Kevin Robins. Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes and Cultural Boundaries.
Quadrangular, reticulated cities (Los Angeles, for instance) are said to produce a profound uneasiness: they offend our synthetic sentiments of the City, which requires that any urban space has a center to go to, to return from, a complete site to dream of and in relation to which to advance or retreat; in a word, to invent oneself.
---Roland Barthes. Empire of Signs.
The currency of diaspora discourses extends to a wide range of populations and historical predicaments. People caught up in transnational movements of capital improvise what Aihwa Ong has termed "flexible citizenship," with striking differences of power and privilege. The range extends from binational citizens in Aguililla/Redwood City or Haiti/Brooklyn to the Chinese investor "based" in San Francisco who claims, "I can live anywhere in the world, but it must be near an airport." This pseudo-universal cosmopolitan bravado stretches the limit of the term "diaspora." But to the extent that the investor, in fact, identifies and is identified as "Chinese," maintaining significant connections elsewhere, the term is appropriate. Ong says of this category of Chinese immigrants: "Their subjectivity is at once deterritorialized in relation to a particular country, though highly localized in relation to family." Since family is rarely in one place, where exactly do they "live"? What is the political significance of this particular crossing-up of national identities by a traveler in the circuits of Pacific Rim capitalism?
---James Clifford. "Diasporas." in Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century.
I was never good at geography. In tenth grade, when the teacher, exasperated by my inability to distinguish South America from Africa, asked me to point out north and south on the world map, I pointed to south for north and to north for south. And I can't tell left from right, either, which is why I don't drive. Consequently I've become such an anarchist that not only do I not recognize the borders of nation-states, I refuse to recognize the boundaries of continents. My punishment for this geographic insubordination is to travel constantly everywhere at greater and greater speeds in order to experience huge and terrifying contradictions.... (But)...Who cares what the map says? I know what places feel like.
---Andrei Codrescu. "Geography." in Zombification.
standing on the map of my political desires
I toast to a borderless future
with our Alaskan hair
our Canadian head
our U.S. torso
our Mexican genitalia
our Central American cojones
our Caribbean sperm
our South American legs
our Patagonian feet
jumping borders at ease
amen, hey man.
---Guillermo Gomez-Pena "Califas."
a bit of
I never mention.
Here are the knees
you claim are yours--
to your surprise,
Pale moon of belly--
from Pago Pago.
Tierra del Fuego.
---Sandra Cisneros. "By Way of Explanation." in My Wicked Wicked Ways.