Daily Archives: March 16, 2011

Cantu, not Canclini (HUM470)

The author of Canicula is named Norma Cantu, right? But the whole class I referred to her as Canclini, because of some kind of a brainspasm in which Nestor Canclini, an Argentinean anthropologist, transmuted into our autobiographer.

For next class consider Cantu’s own description of her text as an autoethnobiography. We can link this to Eric’s question about a possible language in which there was no first person singular, no ‘I’: in speaking for herself and about her family, Cantu suggests she is speaking for a whole community. It’s not clear to me that this sort of move is “representative” in the same way that Frederick Douglass assumed the mantle of the enslaved, narrating his own experience as typical of the lives of many slaves (even as he acknowledged that, all things considered, he had it fairly good in comparison with others. I think we can agree that had FD experienced slavery at its worst– say, “down the river” in Georgia or in the West Indies for that matter– he wouldn’t have been in a position to write a book much less learn how to read one).

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