Does Running in the family leave Dust tracks on a road? a traveler's guide to inscribing sujective ethnicity
Date de publication1999
Drawing from Marie Louise Pratt's, Françoise Lionnet's and Salome Chasnoff's studies of autoethnography, I re-configure autoethnography as an autobiographical performance that is created from the dialogue between the cultural references of different collectivities. From this perspective, I compare Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family with Zora Neale Hurston's Dust Tracks on a Road. Although Running in the Family inscribes and is inscribed by a very different (social, cultural, economic, racial, and gender) context than Dust Tracks on a Road, both narratives combine autobiographical and ethnographical voices to articulate the"double-consciousness" of an intra-cultural subject position. Their attempt to articulate a marginalised collectivity or an intermediary subjectivity within the idiom of the dominant culture encounters the double-bind of representation. While participation in a dialogue assures the inscribed subject an existence within the space of discourse, it also defines and therefore confines the subject within the terms of representation. Both narratives negotiate the double-bind and the binary structures of representation (insider/outsider, observer/observed, or subject/subjugated) by evoking the self and the community in the process of writing and telling. Contrary to the conventional autobiography that attempts to memorialise the subject in a document, Running in the Family and Dust Tracks on a Road, functioning as autoethnographic texts, create through the performance of mediating ethnicity, a self-representation that voices the community while suggesting an intermediary but continually shifting subject position.