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Of symposiarchs and doorkeepers: theorizing cultural appropriation and authenticity Reynolds, Annette E. 1993

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OF SYMPOSIARCHS AND DOORKEEPERS: THEORIZING CULTURALAPPROPRIATION AND AUTHENTICITYANNETTE E. REYNOLDSB.A., Carleton University, 1983A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDepartment of SociologyWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAJuly 1993© Annette E. Reynolds, 1993In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature) Department of ^S C ■C-) C)CIThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate  Gei1/4)t 3 . l ck 6C1DE-6 (2/88)ABSTRACTThis thesis examines contemporary public discourseconcerning issues related to the politics of representation,cultural appropriation (the depiction of the members of onesocially defined group by the members of another),^•interpretation and authenticity with a focus upon the exampleprovided by the public controversy that surrounded Toronto'sRoyal Ontario Museum exhibition Into the Heart of Africa in1989. This exhibition displayed artifacts from Africancultures collected by Victorian Canadian missionaries andsoldiers along with the collectors artifacts, photographs andcommentaries. The exhibit appeared critical of colonialism andracism, yet protestors claimed that it was racist andpresented a misrepresentative image of Africans and Africanhistory. In order to solve what was regarded as a problem ofracism and inauthenticity in the exhibition, it was arguedthat the exhibit, (which was curated by a whiteanthropologist), ought to have been produced by a member ofthe black community. Similar arguments suggesting that membersof distinct cultural groups ought to control the authenticityof images of their cultures, histories and identities throughself-representation have emerged in relation to representationin a number of other disciplines including visual art andliterature.The perceived need for "control" over theauthenticity of cultural images through self-representation asa "solution" to the problem of misrepresentation and racism isiitreated as the central problematic to be explored. Drawingprimarily upon the works of H.G. Gadamer, Hannah Arendt,Alisdair Maclntyre, Charles Taylor and Friedrich Nietzsche,this thesis examines the implications of the argument againstcultural appropriation and the call for authenticity for a)the grounds for cultural understanding and reading, b) therelationship of individuals and groups to historical andcultural representation, and c) the achievement of culturalidentity, knowledge and membership. Chapter One provides anoutline of the general issues arising out of the public debateconcerning representation and appropriation, and addresses therole of the theorist. The approach taken toward the discourseis what may be called a "social hermeneutics", serving as abasis for both methodology and argument. In Chapter Two, adiscussion of Arendt's notions of the public sphere, humanaction and plurality, and Maclntyre's view of a narrativeself-hood provides a theoretical framework through which toaddress the cultural usage concerning appropriation and toreformulate the concept of authenticity. In relation to thistheoretical background, Chapter Three examines theunderstandings of identity, membership, voice, interpretationand cultural knowledge that are implied by the grounds for theargument against appropriation. Chapter Four reframes theconcept of appropriation through Gadamer's hermeneutics andNietzsche's criticism of historicism in order to suggest analternative view of cultural and historical understanding. Asa point of departure for possible further reflection uponiiicultural appropriation and the politics of representation, theconclusion provides a brief consideration of the moral-practical or political implications of tact, friendship andcivility.ivTABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract^ iiTable of Contents^ vAcknowledgement viiEpigraph^ viiiChapter One^Cultural Appropriation and AuthenticRepresentation: Introduction to the Issues 1I. The appearance of the problem in publicdiscussion: the example of the RoyalOntario Museum exhibition, Into theHeart of Africa^ 1II. Summary of issues and the theorist'smode of response^ 25Chapter Two^Authenticity and a Common World: AConversational Understanding of Identityand Representation^ 36I. Introduction^ 36II. Arendt's conception of human action andthe public realm 41III. The phenomenon of embedded narratives^56Chapter Three Control Over Representation and theClosure of the Public Sphere^65I. Introduction^ 65II. Cultural "background" and "sameness" as thecriteria for "correct" representation, anda cacophony of monologues^ 67III. Toward a conversational view of culturalidentity and voice^ 78IV. Representation as a form of action and thecall for control^ 88vChapter Four Openness and Cultivation: An AlternativeView of Appropriation and CorrectRepresentation^ 100I. Introduction 100II. Approriation vs. alienation^ 102III. History for life and action 115IV. Nietzsche's monumental, antiquarian andcritical modes of historical representation 124Conclusion^The politics of cultural representationand the virtues of tact, friendship andcivility^ 153Bibliography^ 172viACKNOWLEDGEMENTI would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Roy Turner, for hispatience and guidance in the writing of this project. I wouldalso like to offer a word of appreciation for the support andencouragement of family and friends, especially MargaretReynolds, Janine Dickau, Daniel Congdon, Jet Blake and GaryBourgeois. A special thanks to Lori Bremner who kept me goingand helped a great deal in the formulation of many of theideas in this thesis.vii"In conversation, 'facts' appear only to be resolved once moreinto the possibilities from which they were made,'certainties' are shown to be combustible, not by beingbrought into contact with other 'certainties' or with doubts,but by being kindled by the presence of ideas of anotherorder...Thoughts of different species take wing and play roundone another to fresh exertions. Nobody asks where they havecome from or on what authority they are present; nobody careswhat will become of them when they have played their part.There is no symposiarch or arbiter; not even adoorkeeper to examine credentials. Every entrant is taken atface-value and everything is permitted which can get itselfaccepted into the flow of speculation. And voices which speakin conversation do not compose a hierarchy. Conversation isnot an enterprise designed to yield an extrinsic profit, acontest where a winner gets a prize....it is an unrehearsedintellectual adventure....Properly speaking, it is impossiblein the absence of a diversity of voices; in it differentuniverses of discourse meet, acknowledge each other and enjoyan oblique relationship which neither requires nor forecaststheir being assimilated to one another."Michael Oakeshott, The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation ofMankind, (1959:10 - 11, emphasis supplied)viiiChapter OneCULTURAL APPROPRIATION AND AUTHENTIC REPRESENTATION:INTRODUCTION TO THE ISSUESI. The appearance of the problem in public discussion: theexample of the Royal Ontario Museum exhibition, Into theHeart of AfricaThe museum occupies a precarious and problematicalposition in a contemporary multicultural community concernedwith the question of how the museum is to "get it right" whenit comes to the representation of a diverse cultural heritage.Lavine and Karp note that in a multicultural environment,"museums are bound to find themselves enmeshed in controversy"and laid open to "charges about who has the right to control[an] exhibition and how cultural and community identities areto be defined within it" (Lavine and Karp, 1991:5,6). Inrecent years the museum, among other arenas of public life,has become the site of an impassioned struggle and controversyconcerning the contentious issue of "cultural appropriation",meaning the representation of the culture and history of themembers of one ethnic group by those of another.1 Concernover the lack of recognition given to the perspectives ofminority groups on their own cultures and the exclusion oftheir "voices" from the public sphere, as well as the(mis)representation of their cultures and histories by the1 The term "cultural appropriation" has also been used todescribe the theft or physical removal of artworks andartifacts from the communities in which they were producedwithout the consent of the community or the owners of theobjects, and the use of images or styles in art and music thatare particular to one culture by the members of othercultures. These issues will not be addressed directly in thisthesis.1"dominant white" culture, has given rise to heated discussionpertaining to the validity and ethicality of therepresentation of ethnic minorities by whites, and thequestion of whether or not whites have the right to continueto represent or speak for and about other cultures.2A vocal sector of the community has recentlylaunched a vehement attack on cultural appropriation and haslaid charges of "cultural theft", "political incorrectness","irresponsibility" and "unethical conduct" against those whorepresent cultures or use "voices" which do not "belong" tothem. It has been claimed that cultural appropriation leadsdirectly to the perpetuation of harmful misrepresentations andracist stereotypes of ethnic minorities, since those who donot belong to the ethnic group they attempt to depict in artor literature lack the knowledge, expertise and experiencerequired to produce authentic or truthful representations ofthe culture, histories and identities of its members.Opponents of cultural appropriation therefore demand that"outsiders" or "non-members" refrain or be prevented fromrepresenting minority groups. On the other side of the2 In the debates concerning cultural appropriation adistinction is rarely made between the different meaningsassociated with the concept of representation. It ought to benoted that there is a great difference between "speaking for"or "on behalf of", and "speaking about" or depicting somethingor someone. It might also be noted, as Roy Turner argues, thata strong sense of the term "to represent" is not simply "tostand in place of" an object but to "act for" or makearticulate what the object itself does not articulate, to"formulate the object in the act of representation" (seeTurner, 1991:4-5).2polemic, many have argued that prohibiting the representationof one culture by the members of another constitutes a form ofcensorship, jeopardizing academic and artistic integrity andfreedom, and closing down the possibility for meaningfulcross-cultural discussion.Cultural representation has become a source ofconsiderable anxiety for the collective as evidenced by theopen hostility and extensive public discussion that has beengenerated in response to several current events involving theissue of appropriation in a variety of disciplines and media.Challenges from postmodern and postcolonial criticism thatlink the "realities" of power relations and systems ofoppression to western discursive practices, together with afeeling of "uncertainity about [the] adequate means ofdescribing social reality" (Marcus and Fischer, 1986:8), haveled to what has been characterized as a crisis ofrepresentation in the humanities and the arts, particularlywithin the field of anthropology as the raison d'etre ofwestern ethnology has, of course, traditionally been therepresentation of non-western cultures. One response to thiscrisis has been a trend in museology and ethnography towardcultural self-representation by ethnic minorities or theinclusion of the (concrete) voices of indigenous "experts" inexhibitions or ethnographies. (see Clifford, 1988; Marcus andFischer, 1986)In this thesis, I wish to open up a discussionaround some of the issues emerging from the public discourse3concerning cultural appropriation and the "politics ofrepresentation" that begins by examining what this discourseunderstands to constitute authentic and ethicalrepresentation.3 It should be made clear that the intentionhere is not to "solve" what the debate regards as the"problems" of cultural representation nor to suggest ways thatthe museum can "get it right", but to consider thecollective's representation of the "problem" and the"solution" as the problematic to be explored. By makingavailable the grounds underlying the argument against culturalappropriation and by reformulating the concepts of"authenticity" and "appropriation", I propose to uncover andaddress the latent or tacit understandings that are intimatedregarding the achievement of cultural and historicalknowledge, identity and membership, and the relationship ofthe social actor to the influence of culture and culturalrepresentation. Much of what is discussed in this thesis canbe extended well beyond the issue of the representation ofethnic minority groups by the "dominant" white culture, torelationships among the members of any ethnic group, betweenmen and women, the rich and the poor, and between individualmembers of the community.3 The "politics of representation" is a fairly broad term thatis associated with the representation of the members of avariety of oppressed sectors of the society by the "dominantculture" (which varies according to the concern and the sectorin question) such as the representation of women by men in artand literature, the representation of disabled persons byable-bodied persons, the representation of the poor by thewealthy and so on.4While the "crisis of representation" and the problemof cultural appropriation is as well by no means limited tominority groups or to ethnology and the museum, arising as ithas in relation to a number of disciplines and sociallydefined groups, what happened at the Royal Ontario Museum inToronto in 1989 brought to the forefront and crystallized manyof the issues that have emerged in relation to culturalrepresentation in various other disciplines and practicesincluding art, literature and film. We will therefore turnnow to examine this example in some detail. It should benoted that my interest here is not so much in offering acritique of the exhibition itself as it is in examining thepublic responses to it. As this case attests, the museum isindeed treading on eggshells in a society that is constantlyon the alert for instances of misrepresentation and racism (toa point where the concept no longer carries the impact itshould), and on guard against violations of the "rules" of"political correctness". At this juncture, the museumappears to have found itself in a position in which it musteither succumb to public pressure demanding its conformity tothese rules or, as we shall see, risk being closed down.When the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) mounted anexhibition called Into the Heart of Africa from November 1989to August 1990, depicting the history of Canadian involvementin the colonization of Africa and displaying African culturalartifacts that had been collected during this period, a stormof angry protest erupted and a flurry of criticism was5unleashed in countless letters and articles appearing innewspapers and journals across Canada attacking theexhibition's portrayal of Africans and African history. Theexhibition, which was curated by Dr. Jeanne Cannizzo, aspecialist in African studies from the University of Toronto,was criticized for being offensive and inaccurate, and thecurator herself came under personal attack for allegedlysupporting racist attitudes toward Africans and people ofAfrican descent.Into the Heart of Africa was an innovative andprovocative exhibition that employed sophisticated techniquesof display and analysis aimed at examining traditional museumpractices, criticizing colonialism and the attitudes of theVictorian Canadian missionaries, soldiers and journalists whohad collected the artifacts, and exploring the variousinterpretations and meanings the objects had been given asthey moved from the context of their original creation and usethrough the hands of the collectors to their display in themuseum. In addition to allowing viewers to bear witness tothe sophistication and magnificence of African culturesthrough the artifacts collected by the colonists, theexhibition sought to provide a reminder of the degradationthat had been bestowed upon the African people during thecolonial period and the attrocities involved in thecolonization process that had enabled the original acquisitionof the objects. Included in the show were photographs takenby the missionaries and soldiers along with their own6commentaries, newspaper articles celebrating Europeanvictories that had been won in battles to subjugate theAfrican people to colonial rule, slide shows, and areplication of a missionary schoolhouse. The curator hadprovided contemporary viewers with a sense of the richness ofAfrican cultures and an opportunity to rethink the naiveinterpretations of the colonists by adopting an ironic stancetoward the commentaries of the missionaries and soldiers, andjuxtaposing their image of Africa alongside the imagepresented through the African artifacts. The exhibit thusattempted to call attention to the racism and sense ofsuperiority of the colonists, to reflect critically upontheir attitudes toward African cultures and, along with theaid of support material such as the exhibition catalogue, tobreak down some of the stereotypes of these groups to whichmuseums have contributed in the past.The exhibition may have been provocative but itscuratorial staff hardly anticipated the kind of response itwas to draw from certain sectors of the public, which wasindeed extraordinary. Public protest was slow to surfaceinitially, beginning with letters of complaint to the ROM andeditorials in newspapers, but gradually escalated over theseveral months following the opening of the exhibition.Tensions mounted in March and April of 1990 when hostiledemonstrators began to march in front of the museum withpicket signs and leaflets attempting to rally support fortheir demand that the exhibition either be modified or closed7down and a few incidents of violence occured when police triedto move the protestors away from the museum entrance.The main objection against the exhibition was thatit had failed to represent African history "completely" and"objectively". Protestors claimed it was "incomplete" sinceit had not acknowledged African cultural achievements(including the contributions of ancient Egypt) and expressedtheir disapproval over what they perceived in the show to be agross misrepresentation of Africans and African history. Aswell, much criticism was centred upon the motivation behindthe curatorial decision to depict the point of view of thecolonizers. Those who were most hostile toward the exhibitionand its organizers had interpreted the show as an endorsementrather than criticism of colonialism and racism. The curatorhad, in fact, provided a critical context through which toread the history behind the acquisition of the objects in thecollection and had adopted an ironic stance toward theattitudes of the colonists by placing words in theircommentaries such as "darkest Africa", "savage" and"primitive" in quotation marks, - indicating that these werenot her words, her voice or attitude and that such termsought to be questioned and criticized. Yet, the curator andthe museum were accused of valorizing racist and whitesupremacist attitudes and for perpetuating negativestereotypes of Africans.On the view of the 'Coalition for the Truth aboutAfrica', an umbrella organization comprised mainly of groups8from Toronto's black community (whose members, incidentally,were mostly of Carribean origin), Into the Heart of Africawas a "clear and concise attempt to mislead the public andfurther tarnish the image of Africa and African people", andshould have been "totally redone to represent a true andimpartial view of historical events."4 In spite of the factthat the exhibition clearly neither limited its representationto the story of colonization nor the perspective of thecolonizers, for Oji Adisa, an outspoken member of the CFTA,telling the story of colonization from the point of view ofthe colonizers was comparable to mounting an exhibition of theHolocaust from the perspective of the Nazis, and for him thisreflected "Canadians' utter disrespect for the Africanpeople".5 Many spokespersons from both the black and whitecommunities argued that it was "unnecessary and cruel" to havebeen reminded of the agony and humiliation blacks had sufferedunder colonial rule and that for a public institution to haveonce again "given voice" to the victors rather than thevictims was like rubbing salt in the wound. "We should notlet these racist voices continue to be our source of Africanhistory" commented one angry critic.6 The response of critics4 CFTA pamphlet "The Truth about Africa", circulated in frontof the museum, pp.1 and 6, emphasis supplied. See alsotranscript from CBC radio interview, (Morningside), Oct. 26,1990; The Globe and Mail, March 24, April 7, July 14, 16 and28, Aug. 10 and Dec. 29, 1990; Museum Quarterly 18(1) Fall1990:39-43; Now March 29-April 4, 1990 for informationregarding the ROM controversy.5 Oji Adisa quoted in Isabelle Vincent, "Exhibiting Anger",Globe and Mail, July 14, 1990.9such as the members of the CFTA toward the show was, however,itself far from impartial. They demanded that the exhibitionbe closed down or that the ROM make drastic modifications tothe exhibition by dismantling and remounting it from theperspective of a member of the black community so as topresent an African, (and hence, in their opinion, a"truthful", "impartial"), point of view upon the history ofthe objects in the collection.Others, again from both the black and whitecommunity, saw the exhibit in quite a different light andspoke out in its defense by arguing that it was an insightfulexamination of colonialism and represented a celebrationrather than denigration of African culture. A Torontonewspaper columnist, for example, wrote that "Into the Heartof Africa...treated the Africans and their art and artifactswith respect and dignity".7 Many also recognized that thoughit brought to mind attitudes that were prevalent during thecolonial era, it was critical not supportive of racism andcolonialism. The curator herself wrote that "the exhibitiondoes not, as has been alleged, promote white supremacy orglorify imperialism. On the contrary, it should help allCanadians understand the historical roots of racism."8 Somefelt that if anything it might have been criticized for being6 Sheila Nicholas, letter to the Globe and Mail, Aug. 4, 19907 Christopher Hume, "Rejection of ROM show may set badprecedent", Toronto Star, Sept. 29, 1990.8 Cannizzo quoted in Maureen Murray, "Harassment forces profto quit class", Toronto Star, Oct. 19, 1990. See also, DonnaLaframboise, Toronto Star, Oct.22, 199010too heavy handed in its attack on the roots of racism,"reminding us over and over again about early white Canadianignorance of Africa, our stereotypes and misconceptions, [and]the implicit racism of our world view."9 There were a few whowere indeed outraged over the fact that, as they saw it, theexhibit had presented a "stereotype of the missionary as anethnocentric, bigoted and insensitive person", that it hadunfairly lumped them together with the soldiers, and hadfailed to take account of the sincerity and effort with whichthey had undertaken the work of aiding Africans achieve whatwas understood in European terms to constitute a good standardof living.10While the critics of the exhibit claimed that beingreminded of the cruelty of colonial rule was painful andunnecessary, others argued that not including something aboutcolonialism would have resulted in a revisionist version ofthe past and a failure to speak of the truth about the racismand violence that is a part of Canadian history. SandraWhiting, a columnist for a newspaper with wide circulationamong Canadian blacks, argued that "[i]t is painful to seeand read how our people were treated [during the colonialera]...but pretending it didn't happen is a part of notknowing our history."11 Martin Klein, a specialist in9 Bronwyn Drainie, "Black groups protest African show at'Racist Ontario Museum'", Globe and Mail, March 24, 199010 Letter from an anthropology professor to the Globe and Mail"Exhibit Deplorable", July 28, 199011 Sandra Whiting, Contrast, Feb.8, 199011African history at the University of Toronto, saw one of thevalues of the exhibit to lie in the fact that it had portrayedthe "awful truth" about colonialism and had brought to publicawareness the little known realities of Canadian participationin the colonization of Africa.In spite of the fact that attempts were made todefend Into the Heart of Africa through alternativeinterpretations that pointed out how it was critical towardracism, the protest and controversy that surrounded theexhibition nevertheless resulted in serious consequences,both personal and public. The curator was forced to take aleave of absence from her post as lecturer at the Universityof Toronto after she had been harassed by protestors at herhome and verbally abused by angry students accusing her ofbeing racist. As well, the protests ultimately succeeded inclosing down the exhibition as the show was cancelled at othervenues across Canada at which it was to appear by museumofficials afraid of losing corporate sponsorship, offendingthe public, or raising similar protests in their communities.Director of the Vancouver Museum, David Hemphill,stated that the protest in Toronto was a major factor in themuseum board's decision to cancel the show and added that theyhad "brought together a group of people from variouscommunities and their advice was that the exhibition was notappropriate" for the museum. Essentially this was because,as he claimed, the exhibition "couldn't be made acceptable to12the black community" in Vancouver.12 Likewise, CanadianMuseum of Civilization director, George MacDonald, statedthat the reason the show had been cancelled there "was that itclearly did not express the community voice". "We contactedwell over a dozen groups", he said, "and their response wasuniform. Members of the black community said they didn'tthink it told their story."13According to some critics, the "problems" thatplagued the exhibit, (its incompleteness, lack ofobjectivity and failure to "express the community voice"),could have been avoided had it been mounted by an African or amember of the black community. Although the curator is highlytrained and extremely knowledge about her field, and in spiteof the fact that the exhibition presented a sensitive andthought-provoking interpretation of what is as much a part ofwhite Canadian as it is black Canadian heritage, the exhibitwas considered flawed because the author, being white,apparently lacked the appropriate "credentials" required tospeak of black culture and "black" issues. At the very least,it was felt that black anthropologists or other members of theblack community ought to have been consulted and asked fortheir approval of the exhibition in order to ensure its12 David Hemphill quoted in Isable Vincent, "Two museumscancel embattled ROM show", Globe and Mail, Sept. 21, 1990;also quoted in Christoper Hume, "Rejection of ROM show mayset bad precedent", Toronto Star, Sept. 29, 199013 George MacDonald quoted in Chistopher Hume, Toronto Star,Sept. 29, 199013validity. In the opinion of Paul Lovejoy, professor ofAfrican History at York University, had the ROM done this,"it is virtually certain that the...exhibition would have hada completely different focus."14What is suggested by these criticisms is that theexhibit would not simply have been different had it beencurated by a black but that this would have resulted in thebest interpretation of the history and people it attempted todepict. Clement Marshall, a Guyanese teacher and consultanton muliticulturalism, asserted that many in his community"take the view that, in the question of people's culture,you have to let them speak for themselves."15 According tothe critics of cultural appropriation, the reason for this isthat the members of one culture allegedly lack theunderstanding, knowledge and experience required to speak ofthe culture and concerns of the members of another. In hiscriticism of the ROM exhibition, Charles Roach, lawyer andhead of the Martinsday Committee, argued that "outsiders cannever understand a people's culture as much as those peoplethemselves"16, and a journalist for a Toronto newspaper notedthat many similarly claim that since "whites don't understandthe experience of racial minorities they will thereforemisrepresent it".1714 Paul E. Lovejoy, "A failure of focus", letter to theGlobe and Mail April 7, 199015 Clement Marshall quoted in Bronwyn Drainie, Globe and Mail,March 24, 199016 Charles Roach quoted in Errol Nazareth, ibid.14The questions remain, however, as to just "whose"story Into the Heart of Africa was in fact telling, whetherthe exhibit did indeed present a "misrepresentative" accountof the history of colonialism and African culture, what isimplied in the charge that it failed to "express the communityvoice", and in what way it could be said that it isinappropriate for a Canadian museum and a white Canadian totell a story that is part of a complex heritage that belongsto Canadians. Even though it included African artifacts andspoke of African culture, we could argue that the exhibit didnot simply try to tell a "black story" or speak for all blacks(or all whites), but attempted to speak of a history that wasshared by and has implications for both blacks and whites,albeit in a mode and with a focus that may have been differentfrom the way an African (or even another white person for thatmatter) might have interpreted it. The exhibit expressed thishistory through a variety of voices and perspectives though itdid not endorse or claim to speak on behalf of all of thesevoices (e.g., the voices of the colonists). We might alsonote that the devastating effects of colonialism and racism,the complicated history of meanings that had been associatedwith both the African and European artifacts within varioushistorical and cultural contexts of interpretation, and thecultures these artifacts represented are in need of beingreinterpreted and understood not only by blacks but by whitesand others in the contemporary community. It is difficult to17 Thomas Hurka, "Should Whites Write about Minorities?",Globe and Mail, Dec.19, 198915understand the charge that the exhibit failed to express the"community voice" as the stories presented in the exhibitwere, furthermore, narrated from the point of view of anindividual who showed a sensitivity and committment tounderstanding and addressing matters pertaining not only toher own life but to the lives, fates and plights of others inthe community.While many did recognize that the exhibit had takena critical stance toward colonialism and racism, its approachtoward the material was criticized for being too sophisticatedto have been understood by the general public. Many felt thatthe exhibit's problems might have been prevented had thecurator not relied on the ability of viewers to comprehend thesubtlety of the analysis, especially the use of irony as aform of criticism. Black activist and CFTA member, OjiAdisa, claimed that the meanings and information presented inmuseum exhibitions ought to be "accessible" (i.e. transparent)to viewers or conveyed in such as way that "any lay person canunderstand [them]".18 Many commentators similarly felt thattoo much was left up to the viewer to interpret and withoutmore explanatory context and information about Africa it ranthe risk of being interpreted "incorrectly" by the "averagemuseum-goer" who, lacking in knowledge about Africans andAfrican history (and apparently the ability to judge andreflect critically upon racism), would have accepted the18 Oji Adisa quoted in Isabelle Vincent, "Exhibiting Anger",Globe and Mail, July 14, 1990. See also Donna Laframboise,Toronto Star, Oct. 22, 199016racist views of the colonists. In the opinion of museumcritic Jim Freedman, the use of irony was not enough, theexhibit needed to pass a clear and unequivocal judgement uponthe brutalities of colonization. In failing to do so, heclaimed, it appeared to "give its cachet of approval to ahistory whose atrocities [made] this show possible."19 Thiswas indeed how the CFTA and other critics (black and white)saw the show, but nevertheless they did not automaticallyaccept the views of the colonists, and as we have pointedout, other "average laypersons" or members of the "generalpublic" quite clearly saw the message of the exhibit to be acondemnation of the atrocities of racism and colonialism.Though there may be persons who are unreflective intheir approach to cultural images, if acceptance is not theonly possible response to what we are presented with inmuseums, then this image of the "lay person" or "averagemuseum-goer" is in need of deconstructing rather thanupholding or honouring. Many who were neither "experts" onAfrican culture nor members of the black community werecritical of the colonist's attitudes and recognized the19 Jim Freedman, "Bringing it all back home: A Commentary onInto the Heart of Africa", Museum Quarterly, 18(1) Fall1990:42. See also: Errol Nazareth, "Royal Ontario MuseumShowcase Showdown", Now, March 29 - April 4, 1990 10-12;Fuse13(6) Summer 1990:16; Heather Robertson, "Out of Africa, Intothe Soup", Canadian Forum, 69792) Sept, 1990:4; Brenda AustinSmith, "Into the Heart of Irony", Canadian Dimension, Oct.1990:51; Isabelle Vincent, "Exhibiting Anger", Globe and Mail,July 14, 1990; Enid Schildkrout, "Ironic Twists and AmbiguousMessages": Into the Heart of Africa and The Other Museum "review article p. 4 (source in which this article was toappear not known).17richness and complexity of African cultures without beinggiven more background information concerning Africans andAfrican history. We need to question, then, the notion thatinformation and knowledge provide us with the "correct" viewof culture and history. We need to question, in other words,what the critics of the ROM exhibit and cultural appropriationin general understand to count as the grounds for"correctness".Concern over the perceived link between culturalappropriation and cultural misunderstanding and stereotypingis not limited to the museum but has arisen in response to anumber of public "events" in various artistic arenas,indicating the depth of this problem for the community. In1988, for example, the Policy and Publishing Group of theWomen's Press in Toronto refused to publish fiction written bywhite women about members of other cultures, claiming that"white writers do not have the right to assume the voice of awoman of colour" on the grounds that regardless of the contentof the work, this seen to be "structural racism". This movewas followed by a massive upheaval within the Women's Pressand heated debate in various public forums.20 Again, in 1989native writer Lenore Keeshig-Tobias publically demanded thatwhites stop "stealing" native stories in response to thescreening of the film Where the Spirit Lives on CBCtelevision, a film written and directed by a white portraying20 Lisa Rochon, "Race issue splits Women's Press", Globe andMail, Aug. 9, 198818the cruelties of the residential school system for natives.21And a wave of hostile criticism followed in the wake of thepublication of W.P. Kinsella's novel The Miss Hobbema Pageantin 1990 which was considered an insulting and stereotypicalportrayal of life on a native Indian reserve and led some toargue that Kinsella should be sued and the novel banned frombookstores and libraries.22Positions similar to those directed toward the ROMexhibition were expressed at a recent forum held in Vancouveron cultural appropriation in the arts pertaining to Nativeculture and history. It was claimed that native people needto "tell their own stories" in order to "make the truth aboutthe histories of their nations and their peoples, theirvalues and experiences, known to themselves" and others.Participants argued that self-representation is requiredbecause "for the past few hundred years, their stories have21 The opinion of the native community on this issue is by nomeans one of consensus. Members of the Blood Nationreportedly applauded the film for exposing the atrocities ofthe residential schools in a moving way. See Leonore-KeeshigTobias, "Stop stealing native stories", Globe and Mail,Jan.26, 1989; Bronwyn Drainie "Minorities go toe to toe withmajority" Globe and Mail, Sept. 30, 1989; see also LibbyScheier and Leonore Keeshig-Tobias, "Writing AuthenticVoices", Fuse Fall 1990:14.22 Byron Rempel, " 'Sue Kinsella', says author Wiebe", BritishColumbia Report, Dec. 25, 1989:37 See also: Rudy Wiebe, Globeand Mail, Feb.17, 1990. See also Byron Rempel, BritishColumbia Report, Jan. 22, 1990:30; Paula Gunn Allen, AmericanIndian Quarterly, 13:111-12, Winter, 1989; Agnes Grant,Canadian Dimension, 24(5:15-16, July/Aug. 1990; Joanne Hutton,Western Report, 17(41), Sept. 244, 1990; Kenneth McGoogan,Quill and Quire 566(1) April 1990:7; Globe and Mail Dec. andDec.21, 1989; Vancouver Sun, Dec.4 and Feb. 17, 1990; TheProvince, Jan. 11 and 14, 1990.19been stolen and lied about, at worst - or been stolen andtold inaccurately, at best" by non-native people with a senseof their own superiority who "do not know the reality ofNative understandings and experiences". In representingthemselves it was asserted that natives are able to document"their own histories more truthfully, authentically, andethically than anyone else can" and thereby promote cross-cultural understanding and a sense of their own identity.23Lawyer Loretta Todd, who attended this conference,claimed that the issue of appropriation is "about origins.""It's about who we are", she said, "and it's about assertingwho we are and determining who we are." Todd reported thatshe had recently proposed a resolution on what she called"cultual autonomy" at The Independent Film and Video Alliance,a national organization for film and video co-operativesacross Canada, arguing that self-determination for nativeswas being denied through the taking of native images, cultureand stories by the dominant culture, and encouraged membersof the dominant culture to "find expressions of self-determination within their own culture and experience." 24While it is certainly important for natives andother ethnic minorities to represent themselves and gain a23 Final report on the forum Telling Our Own Story:Appropriation and Indigenous Writers and Performing Artists",held in Vancouver, Dec. 8-10, 1989. pp.9, 5 and 10, emphasissupplied.24 Lorretta Todd, quoted in ibid, pp.14, 20. See also, DougWest "Forum explores cultural autonomy", Khatou, Dec. 25,1989:5.20positive sense of their identities, suggestions such as thosemade by Todd seem somewhat puzzling. First, it is one thingto remove or steal a physical object from a group of peoplethat own it and quite another to depict a community inliterature, art or film. In the latter case, nothing is"taken" in any concrete sense; stories that are told aboutnatives by other ethnic groups still remain "there" to be toldand retold. Secondly, the argument against the appropriationof native culture by "cultural outsiders" on the grounds thatmembers of a cultural group are able to depict themselves"more truthfully, authentically and ethically" than anyoneelse, and the suggestion that members of the dominant culture"find expressions of self-determination within their ownculture and experience" would seem to preclude therepresentation of the dominant culture by ethnic minoritiesand to suggest that the representation and interpretation ofthe dominant culture by members of the dominant culture weremore truthful than those of the members of other groups. Thisappears ironical considering the concern of native people toaddress and to criticize the understandings andinterpretations that certain members of the dominant whiteculture have of both themselves and native people, and oftheir historical experiences in North America.The demand that members of one ethnic group refrainfrom representing another has generated similar questions andhas raised considerable alarm for many in the community overthe implications this has for artistic and academic freedom.21Many in the community responded to the outcome of the ROMcontroversy by expressing concern over the degree to which themuseum could maintain high standards in the face of publicopinion pressuring it into becoming a mouthpiece for any groupwishing to represent themselves, and creating safeexhibitions geared toward the "lowest common denominator". Inthe field of literature, Timothy Findley and others haveclaimed that it is part of a writer's job to imagine and writeabout the lives of others and is part of understanding theother. Neil Bissondath, a Trinidadian-born writer of EastIndian descent, who similarly feels that an important aspectof fiction writing involves an exploration of the other, hasargued that to restrict writers to writing about their owncultures amounts to limiting the role of the artist to that ofautobiographer.25 Many have wondered whether the ban oncultural appropriation, for instance, means that a whitemiddle class woman of Irish descent ought to write only aboutother white middle class Irish women, whether children'sbooks ought to be written by children, or if writing sciencefiction should be outlawed. Author Sandra Birdsell, who wasjoined by others in confronting the opponents of culturalappropriation through an appeal to the freedom of the artist,claimed that "writers can and must write about whatever theychoose...to say that certain points of view are off limits isto agree to censorship." 2625 See Stephen Godfrey, Globe and Mail, March 21, 199222However, W.P. Kinsella's argument that he "couldwrite about whatever pleases him" in response to the chargethat he ought to stop depicting native people was met withoutrage from many in the community who felt that he was notfree to present degrading and stereotypical portraits ofnative people. Kinsella's most vehement critic, author RudyWiebe, asserted that since "writing has power" (to influenceopinion), the freedom to write about what one chooses comeswith social responsibilities and for Wiebe this includes theresponsibility to present the correct facts about others or,as other commentators on the issue have claimed, to "get thestory right".27At a time when native people are struggling to theovercome the kinds of negative stereotypical portrayals ofthemselves that appear works such as Kinsella's, his novelsas well as his response to the critics indeed appearinsensitive, tactless, irresponsible and flippant. He maywell be "free" to write what he pleases but Kinsella andothers like him ought to be prepared to accept the26 Sandra Birdsell, in "Whose Voice Is It Anyway?", Books inCanada, 20(1)11, Jan/Feb., 199127 Rudy Wiebe, "Proud Cree Nation Deserves More than 'Funny'Stories", Globe and Mail, Feb.17, 1990.It is interesting to note that although Wiebe heldthat a piece of fiction about members of a living communityought to be an accurate and truthful documentary, his ownnovel about the Metis blurs the line between fact and fiction,and as Linda Hutcheon notes, challenges the view that historymust be "accepted as 'how things actually happened', with thehistorian in the role of recorder". (Hutcheon, 1988:14-15) Iftruth is understood as fact, we can only assume from this thatfor Wiebe, the integrity of historical truth and thereputation of the dead need not be treated with the samerespect as that of the present and living.23consequences and face the responses of those who may have goodreasons to criticize. Arguing against censorship does not meanthat a writer is therefore immune to criticism. The questionthat Wiebe's comment raises, however, is what is meant by"getting the story right". For Wiebe, this would appear tobe a matter of getting the facts straight and for others, todepend upon being a member and writing from the "inside".Just as those who argued that the ROM ought to have receivedthe approval of the black community before mounting Into theHeart of Africa, there are many, including Canada Councildirector Joyce Zemans, who believe that the responsibleartist or writer should consult or collaborate with members ofthe culture he or she wishes to depict, or at least have themverify the account in order to ensure its authenticity.28Writer M.T. Kelly, for example, said she showed hermanuscript of a story about natives to her Indian friendsbecause she "wanted to get it right".29Yet, this understanding of what constitutesresponsible writing is debatable if factual correctness,self-representation or writing in accordance with the"member's point of view" and opinions are considered the onlycriteria for "getting it right". In light of theunderstanding that whites will invariably misrepresent othercultures, the failure of the ROM organizers to consult the28 See Stephen Godfrey, "Canada Council asks whose voice is itanyway?", Globe and Mail, March 21, 1992.29 M.T. Kelly in Books in Canada, 20(1), 1991:1524black community or mount the exhibition from an Africanperspective, can only appear as morally irresponsible or anact of bad faith since everyone ought to know, as responsiblecitizens, that his or her representation of another cultureis liable to be inauthentic and unethical. Yet, it is hardto believe that one would be treated as acting responsibly ifin attempting to represent and criticize contemporary neo-Naziculture, one were to consult with members of these groups andproduce a representation that met with their approval orcorresponded with their own understandings, opinions andviews of their culture. Surely, then, gaining the"member's" approval or community self-representation cannot bethought of as the sole grounds for "truthful" and responsiblerepresentation.II. Summary of the issues and the theorist's mode of responseWe will now summarize and begin to open up some ofthe central issues emerging from the cultural appropriationdebates. As we have seen, the public discourse surroundingthe issues of cultural appropriation and representation ispermeated with a sense of fear and anxiety. For some theproblem of cultural (mis)understanding and (mis)representationis related to group membership and this in turn is related tothe ethicality involved involved in representing othercultures and the author's responsibility to represent culturestruthfully. The claim, as we have seen, is essentially thatthose who are not "members" of a cultural community will not25fully understand or interpret the experiences, realities,histories and concerns of the group "correctly" and willtherefore misrepresent them. It is claimed, likewise, thatmembers of the larger public, lacking knowledge andexperience of the "realities" of the cultures they encounterin the museum or in art, will misunderstand the imagery theyare presented with unless the message is clear and unequivocaland adequate information is provided.As we have seen, the criticism of appropriation isbased on the notion that "correct" knowledge andrepresentation of a people's culture, history and identity isensured through self-representation. The "member" (self)unlike the "outsider" (other), it seems, is automaticallyprovided with an accurate understanding of his or her culture,and therefore does not risk misinterpreting andmisrepresenting it. The group member or self, in otherwords, appears on this view as the sole expert on everythingpertaining to the group or self, and furthermore seems to becapable of producing correct or expert knowledge without insome way being required to respond to or draw upon theinterpretations and representations of others. At some basiclevel, then, the argument against appropriation carries theimplication that a sense of identity, self-understanding or aknowledge of one's history and culture are immediate andgiven, and are achieved in isolation from others. Theargument against appropriation thus begins to appear ratherstrange, yet it is important that we treat these issues26seriously rather than take the argument for granted or dismissit out of hand.For others involved in the debate, the issue ofappropriation is a matter of "stealing" cultures and voicesthat do not "belong" to one. The organizer of the forum oncultural appropriation and native art mentioned above, MargoKane, claimed that:"We've got to begin to use our voice because other peopleare only too willing to become our spokespeople or topull whatever they want from our culture. Take whateverit is they think it is that they could use.. .We need tocontrol our own products."30The issue of control surfaces as well in conjunctionwith the problems of "truth", influence and responsibility."To control a museum", writes museologist Carol Duncan,"means precisely to control the representation of a communityand some of its highest most authoritative truths" (Duncan, inLavine and Karp, ibid:101-102). The problem for Duncan andthose concerned with "who" has the right to control anexhibition is one of ideology. That is, the dominant cultureis held to exercise hegemonic control over the collective bycontrolling the museum, and thereby controlling therepresentation of the community and how "cultural andcommunity identities are defined". The claim, therefore, isthat minority cultures need to wrest control over therepresentation of their cultures from dominant groups in orderto define themselves and determine how the community viewsthem. Here what needs to be addressed is the conception of30 Margo Kane, quoted in Doug West, op.cit., p.527culture, identity and representation behind the view thatregards these as "products" that can be "owned", "controlled"or "determined" by a group.Regarded in terms of the criticisms put forthagainst cultural appropriation, representation begins toappear as a powerful anarchic and unruly, even sinister andmenacing force, that must be fettered in order to renderinterpretation unproblematic and the influence ofrepresentation benevolent and inoffensive. From this point ofview, free speech, or at least a lack of strictures toensure authenticity, seems to unleash and offerrepresentation a free reign, putting the community at risk ofterrorization and harm.Simone Weil expresses the problem and its anxiousundercurrent when she writes that literary publications (andwe can add art, museum exhibitions, film etc.) that are"destined to influence what is called opinion constitute actsand ought to be subjected to the same restrictions as are allacts" (Weil, 1979:24, italics supplied). "The moment a writerfills a role among the influences directing public opinion",she writes, "he cannot claim to exercise unlimited freedom"(ibid:26). For Weil, as for the advocates of authenticity,it is crucial that the writer portray the "truth", since thisprovides for the "good health of the social body" (seeibid:9). Weil fears, however, that we cannot trust eventhose authors we would expect to be responsible, and sheregrets that,28"One feels afraid to read once one has realized thequantity and monstrousness of material falsehoodsshamelessly paraded, even in the books of the mostreputable authors. Thereafter, one reads as though onewere drinking from a contaminated well" (ibid:37,emphasis supplied).Reading thus appears as something fearful that keeps us onguard against the dangers of taking the "false" for the"true", and this fear is deepened since we do not have directaccess to the "reality" being depicted but must rely on theauthor's testimony. Since on Well's account, authors cannotbe trusted to be responsible of their own volition they mustbe restricted. For the critics of appropriation this meansbeing limited to depicting their own cultures and histories.On this view, accepting cultural representations atface value would appear to be an act of faith that were naivein the extreme, for this would be to open oneself up to thepossibility of accepting "untruths" or to invite manipulationby cultural tyrants and monopolizers. The alternativepresented by the critics of appropriation is to check the"credentials" of the author in order to verify an account androot out inauthenticity at its source. "Decontaminating thewell of reading" in this way, so that any representation ofculture that appears will undoubtedly be truthful, is soughtas the solution to the problem of misrepresentation andprovides readers with relief from the worry of making faultyjudgements concerning truth.While questions such as whether an artist or curatorhas the right to represent other cultures seem commonplacethese days, we ought not forget that these are new questions,29and the grounds upon which they are posed are far from self-evident. Artistic and academic censorship is, of course,nothing new. There are numerous examples in western historyof attempts to ban books and restrain artistic and academicpractices. Yet, the worry over such a thing as "culturalappropriation" and the need to restrict authors to self-representation or to ensure that even fictional stories are"truthful" (i.e. are self-representations) in the name ofmorality and social responsibility does appear to be peculiarto contemporary culture. Indeed, Joyce Zemans claims that:"We are in an era in which we use different standards than wedid before...we have a new need for authenticity."31 How, weneed to ask, does the issue of appropriation and authenticitycome to be seen as a pressing and urgent public concern?Although the enemies of cultural appropriation seespeaking about, using the "voices" or incorporating theculture and views of others into one's "speech" as somethingharmful to the community, its friends regard this assomething valuable and worthwhile. Shakespeare "appropriated"Italian culture in Romeo and Juliet and his story has in turnbeen appropriated and reinterpreted for centuries by theatregroups, dance companies, and other writers the world over.It is hard to imagine the Kirov Ballet company of Russia beingcharged with "cultural appropriation" and "inauthenticity" forperforming their adaptation of Shakespeare's play and thus31 Joyce Zemans quoted in Stephen Godfrey, "Canada Councilasks whose voice is it anyway?" Globe and Mail, March 21,1992 (italics added)30"stealing" Italian and English culture. In terms of historyand social issues, Karl Marx, a Jewish-German born into awealthy family and influenced by French and Russianphilosophers, wrote his great volumes on capitalism andsocial class in part by drawing upon his observations of itsworkings in British society. Affected by the misery andsuffering of members of the working class, Marx concernedhimself with "telling their story" and finding a way toimprove their lot, and his stories, as we know, have beenappropriated by cultures as diverse as Latin American andVietnamese and by great figures around the globe from Castroto Pavlov to Ho-Chi-Min to Nehru, to name only a few who inturn have influenced millions of people.To take the issue up in somewhat different terms,we also need to recognize the fact that there are indeednumerous forms of representation that we do not concernourselves with "authenticating" such as editorial cartoons,children's literature, or television comedies. One ofKinsella's critics claimed that his books were inappropriateand irresponsible because "Indians in the flesh...have nothingto do with the comic caricatures of Kinsella's books".32 Thisis probably true and there may certainly be reason tocriticize Kinsella's caricatures of native people, yet weneed to see that caricatures or representations that departfrom realistic depiction are not necessarily irresponsible oruntruthful. Caricatures of prominent political figures that32 Gordon Cavendale, Vancouver Sun, Feb. 17, 199031appear in our newspapers also have nothing to do with thesefigures in the flesh, (if what is meant by this is that theyfail to depict these persons "realistically"), but we wouldnot argue that they were irresponsible or did not bringcertain "truths" to light on the grounds of their lack ofrealism.While the "members", that is, those involved inthe polemic, see a need for authenticity and communitycontrol over representation in order to solve the problem ofcultural misrepresentation, we as theorists need to resisttaking the "member's point of view" and to examine what itcould mean for the representation of cultural history andidentity to be "inauthentic" and irresponsible unlesscontrolled and determined by the self or group. The task herewill not be to take up one or other side of the debate andargue either for or against control, as the question to beaddressed is not whether and in what ways representation oughtto be restricted or, as we have said, how the "problem" of"getting it right" when it comes to representing cultures isto be solved. Instead, it is to examine how cultural andhistorical understanding, identity and responsiblerepresentation are framed and understood in order for culturalappropriation to appear intelligible as a problem.Resisting the "member's point of view" does not,however, mean that the theorist disregard or dismiss it nortreat herself as an "outsider" to the community. While thecritic distances herself from the polemic, she does not stand32in some privileged place outside of it and look on withintellectual, emotional or moral detachment but recognizesthat through her membership in the community she herselfshares a stake in the concerns and issues that it raises. Theconnected critic, as Michael Walzer argues, does not speakfrom the centre (eg. the "dominant culture" in our case), noris he a marginal figure or a dispassionate stranger (eg.minority groups or detached scholar), rather he is "detachedfrom his own marginality" in such a way as to be "free of thetensions that bind [centrality and marginality] together"(Walzer, 1987:37, 38); i.e., the critic steps back from thedebate in order to free himself from the anxiety it generates.He is the "local judge" who begins from the common concernsvoiced by the complaintants, articulates them in a way thatbrings them into clarity, and "earns his authority...by.arguing with his fellows". Though perhaps distanced from thepolemic and theorizing the issues from an alternative point ofview, the connected critic, Walzer writes, "is one of us":he brings what he has learned to the discussion and connectsthis with the local culture, not as a revolutionary wishingto overthrow it, nor in the manner of a missionary who wantsto "wish the natives well" but as one who shares in theconcerns of members of a community in which he himself residesand who "seeks the success of their common enterprise"(ibid:39).3333 It ought to be noted that throughout this paper Iunabashedly use what some refer to as "gendered" or "sexist"speech (i.e. "mankind", "man" and the pronoun "he"). I do this33In attempting to address the problem of culturalappropriation and the relationship of the individual or groupto historical and cultural representation, the theorist needsto keep in view the local discourse or "cultural usage"concerning the problem, or in Turner's words, to "grasp itsliving forms in the culture, in the mundane world which thetheorist shares with the societal member whose everyday lifehe theorises" (Turner, 1990:2). The approach to be takentoward this discourse is what might be called a"conversational" response. Rather than aim at identifying thecauses of misrepresentation or solutions to the "problems"arising from cultural appropriation, this approach seeks totheorize the grounds for the argument against appropriationand the call for authenticity in order to address the view ofcultural identity, community and reading they presuppose orintimate. A conversational response recommends an alternativenot so much to make a point as for stylistic reasons or topreserve the tone of the works that are cited and refered to,just as I have often used "stories", "world" and"conversational" in place of the more fashionable postmodernterminology: "narratives", "metanarratives", "discursivefields", "dialogical". I make no appology for my use of suchspeech and argue that the pronoun "he" in the present workcould only be considered "gendered" in a very technical orliteral sense, (i.e. in the way some languages genderinanimate objects). It needs to be recognized that themeaning, spirit and voice of a piece cannot be put down toindividual words on a page and therefore I do not consider awork to be "sexist" simply on the basis of the use of thepronoun "he" or words like "mankind". There is absolutely nodoubt in my mind that when the authors whose works I havedrawn upon and cited, such as Walzer, Oakeshott, Arendt, orNietzsche, speak of "man" or "he", they are refering to all ofhumanity and not simply the male of the species. Only alimited, meanspirited and unfriendly reading of their work, areading that would completely miss their point, would doubttheir sincerity in this regard.34conception of our relationship to the cultural collective tothat which understands the solution to the problems ofrepresentation in "technical" terms, i.e., in terms ofcontrolling the means to produce a desired outcome, and interms of accurate knowledge. While the call for authenticityand self-representation, (as these are understood by theopponents of appropriation), tends toward a kind of closurethat ultimately makes understanding appear an impossibility,both the argument and approach taken here attempt to restorethe grounds for dialogue and cross-cultural understanding.35Chapter TwoAUTHENTICITY AND A COMMON WORLD: A CONVERSATIONALUNDERSTANDING OF IDENTITY AND REPRESENTATION"As civilized beings, we are the inheritors, neither of anenquiry about ourselves and the world, nor of an accumulatingbody of information, but a conversation...It is a conversationwhich goes on both in public and within each ofourselves...And it is this conversation which, in the end,gives place and character to every human activity andutterance."Michael Oakeshott, The Voice of Poetry in The Conversation of Mankind. (1959:11)"Being a person cannot be understood simply as exercising aset of capacities I have as an individual.. .On the contrary, Ionly acquire [these capacities] in conversation..in a certainform within this conversation, that of my culture; and I onlymaintain it through continued interchange...I become a personand remain one only as an interlocutor."Charles Taylor, in The Category of the Person, Carrithers,Collins and Lukes, eds., (1985:276)I. IntroductionIn order to develop a critical response to thepublic discussion concerning cultural appropriation that doesnot simply take it on its own terms, we need to begin byrecognizing that the terms or features of the polemic arethemselves social(ized) or discursive. Authenticity, as wesaw in the previous chapter, is a new standard forrepresentation and cultural appropriation a new problem. Weargued that while appropriation is considered problematic inrelation to the representation of the culture of minoritygroups, there are many instances in which the need toauthenticate a representation does not arise and when"objectivity" (i.e. impartiality, factuality) or a departure36from authentic depiction (in both senses of the word: i.e.realism and self-representation) is not an issue (eg. in thecase of the editorial cartoon or science fiction novel). Itwas also pointed out that there are times when self-representation does not necessarily lead to the bestunderstanding and representation of a cultural group, as inthe case of the self-understandings of the colonists whoappeared in the ROM exhibition or of the members of Neo-Nazigroups. We would, indeed, want to criticize and contesttheir interpretations of themselves. If the standard ofauthenticity and the ban on appropriation are new phenomenaand if they are only applied in certain cases but not others,then we cannot treat them as the requirements for ethical,responsible and truthful speech. In other words, thestandard of authenticity cannot then be taken for granted asthough authenticity were eternal or the "obvious" and"natural" standard for good speech; instead, it needs to belocated within a social discourse or narrative. We need toaddress ourselves to the version of identity, social life,knowledge, and our relationship to representation underlyingthis discourse that allows appropriation to appear assomething problematical, and make explicit the vision ofcollective life and human action that the argument againstcultural appropriation and the call for authenticity suggestbut do not articulate directly.In this chapter, we will attempt to develop atheoretical framework, drawing primarily from Hannah Arendt's37reflections upon the public realm or a "world" that is held incommon, through which we will subsequently address andreformulate some of the claims supporting the criticism ofcultural appropriation. We need to understand that not onlythe terms supporting the argument against "appropriating" theauthentic and unique culture or "voices" of others, but thevery voices themselves, are part of a discourse; they aregiven place and meaning within and through a "common world"which we share "not only with those who live with us, butthose who were here before us and those who will come afterus" (Arendt, 1958:55). We will argue that a "voice" cannot bethought to be "authentic" or "original" in the sense of beingself-defining, foundational or naturally acquired; rather itcomes into being, derives its originality and is renderedintelligible within a world held in common with others.Authenticity has not always been considered ofsignificant moral importance as Lionel Trilling and CharlesTaylor, among others, have noted. As Taylor reminds us theethic of authenticity is "relatively new and peculiar tomodern culture". (Taylor, 1991:25)1 We can, therefore,1 See Trilling, 1971 and also Berman, 1972 for cogent accountsof the ideal of authenticity. Trilling notes thatauthenticity represents a distortion of an earlier thoughstill modern virtue:^that of sincerity, whose sense isembodied in a phrase from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "This aboveall: to thine one self be true/ And it doth follow, as thenight the day,/Thou canst not then be false to any man" (seeTrilling, 1971:3). While sincerity meant being true tooneself, so that one could not be false to any man, thuskeeping in view a moral and a public end, authenticty on theother hand, emphasized the idea of being "true to oneself"and the "unmediated exhibition of the self" as an end initself (ibid:9). Authenticity, unlike sincerity, then,38treat authenticity and its version of community, culturalidentity and representation as a social phenomenon belongingto the discourse we would call "modernity". Though we do notaddress it directly, rather than regard modernity as a periodin history that we have somehow left behind with the advent of"postmodernity", or as rising from and definable in terms ofprevailing economic and social conditions, modernity needs tobe treated as a discourse articulating a particular "ethos" orconsciousness, as an "attitude" or mode of thinking andacting that finds outward manifestation in a multitude ofinstitutions and bodies of thought such as modernepistemology, bureaucracy, science, technology, liberalideology, individualism, etc. (see Foucault, 1984:164)Modern discourse contains within it a host of complexcontradictions, and the contradictions within the culture ofauthenticity are in part what we would like to bring out here.It was Rousseau, of course, who best articulatedone of the main features of the discourse of authenticity,particularly the notion of "self-determining freedom" or thestruggle to define, think and speak for ourselves apart from"external" social pressures distorting our "true nature", andthe modernist trend toward conformity. (see Taylor, ibid)Though its origins go back to the latter part of theeighteenth century, it is perhaps no surprise that the callrepresents a retreat from community and influences that mightfalsify one's true nature or make it less "one's own", andindeed it has led to the discrediting of "much that was oncethought to make up the very fabric or culture", asfalsification (ibid:11).39for authenticity has recently re-surfaced with postmodernism'sideology of "radical difference" emphasizing the uniqueness ofindividual and cultural perspectives against a scientific"objectivism" and "universalism".Arendt and Taylor enable us to see that whileauthenticity ought not be dismissed out of hand, neithershould we take it on the terms within which it is commonlyframed and endorse it wholesale. As an ideal for socialaction, authenticity provides a way of understanding that weare not "imprisoned" within or "determined" by socialcircumstances or "systems" of representation (capitalistic,patriarchial, colonialist, etc.). (see Taylor, ibid) Yetthe freedom to speak, think and act for ourselves, to"define" and "determine" who we are, is not the achievementof a sovereign individual who speaks and acts outside of thepublic realm, rather this is fundamentally dependent upon ourengagement in a world that we share with others and whichalways precedes us. Through Arendt's conception of the"world", or public space, which we will now turn to, wemight begin to reframe the idea of an authentic voice andsuggest that the condition which gives rise to the anxietysurrounding the influence of (mis)representation and theperception that representation needs to be "controlled" isalso what provides the very possibility for an authentic life.We shall argue, moreover, that the notion of "controlling"representation is based on a conception of social life whichundermines this possibility.40II. Arendt's conception of human action and the public realmAny understanding of our relationship to culture andcultural representation begins from a conception of a publicspace and by contrast a private or individual realm. The word"public" is ordinarily used as an adjective designatingvarious forms of communal property or physical spaces that areaccessible to all, such as the museum or city square. Inslightly less concrete terms, we hear "public space" used inassociation with institutions such as laws, government, orthe media. (see Taylor, 1985) For Arendt, however, althoughthese more tangible entities belong to, protect and embodythe public realm, they are not what constitute it in essence.Rather, in her terms, the public realm or what she oftenrefers to as the "space for appearance" is opened up and comesinto being when individuals act and speak together.Arendt's understanding of the public realm isconceptual, signifying a "world" or space that lies "in-between" individuals which simultaneously unites and separatesthem. The common world which is "distinguished from ourprivately owned place in it" is that space in and throughwhich things and people are seen and heard or make theirappearance and their presence felt to one another. (ibid:52)When Arendt speaks of a world shared in common that isdistinguished from our private place within it, it isimportant to note that she is not marking a distinction basedupon the ownership of property; rather what she means by thisis illuminated when she remarks that "though the common world41is the common meeting ground of all, those who are presenthave different locations in it." (ibid:57)Commonality, then, here does not imply conformity.The common world is not based in "human nature" or on somecommon denominator, i.e., on shared characteristics andexperiences, or on identical beliefs, values orunderstandings. The world may be held in common, but not bybeings who are carbon copies of one another. This is to saythat a public space does not necessitate an overcoming ofindividual differences. On the contrary, as a space in whichindividuals are both collected and separated, the existenceof the public realm is indeed fundamentally dependent uponplurality. To be sure, if there is anything common to allmen which would guarantee the existence of the "world" and allthings in it, it is their uniqueness and capacity todistinguish themselves.Plurality does not simply refer to "otherness",sheer difference or alterity, but to uniqueness anddistinction. Although otherness is an important aspect ofplurality in the sense that we could not be distinct or uniquewithout an "other" from which to distinguish ourselves,plurality does not merely mean the sort of distinctions thatare made between people and things as they are defined inopposition to one another, nor is it a condition ofconflicting or opposing interests and aims. Arendt's use ofthe word distinction implies, instead, the relevance of itsdouble meaning to the condition of plurality. What makes42plurality characteristically human is the fact that humans arenot just distinct from things or animals and from one another,but that they can express this distinction and distinguishthemselves through speech and action. (ibid:176)In order to grasp the significance of plurality forthe public realm, we need to understand its importance tospeech and action, which both require and constitute a commonworld. Human plurality is "the basic condition of action andspeech" for "(i)f men were not distinct, each human beingdistinguished from any other who is, was, or ever will be,they would need neither speech nor action to make themselvesunderstood." (ibid:175-76) Elsewhere Arendt writes that:"Action would be an unnecessary luxury, a capriciousinterference with general laws of behaviour, if men wereendlessly reproducible repetitions of the same model,whose nature and essence was the same for all and aspredictable as the nature or essence of any other thing"(ibid:8).In other words, if everyone behaved in similar andpredictable ways, and shared the same experiences, opinions,understandings, needs and interests, then simple gesturesand sounds or a system of unchanging universally recognizablesigns would be sufficient as a means to communicate. The veryneed to speak about the world or interpret one another'sspeech and action arises from the fact that we are different.Plurality, then, is the condition which makes a publicrealm, through which we speak and act, both possible andnecessary.Action and speech (praxis), in Arendt's thought,are distinguished from behavior that springs from necessity or43reacts to the influence of natural or social conditions inways that are immediate and predictable, and from theactivity of fabrication (poiesis), or the making of an"artificial" world of things. Behavior responds to, andfabrication manipulates, the material or "natural" world,whereas action, the highest of all human activities pertainsto the public sphere, to politics and those affairs that goon "directly between men". While behavior is merely reactive,and fabrication is instrumental or technical activityinvolving an orientation toward the world in terms of themeans required to produce a given and predetermined end orproduct, speech and action (particularly political action)are activities that are ends in themselves, - i.e., they haveno extrinsic use or purpose - and they are "revelatory"activities.2Whereas behavior is predictable (i.e. presupposes aconformity of responses among individuals exposed to similarcircumstances or stimuli), action which springs from andgives rise to the condition of plurality or uniqueness, bycontrast, has the character of unpredictability since actionpertains to a mode of being, of performing in and respondingto the world in original and unexpected ways. As Arendtunderstands it, action is thus a manifestation of the human2 See Dallmyr (1984), for an analysis of Arendt's contributionto political philosophy and an explication of thisunderstanding of praxis. Arendt's view contrasts with what Isee to be a "technical" understanding of praxis,- i.e., theapplication of an already established theory to practice,- inthat the process of theorizing itself is a form of praxis.44condition of "natality" - the fact that with each birth,someone unique enters the world who has the capacity to createsomething new and unexpected. Through action and speechindividuals "insert" themselves into the world "in the mannerof a second birth". (ibid:176) Action implies a beginning oran initiation of the new and carries a sense of openness anddynamism - an opening up of the world, of human potentialityand the possibility for change.Individuals may be born into circumstances that arein some sense limiting or conditioning, but they are neverbound to reproduce those conditions (natural or social) or tobehave as though they were governed by them, for the humancapacity to act means that human beings are never conditionedabsolutely. From Arendt's conception of action we can beginto form a picture of a social actor who actively engages andmakes something out of the social and material conditions intowhich he is born; an actor, that is, whose response to theconditions is neither merely an immediate and passive reactionnor one that is geared toward controlling the conditions so asto create a desired (usable) product. Arendt's actor is onewho makes a contribution to the world by creating somethingnew and worthwhile out of what is given.Action is intimately related to speech, (and we canunderstand speech itself to constitute a form of action). Thesignificance of the relationship between action and speechresides in the self-revelatory character of action:"Action and speech are so closely related because theprimordial and specifically human act must at the same45time contain the answer to the question asked of everynewcomer: "Who are you?" This disclosure of who somebodyis, is implicit in both his words and his deeds."(ibid:178)Many implications flow from this rather cryptic passage thatneed to be unravelled. First, human action is meainginfuland intelligible only in so far as it is the action of aplurality of beings endowed with language. Secondly, it isonly within the world, in and through action connected tospeech, that the identity of the responsible agent or subjectis revealed. This is something that could only be concealed,as Arendt notes, were the actor to remain completely passiveand silent. The responsible agent who appears within theworld through action and speech can be asked to account forhis actions by other actors who are themselves able to give anaccount.Thirdly, notice how Arendt says the "disclosure" ofwho somebody is and not the "expression", "definition" or"determination" of the self. Individuals' identities areachieved and disclosed within a public realm through speechand action, whereas self-expression and self-definition implydisplaying in the open what is essentially private andsubjective or at least established privately and in isolationfrom others. Self-expression and self-definition arespecifically self-conscious and inwardly focussed activities,whereas the disclosure of who one is can come about even whenwe are unconcerned with ourselves, for example, when wespeak of an object or issue outside of and quite unrelated toourselves as such. Often who we are or what our actions mean46is more apparent to others than it is to ourselves, and evenwhere this is not necessarily the case, though we might claimto define ourselves, as many do, our definition is onlymeaningful in a context in which others acknowledge,understand and respond to our own understanding of who we are.That is, claims of self-expression and definition can only beread or interpreted by others through their disclosure in aworld where they are open to review and discussion. Othersmight disagree with or refuse to recognize one's self-definition, particularly if one claims to be one thing andacts in a way that would contradict that claim.The notion of a disclosure of the self seems akin toa process of gradual and constant unfolding, while self-expression looks more like a forceful outpouring of an innerlife and definition appears to be the final end product of anactivity.3 Disclosure implies "opening up" and "undergoing"as opposed to the closure that comes with the arrival at afixed definition or "truth". The connection Arendt makesbetween disclosure and action suggests an active, living anddynamic self whose self-formation and identity is always in astate of becoming, or put in slightly different terms, whois within history. Michael Oakeshott points to this notion ofthe self when he writes "[t]he self appears as activity", andnot "a 'thing' or 'substance'" (Oakeshott, 1959:17). In otherwords, the self is not a describable or definable entity in3 See Stewart Justman, 1981 on the notion of disclosure inArendt's work.47the way objects in the physical or manmade environment aredescribable. Arendt similarly notes that action and speechare "the modes in which human beings appear to each other,not indeed as physical objects, but qua men" (ibid:176).Arendt makes an important distinction between "who"we are, the "living essence" and "specific uniqueness" of aperson that comes into being and "shows itself in the flux ofaction and speech", and "what" we are, - the describablecharacteristics and qualities we share with others, or the"type" of person we are - which seems to appear or becomeattached to us apart from speech and without effort (ibid:179,181). A view of identity based on an Arendtian notion ofaction and plurality would thus have to depart in asignificant way from the conception that defines it in termsof social roles, shared attributes and describable traits.Sociologists Dashefsky and Shapiro articulate this more commonformulation of identity when they write that "[t]he concept ofsocial identity refers to how others identify the person interms of broad social categories or attributes, such as age,occupation, or ethnicity" and social roles; and the "conceptof personal identity", as they understand it, "refers to howothers define the person in terms of a unqiue combination oftraits that come to be attached" to a person (Dashefsky andShapiro, 1976:5 - 6, italics in original). Who we are, whatmakes us unique, however, cannot be pinned down to adefinitive set of describable characteristics as thoughpersons' idenitities were static, and the meaning of traits48and categories never changed in their significance. We needalso to note that surely who I am is more than merely myoccupation, gender or ethnicity, and although I may sharesome things in common with other persons belonging to a socialcategory of which I may be a part, I am never identical tothem in every way. Furthermore, and perhaps moreimportantly, the social categories, the understanding ofparticular traits as significant to a person's identity, andthe identification of oneself or others with such things asethnic groups or social classes do not precede our engagementin the world but are themselves disclosed to us throughspeech. An Arendtian view of identity enables us tounderstand that the very categories themselves come out of theworld and are constituted through discourse, through thespeech and action of a plurality of beings; they are notestablished apart from it. An understanding of what it meansto be a member of a particular group, what it means to be"white" or "black", a woman or man, then, cannot beregarded as being acquired outside of the public realm and anengagement with others.As something that is achieved through the self'sactivity or active engagement with the world, identityrequires a public space through which to emerge. To speak ofself-definition implies that individual lives are not onlystatic entities but that the formation of identity andknowledge about "who" one is can be achieved in private, thatis, outside the realm of action and speech.^To recall the49quotes that begin this chapter, however, Oakeshott andTaylor offer quite a different view of personhood and self-understanding. Taylor's point that "I become a person andremain one only as an interlocutor" sounds somewhat strangeuntil we realize that what he is saying and what Arendt issaying is essentially that "who one is", our identity andself-understanding, is achieved within community, within theworld, through our engagement in a conversation we haveinherited and "which goes on both in public and within each ofourselves", to use Oakeshott's words.As Taylor points out, "[w]hen we come to understandwhat it is to define ourselves, to determine in what ouroriginality consists," we have to take into account what hecalls a "horizon of significance" or a background of human(i.e social) significance that lends intelligibility to ourunderstandings and definitions (Taylor, 1991:35). One doesnot simply choose or determine by oneself what is significantor intelligible, even to oneself. Rather, how oneunderstands what is of significance to one's identity isworked out within the community in open discussion withothers.Taken from a slightly different angle, speech orconversation and plurality are of importance to self-understanding and an understanding of the world in anothersense. One's own and the identity of others, ourexperiences, physical and manmade objects, and events becomemeaningful or are "actualized" only when they are interpreted50and spoken about from a variety of perspectives. Things thatare experienced in privacy "lead an uncertain and shadowy kindof existence unless and until they are transformed,deprivatized and deindividualized, as it were, into a shapeto fit them for public appearance", where they attain a "kindof reality...they never could have had before" (Arendt,1958:50). This transformation comes about when we tell astory about our experiences or weave events into a narrativethat can be understood by others, which, it is important tonote, takes its place in the world as "one story among many"(Arendt, 1968:22). Telling a story that makes sense toothers, indeed telling a story at all, requires that we drawupon or appropriate terms that belong to a world which weshare with others.A sense of identity and knowledge about the "truth"concerning oneself or one's history cannot be said simply tospring automatically from one's personal experiences orprivate self-conception and self-definition for as Arendtargues "truth can exist only where it is humanized bydiscourse...[b]ut such speech is virtually impossible insolitude; it belongs to an area in which there are many voicesand where the announcement of what each "deems truth" bothlinks and separates men" (ibid:30-1).^Only insofar asindividuals, objects, ideas and so on appear to a pluralityof beings who are both spectators and doers or speakers dothey attain an "actuality" or "worldliness" to use Arendtianvocabulary. Arendt writes that "appearance - something that51is being seen and heard by others as well as by ourselves -constitutes reality" (Arendt, 1958:50). Without a publicworld, which provides the resources for understanding and inwhich everything and everyone appears to a plurality of beingswho act and speak together, Arendt writes that,"...neither the reality of one's self, of one's ownidentity, nor the reality of the surrounding world canbe established beyond doubt. The human sense of realitydemands that men actualize the sheer passive givenness oftheir being...in order to make articulate and call intofull existence their [latent selves]" (ibid:208).Everything and everyone that appears to a plurality of beingsand is viewed or spoken of from a variety of perspectives isdisclosed to the world in its various aspects and so gains akind of clarity it could not otherwise have. Worldly realityarises from the fact that though something may be viewed fromdifferent positions and present itself in different ways,everybody viewing it understands they are concerned with thesame thing (see ibid:57-8)."Objectivity", then, can be understood asrequiring the "intersubjectivity" of a plurality of beingsapproaching the world from different viewpoints. The "truth"about oneself and one's experiences, one's "objectification"or "realization", comes about only when what is contained"within" is brought into the open or made public throughspeech and action. Writing on Marx's concept ofobjectification, Ricoeur says something similar to the notionof the actualization of the self and the world through wordand deed when he writes that "[o]bjectification is the processby which something interior externalizes itself and in that52way becomes actual...When I first enter the world, I haveonly an inner life. Only when I do something is there a work,a deed, something public and common to others, such that Irealize or actualize myself" (Ricoeur, 1986:38).The "worldliness" of the public space whichrequires the distance between individuals that arises out ofdiversity stands in contrast to the "worldlessness" of theprivate realm characterized by its singularity. Thissingularity is often thought of in terms of an individual cutoff from the world and isolated in the privacy of hissubjective thoughts, experiences and opinions of individuals(though we might say that even in thinking, interpretingexperiences, and forming opinions we participate in adialogue with imagined others). The public space is indeedobliterated where individuals are isolated and separated bysuch radical differences that there can no longer be anythingwhich is held in common and we need only think of the madnessof one who holds stubbornly to an idiosyncratic view of theworld to imagine what life would be like were there nothingbinding us to the common world. But the absence of a world incommon is no less sure when everyone speaks in one voice orsees and experiences things in the same way. An experience oropinion reproduced to the power of one hundred is stillsingular and "subjective"; when the many see and hear as one,the space between individuals is collapsed and no longer canthe world present itself in its different aspects. "The endof the common world has come about", writes Arendt, "when it53is seen only under one aspect and is permitted to presentitself in only one perspective" (ibid:58). The abolishment ofthe world through sameness or a retreat into the self can onlybe seen as a great loss, for the word private, as it is usedby Arendt in its original sense as privative, means to bedeprived of the reality that comes from the appearance ofpeople and things in public and the creation of a world whosepermanence and stability transcends the individual mortallife.Taylor provides a way of understanding Arendt'snotion of the actualization or disclosure of people and thingswithin the world in terms of conversation and language when hesays that the formulation and articulation of things inlanguage brings them into focus or clarification (Taylor,1985:272). In conversation interlocutors are brought togetherin a "common act of focus" around a matter that "is no longerjust for me or for you, but for us" (ibid:273, emphasis inoriginal). Gadamer, who extends the notion of conversationto the interpretation of texts and history, similarly saysthat in the act of interpreting and coming to an understandingof the meaning of a text, "something is expressed that is notonly mine or my author's, but common" (Gadamer, 1989:388).The topic or matter at hand around which interlocutors aregathered and the language through which something isarticulated and comes into being does not belong to any oneparty involved but is part of a world held in common.54To frame Arendt's notion of a public space inslightly different terms, then, we can understand the"world" as language, in the broadest sense of this term andour participation within it as that of interlocutors engagedin an ongoing narrative or conversation. The unique andoriginal mode or character with which we converse and narratemight be understood as our culture (of which particularlanguages are a part). The "space in-between" can beconsidered as the space between interlocutors engaged in theact of understanding a common subject through conversation,or as a space that obtains between writers or texts andreaders. In a broader and stronger sense still, the world(language) not only exists as a space between writers andreaders, but provides for the very existence of writers andreaders, and the background or resources that make writingand reading possible and intelligible. This is to say thatboth authors and readers participate as interlocutors withinand through language, culture, world.Alisdair Maclntyre, who presents both conversationsand human actions in general as "enacted narratives", makesclear the important connection between speech and action whenhe says that "conversation, understood widely enough, is theform of human transactions in general". Conversation cannotbe separated from other aspects of human life and activity"even though the forms of language-using and of human life aresuch that the deeds of others speak for them as much as dotheir words. For that is possible", notes Maclntyre, "only55because they are the deeds of those who have words"(MacIntyre, 1984:211). For MacIntyre, personal identity isbound together with the concepts of narrative,intelligibility and accountability. As beings capable ofspeech and action we may be held to give an account of ouractions and experiences and to ask others to give an accountof theirs:"I am not only accountable, I am one who can always askothers for an account, who can put others to thequestion. I am part of their story, as they are part ofmine. The narrative of any one life is part of aninterlocking set of narratives. Moreover this asking forand giving of accounts itself plays an important part inconstituting narratives" (ibid:218).On a narrative view of self-hood, then, understanding one'sidentity and making sense of one's life rests not only upontelling others the story of my life, my experiences, whathas happened to me and what I have seen, done or heard, butis constituted as well through a consideration of the accountsthat others give of my life.III. The phenomenon of embedded narratives"In 1833 Carlyle observed that universal history is aninfinite sacred book that all men write and read and try tounderstand, and in which they too are written."Jorges Luis Borges, Other Inquisitions, (1964:46)"[T]he story of my life is always embedded in the story ofthose communities from which I derive my identity...Thepossession of an historical identity and the possession of asocial identity coincide."Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue,  (1984:221)56"The disclosure of the "who" through speech, and the settingof a new beginning through action, always fall into an alreadyexisting web [of human relationships] where their immediateconsequences can be felt. Together they start a new processwhich eventually emerges as the unique life story of thenewcomer, affecting uniquely the life stories of all thosewith whom he comes into contact."Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, (1958:184)We will now examine briefly some of the implicationsof the nexus between action, identity, plurality anddiscourse or storytelling. Carlyle, Arendt and MacIntyrepresent us with a narrative view of the self and the self'srelation to history which corresponds to the historicalcharacter of action. The lived stories, both of ourindividual lives that result from our own experiences anddoings, and history which "ultimately becomes the storybookof mankind, with many actors and speakers and yet without anytangible authors", are both the outcome of action (ibid:184).Narrative is not the reserve of writers or historians whoimpose an order on events that had no previously existingstructure, but is integral to how we live out our lives andunderstand the experiences, actions and speech of others andourselves (MacIntyre, ibid:211-12).The postmodernist would likely object to thisoutright, claiming that history really consists of a set offragmented and unrelated events and ruptures that have nocontinuity or coherency. Any attempt to represent historynarratively, from this point of view, is a falsification for"true" history has no such structure and could only truthfullyappear as a set of unrelated and unintelligible jottings.57Like the hero of Sartre's Nausea, to adopt the exampleMaclntyre uses, who finds that there is no point in trying towrite a truthful historical biography since human actionsbeing pointless and unintelligible cannot be representedintelligibly without being falsified through the imposition ofnarrative, the postmodernist is left without a project andindeed any grounds for understanding speech and action ineverday life. Yet the fact that Sartre himself sets out towrite Roquentin's story in order to show that there are notrue stories and that the postmodernists tell us a story aboutthe fragmentary character of history confirms the importanceof narrative in understanding human life.Maclntyre makes the point that not only historicalevents (the results of action), but human action in generalcan only appear to us as meaningful and intelligible asnarratives (i.e. as representations). Even in attempting tounderstand or make sense of one another's actions in everydayencounters, we construct narratives or tell stories aboutwhat one another is doing. "We render the actions of othersintelligible in this way", writes Maclntyre, "because actionitself has a basically historical character. It is because weall live out narratives in our lives and because we understandour own lives in terms of the narratives we live out that theform of narrative is appropriate for understanding the actionsof others" (ibid:211-12).The stories that we live, and those we tell, areinextricably intertwined with the stories of others with whom58we share the "world". Arendt makes a subtle link between the"disclosure of the who" through speech and action and "the webof human relationships" which together generate the processthrough which "the unique life story of any newcomer" is givenshape and contributes to the shape of the life stories ofothers. The "space in-between" or "world" consists not onlyin tangible objects, artefacts of human creation, laws andso on, as has been pointed out, but in a "web" ofrelationships created by the influence of the actions andspeech of distinct individuals upon one another. Since welive in a world inhabited by other acting and speaking beings,our identities and personal histories are always affected byand affect the life stories of others. Another way to putthis is to say that the stories which we live out, our life-stories, (as well as those we tell) are always embeddedwithin other stories.There are many familiar stories in our literarytradition that exemplify in a bold and striking way the humancondition of the embeddedness of narratives within othernarratives and indeed it is perhaps for this reason that thestories that seem the most true to life, regardless of howfantastical their content, are those which employ thenarrative structure of the frame story or the story within astory such as the Canterbury Tales, A Thousand and OneNights, Hamlet or Don Quixote. When one of the characterswho appears in the second part of Don Quixote, has read andcomments upon the first half of the book or when Hamlet59witnesses a play telling a story similar to that which he isin the process of enacting, as Borges notes, "the world ofthe reader and the world of the book" become fused (ibid:44).When the characters in the book reflect upon the story ofwhich they themselves are part they, like the reader,recognize that their own story is part of a larger ongoingstory. (The world of the book is fused with the reader inanother way, as well for it too influences or becomesembedded in the life story of the reader.)Borges asks what it is that is disquieting about theappearance of the story of the thousand and one nights withinthe book A Thousand and One Nights, or the play within theplay in Hamlet, or the fact that a character in Don Quixotehas read the story of Don Quixote. He answers his ownquestion by saying that "if the characters in a story can bereaders or spectators, then we their readers or spectators,can be fictitious" (ibid:46). But this is not the best answerI think, for the fictional stories are made-up by someone,while the stories we live are created by no-one; they are not"made" or fabricated by someone, they have no identifiableauthor, not even an invisible one who writes the script orpulls the strings from behind the scenes (see Arendt,1958:185 - 6). What creates uneasiness in us about the storywithin a story is perhaps the awareness that even though weare not fictitious, we are nevertheless not the authors ofour own stories.60Tom Stoppard, the master of the play within a play,illustrates this nicely through his play Rosenkrantz andGuildens tern Are Dead, which is about two minor characters inShakespeare's Hamlet, (thus adding another dimension to theembeddedness of the play within another a play), who arriveon a stage that is not of their own making, are thrown intothe middle of a play (Hamlet) which has already begun, andfind that their lives and fates are inextricably boundtogether with the actions and life stories of others. LikeRosenkrantz and Guildenstern, we never live out a lifeaccording to our own design but arrive in a world that washere before our arrival and become embedded within amulititude of ongoing narratives. We are co-actors and co-speakers in one another's narratives, and at most perhaps co-authors of our own, for even the stories we begin through ourown actions have consequences and carry implications thatreach far beyond our knowledge and control. In Arendt's words:"Although everybody started his life by inserting himselfinto the human world through action and speech, thestories, the results of action and speech reveal anagent, but this agent is not an author or producer"(ibid:184).The stories of our lives, histories and culturesare not "made" because unlike the activity of fabricationwhich can be performed in isolation, action and speech out ofwhich these stories arise are possible only in the presence ofothers. To live a life of our own design, were it possible,would be to wrench ourselves away from the company of othersand to treat ourselves and others as "material". The results61of the process of fabrication, which is an activity thatrelates to the physical realm, can be recognized as atangible entity that can be attributed more or less to theefforts of the one who manipulates and shapes materials inorder to create an end product that conforms to apredetermined model or design. The maker must be able topredict with a degree of certainty the sort of influence uponthe materials that is required in order to make them behave ina way that will produce the desired effect or outcome.By contrast, because our life stories and historyin general spring from speech and action that occurs within aweb of human relationships, no one person or group canexercise control over the process from beginning to end and soproduce the desired result, for we can never know in advancewhat the outcome of action will be. Because of theembeddedness of individual actions within a larger ongoingnarrative, as Dallmayr puts it, action is prevented "frombeing a straightforward reflection of intentionality or theimplementation of premeditated goals" (Dallmayr, 1984:67).Action is characteristically boundless and unpredictablebecause every individual action meets with the responses ofother acting and speaking beings which in turn become newactions generating further consequences of their own which theactor who began the process may not have forseen or intended.(see Arendt, ibid) While individuals may initiate events andstories through action and speech, we can never point to anyone person who is the author of their outcome.62The stories we live out, the stories we tell andhistory itself have no absolute beginnings or endings, butare ongoing and, like the epic novel, always begin in mediasres. Stories about events and phenomena that occur within theworld are far from definitive. They may be told throughbooks, artworks and any number of forms which establish themeaning of events, but their life does not stop there, forthere is always the possibility of their being reborn orrecreated, as it were, through retellings,reinterpretations, transformations and re-presentations.Narrating history does not put an end to it.We no more gain "control" over the past (or ourculture) than we author our own life stories in the sense thatthe meaning of events or phenomena can never be fullyexhausted or the problems they pose solved. The past is never"finished" or completed even when it is narrated as a story,for its consequences continue to be felt so long as it is re-presented. Arendt puts this nicely when she says that themeaning of an act or event,"is revealed only when the action itself has come to anend and become a story susceptible to narration. Insofaras any "mastering" of the past is possible, it consistsin relating what has happened: but such narration, too,which shapes history, solves no problems and assuages nosuffering: it does not master anything once and for all.Rather, as long as the meaning of events remains alive -and this meaning can persist for very long periods oftime - "mastering of the past" can take the form of ever-recurrent narration" (Arendt, 1968:21).Through Arendt's notion of a public worldconstituted by the speech and action of a plurality of beings,and the phenomenon of embedded narratives or the fact that63speech and action creates and begins from within an alreadyexisting "web of relationships", we can begin to offer aresponse to the claims concerning cultural appropriation thathave arisen in the public debate that examines theimplications of the call for authenticity, for self-determination, self-definition and "control" over therepresentation of one's cultural group through self-representation. Keeping these theoretical resources in view,the problematic may be opened up by addressing the question ofwhat it could mean to exercise "control" over representationand identity, when these are understood in terms of Arendt'sconception of action and a conversational view of ourrelationship to the world.Chapter ThreeCONTROL OVER REPRESENTATION AND THE CLOSURE OF THE PUBLICSPHEREI. IntroductionEarlier in the previous chapter it was suggestedthat the features of the discourse concerning culturalappropriation need to be regarded as discursive or belongingto the "world" in an Arendtian sense. We talked about how itis through speech and action, through conversation, that theworld is constituted and disclosed to a plurality of actingand speaking beings, and that through these activities wedistinguish ourselves as unique and actualize ourselves ordisclose and discover "who" we are. Though in acting andspeaking we assert our humanness or uniqueness and ourcapacity to be influential, - to be "original" or bringsomething new into the world, - it will also be rememberedthat plurality, which provides this possibility, alsocreates conditions that limit and influence action. Actionoccurs among a plurality of beings creating a "web" of humanrelationships into which an individual speech, action,speaker and actor are drawn so that the "story" we tell isnever wholly "our own" or the one we intended to tell.Keeping in mind Arendt's formulation of the publicsphere as the site of appearance and actualization, thephenomenon of the embedded narratives, and a conversationalview of identity and culture, we will now turn back to thearguments against cultural appropriation and attempt tounderstand the version of community and social actor65presupposed by the claim that if the culture, history andidentity of minority groups is to be represented "accurately"and "authentically", "you have to let them speak forthemselves" or "tell their own stories". It is not that wewish to ignore or dismiss the need for authenticity. On thecontrary, if we understand authenticity in terms of anArendtian version of action and its link to natality andplurality, (i.e. as the capacity to create something new outof what is provided by the world), it needs to be takenseriously. When authenticity is conceptualized as self-determination, self-definition and autonomy, it leads to asubjectivist version of understanding or what Taylor calls a"soft relativism", undermining the possibility forconversation among a plurality of beings gathered around acommon subject (and paradoxically the condition that allowsfor an authentic life).Stewart Justman notes that Arendt's standard orvision of public life is one of openness. (see Justman, 1981)Facts, objects, events, selves, are actualized, givenfocus or opened to a world inhabited by a plurality of actingand speaking beings, and the world itself is opened up oractualized through their engagement in activities that arethemselves 'sheer actuality' (i.e. are not oriented towardends beyond themselves). Arendt envisions citizens in an opensociety taking an active part in a dialogue through which theybecome themselves and create a world for themselves, and thusare beholden to and behold a world that is theirs, that they66have made their own (appropriated) through their own speechand action. This sense of openness, of the disclosure of thesubject through an open dialogue among actors and speakersengaged in understanding a world "held in common", as we willargue, is lost in the criticisms of cultural appropriation.Indeed, the prohibition against the representation ofminority groups by those who are not members of these groupsrepresents a closure of the common world and an end to theconversation.II. Cultural "background" and sameness as the criteria for"correct" representation, and a "cacophony of monologues"1As we recall, the argument against culturalappropriation is based on the central premise that "outsiders"to a cultural group cannot help but misrepresent that groupsince they lack knowledge about the group's culture, history,identity, and the realities and experiences of its members,knowledge which members to the group, on the other hand,possess. Terry Goldie, who deconstructs the stereotypes ofindigenous people in western literature by examining the1 I borrow the phrase "cacophony of monologues" from RoyTurner's characterization of the understanding ofmuliticulturalism that has surfaced in recent publicdiscourse. Dallmayr also speaks of a "series of monologues"in an indirect reference to asserting expert knowledge abouthuman affairs, or the treatment "of unique individuals inconcrete settings...on a par with ethnological museum exhibits(analyzed by means of "historical consciousness)". Bycontrast, genuine human relations, encounter, orconversation involves an "existential openness", implying a"readiness to interrogate and listen to one another", andproceeding according to the "dialectic of question and answer"(Dallmayr, 1984:196). This contrast will be taken up inChapter Four.67distorting influences of ideology and power "controlling" thediscursive practices of the members of the dominant whiteculture, supports this argument when he claims that "in avery obvious sense any white writing about the indigene iswriting about 'what you do not know' (Goldie, 1987:9)".Goldie is saying, I take it, that any white writing about awhite or any indigene writing about the indigene is 'writingabout what they know'. What is "obvious" to Goldie and thecritics of appropriation is that being a black or a nativeperson is the only criterion for knowing and getting the storyabout blacks or natives "right". In other words, knowledgeof culture and history and the "rightness" of therepresentation is determined by membership, ethnicity orexperience. Non-members are bound to get the story about themembers of another culture, wrong according to the critics ofappropriation, because their knowledge of the other will bedistorted by the determining influences a different"background". By the same token, since we "know" and fully"understand" our "own" culture and history we willautomatically represent it "accurately" and "truthfully". Inessence, the argument implies that those who share the sameexperiences, membership, background, values and assumptionscan, and those who are different from one another cannot,understand and know the truth about one another.On this understanding of the grounds for accurateknowledge and correct representation it then becomes, asJames Clifford has noted and Edward Said has argued,68important to know "who speaks? who writes? when and where?with or to whom? under what institutional and historicalconstraints?" (see Clifford and Marcus, 1986:13). As MichelFoucault notes in his essay "What is an Author", thispreoccupation with authorship, which stems from theunderstanding that the author's background - his biography,social position and circumstances - leaves its determiningimprint upon a text or the speech, is common in modernliterary and cultural criticism. (Foucault, 1984) When the"truth" or "accurate" knowledge about culture and history isthought to be "caused" by or emanate from the author's"background" it appears necessary to check the credentials ofthe speaker and to permit only those speakers with the"correct" credentials (i.e. those who are members of thecultural group they depict) into the conversation in order tocontrol the propriety of the representation and its influence.What the critics of appropriation or Goldie and Said take forgranted or treat as "obvious" or natural is, however, inneed of deconstruction.Although the argument in favour of self-representation is intended as a way of rectifying the problemof racism and is asserted on the grounds of uniqueness and theneed for authenticity, attributing the content, the validityand "rightness" of a representation, a thought, or a voiceto the author's "background" and social category seems,however, to amount to a form of social determinism, and thusthe very racialism we ought to be combatting as Tzvetan69Todorov remarks. (see Todorov, 1986) What we have here is aversion of a social actor who is a behaving being, a beingwhose behavior and speech is determined by and conforms to thecircumstances and merely reproduces what is received and givenrather than one who acts in Arendt's sense or is aninterlocutor actively engaged in a conversation with others.Empirically there may well be people who resist beinginterlocutors in the conversation and live as though theirbehavior were determined by conditions and circumstances overwhich they had no influence, and many theorists understandsocial life in these terms; however, we might remind themthat the human potential for action, for resisting or goingbeyond what is given, means that one could also choose tolive otherwise.Given the assumption that "background" determineshow culture and history are interpreted or "read" andrepresented, we would also have to say that biography,experience and membership in an ethnic or social categorydetermine how we "read" representations. This viewpoint isarticulated in an article by novelist Nadine Gordimer on thequestion "who authors write for". Gordimer argues that whenauthor and reader come from different social and culturalbackgrounds, the lack of shared assumptions, experiences andsignifying codes prevents the author's work from beingcorrectly or properly understood. "Whether we like it ornot", she laments,...we can be "read" only by readers who share terms ofreference formed in us by our education - not merely70academic but in the broadest sense of life experience:our political, economic, social, and emotionalconcepts, and our values derived from these: our culturalbackground" (Gordimer, 1989:61).Like the critics of appropriation, Gordimer sees sameness asthe only grounds for understanding while particularity ordifference is regretted as an obstacle to correct reading.Recalling our discussion concerning Arendt'sconception of the public sphere, what is regretted here isthe very plurality that necessitates and provides thepossibility for speech and action which constitute the commonworld. According to Gordimer or the critics of appropriationshared and common knowledge, experiences, or background areregarded as what brings us together and serves as the basis ofa world. However, commonality among individuals collapsesthe hermeneutic gap that gives rise to the need to undertakethe work of interpretation of something that is notimmediately understood or, in other words, the space openedup between distinct beings that creates a need for speech.And this collapse of the "space in-between" a plurality ofbeings, if we remember, abolishes the world or public realmitself.Given the understanding that a text can be "read"correctly only by those with the same background orcharacteristics as the author, what guarantee is there that awhite will correctly read a representation produced by a blackor vice versa? (According to the criteria of sameness as thegrounds for understanding, one would have to say that blacksviewing the ROM exhibition could not possibly have understood71it since it was about white involvement in Africa and wascurated by a white). If the need to "speak for oneself" isbased upon the fear that the misinterpretation andmisunderstanding of culture and history has potentiallyharmful consequences for the community, the critics ofcultural appropriation would then have to argue not simplythat books and museum exhibitions be produced from theperspectives of the members of the cultures they depict, butas well that it is only the members who are to be permitted toread or visit them. Taken in terms of its own logic, thecall for self-representation by minority groups appears todefeat the aim toward achieving better self-understanding andpromoting cross-cultural understanding, for if "outsiders"could never understand the member's culture, and if themembers of a given culture already fully understand theirculture, histories and identities, then there would appearto be little need or purpose in minority groups representingor speaking for themselves.Furthermore, if we apply the argument againstappropriation to representation and understanding amongindividual selves, the view that speech is determined bybackground and that sameness among individuals provides thegrounds for understanding would seem to preclude thepossibility that anyone could understand what anyone else weresaying for no two individuals share identical backgrounds andbiographies. In fact, this view would make it appearimpossible for anyone to understand and speak about anything72at all unless we were to argue that we obtain speech andunderstand the world by ourselves. Taken in this light,rather than "giving voice" to those who have been marginalizedfrom the world, the argument against appropriation would thusseem to silence all.Setting these issues aside for the moment, let usturn back to the argument that members of unique culturalgroups understand and are able to represent their history andculture correctly while others cannot. On the issue ofuniqueness, the critics of cultural appropriation appear toagree with the Arendtian view of the world, at least on thesurface. Their argument is that we are indeed unique, thatour perspectives on culture and history are different and thatthe marginalization or exclusion of the perspectives ofminority groups from the public sphere has obscured the truthand reality of their culture and history. However, we needto see that one of the implications of their argument is thata sense of uniqueness, identity, self-knowledge andmembership or a sense of who one is and what it means tobelong to a particular culture and tradition are establishedand given prior to our arrival in the world and engagement inconversation. What is assumed here is that the "credentials"(i.e. membership, background) are not themselves part of thecommon world or grounded in speech and mediated throughlanguage. The question of "who" speaks, "who" one is,"membership", "background", "knowledge" are treated as self-evident and immediate rather than as something worked out and73established through conversation. Inasmuch as background isthought to lie outside of and cause the speech, and the "who"to be formed prior to speaking, something that is not thespeech of an actor seems to be responsible and accountable forwhat appears in a representation.When speech or voice, and the correctness of aninterpretation of culture (representation), are thought to bedetermined by the author's background or factors that areconsidered not to be mediated through discourse, the speakerneed not be asked to give reasons for his position, but cansimply point to something that he himself is not responsiblefor in order to validate his speech or to excuse himself fromblame. Likewise, readers are excused from the responsibilityof forming their own judgements about a text based on areading of the text itself, for they need only turn to theauthor and check his credentials in order to know whether ornot the work is valid or worthwhile. If correct "reading" orunderstanding, according to the view of critics ofappropriation, is assumed to be automatic when reader andauthor belong to the same social category or share the same"background", the reader would thus also appear to berelieved of the work of interpreting the meaning of the text.To take these issues further, the idea that membersof ethnic minority groups be the sole spokespersons on theirhistories and cultures in order to determine and define theirown identities and ensure authentic representation, requiresthat the self or member retreat from the world, turn inward74and simply find the truth about himself. On this view,membership and an understanding of one's self, one'sexperiences and relationship to a tradition require no effortof interpretation or engagement on the part of the self,rather the disengaged self seems to absorb a sense of identityand self-knowledge passively. The assumption seems to be notonly that one must leave a world which provides the veryresources through which one gains an understanding of oneself,but that one's own culture and history do not stand inrelation to oneself as an "other". Indeed, there seems to beno need to interpret or engage one's own cultural tradition inconversation, for in holding everything in common with it,one automatically understands it.The self or member of a particular ethnic group,having established a knowledge of himself outside the world bylooking inward, appears in public and enters the conversationfully formed and with the truth about himself "in hand", soto speak. The need to speak or voice this truth seems merelyto be in order to display and express in the open what hasbeen achieved in private. The world becomes a kind of podiumor stage for the appearance of fully defined identities, andlanguage (representation) merely a tool or conduit throughwhich to assert already known and established truths abouthistory and culture, that can be dispensed with once it hasfulfilled its function, rather than as something in and75through which history, culture and identity, even truthitself, appears, comes into being or comes to be known.2Seen in these terms, one's speech about history,culture and the self, one's voice, looks as though it isprivately owned and established outside of a public sphere oroutside of language, as opposed to being speech from a"different location" within a "world held in common". Insimilar respects, according to the claim of those who argueagainst the depiction of African history by a white or theposition of the participants in the conference on theappropriation of native culture who argued that native cultureand voices are "owned" and ought to be "controlled" bynatives, it would seem that Language and History appear to bemore like objects that are divided into units of privateproperty than a common resource or a common topic to beviewed, represented, and opened to discussion by a pluralityof interlocutors holding different interpretations andpositions, or stronger still, a common narrative in whichparticular narratives, selves, groups, histories areembedded and formed.What the argument against cultural appropriationleads to then, is an atomistic view of the world that seemsmore like an aggregate of "subworlds" or separate self-contained cultural enclaves than a world held in common, andsomething less like a conversation than a cacophony of2 This notion of the world appearing as a "podium" in theunderstanding of the critics of appropriation I, again,borrow from Roy Turner.76monologues in which isolated voices each speak their piece andassert the truth about themselves but are not listened to,acknowledged or understood, and neither influence nor areinfluenced by one another. Such a view represents a closureof the public sphere both in the sense that the "world" of theethnic group is a world in which individuals are assumed to bethe same and in the sense that individuals coming fromdifferent backgrounds are so radically different that they areunable to meet on any point.Even if we were to proceed upon the assumption ofthe critics of appropriation who believe that it is possiblefor the members of one ethnic group to understandrepresentations produced by the members of another, (fortheir whole argument is based on the need to correct themisunderstandings of those who are not members), we still endup with closure. Inasmuch as the critics of appropriationregard the member's voice on his culture as the voice of theexpert, the voice of knowledge and truth, and as they seethis voice as something simply given to one by virtue ofmembership and experience they thus seem unwilling to enterinto a conversation with the terms provided by a communalnarrative and, indeed, they seek an end to the conversation.Those who protested against the ROM exhibition, claiming thata black perspective upon the history and cultures it depictedis the only truthful and acceptable perspective refuse tobecome interlocutors by recognizing that they too need tointerpret and engage in a conversation with their tradition77(and so run the risk of misinterpreting it), by dismissingthe possibility that there may be other valid points of viewon the history of blacks aside from their own, and byrefusing to acknowledge that their position may be subject toconversation and criticism. This does not mean they wouldnecessarily have to agree with other points of view, but evenoffering a response in the form of resistance or a rebuttal isto acknowledge the validity of other views and to take one'splace in the conversation. Instead, by arrogantlyproclaiming to possess expert knowledge or the truth aboutthis history, they seem to want to stake out a spacebelonging exclusively to themselves in which to assert thistruth. Authenticity, in a sense, translates into having thelast word: the narrative of the blacks on colonial Africa,if we take the critics at their word, is not to be seen as"one among many" and neither is it open to review andreinterpretation. Knowing the truth about oneself and tellingone's own story from beginning to end would spell an end tothe ongoing narrative for were possible to master the truthabout the past or one's identity then there would seem to benothing more that need be said about it.III. Toward a conversational view of identity and voiceIn his essay "What is an Author", Foucault begins adiscussion about the preoccupation with authorship in modernliterary criticism with a quotation from Beckett: "What doesit matter who is speaking, someone said, what does it matter78who is speaking?", through which we might begin to relocatethe question of voice or "who" speaks within the world,within discourse and language. (see Foucault, 1984:102) Weneed to read Beckett not as answering Said or the critics ofappropriation with indifference or as saying who cares whetherit is a black or white who is speaking. He is not simplydisagreeing on the point that we ought to know an author'sbackground, for when he says "who" he is not referring tobackground (typically his characters have no "backgrounds"),rather he is pointing to a different way of understanding thenotion of voice and of reading. It is not that voice isunimportant, rather, it needs to be regarded as emergingfrom within the text, from within discourse, and as acheivedwithin the world and our engagement in conversation, asopposed to being established prior to it.When Beckett says "what does it matter who isspeaking" we might see this as an invitation to considerspeech and voices as capable of being recognized, judged andunderstood apart from our knowledge of the background of thespeaker and in spite of our sharing or not sharing in hisbackground or experiences. We encounter the "voice" withinthe text, within the speech itself, and it is the speechthat we are called upon to interpret. The text, voice, orwhat a person says attains a "life of its own" apart from itsauthor, so to speak, and in interpreting and judging a textor a representation, as Gadamer writes, "one intends tounderstand the text itself" (Gadamer, 1989:385), not the79person who wrote it. One interprets and judges the speech orvoice, not the speaker and his experiences, psychology,biography or ephemeral connection to a social category. AsGadamer argues, "[t]o understand what a person says...is tocome to an understanding about the subject matter, not to getinside another person and relive his experiences" (ibid:383).We might thus begin to imagine a conversationbetween voices which speak to and through individuals andtexts regardless of their "background" and social category or"who" technically and concretely is speaking. For instance,Franz Fanon writes of "white men with black masks" by which hemeans that one may indeed appear to be a black on the surfacewhile "voicing" a "white" position. (see Fanon, 1967)Blackness and the question of what it means to voice a blackposition or what it means to be black is clearly not simply amatter of skin colour. We are also familiar with women whospeak in a voice that is clearly "patriarchal", take MargaretThatcher for one, and men who have written from a feministposition. Understanding a voice that appears in a text, then,involves more than merely identifying the gender or race ofthe speaker.Oakeshott writes of voice as a reflection of humanactivity having a specific character and mode rather than interms of its connection to predefined social categories.(Oakeshott, 1959:12) When he refers to the "voices" ofpoetry, science or politics, it is clear he is not referringto something possessed exclusively by the members of one or80another cultural group or social category defined according tooccupation, gender or age, nor as something that one issimply born with and happens to have. Rather, he says thatvoices or modes of speaking and acting are given place,character and meaning only in the "conversation of mankind"where a great diversity of voices meet, influence andacknowledge one another, (see quote by Oakeshott used as anepigraph to this paper).Beckett can be understood as saying, then, that weenter the world without a background and it is only within theworld, through an active participation in an ongoingconversation and the appropriation of what the world makesavailable, that we acquire our own unique voices and theresources required to recognize and understand other voices.Put another way, it might be possible to say that one canhave one's own voice, but not one's own language and withoutthe background of language there could be no grounds foracquiring or understanding voices. The idea of having aunique voice that ought to be heard in the public sphere wouldbe meaningless and absurd without language (in the broadestsense), or if individuals and groups spoke in terms that wereexclusively their own, in terms that could neither beappropriated by others nor were themselves appropriated from acommunal narrative. One's voice and sense of uniqueness aregiven meaning only within a world shared in common withothers.81The very grounds for uniqueness and originalityare undermined when the concept of authenticity is understoodin terms of "self-determination" or the control of autonomousand soveriegn individuals and groups over the representationand definition of themselves. Human beings cannot distinguishthemselves and establish a sense of a unique identity inisolation from others, for even if we maintain a fundamentalunderstanding of plurality or uniquenss as "otherness" oralterity, the very sense that one's perspective is differentand unique indeed requires the presence of others from whichit could be distinguished. In common sense terms, the ideaof a black perspective would be meaningless were there nowhites.As well, the argument that knowledge andrepresentation are determined by "background" or membershipimplies that while cultural groups may be unique anddifferent, there is uniformity and commonality amongindividual members within these groups. As Alan Scott pointsout, the view that ideology (representation, voice) isdetermined by social class or group membership presumes thatmembers share identical and unchanging understandings,beliefs or opinions. (Scott, 1988:38) If knowledge andrepresentation are determined by "background" and membershipis simply based on common experiences, understandings andideology, the members of a group would presumably possess thesame knowledge of the world and represent the world in thesame way. The "world" of the ethnic group, on this82interpretation of membership and knowledge, is not a worldshared and created by a plurality of speakers and actors, butis indeed collapsed so that the ethnic group appears to speakin one voice or to act as though it were one person. Scottreminds us of the complexity of individuals and groups,however, by noting that we can hardly think of an individual,let alone a group, as possessing a static and "coherent andcomprehensive picture of the world" (ibid). It is enough topoint out, perhaps, that with respect to the issue ofcultural appropriation or judgements concerning the ROMexhibition, there is anything but consensus of opinion withineither "white" or "black" communities.Scott argues in a way that comes close to what anArendtian view of the relationship between membership andideology might look like. Rather than see a causalrelationship between voices, perspectives or ideologies andgroup membership, he suggests that we view both membershipand ideologies as socially constituted and "constitutivecomponents of social life" (ibid:51). On his understanding,the formation of a group and the ideology of its members occurtogether as the result of "purposeful and discursiveaction;...they are in other words, the creations of actorsacting intentionally, collectively and communicatively"(ibid). By formulating the achievement of membership,understandings and beliefs in terms of discursive action -i.e., in human rather than "natural" or deterministic terms, -Scott thus presents us with a view that takes into account83human plurality, uniqueness and complexity, and upholds avision of social actors consciously engaged in establishingmembership and working out positions, values andunderstandings within a world or in conversation with oneanother.From this understanding of identity andrepresentation, and recalling Arendt's notion of pluralityand the disclosure of "who" one is in and through discourse,we can perhaps begin to envision an alternative to the idea ofa "cacophony of monologues" and a view of representation whichimplies that membership, identity and an understanding ofoneself or one's culture is achieved without appropriatingfrom the world, that is to say, outside of language and inisolation from others. A notion of "who" is speaking, theachievement of identity and self-understanding, and a senseof uniqueness, need to be seen as coming into being within oras provided by the world. Following from the arguments ofArendt and Taylor, which we outlined in the previous chapter,identity, membership in a group, opinions, beliefs, and anunderstanding of oneself and the world, cannot be understoodas "things" that individuals simply have or which theyestablish in the rarified air of their own private worlds andsubsequently display in public. Their very formulation andarticulation, rather, takes place within the public world,in association or in conversation with others. Put anotherway, the self is always being influenced by others andpresents itself in the world in terms that are always84appropriated from a language that precedes and grounds it, orin terms that are communally available and understood. Whilethe critics of appropriation, as we have said, seem to viewknowledge of one's culture and history as generated fromwithin the self or as defined in advance of speaking about orrepresenting oneself, from an Arendtian perspective, wewould have to see that understanding one's culture andidentity occur as a process of continual unfolding anddiscovery through the act of representing and representingcannot help but involve appropriation. Another way of sayingthis would be to suggest that understanding and definingoneself as a member of a particular group or communityrequires an active engagement and appropriation of the voicesof others that speak to us through the tradition, through thecommunity.On the view of the critics of appropriation,appropriating and being influenced by the voices and views ofothers are thought to thwart our ability to understandourselves or to interpret identities, histories and cultures"correctly". For Arendt and Taylor, however, our veryability to interpret both the world and ourselves and thecorrectness of our thinking stems from the fact that we always"think in a cOmmunity with others", even when we are thinkingor representing the world to ourselves in private (Arendtquoting Kant, 1956:235). Through "thinking in a community",we appropriate the very concepts necessary to formulate ideasand to judge. To make an obvious point, the fact that the85concept of "authenticity" is voiced as an argument againstcultural appropriation in terms that are thoroughly modern andwestern, illustrates that those who criticize culturalappropriation are themselves engaged in the act ofappropriating from a discourse that does not "belong"exclusively to them.When the only truthful and acceptable viewpoint uponthe history and culture of minority groups is understood to bethat of the members of these groups, self-understanding and asense of one's relationship to history and culture appeardefinitive and closed, rather than dynamic and opened upwithin the world. In the previous chapter, we pointed outthat one's self-definition is always open to contestation,review and revision. Although the critics of appropriation,such those who protested against the ROM exhibition, appearto uphold a contrary view in their claim that only the self-definition and self-representation of minority groups can betruthful and authentic, they do not hesitate to criticize theself-definition and self-representation of the white colonistswho were represented in the exhibition and demand that whitesreview and modify their understandings of the world andthemselves. The "truth" that the colonists sought to assertabout themselves was that they were "superior" to blacks, yetthis self-representation was justifiably highly contested andtaken as a gross misrepresentation of truth. The criticism ofappropriation thus appears either to be based upon a kind ofdouble standard or to contain grounds that contradict one86another. Blacks such as the members of the CFTA argue thatbeing a member of a particular ethnic group is grounds forunderstanding and representing that group's history andculture "truthfully", yet they themselves claim to understandand know the "truth" about the identity of the white colonistsand the history of whites in Africa, (i.e. that the colonistswere racist and not superior to blacks), and so contradictthis argument. It is not as though we would want to say,however, that only whites can know, understand and criticizetheir history and culture. The voices, speech and self-understandings of the colonists, instead, need to beregarded as belonging to a discourse that blacks, whites andCanadians from any number of other ethnic origins canunderstand and be called upon to criticize.The implication of the argument that blacks ratherthan whites ought to have mounted the ROM exhibition so as toavoid racist stereotyping suggests that whites would simply bedetermined by their tradition and would not respond to it in acritical way. Yet, understanding that interpreting andrepresenting one's culture involves being influenced by orborrowing terms provided by a discourse or tradition thatprecedes us does not mean that we are determined by ourbackgrounds. If we begin with an Arendtian version of anactor who is capable of initiating the new rather than as onewho reproduces or behaves in accordance with the conditions,we can see that one possible response to the world, to one'sbackground, or to the representations of others is that of87resistance. We need to see that even though their traditionincludes a history of racism and the oppression of blacks,this does not mean that each and every white will reproducethis tradition and therefore be racist out of necessity. Ifwe hold to a version of the social actor as a being capable ofaction and going beyond what is given and received, ratherthan a behaving being who is determined by circumstances and"background", then it is possible to see that our responsenot only to the tradition into which we are born or to therepresentations of cultures, histories and identities thatappear in the public realm, can be other than that ofautomatic acceptance.IV. Representation as a form of action and the call forcontrol"We say that we "conduct" a conversation, but the more genuinea conversation is, the less its conduct lies within the willof either partner. Thus a genuine conversation is never theone that we wanted to conduct...No one knows in advance whatwill "come out" of a conversation...conversation has a spiritof its own..."H.G. Gadamer, Truth and Method, (1989:383)With the notion of the social actor as an activeparticipant in discussion in mind, we will now turn back tothe claim that minority groups need to gain "control" over therepresentation of their culture, history and identities inpublic forums such as the museum. The claim that we need toknow "who speaks" and to ensure authenticity, as we haveseen, stems from the fear of the influence of(mis)representation on attitudes and behaviors. Underlying88this fear, and the notion that representation therefore oughtto be brought under control through group self-representationis a version of influence as a kind of transmission of beliefsand attitudes that regards the influenced as passivespectators or malleable conformists who think and behave inaccordance with what is given rather than acting and authenticbeings in Arendt's sense.Based on the view that, as Robert Sullivanremarks, museums "reflect, present and transmit the beliefand value systems of the societies that create them", somecritics have accused them of being "ideological tools" shapingthe attitudes of the public according to the biases andstereotypes of those "in control" over the museum.3 Manyregard the museum in terms such as those used by museologistCarol Duncan, who characterizes it as a "powerful identitydefining machine" controlled by and functioning to promoteimages that serve the interests of politically powerful andeconomically or academically privileged elites. While themuseum is an authoritative (i.e. domineering or authoritarian)presence that creates the pretense of presenting "truths"about culture and of representing the values, history,beliefs and identity of the community, it is feared that itreally presents the self-image of elites and the stereotypesand distorted views they have of others. (see Duncan, in3 Robert Sullivan quoted from "The museum as moral artifact",Moral Education Forum, 1985, 10(3):2 in MacDonald and Alsford,(1989:3). MacDonald and Alsford use the word "ideologicaltool" in reference to the way some critics view the museum.89Lavine and Karp, 1991)1 Authenticity is offered as thesolution to the problem: i.e. the "community" needs to wrestcontrol over representation from the elites and representitself or express its own voice. At its worst, then,cultural appropriation appears as the willful manipulation ofimages in order to further the selfish interests of thoseseeking power and there is an even more urgent need to know"who" speaks.4 The matter of who "controls" the museum andrepresentation is what many understand to be an issue for the"politics of representation". If "control" and ideology(understood as reflecting self-interest) were the only groundsfor representation and politics, however, then we would haveto see the speech of Duncan and the critics of appropriationas ideological and their motivation to speak as based on adesire to manipulate images for their own private purposes.In order for control over representation andidentity to appear intelligible as either a cause for concernor as providing a solution to the problem of misrepresentationand the effects of inauthentic representations of minoritygroups, the representation of culture has to be framed withina "technical consciousness" or attitude rather than anArendtian view of action and the public sphere. Referring tothe museum as an "ideological tool" or "identity-defining4 In the report on the forum "Telling Our Own Story", culturalappropriation is defined as "the process by which other people(ethnologists, historians, academics, storytellers, filmmakersetc.) approach Native people and communities for informationand then interpret it from their own perspectives and fortheir own benefit.", p.15.90machine" would be like saying, as Courbusier is reported tohave said, that a house is a "machine for living in".Understanding the museum, literature, discourse or the veryfabric of culture solely in terms of power and control, andindeed the use of technical terminology such as "tool" or"machine" to describe the museum suggests that representation(culture) be seen as having a purely instrumental functionwith no other aim or value than the fulfillment of someutilitarian purpose. In this light, any interest in culture,history, or communication, can only be regarded in terms ofwhat Habermas would call a "technical interest" orientedtoward manipulation and control, and in relating to the realmof human affairs in terms of "fabrication" or "making", (i.e.in terms of a means to ends rationality), this technicalattitude toward representation and culture "treats men as onetreats other "material"" (Arendt, 1958:188). Representation,culture and human beings themselves come to be regarded asobjects or material to be manipulated and shaped according tosome predetermined design or plan. Following from thisvision, the museum becomes merely the "means ofrepresentation", and the "politics of representation" astruggle for power over the means to manipulate images andthereby gain hegemonic control over the community. Politicsseen thus, degenerates into nothing more than theadministration of knowledge, attitudes, opinions, andbehaviors by language managers. (This is not simply the viewof corrupt museums or political elites for those of goodwill,91who seek to correct social problems by ensuring that theattitudes, values and behavior of the reading public areshaped by "correct" representations, would also appear tounderstand representation, society and politics in technicalterms).When culture is seen only in terms of "fabrication"and the manipulation of others the only alternative to thisstate of affairs appears to be to "take control" for oneself,to reject and isolate oneself from the influence of others,and thus avoid the risk of being manipulated (ormisinterpreted). A lack of personal (or "group") control overrepresentation (culture, conversation) can only appear as asource of regret or even panic when the understanding is thateither we control the means of producing "our own"representations and cultural identities or others will controland dominate us with "theirs".One of the core issues here, making it possible tounderstand representation as something that can and ought tobe "controlled" has to do with how we "read". Insofar ascontrol over representation is possible, either by powerfulelites seeking to control and manipulate representation toserve private interests or by cultures wishing to definethemselves, the presupposition must be that we can predictthe response of viewers and readers in advance. This meansthat the interpretation given to a representation would haveto be what the author intended; it would require conformitynot only between writer and reader but among readers as well.92Behind all of this is the tacit assumption that werelate to culture or the world as passive consumers ofrepresentations who simply take in and absorb what is givenand presented to us, or as victims or dupes who are "takenin" and dominated by them, rather than as active andinfluential participants. Both the understanding of the"problem" - (i.e. representation of one's culture by an"outsider" filtered through and determined by their ideologyand background will result in a distortion of the "truth" andhence harmful attitudes and behavior in the community atlarge) - and the solution (authenticity or self-control overrepresentation) presuppose that when we read (culture) we doso as though we are indeed "drinking from a well" to recallthe words of Simone Weil, that is, we read passively.As Duncan claims, visitors to a museum, likeworshippers at a temple, "bring with them the willingness andability to shift into a state of [passive] receptivity."(ibid:91) This is to say that visitors are undiscriminatingtoward what they allow themselves to be influenced by, thatthey do not form judgements about what they view, and thatthey think and behave according to the dictates of those in"control" over representation. In other words, the socialactor here is not an interlocutor who takes an active part inthe "conversation" or an actor in a strong sense but a passivespectator and behaving being, who is acted upon but does nothimself act (i.e. he is not "original" or authentic).93Recalling Weil's comment in Chapter One that writingwhich influences opinion constitutes action and that writersneed to be restricted the moment they "fill a role directingpublic opinion", we can begin to open this up by suggestingthat reading, (i.e., interpretation, judgement and formingopinions), is also influential action. When interpretationis seen in terms of action, viewers and readers cannot beregarded as having no other choice than simply to submitpassively to the view of reality or the claim to truthpresented in a text or exhibition. As human beings endowedwith the potential to act and think we are, all of us,called upon to judge and discriminate between those views weaccept and those we ought to reject. The assumption that"authentic representation", (i.e. self-representation),produces the "correct" views in the public or that a writer orexhibition curator "direct" public opinion or can "control"the representation of culture, however, proceeds on theunderstanding that we do not live in a world in which we actand speak among individuals who are also capable of acting andspeaking, that is, of interpreting, judging and thinkingfor themselves.Museologist Ludmilla Jordanova writes that "ItJheways in which the contents of museums are presented lead to,but do not fully determine, what visitors experience andlearn". She points out that imagination and fantasy, thatis, going beyond what is given, are crucial to our sense ofthe past or an unfamiliar culture, or as she puts it the kind94of "knowledge" the museum facilitates. The museum mayexercise an influence over the way culture appears and perhapsthe way an exhibition might be read to a degree, but it isnot in supreme control since the viewer is also representingwhat he sees to himself. This is not to say that viewersremain completely autonomous or uninfluenced, yet active(perhaps "authentic") viewers or readers begin from what isgiven in an exhibition and like the author, imaginativelyconstruct a narrative around what is perceived in the work,thus transforming it in a sense and moving beyond thenarrative provided or initiated by the author. Therefore, asJordanova contends, "visitors to an exhibition cannot betreated as passive recipients of an ideological position" (inVergo, 1989:23, 33).It is not simply one view that is transmittedthrough an exhibition or text, then, even if one individualor one group does the representing, rather one story may bemany stories to different readers. A story may be manystories even to the same individual reading at differentpoints in his life. Representation and interpretation are noton a straight road that moves in one direction and ultimatelyends at a single fixed point, instead they are an endlessmeandering path of many forks.5 For those who wish to see themuseum as a medium through which to facilitate thetransmission of truths, information and accurate facts about5 I believe it was Borges who made this observation, however,the source is not known.95culture to passive recipients or as a tool to be used as ameans of exercising hegemonic control, the multiplicity ofinterpretations, indeed action and plurality, seems a ratherunfortunate circumstance preventing the smooth functioning ofthe machine.On this understanding of reading, it is notpossible to "tell one's own story" if this means controllingwhat one's story "tells", for what the story tells is boundup with the interpretation of its readers. A text orrepresentation (culture, history) is open to responses orinterpretations that may be quite different from what theauthor intended or anticipated, or seen in terms of theunpredictability of action resulting from plurality and theembeddedness of narratives, produce effects or consequencesthat cannot be known with any certainty in advance. The veryfact that the ROM exhibition was responded to in a way thecurators and organizers did not anticipate itself illustratesthe limits to control that can be exercised over arepresentation.Taken in terms that are somewhat different fromthose upon which we have responded to the issues so far, theanxiety underlying the current concern over culturalrepresentation and the need for control can perhaps be seen asrelated to the predicaments posed by the "unpredictability andboundlessness" of human action which arise out of the factthat action always occurs among a plurality of beings orwithin a "web" of human relationships and therefore produces96consequences reaching beyond the knowledge and control of theactor. The anxiety surrounding cultural representation beginsto appear connected to the risks involved in representing andinterpreting and to the fear not only that one's story mightbe told incorrectly, but that it might be read in ways thatcannot be foreseen in advance. Relief from this anxiety issought in authenticity or by gaining supreme control overone's story through self-representation so that it becomes thestory to end all stories. Mastering how one's story is to beinterpreted, however, represents either a collapse of thepublic sphere for it requires a community of beings who act inidentical and therefore predictable ways or a retreat from thecommon world. As Arendt notes, throughout history,solutions to the predicaments created by the human capacity toact and initiate, have always amounted to "seeking shelterfrom action's calamities in an activity where one man,isolated from all others, remains the master of his doingsfrom beginning to end" (Arendt, 1958:220).An Arendtian view of authenticity, representationand culture provides a more hopeful alternative to the rathergrim picture offered by the opponents of culturalappropriation of beings isolated from one another in a"cacophony of monologues", of a battle for power over the"means" for manipulating others, of passive victims orbehaving beings and cultural masters, and ultimately of aclosure of the public sphere. In Arendt's view, culture isnot something that belongs within the sphere of fabrication or97function, characterized by an attitude of instrumentality orutility, instead, she sees the need to preserve its placewithin the realm of action and speech. The mentality withwhich an object is created, in other words, ought not beapplied to what essentially belongs to the realm of humanaffairs.An authentic human life, one that is unique andoriginal in Arendt's terms can be seen not as a life that isfree from influence nor one that is overwhelmed by influenceand behaves in conformity with its circumstances or backgroundor that simply takes on the opinions and positions of others,rather as a life that is open to influence and strives to beinfluential, (i.e. a life of action or one that strives toset something new in motion). While the culture ofauthenticity appears to regard the condition of plurality asinhibiting our ability to be self-determining or self-definingand to gain mastery over our stories, from an Arendtianperspective it appears positive and liberating. The worldthat precedes us and which we share with others or, in otherwords, the ongoing conversation into which we enter in mediasres, provides the very conditions and resources that enableus to disclose ourselves and to understand the world and "who"we are. Influence and appropriation on Arendt's terms posethe very possibility for representing oneself and for theworld to present itself or appear. That is to say, we arealways drawing upon the resources provided by the conversationand in turn exert our influence or make a contribution to it98by creating something new and worthwhile out of what is given.We can now begin to envision a version of representation,culture, and identity which sees appropriation as somethingwe require rather than as something we ought to strive toavoid. As we have argued, since culture, history andidentity cannot be thought to exist prior to language orworld, but to appear instead in and through speech whichbegins from within and appropriates a world in common, we canbegin to understand culture, history, and identity as re-presentation, as appropriation.99Chapter FourOPENNESS AND CULTIVATION: AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW OF CULTURALAPPROPRIATION AND CORRECT REPRESENTATION"Openness to the other...includes the acknowledgement that Imust accept some things that are against myself, even thoughthere is no one else who asks this of me...I must allow thevalidity of the claim made by tradition, not in the sense ofsimply acknowledging the past in its otherness, but in such away that it has something to say to me."H.G. Gadamer, Truth and Method, (1989:324)I. IntroductionIn the previous chapter we noted that there is asense of determinism involved in the argument against theappropriation of the culture and history "belonging" to themembers of one ethnic group by the members of another.Critics, such as the protesters against the ROM exhibition,seem to be arguing that as the correctness of our knowledge ofthe world is determined by our cultural or ethnic "background"those who are "members" will automatically "get their storyright" and those who are "non-members" will get it wrong.Here, we said, it is as though "membership" or a sense ofbelonging to an ethnic group with a unique tradition and anunderstanding of that tradition were given prior to our entryinto the world and participation in an ongoing conversation.On this view, the grounds for understanding or fora "correct" reading of culture are rooted in sameness, i.e.,we can only understand those who are the same as we are, notthose who are different from us. We also saw that there is akind of determinism involved in an approach to museumexhibitions that understands the visitor as having no option100outside of being a passive recipient of the views presented ina representation. Put in another way, there is a sense thatinfluence (of our own cultural tradition or of a museumexhibition) necessitates passive acceptance.Yet, as we saw, there is a contradiction in thelogic of the argument, for if the protestors against the ROMexhibition claim that they need to "tell their story" in orderto produce the correct understandings in the public, and ifthe only grounds for understanding are sameness, how is itthat a visitor with a different cultural background would beable to understand and therefore accept an exhibitionpresented from a black point of view? How is it that the ROMexhibition, which was produced by a white, could have beenunderstood by a black? How could the whites who joined in theprotests have been critical of a view produced by a white ifit is assumed that whites are determined by and accept theirculture unquestioningly?We will attempt to address these issues by returningto the idea of a social actor who is actively engaged in anongoing conversation or who cultivates a sense of identity,self-understanding and an understanding of what is "other"through appropriation. We need to question the assumptionthat blacks or whites necessarily belong to, accept andunderstand "their own" traditions as though their traditionsdid not also appear as something "other" or "foreign" to themprior to their engagement in a conversation with the101tradition, and begin to open up an alternative view ofappropriation and our relationship to history.II. Appropriation vs. alienationThrough Arendt's formulation of the public sphereand the notion of embedded narratives, we saw that in the actof coming to an understanding of both ourselves and the worldwe are always influencing and being influenced by others. Inlight of the fact that the "common world" is a world in whichindividual histories become embedded within the stories ofothers, we need to see that it is impossible to "tell one'sown story" without in some way being influenced by,appropriating from, responding to, or telling the story ofan other. Understanding history and culture, then, is notunderstanding something that "belongs" to an individual orgroup in the sense of its being one's "property" or enclosedand cut off from the history of others, but is always anunderstanding of a world in which many stories are intertwinedand implicated. Put in mundane terms, to say of twoindividuals who had had a shared or similar experience thatthis experience was the "possession" of one party, that hismemory of this experience was the most truthful, and thattherefore he were entitled to remember and speak of it wouldseem absurd.To use the example of the ROM exhibit to illustratethe point, it would be impossible for either blacks or whitesto have told the history of Canadian involvement in Africa102during the colonial period without somehow telling a versionof one another's stories or reflecting upon theunderstandings, experiences and parts played in this drama byboth blacks and whites. In response to the criticism that inaddressing white involvement in Africa from the perspective ofthose who are white it appropriated and told, or moreprecisely it failed to tell (accurately), a story "belonging"to those of African descent, we might argue that this isindeed a part of Canadian history, among others, and notsimply African history, and that it is in need of beingremembered, interpreted and reflected upon critically byCanadians, whether they be black or white. We are not sayingthat blacks and whites would necessarily give this history thesame treatment, for their understandings and needs to tellthe story may be quite different.The sense in which "belonging" is understood by thecritics of appropriation itself needs to be opened up. As wehave argued, the idea of "belonging" to or being a member ofa group with a unique history and culture cannot be understoodas something established prior to participation in social lifeor simply "given" to one "naturally", so to speak, by virtueof shared arbitrary or outward characteristics such as genderor race; rather, one's affiliation with a group and the verynotions of gender, ethnicity, race are worked out throughcollective, social or discursive action. The idea thathistory or culture "belongs" to us, the sense of belonging toa tradition, and an understanding of the past can similarly103be understood as achieved through our active engagement of thetradition.On the view of critics of appropriation such asnative writer Lenore Keeshig-Tobias who claim thatrepresenting a history or culture which does not "belong" toone amounts to "culture theft, the theft of voice", is toconceive of "belonging" in terms of the possession of anobject of private property and use.1 Along similar linesTerry Goldie writes that "their culture is one of the onlyvaluable commodities natives own...and for white writers tokeep telling their stories is inevitably appropriation [i.e.theft]".2 Here, the status of culture is reduced to that of amere consumer good valued solely in terms of exchange or userather than as something valuable in its own right. In theseterms, history and culture are no longer regarded as sharedand common but are "objectified", given boundaries,parcelled off and treated as though they were pre-fabricatedobjects or finished products that one gains ownership overwhole and fully formed at birth just as one might inherit asum of money or piece of land.Viewing culture or voices as property that can be"stolen" seems almost unintelligible. It is important to note1 Lenore Keeshig-Tobias, "Stop stealing native stories", Globeand Mail, Jan.26, 1990.2 Terry Goldie quoted in Bronwyn Drainie, "Minorities go toeto toe with majority", Globe and Mail, Sept. 30, 1989. SeeArendt, Crisis in Culture for a critique of the view ofculture and art that would see it in terms of consumption andutilitarianism.104that the concern over cultural appropriation is raised inconjunction with two very different issues. One has to dowith "stealing stories and voices" or reprepresenting anotherculture in an artwork, museum, or piece of writing, and theother with taking possession of physical artifacts that belongto a community without the consent of its members.3 We needto recognize that there is a very real distinction to be madehere. While stolen artifacts are indeed removed from thecommunity, the culture and stories that are allegedly being"stolen" are nevertheless still "there" within the communityto be told and retold by its members, and the voices ofnatives or other minorities that are appropriated still belongto and can be used by these people. Furthermore, it is notsimply in telling, but also in reading and understandingstories that we appropriate or take in speech, voices,ideas, concepts etc. that are not exclusively our own and tosay reading or listening to a story is theft or to prohibitwhites from reading native stories would seem ridiculous andself-defeating.Only when culture, history and stories are framedin the terms provided by the discourse of political economy,3 The concern of this thesis is with the telling of storiesnot the theft of artifacts and the argument here in no wayintends to suggest that we are at liberty to steal objects orartworks from other cultures. A third more complicated issueinvolves the telling and re-telling of sacred storiesbelonging to some native cultures which extends beyond thescope of this thesis. Some cultures apparently have strictcultural conventions or mores concerning how these stories areto be told and which members of the native community itselfare entitled to tell them.105we would have to say, and come to be seen as belonging to theprivate realm rather than to a common or public sphere, whenthey are viewed as the mere end product of the activity offabricating as opposed to an endless common resource availablefor the benefit of the collectivity (like the well in Well'smetaphor), can the idea of "stealing" or as we arguedearlier, "controlling" culture and stories, appearcomprehensible.Marx, in his critique of political economy, likeNietzsche and Arendt, provides us with a way ofconceptualizing appropriation in quite different and much morepositive terms. Appropriation for Marx refers not to theacquisition or possession of property, but to the processthrough which members of society create something human andsocial out of a natural or given world. The appropriation of"human achievements", for and by man, he writes, "is not tobe conceived merely.. .in the sense of possessing, of having.""Private property has made us so stupid and onesided", hescolds, "as to think that an object is only ours when we haveit - when it exists for us as capital, or when it is directlypossessed.. .used [or controlled] by us" (Marx, 178:87, italicsin original). For the capitalist, then, a painting artworkor story "belongs" to him simply because it is his propertywhile it belongs to an individual who cultivates arelationship to it through interpretation and appropriation ina very different sense. If we remember, Marx formulatesappropriation as a relationship the mode by which the world,106people, things are valued for their own sake and becomehumanized or socialized, in contradistinction to thealienation and estrangement which results from the kind oforientation toward people and things in terms of use andexchange that arises under conditions of private property. OnRicouer's reading of Marx, "appropriation and estrangementare opposed to one another because appropriation means not tobecome an owner but to make proper to oneself (propre), tomake one's own, what was foreign" (Ricouer, 1986:39).To shift the focus slightly for a moment, Arendt writesthat discourse or debate which is carried on among a pluralityof speaking and acting beings is what humanizes an otherwise"inhuman world":" ...the world is not humane [civilized, socialized] justbecause it is made by human beings, and it does notbecome humane just because the human voice sounds in it,but only when it has become the object of discourse...Wehumanize what is going on in the world and in ourselvesonly by speaking of it, and in the course of speaking ofit we learn to be human" (Arendt, 1960:24 - 25).Appropriation on Marx's understanding is not understood interms of possession and utility, but as the formation of arelationship to people and things that is a human, i.e.social or discursive, relationship. This is to say that,history and culture remain alien "objects" until they areengaged in discourse.If we conceptualize our relationship to history, tothe world, to the representations of others in terms of aconversation through which we humanize the world, these107appear and can be treated not as static objects to be owned,used, controlled, manipulated or emptied out of facts andinformation, but as interlocutors. Gadamer writes that"tradition is not simply a process that experienceteaches us to know and govern; it is language - i.e., itexpresses itself like a Thou. A Thou is not an object; itrelates itself to us...tradition is a genuine partner indialogue, and we belong to it, as does the I with a Thou"(Gadamer, 1989:358).Such a relationship to the "other", then, applies not simplyto other cultures or individuals, but to a tradition to whichwe belong or a history and culture we might say belongs to us,and to texts, language, or re-presentations, through whichalone history can appear to us. As Gadamer notes,understanding history and understanding texts is likeunderstanding a foreign culture. So it is not as though wecan treat our "own" history and culture as something thatautomatically belongs to us and that we simply "know" byvirtue of membership; instead, it stands as something alienand remote unless and until we acknowledge what it has to say,engage it in conversation, interpret it, respond to it, andmake something out of it so that it becomes meaningful andsignificant to us.Appropriation, then, can be understood assomething positive and necessary not only for an authentichuman life, as we have already tried to argue,^but for bothhistorical and cultural or cross-cultural understanding. Toread culture, history, representations, as Ricouer writes"is.. .to overcome a kind of alienation, a cultural distance,and to make one's own what was foreign" (Ricouer, 1986:39).108This means applying oneself to the past so that it becomes ofrelevance and applicability to one's life and presentsituation.Gadamer writes that "it belongs to every trueconversation that each person opens himself to the other andtruly accepts his point of view as valid" (ibid:385).Participating in a conversation requires an openness andreceptivity to the influence of the other's speech, implying,as Dallmayr notes, "a readiness to interrogate and listen toone another" (Dallmayr, 1984:196). Acknowledgement andopenness does not mean merely a toleration of differentsubjective viewpoints or conceptions of the world. This wouldbe the "cacophony of monologues" in which participants simply"voice" their own opinions or assert the truth aboutthemselves but neither hear nor comment upon one another'sspeech. Rather, accepting the validity of the other'sperspective means taking what the other has to say seriouslyand allowing for the possiblity that one might be persuaded tosee the world in a different way.There is a great tendency for the study of historyand culture to be treated more like a cacophony of monologuesthan true dialogue. As anthropologist Paul Riesman notes withregard to traditional modes of anthropological study:"In their studies of the cultures of other people, eventhose anthropologists who sincerely love the people theystudy almost never think that they are learning somethingabout the way the world really is. Rather, they conceiveof themselves as finding out about other people'sconceptions of the world" (quoted in Berman, 1981:94).109In other words, the anthropologists do not see themselves asbeing engaged in a conversation which may allow for anincorporation of the worldview of another into their own or atransformation of their own conception of the world, (forindeed, as Morris Berman notes (see, ibid), Riesman'santhropologists do not consider themselves as merely having aparticular conception which can be refuted and argued with,but tend to view themselves as possessing the truth about theworld). What appears on such a view of cultural andhistorical study is a confrontation of individualsubjectivities or relative viewpoints, rather than anintersubjective enterprise aimed at grasping and understandinga common topic or common world. (see Dallmayr, 1984:197)Although in recent years new trends in ethnology have emergedthat attempt "dialogical" modes of representing culture andhistories, contemporary anthropologists who consider thatmerely including multiple perspectives in museum exhibitionsor ethnographic accounts in the form of a literaltranscription of the concrete voices of cultural"representatives" is to be "dialogic" do not appear to movevery far beyond the cacophony of monologues.44 See, for example, James Clifford's discussion of dialogueand ethnographic authority his book The Predicament ofCulture, (1988). He describes "dialogue", "heteroglossia" and"radical polyphony" in ethnographic texts as simply including"indigenous statements" "transcribed at sufficient length" and"accorded an autonomous textual space", or as a "utopia ofplural authorship that accords to collaborators not merely thestatus of independent enunciators but that of writers"(Clifford, 1988:51). Though it touches on the issue of thereader's creative involvement in interpretation, Clifford'saccount of what a "dialogic" ethnography might look like never110The critics of the ROM exhibit and culturalappropriation in general are in a sense somewhat likeReisman's anthropologists in that, as we argued earlier,they appear to make the claim to know the truth about "theirhistory", "their world", while the views of others aredismissed as mere (distorted) "conceptions". By claiming tohave the truth about their history and culture in hand theyare unwilling, as we have said, to become interlocutors byengaging the points of view of others in a conversation thatis directed toward understanding a common and shared world orby offering a thoughtful and critical response to therepresentations of others.Openness is what Arendt, borrowing from Kant, an"enlarged mentality", an open-mindedness, which allows forcritical thinking not simply with respect to the viewpoints ofothers but toward one's own thinking; it is the ability tore-present the position of others and consider an issue fromdifferent viewpoints (Arendt, 1956:241). Though this meansbeing open to new ideas, it does not mean one simplyempathize with the other; it does not mean the totalabandonment of one's self or one's own viewpoints, opinionsand prejudices in exchange for the other's. (see Arendt,1982:43) The openness of interlocutors toward one another inconversation implies an active rather than passive stancetoward the other as well as oneself which allows for themanages to move beyond the "cacophony of monologues" or mere"voicing" in any strong sense. See also, Marcus and Fischer,(1986).111possibility that one's own and the views of others may berejected, rebutted, transformed or perhaps maintained inlight of alternatives. From this point of view, thereappears to be a kind of dogmatism involved in the refusal ofthe critics of appropriation to admit and engage otherperspectives and allow their understandings upon their cultureand history to be opened up to criticism and change.To shift focus slightly and return to the issue ofappropriating voices that do not "belong" to one and to thequestion of cultural determinism that is suggested in thecriticisms of cultural appropriation, the curator of Into theHeart of Africa indeed appropriated a history and culture orvoices which did not "belong" to her in her attempt tounderstand and address herself both to the culture and voicesof the whites and to the Africans of the colonial period. Inother words, being white does not mean that the voices andculture of the white colonists were automatically hers, thatan understanding of these voices was simply given to herwithout any effort of interpretation any more than the Africanculture or voices that appeared in the exhibit could be saidto belong to and be immediately understood by members ofcontemporary Toronto's black community. Furthermore, neitherbeing white nor "appropriating" the colonists voices meantthat the curator necessarily agreed with their point of view.An openness and receptivity to the other and accepting thevalidity of the other's speech, though it means oneacknowledge rather than dismiss the other's claim does not112imply that one necessarily agree with the other either, as wehave suggested. Indeed, refuting or resisting another'spoint of view does not mean dismissing it and is one way ofacknowledging its validity.5 When we spoke of understanding atext or an aspect of history in terms of "making one's ownwhat was foreign", we do not mean to imply that one simplytake over the understandings of the other or appropriate whatthe tradition has to say wholesale and without reflection. Inengaging the point of view or claims of another inconversation, one may begin by acknowledging its validity yetthis does not necessarily have to result in one's agreeingwith it. Regarding appropriation as making what is alien orforeign "proper" to oneself or the situation in which one isinterpreting requires selectivity or a judgement of whatbelongs and what does not.By way of concluding this section we will turn tothe distinction Arendt makes between culture which "relates toobjects and is a phenomenon of the world" and cultural objectsthemselves. (Arendt, 1956:208) Culture is not an object thatis "made" or fabricated, and nor is it something that is tobe privately possessed, hoarded or used in some functionalway, as one might possess and use an object. Rather, sherefers to culture as a relationship, as our "mode of5 The tendency in the contemporary climate of politicalcorrectness to treat the speech of members of minority groupsor women about themselves as beyond reproach and criticism is,in my view, a form of condescension that is equal to the outof hand dismissal of works that have been produced by women orminorities on the basis of an examination of the authorshipand not the content of the work.113intercourse" with the world of which objects, images, humanbeings, and so on are a part, invoking the image ofconversation once again. She directs us back to a moreancient sense of the term and reminds us that culture can bethought of as "cultivation" or tending, caring for,preserving and dwelling. (see, Arendt, ibid) Gadamer'sunderstanding of Bildung (culture) or "cultivating the human",which corresponds with the concepts of self-formation,education and cultivation, comes close to what I interpretArendt's understanding of culture to be. (see Gadamer, 1989:9 -19) Gadamer speaks of Bildung as a genuine historical idea,for it carries a sense of "preservation" and has no goalsoutside itself; it "is not achieved in the manner oftechnical construction but grows out of an inner process offormation and cultivation, and therefore remains in a state ofcontinual Bildung" (ibid:11). The cultivated consciousness isreceptive to the "otherness" of the past, a foreign culture,a work of art, but is not passive for it "knows how to makesure distinctions and evaluations in the particular case"(ibid:17). The significance of Bildung and cultivation forthe issue of cultural representation and appropriation is thatthrough it, "that by which one is formed becomes completelyone's own" (ibid:11). That is, in becoming "who" we are, inself-understanding, we are always appropriating from andrepresenting the world which stands in relation to us assomething other or alien and meaningless, until we do so.114We will continue to develop this idea of cultivationin the next section by examining Nietzsche's understanding ofa good relationship to historical and cultural influence asone that understands the importance of historical knowledgeand representation to lie in its significance for "life andaction". Nietzsche outlines different modes by which historyserves life and influences action and through which wecultivate the past and make history and culture "our own".These historical modes can be regarded as corresponding todifferent orientations toward the influence of the "other" andreformulated as distinct modes of interlocution.III. History for life and actionTo take up the issue of appropriation from anotherperspective, let us examine the charge that the ROMexhibition was "inaccurate and partial" (distorted and biased)because it was filtered through white understandings andcultural assumptions, and that the remedy to this problemwould be provided by a representation of colonialism and blackculture from the perspective of a black (the member's point ofview). The claim, as we remember, is that a blackperspective would have resulted in a "complete, impartial andtruthful" account of Africa and African history.Robert Sullivan remarks that:"Museums are ritual places where societies make what theyvalue visible, and thereby indicate what aspects of thepast are considered consequential, while the method ofpresentation and interpretation define how the past is tobe remembered" (Sullivan, quoted in MacDonald andAlsford, 1989:36-37).115For the critics of cultural appropriation, Sullivan speaks ofsomething that is troubling as opposed to valuable aboutmuseums and is seen as an obstacle rather than necessary andintegral to understanding the past. As we will recall,museums have been criticized for being "ideological tools"reflecting and transmitting the cultural stereotypes, values,biases and perceptions of the societies that create them. Theidea that a representation of history and culture involvesselection, evaluation, and interpretation according to the"worldview" or interests of curators and viewers who are not"members" of the cultural and historical tradition depictedgenerates a sense of uneasiness and becomes a problem when theunderstanding is that the "worldview" of the "members" is thecorrect view. The result, from this viewpoint, is at bestan "incomplete and an impartial" view.What we need to ask here, is what counts as a"correct" version of history and culture. What could"complete and impartial" mean for a good understanding ofhistory? Does this mean simply reporting the (undistorted)facts and all of the information that could be given aboutculture and the past, and does the "correct" and"responsible" version always mean an "authentic"representation in the sense that this refers to an accountpresented from the "member's point of view"?As we have suggested, if we start with the ideathat as members of contemporary Canadian culture we do not,whether we are black or white, share identical116understandings, assumptions and values with our ancestors,i.e. our cultural tradition is not simply assimilatedpassively or given to us, but remains alien to us until weengage it - then the curator of the ROM exhibition, indepicting the white colonists, was representing members of acultural group to which she did not "belong". On theassumption that the "member's point of view" is the correctview, then she would have to appear irresponsible in hercriticism and interpretion of the views of the colonists.Their values, assumptions and perceptions ought to have beenpresented without evaluation and comment from the perspectiveof the curator whether the curator be black or white. Here wewould have to say, however, that given the colonist's racistand naive perceptions of blacks, the "member's point of view"was not the "correct" view, and to suggest alternativegrounds for understanding correctness.Nietzsche's essay "On the Uses and Disadvantages ofHistory for Life" offers a way of reconsidering our relationto culture and history from a point of view that regardscultural and historical influence, "subjective"interpretation, judgement, and the selective appropriationof those elements of the past that are consideredconsequential as crucial to the true value and meaning ofhistorical knowledge and representation rather than anobstacle to be overcome. Though this "untimely meditation"was written as a critical attack against the preoccupationwith an "objective" historical scholarship that prevailed in117his time, Nietzsche's arguments against a historicist studyaimed at presenting a complete, neutral and "truthful"representation of history contain a certain timeliness andrelevance to current understandings of cultural and historicalrepresentation. As as one editor of this work has written,"Much can be learned" from Nietzsche by those "who seriouslyaim at learning the art of cultural analysis and atunderstanding better the goals and procedures of responsibleaction in the service of cultural life" (Kraft, 1985:ix).History, Nietzsche begins by saying, is needed notfor the sake of "pure knowledge" but "for the sake of life andaction" (Nietzsche, 1983:59). He regards the real value andimportance of historical understanding and representation tolie precisely in its significance and value to acting andliving beings. A study or knowledge of history that has abearing upon life and action is not one that indiscriminatelyaccumulates historical truths with a kind of scholarlydetachment or indifference, but is always motivated by andconnected to the particular needs or interests of livingcultures and acting individuals.The essential point Nietzsche is trying to make isobvious in a way and is not something we do not already know,but it seems to get forgotten at times. The point is simplythat a knowledge and understanding of history is meaningfuland valuable in promoting a healthy cultural life only insofarit becomes relevant, applicable and has some sort of effectupon life and action, our self-understanding and our118understanding of the world. The achievement of such anunderstanding of history requires a self who both exerciseshis own influence upon history by being selective andevaluative, and is open to what it has to say such that he isinfluenced by it: he alters and is himself altered by history.A good understanding of history and culture, for Nietzsche,is neither concerned with "completeness" or knowing all thereis to be known about the past, nor with the "truth" and"accuracy" of historical facts and knowledge per se.What Nietzsche calls a "life-enhancing" relationshipto history is one that is purposeful and allows the past tomake a difference to our lives. On the other hand, a mode ofrepresenting the past that is somehow disconnected from lifeand consumes knowledge without purpose, need or interest, orwithout producing an effect on life and action, fromNietzsche's point of view, results in a culture that is nolonger a living thing: "it is not a real culture at all", hewrites, "but only a kind of knowledge of culture" (ibid:78).If history is to become relevant and applicable to our lives,we need to make ourselves relevant to it by opening ourselvesup and appropriating the past, making it "proper" toourselves or turning what is other and alien into somethingthat is wholly our own. (see Gadamer, 1989:13)There may be many historical "truths", Nietzschenotes, that are a matter of complete indifference bearing norelevance to our lives or to how we are to understand thepast. Were we only to concern ourselves with the119"completeness" and "accuracy" of a historical representation,were we simply to accumulate and consume accurate historicaltruths without purpose or need, we would be turned into"walking encyclopedias", to use Nietzsche's words, draggingaround "indigestible stones of knowledge" (ibid:76,78), orsuffer from a nausea of the mind.Moreover, we would put an end to our need torepresent and speak about the past. "A historical phenomenonknown clearly and completely and resolved into a phenomenon ofknowledge", writes Nietzsche, "is for him who has perceivedit, dead" (ibid:67). In other words, if we were somehow toarrive at the truth and produce a definitive account of thepast, it would seem that there would no longer be anything wecould learn from it, we would no longer need to interpret andtry to understand it, and it would no longer continue to haveconsequences. A study of history aimed simply at establishingthe "truth" about the past, as Nietzsche puts it, "would befor mankind a sort of conclusion of life and a settling ofaccounts with it" (ibid:65).Recalling what we have said in the previous chapterconcerning the call for authenticity and the desire to claim aspace in which to speak the truth about one's culture andhistory, such a representation would put an end to theconversation by having the last word. On this view, the selfappears, not as a being who is involved in an ongoingconversation within the tradition or part of a drama that isstill unfolding - the meaning of which is yet to be revealed -120but as one who has already reached its conclusion. Historyand culture regarded in these terms appear completed, likefinished products that require no further reflection orinterpretation.History, like memory, is cultivated and formed.(see Gadamer, ibid:15-16) An individual reflecting upon hislife in order to understand some aspect of his past or presentdoes not bring to mind every detail but only those elementsthat are of significance to his life or what he wants tounderstand. A historical study that aimed at being relevantand applicable to life would not draw upon the past as thoughit were passively drinking from a well of knowledge, butwould necessarily evaluate and exercise discrimination andjudgement in its selection of those aspects of history thatwere consequential and in need of being remembered andreflected upon depending on the interest and requirements onehad for remembering. One would not open oneself up and takeeverything in; historical understanding requires, rather, acertain "tact" (practical judgement) or a sensitivity to whatis appropriate or relevant given the circumstances which givesit focus and definition. In Nietzsche's terms, we need to be"historical" at times or to remember and reflect upon thepast, and to be "unhistorical" or forgetful at other times.A sense of tact allows us to judge what needs to be rememberedand what needs to be forgotten, left out, passed over orgotten rid of. A good relationship to history, one thatactively cultivates the past, then, is not simply rooted in121an accurate knowledge of the facts, but requires a sense ofgood judgement.We need, then, to examine what is meant by theclaim that the ROM exhibition would have been a "complete","objective" and "impartial" representation of African historyhad it been mounted by a member of the black community.Clearly protestors against the exhibition, such as the CFTA,were not calling for an exhibit that remained detached frominterests or needs and refrained from evaluating or impartingmeaning to historical events from a particular viewpoint. Andsurely they do not mean to suggest that the exhibit ought tohave been unselective and reported everything that could besaid or known about African history and culture down to thelast detail when they say "impartial and objective". If theirinterest were in mounting an exhibition about Africa thatcelebrated African cultures in order to generate a sense ofpride in Canadians of African descent in their culturalheritage and promote a positive image of Africa in thecommunity, then they might well have been selective and notdepicted, for example, despotic African leaders, butfocussed instead upon the more positive elements of Africanculture. We need to recognize that "incompleteness" andselectivity are not in themselves grounds for charging anexhibition with irresponsibility or the failure to produce agood representation of the past.The critics of the ROM exhibit were not, then,arguing for a detached scholarship that is simply concerned122factual truth, but indeed would agree with Nietzsche thathistory needs to be seen as relevant and influential. Theirconcern with "getting it right" when it comes to therepresentation of Africa and Africans is not simply a matterof ensuring faithfulness to the facts for the sake of pureknowledge. Instead, their need to interpret and judgehistory is to redress and overcome the problems of racism andblack oppression by whites. The correctness of arepresentation or understanding of the past, then, cannot beregarded as necessarily hinging on the possession andproduction of "objective" facts and information about history,but upon knowledge and judgement of a different order.As we have seen, the worry over the representationof the history of Africa by those who are not members of theblack community stems from the belief that whites aredetermined by their tradition and therefore cannot help butread black culture and history in ways that are stereotypicaland racist. However, if the ability to judge whether anaspect of the past or a representation of blacks is racist andthe capacity to interpret black culture in a way that is notracist belonged only to blacks, then we would have to saythat there could never be any end to racism regardless ofwhether blacks represent themselves.We would hope, rather, that whites too werecapable of re-examining their tradition, addressing the issueof racism and showing concern for the suffering of others,and indeed of recognizing this as their responsibility. We123need to see that African culture and history is of relevancenot simply to blacks but to whites, such as the curator ofthe ROM exhibition, as well. The need of whites to speak tothe issue of racism and to celebrate African culture,however, may be quite different from, yet no less validthan, that of blacks. The need to speak to this history forwhites is not to engender a sense of pride in themselves andtheir tradition, but perhaps to acknowledge the errors oftheir ancestors and ask for forgiveness from blacks in thehope of establishing a more positive relationship among blacksand whites.IV. Nietzsche's monumental, antiquarian and critical modes ofhistorical representationNietzsche formulates three distinct but interrelated"modes of intercourse" with history, that relate to and servelife by cultivating the past and in different ways dependingupon the needs, purposes and circumstances of living andacting beings: a monumental, an antiquarian and a criticalhistory. The monumental mode of history pertains to the needsof one "who acts and strives", to the "man of action", tothe creator of great works and performer of great deeds; theantiquarian relates to living man as "a being who preservesand reveres", who celebrates the past, takes pride in hisheritage and tends the local and familiar; and the criticalto a being "who suffers and seeks deliverance" from injusticeand oppression and whose task becomes that of destroying what124is harmful or of no value to a good life. (Nietzsche, ibid:67)Nietzsche's monumental, antiquarian and critical orientationstoward the past can be understood as exemplifying bothdiffering kinds of relationships to historical and culturalinfluence and ways of interpreting, judging or participatingin a conversation with the past representing the social actoror interlocutor acting and speaking in different modes.While Nietzsche sees this three-fold relationship tohistory as necessary to life and action, each mode has itsplace and its limits and each must be exercised in dueproportion. Any one of these modes can endanger life andinhibit action when taken to extremes in an individual, anation or a culture so that it comes to overpower the othermodes, when it is inappropriate to the circumstances, orexercised without the relevant need or interest. In thespirit of Aristotlean analysis, then, we need to see thatthe three modes each require attention to proportion and a"mean", while each has the potential of becoming excessive ordeficient in an individual or community.For Nietzsche a good relationship to cultural andhistorical representation (i.e. to the speech of an "other"),involves the recognition that we need to open ourselves up toinfluence in such a way that we allow ourselves to beinfluenced at times, and to exercise our own influence atothers. The issue thus becomes judging the sort ofrelationship to influence that is required in a givensituation, rather than one of applying rules or strictures125for controlling the representation of history and culture soas to produce the desired outcome.The antiquarian and monumental modes of representionstand in a positive relationship to the influence of traditioninsofar as the former embodies a sense of veneration towardthe past and a desire to uphold and preserve the tradition,and the latter seeks inspiration from the models provided bygreat historical works or figures. The critical mode, on theother hand, represents a negative response to influence and acritical evaluation of the past in that it condemns, rejectsand strives to overcome elements of the tradition that itdeems unjust and not worth preserving.The antiquarian looks to the past with "love andloyalty". "By tending with care that which has existed fromold, he wants to preserve for those who shall come intoexistence after him the conditions under which he himself cameinto existence - and thus he serves life", writes Nietzsche(ibid:73). MacDonald and Alsford speak in an antiquarianspirit when they say that the museum is valuable inengendering a "sense of continuity and enduring identity" andfulfills the need to identify oneself according to one'scultural roots. (MacDonald and Alsford, 1989:39) It is in anantiquarian mode that one takes pride in one's heritage andstrives to preserve the objects, customs, habits andconventions that have been passed on to one. Representingone's culture or history with a sense of pride, we need tonote, is not a matter of adopting an "impartial" or126"objective" position with respect to history or a question ofan unbiased and accurate reporting of the facts, but ofimparting a certain significance or value to historicalevents, facts or objects that is not immediate or inherent inthem.6Nietzsche writes that the antiquarian sense of anindividual, nation or a people evokes a feeling of securityand certainty through the recognition that "one is not whollyaccidental and arbitrary but grown out of the past as itsheir, flower and fruit" (ibid:74). It is through anantiquarian orientation toward history and culture that onegains a sense of belonging, place, or membership within acommunity. But it is not as though the sense that aparticular tradition or community belongs to one is simplygiven prior to one's engagement of the tradition, as we haveargued. Those who protested against the ROM exhibit byarguing that whites have no right to depict a history andculture to which they do not belong, assume that the Africantradition automatically belongs to any black living anywherein the world. The blacks in Toronto who formed the CFTA,(many of whom were of Carribean ancestory as we noted),indeed identified and understood themselves in terms of their6 In a similar vein, we might note that when Malcom X andother participants in the negritude movement encouraged blacksto take pride in their race and heritage by reversing thenegative value that had been attitributed to blackness bywhites, they were clearly not speaking about "facts". Thereis nothing inherent in the colours black or white that wouldsuggest something beautiful and to be proud of or somethingevil and to be rejected.127African roots. However, there may well be contemporary blackCanadians for whom this historical tradition means verylittle, who reject their African heritage and view themselvesas having only a contemporary identity, or who see themselvesas connected more strongly to, say, the culture and historyof blacks in the United States or the Carribean than toAfrica. The antiquarian sense, - the sense that one belongsto a particular tradition and an understanding of what thathistory means to one, - has to be cultivated.Taken up in slightly different terms, theantiquarian sense of history, in that it reminds one that oneis not "accidental" but is "grown out of the past as itsheir", represents an acknowledgement of our relationship andconnection to a "world" that precedes us or a recognition ofthe fact that the history of our own lives is bound up with alarger social narrative, to recall our discussion of Arendt'snotion of the public sphere and the phemonenon of embeddednarratives. In sociological terms, the antiquariancorresponds to the world of commonsense, or an "alreadyinterpreted world", from which we take our bearings whencoming to an understanding of ourselves or people and thingsaround us. With the loss of this world, we would be cut fromour moorings and set adrift to be tossed about upon aturbulent sea of changing images, fleeting impressions andshifting identities. Tradition, seen in an antiquariansense, provides a framework for understanding, or startingpoint for action and speech.128The critics of cultural appropriation argue it isprecisely because the understandings of whites are filteredthrough their tradition that they ought not have representedthe history and culture of Africa in the ROM exhibition,since this leads to a distortion of truth. However, we needto see that, first, the mere fact that one begins tointerpret any history or culture, including one's own, byappropriating concepts and understandings from a traditioncannot itself constitute grounds for arguing against therepresentation of African history by whites, for theunderstandings and interpretations of blacks are also filteredthrough a particular tradition. Secondly, it is not asthough our tradition imposes itself upon us in such a way asto determine the whole of our understanding of the world sothat there is no longer the possibility of our being open toanything beyond its limits. Without the tradition or a worldthat precedes us, however, there would never be any placefrom which to begin to interpret the world.Nietzsche warns that the antiquarian sense containswithin it a tendency to be undiscriminating toward history andto treat everything within the tradition as equally importantand therefore equally worth conserving. Were the antiquariantaken to an extreme in an individual or community, too muchattention would be paid to trivial aspects of the past thatare of incidental importance to life, and even elementswithin the tradition that are unjust or detrimental to a goodlife and that ought to be done away with or modified would be129revered and preserved. When the antiquarian "no longerconserves life but mummifies it", writes Nietzsche, andmakes a "cult" out of the tradition, when it becomes allencompassing, it "paralyses action" and smothers life(ibid:75). We can see, for example, how Africandictatorships or something like the destruction of wholenations of people by the Europeans during the period ofcolonialism are hardly aspects of black and white traditionsworth taking pride in and reproducing for future generations.Since the antiquarian is oriented only toward preservation andsince it does not move beyond the narrow horizons provided bythe local and particular, we require as well a criticalhistory that judges and condemns, and a monumental historythat embodies the spirit of creation and the ability to extendone's vision beyond the limits of the local and recognizefuture possibilities in that which the past has madeavailable. We might see the extreme version of an antiquarianactor as one who is inflexible, closed-minded, ultra-conservative and unreflective, or as one who blindly anddogmatically holds to the tradition, to received views andprejudices, and is unable to incorporate new ideas. Theextreme antiquarian is perhaps too open to the influence ofhis local tradition, yet too closed or narrowminded towardthe influence of new ways of understanding and acting evolvingin the present or provided by other cultural traditions.Nietzsche's critic sees the need to change certainconditions that have been inherited through the tradition and130regards the past as an oppressive burden that must be thrownoff at any cost. Again, the critic is not "impartial" or"unbiased" in his representation of history. It is the case,rather, that he is mercilessly biased against it. Criticalhistory reflects upon the past, holds it up for judgement andruthlessly does away with those elements of the tradition thatare unjust or harmful to life in order to establish a betterworld in the present. While it is impossible to break free ofthe past completely, we can, as Nietzsche claims, confrontand battle against our "inborn heritage" or "inherited andhereditary nature" by attempting to replace old habits ofthinking and acting with new ones and establishing withinourselves a "second nature, so that our first nature withersaway" (ibid:76). Critical history, in Nietzsche's words,"is an attempt to give oneself, as it were a posteriori, apast in which one would like to originate in opposition tothat in which one did originate" (ibid:76). The critic "askshimself why he was for so long the fool of the phrases andopinions of others" (ibid:64) and begins to reformulate theterms upon which he will live, or to establish a newbeginning, a new foundation for thought and action. Thecritic, as one who strives to be original, thus appears as aversion of an Arendtian actor rather than a behaving anddetermined being.Nietzsche's critic, then, offers an alternative tothe understanding that we read culture and history passivelyas though we were "drinking from a well". We are not bound to131accept the tradition or presentations of history and culturethat appear in museums, though there may be persons whochoose to behave as though this were truth. To those whoclaim that the way we read or represent history and culture is"determined" by the tradition to which we belong and fear thatwhites will produce racist representations of blacks sincetheir tradition involves racism, and to those who view themuseum as a "powerful identity defining machine" or anideological tool transmitting values, beliefs and attitudesto a passive audience, an extreme antiquarianist orientationtoward history and historical representation appears as theonly available option. If this were true, then we would haveto say that social change of any kind is an impossibility aswe would all be locked into an endless repetition of thegiven. While the critics of cultural appropriation and thosewho protested against the ROM exhibition's depiction ofAfrican history from a white perspective seem to believe thatour views, identities, understandings and representationsare determined by "background" or by what appears in museums,their very ability to criticize the views and understandingsof history represented by the white colonists would suggestotherwise. The fact that, as we recall, criticism ofcolonialism and the understandings of the white colonistsdepicted in the show came from both blacks and whites withinthe community itself demonstrates that whites are capable ofreflecting critically upon their history and offering132alternative interpretations of black culture to those givenwithin the white tradition.If we allow for the possibility of criticism andchange, (as do the critics of the ROM exhibition and culturalappropriation when they place their faith in the fact thatracism is something that can be overcome), an antiquarianstance toward history and culture or what appears in a museumtherefore has to be regarded as representing a choice.Acceptance needs to be understood as a consciously chosencourse of action for which individuals may be held accountableand asked to give reasons. An individual may choose to act inan antiquarian mode and accept the terms offered by aparticular tradition, the historical identity he hasinherited, or the version of history and culture he ispresented with in a museum exhibition, but he can also chooseto resist and rebel against them and accept alternatives.Such a decision involves examining the tradition or the textitself, exercising good judgement and understanding what isworthwhile, right and just, not merely the possession orproduction of expert knowledge.If the need to represent African and colonialhistory is to criticize racist attitudes and to overcome theoppression and degradation of blacks, (or to offer anantiquarian or monumental version of African history andculture), then the issue is not simply one of possessingaccurate knowledge and information about blacks but ofunderstanding what it means to be racist. It is not as though133we need to know everything there is to know about blackhistory in order not to be racist in our treatment orrepresentation of blacks or to know that the colonists'representation of blacks is derogatory and racist.The issues raised here, as we suggested in theintroductory chapter, are by no means limited to ethnology,the museum or the representation of blacks by whites, butrelate to relations among other ethnic groups, to such asproblems as sexism and the relationship between men and women,or to the relationship between individual selves withinsocially defined groups or larger communities. Good conductin our everyday encounters with individuals does not dependupon our complete knowledge of their biographies or on beingprovided with all of the information that could be given aboutthem; it requires, instead, an understanding of what itmeans to act well toward our fellow citizens. We shall returnto this question in the conclusion, but for now it needs tobe said that it is not the privilege of any one group orindividual to set down the guidelines for acting orrepresenting well once and for all, as though such a questioncould be solved in advance of action and outside the companyof others, and nor does it depend simply upon a knowledge offacts or the possession of information.Nietzsche's critic does not seek merely to "purifythe well of knowledge" by ensuring the accuracy of historicalrepresentation. If criticism is to serve life, its goal mustnot be simply the production of accurate knowledge for the134sake of scholarship but to produce an effect upon action. Theaim of criticism, in Nietzsche's view, is not merely amatter of gathering the facts and setting the record straighton history, but of affecting change. The only "effects" orconsequences generated by a criticism that is solely concernedwith factual accuracy or "correct" knowledge, but which doesnot relate to or have consequences for those engaged in lifeitself, he says, is an endless chain of critiques. Arepresentation is criticized, its faults exposed and it issupplanted by another version which is believed to be moretrue and more correct."The work never produces an effect but only another'critique'; and the critique itself produces no effecteither, but again only further critique.. .At bottom,however, even given this kind of 'effect' everythingremains as it was: people have some new thing to chatterabout for a while, and then something newer still, and inthe meantime go on doing what they have always done"(ibid:87).There is a kind of insincerity or hypocrisy in a criticismwhich produces no affect upon action. Regarded in Nietzsche'sterms, criticism that aimed toward "political correctness" orrepresenting histories and cultures "correctly" would gobeyond ensuring that an account of history contained accuratefacts and information or that speech were descriptivelyaccurate. We can, for example, imagine the most"politically correct" of critics, collecting the facts abouta culture and replacing representation after representation orterm after term with newer and more correct, supposedly more'just' terms by which to describe people, things and eventswhile continuing to commit the most atrocious acts of135injustice against the people he describes and failing to seethat his speech does little justice to anyone or anything.Such a critic would be like a religious man who is moreconcerned with ensuring that the interpretation of hisreligion is "correct" down to the letter than with how heactually lives his life.To be clear, we are not suggesting that theprotestors against the ROM exhibition were arguing for ascholarly criticism that is detached from life and is aimedsolely at producing accurate knowledge, although this doesindeed appear to be what they are calling for when they arguethat a representation of Africa and African history ought tobe "complete and impartial". We can see that, likeNietzsche, they recognize the need for a critical historywhich is relevant to life and action and which serves toaffect social change. What they are arguing for is acriticism that seeks to reinterpret African culture andhistory from a perspective that strikes at the historicalroots of racism and strives to eradicate this aspect of thetradition. They are, however, claiming that this history isof relevance only to blacks, to the ancestors of the"victims", rather than to the contemporary Canadian communityand the ancestors of the "oppressors", and that the need andability to criticize and represent it belongs to blacks alone.However, if we are to change racist and bigoted attitudestoward blacks, whites too would have to recognize therelevance of the history of colonialism in Africa to their136lives and to be capable of criticizing this history andreinterpreting African culture.There is an irony at work in much contemporarydiscourse that seeks to criticize the tradition which needs tobe examined. Critical history, just as antiquarianism, mayas well be carried to an extreme and, as Nietzsche warns,regarding the past critically is always a dangerous process,for "it is hard to know the limit to the denial of the past"(ibid:76). While Nietzsche was responding to what he saw asan overwhelming preoccupation with history, our own age isindeed hyper-critical to the point where any suggestion ofupholding tradition or, as we pointed out, accepting theauthority of what is presented in an established institutionsuch as the museum is regarded with profound scepticism andsuspicion. The trend seems to be not simply to regard partsof the past, or elements of a historical work critically,(as a balanced version of Nietzsche's critic would), but toattempt to overthrow the whole of one's history or to dismissand throw out an entire work. This sort of logic is behindthe kind of argument, which is prevalent these days, thatsays because the ancient Athenians practiced slavery orbecause the great Chinese philosophers represented women asmeek and inferior to men, we ought not read Plato orConfucius and their works should be removed from educationalinstitutions and libraries. In a sense we might read thecriticism launched at cultural appropriation in the same way:because white history includes the history of oppression and137colonization of other nations we should not accept anyrepresentation of history that comes from within a whitetradition.While the critic upholds the good of criticizing thetradition, an extreme version of the critical actorironically closes off the possibility for future criticism ofthe world he creates and originates in the present. Thecritic who claims to have disposed of the injustices of thepast and established the foundation for the most just andrightful way of living or who believes that he has arrived atthe correct representation of history and culture, would haveto argue that his version requires no further review and oughtto be reproduced ad nauseum. He becomes as resistant to andfearful of change as the extreme antiquarianist though heseeks certainty through a future that is continuous withhimself or the present, rather than with a past. In writingabout contemporary quarrels with the canon, Turner notes that"a present that understands itself as self-originating can seeno more in the future than a fulfillment of what is alreadyknown and immediate. Thus the Contemporary [or the extremistcritic], disposing of the tradition in favour of the "new",dreads a future that contains surprises (i.e. is not anextrapolation of some final version of the "new" authored bythe present)" (Turner, 1990:21). In claiming to be self-defining or self-originating, the critic cuts himself offfrom a dialogue with others by regarding his own views and138understandings as immune to criticism, review, rejection ormodification.In certain respects, those who protested againstthe ROM exhibition and the representation of African cultureby whites, appear similar to Nietzsche's extreme critic intheir argument that contemporary blacks possess the correctinterpretation of the history of Africa. In a sense, whatthey are saying is that their understanding of the traditionand the standard for representing it is settled, as thoughwhat the tradition means, what representing and acting wellmean, were no longer open to evaluation. For Nietzsche,however, this would spell the death of the tradition, atermination of its influence upon action or consequentiality,and the end for our need to represent it. Along Nietzscheanlines, MacIntyre argues that "[t]raditions, when vital,embody continuities of conflict" (MacIntyre, 1984:222). "Aliving tradition", he writes, is an historically extended,socially embodied argument" (ibid). As we have suggested,the critics of appropriation want to end this argument byhaving the last word.Although contemporary thinking regards scepticismand the rejection of the authority of tradition or of theviews of others as a sign of enlightened maturity, and whileblindly accepting anything that is given to one may perhaps besaid to be naive and infantile, we need to see that criticalreflection does not preclude acceptance, and acceptance doesnot signal a lack of maturity or an incapacity for good139judgement. "A person who comes of age", says Gadamer, "neednot - but he also from insight can - take possession of whathe has obediently followed" (Gadamer, 1967:34). Mature,critical thinking depends not simply on the ability to judgewhat ought to be done away with, but what ought to bepreserved. This is to say that good judgement presupposes notonly a recognition of injustices of the past and the need topose limits upon the influence of tradition, but arecognition of the injustices of an unfettered criticalhistory and the limits to criticism. For Gadamer, criticalreflection does not always lead to rejection. "The realquestion", he asks rhetorically,"is whether one sees the function of reflection asbringing something to awareness in order to confront whatis in fact accepted with other possibilities - so thatone can either throw it out or reject the otherpossibilities and accept what the tradition de facto ispresenting - or whether bring something to awarenessalways dissolves what one has previously accepted" (ibid:34, italics in original).Reflecting upon the tradition or a representation of historymay lead to its rejection, transformation or acceptance. Inany event, reflection means acknowledging rather thandismissing one's attachment to a tradition or the speech ofothers, and making a conscious choice as to the mode by whichone orients toward the tradition, toward influence.Insofar as a critical history represents a rebellionagainst the tradition and attempts to establish a newfoundation in the present, its goals correspond to those ofauthenticity for as Taylor points out, "authenticity involvesoriginality, it demands a revolt against convention" (Taylor,1401991:65). As we have said, authenticity provides a way ofseeing that we are not "imprisoned" within the circumstancesinto which we are born, but are capable of making adifference or being influential. This does not mean,however, that we ought to think of ourselves as completelyself-determining, for as Nietzsche points out, it would be amistake to think that we can cut ourselves off from the pastcompletely, "for since we are the outcome of earliergenerations, we are also the outcome of their aberrations,passions and errors, and indeed of their crimes; it is notpossible wholly to free oneself from this chain" (Nietzsche,ibid:76). A purely autonomous and self-determining self,that is one without a sense that his "story" is embeddedwithin and part of a narrative or narratives that precede him,is what MacIntyre calls "a self that can have no history"(MacIntyre, 1984:221).As MacIntyre notes, a sense that one is divorcedfrom the tradition and therefore from historical roles andresponsibilities leads to the kind of individualist attitudeheld by Americans who "deny any responsibility for the effectof slavery upon black Americans by saying 'I never owned anyslaves'" (ibid:220). By contrast, a narrative understandingof the self, or one that maintains some element of theantiquarian orientation, understands that our identities andresponsibilities are formed in relation to a tradition, to a"world" in Arendt's terminology, through which we inherit "avariety of debts, inheritances, rightful expectations and141obligations" that are constitutive of the moral particularityand starting point of our lives. (see ibid:220)Recognizing that we are the bearers of a traditionor that the "sins of the father are visited upon the son" doesnot mean, however, that we are bound to reproduce the moralframework or crimes and passions of our forefathers, as anextreme version of the antiquarian actor might. As Maclntyrepoints out, "the fact that the self has to find its moralidentity in and through its membership in communities [or atradition)... does not entail that the self has to accept themoral limitations of the particularity of those forms ofcommunity". "Without those moral particularities to beginfrom", he writes however, "there would never be anywhere tobegin" (ibid:221).The need of a white curator, such as Cannizzo, torepresent white involvement in the colonization of Africamight be seen as the need for whites to reflect upon theirhistory and be reminded rather than forgetful of theirconnection to a tradition that involved racism and brutalitytoward others and of their debt to those of African ancestry.Criticizing the views of our white ancestors and representingAfrican cultures in the manner of an antiquarian spirit, thatis celebrating their magnificence, might generously beunderstood as a desire to ask for forgiveness fromcontemporary blacks and a promise to change racist attitudesand negative interpretations of black culture in the present,142thereby opening up the possibility for a friendlierrelationship between the members of these cultures.7Nietzsche speaks of our need for a monumental modeof history in addition to those of a critical and antiquarianhistorical representation. While the critic resists orrejects and the antiquarian embraces and reproduces the given,a monumental history engenders the spirit of creation andtransformation. Monumental history serves those who strive toproduce something great and worthwhile. It expresses a faithin humanity in its celebration of the human capacity forexcellence and achievement or the "potential greatness ofmankind", to use the words used by both Arendt and Nietzsche.Arendt and Nietzsche understand the "greatness of mankind" tobe exemplified in the "great works" and the heroic deeds ofmen of distinction, but we can also understand the "potentialgreatness of mankind" in a more basic sense as simply thehuman capacity for action and creation.The monumental actor might be said to stand in adialectical relationship toward historical representation inthat he is open to the influence of what is given and istransformed by it, yet through the exercise of his owninfluence transforms and creates something new out of it. InNietzsche's terms, he seeks inspiration in the "role models"provided by great figures and works from the past in order tocreate greatness in the present, which in turn will inspire7 See Arendt, 1958 for a powerful account of the importance offorgiveness and promise to political life.143and influence others who come after him. Though he beginswith the model the monumental actor does not simply conform toit and so might thus be seen as an "authentic" actor in anArendtian sense, or as one who initiates the new and strivesto cultivate something worthwhile out of given conditions orthe world's resources. In attempting to outline Nietzsche'sunderstanding of the monumental mode, we seem to have gottenslightly off topic and so we need to return and examine theimplications of a monumental mode for the argument againstcultural.Nietzsche's monumental actor represents analternative orientation toward history and texts to that ofthe critics of appropriation who need to know the backgroundof the author before assessing or evaluating the speech. Themonumental actor begins by imitating models and exemplars inhistory but he is not concerned with the conditions underwhich the historical exemplar was brought into being so as toreproduce the model with "icon-like veracity" or to assesswhether the model is worth accepting and following (Nietzsche,ibid:70). He is not interested in the "causes", the socialand historical conditions under which a work was produced,nor in the intentions, motives and understandings of thecreator, but in the "effects" that the work themselves haveupon him. He does not look "behind the speech" in order toexamine the "background" of the speaker, but allows the workitself to speak to and through him. Although inspirationmight indeed be provided by the biography of the author, the144view of the monumental would be to consider this as itselfanother work with "effects in themselves".In a manner of speaking, the monumental actor isthe "appropriator" of culture and history par excellence forhe makes the past (a foreign or alien culture) truly his own.He does not treat a work as anachronistic to his time, oragainst the views of his own age, but recognizes itsrelevance to his own concerns and interests. He is not an"ethnographer" of the past who regards the only meaning andsignificance ofauthor or thosewhich it came.and validity ithe allows it tothe work to lie in that which it had for itswho lived in the culture and society fromHe acknowledges, instead, the significancehas for his own life and situation. That is,speak to him and applies it to himself and hisown life. He finds it has something to say to him that ismeaningful and from which he can learn.Monuments, we might say, belong to particularcultures or groups. Martin Luther King, Bishop Desmond Tutu,the great bronzes of the Benin Empire or the achievements ofancient Egypt are indeed monuments for many blacks and may beseen by whites to be of little relevance to their lives. Butthis is not to say that these monuments have nothing to say tothose belonging to other cultural traditions nor that otherswill fail to understand their "true" meaning. There isnothing to suggest that a white could not understand, beinspired by and appropriate the words and deeds, for example,of Martin Luther King or the great artworks that have been145produced by African culture, though whites may indeedunderstand and be inspired by these monuments in ways that aredifferent from blacks, as might one individual'sinterpretation of them be different from that of another. Itis this difference, however, that the critics of the ROMexhibition dread when they claim that whites will"misunderstand and therefore misrepresent" African culture,while blacks will understand and represent it "correctly".The call for an "authentic" representation of African culture,as we suggested earlier, implies that there could only be onetrue and correct reading of the monuments, and this would beto contradict the very transformative and creative spirit ofmonumentality. To cultivate history in a monumental mode isprecisely to allow for and make a place for difference andchange. Approached in a monumental mode, even monumentalityitself, that is, what constitutes the standard, is open torevision and transformation.To take up Nietzsche's historical modes in somewhatdifferent terms, the various ways of orienting towardinfluence that they represent can be formulated as modes ofinterlocution or ways of engaging in the "conversation ofmankind" corresponding to acceptance, rejection,transformation and contribution. An extreme version of theantiquarian, appears as one who is not a strong evaluator oractive participant in the conversation, but isundiscriminating and is easily influenced into accepting whathe hears regardless of a consideration of its value to life.146He is swept up in the conversation but does not make a strongcontribution to its movement by rejecting the claims that aremade upon him or initiating anything new. He appears as thecultural and historical dupe, so to speak, the "averagemuseum goer" who, on the view of such critics as CarolDuncan, slips into a state of passive receptivity, takes inand is taken in by what those who "control the means" ofrepresentation present him with, or the "average lay person"whom the critics of the ROM exhibition feared would accept andconform to the views of the colonists. As one who perpetuatesthe tradition or the conditions under which he was born, theantiquarian appears, in slightly different terms, as theactor presupposed by those who argue that our "voices", ourspeech, our knowledge, understandings and representations ofculture are wholly determined by our "background". Theunbalanced antiquarian is an inauthentic being, or one who isacted upon but does not himself act, who reflects and repeatswhat is "transmitted" through the representation of history,but initiates no change either within or outside himself.The extreme antiquarian, then, lacks the abilityto judge what is worth accepting and what is not and istherefore open in such a way as to be influenced by everythingthe past or others have to say. "We call peopleinfluenceable", notes Taylor, "when they areundiscriminating as to who [or what] stands...in relation tothem" (Taylor, 1985:275). This does not imply, however,that being open to influence is necessarily a bad thing, for147one may indeed make a conscious decision to accept the claimsof another for good reasons. The alternative to the extremeantiquarian is not to cut oneself off from influence, in themanner of an extreme version of Nietzsche's critic, to ignorethe claims made by the tradition or by others, to refuse tobe an interlocutor and dominate the conversation. As Taylorwrites, "the opposite of the influenceable lightweight maynot be the total monad" (ibid:275), that is, one who isunreceptive to others and demands that his claim beacknowledged as the only rightful claim. Resisting theinfluences or claims of others, of the tradition, does notmean a refusal to engage in the conversation altogether sothat one remains totally unaffected by the viewpoints andopinions of others.The critics of the ROM exhibition viewed theapproach of the curator toward the white tradition asantiquarianist in the extreme sense, yet we need to see thatwhile the curator evoked the voices of colonialism and racismin her representation of African history, it did not meaneither that these voices were hers or that they "spoke forthemselves" or that the viewer had no other choice than toaccept their claims. Instead, by distancing herself from theviews of the colonists through irony, the curator invited theviewer to treat these voices as she treated them, that is,as interlocutors whose claims needed to be critically andreflectively engaged rather than ignored or passively148adopted.8 As well, the exhibit treated the viewers asinterlocutors whom it sought to influence in a critical way.By bringing to mind and representing the colonists'interpretations of African history and culture in an ironictone, and presenting an alternative interpretation throughthe voices that spoke through the African artifacts, theexhibition attempted to exercise its influence and persuadeviewers to reject the viewpoint of the colonialists and chooseto accept the alternative.The antiquarian mode, just as the critical andmonumental, need to be seen as courses of action that areconsciously chosen on the basis of practical judgement or aconsideration of the appropriate orientation that is calledfor given the circumstances and one's present need forrepresenting history and culture. A good relationship towardhistory requires cultivation rather than a complete andaccurate representation of facts and information or knowledgethat is passively acquired through an ethereal attachment to8 In his work on authenticity, Trilling notes that irony is"inauthentic" in the sense that through irony one says onething while implying or meaning another. It is alsoinauthentic if an authentic speech about the other is taken tomean a literal and unaltered representation of the other'spoint of view. Trilling, however, reminds us of theintellectual value of the ironic stance. Irony establishes a"disconnection between the speaker and his interlocutor, orbetween the speaker and that which is spoken about, or evenbetween the speaker and himself" and so enables one to open upa space for analysis and conversation. (Trilling, 1972:120)Irony recognizes, yet does not accept the conditions ofexistence. Though it enables a detachment or distancing fromthe other or from the conditions and so offers a measure offreedom, irony does not turn away from or ignore theconditions or the claims of the other.149social categories; it requires judging what is acceptable andwhat is not. A truly cultured or cultivated person, asArendt remarks, is "one who knows how to choose his companyamong men, among things, among thoughts, in the present aswell as in the past" (Arendt, 1956:226). This is to say thatthe cultured person is selective and discriminating withrespect to influence.Nietzsche's formulation of a historicalrepresentation that is of value to "life and action" helps usto understand that representing, appropriating, influencingand being influenced by what is "foreign" to us is preciselywhat is necessary to a good relationship to history and anideal historical representation. A good relationship tohistory and culture, and indeed a good relationship to othersin general, requires, as Nietzsche puts it, "the capacityto develop out of oneself [or the world that is given to one]in one's own way, to transform and incorporate into oneselfwhat is past and foreign" (ibid:62). "[T]he most powerful andtremendous nature" of a man, a people, a culture, writesNietzsche, is "characterized by the fact that it...would drawto itself and incorporate into itself all the past, its ownand that most foreign to it, and as it were transform it intoblood", or make it its own (ibid:63). Yet an ideal "living"history and a good relationship to the other involves as wellthe recognition of what cannot be incorporated, what isunimportant or harmful to life and needs to be passed over orresisted. Resisting tradition or the views of others,150however, does not imply complete detachment from the world(in an Arendtian sense). As Nietzsche argues, a history thatis not limited but takes in what is not proper to the healthylife of a man, a people or a nation and conversly one that is"too self-centred to enclose its own view within that ofanother will pine away slowly or hasten to its timely end"(ibid:63).The critics of the ROM exhibition, as we have said,also understand that historical representation ought to springfrom a sense of the relevance of history to life and to exertan influence upon action. For them, however, historicalrelevance and the grounds for interpreting, judging andcriticizing the tradition are to be framed in terms ofmembership within a social category formed prior to anengagement with the tradition. Their argument against theappropriation of the history and culture of blacks by whitessuggests that African history and culture is of relevance onlyto those belonging to the category black and that only thosebelonging to this category can truly understand and thereforecorrectly represent this history and culture. The implicationof this argument, as we suggested earlier, is that knowledgeof one's culture and history, knowledge of what it would meanto represent one's tradition well, and even the sense thatone belongs to a particular tradition and the relevance ofthis tradition to one's present circumstances is passivelyacquired and given or settled rather than open to constantreview. We need to see, instead, that the history of one's151life or of one's community is always embedded within and madeintelligible in terms of the histories and viewpoints ofothers; that an understanding of history, what it means tobelong to a tradition and to represent history and culture ina good way requires cultivating - actively engaging,interpreting, judging, or reflecting upon; and that there isa need for whites and, indeed members of other ethnic groupswithin the multicultural collective, not simply for blacks tore-present and recognize the relevance of African history andculture to their lives, actions and self-understanding.152Conclusion: the politics of cultural representation and thevirtues of tact, friendship and civility"Judgement is not so much a faculty as a demand that has to bemade of all. Everyone has enough "sense of the common" - i.e.,judgement - that he can be expected to show a "sense of thecommunity" (Gemeinsinn), genuine moral and civic solidarity,but that means judgement of right and wrong, and a concern forthe "common good"."H.G. Gadamer, Truth and Method, (1989:32)In this thesis I have attempted to problematicizethe notion that representation is something that can and oughtto be controlled so as produce a particular outcome (good orill), by formulating an alternative view of representation tothat which regards it as a means or tool by which cultural andhistorical knowledge and a sense of identity are simplytransmitted or administered. I have suggested that we seerepresentation (reading) as discursive, influential action,as activity that is an end in itself or is "sheer actuality",to use Arendtian terminology, requiring and constituting acommunity of authentic (unique, original, imaginative)speakers and actors. It is not prior to, but in and throughthe act of judging and representing within a common or publicworld that culture and history, a sense of identity,uniqueness and membership become intelligible and become ourown.As I have attempted to argue, tradition, just asother cultures or individuals, stands in relation to us as another, as something alien or foreign to us until we undertakethe work of hermeneutical reflection and make it "our own".If we begin with the understanding that knowledge of history153and culture, and a sense of what consitutes a goodrepresentation, is not simply given to one by virtue ofmembership but requires interpretation and judgement, then wewould also have to say that there is no guarantee that"members" of a cultural group will interpret their historycorrectly and "get the story right" any more than "outsiders"will necessarily interpret it incorrectly. Like any form ofhuman action, representation entails risk: the risk ofsaying and doing the wrong thing, the risk of having to takeback, reformulate or ask for forgiveness for what one hassaid or done, the risk of having one's speech interpreted inways one did not intend, the risk of offending an individualor group. Being unable to predict or control the consequencesof one's speech with certainty does not, however, cancel outone's obligation to make good judgements and strive to speakresponsibly.Our response to the claim that white "outsiders"ought to refrain from appropriating (representing,interpreting) the culture and history of other groups on thegrounds that this leads to inauthentic or misrepresentativeand therefore unethical representation has been thatauthenticity and appropriation need not be seen as opposed toone another. A - sense of "who we are" as unique beings and anunderstanding of culture and history is not achieved inisolation from others but requires our participation in a"conversation" or ongoing dialogue (with our own tradition,the members of our ethnic community, other cultures,154representations, artworks etc.) in which Mankind is engagedand each individual is called upon to take part and invited tocontribute through his imaginative appropriation of the world.Even in "looking inward" and reflecting upon theirexperiences, life histories or cultural traditions from theirparticular or unique perspectives, individuals, groups,peoples and nations are never removed from the influence ofothers or from a common world that provides the resources forboth a sense of particularity and an understanding of themeaning and significance of experiences, historical events,and culture. Nor are they exempted from the responsibilty ofundertaking the difficult work (and risk) of interpretation,judgement and ethical review. The argument againstappropriation and the call for self-representation implies,as we have seen, that the members of a group are in solepossession of the truth about the group's history and culture,and that an understanding of the world, a sense of one'scultural identity and membership, and the standards forrepresentation or what it means to represent and to act wellare achieved and firmly established in advance of acting andrepresenting. In response to these claims, I have tried todevelop what might be called a conversational understanding ofidentity and historical and cultural representation.Conversation or dialogue was for the ancient Greeks,and for thinkers such as Arendt and Oakeshott, whatconstitutes the essence of politics. As Aristotle understood,we do not discuss or deliberate about things that are settled,155agreed upon or known to be true, since the need for dialoguearises when it comes to matters pertaining to human life aboutwhich there is uncertainty and a great diversity of opinions.(Aristotle, 1962:Book VI, 1112b, 5-10) As the Socraticdialogues clearly illustrate, interlocutors seeking to cometo an understanding around an issue or matter of importance tocollective life do not enter into conversation with the truthin hand, nor do they leave with the matter solved once and forall. It is not as though we could arrive at the truth aboutthe meaning of human existence or that questions as to whatconstitutes a just society or the standards for human action(representation) could be deliberated about once, firmlyestablished and subsequently administered regardless of time,place and circumstance.The issue of what it means to represent cultures orindividuals well does not belong to the realm ofadministration or technical control (Arendt's sphere offabrication), but to the realm of politics (action andspeech) and practical judgement. The issue, therefore, isnot a matter of solving the problem of misrepresentationsimply by controlling "who" speaks or ensuring thetruthfulness of the speech through the application of ageneral set of inflexible rules and regulations (i.e.political correctness) that can be applied to every case andcircumstance. This is not to say that authenticity or self-representation are wrong, but to suggest that the issue isjudging when it is appropriate to speak the truth, when it is156appropriate to accept or criticize, when self-representationis legitimate, or when and under which politicalcircumstances speaking as a member of a particular group mightbe called for. Indeed, a degrading portrait of an individualor group may be rejected not upon the grounds that it fails toportray "reality", or on the basis of its authorship but onthe grounds that it is insensitive or inappropriate given thecircumstances or context. By contrast, an editorial cartoonthat presented a degrading or stereotypical portrait of acorrupt politician may not be "realistic" or present all ofthe "facts" about the individual but it may indeed be acceptedas a legitimate and valid representation.The call for authenticity, (as understood by thecritics of appropriation), the desire to set down hard andfast "rules" for correct representation, and the claim thatself-representation by minority groups results in the onlytrue representation of their histories, cultures andidentities appear to close off the possibility fordeliberation and dialogue as these claims translate intohaving the last word. Aside from its historical associationwith the notion of the self-determination of uniqueindividuals against the pressure toward conformity, theconcept of authenticity also has to do with factuality ortruth and so the concept itself also suggests a kind ofclosure of debate. By definition, facts are non-problematicand therefore do not invite discussion from a variety ofperspectives, rather, they demand conformity and consensus,157or require a sameness rather than a plurality among men.While there would scarcely be differing opinions or the needto deliberate over the fact, for example, that Africa wascolonized by the Europeans, there are a mulitude of differentways to evaluate and interpret this event. In "Truth andPolitics" Arendt notes that:" ...factual truth, like all other truth, preemptorilyclaims to be acknowledged and precludes debate, anddebate constitutes the very essence of political life.The modes of thought and communication that deal withtruth, if seen from the political perspective, arenecessarily domineering; they don't take into accountother people's opinions, and taking these into account isthe hallmark of all strictly political thinking" (Arendt,1954:241).We also noted in Chapter Three, that the claim thatthose with the same cultural or social backgrounds can, whilethose who come from different circumstances or culturescannot, understand (read) one another's cultures(representations) similarly undercuts plurality and hence theneed or grounds for speech and action. This claim, if weremember, leads to an impasse in terms of understanding and acacophony of monologues, undermining the very aim ofrepresenting different cultures and histories. Theimplication of the argument is that whites could neverunderstand black representations and vice versa, whichsuggests that blacks should not have been capable ofunderstanding the ROM exhibition since it was curated by awhite and this is patently absurd.It should be clear that the argument developed hereis not a defence of stereotypical and degrading depictions of158minority peoples, nor is it an attack on their concerns, butis an examination of the grounds and assumptions behind thecharge that cultural appropriation or the representation ofthe lives, histories or experiences of the members of oneethnic group from the perspective of another is ipso factoharmful, untruthful and unethical. We are not saying thatcultural appropriation raises no ethical or moral issues, orthat we ought to withold criticism of books such as those ofKinsella and say that anything goes, but the issues it raisesare not problems of "cultural theft", authorship (i.e. aquestion of qualifying to speak about an issue or examine anaspect of history on the grounds of cultural or socialbackground), or a problem of ensuring that the interpreterpossesses and conveys an "accurate" and complete knowledge ofthe facts and realities about the history and culture theyattempt to depict. The issues are, instead, issues ofinterpretation and judgement, of knowing the appropriateorientation toward historical influence or the influence ofrepresentation called for, of knowing when to be anantiquarian, critical or monumental interlocutor.The claim that we need to authenticate speech byexamining credentials and biographies or by looking behind thespeech, as it were, for factors determining its truth(factors that are not thought to be part of the discoursethemselves), rather than accept entrants into theconversation at face value, relieves readers from the anxietyand risk of forming judgements that are based upon a hearing159of the speech and speakers from the task of takingresponsibility for what they say. A conception of reading andrepresenting that understands the meaning of the text to bedisclosed through or emerge from within the text or speechitself, by contrast, asks both reader and writer to accountfor their speech or interpretations. We attempted to placethe acts of reading and writing within a world that providesfor both readers and writers in order to suggest that what thecritics of cultural appropriation consider to be establishedin advance of speech and action - e.g. membership in socialcategories, social circumstances, biographies, identities -need to be regarded as established and rendered intelligiblethrough a common enterprise, or as disclosed and constitutedthrough the acts of speaking and representing within a commonworld. The meaning of a text, an understanding of ourcultures, histories, and identities, the stories of ourlives, can thus be understood to arise out of a conversationbetween readers and writers, between individuals and theirtraditions, between individuals or members of one culturalgroup and members of another.The fear for those against cultural appropriation isthat whites will produce representations of other culturesthat are unjust simply because as "outsiders" they lackadequate knowledge of minority groups and a concern orsensitivity toward members of these groups and will thereforeproduce unjust representation. We have attempted to argueagainst the view that suggests that knowledge or a good160understanding of one's culture and history is given to one byvirtue of membership. We need to say, moreover, that itcannot follow from the mere fact that one is white, from alack of a knowledge of the facts, or from the fact that onehas not experienced what another has experienced, that onewould automatically be insensitive and racist. Viewers andreaders of exhibitions and novels need to be held to judge thework, to recognize and criticize racist interpretations.Good readers, regardless of their knowledge of anotherculture, their background or membership, would judge andreject rather than accept racist representations of others onthe basis of their understanding of what constitutes racismand good conduct, not on the possession of information or"insider" knowledge. There are indeed many ethnic groupsabout which I know nothing, this does not mean I wouldtherefore be racist toward members of these cultures.The ethical and moral issues that the debate raisesare, furthermore, a concern for the collective not simplyfor one sector of the community. The problem of derogatoryimages of minority groups or racism, (which indeed the ROMexibition attempted to address), for example, ought not bethought of as a "black issue" to which blacks alone can speak,but as a community issue. Whites too need to re-interpretblack culture as well as their own tradition with regard toits racism toward blacks.That a white curator such as Cannizzo chose toaddress the issue of racism and the degradation of blacks161during the colonial era demonstated her solidarity with blacksand their concerns and her commitment to speaking on behalf ofthe community good. This solidarity is based not on sharedcharacteristics such as blackness or on shared experience,nor on something as nebulous, and essentially meaningless ina political sense, as "human nature" or the idea that we are,after all, "one family".1 It is instead based upon anopenness and sensitivity toward the other and a sense of civicand moral solidarity.Oakeshott argues for a conception of community as a"society of conversationists", in which distinct and uniqueindividuals (or groups) are brought together and united asmembers through civility, through openness, goodwill and awillingness to enter into a discourse rather than by a commongoal, a common ground, or by sameness (i.e. shared outwardcharacteristics, experiences, understandings, etc.).(Dallmayr, 1984:217) Civility, - which provides a way of1 A typical response to the charge against culturalappropriation as well as the claim that whites ought to takean interest in the culture, the literature, religions andhistories of minority groups (a concern raised in discussionsabout multicultural curricula in universities and colleges)has been that we are all united in our "humanity". Littlediscussion has followed, however, that would illuminate whatis meant by this. In a recent lecture on muliticulturalismbroadcast on Canadian radio, Barbara Erenreich made a claimfor the inclusion of studies about cultures other thanEuropean or North American in American colleges on the groundsthat we are genetically descendant from one woman in Africaand are therefore "one family". She followed this remark bysaying that multiculturalism is not simply about discoveringthe differences among us, but "should also be a way ofdiscovering our common humanity". I take it from thisconnection that she means our common humanity is somethingthat resides in nature.162overcoming the cacophony of monologues or the hermeneuticalimpasse that arises from the grounds underlying the argumentagainst cultural appropriation, - implies both the willingnessof partners in conversation to be open to what the other hasto say, and a sense of tact or practical wisdom.2The issue of what constitutes "correct" or "right"speech is a question of tact or knowing what belongs and whatdoes not. "Getting it right" when it comes to therepresentation of those who have been insulted and injureddoes not rest upon a knowledge of the facts, representingfrom the "member's point of view", or a shared experience ofsuffering, but upon thoughtful and reflective interpretation,phronesis or practical wisdom or judging what is called for inparticular situations and circumstances, and a sensitivity tothe lives, concerns, needs and plights of others. While theROM exhibition was arguably a sensitive and thought-provokingrepresentation of African culture, colonialism and museumpractices, Kinsella's recent novel about the Hobbema Cree aswell as his response to the critics was by contrast what wemight call tactless and flippant. When Kinsella responded tohis critics by saying he could write whatever pleased him, hewas indeed dismissing and closing himself off to the claims,views and needs of others.Northrop Frye illuminates the point we are trying tomake when he writes of the distinction between the language of2 Some of the issues I raise here go beyond the actual scopeof this paper. They do, however, deserve mention and point theway to further study.163imagination (literature) and that which is concerned only withthe conveyance of facts and information. (Frye, 1964:135)Imagination is what our whole social life is based on, heclaims, and it is easy to see this when we consider the factthat a sensitivity and understanding of the plight of anotherdepends not merely upon a knowledge of the facts, nor onknowledge based upon experience (i.e. having shared in theexperiences of suffering, degradation, humiliation withothers), but upOn our ability to imagine and represent toourselves what the other might think and feel. Or, in otherwords, to appropriate and make the other's experience ourown. Appropriation again appears as necessary and valuable tocollective life and understanding, rather than something tobe regretted or avoided.Making what is foreign, - e.g. the other'sexperiences - one's own or attempting to understand another'sculture, does not, however, require that we get inside thehead of another and relive his experiences, to recallGadamer's argument raised in Chapter Three, or that wereproduce his interpretation of his situation. Arendt, whodiscusses the moral and political import of imagination orwhat she calls "representative thinking", points out thatjudging how the other might think and feel does not requirethe abandonment of one's own point of view, nor is itsomething that comes from "direct experience" of theconditions under which the other lives. She illustrates thepoint with the following example:164"Suppose I look at a specific slum dwelling and Iperceive in this particular building the general notionwhich it does not exhibit directly, the notion of povertyand misery. I arrive at this notion by representing tomyself^how I would feel if I had to live there, thatis, I try to think in the place of the slumdweller. Thejudgement I shall come up with will by no meansnecessarily be the same as that of the inhabitants, whomtime and hopelessness may have dulled to the outrage oftheir condition...Furthermore, while I take into accountothers when judging, this does not mean that I conform inmy judgement to those of others, I still speak with myown voice...But my judgement is no longer subjectiveeither." (Arendt, 1982:108 from an unpublished lecturegiven at the New School)One's judgement is no longer subjective because it isformulated through taking account of others and drawing upon aworld that provides for the very notions of poverty andmisery, and because it is addressed to others.As for the claim that a sensitive and ethicaldepiction of the other is one that is truthful, we need torecognize that there may indeed be instances when telling thetruth is itself harmful and insensitive or tactless. ForGordon Allport, whose book on prejudice has become a classic,the main thing when it comes to combatting racism seems to benot a sense of civility, sensitivity or openness, butproviding correct facts and information about the sharedcharacteristics among members of minority groups:"...we must ask", he writes, "may not scientific andfactual instruction contain information unfavorable tominority groups? Yes, it is conceivable that theincidence of evil traits may be higher in one group thanin another...If so, this information should not besuppressed. If we are going after the truth we must goafter the whole of it - not merely the part that iscongenial" (Allport, 1958:452, italics in original).Allport's suggestion that we speak the truth regardless ofwhat our better judgement may tell us is what Arendt would165call an absolute that is "altogether inhuman and unmerciful",a kind of Kantian categorical imperative that "stands abovemen, is decisive in all human affairs, and cannot beinfringed even for the sake of humanity in every sense of thatword" (Arendt, 1960:27).However, here we would want to say, as Frye does,that we are required to speak in a variety of situations, butin no instance is it necessarily "our job to tell the nakedtruth: we realize that even in the truth there are certainthings we can say and certain things we can't say" (ibid:136).Like Socrates' argument at the beginning of The Republicagainst Cephalus who claims that the good and just man is onewho has not lied or deceived anyone, we need to see thatspeaking the truth might sometimes be right and sometimes bewrong. (Plato, Book I, 331b) Frye nicely formulates this whenhe writes:"Society attaches an immense importance to saying theright thing at the right time...Some of the right thingssaid may be only partly true, or they may be so littleof the truth as to be actually hypocritical or false, atleast in the eyes of the Recording Angel. It doesn'tmatter: in society's eyes the virtue of saying the rightthing at the right time is more important than the virtueof telling the whole truth, or sometimes even of tellingthe truth at all...So when Bernard Shaw remarks that atemptation to tell the truth should be just as carefullyconsidered as a temptation to tell a lie, he's pointingto a social standard beyond the merely intellectualstandards of truth and falsehood, which has the power offinal veto, and which only the imagination can grasp"(ibid).Gadamer too suggests that we consider the socialimportance of tactful judgement. "By "tact", Gadamer writes,"we understand a special sensitivity and sensitiveness to166situations and how to behave in them, for which knowledgefrom general principles does not suffice", and sincesituations are changeable, it involves, moreover, aconstant task of "renewed adaptation to new situations"(Gadamer, 1989:16,26). Exercising tact may mean leavingcertain things unsaid, or passing over what one knows to betrue. Tactful judgement or distinguishing between what shouldbe said and what should not is not merely shrewdness or theapplication of general rules, rather it is a moral attitudethat knows what is proper and improper given the particularcase, circumstance or situation in which one speaks. In thesense that it "helps to preserve distance" and "avoids theoffensive, the intrusive, the violation of the intimatesphere of the person", (ibid:16) we might say that tact alsoperserves that space in-between people that constitutes apublic realm while, as a virtue we would associate withcivility, it simultaneously brings people together.Tact, civility, openness, and a receptivity orwillingness to engage other points of view, are what we mightunderstand as the requirements for "friendly" discussion. Inthe ancient Greek understanding, friendship is what providesfor the initial constitution of the polis and was arequirement for its wellbeing, and so it too has implicationsfor a "politics" of representation. Friendship is notgrounded on the absence of conflict or differences, and isnot thought of as something like brotherly love or the ideathat we are "all one family", and indeed this kind of167intimacy, as Arendt notes belongs to the private rather thanpublic realm. What is essential to friendship and unitescitizens in a polis consists in constant discourse: "Indiscourse the political importance of friendship, and thehumaneness peculiar to it, were made manifest" (Arendt,ibid:24). A commitment to the "common good" or to the good ofthe polis then, is a commitment to being open to friendlydiscussion. In our context, this requires, not that we tellthe "truth" about culture and history, prescibe a set ofrules as to "who" can speak about whom or on whose behalf orlimit ourselves to "telling our own story", but that wedisplay a commitment to the polis through our openness toothers and by giving a hearing to various opinions,interpretations or viewpoints. In Aristotle we read thatfriendship enhances our ability to think and to act, but itsendurance requires discourse among men: "a lack of conversespells the end of friendships" (Aristotle, 1962:223,translator's note).As we have tried to illustrate, the end ofdiscourse may come about, not simply as a result ofhostility, disagreement, or a lack of openness to the other.When a single "truth" about the world is insisted upon or whenindividuals are united in consensus around a single view ofthe world, there is indeed no longer the possibility for adiscourse among many voices announcing what each "deemstruth". For Arendt, the assertion of a single truth aboutmatters that properly belong to the realm of human affairs168(the political realm) is "inhuman in the literal sense of theword; but not because it might rouse men against one anotherand separate them. Quite the contrary, it is because itmight have the result that all men would suddenly unite in asingle opinion, so that out of many opinions one wouldemerge, as though not men in their infinite plurality, butman in the singular...were to inhabit the earth" (ibid:30 -31).Regarding representation in terms of Arendt's notionof action and its relationship to a common world andNietzsche's formulation of the different modes of cultivatinghistory and relating to influence, together with aconsideration of the virtues of tact, civility and friendshipprovide us with grounds for a "politics of representation"that are quite different from the bleak vision underlying theclaim that we need to speak for ourselves in order to assertthe truth about our experiences, realities, cultures andhistories. Those who see the need to know and control "whospeaks" and to prohibit speech about one ethnic group bymembers of another understand politics to be no more than astruggle for the power to control or administer the means ofrepresentation and the circulation of "cultural commodities".In an empirical sense, it may well be so that museumexhibitions and other modes of representing history andculture have excluded certain perspectives from appearing inthe public sphere and have been exploited in order to promotethe racist views or self-interests of certain powers within169the community. We are not suggesting that there is no suchthing, for example, as corrupt museums. It may also be truethat there are individuals whose response to what they see inmuseums involves little reflective thought or evaluativejudgement. It does not follow, however, that we aretherefore bound to uphold the image of a society of languagemanipulators or cultural masters and malleable, slavishfollowers, nor that our choices are limited to being theextreme antiquarian or the extreme critic in response to theworld. Our argument is that this vision of community and theactor indeed needs resisting, but not on its own terms.Arguing that the power to control and manage therepresentation of culture be seized from the dominant whiteculture by the oppressed, or that we judge the content of arepresentation on the basis of the author's "credentials" andprevent whites from entering into a discussion about others,is to offer solutions which operate within the self-sameframework of understanding or worldview (i.e. technical,capitalistic, racist) that give rise to the very problemsthemselves. Our mode of response has been, instead, touncover and question the very grounds for conceiving ofculture (representation, discourse) in terms of control,management and administration or, to recall the words ofOakeshott that appear in the epigraph to this paper, in termsof "a hierarchy of voices" and control by "symposiarchs anddoorkeepers". 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