Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Locating Life Stories

Locating Life Stories: Beyond East-West Binaries in (Auto)Biographical Studies

EDITED BY MAUREEN PERKINS
Copyright Date: 2012
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wqm51
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Locating Life Stories
    Book Description:

    The thirteen essays in this volume come from Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Malaysia, South Africa, and Hawai'i. With a shared focus on the specific local conditions that influence the ways in which life narratives are told, the authors engage with a variety of academic disciplines, including anthropology, history, media studies, and literature, to challenge claims that life writing is an exclusively Western phenomenon. Addressing the common desire to reflect on lived experience, the authors enlist interdisciplinary perspectives to interrogate the range of cultural forms available for representing and understanding lives.Contributors:Maria Faini, Kenneth George, Philip Holden, David T. Hill, Craig Howes, Bryan Kuwada, Kirin Narayan, Maureen Perkins, Peter Read, Tony Simoes da Silva, Mathilda Slabbert, Gerry van Klinken, Pei-yi Wu.30 illus.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3773-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. NEVER THE TWAIN: LIFE WRITING’S GEOGRAPHICAL CONTEXTS
    (pp. 1-14)
    MAUREEN PERKINS

    In today’s globalized, hyper-international, post-migration times, it may seem obvious that Kipling’s claim about East and West no longer holds true. Nevertheless, the East/West split is still widely held to have relevance, not only in popular stereotypes and vague generalizations, but even in academic scholarship across a range of fields, including psychology, literature, and some areas of politics. Witness Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations theory, which posits a West under increasing threat from the “civilization” of Islam. The field of life writing has also at times been prone to make generalizations about whole swathes of humanity, suggesting that “Western” life...

  4. REFUSING THE CULTURAL TURN: AMIR MUHAMMAD’S POLITICS OF SURFACES
    (pp. 15-34)
    PHILIP HOLDEN

    In the last decade and a half, the study of life writing has moved decisively away from its earlier focus on a Euro-American tradition. Summative studies published after the year 2000 register this: Linda Anderson’sAutobiography(2001) still concentrates largely on a Euro-American canon, but incorporates a small sub-chapter on “postcolonial subjects” (114–20). The first edition of Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson’sReading Autobiography, published in the same year, is more radically revisionary, seeing the civilizational criticism of Georg Misch, and later Georges Gusdorf and Karl Weintraub, giving way to more self-reflexive theoretical approaches, and finally to a “third...

  5. LIFE WRITING AND THE MAKING OF COMPANIONABLE OBJECTS: REFLECTIONS ON SUNARYO’S TITIK NADIR
    (pp. 35-54)
    KENNETH M. GEORGE

    This essay explores some of the cultural, political, and ethical work of life writing that goes on in national and transnational art worlds. We commonly think of life writing as forms or fragments of discourse that depict the lives of human actors, and that give actors’ experiences intelligibility, purpose, and recognition. But life writing also plays a part in the making of what I call “companionable objects”—those things with which we have ethical and affective ties. Things, too, can be actors, and mingle with us in our everyday lifeworlds and publics. They, too, gain intelligibility and purpose from life...

  6. “THESE PEOPLE ARE MY PEOPLE, THESE PLACES ARE MY PLACES”: CULTURAL HYBRIDITY AND IDENTITY IN SOUTH AFRICAN ARTIST DAVID KRAMER’S OEUVRE
    (pp. 55-82)
    MATHILDA SLABBERT

    In the introduction toFree-Lancers and Literary Biography in South Africa,Stephen Gray notes that “The practice of literary biography in South Africa is poorly developed, often because uncomplicated nostalgia has to us become inhibited, even taboo. . . . The appalling past has phased into our liberated future” (xii). Published post-apartheid in 1999, Gray’s comment was relevant to most forms of biographical writing in South Africa. A decade later, the local publishing industry bears witness to a marked increase in biographical (and autobiographical) publications. Writings about and by subjects from every arena of life range from glossy, sensationalized celebrity...

  7. UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT: WHITENESS IN POST-APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICAN LIFE WRITING
    (pp. 83-96)
    TONY SIMOES DA SILVA

    Alfred J. Lopez begins his introduction toPostcolonial Whiteness: A Critical Reader on Race and Empireby stating “Whiteness is not, yet we continue for many reasons to act as though it is” (1). He is especially interested in “what happens to whiteness after empire,” and proposes that it be understood as a dynamic relation of power. Despite the critical scrutiny it has attracted from whiteness studies, the racial category retains much of its ideological force. “The concept of whiteness as a cultural hegemon,” Lopez argues, is manifest in “its lingering, if somewhat latent, hegemonic influence over much of the...

  8. MARTIN AMIS, MIMETIC CONTRACTS, AND LIFE WRITING PACTS: A STORY ABOUT 9/11
    (pp. 97-114)
    CRAIG HOWES

    In June of 2006, I attended a conference at Bowdoin College, on the northeast coast of the United States. The closest airport is in Portland, Maine, and I stayed there the night before flying back to Hawai‘i. On the ride in from Bowdoin, a nagging memory led me to ask if Portland was somehow connected to the events of 9/11. “Muhammad Atta and another guy started from here that morning,” the limo driver said. “They stayed at your hotel.”

    My memory was actually of a story by Martin Amis called “The Last Days of Muhammad Atta,” which had appeared in...

  9. HIDDEN HEROES: CULTURAL INTERACTION AND NATIONALISM IN NINETEENTH AND EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY HAWAIIAN BIOGRAPHIES
    (pp. 115-138)
    BRYAN KAMAOLI KUWADA

    On November 27, 1905, the first installment of a serial biography was published in a Honolulu-based newspaper. Alongside it, an editorial called for people to read the biography to know their history better, reminding them that William Gladstone said that the true enlightenment of a race of people is found once the stories of their birthland are known to them. The author of the editorial continued on to say that though we as a nation must continue to move forward in this progressive era, we must still be guided by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s words:

    And, departing, leave behind us

    Footprints...

  10. ETHICS, ORAL HISTORY, AND INTERPRETERS IN THE IRAQ WAR
    (pp. 139-168)
    MARIA FAINI

    From 2008 until 2010 I conducted interviews with US service members and Iraqi interpreters, mostly while they were stationed at Victory Base Complex, one of the US bases near Baghdad.¹ This project resulted in audio recordings that documented testimonies crucial for greater social and historical understandings of the US occupation and US influence abroad. The process was difficult of course, not least because of the cultural differences between my interviewees, specifically the Iraqi interpreters, and me, as I am a US oral historian trained in Western theories and methodologies. Scholarship in history, sociology, anthropology, and oral history has long been...

  11. “DON’T WRITE THIS”: RESEARCHING PROVINCIAL BIOGRAPHIES IN INDONESIA
    (pp. 169-192)
    GERRY VAN KLINKEN

    In the dim coolness of his lounge room he had talked animatedly about many interesting topics in Kupang’s modern history—Chinese shops in the 1950s, schools, newspapers, social rankings in town, civil servants, the Japanese occupation. As I stood up to leave and put away my notebook, the conversation suddenly turned to February and March 1966, the months when the military suppression of the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI) reached its height all over Indonesia. “Don’t write this,” he said. Then he told me: “I was forced to witness five mass executions. PKI members and activists were taken...

  12. BIOGRAPHY IN THE COURT ROOM? FAR FROM A FINAL JUDGMENT
    (pp. 193-214)
    PETER READ

    The Maori scholar Aroha Harris, writing a biography of her grandfather Joe, asked

    Once again I find myself in search of that happy but elusive equilibrium between telling Joe’s story and “doing” history, mining one man’s past for solutions to methodological puzzles: How do I write the hard stuff? How do I academically distinguish between Joe’s emotions, my emotions and the biography? How do I write over and around my own emotional responses? And on the other hand—on the Maori hand—should I? With its appreciation of subjectivity, does Maori scholarship seek some connection. . . . But then,...

  13. WRITING LIVES IN EXILE: AUTOBIOGRAPHIES OF THE INDONESIAN LEFT ABROAD
    (pp. 215-238)
    DAVID T. HILL

    When Major-General Suharto began a pogrom across Indonesia against the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and leftist sympathizers following his rise to power after 1 October 1965, the fate of Indonesians in socialist states abroad also changed irrevocably. Cut off from their homeland, facing detention or execution if they returned, they had little choice but to subsist on support from their hosts, and to seek asylum while attempting to reorganize and establish an international opposition to Suharto’s New Order. With the close of the Cold War, however, host states’ commitment to the exiles weakened. From the mid-1970s, the exiles sought refuge...

  14. LOCAL BOONS: THE MANY LIVES OF FAMILY STORIES
    (pp. 239-258)
    KIRIN NARAYAN

    “Why did she never tell us this?” My stunned aunt Chanda-phui turned to look again at the small, brightly painted Shiva temple in the Kathiawar peninsula of Gujarat, western India. Moments before, a gray haired stranger had ambled in through the temple gate, settled on a ledge, and casually narrated the founding legend of this village temple: a legend that featured Chandaphui’s mother, my grandmother Ba. This soft-spoken man had most likely not imagined that he would be addressing Ba’s descendents to explode over eighty years of silence and unsettle our conceptions of ancestral identity.

    I position this unexpected revelation...

  15. THE JIWEN OF SHEN CHENG FOR HIS DAUGHTER AZHEN
    (pp. 259-262)
    PEI-YI WU

    The practice of jiwen, or libation addresses, was probably universal; when emperors visited sacred mountains, for example, no ceremony would be complete without a jiwen, in which the sovereign paid compliment to the spirit of the sacred place. But a subgroup of jiwen—affective jiwen—are written by a close relative of the dead. Only in these do we see a narrative of the two entwined lives. Affective jiwen can be read as autobiography for the addresser, the speaker, and as biography for the addressee.

    The jiwen of Shen Cheng for his daughter Azhen is the most unusual ever written....

  16. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 263-266)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 267-267)