1/24/07

Keeping ourselves unrecognizable

Some comments in response to reading the last several posts about the gazes and languages of this space. First, I wonder about speaking in tongues, which, in my experience of doing this and hearing it as a teenage charismatic in Jerusalem, never involves 'actual' known languages but rather picks up pieces of vocables, fricatives, vowelizings, demi-screaming, mutterings, chants, and much repetition.

So I wonder how Linh's post titled 'speaking in tongues,' and its Nguyen Ducmanh quotations, potentially connects to the concern about English-language hegemony. The problem is multiple and constellated, as you all have been saying. How do we communicate (in limited languages we know) and simultaneously hear the many voices of those who are other to us. How do we gather in and go out. I do think having a primary recourse to otherness – the otherness of ourselves as well – is part of being able to be in good faith with the impossibility of this project of saying and hearing. Speaking in tongues as a gap space in which we observe and participate in the destructuring of set languages to listen to our own and others.

And I wonder how much Linh's hearing recurrent threads involving animism can be an articulated part of this saying and hearing. I don't know if you mean animism as pantheistic (rather than metaphysical, another definitional strand of animism) – but if you do, then it may well be that animism is a part of current attention, though I would put this in the context of those modernisms that Did make room for a certain kind of animism, one attuned to the self-identity/self-sufficiency of words (Stein) or to the contributory cultural affect of objects (so many – those like Riding who, like Calvino and Borges later, wrote in the affective resonance of places, pets, household objects [and this of course recalls Poe, Maturin, Marie de France, others, albeit with differing motivations, since of course Kent rightly wants to point us history-looking too]), and so on.

Given the code hegemony of English, which underlies computing deliveries as surely as the U.S. continues to insist it be the exclusive house for All global servers, thank you very much, this space is permeated by the issues raised by these last several posts. Nor do I think they are resolvable as such, though I think it's valuable to keep reminding ourselves of our limits and importunities. Part of living in what I have taken to calling the digitas, an agglomeration of civitas, finger-typing, and digitalism that brings us to each other here. The digitas is multi-lingual (multi-semiotic), unresolvable (active only in constellation), and animated by many constituent bodies. It is as such at least partly responsive to the issue of translation/invention Larry Venuti points out, as we acknowledge context shifts, time shifts, language shifts, and the value of the difficulty involved in making the speak-leap to what we don't yet recognize.

Lisa Samuels

1 comment:

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Lisa,

By "Speaking in Tongues," I was playing with the word lingua as tongue as language, but also suggesting that individuals like Nguyen Ducmanh (and myself, to a lesser degree) are haunted and harassed by "vocables, fricatives, vowelizings, demi-screaming, mutterings and chants," if you will, in more than one language, none of which we can fully lay claim to. This is true of everybody, obviously, but more blatant and exposed in linguistic mutts like Ducmanh and myself.

To continue with the animism thread, it's interesting to me that Kafka, a German speaking Jew in a new Czech nation, dreamt up a small menagerie of talking and hybrid animals, from an "odradek" to chatty jackals and a celebrity ape who first learnt to spit, then, in a moment of triumph, blurted out, "Hello!" Seeing no place, no future for himself, he could never procreate. I'm talking about Kafka, not the ape, who had, as a companion, "a half-trained little chimpanzee and I take comfort from her as apes do."

The fundamental flaw of this blog is that it has to be filtered through the prism of one language, but that's also the problem with the world in general, made more acute these days with the full spectrum dominance wetdreams of ghastly old men seething inside the Washington DC Beltway.

Linh