Traffic in books: Ethnographic fictions of Zora Neale Hurston, Salman Rushdie, Bruce Chatwin, and Ruth Underhill
AuthorWyndham, Karen Louise Smith
AdvisorBarker, Adele M.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation studies the works of four writers who attempt cross-cultural advocacy through writing fiction based upon their fieldwork or other travels. In order to explain cultural differences, however, all four writers inadvertently rely upon the very Orientalist stereotypes, the "ethnographic fictions," which they seek to undermine. Three underlying causes for this dynamic are identified and traced through works by the authors as well as contemporary post-colonial, queer, feminist, and ethnographic interdisciplinary scholarship. First, in order to explain the significance of native cultures in the language of the mainstream or dominant one, cross-cultural advocates must balance novelty with intelligibility. A critique of an epistemology of empire, then, better taps "ethnographic fictions" through mimicry, mockery, and minstrelsy, rather than appealing to abstract, ahistorical universals. Second, Odysseun myths remain a powerful set of presumptions about the relationship between travel, individuality, and empowerment. Yet the idea that freedom and free thought are both the goals and consequences of travel fails to account for the history of pilgrims, refugees, and community-based activists. Third, Orientalism and Anthropology are organized around the idea that sex/gender roles reveal the essence of indigenous cultures. The result is a disproportionate focus upon women's living quarters (harems, zezanas, huts), and indigenous sexuality (berdaches, hijras, shamen). For the four authors, the relationship between advocacy and self-identification is a crucial element. Close reading of the writers' texts reveals how they each seek validation of their sex/gender identities through investigations abroad. As queer, feminist, and/or bi-cultural people, the writers are particularly sensitive to conventions of belonging and exclusion. This study reveals how advocacy and alienation interact in 20th-century literature and scholarship of the Other.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Cultural and Literary Studies