Friday, January 13

recent post on the storytel listserv

Below is a copy of a letter recently (about 15 minutes ago) posted on the storytel listserv about what stories storytellers are allowed to tell: more specifically, are we allowed to tell stories from cultures other than our own?
Pay particular attention to the part in red below.
For those of us of anglo-european ancestry:
Let's be honest about this. Underneath the lofty talk about material that "calls out to our hearts," let's admit that ripping off other cultures IS our cultural heritage. That's what our ancestors have been doing for ages. We are descended from generations of bandits. That is (at least one aspect of) OUR culture.
But a skilled professional thief doesn't just grab something and hock it (that's for amateurs). If he wants to sell it for high value, he has to alter it. Repaint the stolen car and change its license
plates. Reset the stolen jewels.

If we want to tell stories from an alien culture as REPRESENTING that culture, we are acting instead as borrowers -- who must handle the borrowed item so carefully that it could be returned undamaged. This requires learning how to use it properly: culture background &
history, proper pronunciation & use of words, respectful source attributions and permissions etc. Lots of homework.

If we just want to run off with something that appeals to us, face it, we're thieves. Let's at least be professional about it.

who admires Native American powwows where the dancers get to wear the traditional regalia of tribes they belong to by birth, marriage, or adoption -- but no other. It's fun to imagine a Black & White Folks powwow: what regalia would YOU be allowed to wear? This was a BIG question for me for a while. So many of my friends had some serious niche to fall into as storytellers (Like Brenda, my friend who was a civil rights activist and does diversity training, who also happens to be black, or Mary, who has been writing her own music since she was like six minutes old). What was my culture that I brought to the table? Where did I come from that mattered? What were my talents that I could bring into the story with me? So all of this finally led to me focusing on stories for women and encouraging mentoring- or at least that's what I hope to do. But even that doesn't exactly answer the question... I'm a vanilla white-girl who doesn't identify with a culture. But then Brenda (of the above mentioned) reminded me that we all have different experiences growing up and we all come from some sort of culture with traditions and beliefs and ways of thinking that aren't exactly like other people. I come from a church-of-Christ-Dodgen-Sanders-rural-oklahoma-PK culture that has it's own nuances. Did anyone else ever think about this? Chara

1 comment:

stefanie said...

OH yes, yes I have thought about this. And I loved the highlighted part of the letter too... What WOULD I wear? Hmm.

And I think you're totally right that each of us has our own "culture" to draw from, even if it's not a typically recognized one. You and I share the CofC/FHU culture, the PK influence, and the Christian/Theatre culture for example. =)

And, there's nothing wrong or even boring about being a vanilla white girl - we have our stories and shared experiences too. My suspicion is, that as the suburban influence spins out more and more bored white kids, we'll eventually find a more distinctive interesting culture - either that or we'll merge more and more until there is no real white. ;)

Wow. You got me talkin'

your redhead irish/african-american mk/pk freedie friend