(Re)writing the other/self : autoethnography in the transcultural arena of representation
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Abstract: In Imperial Eyes Mary Louise Pratt (1992: 7, emphasis original) defines autoethnography as "instances in which colonized subjects undertake to represent themselves in ways that engage with the colonizer's own terms ... in response to or in dialogue with . . . metropolitan representations." Although Pratt's conceptualization of autoethnography has much to offer post-colonial studies, it has received little attention in the field. In this thesis, I interrogate Pratt's notion of autoethnography as a theoretical tool for understanding the self-representations of subordinate peoples within transcultural terrains of signification. I argue that autoethnography is a concept that allows us to move beyond some theoretical dualisms, and to recognize the (necessary) coexistence of subordinate peoples' simultaneous accommodation of and resistance to dominant representations of themselves. I suggest that even when autoethnographic expressions seem to rely on or to reproduce dominant knowledges, their very existence as speech acts implicitly resists dominant discourses which objectify members of oppressed populations and re-create them as Native Informants. I use Pratt's concept to analyze two books by Islamic feminist sociologist Fatima Memissi. Memissi's Dreams ofTrespass and Scheherazade Goes West illustrate the simultaneity of accommodation and disruption evident in autoethnographic communication. Across the two books, Memissi shows herself renegotiating the discourses which discipline her (and her speech). She switches back and forth between the positions of reader and author, demonstrates the reciprocity of the disciplinary gaze (she looks back at her dominants, reading their own reading of her representation of her social group), and provides a model of autoethnographic dialogue.