Posted by: | March 20, 2009 | Comments Off on Transculturation

I seem to have gotten behind on my blog in the midst of due dates, essays, exams, etc. But better late than never. In Oritz’s article, he brings to light the concept of transculturation, even suggesting that he is the one to coin the term. He poses this term during the rise of peoples growing usage of ‘acculturation’ suggesting that this phrase is too limiting in its scope. He uses the world ‘transculturation’ to “express the highly varied phenomena that have come about in Cuba as a result of the extremely complex transumtations of culture that have taken place here.” He describes that Cuba’s history is defined by a mixing of people, cultures, ideas, etc. The Spaniards mixed with the indigenous populations, killing the majority, but the remainders nonetheless influenced eachother. In description of this, Ortize writes: “A revolutionary upheaval shook the Indian peoples of Cuba, tearing up their institutions by the roots and destorying their lives.” As the slave trade ferociously brought Africans to Cuba, though marked by incredibly injustices perhaps on par with the treatement of indigenous populations, Africans and Africans culture mixed with indigenous and European cultures creating more cultural mixtures. Ortiz feels that ‘transculturation’ is a better way of describing the phenomanon that took place in the way of cultural mixing in Cuba, as the process of transistion from one culture to another does not consist of merely ‘acquiring’ another’s cultures, but is undeniable also the result of an uprooting and loss of previous culture. I agree with him here; cultural mixing is not merely a result of one taking up the ways of another, but is also the result of the loss that comes along with coercion, subordination, and violence in the process.

In response to this, Millington feels that we must examine this term more closely as he feels that it is being overused. He feels that “these terms seek to excercise some critical leverage on the heirarchichal binaries of imperialism/neo-colony, centre/periphery, identity/otherness, which apparently hold Latin America in their iron grip. The sense is that what is produced by transcultuation or hybridisation does not fit within neat binaries, that it straddles, mixes and disrupts.” Millington feels that bunching many terms together under one ‘master term’ is confusing and at times, inaccurate. What I liked most about this article was when Millington puts into question that optimistic views of marginilized sectors of society as a basis of resistance, when he feels that their marginalization is at best an urgent reminder “of what needs to be done.” While on one hand, in looking at marginilized groups throughout history, we do not want to remove their agency and reciliency in maintianing their own culture in the face of oppression, at the same time, is this triviallizing the injustices they underwent and looking upon the situation too optimistically? Is the idea of culture resiliency in the face of oppression too easy and an optimistic of a conclusion? I thought it was interesting that he actually presented a conclusion on how he felt these issues are to be better addressed: “In my view, the best way of redrawing the cultural-political map is not to shrink back into narrow self-affirmations but, on the one hand, to expose what the dominany cultures are and how they work and are transformed…[and] on the other hand, in order to find and define emancipatory spaces we need to continue trying to understand how specific processes of transculturation function…”


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