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Cultural Borders

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Abstract This essay is motivated by the question, how might we describe the occurrences of cultural borders? It is organized in three sections with these titles: A. Borders of Concealment and Translation; B. Attunement with Fragmented, Differential Borders; C. Metaphors, Relations of Power, Borderlands. I limit these topics by focusing primarily on cultural borders and transformations within the United States. My aims within the context of these situated accounts are to encourage greater awareness of borders as events that often have shared and describable characteristics, to make evident a group of issues that need further philosophical attention, to develop an enlarged philosophical vocabulary for such thought in comparison to that in standard use, and to bring to the fore questions of cultural sensibility and their transformations. In this process I address and utilize specific works by Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Gloria Anzaldúa.

1. FN11) I will use the term, heart/mind, when I am speaking of what my Chinese colleague called heart. He reported that the character for xin is a heart and added that according to the Oxford English Dictionary the word heart in its early history refers to the “seat of mental or intellectual faculties. Often = understanding, intellect, mind, and (less commonly) memory.” The large Webster’s New International Dictionary (2nd ed.) gives priority to the word’s anatomical and zoological meaning. The ninth definition notes the word’s metaphorical meaning as soul or spirit and notes as well its use as a faculty that is distinct or oppositionally posed to intellect. The twelfth definition is “vital part; secret meaning; real intention.” The thirteenth, “vigorous and efficient activity; power of fertile production; condition of the soil, whether good or bad.” Heart clearly can refer to the most vital part of something. Given its dominant usage today, however, I will often for strategic reasons use the term heart/mind to give added emphasis to the importance of the intimate connection of affective power, disposition, and as Webster’s phrases it, “that from which thought originates.” Heart/mind in the context of this discussion indicates primarily a dimension of a people’s culture rather than a state of consciousness or subjectivity.
2. FN22) All English quotations will be taken from “On the Essence of Truth,”trans. John Sallis, in Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings: From Being and Time to the Task of Thinking, ed. David Farrell Krell, (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 118 (translation altered); hereafter ET. Originally published as Vom Wesen der Wahrheit, Sechste Auflage (Frankfurt a.M., Klostermann, 1954), 6; hereafter WW.
3. FN33) I am giving a reading of some of the sentences in the first section of Heidegger’s essay.
4. FN44) The German reads, “Beide Wesensbegriffe der veritas meinen stets ein Sichrichten nach . . . und denken somit die Wahrheit als Richtigkeit” (WW, 8; ET, 120).
5. FN55) I turn now to parts of Section 2 of Heidegger’s essay.
6. FN66) Bezugsbereich. As a gloss to “a field of opposedness” I will think of the phrase as suggesting a field of differentiation and confronting. Entgegenstehen can mean to confront or to meet as well as to stand opposed. I will think of Bezugsbereich as also a domain of correlation in order to note a quality of complementarity, of bearing reciprocal relations, a certain mutual investment, we could say (ET, 121–22; WW, 11–12).
7. FN77) This section is a reading of parts of Section 3.
8. FN88) ET, 125; WW, 13; translation altered.
9. FN99) Section 6.
10. FN1010) Schmidt, “Truth Be Told: On Homer, Plato, and Heidegger,” in Heidegger and Language, ed. Jeffrey Powell (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, forthcoming).
11. FN1111) Section 7.
12. FN1212) I will use some terms in this section that come from discussions of Fractal mathematics, although nothing that I say will have to do with mathematics or mathematical relations. I will use “self-sameness” as a way of speaking of self-showing in a context that is different from that in Heidegger’s thought.
13. FN1313) J. Derrida, Of Grammatology (Baltimore: The Johns Hopokins University Press, 1974), 36.
14. FN1414) J. Derrida, “Différance,” in Margins of Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972), 3–27; hereafter cited as D. Originally published as “La Difference,” in Marges de la Philosophie (Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1972). The next two paragraphs constitute a reading of the first seven paragraphs of the essay.
15. FN1515) D, 5 (emphasis added).
16. FN1616) The latter sense of to be not identical “produces” an interval, a spacing in its sense, whereas the first sense, that of detour or delay, composes a temporalization as well as a temporization. These are crucial elements in Derrida’s account but they will not play a major role in our different problematic. (See D, 7–8).
17. FN1717) See D, 8n10.
18. FN1818) Ibid., 8–9.
19. FN1919) M. Heidegger, “Aletheia (Heraclitus, Fragment B 16),” in Early Greek Thinking, trans. D. F. Krell and F. A. Capuzzi (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), 113, 109.
20. FN2020) I have in mind, for example, instances like that of Rosa Parks’ attunement with her culture’s deep anger over its oppression and with a growing preparedness to oppose the pervasive racism of the culture that oppressed people of color. Her action on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, struck a chord of profound resonance that had enormous cultural consequences. We can find examples of many, many transformative actions taken by individuals in the arts and in other areas of cultural life. Those actions arise out of the kind of attunement I am pointing out. There are also, as I have emphasized, transformations that arise out of cultural encounters and the effects of multiple, small, and contingent changes over which there is no voluntary control.
21. FN2121) Wallace Stevens, “The Motive for Metaphor,” from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 288. ©1954 by Wallace Stevens and renewed in 1982 by Holly Stevens. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
22. FN2222) This essay was first published in English in Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, ed. Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983). I will refer to the more recent publication in which the article appears: Michel Foucault: Power, vol. 3 of Essential Works of Foucault 1954–1984, ed. James D. Faubion (New York: The New Press, 1997), 326–48; hereafter cited as SP.
23. FN2323) Ibid., 289–90.
24. FN2424) I am referring here to an unpublished paper by Alejandro Vallega, “Race, Colonality, and Thought from Latin American Perspective,” as well as to numerous conversations I have had with him.
25. FN2525) In this account, Foucault is talking about relations of power in societies of seemingly self-directed people. Situations of thorough disempowerment like enslavement and complete bondage or radical deprivation would require a very different approach. In those instances, questions of relations of power could be raised in connection with the formation, purposes, and administrations of the institutions that disempower people and destroy any semblance of relations of power.
26. FN2626) Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands: La Frontera: The New Mestiza (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987); hereafter cited as B.
27. FN2727) B, 65.

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Affiliations: 1: Vanderbilt University


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