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Radical Democracy in N. Scott Momaday’s The Names: A Memoir

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Authors
Huang, Hsinya
Issue Date
2010
Publisher
서울대학교 미국학연구소
Citation
미국학, Vol.33 No.1, pp. 23-48
Keywords
Radical DemocracyNative American WritingNon-elite Cultural ReproductionElitismN. Scott Momaday
Abstract
This article explores the radical democratic discourse in Native American writings, using N. Scott Momaday’s memoir The Names: A Memoir as an anchor text. Drawing on Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s radical democratic vision, I interpret how American democracy constitutes politics itself as a perpetually open project with the contribution from Native people’s everyday life practice and non-elite cultural (re)production: the progressive inclusion of different voices (bloodlines) undermines the fullness of the commonality through which their inclusion was solicited in the first place. The democratic process involves constant movement between confrontation and coalition, between the common and the particular, between public and private, and between the collective and the individual. It rejects elitism and takes dialogues, participation, and communication seriously Specifically, Momaday begins his memoir with a list of generic names, which entails political openness and democratic potential: “animals,” “birds,” “objects,” “forms,” and “sounds.” He ends the same paragraph with the names of his distant Kiowa relatives whereas the name “Kiowa” was a product of the tribe’s interaction and association with an external group of Crows, who named Momaday’s ancestors “coming-out-people,” i.e., “Kiowa.” The enfolding of the inside and the outside blurs / blends the diverse bloodlines as Momaday progresses in his life narrative. In the very next paragraph, he continues to recite names, this time, the Euro-American names in his mother’s linkage. This generations-old coalition of names leads to his act of naming and re-creation. The Kiowa names move alongside the Euro-American names before they finally mingle in his parents. By beginning and ending his memoir with names, Momaday consciously recreates a Kiowa identity, which has long been threatened, ravaged, and almost destroyed by the dominant elite-White culture but continues to sustain itself by weaving together diverse bloodlines, by rejecting the constraint of rationality and categorization, and by blurring the boundary between the inside and the outside, the self and the other. With such openness, Native American authors have long revealed the importance of affinities and non-elite cultural production within the democratic discourse and a promising version of the equivalence that Laclau and Mouffe emphasize so strongly.
ISSN
1229-4381
Language
English
URI
http://hdl.handle.net/10371/88655
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Researcher Institutes (연구소)American Studies Institute (미국학연구소)미국학미국학 Volume 33 Number 1/2 (2010)
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