Radical Democracy in N. Scott Momadays The Names: A Memoir

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Huang, Hsinya

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서울대학교 미국학연구소
미국학, Vol.33 No.1, pp. 23-48
Radical DemocracyNative American WritingNon-elite Cultural ReproductionElitismN. Scott Momaday
This article explores the radical democratic discourse in Native American writings, using N. Scott Momadays memoir The Names: A Memoir as an anchor text. Drawing on Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffes radical democratic vision, I interpret how American democracy constitutes politics itself as a perpetually open project with the contribution from Native peoples 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 tribes interaction and association with an external group of Crows, who named Momadays 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 mothers 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.
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Researcher Institutes (연구소, 연구원)American Studies Institute (미국학연구소)미국학미국학 Volume 33 Number 1/2 (2010)
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