Privilege in transcultural writing?:

Total posts: [42]
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1 MorwenEdhelwen2nd Oct 2012 05:54:22 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
As a POC (Chinese Australian) writing two stories set in other cultures (Afro-Cuban and Native North American), I'm wondering if privilege still plays a part in transcultural writing if you are writing about another culture but in a sense "writing what you know" for other troper writers.

I've experienced very little racism and grown up relatively affluently. OTOH my mum did not. My aunt had to leave school to work to support her family, by working for other families in their Malaysian village. I haven't been to Cuba yet, but I incorporated some of what I heard into descriptions of Che's life in the bohio in Cuba Libre. Besides, I lived in Singapore, so I know the general details of what it is like to live on a tropical island with a somewhat authoritarian government and also had relatives who worked on plantations, and like Che, I have a physical disability, cerebral palsy which affects both of my legs, not a club foot. And I once had asthma. My father's often away for work-related reasons, like in TNWA.

So does a persoon's experience of a particular culture affect their story in different ways? Does privilege affect transcultural writing?

edited 2nd Oct '12 10:46:05 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
I'm not sure what you're asking. There are too many small questions.
3 MorwenEdhelwen2nd Oct 2012 10:40:52 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
OK, here's the question: "Does privilege and lack of experience of a place/culture affect transcultural writing?"

edited 2nd Oct '12 10:41:54 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
If you are bothered by writing of differently privileged people from cultures that you have no personal experience with, then it's really just a question of 1) how much research you're willing to do and 2) how well you use the research to further your story. "Write what you know" can also be flipped around to "know what you write". As long as you're respectful, no one really minds.
5 MorwenEdhelwen3rd Oct 2012 01:41:54 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@Leradny: TBH, I'm not worried. I'm just interested in people's opinions on whether a writer's privilege affects transcultural writing.
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
6 CleverPun3rd Oct 2012 02:20:37 AM from Monterey, California
Would not walk 500 miles
I'm in the middle of a class on diversity and here's the short answer as they teach it: Yes, it affects everything you do.

As a writer I'd be wary of writing about any subject I was intrinsically unfamiliar with, regardless of its type. I'd also second Leradny's advice- research can fill in gaps in knowledge, provided you are willing to do it.
7 MorwenEdhelwen3rd Oct 2012 02:40:45 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@Clever Pun: What do you mean by "intrinsically unfamiliar"? Can you explain?

I am familiar with the situations that drive the plots of what I'm writing now. I may not have been to Cuba, but I've got a pretty good idea of how it feels like to live in an island country with an authoritarian government. Basically, you know what the government's doing. It's there, but you don't really notice it because it's just a part of your daily life. I'm pretty sure most Cubans are aware of the government being authoritarian. Who cares about government when you have to survive?

And oh yeah, I may not be a Christian or an Aleut/Yup'ik like Alexa, but I'm pretty Westernised, so I know what it feels like to understand your native language and not be able to speak it, and to feel disconnected from your culture. In my experience, you feel weird and are hyper-aware of the fact that you are not White, but you don't feel like you totally fit into your own culture either. I've met people who are "more Chinese" than me. So maybe the trick with that is to research Yup'ik culture like hell, and rely on my own memories and feelings to portray hers.

edited 3rd Oct '12 4:03:30 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
Pronounced YAK-you-luss
[up]It's important to remember that whilst your experiences with oppressive governments may be broadly similar, they're not the same. To misquote Anna Karenina, good governments are all alike, but every bad government is bad in its own way. Talking to Cubans and getting their accounts of what living in their country is like is probably the best way to paper over the gaps in your knowledge.
What's precedent ever done for us?
9 MorwenEdhelwen3rd Oct 2012 05:40:28 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
[up] I know that. Or talking with someone with Cuban relatives. This still applies even if it's Twenty Minutes In The Future, right?
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
Pronounced YAK-you-luss
[up]Well, yeah. It's only twenty minutes (metaphorically speaking), and the better an understanding you have of a culture, the better you can understand how it might develop from here.
What's precedent ever done for us?
11 ohsointocats3rd Oct 2012 09:59:59 AM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
This thread is making me really afraid to write.
12 MorwenEdhelwen3rd Oct 2012 03:39:50 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
sorry
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
13 SalFishFin3rd Oct 2012 03:41:34 PM from on top of Your Mum , Relationship Status: I get a feeling so complicated...
Trolling Swordsman
You don't have to be afraid if you do your research. Like, my characters are boxers, so I research boxing terminology, the rules of boxing, the names for stances and styles and... stuff like that. It's the same with researching an ethnic/racial group, except you need to do more than Wikipedia everything because you're dealing with people.

edited 3rd Oct '12 3:42:11 PM by SalFishFin

3DS FC for PKMN & Smash:5472-8792-6103
14 MorwenEdhelwen3rd Oct 2012 03:43:24 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@Sal Fish Fin: This might be a bit too much to ask, but would you mind checking my portrayal of Jamaican culture? One minor-but-very-important character is a Jamaican immigrant.

edited 3rd Oct '12 3:52:14 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
15 ohsointocats3rd Oct 2012 04:19:34 PM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
I don't know. I was once told I was doubly-privileged because I was Jewish, so it's not likely that I would be able to write anything right.
16 SalFishFin3rd Oct 2012 04:24:44 PM from on top of Your Mum , Relationship Status: I get a feeling so complicated...
Trolling Swordsman
@Morwen I would be glad to.
3DS FC for PKMN & Smash:5472-8792-6103
17 MorwenEdhelwen3rd Oct 2012 04:36:38 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
Thanks. It's on this forum. Look at the Cuba Libre v2 thread.
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
18 JHM3rd Oct 2012 06:12:11 PM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
I don't know. I was once told I was doubly-privileged because I was Jewish, so it's not likely that I would be able to write anything right.
That's patently absurd.
19 ohsointocats3rd Oct 2012 07:00:58 PM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
[up]Is it?
Welcome, traveller, welcome to Omsk
Someone calling Jewish people privileged... I don't even know where to start. I think I just lost brain cells.
It does not matter who I am. What matters is, who will you become? - motto of Omsk Bird
21 MorwenEdhelwen4th Oct 2012 04:16:19 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
[up]Me too. On another note: I just got Ann Fienup-Riordan's Boundaries and Passages today.

edited 4th Oct '12 4:16:33 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
22 InverurieJones6th Oct 2012 01:35:24 AM from North of the Wall. , Relationship Status: And they all lived happily ever after <3
'80s TV Action Hero
[up][up] How about a Jew compared to a Palestinian...?

edited 6th Oct '12 1:36:07 AM by InverurieJones

The owls are not what they seem.
23 MorwenEdhelwen6th Oct 2012 02:01:03 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
oh yeah... but going by the controversy over Israel... discussion of that could get pretty heated.
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
24 ohsointocats6th Oct 2012 09:30:55 AM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
[up][up]You are assuming that all Jews are Israelis.
25 JHM6th Oct 2012 10:11:12 PM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: I know

Total posts: 42
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