While several readers of Jorge Luis Borges’s aphoristic text “The Ethnographer” (1969) have attempted its interpretation, we argue that they have done so with little if any attention to its intercultural hermeneutic circularity. Using Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics as the main framework, we re-examine the story-poem as an allegory of intercultural desire to understand what Spivak, in An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization (2012), terms the quite other. Borges’s ethnographic allegory of intercultural thinking as hermeneutic circle enacts intercultural understanding as a paradoxical, contradictory, even conflictive ethical performance. Literary (and intercultural) understanding in this view are not accomplished in complete comprehension of the very other but in respectful attention to her. In its intimation of a dialogue with a quite other to whom we must respond, Borges’s story-poem ironically cautions the reader toward the dangers of encoded knowledge and abstraction that may outplace ethical relations with persons.


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pp. 570-591
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