- Transnational Testimonios: The Politics of Collective Knowledge Production by Patricia DeRocher
Transnational Testimonios: The Politics of Collective Knowledge Production.
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2018. 248 pp. $90.00 cloth (ISBN 9780295743905), $30.00 paper (ISBN 9780295743912).
Transnational testimonios is a stunning analysis of collective testimonios and the significance of the politics of knowledge production. In this book, Patricia DeR-ocher analyzes contemporary polyvocal feminist testimonio and subject positions as a form of transnational feminist praxis. This practice strategically performs epistemic translations by providing a textual bridge between practitioners—the writers and speakers of feminist testimonio—and readers from vastly different social worlds. In this sense, testimonio is understood as a resistant form of life writing that utilizes richly textured representations of gendered subjectivity to document current inequalities and imagine more egalitarian futures. DeRocher argues that practitioners of contemporary feminist testimonios, from different geographical areas, are more than writers. “They are textual activists who employ writing as a social tool” to achieve transformative change (p. 8).
Divided into four parts, the book broadly considers the politics of subjective truth in knowledge production by examining whose knowledge counts as knowledge, whose truths are believed, whose truths are discounted, and why. To these ends, DeRocher proposes a polyvocal narrative strategy model in textual form to achieve a kaleidoscopic consciousness view. She takes this term from José Medina’s book, The Epistemology of Resistance (2013), in which he defines the consciousness as an opening up of our epistemic worlds that allows us to read the same event through different social lenses. DeRocher argues that the cultural work these texts address is at once theoretically and methodologically complex as well as pragmatic, interrupting dominant flows of knowledge production. Drawing on Cindi Katz in her analysis of these collective testimonios, DeRocher conducts a countertopo-graphic comparative discourse analysis to understand how contemporary feminist literary writers and activists mobilize testimonial narratives to bring attention to desired social issues. DeRocher first analyzes dialogical and rhetorical practices that feminist poly-vocal testimonios utilize to state their political intervention and second, how literary authors translate historical events into fiction.
Part 2 is perhaps the strongest section of the book. DeRocher undertakes an analysis [End Page 280] of collaborative and activist work that includes the Latina Feminist Group’s Telling to Live, the Sangtin Writers’ Playing with Fire, the Sistren Theatre Collective’s Lionheart Gal, and Beverly Bell’s Walking on Fire: Haitian Women’s Stories Survival Resistance. By focusing on the process of collective meaning-making in these chapters, DeRocher provides an insightful analysis of dialogic methods that feminist activist polyvocal testimonios use to develop their political interventions—for example, the collaborative processes of writing and reflection, and the use of gender-based statistics to create socioliteracy. She looks at special prompts that motivate the collectives’ projects, the importance of place as “an evidence on a more literal level in the documentation of the conditions under the collectives and interviewees met” (p.111), including not only physical but also spiritual and symbolic dimensions of place. Edwidge Danticat’s analysis (part 4) complements this section, inviting us to reflect on the importance of what is said, how it is said, and the unspoken within these texts. Such an analysis calls for readers to reflect on what gets lost in translations as well as how different audiences, whether privileged or marginalized, might read these collective testimonios.
The last chapter serves as postscript. DeRocher adopts a relentlessly optimistic and forward-focused tone. While acknowledging the relevance of the multi-vocal framework, DeRocher simultaneously and effectively enumerates the potentialities and relevance of learning to see from multiple perspectives with the aim of understanding contemporary everyday injustices. This is particularly true regarding the continuity of structural racism and xenophobic hate provoked by the current political atmosphere that legitimizes the fundamentals of white supremacy. The book contains a variety of important approaches to action and practices through writing which mirrors the decolonial feminist movement. DeRocher invites readers to engage with a practice of (un)learning to reflect deeply on how they engage with kaleidoscopic consciousness. Such analyses allow us to avoid arrogant perceptions (Lugones, 1987...