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CHAPTER 1 LEGITIMATION: MEDIATED TESTIMONIOS, AUTHORITY AND VICARIOUS IDENTITIES ...paresci6me no tomalle por el medio, sino del principio , porque se tenga entera noticia de mi persona; y tambien porque consideren los que heredaron nobles estados cwin poco se les debe, pues Fortuna fue con ellos parcial, y cuanto mas hicieron los que, siendoles contraria, con fuerza y mana remando salieron a buen puerto. . . .it seemed best to start not in the middle, but at the beginning, so that you have some idea of my person; and also so that those who inherited their noble status consider how little is owed to them, because Fortune favored them, and how much more the others did, who without Fortune's favor, with skill and might came out ahead. Lazarillo de Tormes En mis largos aiios cruzando fronteras de un lado a otro, en un determinado momento tenia que trabajar en la ONU. Tenia que sacar quiza una docena de elegantes credenciales para poder explicar mi rostro indigena. In my long years crossing borders from one place to another, at a certain moment I had to work at the UN. I had to get perhaps a dozen elegant forms of identification to be able to explain my Indian face. Rigoberta Menchu, Rigoberta: la nieta de los-mayas THROUGH the testimonial process, does the testimonial subject achieve, "with skill and might," with discursive strength and skill, the agency and enunciative authority to make of the testimonial text, and the transcriber, a tool for reversing traditional power 31 32 SUBJECT TO CHANGE relationships? Does, on the other hand, the discursive mechanism itself of mediated testimonial texts reinforce the narrator's appropriation and therefore location "inside" dominant political and cultural structures as the other, belying the advertised reversal of inside and outside, center and margin, being for oneself and being for others? True to testimonio's resistance to black and white interpretations , the answer to either question is neither fully yes nor fully no, although either interpretation of the testimonial process carries ethical weight that discounts gray areas. Both interpretations incompletely satisfy criteria for veracity, as in such debates on truthfulness as the Rigoberta Menchu polemic. Moreover, either version by itself exhibits certain naivete toward the possibilities afforded by mediated testimonio (at times overestimated) and the speaker as autonomous subject (at times underestimated). The analysis in t~is chapter of Elena Poniatowska's Hasta no verte, Jesus mio, Elisabeth Burgos Debray and Rigoberta Menchu's Me llama Rigoberta Menchu, and Carolina Maria de Jesus's Quarto de Despejo dedicates attention to the latter interpretation of absorption and appropriation because it runs counter to testimonio's ideals, but the chapter ultimately demonstrates that neither characterization fully describes the results of the inherently paradoxical project of transcribed testimonio. More importantly, the paradoxical element, the innate contradictions that resist stable or thoroughly convincing conclusions in much previous criticism on testimonio, reveals crucial links with theoretical considerations and consequences for politically engaged writing in the future now that "the moment of testimonio is over," if we agree with Beverley ("Real" 280). Mary Louise Pratt also points out that because it is produced transculturally, "testimonio exists in a state of permanent, and often productive, contradiction." Specifically, the narrator relates personal experience that presupposes a subjectivity the testimonial speaker is understood not to possess ("I, Rigoberta Menchu" 44). Those considerations highlight testimonio's significance beyond that frequently accorded: its significance as an inquiry into identity and solidarity , as a form of Latin American narrative where inner workings of the writerly task are brought to the surface, and as a text that concretely engages with the socio-political realities that concern so many Latin American writers. These links integrate testimonial discourse into broad theoretical debates in western and specifically Latin American cultures without lessening its urge for political LEGITIMATION: MEDIATED TESTIMONIOS 33 act1v1sm. Mediated testimonial discourse, when studied critically, cannot be considered a tangential development in Latin American narrative because its rhetorical twists and conflicts expose those of fiction and theory, and indicate the need to carry its political project beyond the limitations of testimonial process. LEGITIMATION The contradictions I study critically in the present chapter stem in one way or another from the question of legitimation, leading in the end to what I describe as the "vicarious identities" that link the testimonial, fictional, and theoretical texts studied in this book. Legitimation entails: the transcriber and the testimonial subject's authority before each other; shifting and stable boundaries of discursive location; the text's...


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