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CONCLUSION CHANGING THE SUBJECT F: What was your childhood like, what happened to you before you came here? DONA MARTINA: I don't remember. F: You don't remember anything? ELVIRA: Come on, mom, just tell her. DoNA MARTINA: Well, yes; it seems my mother left me when I was around six years old. But perhaps most important is the story of persistence in pursuit of your goal, in this case making sure that the Mapuche people maintain their own culture. And in relation to this last point I think it's important to emphasize the right of all peoples to autonomy. This is what I'd like readers to see in my book, but if I want to boil it down even further, I'd say that I hope they see how difficult it is to be a social and political leader in the kind of world we're living in at the turn of the century . F: With this last comment you also cross other boundaries , because even ifthe Mapuche people and their leaders face dz//iculties with political organization in today's world, so do the rest ofus. I think that's right. I think all leaders who go public and step outside their house and their family face the scrutiny of the larger society, the positive and negative comments about what they did and didn't do. You lose your privacy and that of your family, and what you say is no longer simply your opinion but represents others. Other people start seeing you as a role model. 229 Rosa Isolde Reuque Paillalef, When a Flower Is Reborn 230 SUBJECT TO CHANGE CHANGING the subject, evading the issue, keeping secrets, avoiding an uncomfortable topic. Changing the direction of conversation , negotiating the terms of dialogue, resisting. Using a point of contact to shift between subjects. Changing roles. Changing the other's subjectivity or identity, changing one for another, representing others with one. "Don't keep changing the subject: I want to talk to you." "You're not listening." At what junctures in testimonial texts, fiction, and theory does the subject (object of attention) become subject (autonomous agent) or the other way around? Who legitimates the change of subject? Who changes the subject's terms of self-representation? How do circumstances change rhetorical strategies? These questions exhibit overlapping relevance to testimonial discourse and women's self-representation, one reason for my focus on women's texts. As I asserted at the beginning of this book, to ignore gender is to incompletely investigate the hierarchies testimonial writing strives to undermine and the conditions under which the speaker can narrate her story. Testimonial discourse's more democratic mode of production and obvious concern for writing about difference, despite the contradictions and complications to which this book is dedicated, mean the body of work by and about women is large and begs specific attention to gender. Resistance to a feminist reading of testimonio arises in part from the same notions that have resisted its intertextual reading with fiction or a discussion of aesthetics, resistances that limit our understanding of testimonio 's lessons about self-expression from outside centers of privilege. Testimonio's irrefutable collective significance, whether a collective identity stressed by the speaker or by the framing texts, establishes a particularly critical link between testimonial and feminist discourses, and a common point where both discourses run the risk of repeating hegemonic essentializations of identity. As they construct a new, alternative articulation of identity that is politically empowering, they can write new borders and limits to that articulation . Thus, testimonial discourse belies naive notions of female identification across differences, and at the same time feminist perspectives highlight testimonio's purity: of sexual identity for female narrators that reflects the broader desire for pure truth. The intersection of gender and national identities forms another important point of contact in testimonio. Testifying to personal CHANGING THE SUBJECT 231 experience in alternative narrative forms bears similarity to women's foundational writing, and Miguel Barnet defined testimonial writing as a foundational writing for the nation. Testimonial discourse posits an alternative national identity from the bottom up (when embraced by enabling intellectuals): a Guatemala that recognizes its Indian population; a Brazil that recognizes its racism and economic underclass; and a Mexico that recognizes the working-class, independent women who fought in the Revolution that is the quintessential origin of Mexican patriotic rhetoric. Scholars in literature have explored women as metaphors of nascent Latin American nations in the...


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