Yiorgos Kalogeras, Eleftheria Arapoglou, and Linda Manney, eds. The Transcultural Localisms: Responding to Ethnicity in a Globalized World. American Studies, a Monograph Series, Vol. 136. Heidelberg, Germany: Universitätsverlag, 2006. 280 pages.
A collection of sixteen cultural studies essays addressing local resistances to global culture, this volume presents papers originally given at a 2004 annual conference of the Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and the Americas (MESEA) held at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece on "Ethnic Communities in Democratic Societies." The volume's title foregrounds the recurring motif in all of the presentations, what Fredric Barth has described as the enduring boundaries of ethnicity and cultural identity that contest the "veneer of common referents" expressed in globalism. This book is a very valuable edition to scholarship on the constantly evolving inter-relations between ethnic communities and global contexts, sanctioning, as its editors note, "a reconceptualization of the politics of community, identity, and cultural difference [which offers] a new dynamics in a trans-local world" and problematizing "the notion that every individual and, by extension, every community is a representative of a globalized totality." Increasingly, they note, "ethnic communities are . . . becoming trans-national, hence cutting across diverse boundaries: geographical, social, and political." Though some ties are severed when "trans-national global spaces emerge," new bonds are also forged. These struggles and new beginnings take place in "real-life" interventions and in those in literature and poetry of the present time.
A helpful introduction describes the five sections of the collection, the first being "Anti-Essentialist Configurations." Pin-Cha Feng demonstrates how Franco-Caribbean writer Maryse Condé reconfigures politics home for Afro-Caribbeans through a belief in "transcontinental connectedness" yet also through a racially negotiated claim to geo-political location in her novel The Last of the African Kings. Gary Y. Okihiro persuasively argues for a "Pacific civilization" to compete with Atlantic and Eurocentric conceptions of North America. We have "unfinished business" left in order to appreciate the "cultural hearths" of Asians in particular in U.S. society. Elke Sturm Trigonakis gives her definition of the "new world literature," including multilingualism, transnationalism, and localism, illustrating her ideas through analysis of the literary works of Juan Felipe Herrera and José F. A. Oliver.
In the next section, titled "Western Political Unilateralism and Local Literary Responses," Chris LaLonde explores contestations of Native American space in the poetry of Kimberly Blaeser (White Earth Anishnaabe). Socio-linguist Linda Manney explores the general topic of how everyday language may be used to perpetuate or resist class representations by dominant groups. Kaeko Mochizuki's analyses of Marguerite Duras, Masuji Ibuse, and Leslie Marmon Silko uncovers voices of the disempowered in global crises, and John Purdy provides a real-life example of such disempowerment among Native Americans circumscribed by the U.S.-Canadian border.
In "Auto-ethnography and Self-Invention," the third section of essays, Mita Banerjee uses Denise Chong's autobiographical The Concubine's Children to critique labels of "contagion" placed upon inhabitants of Vancouver's Chinatown and explore their choices to claim status as a "sanitary subject" of the West. Sophia Emmanouilidou explores a different but related kind of ethnic re-definition in Rudolfo Anaya's The Legend of La Llorona, in which the legend of Malinche, the concubine of Hernan Cortes, is rehabilitated. Sidonie Smith closes this section with her treatment of the children's book Zlata's Diary to explore narratives of ethnic suffering and violations of human rights.
The fourth section is titled "Cultural Incommensurability and Hybridity." Here Pirjo Ahokas discusses the work of Bharati Mukherjee and Monia Ali, especially the way their South Asian female characters construct transnational, post-modern identities. The alterity of diasporic subjectivity is explored by Anjoom Mukadam and Sharmina Mawani's research into the identification processes of Nizari Ismailis (Gujarati Indians) in Toronto and London. And again, fixed identity that undergoes change is explored in the Christophorus Castanis' The Greek Exile by Ilana Xinos, in which a transnational community between Greece and the United States is grounded in culture and ideology.
A concluding trio of essays under the title "The Challenges of Ethnic Incorporation" begins with Stefano Luconi's well-documented discussion of the struggles of Italian Americans for inclusion in affirmative action programs. Stepanka Korytova-Magstadt looks at writings about and by American Czechs and Slovaks during the First World War, especially the works of James Olson. Hale Yilmaz's study of the Laz cultural movement (natives of Black Sea Turkey) as a diasporic community in Germany, focusing on language revival and new identity constructions within and outside of identity as Turkish.
The quality of the essays is very high, and the editors have wisely limited their length to make them accessible to readers across a wide range of interests. They address issues from diverse struggles worldwide to participate in globalism but also the insistence upon resisting global tendencies that flatten or even erase important cultural differences and identifications, while pointing to possibilities for redefined "localisms" as critical tools for ethnic subjectivities to meet the challenges of the future. However, in conclusion, after reading this volume, one is struck not only by the essayists' careful attention to distinct features of such localisms, but at the same time their identification of striking similarities among the struggles of diverse groups that suggest their profound human interrelatedness.
Jeanne Campbell Reesman
University of Texas at San Antonio