Clifford Geertz, a well-acclaimed anthropologist, has a lot to say about subjective interpretation in his book, The Interpretation of Cultures. He says that all “anthropological writings are themselves interpretations” and “second to third ones to boot” (15). We cannot be native or express a native point of view because of our lack of context is critical for ethnography, travel literature, and any document that attempts to translate a foreign experience outside of the original context. In order to encourage readers to rethink how they perceive the authenticity of travel narrations in the context of creative nonfiction, cultural accuracy, and in the fallacy of having an “original” experience, I divided my personality into five different avatars. Five different ways of actually seeing the world to show how different my experience could be.
- Ava- A romantic anthropologist
- Gipsy- A postmodern traveler and writer
- Shelley- An “experiencer”
- Akua- A native
- Myra- A photographer
Recognizing that not only does our lens change our interpretation of our experience, I also chose to look at how the different ways that I documented the experience mediated it.
- This Blog
- Coursework, Cultural Contracts, and Books
- My Jotting Notebook
- Typed and Handwritten Field Notes
- Digital Photography
- Emails Home
- My Diary
- My “Good Things That Happened Today” Journal
- My Physical Body
- The Group
In conclusion, I hope that by creating this blog I have challenged the nature of our experiences and the authenticity of our expressions by showing how varied it can be in just one persons perspective. I also hope that it will be beneficial to the academic world by inviting more skepticism of creative non-fiction genres to diminish common stereotypes, such as “the dark continent,” that have been attributed throughout history because these narratives were regarded as something more than personal interpretations and subjective truths. Because we interact with the world with little, if any, access to an “original” experience, we need to understand that any medium we choose to mediate our experience is undergoing a translation process that leaves the authentic component behind when it is rendered through various editing and cropping techniques on the road to these polished final products. By generating these cleaned up, cohesive travel narratives, we are taking many steps away from the original experience and its authenticity, and this is the behind the scene process that should be recognized and incorporated into our understanding and interpretation of creative nonfiction and our experiences abroad.
Photo credit kawkawpa on flickr
Clifford, James. Routes: Travel and Translation in Late Twentieth Century. London: Harvard University Press, 1997. Print. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1993. Print.