Biography, vol. 28, no. 1 (2005): Inhabiting Multiple Worlds

SPECIAL ISSUE: Inhabiting Multiple Worlds: Auto/Biography in an (Anti-)Global Age

Biography 28.1 cover imageEDITOR’S INTRODUCTION

David Parker
Inhabiting Multiple Worlds: Auto/Biography in an (Anti)Global Age, p. v

While globalization is often associated with provisional identities ever in the flux of reinvention, the papers in this special issue seem on the whole skeptical of such postmodernist theorizing. They tend instead to show the importance of relationality as a paradigm in auto/biography studies, with its renewed interest in the ethical dimensions of life narrative. Many of the papers can be seen as ethical and political explorations of the extended relations between self and other in a newly “compressed” world.

Ambrose King
Opening Remarks of Welcome, p. xvi


Paul John Eakin
Living Autobiographically, p. 1

Linking autobiography and the homeostatic activity of the body, which regulates the stability of the human organism as it moves into the future, this essay stresses the future orientation of memory’s recovery of the past. André Aciman’s sketch “Arbitrage” captures this forward movement of memory work, embedded in our lives even as we live them.

John D. Barbour
The Ethics of Intercultural Travel: Thomas Merton’s Asian Pilgrimage and Orientalism, p. 15

This essay examines The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, a posthumously edited diary account of his 1968 journey. Merton’s Asian travel is interpreted as an unusual form of pilgrimage, and considered in relation to certain ethical issues raised by intercultural travel, such as the problem of Orientalism.

Mary Besemeres
Anglos Abroad: Memoirs of Immersion in a Foreign Language, p. 27

This paper compares recent narratives of immersion in a foreign language and culture by authors from Australia, Britain, and the United States. These writers occupy an ambiguous position at a time when English has acquired the status of a global language. In one sense, they are representatives of the dominant language and culture of contemporary experience. Yet in another, they can be seen as part of a wider resistance to the ascendancy of English, traversing its borders to explore other ways of being-in-the-world.

Kit Fan
Imagined Places: Robinson Crusoe and Elizabeth Bishop, p. 43

This paper explores representations of geographical displacement in the work of American poet Elizabeth Bishop in relation to ideas of imagined places and an imaginary “home.” It focuses on Bishop’s late poem “Crusoe in England,” in which she offers a revisionary account of one of the prime European travel narratives, and it compares Bishop’s Crusoe to those of Caribbean poet Derek Walcott’s “Crusoe Island” and South African J. M. Coetzee’s Foe, mapping how by rediscovering Crusoe, out of a profound experience of multiple displacement, the writers discover many ways of writing home.

Gillian Whitlock
The Skin of the Burqa: Recent Life Narratives from Afghanistan, p. 54

The “war on terror” has been associated with an extraordinary proliferation of Afghan autoethnographies in the Western marketplace. In this article, various implications and connotations of this are read to explore the ethical engagements of life narrative in these times.

Susan Tridgell
From the Land of Green Ghosts: Commodifying Culture, Downplaying Politics, p. 77

This article critiques the editing, marketing, and reception of Pascal Khoo Thwe’s recent autobiography, From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey. It argues that this autobiography has been seen primarily in terms of cultural shifts, amplifying the distance between the narrated and narrating self, and muting the political message of the work.

Philip Holden
Other Modernities: National Autobiography and Globalization, p. 89

A series of “national autobiographies,” written by political leaders testifying to the struggle of anticolonial nationalism to form an independent nation, achieved popularity with a global reading public in the twentieth century. These texts are both amenable to reading through the critical frameworks of contemporary auto/biography studies, and also offer useful challenges to contemporary critical common sense about the relationships between globalization and autobiography.

Maureen Perkins
Thoroughly Modern Mulatta: Rethinking “Old World” Stereotypes in a “New World” Setting, p. 104

This paper examines the role of racial stereotypes in the life narratives of several women of color living in Australia. While coming from very different parts of the world, all show an awareness of popular images of the mixed race woman. Their sensitivity on this issue points to the continuing effects of past racism and the globalization of colonial discourse, as well as hints at a sense of community based on color which crosses established “ethnic” boundaries.

Richard Freadman
The Bonds of Civility Cut Asunder: Arnold Zable as a Post-Holocaust Life Writer, p. 117

This article explores how the work of Australian Jewish author Arnold Zable, a second generation Holocaust survivor, calls forth a global moral community, by imagining community in a way that honors the specificities of local culture and the insider’s intimacy of belonging, while respecting the multicultural citizen’s ability to participate in other cultural worlds.

Jay Prosser
Sim Koh-Wei, My Jewish Grandmother, p. 130

Global currents bring with them stories of translation. This reflection tells of how my Chinese grandmother, born in the last days of imperial China, emigrated to Singapore on the wave of another empire, that of the British. Here she met another migrant, a Baghdadi Jew who had come via India; here they loved and traded worlds.

Kinwai Lau
My Farda an I, p. 138

My life story is a brief record of certain boyhood memories as they were first remembered. My father had a deciding influence on my perception of society, but understandably he does not seem to have been aware of that at the time when I was changing. The way he was as a father at once flattered and bothered me, and to this day it still flatters and bothers the child in me.

Chris Barry
Dialogues and Self-Constructions, p. 148

Chris Barry’s photographic installation and sound-scape Dialogues and Self-Constructions emerges from her known and sustained relations with her collaborators in Alice Springs/Central Australia. The project explores the intertextualities of contemporary Aboriginal life within the specifics of that place and community.

Margaretta Jolly
E-Mail in a Global Age: The Ethical Story of “Women on the Net”, p. 152

In presenting e-mail as “the story behind the story” in an age of global autobiography, through a close reading of autobiographical and dialogic aspects of email exchanges within the feminist group Women on the Net, this article suggests that e-mail, like all letters, is best understood in terms of an ethics of care, which extends more customary ethics of justice to engage directly with the relational dimension of life writing.

Julie Rak
The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity, p. 166

Blogs have become a popular internet phenomenon. Rather than look at blogs as online diaries, I discuss them as sites for a developing generic practice that is connected to the idea of the internet as potentially non-corporate and democratic. In this context, what might “queer blogging” be, and why do queer bloggers constantly appeal to experience and evidence as the guarantee of reality online?

Anna Poletti
Self-Publishing in the Global and Local: Situating Life Writing in Zines, p. 183

This paper will examine zines and zine culture as a unique medium of life writing. Using Australian zines as the primary focus, I will analyze two narrative strategies common to zine writing, and present zines as one of the few sites where life writing by young people is performed and circulated.

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