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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Diasporic Memory is Recherché rather than Recuperation


"'Identities are the names we give to the different ways we are positioned by, and position ourselves in, the narratives of the past.' --Stuart Hall

In this day and age, it is increasingly necessary to recognize the importance of cultural memory in minority rights struggles. Questions of how cultural memory is implicated in the construction of identities and diasporic re-presentations of self must be central to any resistance against dominant cultures’ mis-representation of Other. As immigrants, our memories of home and who and what we were and could become are crucial, especially in the wake of the identity disorienting consequences of a rapidly changing postmodern landscape. In forming our diasporic memories, we must first recognize that memory is not set or carefully preserved in time waiting for its easy retrieval. It is rather a phenomenon that must be researched, constructed, and re-presented. The re-presentation of our cultural memories is significant to our struggle for voice because '…all representation –whether in language, narrative, image, or recorded sound- is based on memory. Re-presentation always comes after, even though some media will try to provide us with the delusion of pure essence' (Huyssen 1995: 2).

Looking specifically at re-presentation as constructed memory, we find that more and more there is a growing need for critical media literacy, which includes the creation of alternative media representations. Although we, as audiences, are most probably jaded by the constant production, distribution, and our consumption of cinematic imagery, we are not necessarily literate in this media and how it affects power struggles, daily social practices, and identity construction. Douglas Kellner (1995) passionately argues for the development of media literacy mainly because of the pedagogical nature of media culture that either induces individuals to conform to established organization of mainstream society or provides a resource for the successful empowerment of individuals (and most importantly collectives) against that society. Media literacy is an important project. It is the development of a critical understanding of media manifestations, for example, determining and documenting what kinds of social insights media imagery provides, how it may reproduce and/or contest dominant ideologies, and (in the latter case) how this imagery may be used to 'critically read the world' (Freire, 1973)."

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