"New Interconnections: Moving from Unity to Solidarity," A Dialogue between Analouise Keating and Gloria E. Anzaldúa
If you define writing as any kind of scribble, any kind of trying to mark on the world, then you have the oral, dance, choreography, performance art, architecture. I had a feminist architect help me design this addition to my study. Some of us want to take those marks already inscribed in the world and redo them, either by erasing them or by pulling them apart — which involves deconstructive criticism. Pulling them apart is looking at how they’re composed and the relationship between the frame and the rest of the world. In this country the frame of reference is white, Euro-American. This is its territory, so any mark we make has to be made in relationship to the fact that they occupy the space. You can take any field of disciplinary study, like anthropology: that frame is also Euro-American; it’s western. Composition theory is also very Euro-American. Thus any of us trying to create change have to struggle with this vast, very powerful territory. It’s kind of like a fish in the Pacific Ocean, with the analogy that the Pacific Ocean is the dominant field and the fish is this postcolonial, feminist, queer, or whoever is trying to make changes. Before you can make any changes in composition studies, philosophy, or any other field, you have to have a certain awareness of the territory. You have to be able to maneuver in it before you can say, “Here’s an alternative model for this particular field, for its norms, rules, regulations, and laws.” Especially in composition these rules are very strict: creating a thesis sentence, having some kind of argument, having logical step-by-step progression, using certain methods like contrast or deductive versus inductive thinking. It goes all the way back to Aristotle and Cicero with his seven parts of a composition.
It takes a tremendous amount of energy for anyone like me to make changes or additions to the model; it’s like you’re this little fish going against the Pacific Ocean. You have to weigh the odds of succeeding with your goal. Say my goal is a liberatory goal: to create possibilities for people, to look at things in a different way so that people can act in their daily lives in a different way. It’s a freeing up, an emancipating. It’s a feminist goal. But then I have to weigh things: OK, if I write in this style and I code-switch too much and go into Spanglish too much and do an associative kind of logical progression into a composition, am I going to lose those people I want to affect, to change? Am I going to lose the respect of my peers — other writers, artists, and academicians — when I change too much? When I change not only the style but also the rhetoric? Then I have to look at the young students in high school and elementary school who are going to be my future readers, if my writing survives that long. And I look at the young college students, especially those reading Borderlands: How much of it is a turn-off for them because it’s too hard to access? I have to juggle and balance, make it a little hard for them so that they can stop and think, “You know, this is a text; this is not the same as life; this is a representation of life.” Too often when people read something they take it to be the reality instead of the representation. I don’t want to turn those students off. So how much do you push and how much do you accommodate and be in complicity with the dominant norm of a particular field?