Transcultural Space and Transcultural Beings

Transcultural Space and Transcultural Beings

Transcultural Space and Transcultural Beings

Transcultural Space and Transcultural Beings


"This book is about first contacts - intercultural spaces invaded and transgressed upon by explorers, both real and fictional. Although the book focuses on British East India's exploration of the Andaman Islands, complete with illustrations, ship's logs, and official published reports, David Tomas uses this study as a jumping-off point for a wide-ranging discussion of first contact experiences, like the famous Orson Welles's radio dramatization, "The War of the Worlds," and Western recordings of endangered environmental and ethnographic sounds. Powerfully innovative, this book exposes the brutality one group of people can inflict upon another when they attempt to represent them in writing and photographs. Tomas contends that such unthinking brutality continues today, and planes and automobiles serve as our sailing ships, transporting people from dominant cultures into spaces that rapidly become destabilized." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


This book concerns the existence and dynamics of a transient, sometimes humorous, often dangerous, and periodically cruel intercultural space-- generated in situations governed by misrepresentation or representational excess. This transient space can open before one (or under one's feet, so to speak) to suddenly overwhelm one in misrepresentation. It can just as easily close up behind one, or draw away from one's immediate presence, as if nothing significant had taken place, except, perhaps, the inexplicable or accidental catastrophe of one's own injury, or death. To this type of space I have given the name transcultural space.

Transcultural spaces are predicated on chance events, unforeseen and fleeting meetings, or confrontations that randomly direct activity originating from either side of geographic or territorial, natural or artificially perceived divides that separate and distinguish peoples with different constellations of customs, manners, and language. These spaces are therefore the product of fleeting intercultural relations, of special kinds of spatial and communicational dynamics that unfold during the course of first- or early contact situations between Western and non-Western peoples.

Like Greg Dening Islands and Beaches, Marshall Sahlins's Islands of History, Tzvetan Todorov The Conquest of America, or Stephen Greenblatt Marvelous Possessions, this book is about culture contact and the consequences of conflicting modes of habitual perception. In contrast to these authors, however, I have chosen to concentrate on the existence of a transient intercultural space because of its special interstitial qualities, its rootedness in contested or destabilized territorial zones, and its links to patterns of misrepresentation and misinterpretation. I was drawn to this type of space because its historical status is that of the trace event--of the inopportune, of the capricious and precipitous--and because it is linked to the vulgar and the pedestrian, even when it is framed in terms of the spectacular.

I also suggest, however, that transcultural spaces can sometimes be produced by representational dislocations or incomplete transformations in systemically based circuits of representation that have been deployed or that operate interculturally.

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