Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Two: The Presenting Problem: Digestive Issues in the Contact Zone

Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Two: The Presenting Problem: Digestive Issues in the Contact Zone

Article excerpt

We begin. I pull out an empty leather notebook. The white pages waiting for text reach out to me as always, eliciting curiosity and faith that what is unknown will start to take some decipherable shape, and- why not be honest- summoning up a sheer desire to know. The links between desire and intellectual curiosity have long been recognized, and even though I've skipped the required step of self-analysis that true psychoanalysts must go through, I am aware of this element on my own. I intensely want to know what the city is all about.

Happily, this morning my desire to know coincides with the city's desire to tell me. While we are both a bit hesitant and nervous about getting started, there is also a palpable energy in the office. After some perfunctory greetings, we get down to work. She is complaining of minor digestive problems that she feels may be related to her sense of being rather overwhelmed by others.

I feel nauseous all the time, very heavy, she says, weighted down by all this contact .

The term presenting problem refers to the initial concern that brings a patient in for psychoanalysis, although, in research terms, we find an easy parallel with our initial intellectual curiosities that bring us to our research questions and our field site. The presenting problem (like all research problems) quickly softens to unveil increasingly complex questions, uncovering deeper issues not suspected at the onset of the process. In the city's case, she comes in with nausea and a queasy sense of unease. Too many tourists, she says, too much of a good thing, too much to digest at once.

Tourists are one of the city's key others, perhaps the most significant other, as they provide both economic and cultural nourishment. However, like many foodstuffs, tourists simultaneously nourish and defile. What is external may at times fascinate and feed (in the form of cultural ideas and cash); but, at other times, the external corrupts and denigrates (in the form of less traditional ideas, unacceptable values and practices). Because the tourist is double, he must be carefully handled. He must, like a foodstuff, be broken down in a digestive process that separates out nutrients from toxins. With her underground tunnels (which expel waste, such as excess floodwater, trash, traffic), the city boasts a tremendous digestive system working to process an even greater flow of difference. But she can only handle so much.

While the city consumes tourists on a daily basis in varying ways, the main organ through which tourists are brought in and digested is the Festival Internacional Cervantino, or the FIC, as it is called locally. The FIC began in the 1970s, when cultural performances from elsewhere were combined with existing university performances of Cervantes's entremeses cervantinos, which had been taking place for about two decades, and staged together as an arts festival. Gradually, more performances were added, and the FIC currently draws Mexico's finest national talent as well as renowned international performance groups; without exaggeration, it constitutes one of Latin America's most prestigious artistic festivals. Each year one national state and one foreign country are featured as guests of honor, a structure that mirrors Mexico's recipe for tourist success - the message that one can be or have true Mexican-ness while concurrently being/having international-level quality and flair (Berger, 2006; Saragoza, 2001). However, this same success has also made the FIC somewhat other to the city, even as it has become a symbol of city identity and provides an enormous source of income.

How is this possible? Unlike many festivals, the FIC did not develop organically from uniquely local traditions or popular celebrations even while it has this local originating point. The use of Cervantes's texts roots the festival in the university, and the original performances were undertaken in public plazas, but there is nothing ultimately popular about this event. …

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