Disciplines and Interdisciplinarity in Foreign Language Studies

By Hans Lauge Hansen | Go to book overview

Narratives of Natives
The construction of the Other as object of aid

by Jan Gustafsson


Introduction

This paper deals with the construction of identities within epic-narrative schemes of cultural self, and other issues resulting from development aid. More specifically, it addresses the question of Latin America and Latin Americans as objects of aid1 financed and administered by Danish governmental institutions and/or NGOs. Special attention will be given to current strategies developed during the 1990s, according to which the main objects of such aid are indigenous peoples (and women and children). The aim of the paper is to put forward the view that the very idea of development aid as expressed in different types of texts and contexts tends to posit mutual identities of 'Us as givers' and 'the Others as recipients', as, respectively, an active subject and a passive object. Elements of structural narratology will provide the main theoretical instrument; however, structural narratology will not be regarded as a general theoretical frame for the study of texts, but rather as one possible instrument for the detection of fixed or limited readings (interpretations) of non-fictional texts.

'Aid-construction' is one of the basic mechanisms in the production of images of 'Us' and 'the Others'; in the case of Denmark, Danes and Third World peoples, respectively. Exploring this question in depth would require the consideration of a number of contextual spaces, which is not possible given the limited length of this article. I do, however, consider it plausible to suggest that a basic representation by most Danes of any Third

1 Currently and officially this aid is often called 'development aid' or
'development assistance' although the traditional development perspective has
changed, at least to a certain point. Cf. Danida 2001.

-183-

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