12.0426 constructing meaning

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Sun, 14 Feb 1999 16:50:34 +0000 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 426.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Sun, 14 Feb 1999 16:50:55 +0000
From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com>
Subject: Re: 12.0406 constructing meaning

Willard and HUMANIST readers:

Sorry for the belatedness of this -- I was off the grid for about a

Pat Moran wrote (quoting Pat Galloway):

> >Yes--don't forget what we've already learned from the cultural studies
> >people via reader-response theory (or vice versa): that meaning too is
> >in the eye of the beholder. Native American cultures are unmelted in the
> >American pot today because they resisted, reworked, and turned to their
> >own uses what was on offer from Europeans.
> >Pat Galloway

> ----------------------
> Leaving the cultural studies people aside, consider the biologists.
> What tribe or clan in "Native American cultures" is "unmelted" genetically?
> Many of the tribes which REALLY resisted are extinct, like the Yahi.
> Constructed meaning is alive and well in the blond and blue-eyed members
> of Native American tribes, yes, but to say that these tribes are unmelted is
> not accurate in the physical sense.

This is fascinating -- the suggestion being that the culture that
successfully "melts" the foreign elements, itself becomes melted. (This
is a core issue to me, an American who spent formative years in places
like the Philippines and Japan.)

Maybe we need another metaphor? A Canadian interlocutor once observed
that up north, they preferred to speak of their culture as a "mosaic,"
not a melting-pot. (Comments?) This always struck me as, in contrast to
Mass-Industrialist (I always visualized that American Melting Pot as
one of those huge vats in a steel mill), rather artsy and old-worldish,
evading the anxieties of assimilation -- liquid fire, molten steel --
only to suggest them again, in a kind of combination-by-fragmentation.

What of the ancient trope of texts and textures? Maybe a strong culture
weaves old patterns into new fabrics, new cloth? According to this,
those First Nations that have successfully made the transition into
post-Modernity, may have done so by pulling new fibers into the mix,
even strands of DNA, without leaving behind old patterns and old

-- Wendell Piez

Wendell Piez mailto:wapiez@mulberrytech.com
Mulberry Technologies, Inc. http://www.mulberrytech.com
17 West Jefferson Street Direct Phone: 301/315-9635
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