Thursday, October 29, 2009
Haitian Storytelling
I recently encountered a great quote from the book Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn, a sort of personal narrative/anthropological study of one scholar's experiences with Haitian Vodou:

"Family memories are held collectively; some persons know much more than others, but no one knows it all. The full story, or I should say, the real story, cannot be written down. The full story can only be performed by a noisy family group, with each member adding his or her versions. The real story exists only for the transitory period in which the family takes pleasure and finds meaning together in bringing their past alive."

I've experienced this sort of thing a few times even in our own culture - think about the times when you've just got back from some really amazing awesome experience with a group of friends (like after a youth group retreat or a road trip), and all of you are trying to explain it to someone else at the same time - but it's much more rare than in Haitian society apparently. I think this is one of the great advantages that a predominantly oral culture like theirs has over a written culture like ours - for us stories become fixed, not dynamic or collaborative, and we are thereby deceived into thinking that there is only ever one, authoritatively "true" rendition of the past.
posted by Mike Clawson at 9:56 AM | Permalink |


At 11/05/2009 05:43:00 AM, OpenID postmodernquestions

I think this is a much healthier perspective on the nature of story. What its interesting is that this approach removes the power from the privileged educated elite.


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