The controversy of writing in the voices of others

Le Clerc, M 2018, 'The controversy of writing in the voices of others', Text: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses, no. 53, pp. 1-13.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

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Title The controversy of writing in the voices of others
Author(s) Le Clerc, M
Year 2018
Journal name Text: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses
Issue number 53
Start page 1
End page 13
Total pages 13
Publisher Australasian Association of Writing Progams
Abstract There has been increasing criticism of mainstream writers who create characters from marginalised cultural backgrounds different to their own, especially when those characters are written from the first-person perspective. This can be seen as a kind of ventriloquism (Couser 1998), stereotypical and racist characterisation (Leane 2016), and lead to further oppression since the privileged person is the one who speaks rather than the group represented (Alcoff 1991). At the same time, writing that explores the migration story of people from refugee backgrounds, written by writers from those backgrounds as well as writers who have not had those experiences, has become increasingly more common (see Menchu 1984; Nazer & Lewis 2003; Eggers 2006; Cleave 2008; de Kretser 2012; Al Muderis & Weaver 2014). But there is little work on the difference between stories that have been constructed with consultation of the people represented and those that have not. A look into how novels of this kind are written can contribute to the debate of writing the other. In order to explore this concept, I wrote a novel manuscript about the everyday lives of four characters from refugee backgrounds in three drafts. The first was produced through fieldwork and observation, the second after interviews and the third through feedback. This paper compares the first two drafts of the manuscript. It suggests that prior to interviews and self-reflection, the writing followed the dominant narrative told about refugees, referred to here as 'the national story' (Birch 2013), which played up victimhood and played down racism. Interviews and reflection on instances of cultural misappropriation produced a story that began to counter to this narrative. This suggests that when the people represented are not involved in the writing process, the national story dramatically influences the ways in which the characters are written.
Subject Creative Writing (incl. Playwriting)
Keyword(s) refugee narratives
creative writing research
postcolonial studies
the other
racism
ethnography
fiction
testimonial
Copyright notice © The author.
ISSN 1327-9556
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