Trinh T. Minh-ha

“Neither black/red/yellow nor woman but poet or writer” (378). Trinh T. Minh-ha did not want to be known as a woman writer, or a writer of color, but simply a writer. The value perception of a work changes when those labels are attached. Whether the changes are positive or negative doesn’t really matter. The change is what counts, the shifting from the supposedly neutral perspective of the dominant patriarchy into a sympathetic or antagonistic field from which only a few exceptional exceptions could ever emerge.

In this excerpt from Woman, Native, Other, Minh-ha challenged the idea that clear correct language is the right way. "Clear expression, often equated with correct expression, has long been the criterion set forth in treatises on rhetoric, whose aim was to order discourse so as to persuade. The language of Taoism and Zen, for example, which is perfectly accessible but rife with paradox does not qualify as "clear" (paradox is "illogical" and "nonsensical" to many Westerners), for its intent lies outside the realm of persuasion" (379). What purposes then might there be beyond persuasion for writing? To point to Minh-ha's examples, one might put forward the idea of enlightenment, but writing, at its heart is about communication. The farther one goes from clarity, the more difficult communication becomes. The reader must put forth greater effort and may still fail to reach an understanding of what they have read. Is it enough to strive, to have the experience of striving?
To write is to communicate, express, witness, impose, instruct, redeem, or save-at any rate to mean and to send out an unambiguous message. Writing thus reduced to a mere vehicle of thought may be used to orient toward a goal or to sustain an act, but it does not constitute an act in itself. This is how the division between the writer/the intellectual and the activist/the masses becomes possible. (379)
Is it even possible to ever write a completely unambiguous message? The words that we write have meaning in our head while we write them. We imagine them to be a clear communication, but the more words are strung together, the more easy it is for others to read them differently. Shades of meaning, typos, misinterpretations, moods, relationships... The experiences that have shaped our lives, the uniqueness of our personal experiences (race, gender, class, geography, language) influence the ways that we interpret and relate to text.

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