The very act of filming Ixcanul in Kaqchikel serves a radical purpose in redefining silence as resistance. Although subtitles are provided, Bustamante does not adhere to the common acquiescence and subordination of indigenous languages to Spanish.
Ironically, he reversed the typical sequence and hierarchy of translation:. I wrote the film in French [in Paris, where I went to film school]. Then I translated it into Spanish.
We then went to Guatemala and I translated it into Kaqchikel. Scrolls were destroyed. And Spanish was favored as the language of the elite. Bustamante is not presenting Kaqchikel as a novelty to be displayed and paraded in an exploitatively ethnographic manner. His intentional naturalization of the indigenous language favors the liberating power of indigenous silence: the viewer is the one out of place and foreign. Naturalizing indigeneity in this manner reminds the viewer that despite the mysticism we project onto indigenous people, they have always been on this land, and the colonizers were the foreigners.
Reflections at the Edges of Sound
When discussing the indigenous film Atanarjuat , Tom Crosbie emphasizes that:. Symbolic silence as resistance differs from symbolic silence as oppressive because it is no longer about the elites not listening or hearing indigenous people, but of elites being unable to understand them. There is a power in this exclusion, just as there is a power unfairly wielded against indigenous people in their exclusion from Spanish dominated spaces.
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An oppressed person defining their right to be exclusionary operates much differently from an oppressor defining their right to be exclusionary in hegemonic ways. The exclusion of the oppressed denies them a life of dignity, whereas the exclusion of the oppressors denies them a sphere of influence and a space where, if included, they would dominate and establish themselves as superior.
One manifestation of indigenous language as resistance against oppression rather than an expression of oppression is the Indigenous Bilingual Education IBE movement. The IBE movement originated as an assimilationist model to ease transition and cultural erasure and then drastically shifted towards a maintenance and preservation model.
Between and , books and articles on various aspects of IBE were published in 13 different Latin American countries Lopez and Sichra. Thus, indigenous language does serve both oppressive and liberatory agendas, depending on who is being excluded and why:.
Still the Silence: Feminist Reflections at the Edges of Sound
Language has a tremendously important role as both gatekeeper and doorway: indigenous peoples may be excluded or disadvantaged where a government limits or refuses to allow the use of an indigenous languages within the institutions of the state and relations with the public, or a doorway can be opened in both education and advancement when the use of an indigenous language can serve to empower members of indigenous communities de Varennes, 2.
They are undeniably subjected to misogyny and racism but also engage in resistance. This stereotype of weakness and femininity for indigenous people is even further reinforced for indigenous women, who are viewed as even more incompetent and silent. Bustamante deconstructs this passive indigenous women stereotype while avoiding insensitivity towards the very real silencing they face.
Either extreme is negative, the former patronizing and the latter minimizing of the issue. Niro is describing voice in the Western symbolic sense as analogous with expression rather than as a literal medium for agency. In Ixcanul , through her silence Maria is strong and her ability to resist is revealed, yet through her silence she is restricted and the impossibility of her being able to fully destroy the structures that rob her of control is made clear. The effect of deconstructing stereotypes of passively oppressed indigenous women is to dismantle the falsely strict binary between modernity and tradition and between agency and subjugation.
Indigenous people are not cut off from modernity in some bubble of archaic backwardness. They are alive but not alive, on their last legs, on the fringes of society, and stuck in the past anyway. Is it not backwards and old fashioned to have the skeletal remnants of colonial ethnic hierarchy determine who and who does not have access to power, who and who is not silenced? Neither are they Westernized, outspoken critics seeking to destroy the patriarchy of their culture from the inside out.
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Pepe wears an American Eagle shirt. Maria takes control in planning to go to America. At the same time, Maria believes enough in the superstitious power of pregnant women to try to scare the snakes away. The family still makes offerings to the volcano and exhibits no intention to assimilate or abandon their culture. By grounding the relationship between modernity and tradition in Ixcanul in the ways that silence in the film is both a form of repression and an act of resistance, the viewer fully internalizes the complicated and contradictory image of indigeneity and femininity that Bustamante set out to create.
Casma, Julio Cesar. Catsoulis, Jeannette. Chang, Justin. De Varennes, Fernand. Malhotra, Sheena, and Aimee Carrillo Rowe. Palgrave Macmillan, Merskin, Debra. Miranda, Carolina A.
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Reflections at the Edges of Sound
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An understanding of silence as oppressive has a longstanding history in struggles for all types of liberation, specifically within Western feminist thought: Words fill the Western canon. Scholars Aimee Carrillo Rowe and Sheena Malhotra argued: We seek to break with the Western tradition, reiterated from Aristotle to Audre Lorde, that locates silence as a site of reform and privileges voice as the ultimate goal of and means to achieve empowerment…. Ironically, he reversed the typical sequence and hierarchy of translation: I wrote the film in French [in Paris, where I went to film school].
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Silence as a Reflection on Feminism, Indigenous Rights, and Modernity in Ixcanul
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