Monday, May 21, 2001
: . A local habitation and a name…:
Anne McClintock: Luce Irigaray suggests that the male insistence on marking ‘the product of copulation with his own name’ stems from the uncertainty of the male’s relation to origins. ‘The fact of being deprived of a womb,’ she suggests, is ‘the most intolerable deprivation of man, since his contribution to gestation—his function with regard to the origin of reproduction—is hence asserted as less than evident, as open to doubt.’ The father has no visible proof that the child is his; his gestative status is not guaranteed. The name, the patrimony, is a substitute for the missing guarantee of fatherhood; it is only the father’s name that marks the child as his.
The sexual scene of origins…finds an analogy in the imperial scene of discovery. By flamboyantly naming ‘new’ lands, male imperials mark them as their own, guaranteeing thereby, or so they believe, a privileged relation to origins—in the embarrassing absence of other guarantees. Hence the imperial fixation on naming, on acts of ‘discovery,’ baptismal scenes and male birthing rituals.
Like baptism, the imperial act of discovery is a surrogate birthing ritual: the lands are already peopled, as the child is already born. Discovery, for this reason, is a retrospective act…During these extravagant acts of discovery, imperial men reinvent a moment of pure (male) origin and mark it visibly with one of Europe’s fetishes: a flag, a name on a map, a stone, or later perhaps, a monument.
Jose Rizal: But if the [Spanish] corporal was a bad philologist, he was, on the contrary, a good husband; he would teach his [native] wife what he had just learned and so continued her education.
‘Consola, what is the name of your d__ country?’
‘What else should I call it? As you have taught me, Felifenas!’
‘I’ll knock you down with this chair, you b__! Yesterday, you were pronouncing it much better, the modern way. But now, you have to say it the ancient way: Feli, or rather Filipinas!…Say it you b__ or I’ll hit you with this chair!’
Consolacion saw the movement, thought for a while, and stammered, breathing heavily, ‘Feli… Fele… File…’ Pum! Crracc! The chair completed the word.
The lesson ended in fisticuffs, scratches, blows. The corporal grabbed her hair, and she, his goatee and other parts of his body…; blood flowed, one eye grew redder than the other, a shirt was torn to shreds, body parts came out of their hiding places, but Filipinas did not emerge.
Adventures like these happened every time the matter of language came up.