By Conference on Black Literatures (1986 University of Queensland), Emmanuel S. Nelson
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Extra resources for Connections: Essays on Black Literatures
The ethnographic text, however well written, is supposed to function as a reflection of the real-a language used transparently to tell us about the real. What worries me about the ethnographic text is that it is an artifact produced totally within the economies of European institutions. It is a nonAboriginal communicative device, and is destined to be read largely by nonAboriginal people. It paradoxically produces lots of information about traditional societies, but as a text, a language event, it has nothing in common with the Aboriginal modes of verbal performance.
I do not see it as part of my brief to back up this work with any sort of ethnographic description of the region, language or traditional society as a whole. I do not want to save all this material for posterity-as valuable and as interesting as it may bebecause I have a theoretical problem that I cannot yet see my way around. This problem is that I see my work as being concerned with the production (and distribution) of texts, not just 'material' or pretextual 'contents'. My work is therefore on the medium of communication, which in the case of Paddy Roe is a kind of literary Aboriginal English.
He gradually loosened the thumb-nail. It was slippery with blood. I almost shrieked with pain; the torment was unbearable. I have not forgotten it: the pain was not slight; it was exceedingly great. When the nail had been loosened, he took a sharp opossum tooth, forced it into the living flesh through the base of the thumb-nail, and tore the nail off from behind. Blood spurted over his hand. The men chanted: They rip off the nail, they tear off the nail; Blood flows like a river, rushes along like a river.