links index narrative debleena cornelia lisa methodology conclusions references

Images from Debleena's village and the Santhali Alphabet


Debleena’s textual narrative, “A Story of Coming to Wor(l)ds,” is a poetic reflection of her childhood growing up in Calcutta and the centrality of literacy and language to that experience.  Michael Bamberg (1997) calls attention to the ways in which narrators position themselves in relation to their audiences and argues that this positioning indicates how an individual sees him or herself. Through this narrative positioning, Bamberg argues, narrators “produce” themselves and their audiences within specific social relationships (p. 336).  Debleena addresses this position early, stating, “Let me recall the story that many of you share, a story of growing up with words in an Indian city, a story so strangely incomprehensible to so many of my physical audience.” From the very beginning, then, she constructs her position as occupying a space between.  She has a story that is shared by many, and here she claims solidarity with others of the Indian diaspora, but she also describes her narrative, even though in eloquently written English, as “strangely incomprehensible” to her “physical audience.”  This statement constructs her audience as those not familiar with these experiences.

Because this literacy narrative was collected during an event at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, this audience includes the members of a large research university, as well as the virtual audience of the DALN. Debleena then describes a series of places that she moves among, the differences between her home and school worlds, her feelings as a stranger to many popular culture experiences (her family did not own a television), and her late coming to written literacy. Most of these experiences marked her as “different” within Indian society as well.



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