Monday, December 6, 2010

Why We Have To Remember Her

Instead of dedicating his book to the usual loved one or ones, Todorov dedicates The Conquest of America to “the memory of a Mayan woman devoured by dogs.” This is a particularly striking image, as it is probably meant to be. While it only shows the cruel fate of one woman, it represents all of the others that resisted the European conquerers and got repressed or otherwise brutally slaughtered. Todorov explains the story of the Mayan woman in more detail in the epilogue of the book. He says that he tells the story and dedicates the book to that Mayan woman in the hope that “we remember what can happen if we do not succeed in discovering the other.” 

One of the biggest problems states and people in the world had (and still have, to some degree), is understanding the "other." A lack of understanding of other people, customs, and cultures can cause a lot of communication problems. By dedicating the book to the Mayan woman, Todorov acknowledges and makes known some of the worst outcomes that such misunderstandings can have. He presents it as a lesson to be learned, something that we should not let happen again. 

1 comment:

  1. Rachel,
    The Mayan woman IS a striking image, especially because of her gender. She becomes an "other" that is not European, but also an "other" of her own social group. Like Enloe, Todorov emphasizes the marginalized population, not out of sympathy (though, of course, that is a natural after effect), but out of logic. We need to be able to define the "other" so that we can recognize the harshness of our actions. We may be the "dogs," and not even realize it. To this extent, the self/other is a recurrent problem in today's society as well.

    ~ Rachael W.