“Alternate” Traditions in Marginalized (or Colonized) Groups

The notion of inheriting another tradition within a marginalized group is misunderstood if it is seen as an “alternate tradition” in some substantial manner. The traditions of the marginalized group are impossible to inherit in any direct sense, what is inherited is both an understanding that there was a different tradition, and that it became impossible due to changes in the larger social context. As such one inherits, with everyone else, the mainstream tradition, but along with it an implicit critique.

In the West, mainstream traditions don’t simply posit themselves as such, they are also posited as developmental, “progressive”, in a sense that is usually self-congratulatory. Its exclusivity is also demonstrated in that the understanding that other traditions were contradicts the mainstream’s version of the past as whathas-been, and excludes other possible avenues.

Everyone within a given society inherits the main tradition of that society. What the person from a marginalized community may also inherit as an “alternate” is the impossibility of an alternate, but an impossibility that became so, not one that always was and therefore inherently is. This alternate view of the tradition subverts the determinism of the history of the mainstream tradition contained in the exclusionary story it has of itself, and only in this way can the marginalized find a possibility of improvising a new tradition, one in which they have a place. This improvisation must come out of the mainstream tradition, since there is factically no other to draw from, and since in remaining within that society the improvisation must become operative within and out of the mainstream.



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