Cathies Dunsfords The Journey Home encapsulates in interesting process of realizing ones identity; by connecting the cultural, social and political affluences on Cowries life to her sexuality. The text begins with the identification a multicultural lesbian of the pacific in Cowrie; something which occurs actively as the text offers an account of the trans-pacific Maori community. In this case, the term identity is used to refer to ones alignment or affiliation to some social status; self-perception while sexuality refers to the sexual orientation of an individual. Multicultural or multiculturalism, on the other hand, is the acceptance of various cultural values or practices. The narrative approaches employed by Dunsford present the multi-cultural platform from within which the feminist subjectivity is realized. The sexual, cultural, the social libretto on identity or the omniscient narrative viewpoint cannot predefine or predetermine Cowries sexuality; the sagacity of subjectivity. Instead, Cowrie advances an understanding on an own world and the associated power relations via a complex lens of analysis registered in the act of telling. The emphasis placed on performativity as it related to identity is not gratuitous. In this case, the term is used to advance the transitional and dynamic nature of the instance through which the connection to sexuality is advanced. Since Cowrie examine her subjectivity from within a delineated cultural and social background, she realizes her identity through relation with a multi-cultural experience, though the understanding is neither timeless not fixed (Lorde and Outsider 114)
Through the character of Cowrie, Dunsford advance a feminist narrative base on identity and culture that disrupts the heteronormative aspects of discourse and desire. Throughout the text, moments of sexual identity; particularly lesbian desire emerged to challenge the heterosexual desires that underlie the discourse of culture, myth and feminist subjectivity (Foucault 154). At the onset of the narrative, Dunsford alludes to the existence of lesbian impulse in a suggestive manner. In the playful scuffle between Cowrie and Koana, a significant exchange of glances compels Cowrie to reach up and get hold of Koanas cheeks and even lips. In touching her cheeks, Cowrie develops sexual attraction toward Koana, though she had to hold it back. Even though the completion of Cowries sexual desires may be deferred by Koana sexuality, the confession that Cowrie makes to her friend indicates the need to uphold the publicly-accepted social boundaries that define the sexuality, on a temporary basis (Dunsford 29).
However, same-sex female desires do not remain external to the narratives frame; they in fact become ensnared into the Hawaiian cultural practices, power and communication. These associations dislodge the dualities of public or private and start to reconfigure a new transformative plane of lesbian desires. Taken as a single unit, the scuffle as well as Cowries reaction; performative relations of same-sex desires, turn out to be a form of embedded knowledge that advances the possibility for a visible platform of desire between women. In crystallizing and containing this transformative though temporary encounter, Cowrie hopes that it is possible to dedicate a hula; a sexualized form of dance, for one female dancer to another, thinking that it is not a taboo.
In this case, the readers realize the scenic dual trajectory. On one hand, the performance of the lesbian desires overwhelms the ability to remain within the established boundaries of heterosexuality. While, on the other hand, the suggestion made by Cowrie about the burden that blood-relations taboo place on inter-familial love affairs, takes into consideration the existing regulatory heterosexism. In essence the tension between the sense of sexuality and that which taboo surfaces a second time in the text espouses the idea of compulsory heterosexuality. Through the existence of compulsory heterosexualism, women are increasingly re-inscribed as weak and inferior to men (Stewart-Harawira 133). This is evident when Cowrie is seen to be fighting for sexual freedom in the acceptance of a non-perfunctory action; the creation of chances for a sexual freedom by accepting that her previous sexual identity could not influence her next relationship driven by lesbian desires.
Even though the prevalence of compulsory heterosexualism is evident in the text, such construction of sexual identity was not the only way in which women constituted their sexual identities (Allen 220). As evident in the text, at any moment, discursive formations are heterogenous and multiple, so that while in very era hegemonic discourses exist, other non-hegemonic discourses also exist, creating a discursive mix form which sexual subjectivity may be advanced. The newly-articulated changeability of lesbian desires turns out to be the eventual pathway for her sense of sexual and cultural identity. Cowrie later realizes that she must let go her sexual affection towards Koana while affirming her sexual identity as a lesbian at the moment when the sensual touch of Koanas cheeks and lips transforms her into the turtle woman. Cowries transformation into the embodiment of the mysterious turtle woman point towards her subjectivity as erotically as well as culturally empowered by the feminine creatures that brought about the relation between sea and land, myth and reality. The congruence of space, desire, and female power showcases Cowries identity in entirety as a single unit that is no disintegrated by the sense of sexual, historical or cultural marginalization. The geo-political, ancestral and metaphysical relations with the land are amplified by the Cowries acknowledgement in her first letter addressed to her mother, that the island of Hawaii was laced with mysteries. Her history and sense of identity is partially constructed from her immediate interaction with Paneke, a robust female character. Paneke serves as her guide in the text, facilitating the understanding of the spiritual nature of the island, the survival account of the turtle-women and eventually her own sense of trans-cultural lesbian feminist subjectivity (Dunsford 89).
The discursive power that Paneke has on Cowries life sculpts her cultural affiliation with the feminine forces that mark the people and land of Hawaii. Through her visit to Hawaii Cowries encounter various allusions, images and references to the Turtle-woman. Cowrie imagines and visualizes her in her dreams and she is meant to believe that she is dangerous because of her strong powers. However, when she hears of her story from Paneke, Cowrie develops a culturally-constructed feminist ancestry and the expectations that accompany such knowledge. Cowrie starts to develop a previously recognized affinity with the turtle woman. In fact, later on in the text, while recognizing Cowries lesbian desires, Paneke points to a clear link between the myth and Cowrie by averring that she has the power to swim back into the wave (Dunsford 116). This connection between Cowrie and the turtle-woman emerges when Cowries lesbian identity has evolved; in her understanding from an inert way of being into some polymorphous desiring process. The enclosure of female mythology, desire and talkstory delivered by a Hawaiian woman elongates Cowries journey for personal and cultural identity into a growth and survival narrative through feminist multicultural and intersexual production. No longer apprehended by the alienating conditions that denied Cowrie an identity as well as history, her subjectivity is now completely advanced by the awareness of multicultural ancestral affiliation, global politics and interpersonal female power and affinities.
In conclusion, the experience of entirety that Cowrie experienced does not constitute the homogenizing identities but rather a convergence of the feminine powers manifested though the cultural, erotic and political affluences on Cowries life. This cohesion of sexuality, culture and gender is constructed by the narrative discourse of spirituality that exists through a spiritualistic knowledge base. In fact, as evident in the text, one of the methods that the indigenous identity of the Maori people is defined, is through the assertion of a distinctive spiritual aspect of life; a life perspective that is non-material oriented and unifies the past, the present and the future while underpinning the cultural values, practices and customs. This point is supported by Cowrie in showing that social values and cultural practices are not just extraneous materialistic appendages to humanity, but rather manifestations of some spiritual reality in the native writings. The narrative offers a dynamic submission of this reality. The sexual, cultural, the social libretto on identity or the omniscient narrative viewpoint cannot predefine or predetermine Cowries sexuality; the sagacity of subjectivity but rather her own understanding of her world and the associated power relations via a complex lens of analysis registered in the act of telling, does.
Allen, Louisa. "Girls want sex, boys want love: Resisting dominant discourses of (hetero) sexuality." Sexualities 6.2 (2003): 215-236.
Dunsford, Cathie. The Journey Home: Te Haerenga Kainga. North Melbourne, Vic: Spinifex, 1997. Print.
Foucault, Michel. "The history of sexuality. Volume one: An introduction." (1980):151-156.
Lorde, Audre and Sister Outsider. "Age, race, class, and sex: Women redefining difference." Cultural Politics 11 (1997): 114-123.
Stewart-Harawira, Makere. "Practicing indigenous feminism: Resistance to imperialism." Making space for indigenous feminism (2007): 124-139.
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