My previous essay focused on how people tend to be in the habit of thinking that what they see is simply what they see, to be taken on an as is basis, or so to speak, yet, in actuality what they see is a mere projection, a mere fantasy of theirs. In other words, people see what will or desire to see. This essay will continue on that, sort of, by looking into what affects that process. I won’t delve deeper into what was already discussed but instead I’ll be looking at how it doesn’t even matter if what people are affected by is considered factual or fiction.
So, this time I’ll be taking a closer look at Dydia DeLyser’s article ‘Ramona Memories: Fiction, Tourist Practices, and Placing the Past in Southern California’. The gist of the article is that works of fiction may have an actual impact on people’s behavior. Now, this should not come as news to anyone, but that’s not the point she is making here. What’s interesting about this article, what makes it worth reading, is that is that people may come to approach landscape according to what they’ve read in a work of fiction.
DeLyser (886) points that works of fiction, such as Helen Hunt Jackson’s 1884 novel ‘Ramona’, come to alter the actual landscape, as well as people’s understanding of it, with or without the physical alterations made to the landscape. She (886) points out that one might call such the implementation of a false past, but, strictly speaking, that’s inaccurate as a work of fiction does not need to adhere to any true/false or fact/fiction binary. In other words, a work of art operates on its own, orphaned at birth from its creator and always potentially open to people in terms of its meaning, even if the interpretation is always somewhat constrained socially, as I’ve discussed in my previous essays. Anyway, the point here is that a work of art has a life of its own, yet, it may come to bleed into reality, affecting it as if was part of actual history. So, neatly connecting this to the previous essay, landscape invokes a fantasy past that affects how people see the world, in her (886) case quite literally so.
Before she moves on to discuss the effect of the character of ‘Ramona’ to a southern California landscape, DeLyser (886) addresses how collective or social memory works in terms of time. In summary, she (886) points out that when one assesses the past, one always does it in the present, just as I’ve discussed in a (haha) past essay (only funny because I’m writing this in the present). Anyway, jokes aside, this requirement of assessing the past in the present, the past only having existence in the present, not in itself, makes it so that just as the present is always changing, so is the assessment of the past because it takes place in the present. What happened does not, of course, change. What changes is how that past is presented because it always depends on the present. That’s memory for you. In her (886) words:
“Not reliant strictly on factual events of the past, social memory relies instead most strongly on the social contexts of the present.”
Which, in turn, lead her (886) to point out that:
“From the perspective of social memory, then, the point is not to argue whether a particular past event is fact or fiction, because the social meaning of memory is little affected by this distinction.”
To paraphrase this, because we have to assess the past in the present, relying on our memory, the past being inaccessible as it has no existence of its own, it matters not whether something in the past actually happened or not. Now, this is not to say that what actually happened doesn’t matter. No, no. It’s rather that it makes no difference whether something did or didn’t happen inasmuch as our memory says this and/or that happened, or didn’t happen.
For example, when I was studying abroad as an undergraduate student, we, me and some others, were in this bar, drinking beer and listening to a live band. I told a friend of mine that a man in the crowd, not far from us, looked like actor Edward Norton. To my knowledge, the man was not Edward Norton, yet, for the fun of it, I opted to state to my friend that the man is Edward Norton. Now, this is where it gets dicey. I remember telling my friend that the man across the room is Edward Norton, just because to me the man looked like Edward Norton, not because I knew that the man was Edward Norton. This was all in jest. I mean, what are the odds? Edward Norton, in a small bar, alone, drinking beer, jamming to some live music, in Limerick, Ireland? Now, that was my point exactly. I just wanted to cause some sort of disbelief in the others. Later on, as I was no longer there, able to stare at the man, to look at his face, I started wondering, to myself, what if it actually was Edward Norton? Oh, shit!
So, as DeLyser (886) points out, what matters in the present is not what actually happened but how our sense of the past affects the present, how it animates it, given that we are, certainly, in the present.
Anyway, following the brief discussion of memory and how it can be, sort of, falsified (albeit it’s not, strictly speaking, false), DeLyser (886-887) moves on to address how this is related to landscape. She (887) notes how, on one hand, one can assess what people do, for example, by addressing how tourists come and go, do this and that, and, on the other hand, one assess how it is that people do just, how they come to behave in this and/or that way. She (887) finds the latter case more compelling, not in the sense that one is going to approach people as a critical minded individual and tell them that they are sleepwalking, but in the sense that one seeks to understand their slumber, what it is to be in their dreamworld.
This reminds me of Mitch Rose’s article, ‘Gathering ‘dreams of presence’: a project for the cultural landscape’. The gist of this article is the notion of ‘dreams of presence’ borrowed from Jacques Derrida, what Rose (544) characterizes as:
“This dream of full presence is the philosophical dream to account for how things (human or otherwise) exist, without recourse to their history or a knowledge of their potential. It is the dream of a world that is explainable and accountable, a dream where we know who we are and what kind of world we belong to.”
And, more concretely as (545):
“Dreams of presence are dreams of a stable, knowable life? a life that is blind to immanence, impervious to movement, and invested in with certitude. As I have suggested elsewhere …, they are a means of attempting to hold onto a world that always eludes our grasp.”
Rose (545) also notes that researchers should be familiar with this already, regardless of how one approaches the world:
“[D]reams of presence are something we see all the time. In every effort to determine, delimit, name, or categorise life, whether it be through science, myth, or our own idiosyncratic imagination, we can find a dream of presence? that is an effort to dream the world as whole.”
So, yeah, I reckon this is what DeLyser (887) is referring to with regard to dreams, albeit not in specific reference to Derrida (nor Rose, which’d be anachronistic). Anyway, I agree with her (887) take here, actually made in reference to a 1999 article written by Jon Goss, ‘Once-Upon-a-Time in the Commodity World: An Unofficial Guide to Mall of America’. I agree that the researcher should not intervene with the people who inhabit the landscape, regardless of whether they are only passers-by or permanent residents. Now, this does not mean that I think that it is pointless to teach people what landscape is, its history, and, more importantly, how it functions. I think this is highly important, considering that it was something that I had never read or heard about anywhere, ever, before turning my attention to it, or, rather having my attention turned to it. For me, the problem is rather that once one makes one’s informants aware of landscape, wakes them up, or so to speak, one is no longer able to assess what they see, their dreams, but one’s own critical view of the world. In other words, as I keep pointing out, one keeps seeing oneself in one’s informants, contaminating one’s own data, to put it bluntly.
DeLyser (887) comments on how this task, assessing the dreams of others, is particularly hard. The problem with such assessments is that, following Goss (48), it results in obvious findings, like consumers and tourists are hardly critical with regard to their surroundings. The point here is that the researcher is already aware of that and writing about it is pointless, if not counter-productive, if the task is to be critical of such views. One easily ends up glorifying such passivity to one’s environment in the guise of empowering people. As Michel Foucault once explained this to Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow (187), as indicated in their book ‘Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics’:
“‘People know what they do; they frequently know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does[.]’”
So, at first, it may seem like a good idea to include people’s take on their surroundings, for example by asking mall shoppers or tourists what they think of this and/or that, but that may risk legitimizing uncritical views. Also, if one does the opposite, if one awakens them from the slumber, or so to speak, one is no longer asking what their take is as one has already pushed them to think otherwise. This is the problem with involving people. To my knowledge, it’s impossible to get their take, without making it your take, because you are the one reporting it to others. Now, that doesn’t render their takes as worthless. Instead, it’s rather that one needs to provide as full and accurate account of their views as possible, on an as is basis (which is often difficult because difference is always induced when one goes from speech to writing, from informal conversation to formal writing etc.), followed by a critical assessment of their views as otherwise one is taking their words for granted, thus potentially romanticizing them. Then there’s also the research ethical issue of whether one can ask them for their views, without first letting them know that you’ll be assessing their views critically and that it may, of course, reflect negatively on them, and the related issue whether they are willing to explain their views to you then (I don’t think they will be … now that I remember to mention these issues, explicitly, while doing some housekeeping, fixing typos, fumbles and janky wording and moving the references to the end of the essay, in 2022).
One ought to be interested in the various practices, or, as I would put it, various discourses, that pertain to how people act or behave, the way they do, as DeLyser (887) points out, albeit in a slightly different way. I’d say that I’m actually not that interested in what people do. What I’m interested in is what makes people do the things they do. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari explain this well in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ when they (194) liken the task to the essence of a novella, to asking “[w]hatever could have happened for things to have come to this?”
Deleuze and Guattari (193) provide examples where this uncertainty is present, like when you are unsure of where you put your keys or whether you actually mailed a letter. It’s that feeling you get when you seem to have forgot something, like when you wake up and you have no recollection of how you ended up where you happen to be and start tracing whatever could have happened for you to end up there, piecing it together for it to make sense, yet, certainly remains elusive. This happens with keys as well. There is this moment of wonder, followed by tracing, going through how things might have happened. The thing here is that even though you were present, you are forced to investigate because it is, as if, you weren’t. On top of this, when you figure things out, or so you think anyway, you are not answering your own question, what happened? When you realize that there was nothing special about how you ended up sleeping in your own bed, besides, perhaps, a couple of pints too many, or when you find your keys, you don’t know what exactly happened. That’s just your take on it and you are happy to have those keys in your hand again. So, it’s not only that figuring out the past is tricky in itself because you are always assessing the past from the present and because our memories tend to deteriorate, but also because it involves “a fundamental forgetting”, as they (193) point out. They (193) emphasize this forgetting, this “relation with something unknowable and imperceptible”, over time and memory work, not because they don’t matter, but because there is this uncertainty involved, this contingency. As they (193) point out, it might be that nothing special happened, not even a couple of pints too many, or that you misplaced your keys or were distracted by something at that moment when you put them down. I guess it’s like when you’ve been driving, for a while, and you snap out of it, or so to speak, not able to recollect how it is that you got wherever it is that you happen to be. Most likely nothing happened, yet, you can’t be sure.
To be more practical about this, and not just riff on everyday experiences of forgetting one’s keys, or the like, Deleuze (vii) explains this task in the preface of the English edition of ‘Dialogues’:
“[T]he aim is not to rediscover the eternal or the universal, but to find the conditions under which something new is produced.”
Or, as painter Paul Klee (28) once put this in in his part of ‘Schöpferische Konfession’:
“Kunst gibt nicht das Sichtbare wieder, sondern macht sichtbar.”
So, the purpose is not to render the visible, but to render visible. In other words, the goal is not to re-present (what’s already there, as seen, the visible), but to present (what’s yet to appear, yet to be seen, the invisible). As noted by Jean Baudrillard (37) in his polemical book titled ‘Forget Foucault’, this is the original sense of the word produce, as in pro-ducere, not to manufacture goods but to render visible, to make something from another order to appear to us, to materialize. My dictionary, in this case the Oxford English Dictionary (OED, s.v. “produce”, v.), is in agreement with him, prōdūcere having its roots in classical Latin where it is used for “to extend, stretch out, to prolong, lengthen, to bring forth, lead out, to bring forward, to bring before a court, to bring on to the stage, to present, to advance, promote, to bring into existence, to give birth to”. Among the current (non-obsolete) definitions (OED, s.v. “produce”, v.) it is indicated as pertaining to:
“To bring forward or out, to present to view or notice; to show or provide (something) for consideration, inspection, or use; to exhibit; spec. to bring (a witness or evidence) before a court of law.”
“To bring (a performance) before the public; to administer the staging of (a play, opera, etc.) or the financial and managerial aspects of (a film, broadcast, etc.); to supervise the making of (a musical recording), esp. by determining the overall sound.”
As well as:
“To bring into being or existence”
In the sense that:
“To bring (a thing) into existence from its raw materials or elements, or as the result of a process; to give rise to, bring about, effect, cause, make (an action, condition, etc.).”
“Of a person, animal, plant, etc.: to give birth to or bear (offspring); to yield (seed, fruit, etc.); to generate by a natural process.”
“Of a country, region, process, etc.: to give forth, yield, furnish, supply; (of a person or community) to grow, raise”
“To compose or create (a work of art, literature, etc.); to bring (a creative endeavour) to fruition.”
And, finally, in the sense that it is has to do with manufacturing goods:
“To make (an object) by physical labour; (now spec.) to make or manufacture (a product or commodity) from components or raw materials.”
So, yeah, in summary, Baudrillard is correct here, probably because he seems like the kind of guy, like me, who looks up words in a dictionary, to see if there’s more to it, rather than taking things for granted.
I’ve tried to explain this in my articles, to a mixed response. The last one that got rejected, for some reasons unknown, contained this nugget of gold, explained in ways that are fairly easy to grasp, including elaborating it via Immanuel Kant’s well known phenomenon/noumenon split, where the noumenon, the thing-in-itself, will forever remain inaccessible, whereas the phenomenon, how the thing appears to us, is what we get, inasmuch as we get, hence the point about focusing on what we can do, to find the conditions of their apparition or production, if we use the verb produce in a broader sense indicated by Baudrillard (37) for rendering visible, which is exactly what Klee (28) is after. Now, I side with Deleuze (vii) on this, not Kant, the difference being that Kant retains that there is “an abstract that is realized in the concrete”, even if the abstract cannot ever be reached, whereas, for Deleuze, “the abstract does not explain, but itself be explained”. Simply put, you always start bottom-up, not top-down. When you start from top-down, you’ve actual skipped the bottom-up bit where you, or someone else’s thought you subscribe to, for example Kant, came up with that top-down logic that then gets applied. So, as further elaborated by Deleuze (vii):
“Empiricism starts with … analysing the states of things, in such a way that non-pre-existent concepts can be extracted from them. States of things are neither unities nor totalities, but multiplicities.”
Moreover, as he (vii) goes on to add:
“It is not just that there are several states of things (each one of which would be yet another); nor that each state of things is itself multiple (which would simply be to indicate its resistance to unification.).”
So, in other words, not a unity or a totality, nor multiple, but, as he (vii) points out, multiplicities“, which designates a set of lines or dimensions which are irreducible to one another”, so that they do not simply collapse to one or many. I think it’s worth emphasizing that this makes much more sense if you remember that Deleuze (vii) argues that you extract the concepts from the multiplicities. So, yeah, as the concepts are extracted from them, you can’t piece the concepts together or stack them up, if you will, to make sense of things truly are, as a totality, you know, like a jigsaw puzzle. Now, this is not to say that we don’t end up with such, that we don’t have to deal with such, as he (vii-viii) goes on to add:
“Of course a multiplicity includes focuses of unification, centres of totalization, points of subjectivation, but as factors which can prevent its growth and stop its lines.”
How does it work then? He (viii) explains:
“In a multiplicity what counts are not the terms or the elements, but what there is ‘between’, the between, a set of relations, which are not separable from each other.”
In other words, the focus is not on things, as such, as if they were a real version of an idea, but how these things come together, how they are assembled, inasmuch as they are, in relation to one another. So, he (viii) adds that:
“Every multiplicity grows from the middle, like the blade of grass or the rhizome.”
This is where you get the famous rhizome much discussed in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. To make more sense of this, in reference to how I just referred to thought, how someone thinks, he (viii) states that:
“We constantly oppose the rhizome to the tree, like two conceptions and even two very different ways of thinking.”
And, with regards to lines, because he mentioned them already, he (viii) explains:
“A line does not go from one point to another, but passes between the points, ceaselessly bifurcating and diverging, like of [Jackson] Pollock’s lines.”
If you fail to grasp what he means by that, look up Jackson Pollock and lines. You’ll see. I understood it immediately, just intuitively. When it comes to the extracted concepts then, what we get in this rhizomatic way of thinking are “true becomings” which have no history, no individuation, nor subject, like “a river, a climate, an event, a day, an hour of the day”, as he (viii) goes on to elaborate. This is not to say that we don’t deal with arborescent concepts. We do, all the time, because arborescence is the dominant way of thinking. For example, when we resort to explaining the existing states of affairs with concepts like self, individual, society, culture, nature and ideology, to name a few, we are dealing with concepts central to the arborescent way of thinking. He (viii-ix) uses the example of how Sigmund Freud dealt with multiplicities when dealing with a psychopath, like how that person “experiences and thinks multiplicities”, as in how “the skin is a collection of pores, the slipper, a field of stitches, the bone is extracted from ossuary” etc., yet Freud ends up falling back on some “neurotic unconscious which plays with eternal abstractions”, a lost or splintered totality that one seeking to return to or fix back together. This is the same thing as with the jigsaw puzzle example, if you didn’t notice.
Anyway, the point Deleuze is making is that rhizomes are everywhere, like it or not, growing, expanding, even though people are keen to point otherwise, because their way of thinking is that of arborescence. If you take this on a personal level, what matters is not you, yes, you, or me, for that matter, or anyone else, specifically, but rather what comes out of that when people, like you, me, Baudrillard, DeLyser, Deleuze, Derrida, Dreyfus, Goss, Guattari, Foucault, Kant, Klee, Pollock, Rabinow, Rose, anyone involved really, come together, as Deleuze (ix) points out:
“What mattered was not the points – Felix, Claire Parnet, me, many others, who functioned simply as temporary, transitory and evanescent points of subjectivation – but the collection of bifurcating, divergent and muddled lines which constituted this book as a multiplicity and which passed between the points, carrying them along without ever going from the one to the other.”
Out of interest to people who like a good conversation, like I for sure do, he (ix-x) adds that:
“Hence, the first plan for a conversation between to people, in which one asked questions and the other replied, no longer had any value. The divisions had to rest on the growing dimensions of the multiplicity, according to becomings which were unattributable to individuals, since they could not be immersed in it without changing qualitatively.”
In other words, it works a bit like just … jamming or riffing, if that makes any sense, shooting some shit and seeing where that takes you, if you will, not really bothered by having to stay on script, like in a fixed question/answer format. Anyway, he (x) continues:
“As we became less sure what came from one, what came from the other, or even from someone else, we would become clearer about ‘What is it to write?’”
This may seem highly counter-intuitive, at first, but, in terms of the rhizomatic way of thinking, this makes plenty of sense. To be candid, I’ve started to experiment with this, asking someone to engage with me in a long conversation where there is no requirement to stick to a plan, to predefined set of questions that I wish the other person to answer to, and I think it has worked marvelously. I’ve tried to make it so that the person I’m dealing does not even have to adhere to preset topics. Sure, we start of somewhere, agree on some topics that we might discuss, but, strictly speaking, there are no rules to it. Feel like talking, okay, let’s talk. Feeling like going on a tangent, go for it! You can even ask questions from me! Anyway, this will then be edited and published,, turned into writing, in agreement with the other person in question, so that the other person is fine with it. I reckon it’s more about the person I’m dealing with, yet, then again, it’s a co-production because I cannot not be involved. It provides a way superior experience than the question/answer format, to all parties involved, including the reader. I’ve only experimented this on one person at a time, but I reckon that it could work with more interlocutors. Why wouldn’t it? Oh, and yes, these are published, out there, you just have to find them, and, hint hint, be able to read Finnish. I guess I could translate them into English, but so far, I haven’t. It’s actually been sort of a challenge for myself, to do more writing in Finnish, because I’m so accustomed to writing in English, to the point that I’m sure that I’m a better writing in English than I am in Finnish.
Right, so, if I’m all for this rhizomatic thinking, this alternative way of thinking, and what comes with it, why do I keep using concepts central to arborescence, the dominant way of thinking? Well, most people subscribe to arborescence, to the point that they are not aware that it is possible to think otherwise. I can’t just force them from. That’s counterproductive. It would just result in more arborescence. To make people understand what I’m after, or, well, what Deleuze and Guattari are after, requires people to not only see that it is possible to think otherwise and that it is a vastly superior way of thinking, but also that the dominant way of thinking comes with plenty of problems that result from it. I think it’s my job to explain all this, especially the problems that come with it, like being a slave to your own reasoning, and to exemplify it as best as I can, otherwise I risk coming across as just hippy-dippy or something. So, in summary, I also need to criticize the dominant way of thinking in order to make a case for an alternative way of thinking.
Okay, to repeat myself, I’m actually not that interested in what people do. Instead, I’m interested in what makes people do the things they do. It’s not in search of what actually happened, not only because that’s usually a tough thing to figure out but also because being in the middle of things, as we are, it’s more like figuring out what could have happened for things to be the way they are, as if you simply can’t remember. Who has perfect recollection anyway? So, in short, this is about practice, not what someone thinks about this and/or that, but rather how it is that they may have come to think this and/or that. Now, of course, you do end up having to cover the first part, but the point is to focus on the latter. I mean it’s kinda hard to not even mention the states of affairs, the way things happen to be, if you wish to explore how we might have ended up that way. I don’t think it’s even possible and even if it is, it seems like a rather futile task to attempt such, just for the sake of it.
Where was I with DeLyser? So, yeah, DeLyser (887) states that the point is to look at both meaning and practice. I reckon her focus is a bit different from mine but I can respect that. To each their own.
Right, to get somewhere with this, DeLyser (887-888) moves on to elaborate on the novel written by Helen Hunt Jackson. The gist of this is that the fictional story sought to address issues of her time, namely the poor treatment of what in the story are referred to the California Mission Indians. My knowledge of these people or, rather, peoples are next to non-existent, but, apparently, the moniker comes from locals who were forcible relocated to work on the properties of so called Franciscan missions by the Spanish. However, the story ended up being read as evoking “a romanticized past for the region”, a rancho dream, by the English speaking settlers, as she (888) points out. She (888) notes how supposedly accurately the novel depicted various actual places, which led people to treat a piece of fiction as a fact. According to DeLyser (887-888), this eventually became big business, including all kinds of things that came to further legitimize the story, such as postcards depicting where the protagonist of the story, Ramona, “the half-Indian half-Scottish adopted daughter of a wealthy Hispanic rancho family,” had supposedly been in the area. It would be difficult to list them all, so just imagine all the stuff you find in a gift shop. What you get is a whole host of tourist attractions based on someone’s imagination, as she (888) points out. Contemporarily this is known as marketing, selling you a better version of whatever it is that is at stake. Anything goes really, as long as it sells. She (889) provides numerous examples, too many to list here, but the point is that pretty much anyone who could make a buck from this went for it.
Now, this is, of course, only one side of the story, how marketing works. What about the people themselves, those who come to visit these sites of fantasized heritage? Well, DeLyser (890) suggests that we ask the people themselves. Before doing that, however, she (891) ventures to further elaborate how a piece of fiction intended to shine light on the plight of a minority ended up as mere quaint reading for those who sought to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and industrialization, providing dreams of presence in a changing world, a nostalgia for the present that was about to change, as Fredric Jameson might put it. In her (891) words, it “transformed [the] potentially emancipatory cry to aid the Mission Indians into a nostalgic glance back at the Californio and Indian cultural that had once been”, rendering all the “potentially disruptive political differences into quaint cultural differences” with its “picturesque descriptions and curious dialects”. What happened was that the tension only shifted. The old Spanish, Californio, way of life, was threatened by the arrival of Anglophone settlers, so it became valorized, despite itself being a settler culture, or so to speak. In other words, the present, what will soon be the past, became exoticized and romanticized in glorious made-up detail, ready to be easily consumed by the intended audience, the white English speakers, as she (893) points out. Now, it’s worth noting that, as acknowledged by her (893), the author didn’t intend any of this, it just, sort of happened and the text started to live a life of its own, as texts tend to do, as I’ve discussed in my past essays.
DeLyser (894-897) exemplifies this appetite for the Californio by noting how a local ranch or, rather, rancho, became the focal point in this mythical past that never even was. The owners of the ranch had mixed feelings about this, considering that, on one hand, it was a business opportunity, handy for branding, yet, on the other hand, it led to an ever growing number of visitors, what we might call tourists, making pilgrimages to the place, to the point that it was unsustainable for keeping the place running as intended, as a ranch. The fact that the place was kept the way it just was, as a ranch, and thus devoid of commercialism, lacking a gift shop, guided tours and what not, only reinforced the notion of this place as genuine, as the home of Ramona, which is only ironic, considering that the person never even existed, except on paper. It got so bad that the family eventually decided to sell the property. Apparently some visitor were so captivated by the story that they just had to have a part of the ranch, that is to say steal something from the premises, like pillaging relics.
She (897) lists other places like a small town nearby which became thought of as the place where the main character of the story got married. In these cases, unlike with the ranch, the places became tourist traps, selling just about anything to the visitors who were attracted to the place by the story, including pretty much anything, “teaspoons … toothpick holders, letter-openers, ash trays, coin banks, plates, salt-and-pepper shakers, napkin rings, pocket notebooks, tape measures, miniature vases, pennants, silver matchbox covers … ornately painted ostrich eggs … rosary case[s] … holy water font[s] [and] crucifix[es]”, as she points out (898-899). It’s worth adding that people not only left with souvenirs, but also left their marks in the place, leaving cards and inscribing their names pretty much wherever they could, as she (889) points out, you know like when you encounter a graffiti or an inscription that’s there just to point out that ‘I was here’.
There is a particularly interesting bit where DeLyser (898) mentions that a real-estate entrepreneur wanted to restore a building linked to the story. Now, I find this a particularly interesting example because, strictly speaking, how does one restore a place to a state that never even was? This reminds me of how David Lowenthal (108) points out in ‘‘Age and Artifact: Dilemmas of Appreciation’, that it’s impossible for random people to assess whether something is old, decayed, or whether it has been crafted to look like it is the case. Anyway, I find this interesting because this exemplifies the central issue of her article so well. What’s genuine, authentic or original anyway? As she (898) points out, it gets even more bizarre when people start to protest to the commercialism linked to the phenomenon, as if the making money out of it was ruining a genuine experience of … a piece of fiction?
Oh, and if you think that what’s been covered so far is a bit strange, it’s going to get even stranger. DeLyser (900) notes that there’s been various developments in the area, one place closing down, a new another taking its place and, particularly interestingly, people debating and competing over the right to call this or that building, for example, the ‘Home of Ramona’. The point is that it got rather confusing for just about everyone involved, which is, I guess, only apt, consider how confusing the whole thing was from the start.
DeLyser (901) reminds the reader not to think of this, all this, as a mere ploy to make money. As she (901) points out, the novel sought to do one thing, to make “a positive difference in the lives of Native Americans, yet it resulted in romanticizing the old Spanish ways of living, the Californio rancho being its centerpiece. Regardless of its popularity among the anglophones, it was not written for the purpose of creating an industry around it, like creating a franchise with merchandise and royalty payments. Of course, that doesn’t mean that things didn’t end up going that way, eventually, against the intentions of the author. That’s the thing with texts or, well, any pieces of art, regardless of the mode of expression, as I pointed out earlier on already. They end up having a life of their own, torn from the author who is, in fact, at best, a mere phantom to others, a figment of our imagination. Anyway, the point here is that, as she (901) points out, it was the people themselves who came to give life to the story, making it real, by visiting these sites. They made this all happen, not the author. That said, others did swoop in, to quite literally set up shop, to capitalize on their enthusiasm.
DeLyser (902) also reminds the reader that what she’s covering in her article is not unique, as such. This phenomenon where tourists come to see settings of fiction, as if something which didn’t happen had happened, is by no means a new thing, nor uncommon. She provides a lot of examples, which I’m sure you can check out yourself. More contemporarily, the old town of Dubrovnik in Croatia is a good example of this, having functioned as one of the central settings for the TV adaptation of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R. R. Martin, otherwise known as ‘Game of Thrones’. It’s pretty bizarre, to want to be in the place where something didn’t take place, yet people find it meaningful, as he (902) points out.
Now, to be clear, for me, this, all these observations about how fiction bleeds into reality, becoming real, or hyperreal, to use Baudrillard’s term for it, is not, in itself, a bad thing. So, as explained by DeLyser (902), the purpose here is not to point out the obvious, that is to say that people are embracing a false past (even though that’s what they are doing), in hopes of dispelling such fantasies in order to access reality, the true and unadulterated reality. I reckon that’s impossible as the way we see the world is always a construction of it, as discussed in my previous essay. Now, as she (902) also points out, this does not mean that just because we can’t access the real, reality in itself, that we should go with the flow either, to just take things for granted. It’s exactly what we shouldn’t be doing, as I keep saying in my own work, and as stated by her (902-903) in this article. The key is to understand how this works, how things come to seem to be the way they seem to us, at any given moment, hence my long tangent on the issue in this essay.
It would also be all too easy, frankly too lazy, to make fun of people for believing in a story, clearly made up. I mean sure, what DeLyser is discussing in this article is certainly a piece of fiction, a novel by Helen Hunt Jackson, that came to influence people’s understanding of the world, quite literally setting the parameters for how they see that area. Then again, when you think of it, and I think you should think of it, it’s not at all clear that we aren’t constantly being shaped by such fantasies that we just happen to take for granted, to be real, to be factual, not fictional. What is it that makes a landscape Finnish? Is it simply what we see or is it the way we see it? I reckon it is the latter and that’s where things get interesting. Why is it that that’s the case? Now, I don’t suggest you attempt to figure out what happened for that to be the case, but rather, as suggested by Deleuze and Guattari (193), “[w]hatever could have happened for things to have come to this?” Think of it as as being in the middle of things, suddenly realizing that you’ve forgot how that came to be. It’s like how while I was skating I noticed that there was blood on one of my fingers. I had a closer look. There was a very small cut. I didn’t know where it came from. It was, as if, I had forgotten about it. Surely I had managed to cut myself, somehow, but I couldn’t remember it. All I could think of was that it might have been the case that I grazed the top of my finger, just above the nail, when I was tightening the laces of my skates. Did that happen? I can never know because I just can’t remember. That said, I could figure out conditions for its apparition, whatever could have happened for my finger to be bloody like that.
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