Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Liberal Studies

Major Professor

Ofelia Schutte, Ph.D.


Testimonio, Latin America, Rigoberta Menchú, Subalternity, Spivak


This project seeks to address issues in cultural politics brought on by difficulties in cross-cultural communication, particularly as these problems manifest themselves in twentieth century Latin American testimonial narratives. By developing a critical line of questioning drawn from Gayatri Spivak's influential article "Can the Subaltern Speak," one aim herein is to analyze and describe the ways in which the narrative, Me Llamo Rigoberta Menchú Me Nació la Conciencia, translated into English as I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, exemplifies the incommensurable nature of cross-cultural discursive attempts. This is done through a twofold method: one, by placing heavy emphasis on the role of the reader as constitutor of meaning in a (textual) discursive transaction between culturally-different agents, and two, by drawing attention to the role of historically-determined interpretive frameworks in the reception and interpretation of Subaltern ennunciative acts. The latter, I argue, is necessary for gaining an adequate understanding of receiving and conveying meaning within cross-cultural paradigms. To this end, as an example of the problems, contextual and methodological, that arise in such communicative attempts between cultures, I take up the academic controversy stirred up by the publication of David Stoll's Rigoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans. Lastly, I investigate the socio-political implications of such failures in intercultural communication, giving rise to secondary lines of questioning such as finding ways to create favorable conditions for the possibility of genuine cross-cultural dialogue. One possibility, I suggest, is adopting a method of reading/listening which, borrowing from phenomenology, is continually on the way, always unfinished, and lets the life of the subaltern emerge by remaining open, not just to what is said, but to what is left unsaid.