Making Experience Come Out of Right: Culture As Biography



Culture is not external to the life of self but constitutive of it. This theme is elaborated by use of 3 examples. (1) Montaigne's Essays record 18 years of a self “consubstantial” with its writings. The example raises the question: Is self-inscription a major element in many types of cultural activity? (2) The lives of Chang and Eng Bunker, the “Original Siamese Twins,” unseparated for 63 years, are used to ask the question: To what extent can biography be understood apart from biology, or one life understood apart from the lives around it? (3) In Inoue Yasushi's Chronicle of My Mother, a woman's self-understanding of her biography differs radically from her personal history as construed by her children and grandchildren. Here the question is: To what extent is selfunderstanding “consubstantial” with the interpretations made by others. The general suggestion is that selfhood has to be examined, in cultural analysis, as a temporal phenomenon and not as a “structure” individuated and spaced-out from the rest of culture. Culture then becomes a window-of-opportunity for the completing of self-projects.