Letters From Santiago: Re-membering the Displaced Body Through Dreams
“Letters From Santiago” is an exploration and investigation of the trauma of displacement and exile, as well as an exercise in circumventing the self-silencing so common to refugees and immigrants. By re-contextualizing both Euro-American psychoanalytical (Freud, Jung) and trauma (Cathy Caruth) models along with Eastern ones (Ananya Jahanara Kabir), and integrating recent scholarship on dreaming (Erin J. Wamsley, Steven Kruger, Allan J, Hobson), this essay provides a personal, intimate ethnographic account of the agency of memory in the face of the unreturnable debt of exile. Moving from storytelling exercises with my father, who fled Cuba at the age of fourteen, to cultural and theoretical discussions (Glissant, Agamben, Berger) of language as a site of national identity, to tracings of dream-narratives and their intersection with memory throughout literature, “Letters From Santiago” is part epistolary correspondence with the past and archival inquiry into a future which asks how we might be able to reproduce the rehabilitation of self-silencing and trauma by applying contemporary art and pop culture representations (Depeche Mode, Twin Peaks) with dream theory and more performative psychoanalytical processes, all in an endeavor to sidestep the reductive and circular silence-testimony binary.
Keywords: exile, immigration, trauma, memory, dreams, psychoanalysis, performance, Cuba
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CHRIS CAMPANIONI is the author of Death of Art (C&R Press). His recent work appears in 3:AM Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Ambit, Hotel, Whitehot, and Cosmonauts Avenue, and his poem, “This body’s long & I’m still loading” was adapted as an official selection of the Canadian International Film Festival. His “Billboards” poem responding to Latino stereotypes and mutable—and often muted—identity in the fashion world was awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize and his novel Going Down was selected as Best First Book at the 2014 International Latino Book Awards. He is currently a Provost Fellow and MAGNET Mentor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he is conducting his doctoral studies in English. He edits PANK, At Large, and Tupelo Quarterly and teaches Latino literature and creative writing at Pace University and Baruch College.