資料：Ethics of “Testimony”: Burdens that Accompany Story-Telling
(Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences, Ritsumeikan University)
In preparation for today's symposium, the questioners and participants in Prof. Frank's special lectures have discussed his arguments in a series of seminars. Today, I am honored to have the opportunity to ask Prof. Frank questions about a topic in which I have a special interest.
Although my questions are not directly related to the topic of Prof. Frank's speech today, I hope that my questions contribute to getting a discussion going.
Prof. Frank, in your book The Wounded Storyteller, you clarify how, on a theoretical level, the suffering body regulates and chooses a self. Then you classify “illness narratives” into the three categories of “restitution narrative,” “chaos narrative” and “quest narrative,” and propose an ideal type in which a storyteller and listener create a concentric circle over testimony through their “communicative bodies.” You go on to propose that an illness narrative can signify experiences which have not yet been given meaning and that it can be situated as an act of approaching the border of life (the critical part of life).
Focusing on the closeness of bodies enables the relations between the self and others to become inter-complementary in the form of a “communicative body.” I understand that you use the term of “being with” to describe such dynamics, in which communications between bodies contingently “occur.”
Your perspective and argument about such relationships of “being with” have given me new suggestions for understanding self-experience.
Reading your books, I recall witnessing the reactions of a mother to the death of her child in a car accident. In the process of social procedures including a trial, an insurance company sent photos of the accident to the family of the victim, and the victimizer repeatedly made apologies. These forced the mother of the victim to repeatedly face the pain she was suffering. Yet, she never expressed her suffering in words. Regarding such an accident, in contrast to a natural disaster or illness, it is generally considered that the instigator of the accident is directly to blame. However, she never tried to blame the victimizer or show any compassion to him. When she was urged to generalize her experience by other people, she never showed any animosity.
Instead, and this is the key point for me, she would sigh, murmur, and quietly leave the room where people were talking about her dead child and sharing pain and sorrow. I believe that, instead of orally telling her narrative, she was expressing her own form of life through, in your words, the “communicative body,” or, in other words, her behaviors. I have learned from her that life inherently contains what cannot be adequately expressed in words by her.
Probably, such an experience has been shared by everyone. I believe that the ethics of storyteller and listener appears in the moment at which the listener gropes for “being with” the teller through the communicative body, while feeling frustrated about one's failing to say anything to the teller.
Based on the above understandings, I would like to ask you two questions today. First, I would like you to confi rm whether my understandings are correct or not.
Specifi cally, I wonder if the non-verbal way in which the woman I witnessed coped with her suffering can be regarded as “testimony.” I propose that the woman's sighs and muttering can be situated in the “swing” space between what you call “a chaos narrative” and “a quest narrative.” Her narrative was not made with the intent that her story might transform other people or society from her side. Also, she was never eloquent as a storyteller. For me, as one of the “others,” however, her behaviors seem to carve out a different direction for demonstrating a possibility of storytelling for the process of coping with suffering. Moreover, through my act of presenting her case here, in effect, a new concentric circle of “testimony” may be created around her core testimony. Refl ecting upon your arguments, I would like to suggest that this mother's case can also be regarded as a phenomenon in which a voice is conveyed between bodies. What do you think about this point?
My second question is about the ethics of the storyteller. In your arguments presented in chapter eight of The Wounded Storyteller, the ethic of the teller seems to converge with becoming a witness to tell a social truth. If one answers yes to the previous question, that is, if one can consider the women's narrative as a “testimony,” is it possible, as you seem to have done, to privilege narrative as special form of life, in other words, to give greater weight to the act of becoming somebody by declaring a value through telling her/his story to other persons?
The reason why I ask you this question is that, fi rst, I learned that the stories told by those facing illness have various phases from your arguments. Those who are called to by the suffering body deal with it in various ways: some may fall silent or let the illness go past by changing the meaning of illness, some may remain suspended in a kind of limbo under the pressure to create meaning or share pain with others, and others must tell their stories to other persons. As you claim that the ethic of the listener should relocate a narrative into a “multivocal” context, I believe that the listener should take the diversity of narratives brought by the body as equally representing “testimony” about the critical part of life.
The second reason is that, from the above understanding, I think, it is necessary to think about the burden accompanied by story-telling. In your arguments, you frequently refer to the narratives of Holocaust victims. You point out the “Existential universality” between the tellers of illness and Holocaust witnesses. Although the suffering is not comparable, the wounds in both cases are half opened, and both of them share a commonality in resting on the listeners' existence. Thus, in my understanding, you defi ne the ethics of the teller and the listener as including the responsibility to become a “witness” to declare a “social truth.” In other words, the existence of a “social truth” cannot be revealed unless the victims speak up.
However, I believe that we need to reconsider the burden imposed on Holocaust victims in telling their stories, which brings another pain and diffi culty.
We must think about who is request that a story be told and why the teller must speak. Moreover, we must hold the ethics of the teller and the listener in a way that does not put pressure on the teller to speak.
Surely, to legitimate illness narrative as a testimony makes a persuasive case that an ethics of the listener is necessary. In addition, I should understand from your arguments that the ethics of teller and listener are one of a relationship between those who call and those who face. However, if one is required to become a “witness” by orally telling, the diversity of the body's acts will be interpreted and valued in the only one direction by listeners and also researchers. If, for example, we force the mother of the case I presented to tell her stories further and to become a “witness,” we may add to her burdens. If one can consider the mother case as testimony, I think it is not necessarily that to defi ne the ethics of storyteller as to “telling the others”.
Let me summarize my questions here. The first question is: can I consider the response to life taken by the mother in the case I mentioned earlier as one of “testimony”? The second question is: if narrative is ethics, and thus, when we defi ne the ethics of storyteller as “telling the others”, how we understand the relation between what is gained and what is lost? This issue is critically important for my research, so I would like to ask Prof. Frank this question today.
I am very impressed by your arguments that the illness narrative represents the reality of the experiences that are beyond a certain dominant understanding, and that it refl ects what forms our lives should take. In the postmodern era, acquiring a selfstory and talking about it to others should provide us with a possibility for being free from the absolute domination. Nevertheless, or rather, as a consequence, in my future research, I would like to consider further the various phases that the illness narrative can have in order to deal with confrontations with illness, and how we can conceive and share the burden of story-telling imposed on the teller under the asymmetric relationships. I believe that we cannot demand story-telling of the person who does no longer want to tell her/his stories. I believe that the issues I have brought up, however, do not detract from ability of narratives to bring out the potential of the self and society.
I am standing only at the entrance to the question, but I would very much appreciate it if Prof. Frank could give me some suggestions.