Every sign, linguistic or nonlinguistic, spoken or written . . .
can be cited, put between quotation marks.
Reported speech is regarded by the speaker as an utterance belonging to
someone else . . . The mechanism of this process is located, not in the
individual soul, but in society.
I am not sure I can recall the exact moment it occurred to me: the texts which I repeatedly read, transcribed stories Israeli backpackers' adventures and experiences, were replete with the following punctuation signs: " ". Quotation marks were all over the texts. The stories indicated that their tellers constituted a tightly knitted social web, which, while typical to backpackers in general, had unique Israeli/Hebrew characteristics that were revived and re-enacted away and at distance from the cultural centers in Israel.
In the following, which is a brief and condensed draft of a chapter on the same subject in a book about Israeli backpackers and the stories they repeatedly tell, I will inquire into the variety of voices represented in the stories. These stories of personal experience, both describe and constitute a rite of passage common among Israeli youth. After their mandatory service in the military, many young Israelis depart on the "Great Journey," which lasts between a few months and a couple of years, on average, and takes place in "Third World" destinations (most commonly in Asia and South America). In their stories and accounts the extended travel, which has been carried out for over three decades in a backpackers' fashion, came to represent rites of passage and separation that lay between the twelve years of mandatory schooling, topped with two or three years of mandatory service in the military, on the one hand, and higher education, career and familial pursuits, on the other hand.
When listening to the backpackers tell their tales, we might expect, commonsensically, that most of the voices we will encounter, and their quotations within the stories, will represent dialogue where utterances by identified and personal figures are quoted. Yet surprisingly, the majority of voices are not attributed to personal sources. In fact, quotes such as "Jo said... ", or "Helen told me... " comprise an impressive minority, and they are a minority in a twofold manner: qualitatively they are relatively few, and qualitatively they represent voices which can impressionistically be described at minor, as the "weaker" among a few other voices that are "heard" in the stories.
Due to the scope of this presentation, I will proceed to share a few inquiries and thoughts concerning only two of the voices, both of which could be referred to as "major" and "dominant." In more than one way these voices are "loud" and play a pivotal role in socially contextualizing the stories, as they help structure the plot as well as constitute the identity of the practitioners within the practice referred to as "Israeli backpacking." Additionally, both are not voiced in the single, but in the plural.
The group/chorus voice
Research on Israeli backpackers has consistently indicated that, by large, their preferred manner of travel is not that of solo or individual backpacking. In might have been different in the past. The origin of modern post WWII global backpacking has initially been described as a "drifter" practice (Erik Cohen, 1973), entailing individualistic patterns of traveling motivated by counter-culture and social and cultural alienation. But during the seventies and eighties, both global and local (Israeli) backpacking trends have routinized and "mass-ified." The early drifters were succeeded by backpackers who, thought still claiming individuality, were in fact traveling in a semi-institutionalized socialized practice.
Perhaps this is why the stories backpackers tell are typically told by a narrator in the first person but in plural rather than a single voice. The stories are about a "we" rather than an "I," or better, about an extended "I" which includes a few members of the group. The group could have been formed in Israel prior to the journey or after embarking on the trip; it is sometimes formed ad hoc, for a specific sake, for a limited duration (e.g. a trek, a rafting excursion), or it could be a more lasting group, which retains its cohesiveness throughout the entire trip.
The "extended I" or "we" voices, we will now read/listen to, are conventionally depicted and constructed in the stories through the frequent use of quotations, and particularly direct quotations or reported speech. In the following short vignettes, two typical instances of direct quotations are evoked, both conveying the group's voice, which Deborah Tannen (1989) has designated as a "choral" voice. In the first case, in Shira's story, we meet with a succinct description of the process by which a group comes to be; the centripetal social process by which the chorus voice is achieved and at the same time performed. The description is located quite at the beginning of our interview, along the beginning of a narrative sequence describing trekking in the Azangate track, in Peru.
We came together from all sorts of-
I and Mary first of all were friends and we traveled together Joe [then] joined
I and Joe traveled a little bit together.
And also Tali and Neta and
in Cuzco we met Osnat
And so all of us said
"[We] want Azangate!"
[And] we left
[for the trek]
The progressive and centripetal conjoining of members of the newly formed group reaches its peak with the declarative "[we] want Azangate!" The chorus/group voice/quote serves here as a speech act in that it is performative. In and by itself it indicates that there exists now such an entity - the group, which entails identity and social meaningfulness over and above the individual members/participants. Thus, the fact that the group has a voice is not only referred to here by Shira, but is performed as well. The voice, i.e. having a voice and voicing it, is the instance or presence of the group, the atomic social unit during the trip, the "extended I."
This short and concise description is an abstract depiction of the ongoing processes of group consolidation and crystallization, which reflect cultural patterns of sociality typical to past Israeli "Sabra" culture (native born Israelis, Almog, 2000. Katriel, 1986. 1991). In the backpacking trip, these collective patterns, ideas and identities are (nostalgically) revived and revoked.
The next short vignette is taken from Sarit's story, at a point where the group's voice has already been established and is now playing a role along the enveloping plot. In it Sarit is referring to a hesitation "the group" had, as to which of the possible hiking paths should the group choose to explore.
And at the beginning we didn't know if yes or no,
and eventually we decided
"Let's go (yalla)!
On the way we can always decide that we don't feel like it
and change our plans."
Here the "decision" reached by the group is expressed in the group's own quoted voice. The preceding hesitations are resolved in and through action, and the use of direct quotations here reflects this shift analogically. The action is the "speech action," it is the meta-pragmatic shift or a shift to meta-pragmatics. The decision is expressed rather than referred to or reported. The Arabic adopted into Hebrew "Yalla" (colloquially meaning "on with it") hits the spot as it dramatically conveys this shift, i.e. the physical embarking on the trek. Further into the group's voice, reported or ventriloquized in Sarit's speech here, we learn that the "if yes or no" hesitation has, in fact, not necessarily been resolved ("we can always decide"). Future decisions, which add to and build the narrative's drama, still await the group in its travel, but these further "hesitations" and "decisions" are presented as already "on the way," within quotation marks, so to speak. From here and on we can conceptualize the trek, i.e. the act of trekking, as an embodied quotation which is demonstrated and performed within a larger con-text.
A final and brief note concerns personal or personalized voices in the stories. With hardly any exceptions, personalized voices are exceptions to the rule, to the rule of plural-group and plural-collective voices. As such, they mark drama. Their appearance is never taken for granted and always reflects a heightened break with the rhetorical conventions within the stories.
The collective voice
After briefly introducing the group or choral voice, we will now attend and listen to quotations of another plural source, a voice that, along with the group's voice, is frequent in the stories and can be described as playing a "dominant" or "major" role as well.
Returning to some sociological and cultural issues that pertain to the larger context of Israeli backpacking, it is worthwhile noting that research consistently indicates that Israeli backpackers are inclined to congregate. Although no comparative research is available, is seems they tend to do so quite more intensely than other tourists (or backpackers) of different nations and ethnicities (excluding, perhaps, the German and the Japanese tourists). In incessantly seeking each other's company and congregating they reflect and present social and cultural patterns of sociality and interpersonal relationship common within Israeli society (Blum-Kulka, 1997. Katriel, 1991). In fact, these patterns are critical in defining the identity of middle class Jewish Israelis, and play a part in the nation's historic collective narrative of becoming (Zerubavel, 1995. Ben-Yehuda, 1995. Kimmerling, 2001). That such inherent and typical social patterns are re-invoked in a backpacking trip, which has come to constitute a time-honored tradition of a rite of passage, suggests that the travel to "Third World" destinations, and the constructions of identity, gender, bodily experiences, space, authenticity and etc. within the frame of the trip, correlates in multiple ways with what we might call the "Israeli experience." (Noy, forthcoming)
That been said, I would like now for us to hear a voice of which the presence has caught me by surprise. It is a frequent and dominant voice, which, probably due to its abstractness, and to my own too-familiar acquaintance with the backpackers' culture, I did not expect to find/hear in the stories.
In the following are two examples. The first, Ravit's, concerns a description of the voiced reaction of "Israelis" to a decision to embark on a trip to Asia (specifically Nepal and India) during off-season (or better: off-backpacking-season.) In the second vignette Oshrat describes the salient quality of "congregating" among Israeli backpackers.
So we arrived in the end of May, to Nepal.
When all the Israelis [in Israel] heard we're going now to Nepallike
"are you out of your mind?!"
"there's nothing to do there!"
"why all of a sudden now?""It's not possible to trek, and it's not possible to [do] anything!"
So we said that we'll take the risk.
They [non-Israeli backpackers] don't go to these guesthouses in which all the
commotion occurs, because they don't like it.
[When] you meet Israelis
Israelis just love to congregate in one place,
and then they have all the information
[that they need] [...]
Simply like that.
"Hey, listen, there's a [recommended] guest house near by;
Hey, listen, tomorrow we're leaving for a trek --
you [plural] wanna join?"
Both excerpts demonstrate a different voice, a clearly discernible voice which is regarded by the narrators as the voice belonging to "Israelis." It is regularly attributed to "all the Israelis," as in Ravit's words, or plainly to "Israelis," as in Oshrat's words. The plural source of this voice is not in the first person -- as the "extended I" or the group/choral voice -- but rather a third person "they -- Israelis." While the choral voice, though blurring the narrator's own voice, is still a semi-personalized voice, in that the group's members are known to the tellers and to the audience by their names, the voice of "Israelis" is clearly impersonal and collective. While the group members are individuals who have transformed and merged into a cohesive group, possessing and possessed by its distinguishable voice, as far as the collective voice is depicted, the narrators never account for any additional details concerning its authorship or ownership, besides pointing to the that it originates with "Israelis." It is thus somewhat a paradoxical voice in that its attribution is undesignated, including any and all, and yet at the same time it is clearly restricted to "Israelis"; i.e. to any and all Israelis (Israeli backpackers, more precisely). This voice does not reverberate between the self and the group, but is anOther, a third party's voice, a fact which is, again, paradoxical, as all the backpackers with whom I met were themselves native born "Israelis." They are all "Israelis" in each other's ears. In fact, by quoting the collective voice, as they do, they show a social and performative skill which itself inscribes them into the very collective to which they refer in the third -- anonymous -- person.
In the first vignette, in Ravit's story, we literally hear of a dispute that takes place between the collective and the group; between the dominant collective voice, voiced through direct quotations, and the group's voice, somewhat less vehement, represented at the end of the section outside of the marks of the quotation. The ladder voice expresses reaction to the collective scoldings and warnings by defying and resisting them ("we'll take the risk"). The exchange that takes place between the "voices" is interesting indeed, as the "risk" here is not the physical risk, entailed in trekking high mountain terrain (a risk which is usually attributed to the backpackers by themselves and by the larger discourse pertaining to Israeli backpacking). Rather, the drama at stake is of a social nature and concerns the constitution of norms, the cohesiveness of the collective and social disobedience, all in the metaphoric -- or metonymic -- realm of backpacking and hiking. In the stories, as in Ravit's case, both these layers -- the physical adventurous risk, and the risky social distancing from the collective norms -- interestingly overlap.
In the second vignette, in Oshrat's story, we again meet with the distinctive voice of the collective, always anonymous and unanimous. We further gain insight into the con-text in which this collective text is composed, or, more accurately, into the con-versation where and when the verses are uttered. We are introduced to the enclaves we mentioned earlier, where Israelis frequently meet and exchange information and experiences. These sites -- which are located along the beaten paths and itineraries in the destination countries as well as in designated sites within Israel, where veteran backpackers meet -- are sites of repeated and frequent storytellings and storylistenings. They are sites in which the backpacking experience/narrative/identity is being shaped time and again as a collective story of a rite of passage, and as a collective story of a storied rite of passage.
Here, again, the exchange takes place between the collective voice, initiating the exchange, and the group voice, which holds the respondent role. But in this instance, rather than reprimanding and presenting the group with a bit of the normative and imperative lore, we are acquainted with additional aspects of the norm voiced in the quotations of the collective. We hear of suggestions, recommendations and invitations rather than warnings and repeated cautioning. A norm, any norm, may be characterized by the rights and wrongs it presents, by the shoulds and shouldn'ts it voices, by the scope of issues it relates to and, also, by the way it addresses and voices these matters within the community. In this case, we can clearly hear the rights and wrongs through frequent recommendations, versus just as frequent warnings. The path (in Hebrew maslul), the different social extensions of this path - in the trek, in the trip, and further on, in the lives of young Israelis, is constructed by these markers.1
Interestingly, the sources of the collective voice are not systematically mentioned by the narrators. It is clear to the tellers and to their audiences (as well as to myself as an Israeli, who has backpacker), that such voices could only be representing an "Israeli collective," and thus, an implicit understanding of intra-sub-cultural norms makes the explicit mentioning of "Israelis," in such cases, a redundant.
A further complication, the last to which we shall currently address, which arises from the normative and imperative quality of the collective voice, concerns the social character of a norm as such. The norm, which is quoted, is reflected in action and behavior, which are narrated. We have already touched on this in Sarit's story, with the parallel structure: "we decided -- "Let's go (yalla)!" Here are two additional short examples:
- "Israelis recommended 'go there,' [so] we went there."
- "They recommended 'go to so and so,' [so we are] going to so and so."
The quotes in such instances are truly doubled. In fact, it seems that this common grammatical structure indicated that the quotes are quoted outside of the quotation marks. They are reiterated in a manner similar to that of religious or ritualistic normative decrees. It is a reversal of the order of quotations. As a collective norm and imperative drawing its "impersonal power," its authority and right from the community and from the community's past (Dundes and Arewa, 1964/1975), the quotations are perceived by the backpackers as representations of "the authentic." They are not quotations, reflections, or "second hand" recycled utterances, as they are the origin, the source, and hence they carry the highest value of authenticity and authority. Therefore the actions are portrayed, once again, as the quotations, enactments or embodiment of the quoted canon's speech acts.
A note On voicing Quotations and quoting Voices
Now, after this brief synopsis of two voices which play a constitutive role within the community of Israeli backpackers -- the group/choral voice and the collective normative voice -- which structure and at the very same time reflect the knowledge/skills/identity/belonging of the members-tellers, I would like to proceed to consider a few meta-pragmatic issues inherently related to the frequent presentations of these two voices in the texts and to the meaning they carry.
Israelis, the Israeli backpackers tell us, are a noisy crowd. This they state explicitly. It concerns the centripetal social forces which draw the backpackers together. As they gravitate to and congregate in enclaves they create and are absorbed in "commotion."
The Israelis make much more noise [...] It's like the minute you get [there] you
can recognize the Israelis.
more conspicuous. The Israelis --
They like making a lot of noise [...] They are much
noise and yelling and
you can recognize [them] immediately [...]
"bro' [Achi], what's going on,"
Israelis -- you can recognize [them] immediately.
and music and --
Israelis are loud and noisy; they are hearable. This is what grants them conspicuousness in the ears of Israeli backpackers. The enclaves in which they meet each other are, thus, ecological in that they include not only a variety of cultural products, such as foods and books, which the backpackers bring from the homeland, but also the encompassing sounds of "Israeli language" (as a few of the backpackers referred to before immediately correcting themselves and saying "Hebrew").
Hearing the "Israeli" voices is what defines the acoustic range of Israeli communal presence. When a backpacker is too distant from the group or from the collective, the description of the drama will typically include a mentioning of such allusions as "I stopped hearing them." Israelis are "immediately" or unmitigately "recognized" through the "Israeli" sounds they both voice and hear (reminding us, again, of the "straight" -- Dugri -- quality of communication. (Katriel, 1986))
Indeed, the pervasive presence of sounds and vocality should not be surprising when considering the backpackers' home culture. Informal interpersonal relationship, as well as higher level of social organizations, revolve around voices and voiceness. From the colloquial greeting "how are you?" which literally translates as "what is heard?" to David's repeated use of the word "recognize," which in the first occurrence is "lezahot" -- to recognize as in identify or categorize, and in the second and third occurrences is "liklot" -- to recognize as in to receive (a transmission, a communication), and the repeated addressing of "listen" in colloquial talk (reflected in Oshrat's words), there is something more than sound in sound. Almog's (1997, p. 373) observation regarding the pervasiveness of the "mouth to ear" as a "pattern of traffic of social information, within the group's members" is understated if astute.
Among the backpackers the voices and the sounds (and their interconnectedness) are clearly constitutive. They do not serve as mere descriptions of the ways by which social information is transmitted, which, indeed, are intense and frequent during the trip, but demarcate i. space -- that of an enclave, which is located at a distance from Israeli society's centers but re-enacts them in a nutshell, ii. experience -- that of backpacking, which stands for the metaphoric and symbolic values the practice of backpacking and trekking hold, and iii. identity -- that of a transforming journey of a rite of passage. 2
It is not by accident that the imperative, collective and normative voice is quoted (via direct quotations or reported speech). It is a sound sound. As Meir Sternberg (1982) observed in the case of direct quotations in written forms, this particular linguistic convention allows a wide variety of responses and reactions that span from the mimetic obedience to the parodic, though still mimetic, resistance; from and through the convention to the innovation. And although we have not inquired into the latter cases, they do appear, in a variety of approaches and strategies, some more overt and some more covert, by which the backpackers regard the dominant canonic voice.
Arriving at the end of this short excursion into a few of the voices and sounds, which resonate among Israeli backpackers, we may paraphrase Stanley Fish when saying the backpackers are not only an "interpretive community" but are also a "quotative community" as well. They travel mimetically along each other's footsteps and sound steps, along the trails of the sounds and the sounds of the trails in a land/sound scape. The backpackers repeat each other, each other's steps, each other's bodily experiences, each other's collected and collective voices, each other's wishes, and eventually the larger cultural embodiments of self-transformation. They perform and play with the mimetic element and it is, in fact, their thorough knowledge of the social voices, and their ability to repeat them and improvise with them, that amounts to the total experience of backpacking.
"Prepatterning," writes Deborah Tannen, when discussing direct quotations in dialogue "is a source for creativity. It is the play between fixity and novelty that makes possible the creation of meaning." (1989, p.37) With backpackers, the meaning is that of the experience - the phenomenology of backpacking, and the experience, that of backpacking, leads to (transformation of) identity. The stories of the travel and the travel of the stories allow, and reflect a communicative and narrative social space. In it, in this acoustic enclave ("Sounding Board" perhaps), space is created for cross-citations and inter-textualism as forms of improvisation which mark singularity and, hence, individuality.
The cycling and recycling of the voices, the stories and the sounds occur and signify the multiple and frequent interactions, meetings and communications between the Israeli backpackers. That's where quotations occur. That's where stories occur. Listening to backpackers I am sometimes under the impression that this is what it is all about. That the sounds in which the community is soaked and surrounded, the sounds of frequent meetings, of "human friction," of the "like 'are you out of your mind?!'" and "Hey, listen, there's a guest house near by ... Hey, listen, tomorrow we're leaving for a trek" are not a by-product of an epiphenomenon but crux of the journey if not the journey itself.
The social sounds of Israelis grouping and congregating.
These ideas suggest, for me, further thinking in the following directions:
- In what ways do we all "voice voices" and "hear voices"? How are we all tourists, enclaved tourists? How do we incessantly, acoustically and semantically, reverberate other's voices -- individuals, groups and collectives?
- What constitutes the opposites or the reversals of such quotations? Or, what complements the notion of phenomenology of quotations? Who is on the other end, at the receiving end? Who listens to the repeated quotations, to the "listenations"? How do quotations, and primary direct quotation, which are preferred by the backpackers, relate to the issues of authenticity?
- Finally, is it a coincidence that it is a tourist practice we are discussing, or, in other words, can we consider the relationship between the backpackers and their destination environments and cultures in an analogous way to the relationship, defined by quotation marks, i.e. direct quotations, between the quoted text and its context? Do these native born Israelis, journeying outside the deep text of the Land of Israel, and exiting the Israeli space-time continuum indeed loose their new corporeality (Massad, 2001, p. 340)? Are they decontextualized during the trip? What, in light of these notions, is the meaning of the ecological enclave they create and sustain during the trip? And how are backpackers -- as quotations, as utterances -- reintegrated upon their return into the mother text? What new, and possibly constituting tensions are evoked, and what change of meaning, if any, takes place?
© Chaim Noy 2002
1.In the above excerpts we can notice that the accentuated "congregating" quality of Israeli backpackers, mentioned in regards to the collective voice (in Oshrat's story), reminds us of the grouping quality, mentioned in regards to the group voice (in Shira's story). Again, and on different levels, this profound social gravitation is exhibited. [back]
2. We might add that in "space" we are, in fact, referring to "time-space" as the collective voice is a "voice from the past," a fact that grants it its authority, and that interestingly emerges from within the tourist "nostalgic" endeavor (Dann, 1996. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 1998).[back]
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