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Border Corrido and Ranger Lore: A Contrast in Oral and Written Traditions

Miles W. Williams


When oral and written cultures come face to face, they generally do so on the latter's terms. Book-knowledge results in a devaluation of traditional elder-mediated knowledge and authority; and, socioeconomic relations are stratified in favor of those with a western orientation. The idealogy of the written culture imposes itself on the oral culture without negotiation. It is a unidirectional transmission of knowledge and a one-sided adjustment forced upon that society which is least able to make it.

More often than not, historical evidence is drawn from the influentials and structured for the dominant literate audience by scholarly historical perpsective. Those who must live with the consequences of a social, cultural, and political domination rarely have personal input into written histories. Paul Carpentier (1978) contends that "historians generally neglect that majority of people who live history, and instead concentrate on the few who make it." Historiographers debate the rules of historical evidence, but in western tradition, a near consensus exists favoring written, over and sometimes to the exclusion of, the oral.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229