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MemoirAn Introduction$
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G. Thomas Couser

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199826902

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199826902.001.0001

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Memoir’s Ethics

Memoir’s Ethics

Chapter:
(p.79) [4] Memoir’s Ethics
Source:
Memoir
Author(s):

G. Thomas Couser

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199826902.003.0005

This chapter explains what kinds of scenarios involve the greatest temptations and risks of deception and imposture. The most objectionable kinds of hoaxes are those in which people of privilege pretend to be members of marginalized and oppressed populations—such as Holocaust survivors or indigenous people. Regardless of one's motives, appropriating an ethnic, racial, or religious identity that is not one's own violates the identity claim basic to memoir as a genre. On that ground alone it is unethical. But there is also the problem that false testimony can devalue or displace true testimony. The memoirist, then, has obligations to others. Memoirs that arise out of intimate relationships—between parents and children, between siblings, and between partners—can be particularly dicey. The most complicated relationships are those that involve inherently unequal structures: those between parents and children.

Keywords:   deception, imposture, memoir, ethics, false testimony, parents, children

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