Friday, March 05, 2004

From the horse's mouth, i.e. my Popular Culture teacher, in a recent thread on our class board,

The techniques and methods for dominating the field of power are sometimes very clear, and sometimes they can be quite subtle and hard to pinpoint. Our personal psychologies are complex and as we live and work together these complexities come to the forefront. Primarily I am interested in the creation of identity. Identity is a manifestation of a social existence. As a human develops within the layers and envelopes of culture (family, school, community, the culture at large), it is via relationships that identity begins to form. Each of these relationships are manifestations within the field of power. Primarily these relationships deal with establishing limits. Parental control, home rules and regulations... "While you are living in my house you abide by my rules..." kind of things. Eventually, in school... its a new set of rules and regulations and eventually at work... in the office. The process of 'normalization' is all about becoming a functioning member of society. The form of society in the West... and particularly in the U.S. is curious. When I think about my 'social' identity I run into trouble. Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain, said that there is no such thing as 'society' in the West... there are only individuals and their families. Society implies some kind of shared communal space... a shared ideological terrain... a place where one feels literally a part of the larger group. Thatcher is correct in that 90+ percent of my identity is constructed to be radically individualized. I really don't have a social identity, or a group identity. There is a kind of language that talks about a kind of social identity, but most of my identity arises from personal desire and individual involvement. Foucault's ideas about the Limit Experience helps me understand that I can actually become actively engaged in the process of becoming who and what I am. If I want to establish a more social identity I can push toward that kind of activity. "When Foucault spoke of making our lives into works of art, however, I don't think he had the paintings in art museums in mind. In fact, I'm willing to bet that he, like me, had his most intense encounters with art outside quiet, well-guarded museums; I bet he had his most intense encounters with art, as I have, in the company of raucous and irreverent friends, backstage or in messy studios or claustrophobic rehearsal booths or evil smelling darkrooms, in the midst of nothing that was yet complete. And that's what we need to recall when we read his musings about making life into art. Art, in its living and working out, is not about accomplishment. It is about energy and time and discipline and self-criticism and pursuit and letting go. Art is not about being. It is about becoming. So too, life... and philosophy... and ethics... and politics... and... who we are. (Ladelle McWhorter from Bodies and Pleasures)

It's like he's talking directly to me. I love thinking about identity, reality (or "society") and how my little ant's perspective fits into this much much larger world around me. I'd say I, like my teacher, can't pinpoint a social identity. I could paste some labels on my forehead and they'd come close, but unless I put two or three (or seven) up there, they wouldn't define who I am. Am I an American or a Jew? A writer or an artist? A man or a Young-Man? Alsocietalocietial classifcations can be alienating, but I don't feel cut off from society, I don't feel "lost". I create; in the form of writings or artworks, and that is my discourse with society at large. Right now, my work doesn't get assimilated by many people, but, hopefully, in time it will. And my social identity will not be a static thing, but a dynamic perspective; something for others to decide, while I "do my thing."

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