Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chapter 7

The Other Side of Popular by Gareth Williams, Chapter 7

Operational Whitewash and Negative Community

In this chapter, Williams moves around to many different topics that fall within a subaltern and post-hegemonic realm. In parts I felt kind of lost because of the transition between some of these ideas. He is most interested in this idea of “perhaps”. In quoting Derrida, he states “And there is no more just category for the future than that of the ‘perhaps’. Such a thought conjoins friendship, the future, and perhaps to open on to the coming of what comes – that is to say, necessarily in the regime of a possible whose possibilitization must prevail over the impossible” (275). This idea of perhaps is meant to join together different possibilities rather than whitewash some of these issues. He also goes into the idea of whitewashing to explain some of the ways in which voices of the other and the history of certain nations have been erased in order for progress to happen. When I read this section it made me think about national memory and in particular a book entitled States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering by Stanley Cohen. His book deals a lot with the covering up of certain atrocities (genocides) in order to cleanse the past. It seems that whitewashing is not only conducted by a state, but also by the individuals that live within it. This is not to say that the state has less of a role in the covering up of its own past, but there are many players in this system. We must also be interested in the citizens within the country and how they are complicit in these denials.

Williams also speaks about Autrui (which loosely means other) in order to conceptualize how the other is used in many of these cases. He states “As such, perhaps we would have to take into consideration the singular relation between thought and its objects (between intellectual engagement and subaltern affect)…”(288). We need to both feel connected to each other at the same time that we are distinct individuals. I am still a bit confused with how he examines the portraits at the end of this chapter. El infarto del alma (heart attack of the soul) is images of people in an insane asylum in Chile. He argues that it is a “community of those who have no community” (293). He states that it is “the exposure of abject, impoverished, speechless, yet dignified commonalities grounded in subaltern affect that challenge and undermine the notion of intellectual work and, indeed, make such a notion withdraw before its uncomfortable relations to abject love against all odds and without apparent reason” (295). He, in effect, argues that these images challenge the naturalness of genealogy. I supposed I get confused with what he is trying to argue overall. I think that he is trying to present this as an alternative to the ways in which we think about history and what is natural. These people do not live within a normal community and yet still seem to have a vibrant one within the walls of their asylum. Perhaps we need to challenge some notions of what it means to be normal as well as who gets to be represented in history. He states “Thus we are exposed to the demand to establish critical relations with subaltern affect that do not ground themselves in nor reproduce historically constituted (colonial, national, imperial, or neoliberal) notions of a subsistent ground or of a common measure for being-in-common” (301). It challenges what it means to be in common.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Abstract for paper

Lynndie England’s famous photograph of her pointing at nude prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison with her
thumbs up, cigarette in mouth, and a smile on her face has become an icon of torture on the Internet. If
one types in “doing a Lynndie” on Google, hundreds of images appear of people in the same pose pointing at an assortment of objects and people. England has become a notorious public figure, but little is popularly known about her as a person. This paper examines the production of the affective atmosphere surrounding England’s image and its growth as an Internet meme. Importantly, this paper also look at the effects of the production of this image on her life after the Abu Ghraib scandal. This paper is most concerned about the affective nature of images and how they can create multiple meaning and material effects for both the individuals in the image and the repetition and parody by others. Throughout the paper, this paper uses and challenge notions of the subaltern in order to explore the many nuances of power within her story. We argue that while England is considered the oppressor of those being tortured at Abu Ghraib, she is part of a system of domination that simultaneously dominates her life. She, in some regards, is part of a subaltern group as well. Her image is frozen in time as an instigator of torture and yet larger systems of gendered oppression remain unchallenged. Also, her image has transcended beyond the scandal and has become a parody on the internet. This paper argues that while the Internet can be liberating in terms of challenging systems of domination, it can also reinforce them through de-contextualization.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Sean Watkins

Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought, Fin-De-Siecle Radicalism, and the Politics of Friendship by Leela Gandhi

Chapter 3 Sex: The story of Late Victorian Homosexual Exceptionalism

This week I am going to focus on the discussion of Darwinism and late Victorian understandings of homosexuality. She argues that “Replacing the disciplinary parameters of biology with those of anthropology, Darwin’s Descent consoled his agitated readers through two concessions: first, by restoring Man to narrative centrality, and retelling the story of evolution from his perspective, and second, by foregrounding those unique features of human existence exempt, in some measure, from the leveling laws of natural selection” (47). Here, we see the origins of the scientific classification of justified difference. Sexuality and race were put into hierarchical systems that were predetermined through evolutionary means. It makes me think about the ways in which historians have tried in the past to justify certain forms of cultural exceptionalism. Throughout this chapter we can see how sexual ‘deviants’ are forced into specific categories that are lower than those who follow the true evolutionary chain. Both the homosexual and the savage “were exiled to the desert surrounding the heavily policed oasis of western heteronormative civilization, and in the ideological mirages to which this deser was prone, their features slowly began to merge into each other so that no one could any longer say for certain who was the ‘real’ homosexual or who was the ‘true’ savage”(83). There was this othered position for people who did not fit into the sexual norms of the time and it was justified through science.

Not to get onto a tangent, but this entire chapter brings to light the importance of putting science up to a critical lens. I feel that people are not taught enough in school about these historical events that have helped us to construct a certain view on science and humanity. Many of these themes have caused incredibly strife and hardship simply because we believe that “science” is the objective truth. Perhaps there needs to be more discussion about these issues in order to really push citizens to think about some of these truths they have taken for granted for so long. In particular, we understand that race and ideas of the subaltern have been perpetuated through science. Science believed that there were major differences between races which justified the subjugation of large populations and we have mostly moved past that time period, but are we still questioning these fields as much as critical studies are questioned? This is not to say that we shouldn’t be questioning ourselves as well, but here I argue that we need to be even more self-reflexive now that we have the tools to do so. While this is incredibly hard to do, we need to challenge the power of the sciences in order to be able to question the legitimacy of their findings. At the very least, we should understand why there is so much more credit given to certain disciplines than others and contextualize this for our time period.