Wednesday, February 24, 2010
At the end of The Couple in the Cage, or rather after the end (as it is shown unorthodoxly outside the realm of what is normatively considered the span of the film, i.e. after the credits), is a part of a scene from an older video ethnography. This instance of the scene is a repetition, for it is also featured within the film. Within the film, this footage serves the message of the creators of the film, that is to critique the Eurocentric bias of modern anthropology. However, after the credits the scene plays a role somewhat in opposition to the film's message (although not by any means a polar opposition). By placing the scene outside the film, the anthropologist's problematic claim that he is a neutral observer shows that while trying to expose racial hypocrisy, the film makers are unable to escape the biases associated with Western discourse even as they vilify it. Consider the effects of the film's satirization of the exhibition -- in terms of man and his confrontation with the artificial/illusory condition of the other.
AB + AM
The readings this week bring into question the notion of self-recognition as a marker of the ‘world forming’ human as distinguished from the ‘poor in world’ animal. This relationship is expressed through various dichotomies introduced in by Agamben in The Open..
--Bichat: animal life (as relational to external world) versus organic life (as habitual succession of assimilation and excretion”) [pg 14]
--Uexkull: umgebung (as objective space in which we see a living being moving) versus umwelt (as the environmental world that is constituted by carriers of significance or of marks which are the only things that interest the animal) [pg 40]
--Heidegger: disinhibitor (as the carrier of significance) and the disinhibiting ring (as the umwelt/ environment) [pg 51]
By way of this vocabulary Agamben formulates the poverty of the animal as resulting from their captivation within their umwelt, which withholds a ‘potential for revelation of being’– a fundamental lack in the relationship with their disinhibitor. A human, however is an “animal that must recognize itself as human to be human” (26) and is thus “awakened from its own captivation to its own captivation” (70). In this awakening the task is assumed to somehow secure the non-open of our captivation through the management of biological life, or rather biopolitics as Foucault posits. Does biopolitics then allow man to come full circle, from the animal - which allowed for the definition of man by comparison to the animal – back to the animal(ization of man) - which the sovereign is trying to ameliorate in longevity and health - ?
On pages 253-254 in Society Must be Defended, Foucault introduces 'the power to manufacture and use the atomic bomb' as the paradox which allows a sovereign power to kill while simultaneously killing its (bio)power. He then posits that this resulting excess of biopower produces a biological threat which can only be controlled through the introduction of racism to 1. fragment the biological continuum and to 2. establish a positive relation between wanting to live and needing to kill. With this in mind, does racism then place biopower back within the confines of human sovereignty?
Monday, February 15, 2010
-AA, CM, TV
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Q2: Fabian claims that "it is by diagnosing anthropology's temporal discourse that one rediscovers the obvious, namely that there is no knowledge of the Other which is not also a temporal, historical, a political act" (1). If this is true, in what ways does the "Other" exist? Fabian argues that the "referent" of anthropology is produced in discourse (and also fixed in time). What are the goals of Anthropological Studies if studying the "Other" is ultimately about ourselves and the spreading of our societal ideologies?
-AA, TV, CM
Monday, February 8, 2010
In the opening shots of L'Enfant Savauge we hear the voiceover of man as we gaze upon the wild child, while in The Jungle Book the role is reversed. What's at stake in the way in which Mowgli's animal other treats him as the object of study, what does this reversal say about qualities which we call human when it is animals which/that display paternal and authoritative traits often associated with the West's anthropological project?
-SF + AB
For our close reading we turn to Derrida. Violence is invoked by Derrida as fundamental to the process of writing. In a deconstructionist critique violence, which is synonymous with the act of writing, is essential to understand the written also as always-already dead. In his critique of Lévi-Strauss in Chapter 1 The Violence of the Letter: From Lévi-Strauss, Culture, Writing, Derrida comments on violence and language in relation to Lévi-Strauss' anthropological and ethnographic study which is highlighted in his “A Writing Lesson.”
On Page 112 Derrida lays out three forms of violence, or more carefully “arche-violence[s].”:
“There was in fact a first violence to be named.”- Naming, a suturing within language.
“Out of this arche-violence [naming], forbidden and therefore confirmed by a second violence that is reparatory, protective instituting the 'moral,' prescribing the concealment of writing and the effacement and obliteration of the so called proper name which was already dividing the proper...(emphasis ours)”- This second violence unlike naming is the prohibitory act, the law which enforces the “concealment” or “effacement” of the first violence, or naming. In this act the violence is always-already inscribed because the prohibition brings that which is prohibited to light.
“Out of this arche-violence...a third violence can possibly emerge or not (an empirical possibility) within what is commonly called evil, war indiscretion, rape; which consists of revealing by effraction the so-called proper name, the originary violence which has severed the proper from its property and its self-sameness.”- This third violence is that which ultimately undoes the prohibition of the second violence “by effraction” revealing the “proper name.”
It seems that Derrida reveals that Lévi-Strauss is engaged on the this third level or tertiary violence in his “Writting Lesson” or in the act revealing the proper names of the Nambikwara. Are we to interpret his “Lesson” or the game he plays as violence of this third order? If so, does the deconstructionist critique remove all value of Lévi-Strauss' anthropological theoretical work? Is he not any different from his “American” counterparts who simply mark the “savage” with difference?
In addition, in what sense is Derrida in naming violence, and particularly these three violences (mainly the tertiary which exists only as an “emiprical possibility”) committing the violence he speaks against? How is Derrida to escape the act of violence, or in the act of writing is there only violence, the process of violence always-already occurring within the act?