Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Response: Incitement/Resistance

I agree with Maureen in the senses that that there are many themes one can touch upon, but since its relevance to the study of Ethnography, race, class and gender and other fields in the humanities, I decided to pay particular attention to Chow’s “Keeping them in their Place: Coercive Mimeticism and Cross-Ethnic Representation”. Chow delves into and investigates the subject of mimesis. According to Chow, there is a suggestive affinity between caged animals on the verge of extinction but preserved (in zoos) and the predicament of those labeled as ethnic whether in white capitalist societies or observed. Chow argues that however much concentration an onlooker (i.e. a subject not labeled as ethnic) might devote to those 'inside the cage', something will always seem 'out of focus' (Chow 96-7), and it is this condition of out of-focussedness which she thematises. I could not help but draw on a similarity between Chow’s take on the ethnic subject and the movie Born Into Brothels. There was a specific part in the middle of the film where the children of the prostitutes were taken for an outing at the Zoo and were constantly taking pictures of the caged yet wild animals. The boy (named Manrik if im not mistaken) described the caged animal and the poor and degrading treatment it received almost as though he was implying or hinting to the viewers (gazers) that the children of the brothels are in the exact same predicament as the animals. The children were asked to take pictures of the animals, yet they were being filmed and being gawked at, if you will by us (the viewers).
The question she seems to pose is whether such an image can ever be in focus and concludes that 'however benevolent and complimentary the visitor might be, the image produced of the animals - in this case, the third-world cultural workers, the ethnics caught in the plight of post imperialist nationalisms - is bound to be out of focus because they are the products of a certain kind of gaze to which they are pre-supposed to play as, to act like, to exist in the manner of something'”(100).

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