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July 17, 2007

Another View of Passing in Butler’s ‘Passing, Queering: Nella Larsen’s Psychoanalytical Challenge’

Follow-up to Thinking About Passing from The Midnight Heart

Butler begins her essay by criticising Luce Irigaray’s claim in An Ethics of Sexual Difference that ‘the question of sexual difference is the question of our time’ (Butler, 167). Butler wonders whether this privileging of sexual difference puts a ‘taboo on homosexuality’ and she suggests that it works out of ‘a complex set of racial injunctions which operate in part through the taboo on miscegenation’ (167). Butler asks ‘how might we understand homosexuality and miscegenation to converge at and as constitutive outside of a normative heterosexuality that is at once the regulation of a racially pure reproduction’ (167)? Butler points to Marx’s comment that the ‘reproduction of the species’ emerges as ‘the reproduction of relations of reproduction’ or ‘the cathected site of a racialized version of the species in pursuit of hegemony through perpetuity, that requires and produces a normative heterosexuality in its service’ (167). In this view, heterosexuality simply pays service to hegemony and helps to perpetuate the status-quo.

Butler believes that it is important to consider how the areas of gender, race, sexuality and class intersect and to analyse cases where one factor cannot be examined without reference to one of the others. Butler wonders whether this might be the case in Nella Larsen’s novel, Passing, and she directs us to a scene in which the heroine, Irene, (who sometimes, supposedly unconsciously, passes for white) walks downstairs in her house to find Clare (who continuously passes for white) being examined by Irene’s husband, Brian. Butler suggests that when Irene ‘finds Clare’ in this scene, ‘Brian […] appears to have found Clare as well’ and the result is that ‘Irene […] finds Clare, finds her beautiful, but at the same time finds Brian finding Clare beautiful as well’ (168). Butler notes that Irene’s exclamation of admiration for Clare’s appearance is stifled on finding Brian on the scene and she suggests that there is some confusion about ‘who desires whom’ (168). Butler wonders, who is finding who as they ‘mirror each other’s desire’ (169)? This is one scene in which Irene is unable to express her feelings – rather the omniscient narrator hints at them – and Butler notices that when Clare dies, even the narrator is silent.

Public speech and secret desire are themes in the book and Butler suggests that this ‘is linked with the larger question of the dangers of public exposure of both color [sic] and desire’ (169). Butler suggests that what is so fascinating about Clare is the way in which she both flaunts and hides in her passing. Because of Clare’s passing for white, Irene refuses to interact with her by meeting or letter and expresses ‘a moral objection’, but Irene herself engages in passing even if it is by accident. Butler suggests that the problem with Clare for Irene is that she ‘goes too far, passes as white not merely on occasion, but in her life, and in her marriage’ and this daring is sexual according to Butler as ‘Irene finds herself drawn by Clare, wanting to be her, but also wanting her’ (169). Butler argues that it is passing itself that is so seductive: ‘It is the changeability itself, the dream of metamorphosis, where the changeableness signifies a certain freedom, a class mobility afforded by whiteness that constitutes the power of that seduction’ (170).

Butler now begins to think about Clare’s white husband, Bellew, and the explosion of violence at the end of the book when Clare falls from the window with Irene standing conveniently near. The scene is precipitated by Bellew’s appearance at a Harlem party and his realisation that Clare is passing. Butler notes that for Bellew, Clare’s presence at the party ‘is sufficient to convince him that she is black’ (170). Butler suggests that this is because ‘[b]lackness is not primarily a visual mark […] because what can be seen, what qualifies as a visible marking, is a matter of being able to read a marked body in relation to unmarked bodies, where unmarked bodies constitute the currency of normative whiteness’ (170-171). It is only when Bellew associates Clare with blacks that she ‘becomes black’ and Butler notes that there is a presumption that ‘if he were to associate with blacks, the boundaries of his own whiteness, and surely that of his children, would no longer be easily fixed’ (171). However, Butler notes that even when Bellew is ignorant about Clare’s passing, he calls her ‘Nig’ and Butler concludes that ‘although he claims that he would never associate with African-Americans, he requires the association and its disavowal for an erotic satisfaction that is indistinguishable from his desire to display his own racial purity’ (172).

When Clare is revealed, she dies and it is unclear who was the culprit or was is suicide? Butler wants to consider this conundrum in psychoanalytical terms drawing together readings of the text through its historical context in the Harlem Renaissance and via ‘the psychological complexity of cross-identification and jealousy’ (173). Butler surveys some of these readings such as:
- Claudia Tate’s foregrounding of psychological ambiguity;
- Cheryl Wall’s elision of psychological ambiguity and race;
- and Deborah McDowell’s addition of homoeroticism to these other factors so that ‘the muteness of homosexuality converges in the story with the illegibility of Clare’s blackness’ (Butler, 175).
Butler gives some thought to language in Larsen’s text and she notes that the word, ‘queer’, is associated with ‘a longing to be freed of propriety’ and it ‘works as the exposure within language – an exposure that disrupts the repressive surface of language – of both sexuality and race’ (176). Queering is often ‘what upsets and exposes passing; it is the act by which the racially and sexually repressive surface of conversation is exploded, by rage, by sexuality, by an insistence on color [sic]’ (177). Recognition of passing can be the beginning of ‘erotic absorption’ as when Irene notices Clare staring at her when they are both passing and although at first, she finds the gaze to be ‘a kind of inspection, a threat of exposure which she returns first as scrutiny and distrust only then to find herself thoroughly seduced’ (177). Irene is uncertain about Clare because of her own ambivalent feelings in connection to race and sexuality, which later manifests itself when Irene convinces herself that Brian loves Clare and he becomes an instrument for her desire.

In thinking about the intersection between gender, race and sexuality, Butler challenges the assumption ‘that there is a relationship called “sexual difference” that is itself unmarked by race’ (181). Butler reads Larsen’s Passing as ‘a theorization of desire, displacement and jealous rage that has significant implications for rewriting psychoanalytic theory in ways that explicitly come to terms with race’ (182). Larsen’s final implication of Irene in Clare’s death seems to suggest a need to destroy the source of difference that would have exposed her in the public sphere: ‘Her passion for Clare had to be destroyed only because she could not find a viable place for her own sexuality to live’ (185).

References
Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”. London: Routledge, 1993.
McDowell, Deborah. ‘ “That nameless… shameless impulse”: Sexuality in Nella Larsen’s Passing and Quicksand’. Black Feminist Criticism and Critical Theory: Studies in Black American Literature. Ed. Joel Weixlmann and Houston A. Baker Jnr. Vol. 3. Greenwood: Penkeville Publishing Company, 1988.
Tate, Claudia. ‘Nella Larsen’s Passing A Problem of Interpretation’. Black Literature Review Forum. 14.4 (1980), 142 – 146.


July 11, 2007

Thinking About Passing

Conyers and Kennedy define passing in ‘Negro Passing: To Pass or Not to Pass’ (1963) as ‘the entry into the white group of Negroes whose appearance is such that they can make this transition intentionally or unintentionally, permanently, temporarily or partially’ (215). It refers to subjects ‘who are identifies as white without initiative being taken by them to conceal their racial identity’ (215). I want to consider here definitions of passing and to discuss how the original context of “passing for white” in African American literature has been extended to apply to other situations. A classic reading of passing is presented in Cheryl A. Wall’s chapter on Nella Larsen in Women of the Harlem Renaissance (1995). Wall gives a typical plot summary, referring to Larsen’s story, ‘The Wrong Man’, as ‘the female protagonist, alternately paralyzed by fear of being unmasked and desperate to ward off discovery, commits an act that jeopardizes the life that she has carefully constructed for herself’ (85). These stories and the later novels are bound up with ‘issues of marginality and cultural dualism’ (88).

Both Quicksand and Passing contemplate the inextricability of the racism and sexism that confront the black woman in her quest for selfhood. As they navigate between racial and cultural polarities, Larsen’s protagonists attempt to fashion a sense of self – free both of suffocating restrictions of ladyhood and fantasies of the exotic female Other. They fail. The tragedy for these mulattoes is the impossibility of self-definition. Larsen’s protagonists assume false identities that ensure social survival but result in psychological suicide. In one way or another, they all “pass”. Passing for white, Larsen’s novels remind us, is only one way this game is played’ (89).

A more positive reading of passing is presented in Martha J. Cutter’s essay, ‘Sliding Significations: Passing as Narrative Strategy in Nella Larsen’s Fiction’ (1996). Cutter begins her essay by noting that all of Nella Larsen’s heroines ‘want to “pass” ’ and that the strategy of “passing” is ‘more than just a racial strategy: it is a strategy to be a person’ (75). In fact “passing” is ‘a subversive strategy for avoiding the enclosures of a racist, classist, and sexist society’ (75). In novels like Quicksand (1928), Larsen uses “passing” as ‘a way of finding a unitary sense of identity – a sense of identity structured around one role, a role that somehow corresponds to her “essential self” ’ (75). However, in Passing (1929), “passing” becomes a way to ‘not be confined by any one signification, be it of race, class and sexuality’ (75). The heroine of Passing, Clare, ‘founds her identity not on some sense of an “essential self” but rather on a self that is composed of and created by a series of guises and masks, performances and roles’ and in doing so, Clare discovers that she ‘transcends the labeling of society, for the more she passes, the more problematic and plural her presence becomes’ (75). Cutter suggests that “passing” in Larsen’s body of work acts as ‘a subversive narrative strategy and […] an artful method for keeping open the play of textual meaning’ (75).

In the galaxy of signs that is the novel Passing, Clare functions as a signifier whose meaning cannot be stabilized, fixed, confined limited; and the “passing” becomes the ultimate mechanism for creating a text that refuses to be contained, consumed, or reduced to unitary meaning. (76)

Cutter compares this positive view of “passing” with more negative views, such as that of Cheryl A. Wall who suggests that the problem of “passing” is ‘the impossibility of self-definition’ (76). While Cutter recognises that “passing” can be read negatively, she suggests that in Larsen’s novels at least, ‘it is not the assumption of a false identity per se that causes Larsen’s protagonists to fail’, but ‘the assumption of only one guise or form of passing causes Larsen’s characters to become stable, static, fixed in their meaning, entrapped within social definitions’ (76). Cutter suggests that a homogenous identity can be a negative one: ‘To assume a single identity in a world in which identity itself is often a performance – a mask, a public persona – is to ensure psychological suicide’ (76).

Cutter’s remarks suggests that “passing” is not simply concerned with race, but with other factors of identity too, and this view is supported in Marion Rust’s definition of passing in the essay, ‘The Subaltern as Imperialist: Speaking of Olaudah Equiano’ (1996). Rust notes that passing has many manifestations such as ‘impersonation, masquerade, drag, crossing over’, but she wonders why passing has been adopted as a term that applies to other contexts too (22). She concludes that the term, passing, ‘evokes something the others, with the possibility of crossing over, revoke: namely, a quality of loss’ (23).

Like overlapping signs, passing describes an act of simulation, in which two states, being and non-being, assumption and revocation, inhere. But although words like the above synonyms enfranchise the former – the act of putting on, be it a mask or a pair of women’s stockings or men’s suspenders – it is the melancholy privilege of passing to foreground the latter – what is lost that’s there.

Rust cites Judith Butler’s Bodies That Matter in which Butler suggests that passing ‘also signifies the ultimate turning away, death’ (Rust, 23). Rust suggests that in a more general sense the act of passing ‘mocks our melancholy, ridiculing essentialist notions of a “true” self preceding, and corrupted by, its subsequent enactments’ (23).

In ‘Passing and the Spectacle of Harlem’ (2000), Maria Balshaw also sees passing in Larsen as being bound up with ‘a non-absolutist attitude to identity, particularly racial identity’ (45). Balshaw argues that visual spectacle is intrinsically important to passing and in Larsen’s work, she sees ‘attention to the construction of the self as a spectacle and through the repeated use of the motif of the exchanged glance between women in a public space’ (55). Larsen’s novels are, in Balshaw’s view, ‘negotiations of visual economies, economies that are bound up with the representation of very specific forms of difference’ (63).

Reference
Balshaw, Maria. ‘Looking for Harlem Urban Aesthetics in African American Literature. London: Pluto Press, 2000.
Conyers, James E. and T.H. Kennedy. ‘Negro Passing: To Pass or Not to Pass’. Phylon. Vol. 53.6 (1963). 215 – 223.
Cutter, Martha J. ‘Sliding Significations: “Passing” as a Narrative and Textual Strategy in Nella Larsen’s Fiction’. Passing and the Fictions of Identity. Ed. Elaine K. Ginsberg. Durham: Duke University Press, 1996. 75-100.
Rust, Marion. ‘The Subaltern as Imperialist: Speaking of Olaudah Equiano’. Passing and the Fictions of Identity. Ed. Elaine K. Ginsberg. Durham: Duke University Press, 1996. 21 – 36.
Wall, Cheryl A. Women of the Harlem Renaissance. Indianopolis: Indiana University Press, 1995.


June 14, 2007

Being Somebody and Being Nobody

Monastery

In the first chapter of Psychoanalysis and Buddhism, Jack Engler sets out to reconcile ‘Buddhist teaching about no-self and newer psychodynamic thinking about the importance of self-development in object-relations theory and self psychology’ (35). He notes that often the use of Buddhism by psychoanalysts has attracted ‘notoriety and criticism’ and it has been condemned for its ‘developmental position’ (35). Engler states that he will set out the case for being “somebody’ and then the case for being “nobody”.

1.On Being Somebody
Engler begins by stating that ‘it takes certain ego capacities just to practice meditation or any spiritual practice’ (36). This is because such practices are ‘based on observing moment-to-moment experience’ and committing oneself to such a routine can ‘strengthen[s] fundamental ego capacities’ (36). The problem is that fro some therapists the idea of “transcending the ego” is meaningless, since “ego” is in this context, ‘a collective term designating the regulatory and integrative functions’ and to lose that, would be ‘to surrender the very faculties that make us human – the capacity to think, plan, remember, anticipate, organize[sic], self-reflect, distinguish reality from fantasy, exercise voluntary control over impulses and behaviour [sic], and love’ (36).

Engler suggests that Buddhist practice does not ‘exempt us from normal developmental tasks’ and this is part of Buddhism’s attraction to Westerners’ (36). However Buddhist teachings are sometimes misinterpreted leading to the following view: ‘I do not need to struggle to find out who I am, what my desires and aspirations are, what my needs are, what my capabilities and responsibilities are, how I am relating to others, and what I could or should do with my life’ (37). In this case, the lack of selfhood relieves this ‘burden’ and the misapplied practices suggest that there is no need ‘to become (psychologically) somebody’ (37).

Engler suggests that Buddhist teachings can also be misapplied in relation to ideas of the self and perfection:

The enlightenment ideal can itself be cathected narcissistically as a version – the mother of all versions! – of the grandiose self: as the acme of personal perfection, with all the mental defilements (kilesas) and fetters (samyojanas) eradicated – the achievement of a purified state of complete self-sufficiency and personal purity from which all badness will be removed, which will be admired by others, and which will be invulnerable to further injury or disappointment. “Perfection” unconsciously comes to mean freedom from symptoms so one’s self will be superior to everyone else’s, the object of their admiration if not envy. (37)

Finally Engler mentions a misguided ‘mirroring or idealizing type of selfobject transference with teachers that remain impermeable to reality-testing for far too long, especially in the case of Asian teachers who are often perceived as powerful beings of special aura, status, and worth’ (37). Engler adds: ‘In their unique presence one can feel special oneself, thereby masking actual self-feelings of inferiority, unworthiness, and shame, or even worse, feelings of being defective or flawed at the core’ (37-38). Engler concludes that there is no way to practice meditation without facing problems in our own characters structures and he is aware that it ‘can serve defensive aims’ (38).

2. Change in Spiritual Practice: Gradual or Sudden? Partial or Complete?
Drawing on an exchange between Philip Kapleau Roshi and a student interviewer, Engler brings out the fact that Buddhist practices will not instantly solve one’s doubts and anxieties about one’s self – in fact, it only draws attention to them. In practice, the path towards enlightenment or kensho is extremely painful and difficult. First, Engler states that the subject must have reached ‘the end of the path’ so that there is a change ‘in our normal relationship to experience in that moment’ (39). In this kind of being, pain can be faced ‘without judgement, censorship, condemnation, or the wish to extrude’ but rather ‘with clarity, openness and compassion’ (39). Similarly, pleasure in the moment does not lead to ‘attraction and clinging’ (39).

Buddhism negatives the ‘reactive approach-avoidance response’ that much of psychoanalysis believes to be innate in human beings (39). Its aim is to discover how to maintain such a state of being in every moment and it is at this point that ‘self-generated suffering’ will be no more. However, this does not happen overnight – this is clear particularly in the Theravada tradition, but also in Buddhism generally and its ‘classical and commentarial traditions’ (39). Rather it occurs in ‘stages or increments, much as change occurs in psychotherapy’ (39). Self-generated suffering continues until one reaches the “extinction” or niroda of ‘unwholesome mental factors’ or samyojanas and this is experienced in four “path-moments” or magga, each of which represents the extinction of ‘a specific group of pathogenic mental factors’ (40). This is the real emphasis of Buddhist teaching according to Engler.

The four groups of magga are as follows:
1. The extinction of ‘core beliefs about the self – “maladaptive cognitions” or “core assumptions” in the language of cognitive psychology – pathogenic beliefs about who we are and how we become free’ (40). E.g. the self as ‘singular, separate, independent, and self identical’ (40). At this stage though the subject can still ‘act in unwholesome, selfish and uncompassionate ways’ (40).
2. Libido and aggression are tackled in the next stage, interpreted in Buddhism as kama-tanha or “desire for sense pleasure” and vyapada or “ill-will”. These are only “weakened” at this stage as they are ‘deeply conditioned’ motivational states (40).
3. Kama-tanha and vyapada are completely eliminated at this stage. Unlike psychoanalysis, Buddhism does not see these drives as inherent to the personality.
4. The last group interrogates mana or ‘the “conceit” of “I am” ’ (41). This factor encourages us to compare our sleves with others and it is ‘the root of all narcissistic striving’ (41).
Engler notes that these stages are similar to those of psychotherapy which tackles: ‘beliefs, perspectives […] amenable to modification’; ‘[c]ore motivational and drive states and their bases in affective reactivity’ and ‘narcissistic investments in the core sense of being a separate self’ (41). The task needs to tackled be in stages. Zen concords with this in differentiating between little and great kensho: ‘The realization of emptiness can be small or large, but it’s just a first glimpse of enlightenment’ (41).

3. The Need for Personal Work
Reaching enlightenment is a difficult task according to Engler and just because a subject has found enlightenment in one area of their life, it does not mean that their journey is at an end. Engler gives the example of teachers who sleep with their students or a monk who while achieving enlightened meditative states, was not able to sympathise or interact with others in an enlightened manner. Engler also notes that practice in the West seems to be different: in the overwhelming need for subjects ‘to deal with emotional and relational problems’ which are not necessarily unravelled in the uncovering of meditation (43). Students may also experience what Zen describes as makyo (‘or manifestations of delusion’) (43-44). In addition, patterns of painful behaviour sometimes return and meditation simply may not solve certain specific problems. A sense of self and self-esteem is essential before a student can follow a meditative path.

4. Limitaions of a Developmental Model
Engler notes that there are problems with the notion of becoming somebody before becoming nobody. A developmental model of this kind privileges spiritual enlightenment of psychological healing and it ignores the possibility of psychological health being improved via meditation. Also you cannot categorise subjects’ development so easily. In addition how can a nobody have a developmental line?

Engler rejects a developmental model and prefers instead to think of ‘spiritual practice’ as ‘multiply determined’ (49). He proceeds by drawing on Suler’s ten psychodynamic issues ‘related to having or not having an autonomous self’, which include using practice to:
1. ‘pursue narcissistic perfection and invulnerability’;
2. ‘calm fears of individuation’; (49)
3. ‘avoid responsibility and accountability’;
4. ‘rationalize [sic] fears of intimacy and closeness’;
5. ‘suppress unwanted or conflictual feelings’;
6. ‘avoid anger, self-assertion and competitiveness by adopting a passive-dependent style’;
7. ‘satisfy superego needs for self-punishment for feelings of unworthiness, shame, or guilt’;
8. ‘escape from internal experience’;
9. ‘devalue reason, intellect, and reflection on one’s motives and behaviour [sic]’;
10. ‘substitute for grief and the need for mourning in the face of loss’ (49-50).
These are motives that have to be overcome.

5. On Being Nobody
Engler now begins to consider what it is to be nobody beginning by considering the psychological self versus the ontological self. What kind of self are Buddhists talking about? Engler answers this question by stating that Buddhists are not talking about ‘the psychologically “differentiated” self’ of Western tradition, ‘am autonomous individual with a sense of differentiated selfhood having its own nuclear ambitions, goals, design, and destiny’ (40). This kind of bounded selfhood was ‘unknown in Buddha’s day’ and in the countries from which Buddhism has emerged, there is much more of a sense of “we”-ness (51). Engler states: ‘The self is experienced as embedded in a matrix of relations and as defined by those relations, not just a matrix of human and social relationships but the more encompassing matrix of relationships within the world of nature, and ultimately the cosmos as a whole’ (51). Still, Buddhism does understand the ‘basic ego’ and ‘normal psychical functioning’ and Engler believes that Buddhist sages have had a very strong sense of what it is to be psychologically healthy (51). Rather the Buddhists aim their criticism at the notion of an ontological self, that is ‘the feeling or belief that there is an inherent, ontological core at the center [sic] of our experience that is separate, substantial, enduring, self-identical’ (52). For Buddhists, this kind of selfhood (the atta) ‘cannot be found in any of the constituents of experience as an autonomous, ontological core’ (52). E.g. a chariot does not have an essence, simply parts.

Engler questions why human beings feel the need to represent the self in this ontological guise. Buddhist teachings do not address this issue. Why do we adapt the self in such a manner? To answer the question, he offers ‘four fundamentally different types of self experience’ that each embody ‘a different core experience of selfhood’ (53).

1. Self as Multiple and Discontinuous
Engler points out that we all act differently at different times with different people. Interacting with others is a learning process and sometimes we experience ourselves as ‘a representation of the other’, while at other times we experience ourselves in relation to an other (54). Most extreme are the alter egos in multiple personalities. So there can ‘be more than one “I”, more than one version of “myself” (55).

2. Self as Integral and Continuous
Usually there is a master version of selfhood which creates ‘a sense of continuity’ (55). This selfhood enables ‘cohesiveness’, ‘personal agency’ and ‘personal worth’ (55). It belongs to us, it is our true self, it is ours to reveal or hide. This kind of selfhood can also work along with a Discontinous Self, so the self can be ‘multiple or singular’ (57). This selfhood is useful in Western societies ‘where the sense of continuity and invariance is no longer carried and maintained by the supra-individual, invariant group’ (57).

3. Unselfconscious Experience
This is a kind of selfhood where a strong ‘sense of self’ is lacking and we become ‘completely at one with what we are doing’ (58). Engler adds that ‘the knower, the knowing and the known are experienced as one’ (58). It is associated with meditation and mysticism, and psychoanalysis tends to see it as a regression. We experience this in everyday experiences (when our name is called and we respond instantaneously) or peak experiences (‘a Zen archer who lets the arrow loose without deciding or intending to let it go’) (59).It is not that one loses selfhood, but the self is organised around experience. Engler adds: ‘It becomes possible when walking, as Zen says, to just walk; when running, to just run’ (62). Unfortunately, this is often ‘temporary and transient’ while problems of self are suppressed (64).

4. No-Self
This goes beyond realising that there is no ‘separate self’(‘Thoughts do not need a thinker’) an it reaches towards making a new mode of being via two routes:
• Route One: shifting subjectivity ‘from representations of the self to awareness itself’ (65) – this involves the recognition that one ‘cannot directly observe the observing self’ because ‘we are that awareness’ (66).
• Route Two: directing ‘awareness from the moment-to-moment manifestations and experiences of self’ (67). This involves concentrating on ‘every object of consciousness, without preference or selection’ (67). Such ‘mindfulness’ offers ‘insight into the nature of all representations of self and reality as constructions only and as ungraspable in any real or definitive sense’ (68). Through this route, certain psychological functions that once occurred automatically are subject to awareness. The self is regulated by impermanence as are all objects of perception. There are no ‘things’ because nothing is as solid as that word suggests. Confronting this loss is an important part of the process.

Engler, Jack. ‘Being Somebody and Being Nobody: A re-examination of the Understanding of Self in Psychoanalysis and Buddhism’. Psychoanalysis and Buddhism: An Unfolding Dialogue. Ed. Jeremy D. Safran. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2003. 35 -79.


June 13, 2007

Wilks and Brick on Naming and Exclusion

Wilks and Brick use ‘a sociolinguistic perspective’ in this essay to consider ‘major channels of communication in France, political parties and the press, with regard to the naming of traditionally exclusive groups such as women, homosexuals and ethic minorities’ (145). They proceed from the assumption that French language is seen as ‘a sacred artefact, a forbidden preserve untouchable by all but an elusive, normative elite’ (145). How can marginal groups be represented by such a language? How does ‘discriminatory language’ marginalise them and what subversive practices can allow the groups access to the language again e.g. ‘the reappropriation of pejorative terms’?

Linguistic Purity and the Norm
Terms such as ‘purity’ and ‘corruption have strong currency in attitudes towards the French idiom. Wilks and Brick admit that exclusion of some forms of language is inevitable in the process of standardisation, yet following other critics, they direct attention to three kinds of norms that are inherent in this kind of debate. The first is a objective norm, ‘the language that speakers actually produce’; the second is the prescriptive norm, ‘the institutionally prescribed standard to be found in dictionaries and grammar books and traditionally promoted through the education system’; and finally there is the subjective norm, that is ‘individual value judgements about language’ (146).

In the French context, Wilks and Brick recognise that prestige is associated with a standard of language (they quote R. Bourhis), and they point out that the French idiom has been manipulated by the state since the sixteenth century when pressure was exerted by ‘a self-perpetuating elite group: scholars and grammarians and those in attendance at the centre of power, the court of Louis XIV’ (146). Those excluded from the norm of language were ‘the “powerless” population’ (147). The ‘legacy’ from this initial intervention is summarised (through A. Lodge’s French: from dialect to standard) as promoting the following ideas:
• that the French spoken by the elite is best or of more value;
• and that reason and clarity are inherent in the best French.
The result, according to Wilks and Brick, is ‘linguistic intolerance and linguistic insecurity’ (147). As a consequence, ‘any unsanctioned attempt to change language may be experienced by self-styled ‘purists’ as an attack; language is a forbidden place which must be detached from the incursions of “outsiders” ’ (147).

Awareness of Discriminatory Language
If language is a forbidden territory, in what ways is language used and what are its ‘naming practices’ (148). The insider shores up the idiom as ‘an elite space’, while those outside of the norm see this site as ‘a forbidden territory’ (148). The insider’s language may be as discriminatory towards the outsider as ‘an active form of discrimination’ (148). Wilks and Brick suggest that there is a need for change in language use of insiders (‘the press and political parties’ or those who have an influence in the shape of the language) about outsiders (‘women, homosexuals and ethnic minorities’) (148).

To assess this problem, Wilks and Brick commenced with interviews of typical readers of Libération and Le Monde and with members of political parties like Le Parti Socialiste, Le RPR, Les Vertes and Le Front National. The results found that there were two extremes with participants either believing wholeheartedly that discriminatory language exists or denying its existence entirely. Of those who were aware of discriminatory language (the two newspapers, Le Parti Socialiste and Les Vertes), the focus was mainly on women as ‘a potentially excluded group’, apart from Les Vertes who were also aware about other marginal groups (149). Of those who did not recognise the existence of discriminatory language (Le RPR and Le Front National), there were ‘differences in levels of sensitivity’ (151). While Le RPR suggested that the language used was not problematic, she did show ‘covert sensitivity’ about difficulties for women. The situation is different for Le Front National, which, in spite of its status as ‘a high profile public “insider”’, has begun to present itself as ‘an “outsider” denied access to the forbidden domain of “dangerous” vocabulary’ (151-152). To Wilks and Brick, this represents ‘a bunker mentality’ and ‘a mirror game’ that plays with notions of insiders and outsiders (152).

Wilks, Clarissa and Noëlle Brick. ‘Naming and Exclusion: The Politics of Language in Contemporary France’. Lloyd, Fran and Catherine O’ Brien eds. Secret Spaces, Forbidden Places: Rethinking Culture.New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2000. 145 – 153.


Lloyd and O'Brien on Secret Spaces, Forbidden Places

1. Spaces, Places, Sites/Sights of the Secret/Forbidden
Lloyd and O’Brien begin their introduction by noting that ‘the cartography of secret spaces and forbidden places extends far beyond physical locations and is present in realms as disparate as art, language, literature, philosophy, cinema, memory and social and political life’ (xv). The aim of their approach is ‘to uncover what has been hidden, displaced, repressed or suppressed in spaces of cultural and political history’ (xv). Space in this theorising can be ‘an interactive social sphere’, a site of power relations, in which different cultures negotiate to promote their own ‘presence’ (xv). Lloyd and O’Brien wonder how the secret and the forbidden have been manifested in different spaces. The essays included discuss ‘how the secret and forbidden intersect and are constructed through and against the regulatory social systems embedded in such accepted notions as: the public and private, the interior and exterior, and the male and female’ (xvi). It is Lloyd’s and O’Brien’s argument that the secret and the forbidden are especially relevant to ‘the formulation of our sense of belonging to a particular territory, whether a geographical space or a mental space’ (xvi).

Lloyd and O’Brien pause for a moment at this point to consider what the secret might mean; they suggest that it might refer to ‘the suppression of truth, the concealment of information or the preservation of desires or dark knowledge, whether by individuals, groups, or governments’ (xvi). The conclusion is that ‘the secret is both the space and the site through which, and upon which, the forbidden operates’, the two tending to co-exist (xvi).

But what about the forbidden? Lloyd and O’Brien see the forbidden working through ‘the symbolic orders of language, or the law of the father and/or nation’ and they suggest that ‘the forbidden excludes certain groupings or individuals, marked by difference’ (xvi). The forbidden is realised in ‘the refusal of entries into specific geographies or domains, the exile from designated spaces or sites/sights, or the taboos that create social or cultural prohibitions’ (xvi).

2. The Politics of Visibility
Visibility and invisibility are themes that are very relevant to the secret and the forbidden. Visibility can on the one hand indicate a physical embodiment of being, yet it can also signal the controlling gaze of ‘regulatory systems of power and knowledge which work differently both within and across the proscribed boundaries of different cultures and groupings’ (xvi). Similarly, invisibility has good and bad implications. While it implies in some cases being ‘absent in time and space, disenfranchised and disempowered’, Lloyd and O’Brien also recognise that, ‘in the face of a totalising system, a powerful elite, a patriarchal order or a potential attacker, invisibility may become a space of safety; a secret space that protects and obscures one from the controlling gaze, at home or abroad’ (xvii).

3.Inclusion and Exclusion
In keeping secrets, it is necessary for some to be excluded from the knowledge of an individual or group and Lloyd and O’Brien see emerging from this necessity, ‘the intriguing but frightening question of how reality may be constructed or manipulated’ (xviii). In the case of women, the interior secret space of domesticity and the private is now clearly being invaded by the public, while other ‘divisions’ are also being ‘transgressed’ in a similar fashion (xix).

Much has been written recently on the effects of displacement, of exile, and the crossing of cultural and territorial boundaries, and feminist theorists in particular have seen such ‘deterritorialisation’ as a potentially productive site for women artists and writers. Nevertheless, one does not have to leave one’s homeland to be displaced – practices of exclusion operate at all levels of society, including the personal. While exclusion may lead to alienation, marginality may […] be an important factor that enables self-discovery. (xx).

4. Bodies/Boundaries/Identities
The most important factor in thinking about the secret or forbidden, according to Lloyd and O’ Brien, is ‘the regulation of bodies of difference at the levels of the individual, the group and the nation’ (xx). Lloyd and O’ Brian add: ‘Gendered, sexed, raced, classed and ethnicised bodies are both the site/sight of the secret and forbidden, and the space of their embodiment and negotiation’ (xx). This regulation works through ‘an assumed set of values’ that are often unstable and secrets occasionally become legible (xx).

Secrets slip out, they cross boundaries, and what may be forbidden in one space or place may be permissible in another. More importantly, at certain key moments, before attempts to police and reinstate the status quo via surveillance of the public and private, bodies that have been excluded through the multiple and fractures lines of gender, race, religion, class, ethnicity, generation or sexuality, have negotiated visibility. (xx).

However identity is often not simply defined by one factor:

Identities are not monolithic, uniformly constructed or reducible to singular categories, whether by religion, language, geography or gender. Like all identities, they are produced by the different ways in which the embodied subjects are positioned and position themselves along multiple lines, according to gender, race, religion, ethnicity, generation, sexuality (and so forth) at specific historical junctures. (xxi).

Lloyd, Fran and Catherine O’ Brien eds. Secret Spaces, Forbidden Places: Rethinking Culture.New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2000.


May 04, 2007

The Ethics of Alterity by Thomas Docherty pp. 140 – 148

POSTMODERN LITERARY THEORY: AN ANTHOLOGY. ED. NIALL LUCY. OXFORD: BLACKWELL, 2000.

Docherty argues that postmodern texts conjure characters whose selfhood is defined by difference: ‘Postmodern characterization […] advances an attack on the notion of identity, or of an essential Selfhood which is not traduced by a temporal dimension which threatens the Self with heterogeneity.’ (140). Such characters are not only different from others but from their putative selves. Previously characters were ‘present-to-themselves’ and reified as ‘en-soi’, while postmodern characters always dramatize their own ‘absence’ from themselves’. (140)

Docherty considers the incoherence of postmodern characters as character traits are contradicted, proper names used inconsistently, genders confused, humans and objects synthesised etc. The notion of representation is in the balance.

An existentialist philosophical tradition has produced a postmodern characterization that suggests a discrepancy between the character who acts and the character who watches themselves acting – a temporal distance between agency and the self consciousness regarding that same agency. Docherty uses the example of John Barth’s ‘Menelaiad’ and he suggests that the consciousness of Menalaus is out of step with the voice of Menalaus and the actions he has supposedly performed. This produces décalage or self-difference and consequently, Menalaus is never fully present in a conventional manner. Docherty quotes the character of Menalaus on time and he suggests that his character is the epitomy of Heideggerian Dasein – a being endlessly deferred, endlessly seeming otherwise and repeating itself in different figurations.

While previous narratives were based on a dichotomy between appearance and reality and encompassed a movement from mystification to enlightenment to revelation as truth, postmodern narratives represent a movement from homogeneity of character to heterogeneity. Such texts prefer an engagement with otherness. The self is related to forking paths of narrative and an excess or surplus of narrative.

In this economy of difference, Dasein enables the character who constantly escapes the fixity of identity by existing in and through the temporal predicament whereby the assumed or desired totality of the self is endlessly ‘dispositioned’, always a ‘being there’, as opposed to a being here, a being present to itself. Docherty finally gestures towards Kristeva’s idea of a subject in process as another alternative manifestation of this kind of character.


Simulations by Jean Baudrillard

BAUDRILLARD, JEAN, SIMULATIONS, TRANSLATED BY PAUL FOSS ET AL, (NEW YORK: SEMIOTEXT INC., 1983).

The Precession of Simulacra

The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth – it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true. -Ecclesiastes

Baudrillard begins by mentioning the Borges tale of cartographers who map out a territory only to have it ruined as the Empire falls. He states: ‘Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of the territory, a referential being or substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal’ (2). The territory no longer precedes the map nor survives it, but the map precedes the territory. The precession of simulcra dictates that the map engenders the territory. It is no longer abstraction: ‘For it is the difference which forms the poetry of the map and the charm of the territory, the magic of the concept and the charm of the real’ (3). This representational imagery, which culminates in the cartographer’s project for an ideal co-extensivity between the map and the territory, disappears with simulation. Its operation is nuclear and genetic i.e. has its origin is reality but it develops independently of reality. The real is now produced from miniaturised units, from matrices, memory banks and command models – with these it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times. It no longer has to be rational since it is no longer enveloped by an imaginary (i.e. the imagined real). Baudrillard states: “It is hyperreal, the product of combinatory models in hyperspace without atmosphere” (3).

The Divine Irreference to Images

To dissimulate is to feign not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one hasn’t.(5)

To simulate is not the same thing as to feign. E.g. the person who feigns illness can go to bed and pretend, but the person who simulates illness produces some of the symptoms. Feigning or dissimulation leaves the reality principle in tact, because it is only masking reality. Simulation threatens the difference between true and false, between the real and the imagination. Medicine loses its meaning if any illness can be simulated, since it only knows how to treat ‘true’ illnesses.

Religious simulation reveals fears about what becomes of divinity when it reveals itself in icons in relation to whether the supreme authority is simply incarnated in images as a visible theology or whether it is volatilised into simulacra which alone deploy their pomp and power of fascination, the visible machinery of icons instead of the pure, intelligible notion of God. This is the particular fear of the iconoclasts. (iconoclast = a destroyer of images; a person opposed to image-worship esp. those in the Eastern church from the 8c; a person who attacks traditional or established beliefs). Their metaphysical despair came from the idea that the images concealed nothing at all. The iconolators did not realise the true meaning of the icons. (iconolator = an image-worshipper).

Thus perhaps at stake has always been the murderous capacity of images, murderers of the real, murderers of their own model as the Byzantine icons could murder the divine identity. (10)

All of Western faith was engaged in a wager on representation: that a sign could refer to the depth of meaning, that a sign could exchange for meaning and that something could guarantee this exchange – God. But if God can be simulated then the whole system becomes weightless. The latter starts from the principle that the sign and the real are equivalent. Conversely, simulation starts from the utopia of this principle of equivalence, from the radical negation of the sign as value, from the sign as reversion and death sentence of every reference. (negation = the act of saying no; denial; a negative proposition; something that is opposite (of a positive state); a thing characterised by the absence of characteristics).

Whereas representation tries to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation as itself a simulacrum. (11)

At this point Buadrillard outlines the successive phases of the image:
1. it is a reflection of a basic reality – a good appearance of the order of sacrament.
2. it masks and perverts a basic reality –an evil appearance of the order of malefice.
3. it masks the absence of a basic reality – it is playing at being an appearance of the order of sorcery.
4. it bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum – it is no longer in the order of appearance at all, but of simulation.

The transition from signs that dissimulate something, to signs that dissimulate that there is nothing, marks a turning point. The first implies a theology of truth and secrecy, while the second inaugurates an age of simulacra in which there is no God to recognise his own, no judgement to sort right from wrong etc.

When the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning. (12)

There is a proliferation of myths about the origin and signs of reality, of second hand truth, objectivity and authenticity. There is an escalation of the true and lived experience, a resurrection of the figurative where object and substance have disappeared. Baudrillard states: ‘This is how simulation appears in the phase that concerns us – a strategy of the real, neo-real and hyperreal whose universal double is a strategy of deterrence’ (13).

Rameses or Rose Coloured Resurrection

In 1971, the Phillipino government decided to return the few dozen Tasaday discovered deep in the jungle. The natives decomposed on contact with the modern world like mummies in the open air. For ethnology (ethnology = cultural anthropology; the science concerned with varieties of the human race)to live, its object must die. The object revenges itself by dying for having been discovered and defies by its death the science that wants to take hold of it. All sciences are doomed by the evanescence of its object in the very process of its apprehension, and by the pitiless reversal this dead object exerts on it. Baudrillard states: ‘In any case, the logical evolution of science is to distance itself even further from its object until it dispenses with it entirely: its autonomy evermore fantastical in reaching its pure form’(14-15).

The Indian is driven back into the ghetto, becoming a simulation model for the Indians before ethnology. They are posthumous savages – frozen, cryogenised, protected to death i.e. a referential simulacra. Another example is that of the open museum exhibition. In this, we all become specimens ‘under the sign of dead differences, and of the resurrection of differences’ (16).

Nothing changes when society breaks the mirror of madness – abolishes asylums, gives speech back to the mad – nor when science seems to break the mirror of its objectivity – effacing itself before its object – and to bow down before differences. As ethnology breaks down, an anti-ethnology tries to inject fictional difference and Savagery everywhere. The ‘real’ world is in fact savage itself, that is to say devastated by difference and death.

Baudrillard points to the example of Rameses II’s mummy and he suggests that human beings need a visible past, a visible continuum, a visible myth of origin to reassure us as to our ends, since ultimately we have never believed in them. He writes: ‘We too live in a universe everywhere strangely similar to the original – here things are duplicated by their own scenario. But this double does not mean, as in folklore, the imminence of death – they are already purged of death, and even better than in life; more smiling, more authentic, in light of their model, like the faces in funeral parlours’ (23).

Hyperreal and the Imaginary

Disneyland is a perfect model of all the entangled order of simulation. It is supposed to be an imaginary world but in fact it is a simulation of real America. Disneyland is there to conceal the fact that it is the ‘real’ America, just as prisons are there to conceal the fact that it is the social in its entirety, which is carceral. Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real. Baudrillard writes: ‘It is no longer a question of false representation of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle’ (25).

It is meant to be an infantile world in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere in the real world and to conceal the fact that childishness is everywhere, particularly amongst those adults who go there to act as a child in order to foster illusions as to their real childishness.

Political Incantation

The Watergate scandal is similar to Disney Land but here it is protecting the reality of Capitalism. The scandal reinjects Capitalism with new meaning/’reality’, because whether the subject defends the morality of the government or whether like the Washington Post journalists, the subject criticises its morality, both discourses suggest that there is a true ‘morality’. Watergate is not a scandal – it is the cruelty of Capital that is scandalous. Baudrillard writes: ‘Capital doesn’t give a damn about the contract which is imputed to it – it is a monstrous, unprincipled undertaking’ (29).

Moebius Spiralling Negativity

Watergate was a trap set by the system to catch its adversaries. All the hypotheses of manipulation are reversible in an endless whirligig, since as Baudrillard confirms, ‘manipulation is a floating causality where positivity and negativity engender and overlap with one another, where there is no longer any active or passive. It is by putting an arbitrary stop to this revolving causality that a principle of political reality can be saved. It is by the simulation of a conventional, restricted perspective field, where the premises and consequences of any act or event are calculable, that a political credibility can be maintained’ (31).

At this point, Baudrillard turns to Berlinguer’s declaration: “We mustn’t be frightened of seeing the communists seize power in Italy”, which according to Bauddrillard, means a number of things simultaneously:
1. that there is nothing to fear since the communists won’t change the capitalist mechanism,
2. that there is no risk of their ever coming to power (since they don’t want to) and even if they did have power, it would only be by proxy,
3. that in fact genuine power no longer exists,
4. that personally Berlinguer is not afraid of the communists coming to power,
5. that Berlinguer is afraid of the communists coming to power (psychoanalysis).
All of the above are simultaneously true. This proves the impossibility of a determinate position of power.

There is a whole range of operational negativity, which tries to regenerate a moribund principle by simulated scandal, phantasm, murder – a sort of hormonal treatment by negativity and crisis.

It is always a question of proving the real by the imaginary, proving truth by scandal, proving the law by transgression, proving work by the strike, proving the system by crisis and capital by revolution, as for that matter proving ethnology by the dispossession of its object – without counting:
- proving theatre by anti-theatre
- proving art by anti-art
- proving pedagogy by anti-pedagogy
- proving psychiatry by anti-psychiatry
etc.etc. (36)

Buadrillard concludes: ‘Everything is metamorphosed into its inverse in order to be perpetuated in its purged form. Every form of power, every situation speaks of itself by denial, in order to attempt escape, by simulation of death, its real agony’ (37).


January 16, 2007

Kristeva on the French Revolution

The Rights of Man and Citizen

The Rights of Man and Citizen

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was designed to make everyone aware of rights and responsibilities.

1 Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

Kristeva explains how rights are inserted into a grid of human institutions and within the scope of the nation. Thus later on the word, ‘man’, is replaced by the word, ‘citizen’.

6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.

The word citizen is used here significantly when the document directs us to civic responsibilities. Kristeva notes: ‘Never has democracy been more explicit, for it excludes no one—except foreigners’ (149). Natural man leads to political man which leads to political man and in fact there is some caution in dissociating natural and political man at all.

What happens to peoples without an adequate government to defend them (the Napoleonic expansion comes to minds, for instance)? What happens to peoples without a homeland (the Russians, the Poles, victims of destruction of their state; or, in more radical fashion, the Jews)? Generally speaking, how are those who are not citizens of a sovereign state to be considered? Does one belong to mankind, is one entitled to the “rights of man” when one is not a citizen? (150)

Kristeva is adamant that the French Revolution brought a call for national rights not human ones. She notes Arendt’s belief that the legacy of nationalism guaranteed the rise of Nazism in the twentieth century. For Kristeva, the composition of a world order in nation-states is barbaric, since only legal nationals are guaranteed rights. The only possible antidote to this could be what Kristeva calls the principle of human diginity: ‘Maintaining the dignity of the human being as principle and aim allows one to understand, to care for, perhaps to mollify its founderings’ (153).

Kristeva comes to a view on the kind of society that should emerge from the Declaration. It would be one that balances the rights and duties of citizens and non-citizens. She also demands an ethics based on education and psychoanalysis that would ‘reveal, discuss, and spread a concept of human dignity, wrested from the euphoria of classic humanists and laden with the alienations, dramas and dead ends of our condition as speaking beings’ (154).

Foreigners During the Revolution
1. Universal Brotherhood and the Birth of Nationalism
By 1790, Guy-Jean-Baptiste Target announced a proposal in the National Assembly of France for foreigners to be naturalized after five years. It was approved by the Assembly immediately. New societies for foreigners began to emerge in France and there were new newspapers catering for foreigners. Unfortunately as the nature of government began to change, the authorities began to be suspicious about foreigners who might be spies or plotters. They were also blamed for the economic crisis. “Hospitality certificates” and “civic examination” were invented and two parties emerged with different attitudes towards foreigners. Dantonists wanted peace but were anti-foreigners, while Hébertists desired war against Europe but supported immigrant patriots. Clubs for foreigners were banned and Robespiere’s Report on the Principles of the Revolution (1793) blamed foreigners for everything. In events that followed, the Terror brought about the arrest of the Hébertists and Hébert’s cosmopolitan ideas condemned many to death. Nationalism was the safest ideology to embrace. All foreigners, ‘were excluded from public service and public rights’ (161).

Anarchis Clootz

2. Anarcharsis Clootz: The “Speaker of Mankind” Against the Word “Foreigner”
Clootz was born in the Rhineland of Dutch origin and educated by Jesuits, but in 1790 he proposed to the National Assembly that the Declaration would be supported by the entire world. Allied with the Girondists, he believed in ‘expanding the rights of man to include foreign peoples, who would thus rise against their tyrants under the aegis of France’ (161). When the Terror began to emerge, Clootz did not take action against foreigners and continued to expound his ideas about a universal republic. He even deconstructed the term, foreigner. Clootz was accused of being a foreigner, incapable of feeling patriotism, and eventually, he was arrested and guillotined on March 20th 1794.

Thomas Paine

3. Thomas Paine: The “Citizen of the World” Wants to Save the King
Thomas Paine was key figure during the American Revolution. His Common Sense attacked the aristocracy and crown of England and demanded independence. Paine visited France during its revolution and answered Burke’s criticisms of the French (Reflection Upon the Revolution in France) with his own Rights of Man. Paine beli4eved in a social and democratic form of government and education and he displayed great idealism concerning human beings and the French Revolution. Paine was supported by English nonconformists like Mary Wollstonecraft and Nicholas de Bonneville in France.

Interestingly, although Paine was anti-monarchists, he also pleaded the case of the French king and was against his execution. However, Marat referred to the fact that Paine came from a Quaker family and suggested that his religious principles had clouded his judgement. After the execution of the Girondists, Paine was also arrested but eluded the guillotine.


Kristeva on Hegel

Hegel

The Nephew with Hegel: Culture as Strangeness

Kristeva begins:’ When in its dialectical motion, the world of the Spirit becomes foreign to itself, Hegel deems that two parts of the spiritual world start facing each other: actuality and pure consciousness’ (144). It is a process, ‘constituted by culture (Bildung)—political, economic, social, intellectual …—as estrangement of the natural being’ (144). In this strangeness, ‘individuality becomes stable only by giving up the self fro the universal: that is the role of Myself the philosopher’ (144). Hegel thinks of estrangement in a number of ways:
• the self-estrangement of the French monarchy ‘where language becomes alienated in turn as a pure appearance in order to seek an empty power’ (145);
• and the distraught utterance as representative of cultural estrangement which creates pure self-consciousness.
Kristeva writes how ‘Culture in Hegel’s sense, in its scission and essential strangeness, proceeds by way of disunion and contradiction, which it unifies in its wrenching discourse’ (146). Kristeva sees this kind of culture as prevailing particularly in France.


Kristeva on Fougeret de Monbron

Fougeret de Monbron

Fougeret de Monbron, a Cosmopolitan with a Shaggy Heart
Charles Louis Fougeret de Monbron wrote Cosmopolitanism or the citizen of the world in 1750 and it is thought that he inspired Diderot’s Nephew. For Fougeret, it is the vices of different countries that inspires him to travel and he enjoys reenacting them in pantomime fashion. Fougeret told Diderot that he had a shaggy heart indicating his status as a negativist: ‘Subjectivistic relativism, hatred towards others and oneself, and the feeling of being empty and fallacious, govern the impossibility of settling down and the acid laughter of cosmopolitanism’ (142). This is not a peaceful universality, but, ‘the passionate tearing away that shakes the identity of one who no longer recognizes himself in the community of his own people’ (142).

It was now that the word cosmopolitan came to be seen in a negative light by those who valued the nation-state and a battle ensued between Montesquieu’s positive version and Fougeret’s negative one.


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