The Dangerous Uncanny

Dike Blair

Dike Blair

“In Freud’s famous essay “Mourning and Melancholia”, unresolved grief over a lost object that can be neither
incorporated nor released manifests in a pathological condition known as melancholia.
The latter recalls a more archaic, even mythic register, in which communication between the psyche and the world, between the
living and the dead, is more fluid and revelatory than in the disenchanted world of modernity.”

Robert Sinnerbrink

“Piaget’s experience was to point to the shadow as the representation of otherness but without going a step further and saying, “The otherness is charged with negative psychological value.” For Piaget, the relationship of the child with the shadow hasn’t that psychological charge because Piaget’s psychology was Gestalt psychology and not a Freudian psychoanalytic one.”
Victor I. Stoichita

There were several topics that seemed to come up this last two weeks. The common denominator had to do with the control of public discourse. Social media plays a huge role in this, and this in turn is, obviously I guess, connected to all the various institutional PR firms (in the employ of government agencies often) and corporate information gatherers. But I wanted to look at this in relation to the way critical writing is effected and how dissident positions are neutralized.

This also relates once again to the way audiences have changed their engagement with artworks. Anneleen Masschelein’s book The Unconcept touches on the shifting meaning and values of the *uncanny*. She points out that Freud intuited, in spite of himself almost, a revolutionary new way of thinking. One that has now taken on several diverse formations. For the *uncanny* is both a kind of indefinite openness, and also (as she puts it) “the substantive uncanniness…that indicates a state or essence.” For there is a linkage to the sublime, aesthetically, that is not quite the same as the psychological notion of affect. The role of art, and culture, is quite different, but overlaps with, science and philosophy. The point is, really, that artworks operate in ways that exceed the rational and analytical. The revolutionary aspect of art and culture, paradoxically perhaps, resides in the fact that at its most elevated the artwork cannot serve problem solving and cannot be scientifically described. This leads back to Freud, of course. Freud, despite his desire to be seen as a scientist, was really closer to a poet or shaman. The Freudian *uncanny* is connected at its origin with art and literature. And with, in an even more elusive sense, narrative. And narrative with space, and with memory and exile. Writing is possibly the desire to return home.

Anna Zahalka, photography.

Anna Zahalka, photography.

Masschelein’s book is a terrific source for all topics *uncanny*. But it is in one particular aspect, more than the author perhaps realizes, that it touches on something often neglected in cultural discourse. And that is way in which the reader or viewer of a text or image may approach the material from a direction not intended by the creator or producer of this image or text. In one sense it’s a bit like mimetic appropriation. That is, the nature of poetics is the open-ended associations that one carries on, much as in dreams. And it is this associative power that mass culture today is by necessity blocking, or in many cases directing to regressive ends. Mimesis, in its larger sense touches on bedrock philosophical questions, and are mirrored in a lot of psychoanalytic texts. Dreams, memory, doubling, deja vu — all that might fall under the umbrella of *strange*. And in all experiences of alienation or estrangement, or even disassociation, there is that Vedic puzzle at the center; is this strange because I remember something like it, from my past, or is my past just an idea I attach to these images in front of me, at this very moment; a projection of tensions and dynamics to which I give a label or name. Is the dream dreaming me?

Mahmoud Mokhtar

Mahmoud Mokhtar

And how does all of this symbol and metaphor link up with my repressed terror of death? Because all artworks, finally, those of value anyway, are teetering on that ledge between terror, panic, and death, and desire, orgasm and the sublime. There is no sublime without terror. This is another area where one can readily see the degrading of culture, today. Dostoyevski or Kleist or Melville would not get published today. They are too close to the tragic, and all around the tragic as if in a kind of frayed outline is crime and guilt, and above all else, murder. But it is too easy to say that, at least in that way. Murder and crime are themselves close to illness and fevers and exhaustion. Stories of murder are reenacting the primal crime. One of the more irritating experiences encountered today, in the U.S. anyway, is that most discussions will eventually arrive at appeals to rational or scientific proof. The *story* is not enough, the poetics, the sense of the tragic, are not enough. For that open-endedness, that unresolved emotional cliff, is more terrifying to the culture of the West today than it has ever been to any other society or culture. The murder can never be solved, this is not a pitch that would sell in Hollywood.

The experience of strangeness, overall, is always partly a suspicion that reality isn’t real, as it were. This is that doubt that is raised in all accessing of memory. Why do certain memories come up for no apparent reason? Or, why, in reading or watching a film, that sense of something uncanny occur when it does? The unconscious is by definition unknowable. One has to discover parts of it through dream analysis, or in some form of mimetic activity. The uncanny is like a signpost pointing out a destination to which we weren’t travelling. For one can never be certain that experience of the uncanny is a real memory, or rather memory trace. And yet the deeper truth is that it doesn’t matter because it cannot matter. All fantastic literature, or horror, or ghost stories are expressions of something psychical. Freud pointed out that the uncanny was more about the memory of repressing something, than with that something which was repressed. But this may not be totally true. And this was one of puzzles that nagged at Lacan who saw the unconscious structured, in some fashion, like language.

Masschelein’s makes a case for a paradigm shift in the early 70s, coming out of France, where Lacanian and Derridean concepts were in the Zeitgeist. And it is probably true that the uncanny played a huge role in Baudrillard and Lacan, and certainly in Barthes and Lyotard. By the 1980’s this idea of the uncanny had found its way into Jameson and Spivak, and Jonathan Culler. I have no intention of digging into the various branches that came out of this decade, but rather to look at one idea that was embedded in this focus on ‘reading’ texts.

William Mortensen, photography.

William Mortensen, photography.

The University of Vincennes in St Denis (Paris 8), launched a kind of research that was interested in the tragic and Dionysian expressions in art and literature, shot through a Lacanian psychoanalytic lens, by way of Foucault. Running through this multi-tiered interdisciplinary school was a Leninist/Maoist political awareness. Art took on, de-facto, a critical edge, as opposed to simply theoretical. However insipid much of this posturing was, a good deal of cogent writing took place. The point here, for the purposes of this posting, is to narrow down the discussion to the role the *uncanny* played vis a vis a reading of texts that were framed by Helene Cixous’ political/feminist theories which were very much in line with Lacan and Derrida. The short version is was to explore the idea of how the ‘feminine’ came to be manufactured and expressed by an absence. Ecriture Feminine wanted to, writes Masschelein, “deconstruct the logo and phallocentrism in the grand narrative of Western culture, where the feminine is mainly defined as absence; it has neither place nor voice”. The point here is not to dissect Cixous, but to see what this examination of texts meant in the light of psychoanalytic theory; and it directly addresses mimesis, which is where this posting, not surprisingly, is leading. The nature of certain metaphors, those found in Kleist (his marionette essay in particular) and Poe, and in Freud, were to be excavated and their genealogy mapped. The grotto, the labyrinth, the island and the shadow; and in what way the reader is being ….or has been…carefully walled off, increasingly so, from the unconscious realm that is posited or that lodges within these constructions. The figure of the exile looms here, too, the stranger, the explorer and detective, as well (Cixous grew up an Algerian Jew, like Derrida). But it was also in Freud that the figure of researcher as sexual scientist is foregrounded. The desire for knowledge is both the engine for Enlightenment’s corrective project, as well as its negation. Whatever one makes of Cixous, I’d argue that her discussion of the uncanny discovered something compelling in the notion of absence. It may be that on this level, the metapsychology of Freud, that the gendered aspect was subsumed. Her position was that trying to *name* the uncanny was doomed to failure. Lacan might have suggested this, too, but for different reasons. Everything is not the thing itself. Drives are the representation of drives. Dreams are not what we’ve dreamt, but what we narrate as our memory of the dream.
Carmengloria Morales

Carmengloria Morales

Now ambivalence, which is part of how one experiences doubt and uncertainty, seems (As Amy Buzby points out) connected to authority. And this is important, for it is also part of that system of guilt, resentment, and conscience. The child internalizes feelings that he or she has for the parents. One can see oneself, in moral terms, as innocent, and still experience guilt. This is closer to ambivalence. So, regardless of whether drives are representations or not, the subject will develop symptoms, repetition compulsion for example, and under that symptom complex are all manner of pathologized behavior. The point here though, is that in artworks the uncanny is that which is colored by the fear of death. There is anxiety in the uncanny experience. It is disruptive. In art that anxiety is provided a mimetic process, the dream or memory that is stimulated is given a narrative. It is also a narrative that includes absence. For anxiety cannot locate the source of itself. The role of authority here is, as Cixous’ says, bound up with institutions. The bourgeois character formation gravitates toward institutional authority, and by extension to the employment of a ruthless super-ego that *thinks* in the most instrumental (masculine) and rigid ways. The body takes on an armoring, an emotional carpace. The search for the source of anxiety is tainted with the desire or demand for mastery. To what degree this is gendered, as Cixous has it, I don’t know, but the submission to authority is bound up for everyone in most industrial capitalism because the space of associations has been shrunk so. The white man, though, remains the center of the narrative. Where Cixous and Masschelein are both wrong is at exactly the point where they begin to discuss theatre and identification. The audience does not believe what happens on stage is real, not even in the most superficial sense. They are wrong that the audience keeps a safe distance from the narrative on stage. Quite the opposite. It is in daily life that a distance is maintained, because in daily life the material forces of domination demand a certain conformity and obedience. What is happening in mass culture, actually, is that theatre and film are now experienced exactly as daily life. Realism has come to mean banality. The disenchantment of life. Many in the Black Lives Matter movement have mentioned the theft of magic, that part of their oppression is this plundering of enchantment and community learning. For the white bourgeoisie the hand-over was voluntary. In any case the masking of class antagonisms, so often forgotten, are part of the docile acceptance of conformity and obedience, and the ambivalence and resentment remains buried, but it doesn’t disappear. It is in daily life that distance develops, and again, the uncanny surfaces as a safety valve of sorts…except when you have a culture now so stripped of all inner experience. A culture that has no stories to tell. A culture that cannot recognize its own self image. Except today, at the level of genre, where the allegorical finds traction more easily due to the new myths of crime narratives; in all those spaces, and places, where something inexplicable occurs. The best writing in English invariably today is in crime fiction.

The banality of today’s mainstream theatre is startling, actually. The children of famous parents are now writing plays about being the children of famous parents ( Even if this is a *good* play, its a bad play. But this is the sense of the anti-uncanny. David Lynch is the manufactured ersatz uncanny. Weird affects are not uncanny. But I digress. The point is that under a society of domination, one ever more hysterically feeding PR cues to media, and one where the branded pretend left (the disturbingly insalubrious and poisonous Molly Crabapple comes to mind) are now so disfigured emotionally, and so entrenched in representative systems of deceit, that almost everything written or uttered is in the service of neutralizing real dissident voices. We have reached the place where the youth market is so saturated with this pernicious double speak and intellectual snark couture that they see the validating of an Ayn Rand, for example, as some sort of radical dissident position. Class analysis is all but erased, and newly wealthy journalists (and journalist performers {sic}) are increasingly patronizing toward any voices that challenge their authority. An authority born of column space at The Guardian or VICE. For artists of course it is even worse. Nothing, literally NOTHING of any value can be produced within this system. Ergo, Broadway and Lincoln Center or wherever the NYTimes visits, is akin to watching the public beheading of culture.

Robert McFarlane, photography.

Robert McFarlane, photography. Covent Garden 1973.

“…the cyborg: that hybrid creature which epitomizes the way in which the controlling causality of modern humanist technology collapses into its opposite — namely, a post humanist thing whose very robotic impersonality marks the victory of the death instinct over the life instinct.”
Richard Kearney

The mainstream media loves to titillate with all manner of Orientalist propaganda; lurid, exaggerated, context free. The other real terror in daily life is in the growing nearly incomprehensible banality and bloodless cultural output, and in the bad faith and conscience of corporate media news. Derrida wrote a good deal about undecidability of certain words, and in a sense this has also now become it’s opposite. Words are used as if they had almost no meaning, and that this was perfectly normal. Glyphs and design patterns, as used in contemporary signage is part of the nullified meaning. Undecided…fine, because there isn’t enough there to argue about. Facts, history, again not important. At the same time a world wide web level of knowledge extends over certain cue words. But these words are spoken or written as part of a secret text, a code. But they aren’t secret. They are the opposite of secret. They are completely absorbed into daily life, and they are bleeding out their meaning like a goat in a Halal or Kosher market. It is the Murdoch minions writting one non-story after another. It is the trained seals clapping for mackerel. It is important to understand that when Derrida writes of symbolized and symbolizer, or various other examples of (what he calls) undecided ambivalence, that there is a slight confusion of category going on. The uncanny that is experienced, say, on a theatre stage is not an experience of intellectual juggling, a theoretical puzzle. It is neither identification with some distanced representation of life. It is a form of thought that can only exist on stage and which happens rarely, and which does appear by virtue of it’s temporal nature. Just as it cannot be defined, it cannot be conceptualized for it is the negation of conceptual thinking. It is that which echos our own memory traces, and its purposelessness constitutes its autonomy. Theatre is both a reflection of our collective history and our personal memory. Or it is a presentation of amnesia.

Louisa Matthiasdottir

Louisa Matthiasdottir

The uncanny, found in the photos of William Mortensen (above), as an example, is disturbing in ways that David Lynch of Greg Crewsden can never be. Mortensen was creating a visual expression of his own failed psychic regulator, his photos were the less than successful repressions of his era (1930s and 1940s). The unease provoked when looking at his photos is one of very deeply repressed sexuality. Mortensen was once called the ‘anti Christ’ by Ansel Adams. Here was a visualist who embraced a cheapened aesthetic of pin up girls and sentimental romanticism of a kitsch Hollywood variety, of gothic movie horror and maudlin innocence. He worked in Southern California, and is one of those strange minor artists who has aged far better than anyone might have expected. The repressed desire, the sense of twisted erotic tastes is there, but buried beneath layers of visual syrup. It is this felt but not seen, or not quite seen affect that constitutes a kind of uncanny. Mortensen only has value because he was so nakedly appropriated the bad taste of others, but then allowed it to marinate in his own private sun drenched dystopia on the so-cal sands of Laguna Beach. Mortensen may well have been a clear precursor to a post modern sensibility, athough his angst is real and Cindy Sherman’s is not. But to return to the uncanny as it relates to ambivalence, and that in turn to a society of domination and violence, there is probably a good discussion to be had that would include Mortensen, Clint Eastwood, Thomas Kinkaid and Robert Wilson. One of the things that contributes (greatly) to the erasing of radical perspectives and to specifically radical political perspectives, is the absence of class analysis. The hipsterism of today’s corporate lacky journalist celebrity is one where class is replaced by a nebulous and flaccid anarchism. For class is always painful, and it always wounds and lacerates. Now the McFarlane photo above is uncanny I think, in a subtle way, but partly this is because it is dated specifically and located. Without that information I’m less certain it would be found to be uncanny. Photography lends itself to the uncanny because of this very dilation of time, that the furtive moment is captured, and hence through that capture something distant is mirrored in our own lost history. And our own history is mediated by class. Do the man and boy know each other? Who’s dog is that? What were they doing that day in 1973? What’s in the box? The experience of this photograph is less in answering these questions than in the having to ask them. The Zahalka photo above is a sort of kitsch version of Sugimoto’s diorama photos. Why isn’t it really uncanny? Because it is ironic. It is strange, but strange is not uncanny. A man in a bunny suit and tutu walking down Sunset Blvd is strange, but only that. Strange can extend into something grotesque, and there is more to say on this, but the uncanny cannot be intentionally *strange*. In fact I might argue that the real uncanny is rarely touched with any superficial strangeness. It is possible that the specificity of certain photographs is linked directly to history and class. And that history is always linked to class. Amy Buzby wrote “It becomes clear through a consideration of ambivalence that the internalization of the super-ego is a stop-gap solution to the child’s hatred, one that comes at a huge cost. In this internalization both narcissistic rage (which must be bound) and the healthy opposition of the emerging individual to an oppressive normativity (the contestations of Eros) are subsumed by a conscience that embodies exactly that normativity. The seeds of radical conscience are thus plowed under at the precise point where the super-ego begins its punishing tyranny.”
Tim Davis, photography.

Tim Davis, photography.

In today’s society of domination aggression is thereby allowed expression, and in fact is encouraged in terms of interpersonal domination. The psychic violence of HBOs Girls is just as distressing as American Sniper. Class hierarchies are enforced as a part of this and any resistance to the status quo is punished, and usually in children deemed unhealthy and in need of treatment. In art, the consolidation of values that prohibit real resistance have reached hegemonic levels. This is a society of infantilization, in which a particularly strict super ego is in a position of power over the self questioning doubts about normativity, the accepted abstracted ideal of vacuous meaning free discourse and expression. The uncanny has become threatening, and this because its appearance at all is a sign of some failure in this system of enforced conformity. The uncanny suggests taboos and primal suffering. If people treat themselves as property, and everyone else as property, too, then the psychic tensions of the erased unconscious (that yet of course continues to exist) are going to be targeted for violence. Those most ‘othered’ are those with the most juju. The police killing of black teenagers is hardly difficult to analyse. This is what fascism is, finally. The sadism and masochism at work in today’s popular culture only mirrors the same dynamic operating out sight in the psyche. Dionysian energy and the uncanny, the tragic, and all the allegorical spaces that once provided some outlet for the overflow of frustrations born of internal contradictions are being not just erased but made illegal. It is like the burning of witches, only in our heads, a private adumbrated mimetic karaoke. This takes one back to the theft of enchantment. The movements of social change from the left have to address the mutilated psyches of those who find it in themselves *to* resist. That U.S. prisons are overflowing is also hardly an accident. So the uncanny lives on in ever more mediated expression, but still, it is part of the refusal to submit. And hence no surprise that artists like Lynch are so embraced by the system, for he is the alibi that radical creativity still exists. He also (and many others) are tending now to use up the shelf space available in this culture.

If Cixous saw reading Freud like fiction as somehow radical, or critical, it was because she so badly misunderstood the nature of theatre. Of all fictional narrative. Again, theatre is not itself mimicry. That is wildly simplistic, and essentially wrong. The stage is the space in which an opening or portal to the unconscious is provided, and however fleeting this is sustained by narrative — and in secondary ways by the doubling effect of actors, the repetitions of memorized text, and the abdication of identity in the dream on stage. That dreams are forgotten so often in all this theory is just the residue of instrumental logic. For theatre is not there to solve problems. I am reminded a bit about the notion of mazes, and of labyrinths. Joe Milutis wrote this on mazes, from around 2008, in an essay at Cabinet:

“If anything, they might help us gird ourselves for the betrayals of the digital, like the betrayals of youthful magic, for which sometimes we ourselves are responsible. The vast chaos of the Internet becomes simplified—for example, through the agency of a basic web portal tailored to our needs—and like the progression from Greek to New Age mazes, childhood to adulthood, our brain matter follows. This simplification is not necessarily a bad thing and, in fact can help us organize and evolve, but simplicity can easily slip into dogma. I sympathize with the desire to lift the image of a shining, simple archetype out of the mess of the labyrinth’s history, in the same way that I understand people for whom the Bible is the book as struggling to overcome a particular brand of information anxiety. Overloads of data and memory failures make finding oneself in the labyrinth (of the computer or elsewhere) a difficult task. If self itself is the labyrinth, however, then one must take into account its infinite intricacies and booby traps too; it is in fact part of the monstrosity, what Bataille in his essay on the labyrinth calls “the virulent madness of … autonomy in the total night of the world.”

Enguerrand Quarton (15th century, early). Detail from La Pieta de Villeneuve Les Avignon.

Enguerrand Quarton (15th century, early). Detail from La Pieta de Villeneuve Les Avignon.

Again, the disenchantment of life, a digital disenchantment for the affluent West. In this age of mass surveillance, the stay-at-home-Imperialism (per Milutis) of video games, like mazes, is the re-enactment of conquest, of the domination of the other that comes so easily to the citizen of the advanced West. Even the peripheral mimesis of such recreational products is stripped of autonomy, and instead serve as some strange encouragement to learning business or finding success. Ninety percent of Hollywood film and TV are infomercials for how to be an asshole. The Wolf of Wall Street may well be the iconic film of this decade. Action films today serve as recruitment videos for the U.S. military and for domestic police forces.

The magic of the purposelessness, of art, it’s linkage to dream life, all of that is far too subversive, today. The childish corporate news outlets today barely conceal, if they do at all, their dishonesty and venality (Brian Williams is a non story because nobody is surprised). The quasi celebrity talking heads chat with retired Generals or policy wonks, and openly attack foreign leaders, create demons (Castro, Milosevic, Qadaffi, or Putin, et al) while winking at the viewer who knows of the cynicism at work, who knows this is scripted pablum PR, but is grateful nonetheless. For wholesale lying is familiar, it is comforting and serves as the most threadbare kitsch substitute for genuine emotions. Where once longing and homesickness took up mental space, today there is only the familiar taste of the psychic lash, which while it might hurt, is welcome. The masochism hides a panic. Instead of longing there is petulant impatience. To watch most Hollywood TV is to see one particular scene over and over and over. And that scene is the enactment of someone asking for forgiveness, apologizing, and the interlocutor denying the forgiveness. There is a version of this scene in almost every single episode of every single show on cable and network TV. This is the sado masochism of the white Western bourgeoisie. For the viewer is both asker and denier. Tell me the truth, don’t tell me the truth. Eventually this becomes ‘the truth is what I want it to be’. And I don’t want it to be anything.

"Silent Witness" (BBC) 1996 to present.

“Silent Witness” (BBC) 1996 to present.

The culture continues to reveal what it denies. And then it recreates its alibi. Then it denies anew. The repetitions, the slowly accumulating irritations of these repetitions, the violence that isn’t real, the autopsies, the forensics of pretend death, and all of it, as Rebecca Comay suggests, scored to the hallucinatory murmur of the assembly line. The mass culture that now resembles those putty cadavers with their prosthetic body parts and cavities, the technicians and scientists of death squinting earnestly at some synthetic fiber that will provide the clue to the killer. Episode after episode. Decade after decade, now. From Silent Witness (all 18 seasons and still ongoing) to the new Forever, to the endless SCI franchises, the idea of forensics is amazingly appealing to the average Western viewer today. But the autopsy is really taking place on society itself, and on those making these products. They carve up and tweeze apart and then lift out and weigh the organs. The masks, the hushed medical theatres, all of it is rehearsal for the subjects own self annihilation. Those endless corpses stretched out on their stainless steel tables, then stuffed in black industrial strength black plastic bags, and slid smoothly into the freezer. The subtle eroticized sound of smoothly operating ball bearings and oiled metal. The attractive actors pulling on those latex gloves; its *hot* in the freezer. The freezer is in the basement…not an accident…and each body, each corpse, is chilling in this modern underworld; the city morgue. The new mythology of renewal, an almost, perhaps, accidental by-product of corporate profit driven entertainments, is that each corpse is the body politic in some sense, starting their journey downward. Frozen, but then returning, as either zombie, or as the catalyst for exercises in detection. They return as plot points, as story. Renewal as hyper repetitive texts. Whatever version, the bodies return, they do not just disappear. There are multiple readings here, the corpses are treated without dignity (the ruling class perspective on the masses, who in that reading return as zombies storming the citadel of Paramount studios) while in another sense treated with exaggerated reverence (the corpse as the self, the desire for Phoenix like rebirth, but again as zombie often, but this over-determined zombie is also conscience and guilt). It is easy to find associations in pop cultural product, but it’s also easy to underestimate the importance of these readings.

The reflection in the mirror is a stranger, and it is the desire of that stranger that must fill the hole inside. This is Dostoyevsky’s The Double, it is Freud’s The Uncanny, and it is Kafka and Pasolini and Ionesco. The photograph is, or can be, talismanic value, a sort of blood sample (per Mary Bergstein) that acquires sympathetic magic. At the same time the photograph is stealing wealth, appropriating image and style and having real suffering extracted and packaged for sale in the Empire. Images are all these things, and are all these things at the same time. The uncanny is touched with anxiety, if not fear, and it is mimetic because it is always contains its own narrative. Gunther Gebaur and Christoph Wulf wrote, in a chapter on Rene Girard:

“The novel is a mimetic medium; it assumes a form, in the hands of Stendahl, Flaubert, Dostoyevski, and Proust, such that it is directed back against its own constitutive characteristicis as a genre. What these writers criticize in society they find repeated in literature. They discover in society a fictional principle; they recognize that the formation of the social world proceeds in the same ways as the formation of the novel. Society, in important aspects, is constituted in terms of the same principle as the novel. Put the other way around,this claim reads as follows: the novel is constituted in terms of a principle that informs and dominates the social reality of its time. The social world and the novel, on account of the principle of mimetic interpretation and worldmaking, are bound together; they exist in constitutive reference to each other.”

Stories are always about ourselves on some level. A society that can only tell the most banal and superficial and infantile stories is a frightening place.


  1. Molly Klein says:

    There is so much here to think about, I really don’t know where to begin

    “Where Cixous and Masschelein are both wrong is at exactly the point where they begin to discuss theatre and identification. The audience does not believe what happens on stage is real, not even in the most superficial sense. They are wrong that the audience keeps a safe distance from the narrative on stage. Quite the opposite. It is in daily life that a distance is maintained, because in daily life the material forces of domination demand a certain conformity and obedience. What is happening in mass culture, actually, is that theatre and film are now experienced exactly as daily life. Realism has come to mean banality. The disenchantment of life. Many in the Black Lives Matter movement have mentioned the theft of magic, that part of their oppression is this plundering of enchantment and community learning.”

    This puts me in mind of Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch, and how she speaks o the understanding of the body before capitalism, and says “The Body had to die so that Labour Power could live”

    Body and Cosmos

    Now nothing must be valued about the ruling class’ profit. There is no god but the class of proprietors of capital.

    “”The culture continues to reveal what it denies. And then it recreates its alibi. Then it denies anew. ”

    Yes its like to constant enclosure, the constant capitalization. Again and again humanity produces the world and again and again it s own claim is denied and an absrtact claim staked and it is expropriated.

    Like again and again humanity creates socialism and communism and again and again it is crushed

  2. Molly Klein says:

    the poisonous crabapple this absolute cretin compares herself to leonardo and rembrandt by telling a completely bogus and idiotic bullsHistory

  3. John Steppling says:

    she’s a fascist.

  4. Molly Klein says:

    my longer comment up there is stuck in moderation

  5. Christopher Black says:

    Yes, a lot to absorb but it called to mind the news today of the death of Lizabeth Scott (a favourite of mine) who said she preferred film noir because the stories, scripts, and characters more closely approached reality than the usual Hollywood stuff that created a world that could never exist because it had relation to reality.

    Provoking and enlightening as always

  6. John Steppling says:

    I thought of Scott and her best films. Too Late for Tears (1949) , a Republic B noir is terrific. It was re released later as Killer Bait. Its one of those visceral odd claustrophobic films with greed and lust intermingling. She was always sexually ambiguous and apparently was off screen as well. She was always perfect in those late 40s noirs.

    per Molly, i was thinking how that scene I suggest is repeated in every show. It is the voice of the ruling class that denies forgiveness because, above all else, these narratives are there to discourage the idea of cooperation. People cant forgive — partly because they might then actually work together in some sort of solidarity. The refusal to forgive in these stories is about (more than all the other things) the prohibition of solidarity.

  7. It was a bit – uncanny – to read this the same day I saw the excellent Italian film Human Capital…

  8. I could riff off a number of things here, but I got caught up in thinking about the following section, kind of in reference to Molly’s quote about the ‘body dying so labour can live’ (though, admittedly, I am not familiar with the context of the quote).

    Steppling says above: “The role of authority here is, as Cixous’ says, bound up with institutions. The bourgeois character formation gravitates toward institutional authority, and by extension to the employment of a ruthless super-ego that *thinks* in the most instrumental (masculine) and rigid ways. The body takes on an armoring, an emotional carpace. The search for the source of anxiety is tainted with the desire or demand for mastery. To what degree this is gendered, as Cixous has it, I don’t know….”

    I think you are right here, that this might not be a “gendered” effect….. but I think that the very implications of the concept “gender” are themselves part of a ‘white man’s, authoritative narrative.’ To have hard and fast gender categories is a convenient way to implement rules and expectations without having to think. Or care. By the same token, it is undeniable that some bodies have different experiences and abilities then other bodies, regardless of sex or “gender.” The two-spirited or transgendered body is a challenge to these authoritative, repressive categories. But I’d like to focus on how the female sex is particularly “tainted with the desire or demand for mastery.” I think the bodies of females–and arguably, especially ‘not-white’ females–are particularly threatening to the status quo of the consumerist ‘white man’ institutional authority.
    For instance, “healthy” “female” bodies can give birth, “male” bodies cannot. That our society is built around the assumption that birthing is of secondary importance, and is an unempowered activity cannot, I think, be denied. Young women are told, “you can do anything, you can be anything… you are lucky to be living at a time where you can have any job…. etc.” Despite the fact that these sentiments dull down the reality of what it is actually like for women getting jobs in the workforce, there is something else going on here below the surface of these sentiments….. There is an emphasis and a value in having a career….like careers that “men” have. Women in first world countries are having fewer babies. Women who do have babies and stay home to raise them, face all sorts of societal pressures to be “working,” or many feel oppressed if they can’t continue to develop their career. And then look at big companies like Apple and Google who are offering egg freezing for their female employees so that they can develop their careers and have babies when they are older…. Again, apart from the fact that this type of technology is ineffective at best, and harmful at worst–there is something, I think, much deeper going on here…… This is not creating equality between sexes–it is privileging the white male corporate agenda in the guise of fairness and inclusion.
    But let’s look at the Threat of woman/motherhood…. What does it mean to be a “mother”? Well, I’d say it implies nurturing, holding, physical contact… it implies giving oneself to another in a deeply visceral sort of way (i.e. this is recognized by attachment theories)….. Being pregnant and giving birth, then breastfeeding, and touching are deeply embodied experiences…..ALL of these things I have just listed are threatening to the capitalist, authoritarian narrative. It is dangerous to the capitalist agenda to love people. It is also dangerous to touch people, or care about them, or to be affected by another’s emotions (another possible reason why us North Americans make such bad theatre, and such bad theatre audiences,…..?). I reckon our white, puritan culture has never been all that ‘touchy,’ but I think it is getting worse in that most people spend a lot of time in front of screens, or driving in cars, or racing around to do things……….People spend less time touching each other, and internally feeling what it is like to touch or be touched (whether is is touching a person, or oneself, or even just experiencing the texture of tree bark). One is watching TV and doesn’t realize their back is cramped until the commercial break, and then, one takes an Advil….Once again, the “masks,” they take many forms… I think that perhaps the male body is less threatening on the surface because it doesn’t imply these same symbolic/physical threats. So no… maybe these concerns aren’t inherently gendered, but they have become so in the cultural/historical context of North America….

    I have sometimes wondered if the most subversive thing I could do would be to have a baby.

    (As a funny aside, when I was a kid, I used to tell my parents that I wanted to grow up to be a “farmer’s wife.” I was repeatedly told that I didn’t *have* to be a farmer’s wife, I could be a farmer! And I just couldn’t make anyone understand that I wanted to live on a farm, and contribute to the farm chores, but that I wanted a family to play with on the farm and to not have to look after all the bureaucracy, heavy lifting, tractor repairs, planning the harvest… In hindsight, I guess I wanted to be a mother/farm-hand…. I wanted my life and my work to feel like the same thing. But “farmer’s wife” just seemed too oppressive sounding to my parents/teachers (today, I think the most oppressive sounding part about that statement is the word “wife”–sort of implying the acceptance of the institution of marriage as important, though at that age, “marriage” itself didn’t mean much more than family). I wasn’t thinking in a very instrumental way. I was imagining an existence based on the things I loved: a wide open sky, bare feet on dirt, the smell of dry corn fields, the prospects of playing in barns and in copse’s of trees…. Sure, I was naive and didn’t understand what growing up would entail, but I think the message I kept getting from authority figures in my life is interesting….)

  9. And to tie all this in with the “uncanny” …..I think what is uncanny about the above story about my 7 year old self wanting to be a “farmer’s wife,” is that it was impossible for me to illustrate to my caregivers–and continues to be impossible for me to illustrate via comments on an online blog–what I really meant by this. I suspect this has to do with “Freud point[ing] out that the uncanny was more about the memory of repressing something, than with that something which was repressed.” The kind of thing that I wanted to be, cannot be described–or perhaps even understood–in the consumer-institution-centred culture that I live in. It is a secret life for which I have no words at all.
    So, in other words, what I said above, AND what I said as a 7 year old kid, is really not at all what I meant to say…. But if Freud’s sentiment is “not totally true,” as Steppling suggests, then perhaps it makes sense to wonder whether it is ever possible to really say much of anything if in fact, “the dream is dreaming us” ? Hence the efficacy of art….

  10. John Steppling says:

    Its interesting, calla, because i really do understand exactly what you are getting at in that second comment, That is, in a sense, a good advertisement for art. The question of giving birth is huge, and in the West is given to extreme instrumentalized discussions, or to maudlin sentimentalizing. Often to both. And there is a really good discussion to be had around this question of capitalism, career, gender, and authority. I want to write more about the intersections of community, tribalism, institutional authority — and the psyche. Thats sounded very vague….but I guess it is, in a sense. I once took one of those goofy internet games, questionaires….where you answer a bunch of questions and they put you on a graph politically. I ended up a non authoritarian Stalinist. And id say that’s not incorrect. But i rated 0% for tribalism, which is, apparently, almost impossible. I mention this because there is a problem with authority in the West…meaning, mostly the US….and you see it now in this shaming of anti vaccine people. Where does that come from? Since when is the AMA and big pharma to be trusted? And this from people who I would be willing to bet are barely high school level in science. But see, authority, the super ego policing expresses itself in this particualr grammar, and with a masculine humorless sort of patriarchal puritanism. And its where the petit bourgeoisie take on this mantle of *responsible* — and the tribalism is buried in there in ways I have a hard time articularting but which I know are there.

    So…im rambling and i want to answer more coherently… I shall return here.

  11. “because i really do understand exactly what you are getting at in that second comment” …….a relief to hear, because after I posted the first comment I kind of felt like I had shot myself in the foot….. not an uncommon occurrence.

    “The question of giving birth is huge, and in the West is given to extreme instrumentalized discussions, or to maudlin sentimentalizing. Often to both. ” —-Yes, exactly. I think the instrumental and sentimental off gassing of the topic of birth is a clue that indicates some pretty rampant subconscious societal discomfort with the implications and experience of birth/birthing….

    And don’t even get me started on the AMA, big pharma, FDA…. You have stumbled upon one of my obsessive lines of inquiry–the critique of Western medical narratives. I could go on for weeks….

    ” authority, the super ego policing expresses itself in this particular grammar, and with a masculine humorless sort of patriarchal puritanism.” —Yes. I know it. It is this, but more than this too….

    I’m not super familiar with the usage of the term “tribalism,” but I think your interest in writing about the intersections of community, tribalism, institutional authority and the psyche makes quite a bit of sense.

  12. Molly Klein says:

    A lot of resurgent “breeding mare” language and contempt for pregnant women (and trans men).
    The Gates foundations eugenics project is treating pregnancy and procreation among the vast majority of humanity as a disease, and a menace to the virtuous wealthy

    The revival of the insane somatophobic eugenicist “feminist” Shulamith Firestone who proposed making babies in cans like slaves illustrates the antihumanity, fascist ideology on the rise.

    It;s connected to the aspergers, this generation of clerks who are like the Eraserhead figure, horrified by their own sperm. Humanity as monstrous vermin who must be reconstructed as hard armored static sleek sexless — forever young, not aging but becoming obsolete and then disposable…the Being vs the Existing of the Heideggerians.

    the fantasies of cartoon derived cinema involve this utter denial of what our species is, a species that reproduces sexually. And as with victorians, pregnancy is again concealed as shameful, and those who imagine themselves Daring Intellectual Elites dream again of foetus’ grown in bottles, to be made to the needs of capital, designed, and disposed of at will by the corporations that own them

    i have noticed people saying “but you are not sayign a foetus should have rights?”
    they are so in denial of the fact of “pregnant woman” they literally overlook that a foetus has rights, that is is covered by the mother’s rights until born, as part of her body. They imagine the pregnant woman as a can in which a foetus is bottled.

    People do seem to understand that say if you are injured in the womb by a pharmacuetical company, by thalidomide for example, you can assert certain of your rights were violated although the entity that was actually attacked was your mother. But it is hard for people to absord their own understandings of such situations into a compregension that “the individual” like vitruvian man is just a bit of ideology and we are a species that reproduces sexually and pregnant women are neither one individual nor two. the paradigm is bad. The articial womb dream, the baby factory, is this sickness of the denial of our nature taken to the extreme and the ultimate bourgeois capitalist fantasy.

    All this bad fantasizing that capital bombards humanity with is out to undermine the kind of moden common sense natural law …that we have rights that derive from our nature, that is from our needs and our capacities to satisfy them.

    so gender too. Gender is an abstraction, part of this attempt to cover up this falsehood of individualism in a classification system. It seems designed to help the perpetual forgetting that we’re all at one point part of a pregnant woman.

    From this basic denial all the other reifications and fetishizations that justify the arrangements of property seem to come. We’re just an organic process that turns beer into cars and pumpkins into carriages and back again, and the illusion of these discrete individuals and the property claims that attach to them is always threatening to collapse, so apparently needs to be constantly reasserted, more crassly all the time

  13. John Steppling says:

    I think the whole autism/vaccine debate is a way to obscure what the real discussion is about…and which relates to what Molly just wrote. The shaming is couched in a very masculine subject position: no nonsense, rational, not fooled by quackery, and SCIENTIFIC. Never mind none of these are scientists, the opinion is owned as part of this construction of a self. The constant, both spoken and unspoken, appeal to accreditation is emblematic of a patriarchal idea of health. Meaning, the priest class of professional medical expert…which ideologically is the white male….holds the scientific rational authority. its all about authority. Take the vaccine. I may well think taking certain vaccines is reasonable….but its not about that. Its about enforcing an authority that is housed in this model, this paradigm for the healthy society./ Oh if you dont take vaccines you are a threat. How is that possible if YOU take the vaccine and if you believe it works then you have nothing to fear. But because its not about that, the shaming takes place. The shaming is about a medical establishment that increasingly pathologizes poverty and sexuality and an entire spectrum of perfectly normal behavior. Its also puritanism. A fear of germs and ….at the end of the logic, of women. Woman as full of germs, sexually unstable, and procreation then is part of this inherent infirmity, this messy process that does not lend itself to classification in the right way. So….the treatment in culture …in TV and film especially….of pregnancy is either hugely sentimentalized (for the white affulent class) or as a mark that denotes irresponsibilty and disease. The rich can have children and it all takes place in representation in a clean hospital setting, with incubators…….OR…….in some new age realm of fantasy and renaissance fair like cutness.Both are saying the same thing. Women are represented as heroic if they achieve a resemblance to men. There is a whole bundle of new TV shows with women as CIA agent or cop. They are often sexual, but always in a sort or pseudo male position. Authority resides in a certain class of character. So….all of this can be seen in this various non-stories like the vaccine story. Never mind the AMA and medical establishment is totally compromised, driven by corporate interests, and profit motivated. The figure of authority is the father, the high priests of health. The followers of this, these clerks of empire, have no interest in people being healthy, because if they did the US would have universal health care. And the sentimentalizing always gains added traction when children are involved. The “we must protect the children” meme is a drum beaten on constantly. Nobody cares about children killed by drones or deformed by depleted uranium….or living homeless. The *child* is one out of norman rockwell or speilberg. So this instrumentalized notion of childbirth is one that is slightly incoherent and shizophrenic. It is both hidden…..or masked…or it is a kitsch white sentimentalized version. There are so many topics related to this. I remember when the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues first became a ‘thing’. And i thought this is non sexual. its masturbatory. And sort of fetishized male gaze. It has nothing to do with sexuality….and certainly not with sexuality as something that produces a pregnancy.

    So…i wrote that people treat themselves like property. And contained in this is property as something to be guarded and kept clean so it holds its value.

  14. Excellent article, and I found Calla and Molly’s comments well said as well.In particular, I wanted to respond this point right here:
    “the fantasies of cartoon derived cinema involve this utter denial of what our species is, a species that reproduces sexually. And as with victorians, pregnancy is again concealed as shameful, and those who imagine themselves Daring Intellectual Elites dream again of foetus’ grown in bottles, to be made to the needs of capital, designed, and disposed of at will by the corporations that own them

    i have noticed people saying “but you are not sayign a foetus should have rights?”
    they are so in denial of the fact of “pregnant woman” they literally overlook that a foetus has rights, that is is covered by the mother’s rights until born, as part of her body. They imagine the pregnant woman as a can in which a foetus is bottled.”

    The capitalist project of denigrating humanity rests on delegitimizing the lived conviction that our needs as living beings are worthy of respect in and of themselves, instead of being claims that only have value after we have merited consideration according to standards set by the imperialist bourgeois taskmasters. By reducing who we are at the most vulnerable moment of our existence into a disposable, even contemptible, byproduct, we cede ground to the crass Nietzchean and sub-Nietzcehan idols of the marketplace. And by that I don’t just mean the heroic, entrepreneur images of success but the also the softer aspirational ideal of being a consumer accumulating commodities and brands , dancing like Shiva amidst the shifting cacophony of Appearance. For this mindset, the thought of seeing themselves in a feeble thing lost in half alien fluids and precariously held together by the flesh of another human being is a stumbling block, even a scandal.

    As Steppling notes, the image of a child in a mother arms is still given cultural weight, if only selectively. This is a testament as much as to extant at which anti-human capitalist ideology is ineffective at completely corrupting the sensibilities of even petit bourgeois audiences. But it is also significant that such images are generally brought out as more the epilogue to stories than the main centers of attraction themselves. They are always step down from main showpieces of Clintonesque professionals, indestructible pornstars, female superhero killing machines, or lolified children ( and the many combinations of these same types). And so we have a perpetual motion machine of aesthetic production which seduces people with the faint evocation (as well as neutralization) of the fertile maternal body in the person of soft, sexualized, but symbolically sterile action heroes.

    In short, unless we value ourselves at our weakest, we will continue to be infested by this itch to admire in self loathing our own idealized destruction. And we can not do that unless we continually return to the consideration of the woman and the child. Not as merely where we came from, but as what we aspire, collectively, to become.

  15. Yes Molly…….. I agree that this “falsehood of individualism” is central to the existential, moral, ethical mess that the consumerist, authoritarian west finds itself in (as you allude to in your last paragraph in regards to property). I think our existential embeddedness within each other has been turned against us as a feature readily manipulated by the powerful to instate a one-dimentional moral code and narrative of power, cloaked in guises such as “the American Dream.” It diminishes so many possibilities for how we can conceptualize metaphor, existence, subjectivity/objectivity, space, time… on and on…. I sometimes wonder if science would be more sophisticated if our day-to-day thinking was more dynamic and less linear. A bit like we’re in the dark ages…. at least in this North American culture that I have grown up with.

    As for vaccines….. how long do you think it will be before pharmaceutical companies start suing parents for neglect when they refuse to vaccine their children…..? A hospital in Canada just took First Nations, Haudenosaunee parents to court for withdrawing their child from Western medical treatment in favour of their own culture’s medicinal practices…..

  16. Exir Kamalabadi says:

    Great observations, John. Yes, very perceptive to notice that the same society that shames mothers for not vaccinating also refuses to provide affordable universal healthcare. The public psyche doesn’t care about health at all — not in a society where to be poor is to be perpetually in danger of being dangerously and incurably ill — it’s all about the psychic appeal of conformity.

    Which, I have to add, is not just an issue with “scientific” medicine. I mean, things like homeopathy is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and they’ve actually started gaining ground in academic settings like John Hopkins as “alternative” medicine. Of course nobody would stand up for the Haudenosaunee parents Calla mentions, because THEIR alternative medicine can’t make any company money. But corporations have no problem with appropriating some of their terminology, transform it into marketing babble, and sell things like crystal healing.

    But science so wedded to moneyed interest can’t be scientific anymore. I mean that should be obvious. Science needs to be empirical, which means disinterested. How American society doesn’t get that bothered by that is beyond me. And really the worst ravages of that is really to be seen in psychology and “mental health” [sic] like John has said so many times. I mean, at least in physiological medicine there ultimately can’t get away with fakery — a surgeon operates on a patient and the patient is either dead or alive by the end of it — but in psychology anything goes, and it’s amazing the amount of groundless guesswork that gets fibbed off as “scientific, empirical, data-driven” etc.

  17. “before pharmaceutical companies start suing parents for neglect when they refuse to vaccine their children…..? ” There was, at least one case of the statecstealing an hiv+ symptoms free child from her parents who would not give her poisonous antiviral “aids” meds.

  18. John Steppling says:
  19. Yes, John that last link was the case I was referring too. Not surprised about the hiv+ case Molly refers to either…

    @ Exir,

    I hear what you are saying about psychiatric medicine being a particular crap shoot; however, I think one of the reasons it is so easy to believe this is BECAUSE we assume that “physiological” medicine is somehow more straightforward or “objective.” Is surgery less “fake” than psychiatric treatments? And how about after we consider that despite the fact that the surgeon has done some major changes in the body–it is ultimately the body which heals itself (this is how stem cells work in a nutshell). And most (I’d argue all) serious, chronic illnesses or injuries–have some sort of effect on mental health……but again, this cause/effect language might be misleading…..that is again a certain way of looking at the world……… I’d argue that “physiological” medicine objectifies the body, while psychiatric medicine objectifies the mind.
    Like everything, surgery is still a cultural phenomenon–so are x-rays and MRI machines…… Western Medicine has its own narratives of power and consumption–we are talking about a highly political field of “science.” Western Medicine is dangerous because it seems as though bodies are treated as shells or machines to be fixed…..again this can be considered in light of Molly Klein’s last comment about mother/foetus. Unless you believe in a sort of Cartesian divide between body and mind–which I do not–then I’m not sure if psychiatric medicine or physiological medicine is more “fake.” Maybe one type of medicine is more convincing… but why is that so…..?

  20. John Steppling says:

    This is a very dense topic. One I became more interested in when I was diagnosed with cancer. Now….being in Norway allowed me to even be diagnosed. id not have gone to the doctor for tests if id been in the US. So, there is that….but, it is a strange disqueting experience….well….on many fronts….but in particular because you feel fine. You trust this doctor and these machine images and then allow yourself to be operated on. Which is scary…the fact that its not as if one’s leg is bleeding from a wound. Its all invisible. But….I also dont question the expertise of surgery on that level. Because its amazingly advanced. I dont doubt Id be dead now without that operation. I have no doubt. However….i also wonder if there arent branches of learning about the body that have been left behind. That maybe, surgery, even though it saved my life, wasnt the only possible solution. So, no question its a politicized field. All of medicine. But, the one area I think its relatively safe to say western practice has developed remarkably is in surgery. A discipline born of the battlefield. That is what drove the idea of cutting people open. So now you have a tendency to see this invasive idea extended further and further. And clearly, there is a flaw at the heart of that. The idea should be, I would think, not to operate at all. Not to have to.

  21. You are right, John, this is a very dense topic. Too complicated for me to tackle here. It isn’t just western medicine that needs to be critiqued, but the culture within which people approach western medicine, and which has spawned w. medicine. I do not have a problem with surgery as a practice per se…. or with all of Western Medicine. Don’t get me wrong, I find the technology and information we have about the human body to be fascinating…..but I am also fascinated with how that technology and knowledge, in turn effects how we understand the world….

    I do think that already the idea is to try not to operate at all. Surgery is always risky and expensive. It is usually used as a last resort. But this is too complicated to talk about in such terns, surgery itself is a huge field… there are major surgeries and minor surgeries, there are transplants, amputations, and surgeries for illness (cancer) or accident (car crash). How bodies hold scaring from these events (i.e. visual scars, memories, muscle tension, psychological changes), also effects how we respond to treatment, and the memory of treatment.

  22. Exir Kamalabadi says:

    I definitely think there is a continuum on these questions. After all the scientific method is a method, not a collection of conclusions. ANd the way research is conducted — how much autonomy researchers have and how they’re affected by financial interests — is definitely crucial. As well as problems with unrepresentative sample sizes (predominantly white, thus creating problems with research into non-white physiologies), etc.

    And of course there are some questions that are more clear-cut (“is this tumor killing me or not”) and others that are fraught with associated questions of value judgement (what counts as a “successful rehabilitation” after an injury? Does it have to do with maximum physical facility? Or minimizing pain? Or has to do with holistic psycho-social well-being”? And how is that “well-being” to be defined?). And most questions fall somewhere along the middle of the continuum. So yes, it is complicated, for sure. And I definitely don’t advocate a false positivism where what is actually a value-judgement and ideological is presented as “neutral” and “the way things are”.

  23. @ Exir,
    I agree, the questions you pose in your second paragraph are important ones to be asking. I’d like to use a sentence in your first paragraph to illustrate why these questions cannot be asked if the status-quo is to be maintained….. You refer to:
    “problems with unrepresentative sample sizes (predominantly white, thus creating problems with research into non-white physiologies), etc.”

    To extrapolate, there is basically no biological evidence for differences in how bodies function based on race alone. The highest predictor of health is not your race but your CLASS. There IS a correlation between many illnesses and responses to treatment based on race; however, this has nothing to do with inherent biological differences between races, but is actually illustrative of the body expressing cultural and class difference, in other words: environment. Why, say, are black American men more likely to suffer heart attacks than white American men? Because, statistically speaking, if you are black, you are more likely to have grown up in poverty, with discrimination, and exposure to violence–ALL stressful (class-based) situations which put you at a higher risk for stress related illness such as heart attacks. Sure, genetics plays a role in influencing our risk for certain illnesses, responses to “treatment,” etc.; however, a crucial point that must not be overlooked is that there are very few “conditions” that are predicted by genes alone (i.e down syndrome). The best predictor of illness is your environment. It is a sign of the deep racism within our culture that we can determine a person’s likelihood of certain illnesses based on their race–but again, it is not race which causes illness, but the social/historical narrative which resides in the skin–a surface with much deeper implications.
    Exir makes a very good point here…… is dangerous to our clean, clear, “scientific” results to include a range of races, ethnicities, cultures in our study samples, because environment plays such a huge role in how our bodies become sick and heal………it is, to use John’s word: messy. The quantification and objectification of the human body, kills its dynamic nature, isolates “science” from “humanities,” and narrows our possibilities for being and for suffering well. This is why, you can set a broken arm of any person, of any race (from similar class background), and by keeping them in exactly similar environmental conditions (which I argue is impossible, because we all have psychological histories which shape our present environment)–nonetheless, if you *could* keep them in exactly similar environments, you would expect their arms to heal just as well. This is why treatment for psychiatric illness is next to impossible…….Small environmental effects in our past (whether traceable, unconscious, or multifaceted), can have massive effects on our future…..or not. Our environments cannot easily be controlled (why the American Dream is bullshit), and our environments have huge effects (why the powers that be are so desperate to reduce everything to the same). Our environments are not powerful because we are autonomous individuals; I would argue that this is more a result of the opposite: we are so fully integrated in our environments, our culture, our history, that we cannot exist or heal in a fully human way as an isolated statistic.

    In defence of art:

    It seems that the general perception of medical science these days–the way it is taught, understood, and portrayed by the media–is based on a cause/effect, reductionist view of how the body works. The vast array of interconnections between phenomenon are minimized, ignored, or misunderstood. After all, where does the body end and the mind begin? Where does science end and humanities begin? Why do these things seem to be separate entities? Why does it seem so hard to intuit that the pathologies of the individual are a clue to much larger pathologies of the society? ……..Again, I unsay what I say by saying it. My rhetoric itself is reductive. I think art, does these tensions…shows them in operation…There is a way of understanding that is expansive rather than reductive… that is always more than itself….

    for anyone interested in biopolitics and race, check out this lecture by Dorothy Roberts:

  24. It’s really very complex in this busy life to listen news on Television, thus I only use world wide web
    for that reason, and get the newest information.

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