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the almost forgotten

September 11, 2010

This VisPo is inspired by the work of feminist psychoanalyst Jessica Benjamin, who analyzes the structure of domination rooted in the hearts of both individuals and society. This structure is not inevitable, as much as it may seem to be the case when we look at the history of Western society. It is possible to see the other as truly different–and still be attuned and commune with him or her. Perhaps September 11 is an especially good time to remember this.

the almost forgotten

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2010 1:15 pm

    What we all have in common is: in our very first days we are raised by our mothers. Different backgrounds can make communication more conscious, more polite. That implies the ability to doubt ones own perspective, which is very rare – within and without western civilisation.

    • September 11, 2010 6:21 pm

      Ahh…yes, the ability to doubt one’s own perspective is rare…it seems everywhere. I said Western culture because Benjamin’s research deals with how we’ve seen the relationship of the child to the mother in the West, and how that’s affected our ability to truly relate to an other as someone both different and the same.

      • September 12, 2010 5:27 am

        I see – I misunderstood. It thought this is about a trans-cultural approach. The relationship of the child to the mother and vice versa: if you try to apply 2 valued logic – you get insane don’t you? 😉

        • September 12, 2010 1:42 pm

          I was widening the area to which Benjamin’s work could apply. She herself does apply it to politics, esp. social justice issues. Her argument is that how we’ve characterized the relationship between infant and mother ends up setting up and perpetuating a system of domination between self and other (like Hegel’s master and slave, but she will take issue with how Hegel “resolves” it). You can flip who has the power (or more power), but you do not reach a way to have two equal but different others able to balance sameness and difference and give recognition to both. This is a very simplistic rendering of her work, but it gives you the idea. She is actually working against the idea of a war of all against all (Hobbes) as the “true” nature of humanity. Fear of the other (and oneself, for that matter) is not inevitable. The other does not need to be set up as something to dominate or be dominated by. It is the latter I was interested in for 9/11. The underlying structures and thought patterns that produce this way of thinking are entrenched in our society in so many quarters. I want that dynamic recognized but also seen as something that can be changed. In other words, I have hope. It may be very, very hard and the chance may be small-but there is the possibility.

          This piece deals with Benjamin’s understanding of the pre-oedipal stage in an individual’s development (and her reinterpretation of the mother’s role). A key site for reinterpretation of the understanding of self and other.

          Back to 9/11–it’s certainly clear that others can be just as entrenched in their own viewpoints and can be violent toward the “other.” But I hesitate to even begin to apply Benjamin’s work outside its context.

  2. September 11, 2010 3:34 pm

    Beautiful work, beautiful words to go with it.

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