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Conceptual Review for Fall 2003

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
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Soka University Japan - Transcend Art and Peace
Created: November 2, 2003
Latest Update: November 2, 2003

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Patricia Morris' drawing of God Is Like . . .

How do we get from the creation and sharing of this image to social theory for greater awareness of the Other?

Conceptual Review for Fall 2003

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, November 2003.
"Fair use" encouraged.

Because we are going to conceptually relate this back all our midterm discussions and exhibition projects to theory on illocutionary discourse and answerability, transparency, responsibility, structural violence, and accountability, we'll have to review this concepts. This is where we have need of our naked space to bring in all our fractal patterns of experience and share them with each other in reacting to the new work we create together.

First of all, let's review the definitions of the concept we'll want to rely on and reference their sources:

  • illocutionary discourse - the concept in Maria Pia Lara's work that the feminist theory and its vison of peace and equality requires that there be another kind of discourse, different from that we associate with instrumental reason and trying to persuade one another and come to consensus. In illocutionary discourse the objective is not to agree or disagree, but to understand. To see the Other, as a human with validity claims just like ours, drawn from the Other's aesthetic process of creating community and from the same concerns we have for balancing the tension between self and group. The Other's validity claims, drawn from different fractal patterns in different cultures and different structural contexts, will differ from ours. Our goal in illocutionary discourse is to understand the Other in her and our difference, and to move from there to the aesthetic process of discovering how each interaction, each utterance of ours answered by the Other, leads us to a new interrelationship, a new product of community in which both we and the Other become a part of a shared community, and with neither of us excluded excluded because of our differences. Reference: Moral Textures, Maria Pia Lara.

  • answerability - recall that by answerability we refer to a phenomenon not unlike that of illocutionary discourse. Answerability is the ability we each have, as humans, to answer the Other. Answerability, like finding one's own Voice, requires learning and skill development. What struck Bakhtin as so important was that whenever we make an utterance, the Other, just like us, can answer, can agree or disagree, can express offense, fear, can challenge the validity of our claim. Bakhtin was peculiarly aware of the role of the Other in our community, in the shaping of that community, and he saw the shaping of that community through its interrealtionships as an aesthetic process. Why aesthetic? Because we enter into the process with our individual skills, values, and motives, and out of the process will come some new product - some new aesthetic product unique to our production of it from our own past lived experiences, beliefs, and skills. For example, we have discovered ways of teaching with answerability this semester, and out of those interaction patterns has come our learning community, and now, our exhibit. But until it happens, no one can tell precisely what the exhibit will be like. We will have some idea as we curate it; but the process of the exhibit itself has come from the naked space and is still answerable. Only when it's over will we know for sure what the exhibit was and whether it fulfilled its goal of making our learning answerable. And so it must be, if we are to remain open to the Other and reject domination and exploitation. Reference: Greg Nielsen on Bakhtin.

  • transparency - we added the concept of transparency to explicate the role of trust in the process. Like the Modigliani masked eyes in George Wilkin's remembered horse story. Modigliani's eyes are sometimes referred to as windows onto the soul. If I let you see me, if I do not dissimulate, and I greet you genuinely, I must trust that you will not harm me by using against me that which you see. Ours is an age given little to trust. Our news is full of scandals in personal life, neighborhood life, public life, corporate life, and government life. The old man in George's favorite story did not trust enough to let his friends and colleagues know that we was blind. Only the horse knew. We do not trust enough in school to share the doing of our learning. I fear that you will steal my knowledge and not give me credit, not put forth the discipline that would make that knowledge your own (plagiarism and cheating); and you fear that I will trick you, seek out some esoteric bit of learning you might have missed. Such lack of trust hurts; it hurts us all. We need illocutionary discourse and answerability to begin to hear each other and trust each other again. Reference: Modigliani and Transparency

  • responsibility - responsibility has to do with what we owe each other. We have used responsibility in an unforgiveably loose way in this country. "I didn't have slaves. It's not my fault." But you did have all the advantages of the privilege of being a "not slave." Maybe you didn't have the advantages of the Rockefellers, and so don't feel advantaged. But the privilege of whiteness counts terribly. But you point out rightfully that you were not there and had nothing to do with slavery. So be it. But the responsibility of which we now speak is that of taking the privileges that have come to you unbidden and denying that they are privileges. That becomes complicity with the system that created and maintained slavery, and that brings with it reponsibility for the present ills visited upon those who came through slavery. How do you handle complicity? Acknowledge it. There are times in your life, and you will know them, when you can speak up, make your voice heard, in opposing the harm that came to so many through slavery. There are other times when such action is not feasible. But acknowledge it. Do not deny it. That hurts as badly as the original enslavement, to hear someone deny any connection to or responsibility for slavery. It was a terrible nation-wide sickness. And just as with the Truth Commissions in South Africa and Peru, those who suffered need the closure of acknowledgement from those who gained in awareness or not.

    No, you are not as responsible as those who were actively involved. But taking responsibility for the benefits that redounded to whites, bidden or no, acknowledges the truth of what happened to those who need that acknowledgement, and makes us conscious of needing to repair the harm that was done in our name, if not by us.

    We have emphasized that answerability is not responsibility. One has a human right to answerability. But one must learn to use that answerability. It takes great skill to do so effectively. Those who have been denied the use of that right in monologic answerability do not automatically begin to shout out in revolutionary fervor when given an opportunity for dialogic answerability. The Rush Limbaugh incident provided a good example for this. Reference: Race and Answerability

  • structural violence and structural -isms - Structural violence is violence done by the rules, the traditions, the accepted usage that no one questions, that no one directs at any given person, but that continues to harm those who have less, those who have been excluded in whatever way. In structural violence there is no perpetrator; no one on one racism you can expose for what it is. There are just people harmed by the rules and traditions. A financial aid office that closes at 5:30, forcing you to take off early from work if you need their services and are a night student. Expectations of middle class dress and hair styles that result in your not being hired when your appearance is sufficiently different. The expectation that the teacher always knows when you have cheated, and is thus right in any accusation. The assumption in court that you are guilty because after all the police did catch you and arrest you and you're here.

    Structural violence is assosciated with disciplinary power as opposed to sovereign power. Sovereign power is up front authority to tell you what to do. Disciplinary power is not up front and seems to come from nowhere, making it harder to argue with, and harder to recognize. Reference: Power Goes to School: Teachers, Students, and Discipline John F. Covaleskie, Northern Michigan University. Philosophy of Education Yearbook.

  • accountability - accountability is often perceived as immediate. I bought you a computer, now you do those things I imagined you would with it. Now. Nevermind how long it takes to acquire proficiency. I taught you to say lots of words in Spanish this year; now speak Spanish. Women weren't given a chance to enter the market; now we've been hiring women for ten years. The inequality is cancelled. Sure, blacks were once slaves, but that was 200 years ago. Now we've made up for it. We're equal now. Poor people have limited chances for higher education. We'll give you a scholarship so you won't have to work while you're studying for the bar exam. Now, you pay us back for that generosity by spending your first two years of practice as a poverty lawyer with legal aid to help others who have limited chances.

    We perceive accountability as one on one, as an investment you should pay back soon after we've invested it. But accountability isn't like that. We may invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in computer equipment so that some children may be literate in computers ten or fifteen years from now. And some of those literate children may not be the ones for whom we made the investment. Investment is like the seeds we sow. We sow; it grows; and somedy the produce will make us all better off. In teaching, in helping those who have been harmed, excluded, in planning for the future, we do not invest in a person, and wait for that person to return what we expect from our investment. With students, as with children amd crops, one sees the results of one's labor in the most improbable places, sometimes very far from where one sowed. Accountability, with social capital, is invested with how generations, and the return is forever, sometimes with those we did not even know. Accountability is trust in the Other, all the Others, that our community will grow to reflect the aesthetic interactions of us all. Reference: jeanne's lectures and discussion questions.

  • alterity:

    Alterity is the awareness of Others, others who can answer our utterances, others who are harmed by dominance and by imperial expansion into the sphere of others. Mac once said that alterity is what we want to get rid of. She was right. Someday may we come to the understanding that each of us is different, each of us could be excluded from the power majority for different reasons, each of us suffers from the nonanswerability of monologic organizational structure. Reference" Alterity.