Blogging the Theoretical

Entries Tagged as 'Kate'

Butler Quote 2 Group Two

November 5th, 2011 · 6 Comments

The terms by which we are recognized as human are socially articulated and changeable.  And sometimes the very terms that confer “humanness” on some individuals are those that deprive certain other individuals of the possibility of achieving that status, producing a differential between the human and the less than human. These norms have far-reaching consequences for how we understand the model of the human entitled to rights or included in the participatory sphere of political deliberation (Butler 2004, 2).

Tags: Brooke · Erika · Group Two · Jennifer R · Kate · Olivia · Troli

Butler Quote for Group Two

November 2nd, 2011 · 6 Comments

The body implies mortality, vulnerability, agency: skin and the flesh expose us to the gaze of others but also to touch and to violence. The body can be the agency and the instrument of all these as well, or the site where “doing” and “being done to” be equivocal. Although we struggle for rights over our own bodies, the very bodies for which we struggle are never quite our own. The body has its invariably public dimension; constituted as a social phenomenon in the public sphere, my body is and is not mine (Butler 2004, 21).

Tags: Brooke · Erika · Group Two · Jennifer R · Kate · Olivia · Troli

Please Knock First: An Examination Of How Capitalism Erodes Culture [Final]

October 12th, 2011 · No Comments

Kate Aseltine

There is a serious problem with the way women living in the “Third World” have come to be conceptualized in the West. Stationed within our own “Euro-centric” discourses, we often overlook the varying and distinctive cultural contexts these women occupy. By viewing these women only through the lens of Western capitalist ideologies, we are complicit in the controlling imagery that “undercuts women’s agency by defining them as victims of a process of pauperization or of “tradition” or “patriarchy” rather than as agents capable of making their own choices.”(Mohanty 151). We overlook the examples of Third World women who have carved a space for themselves, as teachers, as entrepreneurs, as leaders, or we disregard these women as “outliers” from the normative subjugation. Though Mohanty would not hesitate to concede that the lives of many women in the Third World are bleak, she argues that the capitalist strategies of the West are not a solution. In fact, these subversive and increasingly globalized forms of capitalism are, in her estimation, structurally responsible for their strife.

Yet again, we find capitalism painted as the antagonist, determined to thwart an egalitarian future, and with good reason. As Mohanty emphasizes,” The common interests of capital (e.g. profit, accumulation, exploitation) are somewhat clear at this point” (Mohanty 140). As I argued in my previous blog, capitalism functions by creating inequitable power levels, establishing dominions of domination and subordination, and designating social groups as the privileged or “the other.” Those who occupy the space of this “other,” or minority, are then positioned to be utilized as cheap labor and are stripped of their rights by de-humanizing controlling images.“In the United States, histories of slavery, indentured servitude, contract labor, self-employment, and wage work are also simultaneously histories of gender, race, and (hetero)sexuality, nestled within the context of the development of capitalism (i.e. of class conflict and struggle)” (Mohanty 146). Mohanty utilizes the example of slavery in the United States, when African American men and women were used as “chattel” to serve Caucasians and produce agriculture in the South, and the subjugation of people of color and women continues to be a salient issue today.

Mohanty also cites Dorthy Smith’s concept of “relations of ruling” to explain why capitalism is complicit in the construction of these inequities. Smith argues that there is a “specific interrelation between the dynamic advance of the distinctive forms of organizing and ruling contemporary capitalist society and the patriarchal forms of our contemporary experience,” which is maintained by, “government, law, business and financial management, professional organization, and educational institutions” (Mohanty 56). Mohanty asserts that the result of Western ideologies penetrating the space of Third World women has been the spread and intensification of these relations of ruling, rather than the dissemination of liberal feminisms. In her estimation Western discourses will continue to have toxic implications until they are removed from this matrix of domination. In spite of the role the American spirit of individualism has played in empowering women to demand fair compensation and agency, it is essential to keep in mind cultural distinctions that imperil the replication of this trend, unless we are conscious of the nuanced roles culture and tradition play in the lives of Third World women. We cannot diagnose an illness until we have evaluated all of its symptoms, and we would do well not to prescribe discourses with structurally oppressive side effects.

In further examining the relationship between the women of the Third World and the West, Mohanty evaluates the historic tradition of our interactions, positing that the Eurocentric colonizers of the past seem to have been replaced, by a modern model of infiltration disguised as “globalization.” Capitalist interests in the Third World have changed very little over the past 500 years. The West continues to strip women of the Third World of culture and agency, and leech their resources and labor. Women are the cheapest producers of foreign goods, and women of the Third World make the ideal employees. Using the example of female lace workers in Narspur, India, Mohanty asserts that jobs and tasks are established within an “ideological construction… in terms of notions of appropriate femininity, domesticity, (hetero)sexuality, and racial and cultural stereotypes.” These discourses drastically belittle what women, particularly women in the Third World, are capable of by portraying them as infantile, a controlling image we reinforce every time we think of them simply as victims. Job typing has facilitated the creation of a social identity: workers are isolated within their sex, race, and class, and this isolation perpetuates their subjugation. The work of these women is shaped within this framework, and “tedious” and “unskilled.” The effect of this definition of women’s labor is not only that it makes women’s labor and its costs invisible, but that it denies women power and agency, effectively trapping them within a position of subordination. Capitalist principles stress that valuable labor and laborers, exist only within the masculine sphere, which is why Mohanty argues that, “Analyzing and transforming this masculine definition of labor, which is the mainstay of capitalist patriarchal cultures, is one of the most significant challenges we face” (Mohanty 151).

Our role in the future of our increasing globalized, and capitalistic world is changing dramatically, and we must adjust our conception of ourselves accordingly. Within the globalized, capitalistic matrix of domination we no longer occupy the role of citizens –we are consumers. This has dramatic implications on the way we interact with our political systems, particularly the ones responsible for perpetuating this matrix. When we subscribe to controlling images of women of the Third World, we take a step backwards. When we vote for a system sustained by subjugation, we deny ourselves a more egalitarian future. To combat this, we must rethink what we know about positionality and experience. Mohanty suggests that by spreading globalized socialism, rather than capitalism, we can enable a system that would foster solidarity across borders, without violating the vital cultural contexts these borders represent.  Unlike capitalism, socialist ideologies stress the importance of a political climate that supports equality and assures individual agency is nurtured by the state- a political system for the people, as juxtaposed to a political system for the powerful. Commonality fosters cooperation, but productive solidarity cannot exist without an acknowledgement of culture, history, and difference.

 

Tags: Chandra Mohanty · Group Two · Kate · Uncategorized

“Please Knock First: An Examination Of How Capitalism Erodes Culture”

October 6th, 2011 · 5 Comments

By Kate Aseltine

There is a serious problem with the way women living in the “Third World” have come to be conceptualized in the West. Stationed within our own “Euro-centric” discourses, we often overlook the varying and distinctive cultural contexts these women occupy. By viewing these women only through the lens of Western capitalist ideologies, we are complicit in the controlling imagery that “undercuts women’s agency by defining them as victims of a process of pauperization or of “tradition” or “patriarchy” rather than as agents capable of making their own choices.”(Mohanty 151). We overlook the examples of Third World women who have carved a space for themselves, as teachers, as entrepreneurs, as leaders, or we disregard these women as “outliers” from the normative subjugation. Though Mohanty would not hesitate to concede that the lives of many women in the Third World are bleak, she argues that the capitalist strategies of the West are not a solution. In fact, these subversive and increasingly globalized forms of capitalism are, in her estimation, structurally responsible for their strife.

Yet again, we find capitalism painted as the antagonist, determined to thwart an egalitarian future, and with good reason. As Mohanty emphasizes,” The common interests of capital (e.g. profit, accumulation, exploitation) are somewhat clear at this point” (Mohanty 140). As I argued in my previous blog, capitalism functions by creating inequitable power levels, establishing dominions of domination and subordination, and designating social groups as the privileged or “the other.” Those who occupy the space of this other, or minority, are then positioned to be utilized as cheap labor and are stripped of their rights by de-humanizing controlling images.

This mechanism can be seen throughout out our nation’s history, and remains a salient issue today. “In the United States, histories of slavery, indentured servitude, contract labor, self-employment, and wage work are also simultaneously histories of gender, race, and (hetero)sexuality, nestled within the context of the development of capitalism (i.e. of class conflict and struggle)” (Mohanty 146). Mohanty utilizes the example of slavery in the United States, when African American men and women were used as “chattel” to serve Caucasians and produce agriculture in the South, and the subjugation of people of color and women continues to be a salient issue today. These points argue for a reexamination of the picture of Third World women that exists in our imagination.

In examining the relationship between the women of the Third World and the West, Mohanty suggests that the Eurocentric colonizers of the past seem to have been replaced, by a modern model disguised as “globalization.” Capitalist interests in the Third World have changed very little over the past 500 years. The West continues to strip women of the Third World of culture and agency, and leech their resources and labor. Women are the cheapest producers of foreign goods, and women of the Third World make the ideal employees. Using the example of female lace workers in Narspur, India, Mohanty asserts that jobs and tasks are established within an “ideological construction… in terms of notions of appropriate femininity, domesticity, (hetero)sexuality, and racial and cultural stereotypes.” These discourses drastically belittle what women, particularly women in the Third World, are capable of by portraying them as infantile, a controlling image we reinforce every time we think of them simply as victims. Job typing has facilitated the creation of a social identity: workers are isolated within their sex, race, and class, and this isolation perpetuates their subjugation. The work of these women is shaped within this framework, and “tedious” and “unskilled.” The effect of these definitions of women’s labor is not only that it makes women’s labor and its costs invisible, but that it denies women power and agency, effectively trapping them within a position of subordination. Capitalist principles stress that valuable labor and laborers, exist only within the masculine sphere, which is why Mohanty argues that, “Analyzing and transforming this masculine definition of labor, which is the mainstay of capitalist patriarchal cultures, is one of the most significant challenges we face” (Mohanty 151).

Our role in the future of our increasing globalized, and capitalistic world is changing dramatically, and we must adjust our conception of ourselves accordingly. Within the globalized, capitalistic matrix of domination we no longer occupy the role of citizens –we are consumers. This has dramatic implications on the way we interact with our politic systems, particularly the ones responsible for perpetuating this matrix. When we subscribe to controlling images of women of the Third World, we take a step backwards. When we vote for a system sustained by subjugation, we deny ourselves a more egalitarian future. To combat this, we must rethink what we know about positionality and experience. We need a movement built on solidarity, and productive solidarity cannot exist without an acknowledgement of culture, history, and difference.

 

Tags: Chandra Mohanty · Group Two · Kate

Black Feminist Politics in the Theory of Patricia Hill Collins [Revisited]

September 23rd, 2011 · No Comments

Kate Aseltine

The prevailing logic for social subjugation is a simple truth: a thing can only exist in juxtaposition to it antithesis. This translates itself into a variety of dichotomies- light and dark, order and chaos, right and wrong – because an idea is easier to describe if we begin with what it is not. Invariably, we come to know something best by comparing it to “the other.”  When we examine this phenomenon more closely, and as it relates to political economy and the intersections of gender, race and class, we can better understand why the United States, as a capitalist economy, must facilitate a society composed of disparate levels. Disparate levels which result in what Patricia Hill Collins qualifies as a “matrix of domination.” Wealth does not exist unless until it can be contrasted to poverty, and as wealth exists as the primary form of “capital” in capitalist societies, the United States has a vested interest in protecting a system that is fundamentally oppressive. Oppression is political, and the creation of public policy involves a concerted effort to establish a binary that preserves “advantaged vs. disadvantaged” social categories, within the axes of: race, gender, class, and sexuality. This discourse is of particular significance to an examination of how United States’ politics shape the experience[s] of Black women.  The United States’ matrix of domination is constructed by those who with a positionality our society privileges (i.e. wealthy, white males) and is maintained through the intersection of four domains of power, which she distinguishes as structural, disciplinary, hegemonic, and interpersonal (Collins 294).By examining American political economy, through this matrix, we are able to better understand, and begin to diagnose, the plight[s] of Black females, who have a uniquely disadvantaged positionality within our transversal politics, which subjugates them on the basis of race, gender, and, arguably as the result of this intersection, class.

The pursuit of capitalist gains inspires a particularly oppressive set of structural conditions which are seminal to an understanding of Black women’s experiences. Structural conditions, Patricia Hill Collins explains, organize the oppressive systems that are maintained by the disciplinary domain (Collins 294). Black women are subject to this systematic suppression as their “definitions intermingle and become more salient: oppression via gender may be more prominent as a mother, race as a homeowner, class when applying for credit ”(Collins 265). This theory of subjugation is particular relevant to the politics of oppression because it interrogates the effects of public policy on the lives of Black women. What does it mean to be Black? What it means to be female? What it means to not have enough money to pay the bills? For Black women in the USA this intersection means housing discrimination, lower wages, higher rates of unemployment, the list goes on. The structural domain organizes transversal identities and assigns them value within a hierarchy of conditions. It is, in turn, aided and abetted by the disciplinary domain, the bureaucracy that enforces these modes of oppression. Historically, the United States upheld policies of de jure racism and sexism — laws that explicitly denied basic rights to women and to people of color. Today, the same inequalities exist, but as a result of de facto injustices, as our new “enlightened” Constitution declares that all citizens have equal rights, regardless of race and sex. These de facto inequalities are just as sinister as their more transparent, de jure forbearers, Collins argues citing the example of a resulting discourse, involving the intersection of the disciplinary and hegemonic domains. She begins with the now pervasive rhetoric of “color-blindness,” arguing it fosters discrimination by rewriting structural conditions but preserving an ideology of oppression that undermines the obvious disparities in the way people of color are treated in order to preserve the interests of the dominant group[s].  This intersects with the myth of the meritocracy, which suggests that the American political economy will assure that anyone who works hard will do well. This discourse, a “utopian” illusion, has no place within a capitalist system, and serves as a classic example of how dominant groups use their position to create “commonsense” social ideologies that allow them to maintain power. These discourses [“color-blindness” and the “myth of the meritocracy”] have been fused to justify new rhetoric that argues: if there are gaps between white people and people of color, within a system that treats all people as equals, these discrepancies must be the result of other inherent “cultural” inequities. Read: White people are disproportionally better educated, better treated, and wealthier because they deserve it. The hegemonic domain utilizes this argument to perpetuate controlling images of Black women, such as that of the “welfare queen” who relies on government handouts because she is indolent. This also feeds into images of Black women as “hoochies,” a refashioning of the historic “Jezebel” model of Black female sexuality as something wanton and insatiable, a controlling images that continues to invalidate the cases of Black women who are victims of sexual assault and violence (Collins 303).

Patricia Hill Collins emphasizes the interpersonal domain as the realm in which an individual can begin to deconstruct the matrix of oppression, by highlighting the importance of the dialectic relationship between structural conditions and the actions of the individuals who occupy these structures. As the root word “structure” suggests, structural conditions are constantly shaped and reformed by the individuals who inhabit the social/cultural contexts they outline. In this way, for better or worse, the relationship between the structure and the individual is symbiotic. “Dialectic approaches emphasize the significance of knowledge in developing self-defined, group-based standpoints that, in turn, can foster group solidarity necessary for resisting oppressions” (Collins 293). Patricia Hill Collins’ posits that this dialectic approach can be used for good as well as evil, and argues that we can deconstruct the matrix of domination from within the domains of power. To do so, we must begin at the individual level, by denying power to controlling images and oppressive discourses in our day-to-day lives and thereby reclaiming the interpersonal domain. Then, we seek solidarity, by joining together to brainstorm and disperse “counter-hegemonic knowledge.” Finally, as a movement, we can present egalitarian dominant discourses that will reconstitute the structural and disciplinary domains. This is the solution.

 

 

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought. New York: Routledge Classics, 2009.

Tags: Group Two · Kate · Patricia Hill Collins

Black Feminist Politics in the Theory of Patricia Hill Collins

September 21st, 2011 · 3 Comments

Kate Aseltine

The prevailing logic for social subjugation is simple: a thing can only exist in juxtaposition to it antithesis. This discourse is of particular significance to examining how United States’ politics shape the experience[s] of Black women. In order to function as a capitalist society, the United States must facilitate a political economy composed of disparate levels, resulting what Patricia Hill Collins qualifies as a matrix of domination. Wealth does not exist unless until it can be contrasted to poverty, and, as wealth exists as the primary form of “capital” in capitalist societies, the United States has a vested interest in preserving a matrix of domination. Oppression is political, and the creation of public policy involves a concerted effort to establish a binary that preserves “advantaged vs. disadvantaged” social categories, within the axes of: race, gender, class, and sexuality. Though our political rhetoric glorifies a myth of American meritocracy, this discourse is simply an example of how dominant groups use their position to create “commonsense” social ideologies that allow them to maintain power.  The United States’ matrix of domination is constructed and maintained by those whose axes our society privileges: wealthy, White males. An examination of the plight of Black females is of particular importance because their positionality within our transversal politics disadvantages them on the basis of race, gender, and, arguably as the result of this intersection, class.

The pursuit of capitalist gains has inspired a particularly oppressive set of structural “conditions” which are seminal to an understanding of Black women’s experiences. Patricia Hill Collins explains “ U. S. Black women’s definitions intermingle and become more salient: oppression via gender may be more prominent as a mother, race as a homeowner, class when applying for credit ” In this quote Hill Collins begins to tease out a form of oppression she categorizes as “structural domination of power:” oppression which is perpetuated via the social institutions maintaining Black women’s subordination (Collins 265). This theory of subjugation is particular relevant to the politics of oppression because it interrogates the effects of public policy on the lives of Black women. Historically, the United States upheld policies of de jure racism and sexism, which is to say the laws explicitly denied basic rights to women and to people of color. Today, the same inequalities exist, but as a result of de facto injustices as our new “enlightened” Constitution declares that all citizens have equal rights, regardless of race and sex. Collins argues that de facto inequalities are just as sinister as their more transparent, de jure forebears. She argues that the rhetoric of “color-blindness” that has resulted from this shift rewrites structural conditions but preserves an ideology of oppression that undermines the obvious disparities in the way people of color are treated in order to preserve the interests of the dominant group[s].

Patricia Hill Collins also seeks to emphasize the importance of the dialectic relationship between structural conditions and the actions of the individuals who occupy these structures. “Dialectic approaches emphasize the significance of knowledge in developing self-defined, group-based standpoints that, in turn, can foster group solidarity necessary for resisting oppressions” (Collins 293). As the root word “structure” suggests, Structural conditions are constantly being shaped and reformed by the individuals who inhabit the social/cultural contexts they outline. In this way, for better or worse, the relationship between the structure and the individual is symbiotic. Conditions can be altered by the individuals who seek to advantage themselves by forwarding a controlling ideology that will preserve the iniquitous status quo, but they can also be altered to empower Black women, and other minorities. By emphasizing and dispersing “counter-hegemonic knowledge” individuals have the power to create a more enlightened dominant discourse.

 

Tags: Group Two · Kate · Patricia Hill Collins