Monday, August 27, 2007

eugnics and emancipation

I've been reading SO many of those "Introducing ..." books in the past month or so. I'm just finishing postmodernism today. Well "finishing postmodernism" is perhaps a slightly misleading phrasing - after all, I'm actually just finishing a picture book with few words that briefly presents basic ideas in postmodernist writings. Anyway, I'm really inspired by bits of postmodernist theory, mainly the scepticism towards metanarratives - in some ways, its similar to what I called "political agnosticism" in my previous post. I like to remain open to new ways of understanding the world (some of you may remember that was part of the thinking behind "Grey").

I'm also realising that my thesis is basically arguing that eugenicist and emancipatory ideologies have more in common than they would like to admit. It's a bit Hage-esque - Hage argues that tolerant cosmopolitans and intolerant racists are united in their sense of (Foucaultian) governmentality - or entitlement to control. This is despite the fact that tolerant cosmopolitans like to understand themselves as fundamentally opposed to intolerant racists (in fact, arguably their identity is constructed oppositionally to "racists"). I'm arguing that both eugenicist and emancipatory (or progressive) ideologies are predicated on similar beliefs:
(i) the ontological existence of categories of people,
(ii) extant hierarchies between them, (although, of course they are opposed in their ethical appraisal of these hierarchies);
(iii) that they have a governmental right to control this hierarchy (Hage's central idea);
(iv) and a fundamental sense of identity related to engaging in this control.

I'm not arguing a moral or ethical equivalence (or course), for one is horrific, the other is tolerable. But I disagree with premise (iii), and in fact, I think that those who engage in "defending the Other" are often profounding misguided and destructive. It's especially problematic when many of the arguments used by progressives to respond to existing hierarchies [ie. (ii) in my list above] arguments like "queers aren't really any different to straights", or "disabled people need pity and help from non-disabled people" silence the Other and serve more to construct the identity of the progressive as Good than to do anything "for" the Other.

Of course, this is all complicated by the discourses produced by the Other themselves, which often parallel those that I am critiquing. See, on the one hand, I valorise "self-definition", but on the other I privilege my own definitions!

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