“Hey You!”

leninandotheressaysLouis Althusser’s (d. 1990) essay collection, Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (1968; English translation 1971), in particular the essay entitled “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Towards an Investigation),” is crucial for anyone interested in rethinking the common perception of identity-as-expressed-quality as instead being the interiorized result of prior and assorted (i.e., among actors of varying authority) social acts of identification and interaction (as briefly suggested in this post). As Althusser wrote in that essay:

I shall then suggest that ideology ‘acts’ or ‘functions’ in such a way that it ‘recruits’ subjects among the individuals (it recruits them all), or ‘transforms’ the individuals into subjects (it transforms them all) by that very precise operation which I have called interpellation or hailing, and which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or other) hailing: ‘Hey, you there!’

Regulating Significance

Picture 9Perhaps one of the more important articles demonstrating, in a practical situation (the production and sales of so-called Oriental carpets), how discourses on authenticity are ways of managing an otherwise unregulated economy of signification (both meaning and value), is Brian Spooner‘s long but rich essay in Arjun Appadurai’s edited volume, The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 1986: 195-235).

What is a Andy Warhol?

warholThose interested in how discourses on authenticity work to–as this article states it–stabilize an economy (of any form of signification, be it meaning or money) should consider the current issue (June 20, 2013, vol. 60/11) of The New York Review of Books and its article “What is a Andy Warhol”–an analysis of the goings on of the now defunct, but once powerful and always controversial, Andy Warhol Authentication Board.

Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict

Katy P. Sian, Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict: Mistaken Identities, Forced Conversion, and Postcolonial Formations (Lexington Books, 2013).

Sian focuses on the process of identification and the ways the interests of those who identify as Sikhs and the context of contemporary Britain generate narratives about “dangerous Muslims” seducing young Sikh women. These narratives address multiple community issues (e.g., shifting gender relations, generational differences, differentiation from a feared Muslim other, alliance with Europeans, etc.). Although a little thin in places, she clearly illustrates Sikh identity as continually constructed, not pre-existing.

Silencing the Past

Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Beacon Press, 1995).

A practical series of case studies (e.g., the Hatian Revolution) by the late (d. 2012) University of Chicago Professor of Anthropology/Social Sciences on how discourses on the past are not about recovering or remembering enduring items from history so much as deploying techniques in the present continually to limit what in the archives will count as the past. As such, how does one write a history of the forgotten, “a history of the impossible”–a genealogy of the choices that led to this or that narrative of “the past.”