In Place/Out of Place

1002124_10152985753095487_1101120275_nAs I recall Bruce Lincoln remarking in Authority: Construction and Corrosion, if you want to see how systems of authority work, then you need to study them when they break down (as he did in the case of one of former President Reagan’s interrupted speeches); for we can’t usually see them when they’re functioning properly, since we take them for granted as part of the landscape.

The same goes for systems of identification — change the head and the hat in the above old photo and I’m not sure it would stand out as significant to our eyes. But both a so-called “Eastern” and “Western” man clad in the above clothes are equally playing at dress up — for neither is it a natural state, whatever that may mean — yet only the former would look the part.

The interesting thing about this picture, then, is how it should prompt us, as observers, not to see this c. 1900 man as being oddly out of place but, instead, to be curious about why another person in the same garb would look in place.

The issue, then, is not who ought to be represented in this or that way but how we govern who gets to be legitimately represented in this or that way.

(Image source, Retronaut.)

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