What Day is it Today…?

puzzledYesterday I posted on the trouble when people think that identities somehow predate the classification systems that, as I see it, actually make them possible to begin with — it’s the mark of a pretty conservative approach inasmuch as it quite literally conserves and reinforces the very thing that we, as scholars, could instead be theorizing. It’s likely a normal part of identity creation (i.e., identification) but for those who think they’re studying how identity works, rather than just creating it, inhabiting it, celebrating it, or criticizing it, well, we likely need to employ a different approach.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Now that many of us on are holiday — sure, we call it “winter break” but it isn’t an accident that it happens at a significant point in the Christian liturgical calendar, but looking into that hegemony is best left for another post someday — it’s likely been evident to some just how difficult it is to keep track of the days of the week. Lacking the taken-for-granted structure that makes it possible to distinguish Monday from, say, Thursday, many of us holiday-goers have likely worked through a little history in our heads to figure out what day it is today, or turned to someone at home and asked what, in any other situation, would be a question that might cause people to be concerned about our sanity:

“What day is it today?”

So maybe it’s not difficult to entertain that the identity we presume Friday to have is a product of things exterior to whatever Friday really is (if that even makes sense to say). Deadlines and commitments, as the singer sang, or anticipations of sleeping in Saturday morning, etc. — that’s all Friday is. Thankfully no longer Thursday and temptingly not yet Saturday. This is what theorists mean by the relentless deferral of meaning, for Friday’s anchor point, such as Thursday, is itself none other than thankfully no longer Wednesday and temptingly not yet Friday, and so on and so on….

World without end.

Amen.

But change the rules of those relationships, change the grid of deadlines and commitments, and we don’t know where (or better, when) we are in that world anymore. For it’s not like Friday is Friday all along and we just happen to place it between Thursday and Saturday; instead, that controlled placement, working within a set of rules, makes some generic stretch of time feel like a Friday.

It’s the deadlines and commitments that we ought to keep our eyes on, the way we decide what to keep in and what to leave out, and not the meanings and identities created by either fulfilling them or failing to meet them.

2 Replies to “What Day is it Today…?”

  1. Right there with you. Breaks are confusing to our habitual self-orientation.

    But then I think, sure… this is right, unless you’re Jewish! You can’t stop marking Fridays as Friday if you’re determined to keep the Sabbath holy. At the same time, if you’re a non-academic, i.e. someone who went back to work on Thursday this week, Friday reasserted itself right away in spite of advent’s magic mid-week Sunday.

    Some identities and roles don’t allow for this relaxation of the diurnal rhythm, and for those people, it’s not that there isn’t an opportunity for critical reflection on time and classification at this season, in fact, maybe they can critically observe that in spite of momentary relaxations of routine, we are actually all caught in a larger systematic structure (culture) that forces us to treat its arbitrary divisions of “world without end” as all too real.

  2. But don’t the counter examples you cite prove the point? For there are indeed all sorts of people and thus all sorts of Fridays (such as the Thursday night before a biopsy scheduled on a Friday, thereby turning that Friday into something entirely different…), each not so much marked as an outward sign of identity but, better put, each marked as a moment of identity creation and ongoing maintenance. For if one wishes to continue being perceived by others as this or that then one had better do this or that on a certain day, making the arbitrary day a certain day, a significant day, and thereby making self a certain self, a significant self. One can always relax the rhythm, but is one willing to pay the price of feeling inauthentic, other, different, ostracized…?

    Should one see identity as an uninterrupted inner essence expressed as part of a secondary process then this makes no sense, of course, but if what we call identity is the illusion of repetitive, uniform practice, carried out repeatedly for any number of different reasons, then we’ll see what we do on a Sunday night, before another Monday morning, rather differently.

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