The human condition: Rene Magritte

Identity and Culture

B. Manjula, CMCS manjula@tiss.edu

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“We did not go up the stage That was made in our name Nor were we invited on to it We were shown Our place With pointed finger And we sat there (obediently) We were highly appreciated And ‘they’, standing on the stage Kept telling us of our own misery ‘But our misery remained ours alone it was never theirs’ We mumbled – uttered our doubts ‘They’ listened intently And roared…. Pulling us by the ear admonished us “Say sorry….otherwise….” Vahru Sonvane : The Stage
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A set of ideas which produces a partial and selective reality. This in turn serves the interests of those with power in society. It has its roots in the writings of Karl Marx in the nineteenth century, arguing that the property-owning classes [bourgeoisie] were able to rule by ideas which represented as natural the class relationships of production, therefore justifying their own wealth and privilege.
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Both the objective circumstances and subjective ideas inevitably change and develop through history, and this process is driven by the material engine of economy. The kind of economic system under which a person lived, and the position person occupies in that system determine his identity, consciousness and culture “It is not consciousness that determine the life, but life determine the consciousness” Marx Ideology as False Consciousness
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Marx

“No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve….”

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Gramsci and Althusser
Necessity of studying events, ideas, texts and behaviours within their historical context.”  Knowing thyself, as a product of historical process to date which has deposited in you an infinity of traces ( Gramsci,1971)  Relative Autonomy to Superstructure and Culture  Interpellation of Althusser  ISA and RSA of Althusser

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Effects Colonialism
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The total or partial erosion of the colonized culture The mediation of the identity and subjectivity of the colonized The total rejection by some elements among the colonized of everything western as a form of reaction and protest against the colonizer. The categorization of the world into ranks, such as first world, second world, the West and the rest with all the subsequent stereotyping and prototyping that follows. The emergence of different forms of fundamentalism that aim at purifying their local cultures from the residues of the colonial past The emergence of bourgeoisie classes in the colonies, modeling themselves after their masters, who endeavor to maintain their status quo by getting closer to Western culture The emergence of societies with a lot of contradictions and split loyalties.

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Post-colonialism

The pioneers of Post-colonialism like Edward Said, Franz Fanon, Homi Bhabha among others, concerned themselves with the social and cultural effect of colonization. They regarded the way in which the west paved its passage to the orient and the rest of the world as based on un confounded truths. They asserted in their discourses that no culture is better or worse than other culture and consequently they nullified the logic of the colonialists.
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The Assumptions of Postcolonialism

Cultural relativism. This means that the colonialists’ defilement of culture is socially, morally and politically incorrect. The absurdity of colonial language and discourses. A careful study of recent colonial narratives like Passage to India and Heart of Darkness suggest that the colonialist is always rendered short of expression to comprehend and fathom his colonial experience. Ambivalence towards authority. This ambivalence is born out of the struggle and conflict between native and settler with the outcome of the settler’s disposal. This victory over the settler leads the native to question all forms of authority. Colonial alienation. Colonialism leads to the alienation of the native in his own land. This is described as a traumatic experience that erodes the individual’s identity.
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The postmodern’s initial concern is to de-naturalize our way of life; to point out that those entities that we experience as ‘natural’ (they might even include capitalism, patriarchy, liberal humanism), are in fact ‘cultural’; made by us, not given to us.

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Today’s age is marked by distinct and drastic differences in society, culture and lifestyle. Developments in mass media, information technology and the consumer society have an impact on our understanding of more abstract matters, like meaning, identity and even reality. Old styles of analysis are no longer useful. New approaches and new vocabularies need to be created in order to understand the present
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Lyotard (1984), identified various ‘metanarratives’ of the ‘modern’ Age of Reason. These metanarratives, which influenced all Western thought, included:
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progress; optimism; rationality; the search for absolute knowledge in science, technology, society and politics; and the idea that gaining knowledge of the true self was the only foundation for all other knowledge
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Erosion of conventional distinctions between high and low culture; fascination with how our lives seem increasingly dominated by visual media; questioning of ideas about meaning and communication, and about how signs refer to the world; definitions of human identity are changing
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Foucault Critiqued two features of Cartesian Philosophy

Philosophical Foundationalism

Institutional Normativism

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Foucault contradicts Certainties
 An

External Empirical Reality to be Perceived and Counted Internal Certainty of a Solid Subjectivity
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 An

Modernism Vs Postmodernism
Master Narratives and Metanarratives of history, culture and national identity. Suspicion and rejection of Master Narratives; ironic deconstruction of master narratives, counter-myths of origin.

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Modernism Vs Postmodernism
Faith in "Grand Theory" (totalizing explantions in history, science and culture) to represent all knowledge and explain everything. Rejection of totalizing theories; pursuit of localizing and contingent theories

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Modernism Vs Postmodernism
Faith in, and myths of, social and cultural unity, hierarchies of social-class and ethnic/national values, seemingly clear bases for unity. Social and cultural pluralism, disunity, unclear bases for social/national/ethnic unity.

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Modernism Vs Postmodernism
Sense of unified, centered self; "individualism," unified identity. Sense of fragmentation and decentered self; multiple, conflicting identities.

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Modernism Vs Postmodernism
Idea of "the family" as central unit of social order: model of the middle-class, nuclear family. Alternative family units, alternatives to middle-class marriage model, multiple identities for couplings and childraising

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Modernism Vs Postmodernism
Faith in the "real" beyond media and representations; authenticity of "originals"
Hyper-reality, image saturation, simulacra seem more powerful than the "real"; images and texts with no prior "original". "As seen on TV" and "as seen on MTV" are more powerful than unmediated experience.

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Modernism Vs Postmodernism
Dichotomy of high and low culture (official vs. popular culture) Disruption of the dominance of high culture by popular culture

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Representation and the OTHER
The Politics of Representation Representation and Misrepresentation Subaltern Groups and the Power of Representation The Burden of Representation

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Deconstruction and Subaltern Studies
 Binary

Opposites  Subverting the centre -Periphery relations.

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Tribals
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Scheduling, Excluding and Alienating process of the Colonialism Othering and Representation Customary Laws Land and Forest Displacement and Rehabilitation Tribal women: Multiple Exclusion of caste, class and gender Insurgency signifies a moment of rupture or disruption that generates a counter discourse to the already experienced milieu of subjugation, alienation and compulsion.
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Blaming the Victim Theory Globalisation: Marginalising the Marginalised Power Structures Commercialisation of Culture and homogenisation
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“We did not go up the stage That was made in our name Nor were we invited on to it We were shown Our place With pointed finger And we sat there (obediently) We were highly appreciated And ‘they’, standing on the stage Kept telling us of our own misery ‘But our misery remained ours alone it was never theirs’ We mumbled – uttered our doubts ‘They’ listened intently And roared…. Pulling us by the ear admonished us “Say sorry….otherwise….” Vahru Sonvane : The Stage
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