Thursday, 13 December 2012

Lecture 9: Identity

Lecture Summary

- To introduce historical conceptions of identity
- To introduce Foucault’s ‘discourse’ methodology
- To place and critique contemporary practice within these frameworks, and to consider their validity
- To consider ‘postmodern’ theories of identity as ‘fluid’ and ‘constructed’ (in particular Zygmunt Bauman)
- To consider identity today, especially in the digital domain

Theories of Identity

• ESSENTIALISM (traditional approach)
• Our biological make up makes us who we are.
• We all have an inner essence that makes us who we are.
• Post-Modern theorists are ANTI- ESSENTIALIST



Cesare Lombroso

Cesare Lombroso (1835 – 1909) – Founder of Positivist Criminology – the notion that criminal tendencies are inherited

 Physiognomy legitimising racism 

Art work 
Hieronymous Bosch (1450 - 1516) Christ carrying the Cross, Oil on panel, c. 1515 

Chris Ofili, Holy Virgin Mary, 1996    

Historical phases of Identity 

Douglas Kellner – Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and
Politics between the Modern and the Postmodern, 1992

- Pre modern identity – personal identity is stable – defined

by long standing roles
- Modern identity – modern societies begin to offer a wider range of social roles. Possibility to start ‘choosing’ your identity, rather than simply being born into it. People start to ‘worry’ about who they are
- Post-modern identity – accepts a ‘fragmented ‘self’. Identity is constructed

Pre-Modern Identity

Institutions determined identity:
Marriage, The Church, monarchy, Government, the State, Work

Pre-Modern Identity

‘Secure’ identities

Related institutional agency with vested interest
Farm-worker : Landed gentry 
The Soldier : The state
The Factory Worker : Industrial capitalism 
The Housewife : Patriarchy 
The Gentleman : Patriarchy 
Husband-Wife (family) : Marriage/ Church

Modern identity 19th and early 20th centuries

- Charles Baudelaire – The Painter of Modern Life (1863) 
- Thorstein Veblen – Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) 
- Georg Simmel – The Metropolis and Mental Life (1903)

Modern identity 19th and early 20th centuries

Gustave Caillebotte (1848 - 94), Le Pont de l’Europe, 1876 

- Baudelaire – introduces concept of the ‘flaneur’ (gentleman-stroller)
- Veblen – ‘Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure’

Gustave Caillebotte (1848 - 94), Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877 

- Trickle down theory
- Emulation
- Distinction
- The ‘Mask’ of Fashion

Georg Simmel 

Edvard Munch, Evening on Karl Johan, Oil on Canvas, 1892 

‘The feeling of isolation
is rarely as decisive and intense when one actually finds oneself physically alone, as when one is a stranger without relations, among many physically close persons, at a party, on the train, or in the traffic of a large city’

Simmel suggests that:
because of the speed and mutability of modernity, individuals withdraw into themselves to find peace

He describes this as
‘the separation of the subjective from the objective life’

Post-modern identity

‘Discourse Analysis’

- Identity is constructed out of the discourses culturally available to us.
What is a discourse ?
- ‘... a set of recurring statements that define a particular cultural ‘object’ (e.g., madness, criminality, sexuality) and provide concepts and terms through which such an object can be studied and discussed.’ Cavallaro, (2001)

Possible Discourses

- Age
- Class
- Gender
- Nationality
- Race/ethnicity
- Sexual orientation
- Education
- Income

Discourses to be considered

- Class
- Nationality
- Race/ethnicity 

- Gender and sexuality

Humphrey Spender/Mass Observation, Worktown project, 1937    

Martin Parr, New Brighton, Merseyside, from The Last Resort, 1983 - 86    

Martin Parr, Ascot, 2003 

‘ “Society” ...reminds one of a particularly shrewd, cunning and pokerfaced player in the game of life, cheating if given a chance, flouting rules whenever possible’


Martin Parr, Sedlescombe, from Think of England, 2000-2003 

Martin Parr, Think of Germany, Berlin, 2002 

Alexander McQueen, Highland Rape collection, Autumn/Winter 1995 - 6    

‘Much of the press coverage centred around accusations of misogyny because of the imagery of semi-naked, staggering and brutalized women, in conjunction with the word “rape” in the title. But McQueen claimed that the rape was of Scotland, not the individual models, as the theme of the show was the Jacobite rebellion’.

Vivienne Westwood, Anglomania collection, Autumn/Winter 1993 - 4    

Race/ Ethnicity 

Chris Ofili No Woman, No Cry 1998    

Chris Ofili, Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars , 1994 

Gender and sexuality 

‘Edmund Bergler, an American psychoanalyst writing in the 1950s, went much further, both in condemning the ugliness of fashion and in relating it to sex. He recognised that the fashion industry is the work not of women, but of men. Its monstrosities, he argued, were a “gigantic unconscious hoax” perpetrated on women by the arch villains of the Cold War –male homosexuals (for he made the vulgar assumption that all dress designers are “queers”). Having first, in the 1920s, tried to turn women into boys, they had latterly expressed their secret hatred of women by forcing them into exaggerated, ridiculous, hideous clothes’

Masquerade and the mask if femininity 

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Stills, 1977 - 80    

The Postmodern condition: Liquid Modernity and Liquid Love 

Post modern theory:
- Identity is constructed through our social experience.
- Erving Goffman The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959)
- Goffman saw life as ‘theatre’, made up of ‘encounters’ and ‘performances’
- For Goffman the self is a series of facades

Zygmunt Bauman 

Identity (2004)
Liquid Modernity
Liquid Love (2003)
‘Yes, indeed, “identity” is revealed to us only as something to be invented rather than discovered; as a target of an effort, “an objective”’

‘In airports and other public spaces, people with mobile-phone headset attachments walk around, talking aloud and alone, like paranoid schizophrenics, oblivious to their immediate surroundings.
Introspection is a disappearing act. Faced with moments alone in their cars, on the street or at supermarket checkouts, more and more people do not collect their thoughts, but scan their mobile phone messages for shreds of evidence that someone, somewhere may need or want them.’

Theodore Levitt, The Morality (?) of Advertising,1970

‘We use art, architecture, literature, and the rest, and advertising as well, to shield ourselves, in advance of experience, from the stark and plain reality in which we are fated to live’. 

Postmodern Identity 

Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650), Enlightenment Philosopher:
‘I think therefore I am’ (Discourse on Method, 1637)

Barbara Kruger, I shop therefore I am, 1987,    

“The typical cultural spectator of postmodernity is viewed as a largely home centred and increasingly solitary player who, via various forms of ‘telemediation’ (stereos, game consoles, videos and televisions), revels in a domesticated (i.e. private and tamed) ‘world at a distance"

Darley (2000), Visual Digital Culture, p.187    

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