Friday, May 1, 2009

5-Visible imaging/representation

How to image this planetary figure? It is challenging: Spivak says that 'I keep feeling that there are connections to be made that I cannot make, that pluralization may allow the imagining of a necessary yet impossible planetarity in ways that neither my reader nor I know yet'[8]. Perhaps it would be useful to first ask: What is at stake? What are these images/representations used for?

Images/representations can be viewed as either private or public (in the Arendtian sense) and as interior, the subject looking out, or exterior, the gaze from outside at the subject (see diagram above).

The private interior image is the combination of image formed at the mirror stage (Lacan) and image formed at the image screen, the locus of mediation of the subject's looking out into the world (in->out) and the gaze from outside at the subject (out->in)[9], which the subject must align herself/himself with in order to act.

The private exterior representation is the hegemonic social code that forms the gaze. It frequently does not resemble the subject's image. An extreme, and hence funny, example is this 'rule' for popular magazine covers: 'Young is better than old, pretty is better than ugly, rich is better than poor, … and nothing is better than the celebrity dead'[10].

Public interior images that one seeks are parents (if that works), role models (for the activities of labor, work, action[11]), icons (e.g. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi, Obama, religious iconic figures), and 'heroes'.

Public exterior representations are figures of power. The hegemonic representation of the U.S. president – up till the last election – is heterosexual, male, and white (Obama being only partially white was a big deal).

[8] Spivak, 92.
[9] Klein, Richard. “Gaze and Representation”. The Later Lacan: An Introduction. Ed. Veronique Voruz (et al.). New York, NY: State University of New York Press, 2007.
[10] Stolley, Dick. “Dick Stolley’s mantra”. 20 Apr. 2009 <>.
[11] Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

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