Category Archives: theory

On the cerebral side of things…theory and cultural critique on gender/sexuality/otherness…

Social and Moral Deviance

Things I am thinking about as I prepare my proposal for Eastern State Penitentiary

Standards are set and norm is created – anything outside the norm is deviance – downfall of Catholic control in general resulting from Darwinism, Positivism and the birth of Sociology create new categories of social hierarchy based on morality and male dominance within civilized society….ramblings on…

Positivism as religion satisfies the need to normalize through both science and mythology – comparing empirical knowledge with a higher world order understood through creationism – not necessarily Christian but the belief of the supernatural such as Comte’s declaration that “all phenomena [is] produced by the immediate action of supernatural beings”

This leads Lombroso to use Aryan physiological characteristics as a base model and Anglo/European civilization as basis for social and moral norms.

Criminals are sacrifices to the positivists as saints are to Christianity as a way to uphold belief – the if then state – atavistic characteristics proving the existence of the born criminal as underdeveloped (primitive) and therefor sub-human – also degeneration as the martyr is to Christianity?  just a thought…

Both atavistic and degenerative characteristics can be natal – however – atavism is often associated with racism and degeneration with disease (either physiological or mental, ie. alcoholism) and can be passed down as a birth defect. Degeneration – social in origin is gradually weakening and hereditary – criminal behavior caused by atavism and degeneration is therefor not created through choice and women fall into these categories of criminals as seen as sub-human.

One way to be more primitive is that a female has too many masculine characteristics as is proven that the more refined a culture – the more the women take on feminine characteristics of domesticity, beauty, modesty, and passivity –  and that civilized males look for these qualities in a mate – makes me think of plastic surgery

phrenology – correlation of sections of the skull to propensities of good and evil…

criminal anthropologists extended physical anomalies to the entire body

The Normal Woman

The normal woman as studied and put forth by Cesare Lombroso in the 1890’s.   The notes below are based on Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman by Cesare Lombroso and Guglielmo Ferrero translated and with a new introduction and feminist commentary by Nicole Hahn Rafter and Mary Gibson.

The Normal Woman is proven to be more primitive than man:

  • Measurements of the head
    • cranial capacity in weight – smaller in women
    • brachycephaly or broad-headedness in size – greater in women
    • dolichocephaly or long-headedness in size – greater in men
    • jaw size – greater in men
    • Measurements of thoracic cavity, cervical and lumbar parts, arms comparing body shape
    • Body hair length in relation to age
    • Weight and Height
    • Viscera, Fat and Blood
    • Measurements of white hair and baldness of middle class Europeans
  • Differences of sensitivity Continue reading

Questioning Positivism

I am conducting an independent research project in preparation for a proposal submission, to Eastern State Penitentiary, for an art installation – my proposal looks at phrenology and female criminology of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.Reaching back in time, as I so often do, looking for the origins of particular societal phenomena that baffle me… I have come across a philosophy coined by Auguste Comte – Positivism. My question is: How does the concept of ‘universality’  cause systematic oppression through the creation of deviance? Continue reading

transsexuality through the eyes of Baudrillard

Before you read this excerpt, I must say it makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable and angry… the presumption is, a “transsexual” or “transvestite” is sexually repulsive to normal humans as Baudrillard describes former porn star La Cicciolina as devoid of all sensuality — “a numbed android who by virtue of this very fact was perfect raw material for a synthetic idol”. (The idol Baudrillard refers to is Madonna, the virgin.) There is a sardonic quality to his work as Baudrillard uses the transexual body to argue the myth of sexual liberation. However the lack of voice given to the individual who chooses to transition from one sexual identity to another, reflects that all too familiar strategy of using ‘the other’ as an example. Furthermore, this is not a discussion on sex as a category of male-female but sex as an activity altered through the use of prosthesis. So why not use breast implants and dildos as an example – implants are clearly designed for the pleasure of the sexual partner or flaneur as nearly all feeling is removed from the breast during the surgical procedure and the object of desire is grossly exaggerated to ensure clear view from quite a distance. See Orlan and the Work of Art in the Age of Hyper-mechanical Organic Reproduction.

Jean Baudrillard, The Transparency of Evil
excerpt from pgs. 2o-25
Continue reading

Foucault …the medical norm…

Reading Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, an introduction, volume 1:

pg. 53 – 54

“I suppose that the first two points will be granted me; I imagine that people will accept my saying that, for two centuries now, the discourse on sex has been multiplied rather than rarefied; and that if it has carried with it taboos and prohibitions, it has also, in a more fundamental way, ensured the solidification and implantation for an entire sexual mosaic. Yet the impression remains that all this has by and large played only a defensive role. By speaking about it so much, by discovering it multiplied, partitioned off, and specified precisely where one had place it, what one was seeking essentially was simply to conceal sex: a screen-discourse, a dispersion-avoidance. Until Freud at least, the discourse on sex Continue reading

about theory and otherness

When I was in grad school (1994-1996), I often did not understand suggested readings in theory and social/cultural critique. It was not until I moved to Philadelphia, where recommended readings from people into queer theory and otherness, began to make sense. Now, ten years later, I am beginning to put the pieces together. When I was reading critique by people who ascribed to a norm created by Eurocentric men, I was alienated and put into my place of otherness. As a result my emotions kicked in, I shut down and literally could not follow the train of thought. Granted, philosophers and theorists tend to write in a special language devoted only to those who are in the know. But for the most part it sent me into a downward spiral where in Philly, I crashed.

I may or may not add commentary to the writings I quote. But I would like to add that I am including people who alienate through comparison to the other such as several essays by Baudrillard as well as those who are part of the culture of which they write such as Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Edward Said, bell hooks, etc.

Building community can be so cliche, but I crave theory inclusive of my lifestyle.