Thursday, 13 December 2012

OUGD501 // Lecture 9 // Identity


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 (more of this later …)

born a certain way - makes us who we are - stereotypes are made from this. 
identity can be fluid and constructive

Phrenology - fact science. idea that it is an ideal make up. essentialist view point - perfect ratio of brain make up - right make up will have a well balanced identity.  
Criminal tendencies can be made from having one element more than another.

Physiognomy - intelligence according to the angle of your face. 

anglo teutonic is superior. 

Superman - Nazi german ideas of the perfect man being blue eyed with blonde hair.

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

Facial characteristics - legitimates anti Semiticsm.

His version of the Holy Virgin Mary - Using logical ideas. Giving Mary blck features as Jesus was not a perfect blonde and blue eyed human.
Image was withdrawn from New York galleries as hey believed it was wrong to show Mary as not a European woman. 

Histroical 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

‘Secure’ identities
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

Baudelaire – introduces 
concept of the ‘flaneur’ 

Veblen – ‘Conspicuous 
consumption of valuable 
goods is a means of 
reputability to the 
gentleman of leisure’

Lower classes aspire to move up social class and start to wear clothing which mimics that of the upper class. The upper class always looks for new things to wear to stop the bridges of the gap.

 ‘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’ 

Makes the point that showing off is actually an alienating way of life...

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

‘… 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

Sexual orientation
Etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.,

Discourses to be considered:
Gender and sexuality

Race and Gender are often being known as "the otherness"  

To identify other peoples identity you need to be aware of your own

Looking how "the other half' live.
Typical representation of what a nothern pub might look like if your a southerner.

Making a loaded statement that the people up north may be cultured bu no one goes to the theaters to see the culture.  

Showing what his perception of identity is.

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

Are these people at the ascot actually high society ? Is it making a social comment about class ?


You can have New york, Paris etc. 73% of Americans don't have passports.

‘I didn’t like Europe as much as I liked Disney World.  At 
Disney World all the countries are much closer together, and 
they just show you the best of each country.  Europe is more 
boring.  People talk strange languages and things are dirty. 
Sometimes you don’t see anything interesting in Europe for 
days, but at Disney World something different happens all the 
time, and people are happy.  It’s much more fun.  It’s well 

Do you need a national or cultural identity if you can put it all in one place?

Race / Ethnicity 

Chris Ofili
An artist that bases his work on his ethnicity and race.

Draws using raster colours and references Bob Marley 

Uses elephant dung to display his work. Possibly trying to show how a white person sees a black person.

Captain Shit - what he believes a black person superhero would be called in a marvel comic.

 Is this making a statement about black people ?
Does he use symbols which show power between black and white.

Emily Bates, Textile Designer/Artist

Talks about how she spent her teenage years getting called 'ginger'

‘Hair has been a big issue throughout my life… It often felt that I was 
nothing more than my hair in other peoples’ eyes’

Gender & Sexuality

The idea that male fashion designers are homosexuals.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Stills, 1977 - 80

Poses her self like film stills.
The idea of Masquerade and how you can hide away behind fashion.

Artists tend to be men and if you are a woman you are named a 'woman artist" which draws attention to the difference.

Tracey Emin, Everyone I have ever slept with
Contains grandparents and siblings not only people she has had sex with.

Germain Gereir writes about Sam Taylor-wood  saying that women need to do deal with their own sexuality to become a female artist.


Is the advertisement making a point that women with large breats are stupid and can not cook?

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

‘Yes, indeed, “identity” is revealed to us only as something to be invented rather than discovered; as a target of an effort, “an objective”

Argues that it is something you can strive for now. It doesn't matter where you were born or how you were born.  

Gillian Wearing, from Signs that say what you want them to say
and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say, 1992 - 3

‘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’.

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

“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’”

“If I put up a flattering picture of myself with a list of my
favourite things, I can construct an artificial representation
of who I am in order to get sex or approval.  (‘I like
Facebook,’ said another friend.  ‘I got a shag out of it’)”

Tom Hodgkinson (2008), ‘With friends like these …’, Guardian, 14/01/08

“The notion ‘you are who you pretend to be’ has a mythic
resonance.  The Pygmalion story endures because it
speaks to a powerful fantasy: that we are not limited by our
histories, that we can be recreated or can recreate
ourselves... Virtual worlds provide environments for 
experiences that may be hard to come by in the real”

Sherry Turkle (1994), Constructions and Reconstructions of the Self in Virtual Reality

‘In the brave new world of fleeting chances and frail 
securities, the old-style stiff and non-negotiable identities 
simply won’t do’

Bauman (2004), Identity, page 27

Two people who married after second life and he married someone else while on the game

BBC2 documentary - online adultery and cyber space love.

People look nothing like they perceive online, so it always end up being a tragic relationship.  

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