Aquarium Gaze

November 4, 2006

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This layered Adobe Photoshop image was inspired by a paragraph in Michael Ignatieff’s book entitled Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry. This was the book preferred by the adult students in the Human Rights course I taught at Nunavut Arctic College, Iqaluit, NU in 2002-3. Aquarium Gaze

“Here was a scientist, trained in the traditions of European rational inquiry, turning a meeting between two human beings into an encounter between different species. Progress may be a contested concept, but we make progress to the degree that we act upon the moral intuition that Dr. Pannwitz was wrong: our species is one, and each of the individuals who compose it is entitled to equal moral consideration. Human rights is the language that systematically embodies this intuition, and to the degree that this intuition gains influence over the conduct of individuals and states, we can say that are making moral progress.[...] Human rights was a response to Dr. Pannwitz, to the discovery of the abomination that could occur when the Westphalian state was accorded unlimited sovereignity, when citizens of that state lacked normative grounds to disobey legal but immoral orders. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights represented a return by the European tradition to its natural law heritage, a return intended to restore agency, to give individuals the civic courage to stand up when the state ordered them to do wrong.”(Ignatieff 2001)

My emerging folksonomy:

This linear page entitled Memory Work will be a site of collecting and sharing focused research on the urgently needed on the concept of memory work. This concept was developed by Ricoeur, Derrida, Cixous, Nora. It is urgently need in a postnational, post-WW II, post-apartheid, post-RCAP world where citizens move closer to reconciliation, towards forgiveness or apologies, while revisiting distorted histories with an attitude of mutual respect for Self and the Other-I.

 

Black Pupil as Mirror the </p> <p>Other-Eye

I used AdobePhotoshop to digitally insert my own image onto the reflective surface of Leonie’s eyes. Black Pupil as Mirror: the Other-Eye (2004) is from my Flickr album.

I am using the free tools of cyberspace to tag, geotag, reference and categorize in an attempt to find myself by mapping where I have been and maybe contributing to an emerging organic taxonomy in the process. I am fortunate enough to have a monitor, a mouse and access to metablogging.

Before I went on leave from my studies, I was investigating the work of artists, political philosophers, theorists, anthropologists who had taken the ethical turn. There was already a call for a sociological imagination from a postnational point of view. The more I read the more it seemed public policy analysts, journalists, artists, rights workers, cultural workers, anyone involved in teaching, learning and research … could benefit from at least engaging — if only to disagree — with the arguments put forth. But these thinkers are part of the slow world. It takes time to read with a high tolerance for ambiguity. Most of these writers need to be read as we read hypertext. For someone already aware of their references their is no need to click on the hotword. For most of us we need to follow the links through a virtual labyrinth. It’s a way of reading that is in that liminal space between browsing and searching. I often felt like a detective looking for clues. It wasn’t enough for me to finally reach some heightened understanding of an argument or concept. I wanted it to be traceable so I could follow my own paths back and help someone else see the strength, utility and/or elegance of a thought. Or even to help me find it again so I could appreciate it anew. I had the advantage of a lifelong connection to the visual arts. I could picture the ideas. I am so grateful that there are these tools now that allow us to create these shareable mind maps. Rob Shields had suggested I introduce students in my Off-Campus Aboriginal Program to the concept of dialogism. Dialogism is more respectful of the other and therefore offers the potential for a more ethical relationship between Self and the Other. Bakhtin described this as the relationship between Self and the Other-I. I have played with that idea visually by using reflections, people mirrored in the eyes of others. Leonie’s eyes are particular good for this because they are so dark and reflective.

However, as discussed in chapter four above, Bakhtin’s Hermeneutik is of a distinctive character. Whilst he acknowledges the embeddedness of ‘Being’ or Dasein in tradition and in history, he does not shy away from the Marxian conclusion that modern society is riven with antagonistic material interests and that, accordingly, language can be seen as a medium of dissimulation and domination as much as a conduit of interpersonal communication and self-understanding. In drawing such a conclusion, Bakhtin sides with Habermas against Gadamer on this issue; yet, with certain provisos, he refuses the former’s recourse to a nomothetic or generalizing social science to justify the conduct of critique. In this he subscribes to Goethe’s famous dictum that ‘theory is grey but life is green’. To justify his particular interpretive stance, Bakhtin appeals to distinct ethical or moral standards which owe much to the tradition of German idealism (especially Kant) and as Clarke and Holquist point out, to certain theological/ religious idioms (such as Russian orthodoxy and the Jewish dialogical tradition of Buber, Levinas and others)” (Gardiner 1992:192).

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