Week 3. Earhart Q8. Race, Ethnicity vs. the Death of the Author
  • Because it is situated in Internet, textual digitisation promotes fluidity and disembodiment of the author. Does the race and ethnicity of the author matter with regard to the digital archiving of materials by under-represented communities?
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  • Race and/ethnicity of the author matter in the context of recovered histories or canon expansion (read: as part of a larger ideological project to democratize the archives or to preserve heritage). However, an author's race and/or ethnicity is sometimes used as a test of authenticity: does the text in question suitably reflect topics or issues deemed to be relevant to the groups to which the author belong through his/her race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion or lack thereof, and age, for example or is it an outlier? How do multiple or overlapping memberships in multiple identity groups fit in with a narrow definition of race/ethnicity? Finally, digitalization, like old-fashioned textual editing and annotation, results in a collective authorship of a given text. The race/ethnicity of the editors and commentators matter inasmuch as it might shed some light on the cultural significance of the text in question to a given cultural group of which said critic is a member. However, a multiplicity of perspectives actually render a regional text universal or at least meaningful beyond its most immediate cultural framework.
  • I am dwelling on disembodiment. Maria Fernandez's article brings up the whole question of digital embodiment too, and that makes me wonder if the disembodiment posed in this question is to be seen as a) the absence or lack of embodiment or b) re-embodiment,or a new kind of embodiment. I ask this because I find it hard to situate any kind of communication as disembodied. If we look at the production of text (with all the people and machinery involved), we are looking at labor, and relations of power, and I am not sure how to think of these as not-embodied.

    Then again, if disembodiment is a different kind of embodiment, or a conceptualizing of embodiment, then there might be ways to talk about racialized disembodiment.  For instance, is there a way that digital disembodiment as a kind of utopian "promise" gets racialized as white? Or conversely, do we think of disembodiment as something that is *done* to people (often to people of color)---and this kind of disembodiment is not utopian, but a denial of bodily autonomy? Not sure where to go with these thoughts, but interested in what others have to say.

    To add---I like what Vivian suggests about archiving as a kind of collective authorship, too. Keeping that in mind, I think that we might think of the "author" as being multiply embodied.






  • I am enjoying the thoughts posted here, @VivianHalloran and @vaninatarajan and yes, especially the notion of archiving as multiply embodied!

    One thing that has always been utopian (and indeed masculinist) about virtual identities is that technology helps extend parts of themselves and doing things beyond our physical capacity through mediated means.

    My question of whether it was an author can be disembodied from their race or any other social marker for that was meant to be a provocative and metadiscursive one. It is about how disembodiment can offer freedom from the limits of race/gender discourse that will always precede us. Hegemonic issues concerning race, gender and in my case Islam will always demand that its subjects be embodied, inscribed by an often limiting discourse. Producing text about gender and Islam "that matters" requires engaging with hegemonic discourse about Islam: veiling, religious oppression, terrorism. Thus, my concern is when embodiment and textual production become something that denies plenty of autonomy, converse to @vaninatarajan 's suggestion.

    This may be related to the second reading by Lisa Nakamura: I read somewhere (Virtual Politics by David Holmes) that the generic digital body is often male in gaming (and I'd like to add in social media as well). The digital body is only referenced as male when the player is acting against another digital body generated randomly by the computer. The default settings on social media profiles are always visually coded as male. So unless an individual or collective identity claims embodiment before it is "done" to them, they will be coded digitally as male. But then, when they do claim some notion of embodiment, they may fall into a trap of another kind of discursive embodiment.

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