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John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Wilkerson on Coming out  

2009-02-26 20:34:21|  分类: 同性恋理论 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Wilkerson, William S. “Is There Something You Need to Tell Me?: Coming out and the Ambiguity of Experience.” Reclaiming Identity: Realist Theory and the Predicament of Postmodernism. Paula M. L. Moya and Michael R. Hames-Garcia, eds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. 251-78.

(Experience and identity)

254

       Gay identity is tied to existing social and political structures as well as an accurate understanding of a ‘pregay’ individual’s experience.

       I discuss how the realist theory avoids the pitfalls of foundationalist epistemologies without having to go the route of postmodernism.

258

       Following the experimental work of Gestalt psychologists, existential phenomenologists came to view experience as a structure in which we attend to certain focal elements within a background or context. For example, the very idea that I could have an experience of just some patch of color or light or other ‘simple impression’ without a background is difficult to make sense of. In order for something to appear as a ‘patch of red,’ it must be distinguished from a background.

       Being able to identify a particular experience implies being able to distinguish it from what is not.

259

       A swatch of green may look quite different against a blue versus a yellow background. The experience of the color is neither immediate nor atomistic but requires a constitutive horizon and background to establish it as the color that it is.

260

       Anger has both a reactive and an anticipatory element, such that it causes happenings to be experienced as frustrating, as much as the happenings in turn cause my anger. Any experience is not separable from my attentiveness to it in analyzing it as an experience. Husserl.

       A second feature of experience is that what we notice is not merely the result of passive perception or the mechanical action of experience upon us. Instead, our expectations and life histories polarize and structure our experience. Heidegger.

264

       Discovering/recognizing a pattern on a sheet of paper. Elements of our experience have meaning only in relation to each other, just like the elements of the pattern.

265

       More accurate understandings of experience..

266

       Coming out – both discovery and construction. – realist view of experience.

       I think it is more coherent to construe coming out as transformation: the development of a new identity based on a reinterpretation of experiences. This new identity reflects a new and more accurate understanding of who one is in the world and how one can act in the world. Coming out allows gays or lesbians to better organize salient aspects of their experience, to gain an understanding of themselves that will help them to understand their place in the world and to develop modes of life and personalities that stem from this new understanding.

266-7

       Homosexual experiences – real, but homosexuality is a modern construct. So it is both real and constructed.

272

       Scott – Experience is a linguistic event that does not happen outside established meanings. Accordingly, experience cannot be understood apart from language, and since language is a social and historical creation, ‘historical processes, through discourse, position subjects and produce their experience.’

273

       If she means all experience is an ideological production, then it is not possible to explain how we could actually come to have knowledge that our experience is the product of ideology. Knowledge and understanding of the world must come from some source. Presumably the source of most of it is our experience or what we infer and discover through reflection on that experience. If all of that experience is somehow distorted or ideological, then we could never have experience that is not ideological. Ideology would then become total and inescapable, and capacity to distinguish it as ideology would therefore collapse.

       Scott illustrates the second aporia: if discursive practices actually produce our experience and identity, then the origin and reliability of my knowledge of these discursive practices becomes highly questionable. If my knowledge of these identity- and experience-forming practices comes through experience, then it would seem that we are back to taking experience as the starting point for knowledge.

      If my knowledge is not had through experience, then it seems we require a nonexperiential source of knowledge: either knowledge of these things would be innate (which is absurd), or knowledge of them would be an inference to the best explanation of the source of my experience.

274

       If Fuss’s and Scott’s theories face similar difficulties, it is because they share the same, flawed assumption. Both assume as a starting point a false dichotomy between an absolute and self-evidently meaningful experience and an experience that is produced, contingent, and typically ideological. When the foundationalist view then fails, they are forced to take on the other view, which is equally as ‘totalizing’ as the foundationalist view they leave behind. Fuss, for example, describes the contrast as existing between the view that either experience is ‘real and immediate presence and therefore… a reliable means of knowing,’ or it is ‘itself a product of ideological practices’ and is therefore fundamentally unreliable’ (114). The possibility that experience can be both produced and mediated and nonetheless reliable (without, however, being foundational) never arises, and so we are left to wonder how the knowledge that experience is ideological can possibly be formed.

277

       Conclusions

       The realist theory, I have argued, has a robust and reasonable theory of experience, according to which experience can both be mediated and grant more and less accurate knowledge via reflections on the part of subjects who are willing to look closely at their experience.

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