Monday, October 24, 2011

Conviviality and instrumentality.

I had a guilty moment of reflexivity before I started doing research for my thesis. I wanted to go somewhere very different from my own social position; I wanted to talk to women living in mountains in Morocco. Instead, finally I spoke to Indonesian domestic workers, because I started to know myself before trying to know others.



I often think about, although I don't often speak about the politics of difference. In other words, how does difference work? How do we deal with difference?



Instead of putting everyone together in the spirit of a harmonious humanity, I choose to differentiate between groups because all the knowledges from different people are valuable. The knowledge about the desert from Bedouins who have generations of nomad living behind him, the knowledge about the body and the spirit from waste-pickers who have sorted out recyclabe materials in Jardim Gramacho for the last 26 years, the knowledge about caring from men and women who take care of their mentally or physically-challenged spouses and children -- these are all different, and valuable.

After considering how everyone is different, I realise that not everyone has a voice. Privilege comes from many sources: language, money, education, urbanity... So it's okay to want to speak on behalf of a marginalised group. But I can't speak for them, I can only speak as myself in relation to them. And so I tried to find people that were not too different from me, so that my voice would not sound so different from them. But it's also important to ask how they see me? What kind of prejudices did they have about me?

My intention for speaking about them is to dignify them. When we consider difference as valuable and worth speaking about, we recover dignity -- the opposite of dignification is denigration. Considering difference gives dignity to everyone.


And so that's how I am learning to live with the world, instead of using it.

Conviviality, not instrumentality.

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