Friday, January 15, 2010

martellpedro44 and Giving an Account of Oneself

How to read this?

here's what got me started. Back in December someone had posted this on Facebook.

I was reading Judith Butler's Giving an Account of Oneself at the time and so this seemed like an amazing coincidence.

Here's an awful large block quote, but I feel like these two videos (above and below) are excellent proof-of-concept, if you will. Really fabulous illustration of what Butler seems to be trying to bring to our attention.
I would suggest that the structure of address is not a feature of narrative, one of its many and variable attributes, but an interruption of narrative. The moment the story is addressed to someone, it assumes a rhetorical dimension that is not reducible to a narrative function. It presumes that someone, and it seeks to recruit and act upon that someone. Something is being done with language when the account that I give begins: it is invariably interlocutory, ghosted, laden, persuasive, and tactical. It may well seek to communicate a truth, but it can do this, if it can, only by exercising a relational dimension of language. [....] [T]he structure of address conditions the making of judgments about someone or his or her actions; that it is not reducible to the judgment; and that the judgment, unbeholden to the ethics implied by the structure of address, tends toward violence. [....] To hold a person accountable for his or her life in narrative form may even be to require a falsification of that life in order to satisfy the criterion of a certain kind of ethics, one that tends to break with relationality. (63)
Here's Pedro Martell's exercise in giving an account of himself:


What follows are some annotations to the video with time signatures (Beginning - 0:16) and then the Butler text.

(Beginning - 0:17) 
The moment the story is addressed to someone, it assumes a rhetorical dimension that is not reducible to a narrative function. It presumes that someone, and it seeks to recruit and act upon that someone. Something is being done with language when the account that I give begins: it is invariably interlocutory, ghosted, laden, persuasive, and tactical.
(0:20-0:36) To paraphrase, "I've been trying to only show my face and now I want you to know that I have a birth defect."
Something is being done with language when the account that I give begins[....] It may well seek to communicate a truth, but it can do this, if it can, only by exercising a relational dimension of language.
(0:36 - 1:00) Showing the body, giving an account of difference
[T]he structure of address conditions the making of judgments about someone or his or her actions; that it is not reducible to the judgment; and that the judgment, unbeholden to the ethics implied by the structure of address, tends toward violence.
(1:00-1:30) We can relate, if you only understood why I am as I am
To hold a person accountable for his or her life in narrative form may even be to require a falsification of that life in order to satisfy the criterion of a certain kind of ethics, one that tends to break with relationality.
Check it out. Marinate on it. AA-style, or 12-Step-type, groups always have you announce yourself in a new way: I am Paul and I am an internet/critical theory addict. Why? There's power in trying to take control of the narrative, the story, of who I am. But it's not as easy as simply telling stories about ourselves. These stories get hijacked, people get implicated in these stories. "Tell it to the Judge," is the dismissal we hear on the streets. But the unspoken truth is that even if we went before the Judge at the Courthouse, or Heaven, we'd still be there, judging ourselves. This is origin of Satan's name, "The Accuser." Know thyself.

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