Dhanya Raghavan17203416Continental PhilosophyPhil 41320Dr Danielle PetherbridgeAlthough conceived in very different terms, recognition has been a dominant philosophical motif for understanding relations between the self and other as well forms of sociality.
Discuss with reference to the work of at least two of the following theorists: Fichte, Hegel, Honneth, Habermas, Sartre, Fanon, Butler.Recognition establishes itself, relates to and emanates from a standard norm and it is often related to an individual’s mental and emotional state. Questionably, if we recognize an individual considering a particular characteristic, as an independent instrument, we not only acknowledge that the individual possesses this particular characteristic, but we also project a positive approach towards the individual for having this characteristic or quality. Such a form of recognition means that we possess a certain compulsion to treat that particular individual in a certain manner, that is, we recognize a particular normative position of the other individual, and for instance we look at them as a free and independent individual. Therefore, it is also important for us to understand that recognition is not just based on norms and value but it is also very psychological in nature as it seeks to explore the ways in which individual usually depend on the other subjects in order to develop a sense of self or to create an identity of one’s own.The parameters through which the self is recognized by the other, is more often normative in nature.
According to this perspective, if the self is perceived by the others in a negative way, the self fails to experience adequate recognition as the self does not fit into the norms and values created by the other in order to experience a sense of recognition. Therefore, when the self fails to recognize itself, it is no longer able to identify and acknowledge itself as a valuable, independent self. This process is known as misrecognition, whereby it thwarts and obliterates the individual’s affiliation with oneself. Consequently, recognition comprises a fundamental human requirement.This paper seeks to explore some of the fundamental concerns relating to recognition as to how are individuals recognized, who recognizes them and on what grounds? It also examines how there lies a political agenda in the process of recognition and how this political agenda determines self-other relations and how recognition can ultimately lead to resistance, freedom and emancipation. The paper looks into two major critics: Frantz Fanon and Judith Butler and analyzes the ways in which recognition provides individuals completely reliant on the dominant societal norms and values.
While the former discusses the poignant consequences of racism and colonialism, the latter goes on to explicate the inherent vulnerability of human beings and how being vulnerable helps individuals recognize one another.In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon writes in first person, provides a historical critique stating the detrimental consequences of racism and colonialism in the psyche of the black man. In chapter five, ‘The Fact of Blackness’, he describes the ways in which black people are objectified and the ways in which he realized that he was just an object in the middle of other black objects.
The black man’s identity would simply be reduced to a “dirty nigger” or “a Negro”. He goes on to explain how the very glance of the other fixes him in a predominantly white world. When the black man is amongst his own people, there is minimal scope for him to face any internal conflicts when he recognizes himself on the basis of his experience of being through others. However he argues that the Hegelian notion of “being for others”, does not exist in a white colonial civilized society. In the world view of a colonized population there is a contamination, a fault that forbids any ontological reason. Some may critique by saying that this is the situation of every person, but such an opposition only hides an essential predicament. Ontology does not allow the understanding of the experience of being a black man. The black man is not only understood in terms of being black but also what he is with relation to the white man.
There is hardly any scope for ontological resistance for the black man in the view of the white man. Therefore, the negro has to situate himself on the basis of the white man where his customs and the sources of his culture has diminished and he faces a clash with the new culture that has been forced upon him.In the context of the modern era, the black man has to go through the phase of inferiority complex among his own people when he is being through the other. In the white society, the black man encounters many obstacles in the form of his bodily schema. The process of “denegrification”, goes on to elucidate the need for the despondent negro to whiten himself and weigh down his corporeal imprecation. He constructs the historic racial schema below the corporeal schema where he uses elements the white man had sketched the black man in various stories and anecdotes. Therefore, it is no longer his “residual sensations and perceptions primarily of a tactile, vestibular, kinesthetic, and visual character” but this perception of a physiological self and corporeal sensations emanate from the ‘other’; the white man.
The Negro is looked upon as someone who is frightening and the black man becomes responsible for his body, his race and his ancestors and he is merely reduced to tom toms, cannibalism, intellectual deficiency, fetishism, racial defects, slave ships, and “a Martinican native of ‘our’ old colonies” whose ancestors have been enslaved by ‘us’. The corporeal schema of the black man is distorted as he is recognized by the white man as ugly.Fanon looks at more how, to a certain extent feeling unsurprisingly inferior, Black people do not even consider themselves as Black unless in anticipation of a white racist society that inflicts that classification.
Humans just think that they are human unless someone else comes forward to claim that they are subordinate because they are “black men” rather than just men. It is when Black people have to come across white people, and white people implement that they are unlike Black people, in the sense that they are superior to black people, that a disabled feeling of self-consciousness and self-doubt penetrate into their minds.In chapter 7, ‘The Negro and Recognition’, Fanon explores through the work of Hegel, who was known for his “dialectical method”.
Recognition defined as a phenomenon by which people come into consciousness of themselves through the consciousness of the other. Simply put, people begin to have a sense of self by being recognized and identified by the Other. According to Fanon, Black people do not perceive and identify themselves as Black unless they are faced by a white Other who creates and inflicts a racial division. Thereafter, the black man always contrasts himself against the white man. It is this kind of association, and of perceiving oneself through the eyes of the white man, creates feelings of inadequacy and dependency.For Hegel, the self is composed through the other. In the context of race, Black does not continue living as a self until and unless the Black man stumbles upon the white man.
If we never come across someone different from us, we often do not think of ourselves as a race but we simply recognize ourselves as human. An idea of the self is constructed by being different from the other. Even though Fanon by and large is in agreement with this “dialectical” image, he is concerned about the essentially submissive and intransigent position this provides to individuals. The Hegelian dialectic goes on to justify the whole division between the master and the slave where the slave can only be recognized by the master and the slave cannot possess an identity of his own. Therefore, in the context of race, if we were to analyze racial discrimination on the basis of the ‘master-slave dialectic’, the black man will always be wedged being recognized in conflict to a whiteness that has more authority and supremacy. In distinction, Fanon aims to determine the ways to “educate man to be actional” The solution is to make it promising for people to change the world that labels them and discriminates against them on the basis of their race.
In his another most influential book, The Wretched of the Earth (1961), Fanon explores how recognition of the self as an independent entity, as an individual black man gives rise to resistance and how a colonized population embarks on a journey to re-categorize after independence from colonial rule has been accomplished. Fanon proposes that the colonized population primarily ascertain their power for independence in impulsive explosion of violence in opposition to the authoritarian white power.When one speaks of power, there lies a political agenda on the basis of which self-other relations are determined. While Fanon examines power relations and recognition in a postcolonial context, Judith Butler looks at how one’s subjection to violence and his/her involvement in it, their vulnerability to loss and the act of mourning, becomes the basis for examining self other relations and building a sense of community. In Butler’s chapter on ‘Violence, Mourning, Politics’ from Precarious Life, she contends by comprehending that as human beings, we are all connected by an established “corporeal vulnerability”, humans beings can essentially reassess what it means for them to mourn and contemplate “who counts as human, whose lives count as lives and what makes a grievable life”.
Butler goes on to say that all human beings essentially are contingent on each other for the development of their identity, and in order to be recognized they have to rely on each other to develop a sense of self. Butler explains this interdependence means of a “we” that is constituted by human beings’ social vulnerability that is often situated in a political context. Therefore she argues that loss and vulnerability emanates from an individual’s socially constituted corporeal body, that is attached to the other bodies, and losing those attachments due to violence facilitates one individual to recognize another individual.She looks at mourning as an activity that an individual does in order to accept the loss that the individual undergoes to transform his or her character. When individuals lose certain people,or if they are dispossessed from a place or community, they rethink their ties with the people they have lost in the process of mourning. They recognize themselves in the process of reexamining these ties, the significance these ties constitute and how these ties compose them. According to Butler, the individual does not exist independently. If the individual loses a certain someone with whom he has an attachment, the individual does not only mourn the loss of the other person, but he will also become incomprehensive about himself.
As Butler describes, it makes the individual question himself, “Who am I without you?” when the self loses some of these ties, the self no longer understands what it is and what is the purpose of its existence. In the process of losing someone, the self realizes that it has gone lost as well. Essentially, the tie determines on what terms is the ‘self’ different and related to the ‘other’.Butler moves further arguing that grief is not something that is individualistic in the sense that it does not transform the self into an isolated being. Grief brings together these relational ties that are solely responsible for understanding interdependence and moral, social and behavioral responsibility. Grief exhibits the power in which the self’s relation with the other holds itself, in ways that the self cannot relate or describe, in ways that it often interjects the self conscious view of the self that it seeks to provide, in ways that confronts the very idea of the self as self governing and in control. Therefore she says, “the very ‘I’is called into question by its relation to the Other as we are undone by each other”.
Subsequently understanding that the body is actually vulnerable, it makes the self to re-establish the notion of community. It becomes important for the self to recognize that all human beings share vulnerability, in spite of whether it is the First World or the Third World. Human beings must recognize that they are all vulnerable to being obliterated by another class of human beings, and consequently , must go about to re-establish how they respond to others. Butler uses the instance of the 9/11 attacks and she examines and challenges the consequent response, that intended to believe that the lives of the Americans who lost their lives either in the wars or in the towers were grievable, in contrast or comparison with the fact that the people who were killed in Afghanistan or Iraq at the hands of US military in the name of “war on terrorism” are not grievable. She writes, ” we have to consider how the norm governing who will be a grievable human is circumscribed and produced in these acts of permissible and celebrated public grieving, how they sometimes operate in tandem with a prohibition on the public grieving of others’ lives, and how this differential allocation of grief serves the derealizing aims of military violence”.Butler therefore argues that, vulnerability must be understood and recognized so as to come into being in an ethical, moral, social and behavioral experience, and one might not be able to assure that this would happen. Not only is there seldom the probability that vulnerability will not be acknowledged and it will be established and defined as unrecognizable, but when vulnerability is perceived and recognized, that perception and recognition has the potential to transform the definition and framework of vulnerability itself.
Therefore, if vulnerability is a prerequisite for humanizing the self, and this process of humanizing the self happens differently into the far side of volatile standards of recognition, then it goes on to prove that vulnerability is essentially determined by operating notions of recognition if it is to be ascribed to any human self or the subject.In the Hegelian sense,the struggle for recognition necessitates that each individual needs to not only recognize the other needs to be recognized, but also that the individual is not an autonomous corporeal being in the struggle for recognition. Recognition is a process of mutual interchange that disconnects the self from its standpoint, its subjectivity and binds the self in a community that requires recognition. Therefore, the self is recognized by the virtue of the existing other. Therefore Butler concludes that “the ‘I’ who cannot come into being without a ‘you’ is also fundamentally dependent on a set of norms of recognition that originated neither with the ‘I’ nor with the ‘you'”.Butler provides a detailed description of power, and the role it plays in the process of recognition in her another seminal work titled Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection.
She draws on Foucault, Freud, Hegel and Althusser to examine the ways in which self other relations are essentially power relations and the self is subjugated in the process of recognition. In chapter 3 titled ‘Subjection, Resistance and Resignification:Between Freud and Foucault’, Butler draws on Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, by saying that the entire process of “subjectivation” is very paradoxical in the context of the prisoner. Subjectivation is the process of becoming the subject and the process of subjection whereby the self internalizes the body of autonomy by virtue of being subjected to a certain power which consequently insinuates a complete dependence on the power. According to Foucault, the process of subjectivation is corporeal, the body becomes dependent on the power for recognition. In the case of the prisoner, the prisoner’s body symbolizes not only guilt and transgression, it is an embodiment of the juridical subject.
It becomes crucial to understand that the body is essentially a discourse, the knowledge of the subject is formed, caused and determined by power.According to Foucault, there is no exterior power that regulates the individual, but the individual is formed through his discursively constituted identity as a prisoner. Therefore, subjection is a process by which the self is formulated and regulated by power. Power acts on the subject and and it activates the formation of the subject. The process of subjectivation involves the domination and production of the individual subject. Butler argues that Foucault is against the notion of the liberal traditions that frees the prisoner from the confines of the prison for the prison produces, regularizes and normalizes the subject. The prison renders the self as coherent and completely totalizes the self as a representative of obedience.
This notion is normative and it not only affects the body but also the psyche of the self and this identity is what he terms “soul”. He says that the soul imprisons the body. However Butler contests this notion of recognition where discourses regulate the body in a normative and totalizing manner as she believes that the psyche of the individual has the ability to resist the normalizing and generalizing notions of the discourse and resistance has the ability to transgress the powers of sociality that Foucault discusses in his work. Butler criticizes this totalizing notion of discourse subjugating the body in a necessarily regulatory manner and she contests that the psyche does not operate under the realm of the subject; it repudiates these normative discourses unlike the subject, that incorporates these normalizing structures of power.Hence, for Butler, recognition comes from the operations of the psyche but not necessarily in an imprisoning way, but through resistance and reiteration of the psyche as an independent and autonomous entity that transgresses the norms of social power.
She contends that recognition is constituted by power, but knowledge of the self comes from negating power structures. Self-other relations are essentially power relations and this is inevitable, but resistance thwarts disciplinary power and it challenges existing dominant power relations. Butler proceeds to speak about the Althusserian notion of interpellation, which constitutes a subject by the process of calling or naming. Althusser contended that this social demand of naming or labelling constructed and produced subjects. Therefore when a policeman says “Hey you there!”, he is addressing the subject in a disciplinary way. therefore , the human subject is interpellated by the policeman in the process of hailing. The subject is constituted by the addressing or call that was made to him. In Lacanian terms, this process of hailing someone would be called as symbolic constitution.
Althusser argues that the process of naming or addressing someone brings that individual into being and this could also lead to misrecognition. If someone tries to hail an individual, there is a chance of misrecognizing the call, as the one who interprets the call may or may not choose to respond to that call. The reasons for this could be that the individual could have misinterpreted the call, turns away, or prefers to be addressed differently. Thus the process of constructing the subject fails as the subject misrecognizes the way in which he is addressed. Butler writes, “The name is called, and I am sure it is my name, but it isn’t”.
She argues that this misrecognition could be the individual’s choice to not respond, as the subject transgresses from the term that interpellates him. This is precisely because the subject is unable to recognize himself by the term. Butler goes on to say how this interpellation could be not just a name but it could also symbolize a social category. Althusser’s notion of interpellation in itself refers to how an ideology constitutes a subject by social and political means in the form of institutions such as family, religion, law and so on and so forth. Individuals are hailed in their everyday social interactions. As a result , individual subjects are accorded predominantly as constructed by societal impetus, preferably than taking themselves as autonomous free entities with self regulated identities. Thus when an individual is hailed as, for instance, a ‘woman’, or ‘Jew’, or ‘queer’ or ‘black’ or ‘Chicana’, these terms could affirm their identities or characterize a way of humiliating them, or totalizing them or reducing them, then the individual may or may not respond to these terms that interpellate them in a very paralyzing or strategic manner.
The response of the individual who chooses not to recognize himself through these interpellating terms, characterizes resistance as resistance challenges societal norms and social power relation that interpellate and subjugate the individual. Butler concludes that resistance should destabilize power structures and create a sense of subject in an extensive manner but not in a hegemonic or juridical manner. Recognition must take place devoid of any invisible or oppressed subjectivity.
In a nutshell, the struggle for recognition is always dependent upon social factors or emancipatory factors. The self is always contingent upon the views of the others so there is minimal scope for the self to exist as an independent autonomous individual. There is always an unquestioning aspect of the self conforming to the power structures and recognition takes place through these power structures. The process of recognition could either involve intersubjective freedom or alienation from social norms.
Recognition is based on norms and values which are created by human beings again. It is solely dependent upon the subject to either conform to these identities created by power structures and recognize themselves in accordance with that, or resist by disregarding social values and norms. The struggle for recognition is a central aspect of the framework of ideology and ideology is an inevitable part of the universe. The critics who have been examined in this essay essentially explicate the ways in which self-other relations are based on power and recognition. They explain how recognition revolves around a political agenda and how recognition could be used as an instrument for emancipation through the process of resistance. While Fanon explains how the struggle for recognition is solely dependent on the dominant societal norms in a colonial context, Butler views recognition as a process which is characterized by power relations and how individuals may or may not choose to conform to identities created by social power structures or ideological formations.ReferencesFanon, Frantz. “The Fact of Blackness.
” In Black Skin, White Masks, 109-40. London: Pluto Press, 1986.Fanon, Frantz. “The Negro and Recognition.” In Black Skin, White Masks, 210-22.
London: Pluto Press, 1986.Fanon, Frantz. “Conclusion.” In The Wretched of the Earth, 251-55. London: Penguin Books, 1967.Butler, Judith. “Violence, Mourning, Politics.
” In Precarious Life:The Powers of Mourning and Violence, 19-49. London: Verso, 2004.Butler, Judith. “Subjection, Resistance, Resignification:Between Freud and Foucault.
” In The Psychic Life of Power:Theories in Subjection, 83-105. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997.