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Richard Johnson

Translocalities/Transmodernities: Thinkspace

2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Polycentric Session, UC-Berkeley, Townsend Center for the Humanities
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Participant Bio:
I am alarmed at how rapidly bodies like mine have been alternatively positioned, repositioned, and further disposition-ed and further dispossessed. My caregiver body which so willingly and graciously provided warm, consoling, and deliberate caring touch (es) and compassion to those in my charge now appears to be a body with “unruly subjectivity,” a body that Holiday and Hassard (2001) would suggest is:

…coded as in need of (physical) control [and] this coded body is reflected back
on the subject’s mind, as in need of (psychological) control. This process is at the
heart of imperialist and patriarchal imperatives that sought to keep unruly
subjects in their place (p. 9-10).

How did it get to be that way? I’m struck then with considering my body’s newfound, altered status, that active placement in a particular subjugated position whereby it has been conquered, dominated under the control of another. In her historical work, Mary Douglas noted (1966/9) that “which is ‘in-between’, which crosses conceptual boundaries, is dealt with by societies as impure, contaminated and risky to their integrity” (1966, p. 36). To me, when I look at the photographic evidence and place that alongside another body, that body of personal evidence-memories I’ve shared here and elsewhere, I’m dumbfounded about my newfound foreign stature, stature reminiscent of Kristeva’s (1994) notion of “that which does not fit.” The few images I’ll share in my talk are offered here as they’ve proven helpful in assisting me with visualizing important aspects of my identity and subjectivity, about critical clinical practices as a teacher and parent. They help me to deconstruct how I’ve located myself within this complicated–because I choose to make it so, narrative. By critically engaging and deconstructing several images, by (re)looking critically, questioning, re)positioning my own subjectivity and identity, by “employing an active, constructive gaze” (Dykstra, 1995, p. 7) I’ve been able to make better sense of images that heretofore were of no intrigue or interest to me or the field of early education. My intent here is to incorporate visual cultural inquiry in “an exploration by the visual, through the visual, of human sociality, a field of social action which is enacted in planes of time and space through objects and bodies, landscapes and emotions, as well as thought” (Banks, 1998, p. 19). The theoretical underpinnings that the overwhelming majority of early educators are familiar with ground us pragmatically in the visual and assist me personally in theoretically critiquing notions of the impact of visual culture theory on the field of early childhood education, both historically and currently. In much of my recent theoretical work (Johnson, 2005; Johnson & Moniz, 2006) I’ve incorporated critical visual culture perspectives in an effort to assist me in critically understanding the vast extent to which the world we live in is an “increasingly image-saturated society where paintings, photographs, and electronic images depend on one another for their meanings” (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001, pgs. 10-11). The cultural formations we inhabit have become intensified, saturated by visual images with a multitude of purposes and intended effects. After initially engaging a moderate amount of visual culture theory (e.g., Johnson, 2003), I now more clearly see and understand the personal links to visual culture in my professional work across time, again, not unlike most of us in the early childhood education field. Much like Spence’s (1988) critical work, Putting myself in the picture, (1988) I too wish to “reconfigure…[so that] out of the broken pieces of the self will come a subjectivity that acknowledges the fragmentation process, but [that] encompasses and embraces the parts and brings them into dialogue with each other" (Spence, 1988, p.66). My interests here and elsewhere are very much aligned with critically engaging “constructions of the body in a variety of other discourses and analyze the construction of my own identity through photographic images” (Dykstra, 1995, p. 7)