Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Reading Lauren Berlant's The Queen of America Goes to Washington City_ and watching mainstream media's lead up coverage of tonight's primaries. It's like reading a diagnostic manual. (I mean that in a good way!) Example:

"[F]ollowing the Reaganite tendency to fetishize both the offensive example and the patriotic norm, the increasingly monopolistic mass media act as a national culture industry whose mission is to micro-manage how any controversial event or person changes the meaning of being "American." The constant polling used by this media apparatus, which includes the solicitation of testimony on talk radio and television, along with telephone interviews, has paradoxically enabled the standards and rhetorics of citizenship to become so privatized and subjective that even privileged people can seem legitimately to claim "outsider," if not "minority," status. With political ideas about the nation sacrificed to the development of feelings about it, nationality has become a zone of trauma that demands political therapy."

While I think that nationality has in many ways always been a "zone of trauma"-- perhaps indeed created or determined by the various "political therapies" applied to traumatic encounters of nationalism-- I take Berlant's points here to be spot on in terms of the diagnosis of the present situation and its extreme creation and reinforcement through public images and narratives of private citizenship, which ultimately reduces public claims of legitimate trauma to private experiences available to anyone. This is what perversely allows power brokers like Hilary Clinton to claim victim status. Question is: what kind of "political therapy" might we exercise to correct this development? Voting? Hah! More like a national lobotomy.


Anna Vitale said...

Thanks for continuing to bring Lauren Berlant's writing to your blog. I like her post on sex today. I've been meaning to tell you about this conference where she'll be in October. Perhaps you already know, but just in case http://worldpicturejournal.com/

Let's have a beer soon!

kfd313 said...

hey anna! cool! i love lauren. yeah, would love to see you soon. i'm almost through beating the winter blues....