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Arrogant Perception in Lugones

JBacchus's picture

In her article, Lugones discusses this idea of "world-travelling" - switching between "worlds" for the non-white woman. She writes that outsiders (whom she refers to as "women of color in the US) practice necessary "world-travelling". This "world travelling" is being able to exist and integrate in more than one culture ("world"). I do not necessarily disagree with what she says here, but I do have several criticisms of her ideas and her presentation of the fact.

Lugones refers to "world-travelling" jokingly as "schizophrenic". She says that "we feel schizophrenic in our goings back and forth between different 'communities'". Lugones, in her article, preaches understanding, loving and acceptance, which she does not demonstrate whatsoever in her use of the word schizophrenic. She uses stereotypical (mis)understandings of a serious illness in her reference to "world-travelling". Schizophrenic is not going back and forth between two states of mind, but rather having bizarre actions regarding the mind, including hallucinations, illusions, distorted speech, etc. By using "schizophrenic" she is demonstrating her own stereotypical opinion of a serious mental illness, while she simultaneously calls for a "love" and acceptance amongst women, including a disintegration of "arrogant perception". But is she not arrogantly perceiving those with mental illness in her analogy? Is she not failing to "world-travel" when she uses schizophrenic in this manner? I don't understand how I am able to take her claims seriously when she makes an incredibly offensive statement within her call for "love" amongst women.

Further more, she doesn't necessarily outwardly state, but she most certainly implies that "worlds" are defined by different races or ethnicities. This then insinuates that cultures ("worlds") are purely racially or ethnically based. Can we not say that there are multiple cultures within one race or ethnicity? Are all white Americans part of the same culture? Are all blacks in America part of the same culture? I argue no. I often find that I am forced to "world-travel" between my academic life at Bryn Mawr and my life within the Evangelical church. Are these two lives not part of separate cultures? Is "Bryn Mawr" not its own world, separate of "Evangelical"? I would argue so, and thus I would argue that, despite both worlds often being Anglo (for me, specifically, that is) I exist in two different cultures.

She also argues against stereotypes (which as I explained above, she is using in her use of "schizophrenic"). But are stereotypes not bidirectional? Do races other than whites not have stereotypes on other races that they exhibit as arrogant perception and/or ignorance? How can one argue for a need for love amongst all women, if they are not able to acknowledge that racial or cultural stereotypes are bidirectional? Lugones only calls for the disintegration of stereotypes that whites have on women of color...but if she calls for "love amonst women", should she not argue for the disintegration of stereotypes that women of color have on other races, including white?

I agree with many of her points, including the call for a disintegration of stereotypes and a love amongst women, but it is hard for me to take her seriously when, in my opinion, she displays ignorance and stereotypes in her own argument.


JBacchus's picture

If she's calling for a love

If she's calling for a love among women, then she should acknowledge that the women of color group must let go of their stereotypes as well...I think, at least. But that's just my opinion.

alesnick's picture

"worlds" and boundaries

The way Lugones uses the term schizophrenic is problematic in my view, as well.  On p. 394, she writes of "the kind of ontological confusion that we, women of color, refer to hanf-jokingly as 'schizophrenic.'" This is a place other than the one you cite above in which the term appears in her text.  The use of "half-jokingly" seems to suggest some consciousness of the problematic use of the term.  It also could imply that sometimes the experience of "world"-traveling is really mentally destabilizing, even debilitating.  I am sensitive to the use of this term and to broader issues of mental illness in part owing to my mother's having suffered with it. (See my Introduction to The Breaking Project (here on Serendip) for a discussion of this).  It may be that here, Lugones was taken up by the danger of a single story, as Adichie says she was when she could only see her family's servant and his family as needy, not also as creative and capable.  

I don't, though, hear Lugones saying that anyone or any group is safe from the danger of a single story, from forming a stereotype, of others.  She writes, "we women of color" because that is her reference group and, I think, because she wants to centralize her voice and audience, to draw them in from marginality.  But I don't think this means she means to render other groups marginal.