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Self-Righteous Victimhood as a Damaging Single Story

nmofokeng's picture

Last week's readings resonated deeply with my constant vigilance for misrepresentations/misconceptions and flat-out misinformation. I am sensitive to this insofar as it applies to my own experience, idea of self and heritage - the catchall term for history, place, community, culture, experience, memories etc. When Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recounts the story of her own narrow-minded expectations upon arrival in Mexico, I recognized that moment when one's personal disdain for ignorance is abruptly challenged by one's own ignorance thus begging the question, am I a hypocrite? I've found that generally, one responds "no" and toys with becoming indignant about how others' lack of knowing is worse. I've born witness to this in my interactions with many people who do not identify as American. We can all indulge in stories similar to that of Adichie's roommate and yet we are rarely able to recognize that our own knowledge of another region of the world is as limited and often informed by stereotypes as perverse as any.

My aim here is to recognize the danger of the single story of righteous victimhood that can as easily poison our wilingness to meaningfully engage with difference. Eve Tuck's letter calling for a moratorium on damage-centered research pushed me to think about how internalized damage can create an outward seal of indignation that prevents "the damaged" from transcending their prescribed position. I'm guilty of this too in those moments when I whine about how other's ignorance about where I am from is an injustice to me while I fail to seek knowledge about the complexity of their own history/background. The problem here of course is that we never gain insight that acknowledges desire as elaborated by Tuck, rather we settle into the part of the self-righteous victim; in my experience with peers, that has been the persistent trope. In many ways though, the new media revolution has blast open the field for expression and consumption of stories so that there are greater possibilities for diversifying our understanding of each other; through platforms that offer varying levels of intimacy.

As a class, our own collective experimenting with Twitter and other forms of expression will serve as testament to this. From our conversation about our unease with Twitter's public nature to the flurry of tweets, we will be able to see how we can achieve a multifaceted and complex engagement across platforms. Will we read between the lines of our set texts to recognize the binaries of damage and desire? Will we recognize where we lean on a single story as a framework? How will our collective sharing alleviate this dilemma?


alesnick's picture

blasting open "the binaries of damage and desire"

Thank you for this potent integration of Tuck's and Adichie's texts with your reflections and experiences!  I wonder whether "settling into the part" of victim is in part a consequence of the familiarity of "victim discourse" as compared with discourses of desire.  I hear Tuck calling on us to create new language, new social spaces (new intimacies?), for the meaning of desire and its emergence.  Desire as yearning for a something (world, self, connection) not yet in existence; desire as aspiration; desire as part of the vision of dreams and faith; desire as movement towards change.  To explore further.