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False Identities

Uninhibited's picture

Our readings for this week really reminded of the consequences of placing an identity on somebody else. How our entire interactions are based on who we think individuals are, and how that should influence the ways in which we treat them, connect with them, listen to them and understand them. This was especially true in Offending Women, where it was clear that the young mothers that were part of the program were given a narrative of what their lives were or ought to be, which completely shaped all of the interactions between the staff and them. The staff saw them as either victims or bloodsuckers, and consistently reminded them that neither of these things would lead to their independence (from the state, from blaming others etc). What would have happened if they had seen these women differently, If they hadn't assigned them that specific identity? Again, this identity idea is restated in Colored Amazons, where the author talks about the ways in which prisoners and (black) women were impacted by a story about who they where. The whole prison system was based on this judgment of their morals, biology, racial hierarchy and ability to be "restored." I definitely think that this practice is alive and well today, where we assign identities that have deep consequences that people have to live with (I'm thinking of Tuck's damage-centered research). How can we be active in creating different narratives for ourselves with the hope that others will also have the same opportunities?  



ishin's picture

Thinking about today and yesterday

I'm glad you posted this because I was thinking about the same thing when tying together today's class and readings with Offending Women.  I'd like to think about how we can respond to the Offending Women reading in light of the concept of "desire-based research" and also from the YASP! presentation last night.  In other words, what seems to be a problem about Alliance looking at these women already as a problem, dependent, and/or deficient is that it sets them up to a certain amount of failure or wanting to lash back to the Alliance workers.  If we ask the women enrolled in Alliance what they wanted and how they wish to obtain, instead of imposing what they want (i.e. "to be independent, especially from the government), then perhaps it would be a better way of facilitating their exit out of the prison system.

To frame it then to your post, perhaps by getting a better idea of how they view their own identities and desires, the women enrolled in Alliance can then make different identity and way they are percieved-an identity that is not imposed on them by the Alliance staff, and one that allows us to understand them a little more holistically.

I think our experience with YASP! is a great example of how this can play out.  Because they were all talking about their stories, they were able to give us a different dimension to their identity than the one that people typically associate with youth who are incarcerated, and what's more, they can do outreach and give opportunities to youth in similar situations in ways that others can't.  To speak more anecdotally, I just remembering loving how Vick's (?) kid was put up on the screen.  How it was so obvious that he and everyone else in the film didn't want this for their kids and were willing to fight for it.

I need to stop writing when I'm so hungry.  Hope this made sense.