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Deviance Defining the Self

rebeccamec's picture

In Exile & Pride, Clare seemed to express his identity as manifest in his desire. This, to me, is the most apparent aspect of Clare's identity. Yes, in "The Mountain," expressed a wish to not have others see him in the context of making progress toward an ableist ideal. This comparison, further fleshed out through "freaks and queers," highlights this comparison to an ideal. My favorite aspect of Sociology is the study of deviance, and I frequently reflect on a quote by Howard Becker: "Instead of asking why deviants want to do things that are disapproved of, we might better ask why conventional people do not follow through on the deviant impulses they have." Identity is informed by others, but why must it be in comparison to an ideal? Why must everything outside that ideal be characterized as a "freak show?" Furthermore, who defines this ideal? As Nkechi said in class, the ideal is constantly formed by reactions to the reactions of others to oneself, and Clare reinforces that idea in describing the freak show phenomenon.


For me, identity consists of aspects that define you and make you stand out from others. You can call this aspect "deviance," and for many, it's a disability or impairment, but what is the point of attempting to erase our identities as we grow? Shouldn't we instead adjust to them and learn to appreciate them and how they affect our perception of the world? If recognized (and, in turn, legitimized) we might have the more accurate portrait of history through the accounts of all kinds of people, regardless of disability, for which Clare begs (one, of course, beyond the sensationalism that fuelled the "other" mentality). If others did not take on this challenge, it would be amusing to "gawk at the gawkers," (97) and find solace in others who naturally live life in the same way you do (without striving for a social ideal, potentially with a similar disability or impairment). This acceptance would feed "a self-image full of pride [because]...without pride, individual and collective resistance to oppression becomes nearly impossible" (107). Further, as Clare mentions, without this unity, it's very easy to look down upon other outcasts. While considering this topic, I can't help but consider the beautiful, local, heirloom tomatoes I've been chopping for a tomato sauce. I'm reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver who explains that we've bred out all nutrients and taste in tomatoes to make them the most efficient to grow in mass quantities. From her perspective, the only remaining uniqueness exists in the heirlooms, and cutting open the first tomato was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.


We have been maintaining the evolution of this ideal since the dawn of civilization, and have gotten to the point where the only equal way to address a person and evaluate them for a job would be to strip their name, access to education, race/nationality, and ability, and judge solely based on talents and traits. No one belongs at a freak show and a freak show should not be the only place for which a person can feel a sense of belonging. When did the external become the most important in a negative fashion? Riva's paintings from Circle Stories demonstrate the pride Clare hopes outcasts will find. I am excited to discuss in class these notions of unity and judgment, Clare's history of the freak show, and his discussion of language.