Challenges to Comprehension Implied by the Logo
of Laetus in Praesens
Laetus in Praesens Alternative view of segmented documents via Kairos

8th August 2009 | Draft

Requisite Variety to Encompass Multidimensional Identity

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Introduction
Extremes of bodily representation of identity
Facialization of identity -- enabling engagement with the soul?
Identification imperative
Confusions relating to facism
Face negotiation and loss of face
Requisite variety to encompass multidimensional identity (Annex A)
Collapsing the space of sustainable dialogue
Challenges to facist identity and identification (Annex B)
Faces of Citizens vs Fasces of the State: a legislative dilemma?
Justice and the burkha
Burkha as metaphorical mirror for imperious culture? (Annex C)
Conclusions
References


Annex A of Facism as Superficial Intercultural Extremism: burkha, toplessness, sunglasses, beards, and flu masks (2009)


Introduction

The arguments in the main paper (Facism as Superficial Intercultural Extremism: burkha, toplessness, sunglasses, beards, and flu masks, 2009) question capacity to associate identity meaningfully with the visibility or invisibi8lity of the face -- effectively assuming the validity of its projection onto an essentially flat surface, as with any photograph. They also call attention to the dimensional complexity within which identity might fruitfully be assumed to dwell, the biases through which engaging with it might then be understood, and the dangers of oversimplification in collapsing such complexity to preclude continuing dialogue about the challenge it represents. These arguments alone justify reference to facism as "superficial intercultural extremism" -- or as "cognitive fascism".

There are a number of schemas for distinguishing biases and preferences, whether cultural or individual. Some might be usefully explored to distinguish preferences for the expression of identity (Systems of Categories Distinguishing Cultural Biases, 1993). An example, widely used in distinguishing biases characteristic of the cultures of different countries, is that of Geert Hofstede (Culture's Consequences: international differences in work-related values, 1984). How should the debate regarding the burkha be understood with respect to such dimensions?

Another example is the identification of a set of "axes of biases" by the philosopher W. T. Jones (The Romantic Syndrome: toward a new method in cultural anthropology and the history of ideas, 1961) who was concerned with elaborating a new methodology to deal with strongly held differences in any debate. His interest was provoked by the unending debate on the definition of the "romantic period" -- hence the title of the book, and presumably a suggestion as to its relevance to debate about the burkha. The result, which he extended to both the sciences and the arts, is one way of understanding the different emphases which people and cultures may bring to any debate -- prior to any "rational" discussion on substance. The biases are not mutually exclusive.

As with Hofstede's scheme, this initiative could be related to that on the underlying preferences governing engagement in any debate on facial significance in the expression of identity.

Axes of bias (according to Jones)

Adapted from Differences in Style of Artistic and Policy Endeavour (1984). One extreme of each axis (understood as a typically repressed perspective in western culture) is tentatively associated with a challenging mirroring presented in Annex C of the main paper.

1. Order vs Disorder: Namely the range between a preference for fluidity, muddle chaos, etc. and a preference for system, structure, conceptual clarity, etc.

2. Static vs Dynamic: Namely the range between a preference for the changeless, eternal, etc. and a preference for movement, for explanation in genetic and process terms, etc.

3. Continuity vs Discreteness: Namely the range between a preference for wholeness, unity, etc and a preference for discreteness, plurality, diversity, etc.

4. Inner vs Outer: Namely the range between a preference for being able to project oneself into the objects of one's experience (to experience them as one experiences oneself), and a preference for a relatively external, objective relation to them.

5. Sharp focus vs Soft focus: Namely the range between a preference for clear, direct experience and a preference for threshold experiences, felt to be saturated with more meaning than is immediately present.

6. This world vs Other world: Namely the range between preference for belief in the spatio-temporal world as self-explanatory and preference for belief that it is not and can only be comprehended in terms of other frames (see discussion of Being What You Want problematic kataphatic identity vs. potential of apophatic identity? 2008).

7. Spontaneity vs Process: Namely the range between a preference for chance, freedom, accident, etc and a preference for explanations subject laws and definable processes.

Comment

Clearly these different views are not mutually exclusive and overlap in complex ways in the case of any culture, discipline or school of thought. The 14 views above form 7 pairs of extremes corresponding to the extreme positions on such axes. Jones showed how any individual had a profile of pre-logical preferences based on the degree of inclination towards one or other extreme of each pair. Jones names scholars in each case as examples. The contribution of participants in any meaningful debate regarding the burkha issue merit identification in terms of such biases.

Whether the dimensions of Hofstede or those of Jones, there is a problematic sense in which "binding" the dimensions together (in a superordinate framework) recalls the origin of fascism in the Latin word fasces. This consisted of a bundle of rods that were tied around an axe constituting an ancient Roman symbol of the authority of the civic magistrates. The symbolism of the fasces suggested strength through unity: a single rod is easily broken, while the bundle is difficult to break.

It is of course the case that each extreme positions on any of the above axes of bias invites deprecating characterization from any other. That is the challenge to any supposedly rational debate in which such biases are not explicit and cannot be effectively discussed -- the reason for the initiative by W. T. Jones. The set of biases he distinguishes may be understood as defining the dimensionality of a space within which dialogue may take place (Axes of Bias in Inter-Sectoral Dialogue, 1992).

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