carlos rojas

naked gaze 肉眼


Cultural Critique
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May 09, 2006



comments carried over from naked gaze's former home at blogger:

Jodi said...
Interesting post--but I'm surprised that you think many or some academics would be shocked or outraged if such images were linked to from their university's home page. Let's say that there were images part of a course packet, the packet was free and virtual and linked to from the course syllabus, the syllabus could be found on the faculty member's homepage and the homepage could be reached from the university's main search directory. I find it unlikely that such a thing would create an outcry.
7:36 PM

crojas said...
Thanks Jodi.
Perhaps you are right that I have an overly pessimistic perspective on the limits of even liberal faculty members' tolerance for free speech.

To respond to your example, however, I would specify that part of what made the MIT case so controversial is that the "visualizing cultures" site was explicitly featured on the main page of the MIT home page itself, and not buried somewhere deep within the site where most visitors would find it only after concerted effort (indeed, the site had been up for a while, but the controversy did not begin until it was singled out on the MIT page). Do you not think that if a web site featuring graphic images of, say, anal intercourse were on a site one link away from the university's home page (and therefore very stumble-on-able by casual visitors), that there would be considerable protest even from the faculty? (Or, to take another example you touch on in a recent post, and which I will discuss in much more detail in my next one, if the images in question were of the sort used by abortion opponents--even if the images were carefully contextualized, I suspect that even many leftist faculty would be discomfited at the very least to have them posted in a forum linked so proximately to the university's home page).
8:55 PM

anonymous said...
I enjoyed reading this, but isn't it a leap between rumors of cannibalism and porn on one hand, and late nineteenth century war propaganda on the other? As I see it, the tragedy of the uproar is that many gifted graduate students at MIT and elsewhere are unable to see the pictures historically and jump on their guns at the slightest perceived provocation. I can't help but thinking of African engineering students studying in the PRC who have to put up with much worse provocations, both in cyberspace and in reality. Yet they don't have the privileges to organize and protest like this.
11:43 AM

crojas said...
Thank you for your comments. I am not suggesting that the three examples (viz., performance art photos, erotic film, and late nineteenth century woodblock prints) are precisely parallel, but I do feel that the comparison is instructive. What is arguably lacking in some of the MIT discussions is an acknowledgement that there are some images which are emotionally disturbing by their very nature , irrespective of how much context is provided. I would suggest that, for many viewers, the pornographic film material or some examples of avant-garde art would fall into that category. The fact that the images are inherently disturbing for many viewers does not, of course, mean that they should be completely kept from view (and, indeed, both of the examples I cite can, and are, taught in university courses), but that care should be used in dessiminating those images ina public forum where they may be casually glimpsed by a potentially vast global audience.

Whether or not the decapitation image in question necessarily falls into this category may, of course, be debated (and, furthermore, it is quite likely that different individuals or groups will respond to the images differently), but I think that the possibility that issues raised in this debate might transcend a simple issue of contextualization should be acknowledged.

Secondly, you mention the apparent inability of the grad. students at MIT and elsewhere to view pictures historically. I have not been following the debates closely enought to know whether or not this is true (though the CSSA open letters struck me as quite sensitive to the historical significance of the images). One important issues which has been raised in these debates, nevertheless, is precisely the question of global audience, and that regardless of how the MIT grad. students do or do not (or should or should not) perceive the images, the fact remains that these images, by their position as a featured site on the MIT home page, would be easily accessible to a wide range of viewers from throughout the world--and there is certainly no guarantee that all of them would have the linguistic or educational resources to appreciate the contextualization that has been provided.
1:25 PM

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