Monday, November 23, 2009

another cog in an ideological mechanism

For me, the most interesting contention of Wald's book was the way in which primitivism, nature, poverty and the racial/sexual other are conflated and blurred. One example that Wald provides is a third-party description of Michael Callen:

"[He had] frequented every sex club and bathhouse between the East River and the Pacific Ocean and had gathered enough venereal and parasitical diseases to make his medical chart look like that of some sixty-five-year-old Equitorial African living in squalor." (238)

This erasure of discursive rigor + naturalized combination of otherwise discrete behaviors + identities is what paves the way for the moralizing and policing of bodies-- I'm thinking of biopolitics in Foucault's sense and formulation.

What's interesting about this to me is that while disease is the focus of this book, it is by no means the centerpiece of the ideological mechanism which is serves. Wald herself takes great pains to make clear that it is not parasites, disease, and outbreak which source such biopolitics, but the narrativization thereof. (One great dissected example is provided on pp 6-7, by photo).

While disease narrativization is Wald's focus, her analysis extends far beyond that. Her emphasis on narrative incriminates discourse, and the naturalized interweaving of discourse with physicality. It is not disease which is the enemy in this context; it is both the discursion surrounding/penetrating it, and the ability to perceive such behavior as causal/logical/natural.

Identifying disease as only a provisional/specific focus of Wald's greater observation, it seems that the true relevation is a familiar one: the unceasing entrance of the body into discourse. Wald is interested in "re-writing" such narratives on ethical grounds, but I wonder if this will only perpetuate the naturalized discursion of the body. Will new stories be enough? Or does Wald's work reiterate a need to resist discourse--if that's even possible--and imagine ourselves beyond language? Wald made clear that the body is at stake here, and it is often pitted against discourse. So, what to do?

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