Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Performing Disgust

This week, I am interested in how performances shape our emotions, and how we might be compelled to emote in a particular way. Though the influence of the other is present throughout Ahmed’s categories of emotion, allowing the individual to define self or society through interactions with others, I am focused on the particular performative nature of disgust.
            Ahmed’s exploration of disgust in relation to the attacks on 9/11 investigate the echo chamber of the news footage, and the repeated voicing of “disgusting” can transfer from the event, to the perpetrator, and to become a defining characteristic of the group itself (99). Further, refusing terms of allegiance between different factions of thought allowed the disgust to shift, an iteration of pulling away from the pulling away. However, while Ahmed looks at repetitive use of the phrase “disgusting,” and repetition of the images of the event itself, I am more interested in how “disgust” was implied or performed in the footage this week, without directly being labeled. How can disgust be performed, short of using the word “disgust”?
            Returning back to the clip within the opening package of ABC News, in which someone is shown in the window of the World Trade Center then jumps to the two women reacting and looking up, the term disgust is not directly used, but this footage is when I began to start feeling “disgust”. The demonstration of the women’s reaction, and later the reporter’s reaction to the lack of victims needing medical attention, to me were crucial in converting the feeling of nausea and dread into something repulsive. Not only were the events making me uncomfortable, but as these women began to point out, that discomfort was meaningful , perhaps starting to build its stickiness.
 What begins in the footage that layed the foundation for disgust to become a prevalent emotional reaction to this event?
The package until that point seemed to build the unmoderated, or unfacilitated, footage of jarring events that easily invoked nausea. However, disgust is not merely “gut feeling” (83). The four elements of the emotion are characteristic facial expression, distancing the self from the object, nausea, and revulsion (84). While I would not label their emotions exactly as disgust, as fear and pain also describe that moment, the demonstrative way that their reaction is used is relevant to the modeling of disgust. Certainly, the women recoil from the event, taking a step further away from the sights. Yet, what exactly makes this a disgusting event, rather than a hateful, painful, or fearful one? Borders may be disgusting when made into an object, as in the skin that forms between milk and the air (88). Can the ideological border, turned into a tangible event, be made similarly disgusting? How can anticipation of that border’s clarity tie fear and disgust into a common experience?
I also wonder how disgust can be defined temporally. Ahmed’s explanation of the disgust of 9/11 seems focused on the sustained behavior, of the bombarding of footage, yet the double-take is a very immediate point of disgust (84).  How do the characteristics of disgust function in relation to time?

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