Presentation Title: Three Moments in the Constitution of Subjectivity: Identification, Response, Remainders

Abstract: Social theorists and researchers have analyzed the constitution of subjectivity in terms of several processes. These processes include interpellation (Althusser, Butler), looping effects (Hacking), and objective self-fashioning (Dumit). In this paper, I explore three “moments” that appear, often implicitly, in work by these and other scholars. These moments –- which I call identification, response, and remainders -- should not be thought of as chronological stages. Identification refers to the making and remaking of subjectivities through individuals’ identification as particular kinds of people. I draw on anthropologists’ analyses of the practices and technologies through which individuals learn to monitor and articulate their inner lives, thereby coming to identify themselves as “kinds of people” and, in some measure, to become such people; they also learn to identify some types of experiences as calling for specific interventions. Response refers to the ways that human beings engage with and make use of the identities into which they have been drawn. I draw on postcolonial, feminist and other theorists, who have explored how individuals often do not simply replicate or augment the characteristics associated with their ascribed identities or labels. Rather, they respond to and interact with them, sometimes by resisting. Finally, the existence of remainders underscores the fact that sometimes the identities imposed on an individual are particularly inapt, resulting in infelicitous consequences. I draw on case studies in which psychiatric diagnoses or treatment plans fit poorly onto those who received them. Such cases do not invalidate the claim that persons are, in some measure, “made up” by how they are identified, even when exhibiting resistance. But they do compel us to face the complex challenge of theorizing human beings who are no more reducible to their sociocultural surround than they are articulable apart from it.


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