Un-Bundled Discipline: Choosing 'Violence' over 'Happiness' in the Humanities

By Arun Nedra Rodrigo.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The relationship between the Humanities and cultural practice must be a moral one that engages with the complexity and individuality of the Other. Multinational corporations interpret ‘diversity’ in terms of the marketplace, and in relation to market principles geared toward the ‘happiness’ of the consumer. Vertical antagonisms are censored in favour of horizontal differences that can be marketed. Taking Toronto as an example, I will demonstrate how the shift from discomfort to conspicuous consumption in the city’s engagement with its South Asian community is the result of an efficiency-driven multiculturalism. Subjective pluralities within this community are erased in the process of its reciprocating with a palatable ‘masala’ identity that is more efficiently marketable. Vertical antagonisms pertaining to issues of refuge, terrorism and homophobia are thus endlessly deferred to accommodate an “it’s a small world after all” representation of plurality in all its uncomplicated heteronormativity. To demonstrate, on the other hand, that aesthetics may possess revolutionary potential, I hope to return to Schiller’s letters on aesthetics, materialism, and material society’s tendency to despotic instrumentalism and parallel it to Zizek’s. I will explore ‘pure violence’, described by Benjamin, as means of examining the potential for ontological transformation that is afforded by education. My paper will affirm antagonistic struggle, over ‘preference satisfaction’, as a moral obligation that may not only recapture subjectivity, but also lead to transformation and meaningful cultural engagement through the Humanities.

Keywords: Cultural Identity, Consumer Culture, Preference Satisfaction, Loss of Subjectivity, Deferred Antagonism, Terrorism, Moral Obligation

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.205-210. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 495.533KB).

Arun Nedra Rodrigo

PhD Candidate, Interdisciplinary Humanities, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

As an immigrant and performance artist, my academic interests naturally lie in the fields of multiculturalism and political identity. The interdisplinarity of the Humanities appealed to me on my return to academia after a brief hiatus, because I saw it as a space that allowed me to bring together the different aspects of my experience into a coherent whole. I am a published poet, currently in the process of completing a novel while designing and studying for my comprehensives. My work as a graduate student has been consistently bound with theories of morality and justice, especially pertaining to political refugees and their contribution to, and exclusion from, cultural production.

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