Sunday, 28 February 2016

Rant Number 457

The first time that I noticed a hegemony was as a youngster stomping about the British Museum. Hell, I was much more sophisticated in those days. I'd spend days making notes and working out the semiotics of The Elgin Marble, and I didn't even know what semiotics meant.

I realised, even as a neophyte classicist, that there was a strict division. If it was European, it went in the Museum. If it was African, it went in ethnography. African art didn't have history. It had an aesthetic that was primitive, even if it had been made last week, and its main importance was its influence on Picasso, or what it could tell us about a society. Its aesthetic value was subsumed to an anthropological use. 

And I feel it again when I read about lap-dancing. Rachela Colosi's Dirty Dancing is a great read - but would anyone do an ethnographic investigation into The Royal Shakespeare Company? This kind of academic text, which purports to challenge the 'othering' of strippers, actually reinforces the stigmatisation. 

For example, there's chat about how the life of a lap-dancing impacts on their ability to maintain relationships. Without a control group for comparison, the conclusions are stark: the partners of the dancers tend to feel threatened and put pressure on them to quit. But what about women who work in Asda? Without knowing how other jobs impact on the workers' relationships, the analysis of the lap-dancer is meaningless, if not othering. 

I wandering into the study of lap-dancing because I wanted to challenge the idea of dramaturgy as only related to 'respected' performance. There's so little written that engages with it as art, I ended up reading sociology and anthropology. It is good stuff, and mentions Goffman (who talks about the dramaturgy of everyday life and all), but it is a long way from the respectful tones afforded to even the most tedious theatre production.

And I wince every time 'sex work' is mentioned. Sure, there is a continuum, but I am not interested in stripping as 'sex work'. I'm interested in it as dance.

I'm just tired of the hegemony, the hidden assumption that there is some kind of hierarchy to human experience. Everything is accessible through every kind of analysis, but the kind of analysis given to a subject tells a great deal about the social status it has.

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