Sunday, September 18, 2011

promiscuous, constrained learning

Karlyn Kohrs Campbell presents a curious way of identifying Agency in her article "Agency: Promiscuous and Protean," yet when unfurling the definition of 'promiscuous' beyond the low-brow, giggle-inducing association that immediately comes to mind, it seems simple to see what it is she is trying to say. Agency has many roles and to try and assign one concrete meaning to it actually can be daunting. Campbell claims that "The term 'agency' is polysemic and ambiguous, a term that can refer to invention, strategies, authorship, institutional power, identity, subjectivity, practices, and subject positions, among others" (1). My very first thought when glancing at the title was muddled in hesitation because the term 'promiscuous,' does not immediately make me think of something "composed of all sorts of persons or things" ( Perhaps this is due, in part, the social climate we live in where the label of promiscuity is intended as a way of vilifying people who do not conform to the idea of monogamous interactions. Regardless, I was not quite sure what to expect but, judging from the tone Campbell used throughout her piece, this may have been the effect she was going for.
Campbell asserts that "agency is constrained by externals [...]," meaning that it is not powerful in and of itself (3). It needs other things to give it that levity and Campbell seems to argue that artistry plays a strong role in this, saying that "[agency] is learned" (6). It makes sense then that agency, while being learned, is constrained by society. Take for instance, high school history classes neglecting to point out prominent gay rights activists or failing to point out just how horrible women had it working in factories before unionization. For example, I had never heard of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, which claimed many of its female workers' lives, until college, despite having discussed other things associated with unionization at that time. Perhaps this constraint is merely for the purpose of sticking with basics yet it seems that important events are neglected in the process.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.