Saturday, 1 October 2016
It is true that the politics of offence are used to shut down dissident voices of all kinds, frequently in minority communities, and the understanding of culture as a type of property to which ownership can be definitively assigned is, at the very least, problematic. Should the artist go forth boldly, without fear? Of course, but he or she should also tread with humility. Note that I do not say, “with care”. I don’t believe any subject matter should a priori be off limits to anyone, or that harm necessarily flows from the kind of ventriloquism that all novelists perform. Quite the opposite. Attempting to think one’s way into other subjectivities, other experiences, is an act of ethical urgency. For those who have never experienced the luxury of normativity, the warm and fuzzy feeling of being the world’s default setting, humility in the face of otherness seems like a minimal demand. Yet it appears that for some, the call to listen before speaking, to refrain from asserting immediate authority, is so unfamiliar that it feels outrageous. I’m being silenced! My freedom is being abridged! Norm is unaccustomed to humility because he has grown up as master of the house. All the hats are his to wear. For the deviant others, who came in by the kitchen door, it has always been expected, even demanded...
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