Armytage Open Lecture

Subjectivities and Identities

The cultural forms and practices are also shaped not only by the structures of a society but also by the subjectivities of individual women and men as social actors...and the identities that individuals adopt in order to define themselves are produced, at least in part, from the cultural and social contexts in which we find ourselves and from which we draw certain assumptions about 'human nature', 'individuality' and 'the self'.


Humanist Idea of Self: a unique 'true' selfhood lies within the psyche of each individual and that each individual has the right to express and protect that uniqueness.


Essentialist vs. Non-essentialist


Biological Determinism vs. Social Constructivism



1.  Trinh T. Minh-ha's Woman, Native, Other: Writing, Postcoloniality, and Feminism.


Whether I accept it or not, the natures of I, i, you, s/he, We, we, they, and wo/man constantly overlap. They all display a necessary ambivalence, for the line dividing I and Not-I, us and them, or him and her is not (cannot) always (be) as clear as we would like it to be. (p.90)


-To fix an “authentic” I is not as simple as it looks!

-Minh-ha's idea of "boundary"




2.  Louis Althusser's idea of Ideology


For Althusser, the subject is not the same as the individual. Subjectivity is a constructed category produced by ideology.


The category of the subject is constitutive of all ideology, but at the same time the category of the subject is only constitutive of all ideology.


3.  Social Constructivism


Social constructivism is the term used to describe approaches that reject essentialist explanations of identity. 


A social constructivist perspective claims that gender identity is formed through interaction with social factors, and is not simply
the result of biological differences.


Such an approach does not deny biological differences, but attempts to understand and explain them in terms of social context, rather than seeing individuals as limited and bounded by their biology.


4.  Sherry B. Ortner, "Is female to male as nature is to culture?"


My thesis is that woman is being identified with something that every culture devalues,  something that every culture defines as being of a lower order of existence than itself. Now it seems that there is only one thing that would fit that description, and that is nature in the most generalized sense.

Every culture, or, generically, culture, is engaged in the process of generating and sustaining systems of meaningful forms (symbols, artifacts, etc.) by means of which humanity transcends the givens of natural existence, bends them to its purposes, controls them in its interest.

Ultimately, it must be stressed again that the whole scheme is a construct of culture rather than a fact of nature. Woman is not in reality any closer to (or further from) nature than man both have consciousness, both are mortal.

The result is a (sadly) efficient feedback system: various aspects of womans situation (physical, social, psychological) contribute to her being seen as closer to nature, while the view of her as closer to nature is in turn embodied in institutional forms that reproduce her situation...

Ultimately, both men and women can and must be equally involved in projects of creativity and transcendence. Only then will women be seen as aligned with culture, in cultures ongoing dialectic with nature.



  Related Binaries

Gender lecture slides 090315.pptx  Gender Lecture Slides 2015

Ortner Is female to male as nature is to culture 2.pdf  Sherry B Ortner_Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?



   Related Keyword : culture gender