Thursday, 24 October 2013


In today's lecture we will be introduced to the following theories and concepts:

• To introduce historical conceptions of identity
• To introduce Foucault’s ‘discourse’ methodology
• To place and critique contemporary practice within these frameworks, and to consider their validity
• To consider ‘postmodern’ theories of identity as ‘fluid’ and ‘constructed’ (in particular Zygmunt Bauman)
• To consider identity today, especially in the digital domain

There are different theories of identity:

• ESSENTIALISM (traditional approach)
• Our biological make up makes us who we are.
• We all have an inner essence that makes us who we are.
• Post-Modern theorists are ANTI-ESSENTIALIST


Helps read identity and who are you, by looking at parts of the brain. 

Cesare Lombroso (1835 – 1909) – Founder of Positivist Criminology – the notion that criminal tendencies are inherited

These were often to made up to show a perfect person within society at the time. A scientific reading for criminology also, shown below:

The more diagonal the line, the less intelligent you are said to be.

The Nazi's around this time was given an ideal of blonde hair and blue eyes.This was around the time when they were seen as superior by their followers.

Below this shows evolution as such with superiority, showing how the African traits changed more to Irish-British over time.

Shows animalistic mentality.

Hieronymous Bosch (1450 - 1516)
Christ carrying the Cross, Oil on panel, c. 1515

This painting gives the idea that Jews were responsible for the death of Christ.

This image gives the idea, that the Virgin Mary wasn't blue eyes and blonde hair such as the european stereotype portrayed usually. Caused uncertainty and uproar.

Historical Phrases of Identity:

Douglas Kellner – Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and
Politics between the Modern and the Postmodern, 1992

• Pre Modern identity – personal identity is stable – defined by long standing roles
• Modern identity – modern societies begin to offer a wider range of social roles. Possibility to start ‘choosing’ your identity, rather than simply being born into it. People start to ‘worry’ about who they are
• Post-modern identity – accepts a ‘fragmented ‘self’. Identity is constructed

Pre-Modern Identity:

Institustions determined identity.
For example, Marriage, The Church, Monachy.. 

‘Secure’ identities:

 This shows the related institutional agency with vested interest.

Farm-worker ……….  landed gentry
The Soldier  …….  The state 
The Factory Worker…  Industrial capitalism
The Housewife……  patriarchy
The Gentleman….  patriarchy
Husband-Wife (family)…..  Marriage/church

Involves hierarchies and class systems which allows little room for variation.

Modern Identity: 19th and early 20th C.

Charles Baudelaire – The Painter of Modern Life (1863)
Thorstein Veblen – Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)
Georg SimmelThe Metropolis and Mental Life (1903)

Gustave Caillebotte (1848 - 94),
Le Pont de l’Europe, 1876

Baudelaire – introduces concept of the ‘flaneur’ (gentleman-stroller).
Veblen – ‘Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure’

No equality shown between men and women, this came later on through protests in the 1970s.

It is said that by what you're wearing, within specific classes, that this is relative for not being a worker/being well off etc.

Gustave Caillebotte (1848 - 94),
Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877

Simmel Theory:
• Trickle down theory
• Emulation
• Distinction
• The ‘Mask’ of Fashion

This image shows that the high classes, and fashion conscious would be allowed into the city centre, where the upper classes and status' were, showing wealth. The lower classes wanted to be the upper classes, and kept them separate with the trickle down theory - fakes, knock off, looking like the upper classes, then they want something new. The process then repeats itself, so those in the know with money always have something new. 

   ‘The feeling of isolation is rarely as decisive and intense when one actually finds oneself physically alone, as when one is a stranger without relations, among many physically close persons, at a party, on the train, or in the traffic of a large city’ - "Geroge Simmel"
Simmel suggests that: because of the speed and mutability of modernity, individuals withdraw into themselves to find peace
He describes this as ‘the separation of the subjective from the objective life’

Post-Modern Identity:
'Discourse Analysis' - identity is constructed out of the discourses culturally available to us. This led to the notion of stereotypes and drawing stereotypes of other people.

What is discourse:
‘… a set of recurring statements that define a particular cultural ‘object’ (e.g., madness, criminality, sexuality) and
provide concepts and terms through which such an object can be studied and discussed.’ Cavallaro, (2001) 

Possible Discourses:
Sexual orientation

Discourses to be considered:

Gender  and sexuality  


To place yourself within a certain class, it is important to understand the other classes' around you and how and where
you would suitably fit.

Stereotypical Northern Pub; Men's fashion, flat caps, etc and drinking bitter.

Humphrey Spender/Mass Observation, Worktown project, 1937

The Worktown Project was carried out in Bolton as a mass obersvtion looking at different ways of live, different classes and different ideals of stereotype.

Martin Parr, New Brighton, Merseyside, from The Last Resort, 1983 - 86

Martin Parr photographs typical British lives, and how citizens carry out their day-to-day lives. He photographs them in such a way that it's slightly condescending to the audience. It also mocks the classes above them.

Martin Parr, Ascot, 2003

‘ “Society” …reminds one of a particularly shrewd, cunning and pokerfaced player in the game of life, cheating if given a chance, flouting rules whenever possible’
Bauman (2004), Identity, page 52


Martin Parr, Sedlescombe, from
Think of England, 2000-2003 

Martin Parr, Think of Germany,
Berlin, 2002 

Shows stereotypes of England and Germany, with slight playfulness and innuendo.

‘Much of the press coverage centred around accusations of misogyny because of the imagery of semi-naked, staggering and brutalised women, in conjunction with the word “rape” in the title. 
But McQueen claismed that the rape was of Scotland, not the individual models, as the theme of the show was the Jacobite rebellion’.
Evans, C. ‘Desire and Dread: Alexander McQueen and the Contemporary Femme Fatale’ in Entwistle, J. and Wilson, M., (2001), Body Dressing, Oxford, Berg, page 202

‘I didn’t like Europe as much as I liked Disney World.  At Disney World all the countries are much closer together, and
they just show you the best of each country.  Europe is more boring.  People talk strange languages and things are dirty.
Sometimes you don’t see anything interesting in Europe for days, but at Disney World something different happens all the time, and people are happy.  It’s much more fun.  It’s well designed!’


Chris Ofili No Woman, No Cry 1998 

References to African culture, Bob Marley lyrics and Rastafarian colours. The painting is created with cow dung as a stereotypical statement. How often is black culture mentioned?

Chris Ofili, Captain Shit and the
Legend of the Black Stars , 1994

This painting shows his interest with superheros and the lack of black ones. Hence the superhero created above, also painted in cow dung.

Gillian Wearing, from Signs that say what you want them to say
and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say, 1992 - 3

Is this dumbed down or is it taken to the lowest value, comparing the idea that black men are well endowed. The way they think doesn't come across with how they look aesthetically.

Alexander McQueen, It’s A Jungle Out There
collection, Autumn/Winter 1997 - 8

McQueen was in trouble for the animal aesthetics placed within the imagery above. Shows identity between black supremacy and ethnicity.

Titian, Saint Mary Magdalene, c.1532

Red hair, is this a comment on prostitution. Empowered by having red hair, opposed to being mocked. 

‘Hair has been a big issue throughout my life… It often felt that I was nothing more than my hair in other peoples’ eyes
Emily Bates, Textile Designer/Artist. Above is a dress made out of the designers hair.

This was designed by Emily Bates as a come back to identity and hair colour issues.

Gender & Sexuality:

It was stated that Fashion is predominantly female, opposed to a male industry/culture. 
‘Edmund Bergler, an American psychoanalyst writing in the 1950s, went much further, both in condemning the ugliness of fashion and in relating it to sex.  He recognised that the fashion industry is the work not of women, but of men.  Its monstrosities, he argued, were a “gigantic unconscious hoax” perpetrated on women by the arch villains of the Cold War –male homosexuals (for he made the vulgar assumption that all dress designers are “queers”).  Having first, in the 1920s, tried to turn women into boys, they had latterly expressed their secret hatred of women by forcing them into exaggerated, ridiculous, hideous clothes
Wilson, E. (1985), Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity, London, I.B. Tauris, page 94

Cover of La Garconne, by Victor Marguerite, 1922,
and ‘Garconne’ in dress by Welly Soeurs, c. 1926

It would of been shocking in 1922, with the model revealing her legs for the camera/audience.

Below is Cindy Sherman showing the mask of femininity. 

Women are still seen as a minority within most industries such as design.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Stills, 1977 - 80

Gillian Wearing, Lynne, 1993 - 6
T-shirt states "I might not be great but I have great breasts" ironic with the 'wet t-shirt' style photograph.
Sexualising adverts with femininity or the female figure. 

Wonderbra Ad, 1990s

Sam Taylor-Wood, Portrait
(Fuck, Suck, Spank, Wank), 1993.  

Photographer here address issues between men and women, by placing herself in the photography, rather than hiring a female and objectifying them compared to men. 

The Post-Modern Condition: Liquid Modernity and Liquid Love

• Identity is constructed through our social experience.
• Erving Goffman The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959)
• Goffman saw life as ‘theatre’, made up of ‘encounters’ and ‘performances’
• For Goffman the self is a series of facades 

We take on different personalities, identities and perform in different ways in different situations, social situations and classes etc..

Zygmunt Bauman - Writer and Lecturer at Leeds Met Uni.

‘Yes, indeed, “identity” is revealed to us only as something to be invented rather than discovered; as a target of an effort, “an objective”’ 

Books written: 

Identity (2004)
Liquid Modernity  (2000)
Liquid Love (2003)

‘In airports and other public spaces, people with mobile-phone headset attachments walk around, talking aloud and alone, like paranoid schizophrenics, oblivious to their immediate surroundings.
Introspection is a disappearing act. Faced with moments alone in their cars, on the street or at supermarket checkouts, more and more people do not collect their thoughts, but scan their mobile phone messages for shreds of evidence that someone, somewhere may need or want them.’
Andy Hargreaves (2003), Teaching in the Knowledge Society: Education in the Age of Insecurity, Open University Press, page 25

Rene Descartes
(1596 – 1650),
‘I think therefore I am’ (Discourse on Method, 1637)

Barbara Kruger, I shop therefore I am, 1987

This was adapted by Barbra Kruger through her juxtaposed work. She took Descartes philosophies and updated it by referring it to modern day issues such as shopping. 

Superficial identities created by the things we own and buy:

Barbra Kruger, Selfridges Shopping Centre, 2006.
In store advertising for a sale.

“The typical cultural spectator of postmodernity is viewed as a largely home centred and increasingly solitary player who, via various forms of ‘telemediation’ (stereos, game consoles, videos and televisions), revels in a domesticated (i.e. private and tamed) ‘world at a distance’”
Darley (2000), Visual Digital Culture, p.187

“The notion ‘you are who you pretend to be’ has a mythic resonance.  The Pygmalion story endures because it
speaks to a powerful fantasy: that we are not limited by our histories, that we can be recreated or can recreate
ourselves... Virtual worlds provide environments for experiences that may be hard to come by in the real”

Sherry Turkle (1994), Constructions and Reconstructions of the Self in Virtual Reality
‘In the brave new world of fleeting chances and frail securities, the old-style stiff and non-negotiable identities
simply won’t do’
Bauman (2004), Identity, page 27

‘ “Identity” is a hopelessly ambiguous idea and a double-edged sword.  It may be a war-cry of individuals, or of the communities that wish to be imagined by them.  At one time the edge of identity is turned against “collective pressures” by individuals who resent conformity and hold dear their own ways of living (which “the group” would decry as prejudices) and their own ways of living (which “the group” would condemn as cases of “deviation” or “silliness”, but at any rate of abnormality, needing to be cured or punished’
Bauman (2004), Identity, page 76