Faciality 1, 2, 4

Questions I had after today’s reading:

Faciality seems to be a moving target in Benson (and O’Neill’s) project? In the ethics piece, it is relational, explaining an approach to the interpersonal experience that would be more process oriented- asking for a willingness to be marked by the other. It addresses the heavy responsibility of being invested in every other. An impossible ethic. Is it useful to have such an impossible ethic, especially if that is the process of research? Can this become *too* destabilizing or draining?

There is violence involved, a break from ethics, from infinite responsibility, in any interpersonal encounter.”

In the second piece, Benson’s faciality is marked by the world, an empirical map of systems of power and control. This piece made me nervous because it is, inevitably, one sided. Levinas desires a constant receptivity to be marked which is contrary to the ways in which people adapt to asymmetric social relations. Who should be open to be marked? Who has power? If ethics precede knowledge/ politics… do they? Can they?
I basically want to talk about Trisha and unpack this expectation.

Benson and O’Neill. “Facing risk: Levinas, Ethnography, and Ethics.”

“theorize the process rather than the product of ethnographic fieldwork” (30).

“That is, we argue that ethics precedes knowledge and politics in the practice of ethnographic field research. It is, phenomenologically speaking, more fundamental” (31).

“That is when they change not simply for the self and its interests, but rather for the sake of new kinds of collective affiliations across interpersonal and intercultural boundaries. Hence, as our title suggests, ethnography is always a matter of risk for researchers” (31).

“Lapping prose” – performative, hyperbolic

“Levinas turns his own logic on itself. He writes in circles and avoids making conclusions. This style partly mimics his concern with radical alterity and “infinity”’ (32).

“For Levinas, there are two kinds of travel. One kind is envisioned as a return to “the same,” provoking no substantive transformation in the self’s thought and attitudes. In this case, movement across space and encounters with other beings do not change the traveler, but rather reinforce the kind of person that the traveler was before the journey. Another kind of travel is a journey away from the self, in which one is dissociated from the familiar, the comfortable, and the recognizable” (33).

“The time of the face is that which is without power, destitute and vulnerable, capable of dying, naked no matter how the other might be clothed, powerless no matter how robust the other might be” (33).

the fact that the other person is capable of being killed and that, as someone capable of executing such an event, the self is always already bound by this ethical relationship” (33-4).

My inability to connect on a spiritual level demonstrates the ambiguity of fieldwork as something that is at once designed and always practiced” (36).

“Here, the phenomenological account of fieldwork resembles Levinas’s account of the unstable quality of any totality. Just as Levinas cautioned against the reduction of infinity–otherness–to the same, Castañeda highlights the teleology that reduces the contingent and vital flow of fieldwork to the planned production of a research report, such as a monograph” (36).

“The methodological advantage of this ever ambivalent mode of empathy, the “love” is that it helps maintain a productive but potentially irritating and emotionally risky sense of incomplete control that constantly nudges a researcher into critical self-reflection about the cultural and moral assumptions that guide research design and analysis. Such an orientation thus rubs against, without simply or completely overturning, the totalizing sense of control that disallows a marking of the self by the others and reduces the meaning of alterity to the researcher’s own political, moral, and epistemological concerns” (38).

“For Levinas, the self is infinitely responsible, which means that one is responsible not just for the other, a single individual, but indeed for all others, for all individuals. It is in the face of the other that responsibility is articulated, embraced, and enacted, and yet it is likewise there that one delimits one’s responsibility and thus fails to accomplish what Levinas calls ethics (Chalier 2002). There is violence involved, a break from ethics, from infinite responsibility, in any interpersonal encounter. When I take up the imperative to act here I am failing to carry out responsibilities that lie both there and there (40).

“Such first principles would seem to bring us into the realm of what Levinas calls a “morality,” predicated upon a totality, which is much different than “ethics” and meant to emphasize the contingency of encounter” (41).

“As typified in the debate between D’Andrade and Scheper-Hughes, anthropologists have responded by either stepping back into the confidence of objectivity and the self-defined frame of knowing about the world of others or stepping forward into the closeness of engagement. The latter becomes a new politics of anthropological responsibility that claims to depart from the problematic history of anthropology by emphasizing solidarity and equality with informants. In both cases, intimacy is refigured as unnecessary and dangerous to the research project or as having lost that colonial baggage that was finally realized in solidarity and engagement. Yet, the participation of both of these positions in a stark division between subject and object, self and other, suggests complicity with the very legacies of Western power and knowledge from which they claim to depart” (42-3).

“Yet, Levinas is not constructing an outlet for people to avoid real political action where they come, instead, to see themselves as living pious lives. Such an attitude could not be more antithetical to Levinas’s emphasis that the self is responsible to all others and is never in control of, nor can delimit responsibility so as to call it one’s own” (44).

Dostoevsky: ‘We are all guilty of all and for all men before all, and I more than the others.’ This is . . . because I am responsible for a total responsibility, which answers for all the others and for all in the others, even for their responsibility” (44).

“Following Levinas, this “break” is paradoxically constituted, a deconstructive basis for ethics. Ethics would depend upon a passivity that is actively assumed and maintained on the subject’s part. It is maintained on the part of some “one” who, in the face-to-face, is not yet fully a subject with autonomy.

“It was essentially about a certain kind of interpersonal relationship, one which led to an experience of passivity and, in turn, to the transformative possibilities of being marked by others” (47).

“… give way to ethical sensibilities enlivened by an ethics of risk that respects the impossibility of the human ethical condition and takes this impossibility as a starting point for the open enactment of Das’s (1998) “love of anthropology,” not just the concrete opportunity, but also the active maintenance of an affinity to being marked, even irritated, by what the other cares about and experiences” (49).

“it is nonetheless crucial that we not also lose the gift of ethnography. This gift is the imperative to first be marked by the other’s knowledge and to what the other cares about, impersonally and gratuitously, prior to taking a stand. As Lingis has said, “to be afflicted with another’s suffering requires that we care about the things the sufferer cares for” (2000:50)” (51).

Benson. “El Campo: Faciality and structural violence in farm labor camps.”

“But an adequate understanding of how visibility sustains or challenges structural violence must involve ethnographic and phenomenological accounts of the frames of perception through which people interpret relations of inequality, experience familiarity and alterity, and respond to suffering. It is not only scientific knowledge that influences the visibility or invisibility of suffering and harm but also subjective acts of meaning making, patterns of moral reasoning, and cultural logics of accountability that can encourage people to look at suffering (and each other) in particular ways” (594).

“When some people look at a migrant farmworker they do not see a sentient face that bears witness to the vulnerability of existence and commands the self to infinite responsibility and hospitality, as in the ethics idealized by Emmanuel Levinas (1969, 1981, 1998). They see someone who, despite living down the country road in a labor camp and doing the backbreaking work of harvesting the area’s tobacco crop, does not belong to the fabric of “who is here with us,” excluded from what counts as community” (594).

“The term faciality (visageite) comes from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987), whose analytic of power emphasizes the social production of faces, how faces are perceived in light of media images, social typologies, and power relations: “the face, the power of the face, engenders and explains social power”’ (596).

“You don’t so much have a face as slide into one” (596).
Faciality is thus constituted in a “zone of frequency or probability” involving the coproduction of empirical features and their significance” (597).

“This is what is meant by campo—a metaphoric expression used to disparage structural violence and facialize its inhospitable and menacing character. Wages are campo not simply because they are meager, but because they are part of an unremitting slap in the face that plasters symbolic denigration into the materiality of such things as a paycheck or a labor camp” (598).

“From the standpoint of Levinasian ethics, what Craig idealizes as “face time” falls short of being an ethical relationship. This is not because Craig directly causes some kind of harm to workers, but rather because his engagement with them is already couched within a particular set of relations embedded in economic transactions and dependencies” (600).

“That workers are blanketed with blame depends on forms of social stigma and cultural conceptions of alterity marshaled by nonmigrants to reassert status hierarchies, distance themselves from the trash associated with migrants, and justify squalor” (601).

“It was “evidence of a particular way of seeing” (2002:66), a regime of visibility, a lens that pleasurably examined things from afar with a keen interest in discerning and reasserting hierarchies of cultural difference and moral value. The particular spatial sensitivity to aesthetic aspects of human habitation and exchange that defined this colonial gaze was evidence of a more generalized mode of perception and technology of power that, Chakrabarty stresses, underwrites the very grammar of modernity, including visceral sensibilities about public health, a tendency to equate filth with otherness, and knee-jerk responses to disorder” (603).

“But it is in wanting “my community” to be clean and safe that she excludes forms of life and embodiment that are different from her own, stops short of being able to understand difference or discomfort in the context of broad scale conditions and diverging norms, and grounds a narrow image of belonging in stereotypes and misunderstanding. Levinas wants people like Trisha to see in the faces of migrants singular traces of a vulnerable existence and to be held hostage at that sight, infinitely responsible for their well-being and unconditionally hospitable, an experience Levinas calls “epiphany” (1969:213). … In practice, this interpersonal dynamic is rare. The temporal and spatial coordinates of alterity are culturally shaped and politically consequential” (603-4).

“matter out of place” (606).


“The legitimizing force of the law is experienced as a double negative: the poster announces that the camp is not not regulated, compounding the sense that depravity is sanctioned, even deserved. It legitimizes conditions…” (609).

“… the mime achieves an allegorical effect, objectifies the Face of the on-the-go culture of capitalism as the driving force behind (or inside) the seemingly autonomous and self-motivated suit. This release of symbolic energy, unmasking of a secret, defacing of a Face, is what rouses laughter among the crowd, not just the impersonation” (610).

“It builds an affective bridge that recognizes in the boss’s earnestness and nervousness the heaviness of a system that bears down on both men and makes the boss look mean” (613).

“vector of harm when networked in globalized systems of production and consumption” (613).

“facializes them”
“the conditions destroy the facility”
“This spatial imaginary helps us understand why the toilet is seen as discriminatory. Workers describe the law as a racialized form of isolation that makes defecation into a public spectacle, moves them and their bodies into the light of day” (618).

“In practice, the toilet interferes with a fleeting experience of freedom and spatializes human biological processes as properly belonging to the campo; shitting is dispossessed, brought from the woods into the john owned by the boss. This biopolitics of defecation reproduces a regime of visibility in which individual bodies” (619).

“international agricultural restructuring, persistent government neglect, and cultural barriers such as stereotyping collude to create a context of ethical variability in which farm labor seems undignified and deserving of squalid conditions and inadequate social response” (619).

“In addition to macro political-economic forces, the perpetuation and justification of structural violence on tobacco farms is the result of a mode of active perception. Faciality is coproduced alongside structural violence and is part of the social constitution of the specific landscapes on which symbolic and material forms of violence are played out” (620).

“Growers are a node through which harm passes and at which it is localized” (621).

Ochoa. “Versions of the dead: Kalunga, Cuban-Kongo Materiality, and Ethnography.”

“Her face was her principal device for creating an atmosphere of consequence in which her ever repeating words weighed with self-evident importance” (474).

“‘It won’t be your enemy that kills you, but rather a friend’” (476).

“The range of his interpretation extended to the moral valuations produced by right and left in social life, such that to the right corresponds “the idea of sacred power, regular and beneficent, the source of everything that is good, favourable and legitimate,” while the left holds that which is illegitimate, impure, unstable, maleficent and dreaded” (477).

“that concept being the “negative sacred,” where attraction is connected to repulsion in sprawling concatenations of force, at once seductive and frightening” (478).

“Writing about Palo and its ideas of the dead and matter requires disrupting habits of thought and writing in anthropology that are rooted in the Western philosophical tradition. Palo is too unexpected in its basic assumptions about the status of matter, the dead, and the living, to be seamlessly assimilated into the prevailing ethnographic modes of analysis as these are defined, above all, by their adherence to regimes of knowing organized under the signs of negation, identity, and being” (479).

“a foreign language within her own Spanish tongue, so that Palo’s dead might survive its encounter with my text and continue to resonate, vibrate, with a force of its own” (480).

“The stakes involved in creating this foreign language for Palo within our own English-language social science are the same as those involved in the primary questions of discourse and power, of the generation (or preservation) of authority in and through representation, which are simultaneously the stakes involved in the profoundly ethical questions regarding the continued existence, or not, of content in its encounter with form, which is to say, of fieldwork in its encounter with the genre (disciplinary) precedents of ethnography.”

“Because of the “minor” quality of these events, because they lack status as empirical measures in the human sciences, it took me many months of working with Isidra before I could bring myself to give them due place in my fieldwork, let alone my theoretical understanding of Palo” … “Thus, Kalunga was tangibly learned as radically subjective perceptions at the absolute limits of sentience and credibility, felt subjectively yet collectively influential, and, in the case of Palo, recognized and taught as significant turns of the dead. Kalunga, if it was to be grasped at all, had to be felt first, as a gentle turn of the stomach” (483).

“There are gendered dimensions to this opening of Hegel’s, which, from the perspective of a 21st-century sensibility, appear remarkably clichéd in staging receptivity as a mode of experience hopelessly inferior to that of penetration, and holding separation and entering into as sovereign over fluidity, receptivity, and Immediacy” (487).