'...the face becomes a kind of metaphor utilized to describe specific temporal and spatial dimensions of the other. 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. The spatial location of the face is vertical and proximate. The other “approaches me not from outside but from above,” Levinas says (1969:171). The face is commanding—behind the confident smiles, articulated laughs, and sociable expressions the face is the vital singularity that guarantees nothing more than “there is,” 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. To this end, Levinas uses the language of hostage, persecution, and obsession to speak of the power that the other has over the self in the face-to-face encounter (1978). In what seems to be radical resistance to liberal sensibilities, Levinas posits this, a certain responsibility before rights, prior to the equality of the social contract. The self is not asked, for example, to simply feed the hungry with “a gift of the heart, but [rather] of bread from one’s mouth, of one’s own mouthful of bread” (1978:74).' (p. 33-4)

The Other:

'...“the other” simply refers to another person; the person who stands before the self. What defines this other person is absolute otherness. There is something about the other that cannot be synthesized like any other object, something that eludes the understanding of the self. Levinas calls this the “face.” The face is not simply an assemblage of features such as eyes, nose, cheeks, and jowl. It is also the singularity of an impression that is absolutely unique, a “trace,” expressive of a person’s vitality and vulnerability. For Levinas, the face reveals absolute otherness, singularity, in the other person.'

The Same:

'...“the same” applies to everything Western thought can understand. It is intelligibility, rationalization, system, structure, teleology, identity, and being. The same is not internally consistent, though. The same is constituted through a certain break from “the other,” such as disavowal, ignorance, or anxiety, always a relationship with otherness nonetheless. But this relationship is regularly eclipsed in modes of thought bent on totality and teleology. Levinas says this “reduction of the other to the same” mirrors the story of Ulysses, who “from every adventure returns to his island”.'

Levinas's Ethics and Ethnography:

Central considerations enabled by Levinas's ethics and conception of the other for anthropologists and other ethnographers, why "ethics precedes knowledge and politics in the practice of ethnographic field research":
  1. "the primacy of 'the other' and powerful images of travel ... provoke critical reflection about the fundamental role of alterity and location in ethnographic fieldwork"
  2. by focusing on "the process rather than the product of ethnographic fieldwork", ethnographers may "consider the ethics and politics of the face-to-face encounter between ethnographer and informant as well as secondary textual representations"
  3. "against the overwhelmingly liberal conversation regarding ethics..." and "against a model of ethics premised upon rights and equality... the self is infinitely responsible for the other and that this unequal and hierarchical encounter defines ethics"

'...the practice of fieldwork is set within face-to-face encounters that are both prefigured and potentially unpredictable, premised upon privilege and unequal access to representational authority and capable of shifting subject positions. The encounter with another person in the “field” can be an opportunistic chance to pin down class status, religious cosmology, cultural assumptions, or political leanings based simply on impressions and words, or on the mapping of a territory that the ethnographer has, in large measure, already drawn up. As Levinas writes, “individuals are reduced to being bearers of forces that command them unbeknown to themselves. The meaning of individuals (invisible outside of this totality) is derived from the totality ... [and] each present is incessantly sacrificed to a future appealed to bring forth its objective being” (1969:22).' (p. 37-8)


'...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. Here, the self begins to depart from “totality” and moves toward an “exterior.” Encounters with forms of life, experiences, and knowledges that are unexpected, what Levinas calls the “face” becomes the basis for an ethics that departs from the self-centering attitude...' (p. 33)

The source of responsibility (contra 'rights'):

'...humans are born into the world amidst a series of relationships that are not chosen and that cannot be ignored (Hutchens 2004:19). The human self, the subject, is constituted out of and preceded by these social relationships. Because the subject is inherently social, it is amidst this sociality that the face-to-face relationship with another person reveals the mutuality of existing in an immediate, visceral form. The face makes the other’s vulnerability apparent and makes the self responsible, someone with the potential to do violence. The self becomes infinitely responsible without having done anything wrong or made a decision to be embroiled in the other person’s life—what Levinas calls an “epiphany” (1969:213). The self is forever more responsible for the other than for itself. Self-preservation and sovereignty come “after” this original responsibility: “We name this calling into question of my spontaneity by the presence of the Other ethics” (1969:37). (p. 33)

Derrida's argument that Levinas's ethics is "split by an irreconcilable impasse that undermines the stability of his ethical program from the beginning":

'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.' (p. 40)


'The culture of ethical despair is described as follows by one commentator on Levinas, and in many ways it was this extreme awareness about things that paradoxically led Levinas away from the seemingly natural and moral desire to act:

'The despair is cultured in the sense of its erudite awareness of the extent and complexity of many forms of injustice; and the knowledge of the extent of injustice is accompanied by despair, in the sense of being unable to act in defiance of that injustice. [Welch 2000:104]

'It was not that Levinas was opposed to action, or to acts that Scheper-Hughes calls “world-saving” and “world-repair” (Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois 2004:26–27). Rather, because, for him, actors come to see themselves as sovereign, righteous, on the “right side,” or even powerful, Levinas seems concerned with a certain risk inherent in such acts. For Levinas, clear-minded and principles-based moral actions can actually distract people from ethics, which is always more basic than moral principles and even the infinite check on moralities. Levinas’s skepticism about moral action ultimately turns on his idea that ethics happens in face-to-face encounters and that something crucial falls out from the breadth of morality. Falling out, Levinas argues, is a distinct kind of care in which what matters for the other person always takes precedence over what matters for the self (Kleinman and Benson 2004; Kleinman 1999b).'

'The intersubjective relation is a nonsymmetrical relation. It is precisely as the relationship between the Other and me is not reciprocal that I am subjected to no Other; and I am “subject” essentially in this sense. It is I who support all. You know that sentence in 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.' (p. 44)

'Levinas never did produce a systematic ethic (Chalier 2002). His work dealt only with the human condition at the level of metaphysics, with the pre-cultural immediacy of an idealized face-to-face. As discussed above, Levinas does not think that ethical responsibility for the other is only a situational imperative, but rather the constituting force of the human condition.' (p. 44)

Brazil 1985 baby face mask.jpg

Paul Farmer on structural violence:

'...structural violence is often perpetuated on the basis of visibility. Certain factors are seen as “causes” of suffering (and/or disease) while others are overlooked, as when government policies and programs focus on individual behaviors, ignoring underlying systemic conditions.He encourages anthropologists to scrutinize dominant frames of perception that remove historical and societal forces from an account of how structural violence, attendant inequalities, and responses are constituted.' (p. 593)

What of this optocentric metaphor?

'Given this emphasis on visibility, a field such as the phenomenology of perception would seem indispensable to the anthropology of structural violence. However, the strategies Farmer outlines for opening new fields of vision are premised on a positivism that involves the integration of more bodies of scientific or objective knowledge. He writes, “[the] anthropology of violence necessarily draws on history and biology, just as it necessarily draws on political economy. To tally body counts correctly requires epidemiology, forensic and clinical medicine, and demography. The erasure of these broad bodies of knowledge may be seen as the central problematic of a robust anthropology of structural violence” (Farmer 2004:308). 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. Oftentimes, the problem is not that suffering is invisible or its causes unknown. Individuals and whole groups can have something at stake in actively overlooking and taking distance from other people’s suffering. “Oppression is a result of many conditions,” Farmer writes, “not the least of which reside in consciousness” (2004:307).' (p. 593-4)
Levinas on violence and faciality:

"...harm is meaningless if understood as directed at an inanimate object (1969:225). One cannot harm a stone, for example (Kosky 2001:39). Violence can only target an animate and sensate existence, which, for Levinas, is signaled in the human face. The face is different than objects in that it bears the trace of the infinite alterity of the other person (i.e., the other’s singularity) and thereby confounds cognition, eludes masterful powers of perception. The face cannot be “synthesized” like any old object (Levinas 1969:33). Individuals, in their singular existence, are irreducible to totalized representations, such as “culture” or “ethnicity” (Benson and O’Neill 2007; Kleinman and Benson 2006). The face’s singularity also means, for Levinas, that the face is always the face of vulnerability (1969:251) because it can be materially or symbolically annihilated. According to Levinas, it is the sentient face—the singular existence of the other person—that totalizing representations, physical acts of brutality, and systemized forms of violence target, and this is why he says, “Violence can aim only at a face.”' (p. 595)

"the dead exceed plurality and become instead a dense and indistinguishable mass" (p. 480)... What's Canetti have to say about this, Todd?

“It could be argued that religions begin with invisible crowds. They may be differently grouped, and in each faith a different balance between them has developed. It would be both possible and fruitful to classify religions according to the way in which they manipulate their invisible crowds.” Canetti later depicts the opposition of the crowds of the dead to the crowd of the living as essential not only for social cohesion but for despotism as well. He writes, “The two crowds keep each other alive.” (p. 495)

"the now-established practice of anthropological self-understanding through reflection on the concept of translation":
Morris's "destabilization of the translation paradigm, which she refracts through Derrida and Benjamin, and thus through the concepts of difference, time, deferral, loss, and materiality, is welcome within this practice. This said, Morris (2000:14–19, 41–42, 46–52) leaves representation itself intact as a frame of knowing and for organizing the production of ethnography. The creative, empirical, and pragmatic “writing of difference” (as opposed to “traversing of difference”) Deleuze and Guattari propose in their reading of Kafka is glimpsed by Morris only as an excessive possibility beyond the limits of translation as she understands it, as when she proposes the “production of a fabulously hybridized English, something novel and manifold” to adequately convey the poetry with which she opens her text. Talal Asad likewise detects the limits of translation, and proposes “dramatic performance, the execution of a dance, or the playing of a piece ofmusic” (1986:159) as more up to the work of evoking difference." (p. 495)

a bro is someone that assumes that any space that they enter is meant to cater to augmenting their personal experience. they "don't give a fuck," even at the expense of everyone around them. regardless of the presence of oppressive and problematic behavior, a bro will tirelessly try to appear aloof. a bro cares about doing interesting things only when enough people are watching. interesting things, to a bro, are shocking, ironic, edgy, but vapid activities that are manipulated according to the environment. a bro is too cowardly to express anything sincere.- +HIRS+
a bro is someone that assumes that any space that they enter is meant to cater to augmenting their personal experience. they "don't give a fuck," even at the expense of everyone around them. regardless of the presence of oppressive and problematic behavior, a bro will tirelessly try to appear aloof. a bro cares about doing interesting things only when enough people are watching. interesting things, to a bro, are shocking, ironic, edgy, but vapid activities that are manipulated according to the environment. a bro is too cowardly to express anything sincere.- +HIRS+