Posted by: glue | September 7, 2008

Taarof

EmerAgency consulting in an Internet public sphere assumes an understanding of cyberpidgin, the emerging global syncretic language.  The primary contribution of the West to this exchange is media stars, celebrity icons.  The Unwest contributes states of mind.  Anyone constructing a grammar of this discourse could exploit the structuralist principle of relational difference.  Signifiers acquire meaning within systems of difference.  Any syntagm is likely to have its own inverse opposite.  CeleBritney takes on linguistic status in relation to a veiled Muslim woman.

Veiled Threats

The UnBritney

The images of un/covered women express different cultural assumptions at every level.  Neal Gabler, in Life: the Movie, found that celebrities still experienced their becoming image not as the invention of a behavior for a new apparatus but as the traditional literate struggle to find out who they really are and achieve an authentic and coherent identity.  This Western model of identity is echoed in the negotiating style of American diplomats, who take a direct approach in their foreign policy dealings.

The Iranians, on the other hand, assume a stance of insincerity, for reasons rooted in their historical experience.  This stance has a name — taarof — as described by Michael Slackman.  The term names a central behavior of the society in which people separate out and treat independently of one another the different tracks of their communication.  “Muhammad Atrianfar, publisher of the reform-minded daily newspaper Shargh, said Iranians find Americans easy to deal with because they are straightforward. That, he implied, could give Iranians an advantage in any negotiations. But for Americans to understand Iranians, he said, they must recognize that with Iranians, ‘the mind thinks something, the heart feels something else, the tongue says something else, and manners do something else. It doesn’t mean people are lying,’ he said. ‘They are just dealing with you with a different character.’”

In fact, Slavoj Zizek has described a similar behavior in Western people, although one that perhaps functions primarily at an unconscious level.  An example would be a hypothetical Obama campaign offer of the Vice Presidency to Hillary Clinton (they wouldn’t mean it, and she wouldn’t accept it).  It is the offer that cannot be accepted.  In any case, any named behavior (be/have), attitude, state of mind, aesthetic principle and the like, should be tagged and circulated for becoming avatars.

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Responses

  1. Self or Hood?

    The differences between the looks of American and Iranian Women expresses a difference in identity formation. Apparatus theory (grammatology) reminds us that “selfhood” as an experience and behavior is an invention of Western civilization, relative to but not determined by alphabetic literacy. The Persians and the Chinese, for example, had writing systems, but did not develop the subject formation of “self.” Western and Non-Western peoples, in other words, are entering electrate subject formation from different identity constructions, and are exchanging features and qualities in a syncretic process. The West is adding “Creole” to its previous syncretism of Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian civilizations.


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