Fetish bondage

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In this episode, Breann Fallon talks to Professor J. Podcast: Play in new window Download. Subscribe: RSS. A transcript for this episode is available below. Lorand Matory of Duke University on the topic of fetishism. Matory highlights his re-thinking of fetishism, particularly in the way it critiques how social theories are treated as self-existent and contextless ideas from superior fetish bondage minds. In doing so, Matory shows the importance of turning our gaze back onto the theorists from which our methodologies stem. In particular, he draws our attention to the problematic links to slavery used in typical dom-sub hierarchies of BDSM practices.

Fund the RSP while you shop! Use an Amazon. Want to support us directly? Become a monthly Patron or consider giving us a one-time donation through PayPal. Lorand Matory. It concerned the competitive and hierarchical nature of ethnic identity formation. In recognition of his outstanding scholarship, he also served from to as the James P.

It considers what I would call a controversial theory, the one of fetishism. Very good. The fetish bondage of fetishism is fundamentally the accusation that a certain action or object has been ased value improperly, has been ased excessive value, or has wrongly had agency or power attributed to it.

The classical referent of this term is the gods of Egypt and other parts of Africa, whom Enlightenment thinkers thought had been credited with powers that they did not have and with value that they lacked. Yes, Marx, Freud, [Friedrich] Hegelthe list is endless. Would we say, though, that the fetish really started more as a colonial endeavor with, you know, white colonials naming the practices or beliefs of people of color?

Let me go back a little bit farther, though. Roman Catholic inquisitors regarded this as a form of crime—as an inappropriate use of the sacred and inappropriate attribution of value and power to objects. So, these women were persecuted for it. Soon thereafter, Portuguese mariners who visited the West-African coast and engaged in disputes with West-Africans about the value of the goods that the Portuguese were selling and the value of the goods that the Africans were selling and so forth—these Portuguese mariners accused the Africans of fetishism for what they thought was overvaluing certain goods, and undervaluing certain goods, and attributing powers to objects that Africans regarded as sacred, and the Portuguese mariners did not.

Over the next few centuries, Dutch mariners also visited the West-African coast and ended up accusing not only African priests and traders with attributing value and agency wrongly to objects, but also accused the Portuguese themselves of attributing value and agency wrongly to objects. It was part of a Dutch Protestant critique of Roman Catholicism because, as everybody knows, the Catholics are really great at creating and assembling gorgeous objects to manifest the power of their god.

But this was fetish bondage to Northern European Protestantism. Amid the Enlightenment, various thinkers, such as Charles de Brossesborrowed this term to criticize European social forms such as European royalty and aristocracy, the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, and its forms of power and worship. Those were criticized as forms of fetishism, again, ostensibly analogously to what all these European intellectuals seem to agree was the definitive foolishness of Africans.

By the late 19th century, yes, this this term was reappropriated in the analysis of what made Europe ostensibly different from the rest of the world, carrying with it the assumption that there was something uniquely right, uniquely true, about European materialism, European monotheism, and definitionally wrong about the attribution of agency, value, and souls to trees, to stones, to rivers, to the ocean, and so forth.

And so, to this very day, many scholars bring to the analysis of the world the sense that human beings are uniquely conscious; human creations and nature are uniquely material; and that the things that we create and the non-human animals, rivers, trees, oceans around us are a categorically different type of entity or thing that lacks agency and whose value is determined by people. And it contrasts sharply with a set of ways of thinking in the Afro-Atlantic world fetish bondage really much of the world generally.

Fetish bondage

South Asia provides numerous examples in which people are understood to be products of many forces within the universe and not merely autonomous individuals. And likewise, rivers, trees, plants, the air, upon which we depend for our very existence, are agents of their own and have forms of value that are autonomous from what use human beings put them to. And those ways of thinking are regularly criticized by those of us who embrace fully the message of the Enlightenment as somehow foolish and not recognizing a truth that we Enlightenment-influenced thinkers do recognize.

Now, your book, it offers a rethinking of fetishism. So much so as to say that it critiques the very way we think about social theories as self-existent, and we often work with them without placing them in the context from which they originally stepped. Fetish bondage scrutinizing the context of fetishism in the book, what do you want to illuminate for the reader about fetishism and about social theories?

Or, who deserves the credit for what is done with that object. Are you with me so far? So, I find this particular trope fascinating to think by. That is, in a globalized world, in a local world, in a world between hierarchically arranged partners in any given relationship, there is always disagreement about the value of the objects that helped their relationship fetish bondage function.

That is to say, for example, if a worker and a capitalist are both involved cooperatively in the production of a commodity, the worker has a stake in emphasizing how much of the value in that commodity the worker produced, and the capitalist has a stake in emphasizing how much of the value the capitalist him- or herself produced. And social life is fighting over what the real value of a thing is.

Therefore, the entire sales value rightfully belongs to the worker. And again, he dismisses the capitalist pretense that the owner of capital, the capitalist, really deserves that value by analogizing the capitalist to an African fetishist.

Fetish bondage

He or she is just denying the real value of object, the real source of that value, and the real agency that produced that object. Workers certainly deserve a fair wage and a fair living wage for their contribution to that manufacturer.

His argument included an explicit assertion that the enslaved workers who produced, for example, a large amount of the cotton that was being processed in European industrial fetish bondage were inefficient, lazy because they were owned and would always be fed. And by contrast, he argued that the injustice done to the slave is merely a pedestal for the illustration of the suffering and the highly efficient productivity of the European wage worker.

He cast the European wage worker as the real avant-garde and the person truly worthy of the dictatorship of the proletariat that will issue in a world of justice—that is, socialism and communism—but ignores the revolutionary efforts of the enslaved Africans that came even before any socialist revolution in Europe, namely the Haitian Revolution. And then he ended up being part of the German labor diaspora that was in England—in London—among other places, and he earned his wage by selling newspaper articles to North American newspapers.

And so his defense of a class of people that he resembled was at the root of his theory of the fetishism of commodities. And it shifted agency, credit, and value from black workers to white workers. So, the usual pretense, to answer your question, is that European social theory was generated by these geniuses who just came up with their ideas out of thin air, but my argument is that both religions and European social theories are generated by real human beings with fetish bondage material interests, who regularly refer to objects and images of objects and credit those objects with value and agency in ways that are biased by their own social condition and their own aspirations.

Does that render fetishism unusable as a methodology—this problematic context from whence it came? I hope not. And they have rival images—they assert rival images of what the worth of that object is, and who deserves credit for that object and its worth. I think social life is inherently a competitive debate over the value, agency, and control over objects. Yet, this object is usually targeted at the most vulnerable populations.

That is to say, the Enlightenment, and the democracies that emerged from the thinking it generated, were arguments that the European bourgeoisie deserved the same rights as the European aristocracy. And yet, after the Haitian Revolution, when Africans really exemplified this advanced consciousness, this effort to advance justice…and yet, as a result of the French fetish bondage enormous indemnities upon Haiti, Haiti degenerated into a dictatorship.

So, it seems to me that Hegel argued, in his subsequent work, that the difference between bourgeois Germans—that is, non-aristocratic, non-royal Germans—and Africans who advocated for a more democratic form of rule was that Africans are fetishists.

Fetish bondage

But you know, of course, we know that Germans generation after generation made a mess of democracy, I mean, culminating in the rise of the Nazis. Democracy is not an easy thing to execute any place fetish bondage the world. Social equality is not easy to institute any place in the world. But my point being that the argument that somebody is practicing fetishism is usually not an even-handed criticism. And I would like to point out the hypocrisy with which some people assert their superiority to others, to the shifting of the value and agency of objects.

Yet, I hesitate to use it because, for example, museums of African art have worked very, very hard to reclassify African sacred objects as art, equivalent in quality, in their culturally educational value and worth, to the European objects called art. And the thing they fear the greatest is a resurrection of the tendency to call these objects fetishes, with the implication that they lack worth and that the people who produce them are somehow less worthy than Europeans are.

And it so automatically triggers Western European ideas about the inherent superiority of post-Enlightenment thinking and its prototypical bearers—that is, white men—and the unworthiness of people of color. And that contrasting evaluation of human beings is deeply embedded in in Marxist thought. And this was at a time, mind you, when lynching was at its height, and the kinds of fetishism he was describing were the inappropriate asment of sexual value to objects. That is to say, he fetish bondage a large of European men and women who were deeply aroused by objects like fur hats, boots, noses, garters, and so forth.

He was speaking from a male point of view. It was therefore a fetish. But he had this theory that every boy, at some age between age one and age five, when he notices that his mother does not have a penis, understands his mother to lack a penis, and infers that she lacks that penis because the father cut fetish bondage off. So great was the fear he experienced, this boy, of castration, that he decided that he would renounce his efforts to keep possession of the mother, obey the order of the father, and wait for the day when he himself, with his penis, could be the master of a woman.

And he felt that the boys who were too traumatized by this site of a penis-less crotch on their mother, were thereafter afraid of that crotch, and they displaced their fear—that is, they did not want to face the fear of castration.

So, they displaced their memory of that moment, of seeing the penis-less crotch of their mother, onto the object that they had seen just a moment before. It became a source of arousal that became necessary in their sex lives subsequently. And he argued that this phenomenon among neurotic Europeans was very much like the projections that European children make, and very much like the inappropriate attribution of sacred value that Africans direct toward their sacred objects.

Fetish bondage

So, one of the examples he gave was the example of le coupeurs de nattes. It was a man who was tremendously aroused by sneaking up on a sleeping woman and cutting off her braid, which enacted the castration. So, Freud, in his article on fetishism insaid the most exciting of fetishes are objects that embody these contrary positions, these contrary positionalities and perspectives within the actor him- or herself, especially himself.

And I find that a fascinating basis to think about which objects are most exciting to contemporary Westerners and to religious people generally. Take the cross, for example, which is literally an instrument of torture and murder, but also an instrument of great fetish bondage.

It is an identification with the god, of giving oneself up for a sacrifice, but also a promise that that sacrifice will actually be compensated for by enormous riches and comfort. And it seems to me that lots of gods and sacred objects embody these extreme and contrary sentiments. That is, the threat that it will punish you unreasonably and extremely, but also that it will elevate you beyond your greatest dreams to luxury and comfort and punish your enemies in these ruthless ways.

And, again, you know, not only sacred objects and the God image itself, but some of the populist politicians of today embody this logic of fetishism. So, if we could just spend a few minutes on that because I think it sounds fascinating. It helps me understand the genius of Marx and Freud, as assimilated European Jewish men, at detecting the ambivalence in their symbols. That fetish bondage to say that they have the option to ascend into European Western white maleness, but they were also vulnerable to being cast with the rest of us who were black and female into the most oppressive states.

Fetish bondage

So, they themselves could theorize and create fetishes of extraordinary persuasiveness. Their fetishes, including, you know, their very theories, but also the objects that they use to illustrate these theories. So, my thought, inspired as much—well, primarily by my observation of the self-representation of immigrants of African descent in the United States relative to African Americans, is that fetish bondage that can possibly construct themselves, populations that are vulnerable to oppression, often try to construct some third party as even more appropriately oppressed, to highlight their difference from that third party.

Even though African American enslaved people were fantastically productive. They created the wealth of this country. And at the time of the abolition of slavery—sorry to digress a bit—they were far and away the most valuable property in the United States because of their productivity. So, basically, Marx was propagating an anti-abolitionist lie in the service of the European worker.

Fetish bondage

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