It seems like all the courses I am taking this semester are informing each other. I know we haven't really discussed it in class but I have been thinking about the influence ones cultural background, childhood, upbringing has on their outlook on the world, life, and theory. I was really struck by Heesung's presentation and how she introduced the idea of cultural semiotics. (Thanks Heesung!) I feel when I read some of these theories my conception of my culture has an immense outlook on how I read and internalize the theories we have been discussing in class.
The best example of this influence occurred outside of this class, but perhaps by describing it I can illustrate what I am thinking about. In another class I am taking on Cultural Studies in Education, we read an article by Karen Barad called "Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter" (http://osu.worldcat.org/oclc/4910130175). In the class discussion one of the other students in class brought up that her child came home with homework about things that are alive and things that are considered "not alive" and her child had to assign to each picture if the object was alive. So for example they had pictures of tigers, bears, rocks, and sea shells and had to decide whether the object was alive. The student explained that her child asked her if a rock was alive because of they went on a vacation where someone explained how rocks "grow." In her piece Barad brings up the notion of how things -- "matter" is, in some ways, matters more than the language used to describe that matter. This discussion, and the student's comments about her child brought up the question of whether objects have agency. The class had a lively discussion on whether they thought that objects could "act" and had the ability to enact change.
This is when I remembered something from my culture and childhood. I remember when I was a kid and if I accidentally stepped on a book, my mother would make me ask the book for forgiveness. To our culture the book was the holder and giver of knowledge, and as such should be treated with respect. I was taught from a young age to acknowledge that this book had the ability to influence my life and I had to respect it and treat it in a way that allowed the book to act on me to the best of its ability. I mean of course the book was supposed to be "god." But I feel the concept of giving the object agency is there in religion. Admittedly, I don't know much about the Bible but I know there is a part in there where someone says that if you break apart a rock you will find god in it. That items/things have divinity.
I am not sure what all this means, but it's been bouncing around in my mind for a while. Any thoughts?
Barad, K. (April 01, 2003). Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter. Signs, 28, 3, 801-831.