Transfigurations addresses personal relationships to social and cultural violence. Our contributors are all women who have had some experience of violation, whether physical, psychic, or cultural. From these experiences they have had to heal themselves. Healing is a political, aesthetic, and transfigurative act. For each woman this act takes different forms.
"Health is more than normality;
in simple terms, it is normativity" (351).
Each piece evinces a normal response to an abnormal situation which is more normal than any of us want to admit. These responses are often considered outside the boundaries of "normality." There is violence inherent in negotiating social terms of normality, violence to those who fall outside or on the margins of those boundaries. The power dynamic between institutions with the power to name the subject and those subjects upon and through which they act often replicates the power imbalance between genders. This relation emerges in Transfigurations.
In choosing the theme for this issue, the editors commit to making visible again the subjects lost in the discourse of "symptomatology." We want to give "normal" and "pathological" phenomena the same theoretical importance, to make space for personal activism. We attempt to expose a self radically different from the universal subject of Modernism, a contextualized, subjected, fluid, multiple, fragmented self.
In the language of Georges Canguilhem, medical historian and theorist, pathology is not simply disequilibrium, but rather "an effort on the part of nature to effect a new equilibrium..." (322). The pieces in this issue delineate the hybrid subject's attempt at renegotiating equilibrium. Our contributors are students, artists, theorists, creators, activists who transfigure their experiences into textual forms of agency.
The family violence in the pieces by Sage, D'Ercole, Paradise and Campopiano generates a new regime of "normativity." The pathological is transfigured; it becomes "normal" because it is such a common experience. Further, a so-called pathological response is shown to be a "normative" response to a pathological situation. The point is that one cannot simply oppose the normal to the pathological, "because under certain conditions and in its own way, the pathological is normal" (Canguilhem 351).
Both Villalobos Echeverria and DiBartolomeo work to transfigure cultural violence on their own bodies, echoing Canguilhem's assertion that "[t]o act, it is necessary at least to localize" (1). Marking the human body as a local site within the social, both works show individuals reconciling those policing discourses of sexuality, body image, race, and assimilation. The anonymous art installation RAPE was one activist's intervention in cultural violence within the local setting of the Carnegie Mellon campus. The piece was installed as a screen saver on computers in public clusters.
By naming certain acts "pathological," subjects in a sense lose their identities and become instead identified metonymically by behaviors: the multiple, the bulimic, the scarred, the constrained. Psychic violence appears in all of the pieces in Transfigurations, but especially in Vuong, Paradise, DiBartolomeo, and Peggy Jean. Each contributor transforms her memory and scars into aesthetic creation and public disclosure. In doing so, each counters the metonymic reduction of her identity with the concrete difference of her being.
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