“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Bill Benzon nudged me to write about the representative kicked off the floor of Congress for wearing a hoodie, in recognition of the racist assassination of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

It strikes me that what Žižek says about the burqa could easily be said of the hoodie. Let us assume that Martin's assassin was squirming with racist fantasies. What does the hoodie tell us about the real of these fantasies? (Rather than the absurd “He was asking for it because he wore a hoodie” stance of Geraldo.) What is scary about them is that they externalize (lapsing into Žižekian here) the impssible-real kernel of a person, the opacity of a person. We think there is a woman hidden under the burqa but the essence of woman as the opaque being—and I'd claim personhood in general—is what is seen, as if the burqa embodies the void under the mask, or the mask as void.

Or to put in OOO-ese, the hOOOdie evokes a fantasmic access to the withdrawn essence of the one who wears it. You are wearing your withdrawal on your sleeve, so to speak.

Now Congress is (small r) republican, which has to do with an Enlightenment aesthetic ideology of WYSIWYG: you wear your heart on your sleeve, not your withdrawal. You should appear (decently) naked, the real Man (deliberate capital M and deliberate gender). Consider that other republican artwork, the American front lawn: it must be spotless, shaved, clean, not walked on. The lawn is a kind of chew-and-show of the house: the house sticks out its long wide green tongue and shows you—nothing. A blank slate. But this blankness is different from the OO void (! Sunn O))) fans take note) of the hOOOdie. It's candor, openness, nothing to hide. The hOOOdie is hiding as such, concealment revealed.

The lawn and the open-faced hoodie-less congressperson must embody an objectified privacy, individualism, not uniqueness. Whereas the hOOOdie threatens to de-objectify in the most provocative way, by presenting de-objectification precisely as an OOO object whose inner depth is irreducibly strange.


Henry Warwick said...

Actually the "no hat" rule is OK. Otherwise a number of senators and congress critturs might show up in white pointy hooods... and that, while refreshingly honest, would not be a "good thing".

Bill Benzon said...

This confirms your analysis, Tim:

So according to Allen West, Rep. Rush went to the podium, was recognized by the chairman to speak, during his speech he removed his jacket to reveal the hoodie, and everyone was like, "Oh my goodness! Where did Congressman Rush go!"

The only way this makes sense is if a black man donning a hoodie really does abso-freaking-lutely camouflage them to the point where even a freaking United States Congressman, during a freaking speech, can put one on in full view of the entire nation and suddenly turn into a terrifyingly suspicious person. Why, that's not Rep. Bobby Rush at all! It's someone wearing a hoodie!