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Faces of the Self

  • Vanita Seth (a1)

Abstract

This paper traces the centrality of the human face in the construction of modern individuality. It argues that the face of individuality no less than that of typology, is mired in and born of historical and political conditions that are subsequently disavowed in order that the individual (and the face she bears) is rendered a product of nature, an instantiation of the universal. Attempting to denaturalize and defamiliarize the authority invested in the face, this paper maps out three interrelated arguments: that the human face is historically produced; that its history is closely tethered to the production of modern subjectivity, and that its status as a purveyor of meaning relies upon the reiteration of preexisting norms through which it can be “read.” And yet, while this paper turns to the nineteenth century to trace the novel privileging of the face as an extension of selfhood, interwoven through this history is the figure of the “effaced” Muslim woman and the Muslim terrorist type.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Vanita Seth, Politics, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, 95064. E-mail: vseth@ucsc.edu

References

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