During my time at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) I took a course in ‘Critical Theory and the Study of Religions’. I became fascinated with the various ideas and began to try and express the feelings and concepts of the theorists and philosophers through paintings and illustrations.
For me, critical theory and much of academic work is essentially an attempt to make sense and give meaning to life, our communication and belief structures.
Any piece of work is in a sense an act of framing. What is revealed is not a depiction of reality but rather a reflection of the artist or academics specific intentions or personal bias. The images I created are both an artistic exploration of critical theory, but also a reflection of my own analytical framework.
Ferdinand de Saussure and Structuralism – The idea that the linguistic sign or word is arbitrary, and that meaning is instead maintained though the communal understanding that a sound signifies a constructed concept. Therefore the structure of language determines our communal understanding of the way in which we organize society and what counts as religion. For example, during Soviet Russia, Shamanism was redefined by the state as witchcraft or as a symptom of mental illness. Structuralism implies that religion is a category which is ‘created’ and ‘maintained’ through a process of linguistic delineation. However for me, this critique leaves little space for the feelings which may arise through nature, music, God or spirituality. These are feelings which lie at the heart of many ‘religious practices’ and perhaps transcend the linguistic boundaries.
Illustrated lecture notes on Jacques Lacan and Language, Psychoanalysis and the Structure of Being.
‘power and knowledge directly imply one another; there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations’ (Foucault, 1979, Discipline and Punishment, 27)
Habermas- The meaning of enlightenment.
Helen Cixous- on ‘Ecriture Feminine’
Luce Irigaray- argued that within the Judeo- Christian tradition there is no female figure or relationship between women that can stand as a source of inspiration and empowerment. Rather these traditions uphold the ego-ideal of man in God, leading Irigaray to argue that Christianity is based not on the sacrifice of Jesus, but on women. Irigaray argued that it is of importance that women identified female ideals within faith to aspire to such as Demeter and Persephone. Therefore I re-created ‘The Creation of Adam’ by Michelangelo, to feel what it would be like to see females in this idealized image.
Julia Kirsteva- For me, the interest of Julia Kristeva’s work lies in her theory on our relationship with the foreign, and how this initial separation originates in the birth canal. This ultimate rejection of the mother’s body symbolizes the beginning of a complex relationship which develops between the self and the other. This can be seen in our convulsion towards bodily fluids which are no longer contained within us such as vomit, blood and milk on skin. However she argues that this is further projected onto societal boundaries, creating systems of exclusion.
Judith Butler- Bodies as ‘performative’- the internalization of social norms within the body.
Judith Butler- on identity, the idea that the deviant constitutes the center, or homosexuality defines heterosexuality.
Illustrated lecture notes on Queer Theory.
Orientalism and its implications, Edward Said.
A depiction of the way Western feminism maintains centrality within academia which enforces the white, middle class experience as the norm, and in so doing homogenizes the figure of the ‘third world woman’ and displaces multiple experiences.