Prioritising truth in the depiction of minorities
By Shruti Shukla | Nov 22 2018In a world claiming to have entered the age of post-modernism, with its construction of the myths of ‘posts’ (post-racism, post-feminism etc.), the concept of truth is highly diluted and easily doubtable. Thus, it is important to understand the necessity of truth in the depiction of minorities, taking into consideration awareness on the part of the reader to engage with and recognize the circumstances of enunciation. The writer is not participating in the idea of speaking for the minorities by taking up the space belonging to them; instead, the writer is focused on being identified as an ally and a supporter. They seek to recognize the damaging potential of narratives constructed by an outsider, based on knowledge stemming from a dominant-consumptive practice of knowing and engage in a critique of such processes that seek to dehumanize marginalized communities, by reducing them to slurs and stereotypes, fixing them in static identities constructed as the other. Escaping such rigid positionalities that reduce experiences to stereotypes has been challenging.
Popular shows and movies habitually employ stereotypical representation, stock characterization, appropriation of experiences and masked racialized narrativesThere is a harrowing reality of the constant project of elimination and assimilation that threatens the existence of marginalized communities in different structures functioning in the world. The cinema being produced today fails to acknowledge its responsibility towards the representation of different lived experiences and thus continues to disappoint the world claiming to have entered an age of “posts”. Popular shows and movies habitually employ stereotypical representation, stock characterization, appropriation of experiences and masked racialized narratives. The modern classic adaptation of the novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood entered into an array of debates due to its “colour-blind casting”, which turned out to be insignificant when the narrative erased any scope for a discussion around race. Unsurprisingly, a multitude of work, whether consciously or unconsciously, glosses over significant racial narratives of trauma and atrocities.Truth is a word and a concept that is subjective and a construction of the dominant class. It takes into account the knowledge manufactured by dominant modes of production. In the depiction of the marginalized minority communities, one needs to distance oneself from the already established harmful notions of reality and history, that showcase a perspective other than that of the subject matter. Taking this into account, writers, researches, and curious enthusiasts should focus on the histories and biographies being produced by the communities that they wish to talk about.
The resulting work would facilitate the critique and dismantling of the presupposed narratives while giving the readers the agency of a different perspectiveThe resulting work would facilitate the critique and dismantling of the presupposed narratives while giving the readers the agency of a different perspective, exposing them to the truth of the communities that have been subjected to misrepresentation in cinema, theatre, art and everyday life. An approach that functions on the ability of the writer’s engagement with the grass-root problems and lived experiences of minorities would also construct a productive space enabling the process of their re-imagination and re-existence. Bell Hooks, in her work Black Looks: Race and Representation brings in the concept of the “Oppositional Gaze”. The oppositional gaze allows you to negate the impact of misrepresentations, and to engage with the production of images that do not betray the possibility of their truthful representation, instead solidifying it, thus giving more power to Hooks’ declaration in her work, “not only will I stare. I want my look to change reality.”For people engaged in the production of knowledge through representation of minorities, there is a dire need for introspective self-policing of content, for the development of ideas and depictions to be separated from their internalized individual experiences. Grounding themselves in feelings of love and respect, they must cultivate a constant awareness of suffering and separatism, without occupying the space of minority communities. The creator, be they artistic or academic, must take into account the desires of the community they seek to represent, to create art for. One should not violate the community’s desire to be unknowable and opaque; the tendencies to relate, know, empathize or sympathize, should be kept in check in the absence of the community’s consent to be represented, to be depicted by someone who can only imagine and not know. Representations of the minority communities must be conscious of the ultimate goal of the evolution of the world as a safe, equal and humane environment, which facilitates the thriving of the bodies caught in the “zone of non-being”. There is a dire need to support the evolution through prioritizing not the established truth but the lived experiences and the voices of the communities wish to be represented.Amendment: This article was incorrectly credited to another contributor in the print edition of Otwo. This error has been corrected for the online article.