Monthly Archives: February 2016

Spectatorship, the Hypervisible and Invisible

Today in our ASTU 100A class, I witnessed some brilliant work done by my fellow classmates and the archival work that they had done over the past several weeks that really showed me how well they can flex their scholarly muscles. From infographics about the Chung Collection to an interactive website about the artist, Jack Shadbolt all found in UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections archive, this project really showed the hard work of everyone in my ASTU class. For that reason, I have to extend a warm congratulations to everyone for finishing up their projects, I’m sure glad that stress is gone.

One of the recurring themes I took note of with the presentations, aside from the focus on Jack Shadbolt, was the focus on the marginalized in society. In my own group, we focused on Japanese Canadians before the evacuation to Internment camps, and in another group there was a focus on the Chung Collection, which touched on the Chinese involvement with the Canadian Pacific Railway’s creation and the resentment that was present in society against them. This theme of marginalization stems from the disassociation between social groups in society, creating a dichotomy. I first observed this with the different scholarly articles we’ve read for Arts Studies which have covered marginalized individuals such as those with disabilities that we’ve discussed through our with with Jiwani and Young.  One of the main reasons why I found this underlying discussion in my class so interesting was that the concepts we’ve discussed like spectatorship that Whitlock explains in her book, Soft Weapons. This application of these concepts during the presentations, while I didn’t know it was happening, enriched my experience of these presentations.

Considering this concept of spectatorship, after watching Through the Blue Lens, a documentary about the homeless in Vancouver’s Skid Row, these documentaries and films regarding impoverished or poor areas of cities are their own form of spectatorship. Furthermore, using Whitlock’s idea of testimony, individuals filmed on this dorm of media are actively seeking to become part of the affective economy. In a contrast to Whitlock’s Soft  Weapons where she describes the affective economy as being perpetuated by outside forces, these individuals on the Downtown Eastside actively use their own testimony and story in order to procure basic life necessities that they need to survive. They allow themselves to become part of the conversation by using their stories in such a way to create advocacy for themselves, when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

Another concept that is explored in Jiwani and Young’s  Missing and Murdered Women: Reproducing Marginality in News Discourse, is that of the hypervisible and the invisible. Their work, which is also about the downtown east side, highlights women who are sex workers on the Downtown Eastside as “invisible as victims of violence and hypervisible as deviant bodies” (Jiwani and Young). This same concept occurs with numerous men and women who are shown in Though the Blue Lens, because as homeless individuals, they are invisible as victims of other forces in their past, such as family troubles but hypervisible as impoverished individuals who fit a stigmatized caste in society. While Jiwani and Young’s conversation is focused toward women, it can be extended to men as victims of abuse who are the same as who they report on; marginalized and victims of outside forces.

While our ASTU 100A class focused on archival work in the past several weeks, an underlying theme was present in our work. The marginalization of whole social groups or castes was present in several of my classmates’ work and that drew me toward including this as my blog post for this week. The way I see it, through the application of scholarship to what we work on already or see in everyday life, allows constructive streams of thought to be formed which can benefit our work immensely.