restricted access Chapter 4

From: Identity

Lawrence & Wishart colophon
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Confinement FRANCES ANGELA This work is about my life, about old and new struggles. One ofthese photographs represents my grandmother, a significant figure in my early life. Others feature my mother, although in some it is difficult to say whether it is her or me. The pictures touch on different themes: childhood, fantasy, sexuality, religion, desire and pleasure, mental illness and class. All these strands have shaped my life, but they cannot be represented separately. They hold meaning over each other and together they articulate my struggles over identity, about this attempt to represent a life on the margins. Just as language is a site ofstruggle, so too is representation. These representations span my movement from the margins and into those centred institutions of higher education. They mark that painful attempt to grasp a language and struggle with theories that can explain and articulate my life. In speaking about myself and representing my subjectivities in these pictures I am also representing the experience of many other working-class women. Not only in that struggle to find words but in that very excursion into those places where we have been constructed as the Other, where our very presence and concerns are seen as disruptive. I have come to believe that my subordinate identity, growing up as a girl on the margins of the working Class, defies any ability to move completely beyond it. Casting off the logic of our pasts and histories that runs through our lives is not easily done. Class for me was labour, a lack of social rights and the heavy weight of servility which harnessed me to the whims, desires and uses of others. If I have to think of one word that could work as a motif of this experience it is confinement - the shrinking of horizons, the confinements of space, of physical and assertive movements within 72 Confinement institutions, the servility that masqueraded as civility, th~ subjugation of my body, emotions and psyche, the lack of opportunities in employment and education. These are the traces of the past that work, even now, on my mind and body, that have left their marks and scars on my mental and physical health. When I came to untying the physical and ideological knots that secured my oppression as a working-class woman I hadn't imagined it would be so hard. It was then that I realised I was still living in those old spaces of servility - wanting to please, knowing absolutely my place. My photographs come out ofthose spaces and begin to tell a story of my silenced past, in which I also was complicit in denying my desire to belong to the centre. They come out of the old sense of powerlessness and they begin to express the pain and cost of that struggle. They make no claim to portraying some truth about my past, no claim to some authentic identity. They suggest movement rather than fixity. This movement does not abandon that marginal class position; rather, it places me back there no longer servile, no longer confined, nor living with that sense that I've always been cleaning someone else's house. This is a place of resistance, not defined by poverty, deprivation and toil, but a history that is acknowledged, that has a determining effect on personal and political identity. This place is neither the old margin nor the co-option of the centre, but a third space where new subjectivities, new politics and new identities are articulated. My new location has the resources of the centre but remains outside to disrupt and resist, continually threatening the centre with the contradictions ofits margins. 73 ...


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