In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Ross Chambers The Unexamined Who Was That Marked Man? A long time ago, perhaps it was 1963 or thereabouts, I took a flight from Sydney to Rome. It's a long flight, there's time to chat with your neighbor. Mine, on this occasion, was a fellow Australian, a bit younger than I and smartly dressed. His accent was proletarian but (in Australia there's no real incompatibility) I judged him to be a successful businessman . I was even a bit intimidated: his cool urbanity contrasted more than favorably, I thought, with the veneer of citified ways I had recently picked up after spending my early years in "the bush." (There must have been a sexual attraction, too: why else do I remember all this so vividly?) But we chatted pleasantly enough, breaking the ice—since he was from Melbourne and I from Sydney, then as now rival cities— with well-tried pleasantries (Melbourne's unaccountable passion for Aussie Rules football, the difficulty of finding decent beer in Sydney). Oh, Iforgot to specify that we were both white, male and English-speaking —but you knew that, didn't you? Some things can be taken for granted. As the flight approached Rome, my companion reached into a bag and produced his disembarkation card and asked if I could help him with it. My first thought was that he needed assistance with a document in Italian—but then I suddenly realized the problem was of another order. He could read and write, but only very laboriously; and it quickly came out that, having emigrated to Australia in early adolescence , he was now returning for the first time in more than ten years to visit his family in Sicily and demonstrate his wealth and social success. I couldn't have been more surprised. But now I looked again: yes, how had I failed to notice the raven hair, the olive complexion, the dark eyes? Suddenly my companion had slipped from the unexamined, allpurpose category of (male) "Australian" into another, marked group, one that could not so easily be taken for granted and instead invited examination. In the awkward Government-sponsored euphemism ofthe day, he was now a "New Australian." At that moment, I began to learn about the contingent, contextbound character of social classification; but I confess my first feeling, along with surprise, was one of reassurance. The man's "whiteness" was not (quite) at issue, but it was more compromised by his Mediterranean origins than mine could ever be by my countrified crudeness, since I belonged to the "naturally" superior category of the native-born. The quality of my whiteness was enhanced, in other words, to the exact degree that Ws was damaged. He was a marked man, in a way that I 142the minnesota review was not—even though we were both soon to emerge into the streets of Rome where he would pass unnoticed while I would stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.* Markedness and unmarkedness, then, are relative categories: who is marked and who not is ultimately a matter of context. In linguistics, from which social semiotics has borrowed the concept of markedness, there is no sense, though, that the unmarked/marked pair lines up with concepts like normalcy and deviation, or unexaminedness and unexaminability. The linguistic features that are designated as marked or unmarked form part of a single paradigm, so that a zero-degree feature (say, the unpronounced ending of the French verbj'aime) is in differential relation, not with the general category of marked features, but with each and every other member of the paradigm, whether marked or unmarked. Thus,j'aime contrasts with tu aimes or il/elleaime, in which the ending is also unpronounced, in a way that is no different from its contrast with, say, j'aimais or j'aimerai, with their marked endings. In the socialsphere,however, things workotherwise. Thedifferentialstructures that mediate social relations are themselves mediated by the phenomena we call power and desire; and one of the effects of such phenomena is to distribute certain privileges to unmarkedness—the privileges of normalcy and unexaminedness—while marked categories acquire characteristics (of derivedness, deviation, secondariness and examinability) that function as indices...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 141-156
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.