Societies Within: Selfhood through Dividualism & Relational Epistemology


Most see having their individuality stifled as equivalent to the terrible forced conformity found within speculative fiction like George Orwell's 1984. However, the oppression of others by those in power has often been justified through ideologies of individualism. If we look to animistic traditions, could we bridge the gap between these extremes? What effect would such a reevaluation of identity have on the modern understanding of selfhood? The term ' in-dividual' suggests an irreducible unit of identity carried underneath all of our titles and experiences—the real self. By linking Marilyn Strathern's elaboration of dividualism and Nurit Bird-David's relational epistemology , a clear contrast forms between the animistic sense of self and that of the West. This system of selfhood more readily encourages a life lived in Henri Bergson's sense of duration and sets up a state of dialogical discourse , as seen in Mikhail Bakhtin's work. These concepts challenge the traditional praise for individuality and exposes how individualism can be used as a tool of marginalization as seen in Michel Foucault's critique of authorship. I argue that pursuing a sense of self rooted in these concepts instead of individualism mitigates this marginalization via a more socially aware cultural environment that the traditional Western sense of self fails to create.

Author's Profile

Jonathan Morgan
Lone Star College


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