Tag Archives: invisibility

What’s the best place to hide?

Logic suggests that there are two possible answers to this question. The first is simple, the best place to hide is where you will not be found. 

While this is a simple answer its simplicity is betrayed by dissecting what makes something the ‘best place.’

The second answer is ‘in plain sight.’ I think this is a better answer of the two because it suggests that sight is not absolute. It is often more difficult to see that which is right in front of the nose on your face than it is to see anything else.

Today I’m teaching about ‘blindspots’ in my critical analysis of news class. Rather than suggesting, as is probably important to suggest, that the news misses things and people, I’m going to also suggest a degree of obfuscation wherein that which is presented ‘right before our eyes’ contains blindspots. These spots act as masks or blinkers to other possibilities and act as ‘enough’ when they are, instead, beginnings rather than punctuated ends.

In this way invisibility is not just seeing/not seeing, but is also a combination of power/voice/affect informed by seeing and that inform how we see. 

Take for instance the idea of ‘revolution’ in the Arab middle east that we see today. There are many more nuances to the various countries than can be accounted for in one general statement. Each country has its own historical reasons for upset and upheaval. Yet painting the whole region with one brush provides a series of enormous and profound blindspots that mush the whole thing into one. Seen but not heard, powerful but without agency, evocative without feeling.

Harry Potter’s Invisibility … and not just the cloak

I’ve been reading the Harry Potter saga for a few months with my children. We’re finally on the last book (so, to stop you now, DON’T give it away!@)

My son asked me an interesting question. What is this book about, he says. It’s not really about Harry or Voldermort since Voldermort doesn’t really make many live appearances in the book. But I say, yes it’s about them, but both not one or the other. Actually, it’s about the invisible space in between them. Actually, it’s about….Well, it’s about invisibility.

J.K. Rowling, if nothing else, is deeply at play in the realm of invisibility throughout all 7 books. She plays not only on the authors ability to conjure up images in your imagination (sadly disabused by the codification of film), but also in terms of not saying as much as she can. She paints a fantastic picture but one that is full of gaps, gaps of invisibility in which the story takes place in our minds.

Beyond the invisibility cloak that science (fiction) has been trying to replicate for years, J.K. Rowling is among the first of the world’s billionaires whose fortunes were amassed almost solely, in my opinion, by playing in the field of invisibility.

Unseeable people

A while ago after I asked for assistance in locating research on the concept of invisibility I was forwarded a forthcoming book chapter by Marisol Clark-Ibáñez, who is an Associate Professor in Sociology at Cal State San Marcos that addressed a very tangible example of the impact of multidimensional invisibility on people.

She discussed how ‘seeable people’ become ‘invisible people’ by virtue of the machinery of citizenship. This idea fascinates me and is related to my ideas on exile, ‘passing’, and ‘authenticity.’ Her research team demonstrated (as have others) that ‘illegal’ (im)migrants often get lost in a mire of structural invisibility by being allowed to do some things like go to school while having no rights or sense of legitimacy to say anything about the nature of how the institutions address them.

Recently there have been renewed (in my mind idiocy) in Arizona calling for a ban on so-called ‘anchor babies.’ The larger question, as related to invisibility, demonstrates how corporeal presence does not negate a more dynamic invisibility – control in and through the squashing of power, voice, and a sense of belonging. 

It is incredibly ironic that on the one hand there are so many forces at play pushing a free and global world (read economy) while maintaining protectionist practices around the authenticity of people.

To my mind, citizenship ends up being an act of imposing and negating invisibility, not corporeally but otherwise. Not just of those who can be seen and those who must hide, but also in terms of who can be heard or exercise power, and how affect or feelings are used as an arena in which to engage in this struggle.

So much of the discussion coming out of Arizona uses a rhetoric of resource strain when, in reality, they use a strategy of manipulating the multidimensionality of invisibility – attaching to the sight of ‘brown skinned people’ a way to speak for and act on their behalf as played out in fear, loathing, and anger.