Monday, July 8, 2013


Elias Courson tracks the ambiguous and shifting lines of formal anomaly in his discussion of Sue Van Zyl's lecture.
The main focus of Sue’s paper is an attempt at theorizing or problematizing the concept of ANOMALY. She identifies four types of anomaly: being, exchange, action and thing. She anchors her conceptual project on Foucault’s genealogies: the notion of power/knowledge relations, and other theoretical insights from structural anthropology.
In her examination of these four types, she tries to examine the politics of Form with relation to anomaly. In my understanding, she describes anomaly as a very fluid concept that cannot be categorically defined and contextualized in any particular social form. Thus, anomaly as Form is socially constructed and politically institutionalized depending on what Foucault calls “discursive formation”. Anomaly is used here as a logic not of negation in political discourse. Knowledge formations create the conditions for the production of anomaly.
Alan Todd, Anomaly,http://fineartamerica.com/featured/anomaly-alan-todd.html 
She describes anomaly as ‘indiscernible counterpart’.  It is an exception, but also it is something that crosses established ways of categories. In life, we have man, animals, and things: The combination of any two of these categories produces a form of anomaly because such products cross categories (an anomaly in this sense is a Form that exhibits two categories in equal proportion). Anomalous Forms that traverse categories thereby produce difficult circumstances. Anomalous Forms in her view, occupy spaces of two categories: it is neither a form nor its negation. All four (monsters, contrabonds, neurotic symptom and art) are examples of anomalous Forms with political consequences as long as we don’t know what to do with them. Thus in each example, what are the consequences at stake in each anomalous situation? In all of these anomalous Forms, the Form cannot be categorized into any category. For example, the ‘monster’, she argues, is half animal and half man, e.g, the centaur, sphinx and harpy (thus it is neither man nor animal), hence, it is an anomalous Form. The monster as an anomalous Form occupies two categories, and in modern science the monster as an anomalous takes various Forms, i.e, the combination of ‘thing and man’ or animal and man’ depending on the anomalous Form of monster conceived.
Similarly, neurotic symptom would be considered as a Form of anomaly since actions undertaken by such persons cannot be classified in the realm of sanity or insanity. A neurotic is half sane and half insane, and actions by such individual cannot be classified into any of the realms (sanity or insanity) by law. Since the action does not fall within the purview of sanity or insanity, the need to determine its rationality or irrationality is required in order to give it a category. The politics of anomalous Form is thus about an issue/action that affects the legality or illegality of an action. By politics of anomalous Form, she refers to the politics and intricacies involved in the determination of the category of a person’s action. A situation whereby the actions of neurotic (a man half sane and half insane) has to be examined, to determine if such a person is liable or not is the politics of anomalous Form. In law ordinarily, punishment awaits all murderers, however a sane man is expected to face the wrath of the law while an insane is left off the hook on grounds of irrationality. The neurotic rebuttal is what Sue regards as anomaly of Forms. The neurotic is a Form of anomaly because psychiatrics and other experts would be called to determine the state of the neurotic so as to assign him a place in law. This is what Sue calls “the politics of Form”. There is a lot at stake in Forms of anomaly as espoused by Sue because we do not know what laws to judge them upon. As a Form of anomaly, we do not know how to police it. Forms of anomaly are thus problematic because we do not know what to do until we put them into category or categories: until they are put into categories we are at a loss. Spaces for Forms of anomaly are only created under historical circumstances: from the state of the actor in modernity we now have to prove whether an act is punishable or not, right or wrong. The action before its determination would be regarded as neither right nor wrong – making it metaphysical.
She seems to argue that once one has said that something is neither of categories, one is debarred from saying that it is or will be, of attributing to it a category or a dissolution in time, or any alteration or motion whatsoever. She supposes that anomalous Form had not always existed in its present cosmic state. They are derived from two categories, which they assert in various ways in order to produce category in the present world-order.
Sue’s Form of anomaly, I would conclude, is a ‘category-iless’ Form whose category is only socially constructed and determined by knowledge/power relations.
Elias Courson is lecturer in the Philosophy Department, Niger Delta University

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