Monday, April 03, 2006


If there is a theme that I have explored in all my work, especially now with the Manipur projects, it is cultural framing. It is why I do my baseball project without the least bit of interest in the sport. So I have been following the framing discussion in the political debate here, led by the linguistics guy at Berkeley. Lakoff is his name if I recall.

I recently read Paul Vitello, a NYT journalist, who wrote: “There is an almost magical power in naming things. To give a person, an act or a group its name is to define it, assert a measure of control over how it is perceived.”

Framing is core to my remapping explorations with their focus on the need to re-fashion a role and future of smaller, politically minor cultural traditions.

I have encountered the issue of naming literally, as in my use of Eastern Himalayas and Tibeto-Burman.

But it reaches into other areas as well. Just this past weekend I told Gary, apropos his desire to volunteer for a gay marriage organization, that the straight world would understand better, and we would be better served if we defined "gayness" not as sexual orientation but as affectional orientation. Being gay is about who you love, not merely about who you have sex with. It is about who you are emotionally and psychologically able to love; the sexual act is merely an expression of that.

I think this framing would raise less hackles, be more true and respectful of cultural history and conditioning, more accurate and therefore more useful.

In a similar vein, I mentioned to Gerard, I thought our perception of the political spectrum is muddied by terms like Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal. We need definitions that would put W. and Hillary in the same group.

Taking a leaf from Emerson, I suggested Establishment and Progressive. But would a Progessive not become the Establishment upon election to office and power, he asked? Well, so be it. There will always be new Progressives even as some in their ranks join the Establishment.

I'd like to think of a fluid and dynamic categorization with good and bad people in both and not about damning one side or the other.

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