Slippery resistance and those kids facebook-ing in class


In the discipline of Anthropology and the field of communication studies, resistance is too often conceptualized as a push against. But, in what ways does the Internet empower us to think about resistance in a different light; in a way more closely to how James Scott does in his Marxist/Gramscian analysis of farmers in Weapons of the Weak?

Scott makes resistance a little more post-structural. Instead of metaphorizing it as a push against something, he instead conceptualizes it as a tension- two sides pulling in different directions, making it more difficult for one side to easily pull in one direction. What is great about this defintion of resistance is that it includes as resistance those things that we do ‘just cuz’, but hamper the succession of another’s agenda.


You see where I’m going, right? The way the internet—facebook, blogging, myspace, gawker, twitter, amazon, etc.—enables distraction creates tension, and is thus a form of resistance. We don’t necessarily have to be agents in order to be resisting, which is an important point to consider in talking about consumption as a resistance to knowledge production. But resistance against what? I’m currently typing this post in a class on culture and psychology that I absolutely don’t agree with 85% of the time; often, it defaults to some normative condition of the mind that is uncritically engaged with (specifically its foundations in white, masculine, heteronormativity). So, I’m resisting. Not in some political push against, per se, but in the sense that I’m not allowing the system around me to interpelate—holla @ u Althusser— me as a vessel that may, unknowingly, reproduce the knowledge it has seeded into me.

The degree of resistance, however, is differential. I am consciously attacking the system of knowledge production outside of me. The students facebook-ing in front of me, however, are multi-tasking. They too are resistant- half paying attention allows for the hopeful possibility that they will be distracted at points of problematic heteronormativity- not being able to reproduce the argument that creates a gendered normative foundation. BUT, they are half paying attention, they are trying to pay attention, and they may be successfully doing so most of the time. They are not agents of resistance, but resistance none the less. The internet is resistance-as-tension in their case. They are interpelated by the information in their attentive space—after all, the rhetoric about the inability to ‘multi-task’ in the classroom is itself based on masculine assumptions about what is good attention (sole attention) and what is belabored attention (multi-tasking, i.e. raising children, i.e. motherhood, i.e. feminine). Where Scott’s definition of resistance empowers us to have a better understanding the physics of social interaction, it also has the potential to depower purpose-ful resistance.

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