For over a year now I’ve been struggling to figure out how to publish work about invisibility. At first I fell prey to one of the very fallacies of invisibility that I’ve been thinking about – the ‘straw man.’
As you might know, the ‘straw man’ is a construction of logic that allows us to create a fake or invisible boogie man in whom we can invest myriad of contradictions or justifications for our own behaviour. For example, ‘if they would only do such and such, things would be better,’ or ‘I would have won but …’ Absovling ourselves of any culpability in our own deficiencies or allaying our self-constructed fears.
The straw man allows us to craft our own false rationalizations and manifest them in an unreal but acceptable foil for our own short comings.
For me, my straw man has been that ‘they just aren’t interested in the theory of invisibility because it doesn’t fit their narrow definitions making it hard to get published.’
Then it dawned on me, I was missing a thread … figuratively at least.
A thread is a simple device that carries disparate evidence but weaves it together into a patchwork that makes sense. While we hardly notice thread, without it a quilt is just a mishmash of unrelated scraps.
That’s what I’ve been doing this whole time. Collecting clever but disparate scraps.
I’ve found a thread. Several actually.
This happened after a rather energizing series of exchanges at a recent conference. I met a lot of interesting and encouraging people who were very enthusiastic about my ideas, more than ever before, but mostly because the presentation I gave was in the form of an easy to follow story that had an evocative thread (I’ll do a video and post that another time).
The first piece of hopefully-to-be-published writing using this thread I found will be for the journal from the society that hosted the conference. It will be about the uses of a construct of invisibility in the practice of visual sociology – that is I found a ‘so what’ kind of thread.
I got the inspiration for this thread from the book I read during my 15 hours of travelling to get me home to Vancouver Island from Pittsburgh, where the conference was.
Rohinton Mistry, in his book Family Matters, has a lot of references to the power of invisibility – a whole chapter almost but I don’t think on purpose.
The thread, I’m getting to that:
first – “beliefs are more powerful than facts” – one article, not this one, pg. 149
second – “Amazing how photos show you something that your eyes forget to see … especially in a familiar place” pg 206 (this article) and then
… “you know, these pictures have shown me my loss” pg. 210 and
… “from these three pictures, so many memories. And this can happen with every single photo – each one conceals volumes. All you need is the right pair of eyes,’ he made a gesture of turning key, ‘to unlock the magic.” pg. 211
Hurray! This feels like a breakthrough.
Sewing a new seed of thinking was originally published on Invisibility Research