Thinking a bit more about the discussion we had in class regarding how people are brought and kept together, especially when we account for power dynamics, I had one other idea I wanted to add to the mix which has to do with the use of language. Maybe others had similar ideas, or ideas to build off of this one?
I want to lay out a few of the strands I am picking up from the discussion before I actually get into the idea I was considering. I’m hoping that if I proceed this way I can make it clear to readers where my thoughts are coming from.
Once our class discussion became based around how power plays into our notion of relationships between individuals and social groups, I began thinking more about how issues such as proximity, historical context, etc. create what I would call ‘pre-determined’ togetherness. Our (by this I mean people, generally) inability to escape certain geographies and social contexts might function as a way in which relationships are pre-determined, or if pre-determined seems too strong a word, in which our choices as to who we are connected to become narrowly limited. With these ideas in mind, I really got thinking when Dr. McCoy gave an example of child stars who desire to no longer be a part of their families for reasons such as control or monetary loss. Whatever the reasons are, we discussed in class how children in this position cannot make the choice to separate from their families, legally, because they are not of a certain age – they do not fit the designation, provided by law, that distinguishes them as capable decision-makers.
What struck me about this point was that a child’s ability – I’m moving here from child stars specifically to the broader category of children – to make autonomous, legally recognized, decisions is not only pre-determined, but constructed linguistically by those (in this case lawmakers I suppose) who define or categorize who is, or is not, capable of making autonomous decisions. I am not necessarily trying to make a case that children should be allowed to make lots of difficult, often overwhelming decisions. But rather, in the context of our discussion on how power plays a role in creating/maintaining/breaking social groups, I am trying to point out through this example that the determination of who can or cannot make autonomous decisions is built largely through language. To move beyond this example and make a more concrete point, perhaps one large factor in examining how power plays a role in all kinds of relationships – in what brings people together and in what keeps them together – hinges on the use of language, which constructs permissions and ‘rules’ by which we navigate both legal and social contexts. As a result, how language affects the ability to navigate these contexts seems to me like an important factor to consider in examining what brings people together and what keeps people together.