Despite being told numerous times throughout higher education to forgo personal experience at the risk of, at best, clouding neutrality and, at worst, self-indulgence or narcissism, I am making an active choice to examine my narrative identity (in relation to violence and masculinity) through a critical lens. If everything is political, including the personal, then it would be a disservice to champion false neutrality in my practice. The intersection of physicality, masculinity, and violence has been an underlying theme throughout much of my life, as they are in my practice and those other critical contexts that influence me, and as such demand critical exploration.
Formative experiences associated with a combination of physicality, masculinity, and violence:
- Being born in the apex of the Jamaat Al Muslimeen coup attempt in Trinidad & Tobago
- A short period of being bullied
- A discipline-oriented family dynamic lending itself to periodic displays of performative masculinity or punishment
- Abnormal first sexual experiences
- Involvement in increasingly competitive and high performance sporting environments
- Physical fighting amongst peers both in and out of school
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from a series of hyper-violent events including knife crime and street fights
- Male bonding rituals through shared trauma
- Muggings and being badly beaten
- Drug addiction (Painkillers), and self-punishment through drug misuse (Hallucinogens)
- Thriving in crisis situations
- Recovery through coping mechanisms that involved physicality (Boxing, Martial Arts, being tattooed, humanitarian aid)
Overarching these examples is a pattern of processing or responding to experience through physicality. The cycles of problematic masculinity or violence investigated in everything from my Consensual Crimes series, This Is Fine, Rottweiler, and even Lockdown Diary to a certain extent, to Steve McQueen's Bear and Judith Butler's performativity are also seen in this timeline. Just as in McQueen's work, or the 'constituting acts' of Butler, in this trajectory we can see the open-endedness of how 'violence begets violence' or even 'problematic masculinity begets problematic masculinity'. Figured here we can track a transition from formative experiences and/or trauma to the development of dysfunctional coping mechanisms that sought out fulfillment often in places that only further perpetuated this cycle.
To take one example, it can be argued that being born into a very patriarchal, 'developing world' culture directed me towards certain normative masculine role models, which in turn drove me into a culture of high performance sport that rewarded a sense of personal value derived solely from competition or physical effort, resulting in participation in physical fights with others, which in some ways led to the circumstances surrounding a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, subsequently leading to a painkiller addiction and self-punishing behaviors once I could no longer garner value through performance, and so on and so forth.
Timelines of Violence and Masculinity, 2019