Definition of Hegemony

Last Thursday I met with a brilliant new student. She is working on a paper for the novel 1984, and wanted to bounce ideas off of me. It was very fun, because she had so many wonderful ideas already. She was talking about George Orwell’s rejection of totalitarianism throughout the book, but had many questions she was just dying to explore the answers to. Unfortunately, she is only a junior in high school, and her paper is only supposed to be 3-4 pages. Working with her made me want to go back to graduate school though. It was so refreshing to have that type of conversation with someone so young, who has so many ideas and questions. She was also very excited to learn a new vocabulary word during our session- hegemony.

Photo Credit: netcharles.com (cited in the hyperlink above)

After she learned about hegemony and how she could use it while conceptualizing her paper, she smiled and said, “I like that word” before typing furiously for ten minutes on her computer. I was glad to know that learning a new word like that could help inspire her writing so much. It was a very cool moment. I know I have mentioned hegemony here before, but I am not sure it really gets used very often in regular conversations, so I have decided to define it for you as well.

Hegemony, as I understand it, means the oppression of others by a larger dominant, overarching (and widely accepted) force that creates a structure of sameness and difference. All societies have hegemony, and the tools to create what is deemed “normal” often belongs to the people/ entities in power. Hegemony can be both cultural and political, and its presence can be seen in books, movies, and society as a whole, since a small percentage of the population controls what movies are made, which books are published, and who wins elections.

One small group of people, usually the ones with the most money or political influence, can influence the way the society as a whole thinks and acts, even if they are perhaps acting against their best interests as individuals. Perhaps the easiest example of hegemony at work is in media portrayals of “average” people, ethnicities, places, politicians, love interests, gender identities, religions, music, rituals, and cultural practices.

Here is an interesting article that discusses hegemony’s role in relation to media theory which might interest you.

In our conversation, my student and I were discussing Orwell’s subversion of hegemony. Totalitarianism tries to enforce and reinforce a strict hegemonic culture from which to work from. Any variance must be destroyed so that people don’t question, don’t think, and certainly don’t make connections with each other independent of the state.

A very fun light from Spa Envy in Seattle- a group of people I have made individual connections with 🙂

In many ways, I like to consider this blog as a variance from hegemony. My interests include things that the hegemonic parts of Western culture accepts, like Jane Austen, but this blogging project also builds various connections with others based on individual interpretation and experiences. That, to me, does subvert hegemonic influence in many ways, and has been one of the primary benefits of the internet.

What do you think? If you have any more examples of hegemony in our modern times?

Happy Sunday,

Miss E

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What is Queer Theory?

Hello dear readers!

I have had a few questions recently about some of the terms that we use here often at Looking For Pemberley. Although many of the terms that I use range from academic to very informal, made-up words, there area  few that I think you should know about when you are reading posts here. I don’t want anyone to feel left out.

So, I’ve decided that I will start a “definitions” post series, so you can familiarize yourself with some potentially unfamiliar terms.

In the future, look under the “defined” category to find the posts in this vein.

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Let’s start with the term Queer Theory, as I have had a few questions about that.

For many people who grew up when the word “queer” was pejorative, this term may seem a little alarming. Really, queer is not a bad word.

Queer theory came out of gender studies, which derived from feminism, and is used as a lens or framework to view different media or texts, such as works of art or books, for example.

It is a type of theory that challenges binary constructions like “male” and ‘female,” but is not at all limited to gender. One of the reasons many people may be confused about what queer theory actually is, is because it has so many applications. Scholars and others often use the ideas from “queer theorists” such as Judith Butler and Jack Halberstam and Chandan Reddy (as mentioned previously here) to understand and question any given text, ideology, simplistic construction, or social situation.

Queer theory can be a very freeing tool, and remains politically important, because it also allows for personal identity to fluctuate, and resists definition of who we are as people, what makes us the way we are, and what we can or should prescribe to.

I myself am very interested in queer theory and studied it in school, so if you have questions about it, feel free to continue asking!

Also, if you have anything to add, please pitch in through the comment section or e-mail me from the “about” page! I would love to hear your personal definitions.

I also have some resources that I think will help you understand the purpose and goals of Queer Theory listed below that might help.

Queer Theory

Theory Org

Queer by Choice link database

GLBTQ

Have a great weekend!

Miss E