Sunday, 30 July 2017

Hood by Alison Kinney {Reviewed by THOMAS}
A hood divides the world into the two most unequal possible parts. A hood obfuscates the face of the wearer, the face that would otherwise declare, “this is a person, this is an individual.” A hood declares that whoever is present is not present, that here stands a non-person. A hood makes its wearer into both a cypher and a vector. The hood declares that what is done by a hood wearer is not done by any person in particular but by a transpersonal force, or that what is done to a hood wearer is not done by any person in particular but by a transpersonal force. A hood privileges either the wearer or everyone present but the wearer, depending on who has the say on the hood. The hood privileges power, either the power of the mass over the wearer or the power of the wearer as apart from the mass. The hood is an ambivalent text, a rampart in the struggle between the individual and the circumstance. Whether the hood is worn by the individual or by the agent or agents of the circumstance determines and is determined by the characteristics of power. The experiences of whoever is within the hood and whoever is outside the hood are always at odds. The hood makes protection and vulnerability into antagonists. The hood depersonalises the relations of power. The hood pretends that although what is happening is happening, either it is not happening to an actual person or it is not being enacted by an actual person, but not both. The struggle over who does and who does not wear the hood is the struggle over who will be vulnerable and who will be protected, but vulnerability is not inherent in either hood wearing or non-hood wearing and protection is not inherent in either hood wearing or non-hood wearing. Vulnerability and protection are negotiated ad hoc across the hem of the hood. Vulnerability and protection are determined by who decides who wears the hood rather than by who wears the hood or by who does not wear the hood. The anonymity of the hood allows power to be exerted which without the hood would not be able to be exerted, but either the wielder or the victim of that power could be wearing the hood. The hood itself is only a disjunction, a border, a division, a territory cleared of individual presence, or beyond which the declaration of individual presence has been withheld. Kinney’s book, from the excellent ‘Object Lessons’ series, is full of surprises and interesting perspectives, of moments when you realise that you hadn’t thought much about something or perhaps had thought about it wrongly. She treats the hood throughout history, particularly modern American history, as worn by monks, judges, penitents, inquisitors (or not), the Grim Reaper (or not), the Ku Klux Klan (or not), by torturers, the tortured, executioners (or not), the executed, by criminals, by youth, by activists, and by those who wear hoods for religious reasons. She illuminates the wielding and suffering of anonymised power by concentrating on the concealment that enables the anonymisation of this power. I have not worn a hood since I was a child and wore a windbreaker, but this book makes me curious to do so again. To be present anonymously, to displace my volume in society, has a certain appeal, possibly an unhealthy appeal. You could also wear a hood to keep warm.

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