María Lugones: Oppression and Resistance



(1)   According to Lugones, a theory of oppression/resistance ought to represent oppression in its full force. This means that sometimes it needs to be characterized as inescapable. This does not mean, necessarily that the oppression actually IS inescapable. However, it may be inescapable in terms of the ‘logic’ of oppression.

(2)   One way of understanding the issue is as follows. If our self-identities are built upon ‘maps’ of the world, and these maps are themselves inherently oppressive, then how can we escape the oppression? Our very agency is infected by oppressive ideology! Another way to put the point: If our self-identifies are constituted by roles ‘within the game,’ how can we ever step outside of the game to oppose it?

(3)   According to Lugones, resistance is not always big and grand. Sometimes it is small; and sometimes it can be invisible to the oppressor (e.g., getting away with something that goes unnoticed). Any deviation from an ideology or from a game which is oppressive is going to be a form of resistance (or ‘push back’) regardless of how small.

(4)   According to Lugones, there is no self or self-identity beyond the roles determined by ‘the game.’ One way to understand this point: All self-identities require ‘maps of the world’. Hence, all self-identities are shaped by those maps. To the extent that the maps are part of oppressive ideology, it then becomes unclear how one can ever step outside of it. One’s very desires, plans, hopes, etc. will be infected by the oppressive ideology.

(5)   So how is resistance possible? According to Lugones, there is more than one game (more than one ‘world’). By this she means to point to the existence of various subcultures. According to Lugones, people can occupy different games or 'worlds' at once. This means that selves aren’t unified – but multiple. One will have a different self for each different map (or each different ideology). Often we forget that we move through different worlds – play different games. Resistance involves remembering all of these different self-identities. By bringing all of these conflicting self-identities into one consciousness, one has what has been called ‘Mestiza Consciousness.’ This allows for a resistant consciousness which occurs in the ‘in between’ of various different ‘worlds’.

(6) 'World'-Travel occurs when one's identity and self-identity change  through a cultural shift.   If there is no such change in self, there is no 'world'-travel.

(7) Do not underestimate Lugones' position. It is radical. Everybody can agree that we behave differently in different contexts. It is appropriate to show parts of oneself to some people and not to others. One does not behave the same way with a professor that one does with a friend. And one behaves differently still with a family member. Lugones does not merely mean that one has a self one expresses differently in different contexts. She means that one can have entirely contradictory properties in different 'worlds'.

 (6)   Resistant activities are possible only because activities can have multiple meanings (i.e.. operate in different ways in different 'worlds'). According to Lugones, the way to be open to each other is to be willing to 'world'-travel. This means being open to the way that other people see us. It means not only trying to look at things from eyes of another, but trying to look at oneself from eyes of another. This means not taking one's self-identity so seriously (recognizing that one's 'map' may not be the same as the maps other people have). This, for Lugones, is loving play. It is not competitive (like agonistic play), and there are no rules. Rather, people interact in between 'worlds' (i.e., in between 'games') - where there are no fixed rules.