The Gaze and the Stare

The Gaze of the Other “is fundamental to many 20th century philosophers, in particular Sartre’s, who sees it as, by and large, a competition, and Levinas’s who sees it as humanity looking right at you, asking for your empathy.”

Of course, I have not fallen into an “able-ist” prejudice of the sighted and recognise that eye-contact is not the only avenue for establishing empathy and intersubjectivity. Blind persons are used to “looking” toward the voice to constitute an equivalent to “the gaze”. I will try to find some resources on the subjective world of the blind (and deaf).

Carolyn Korsmeyer (in her essay “Feminist Aesthetics”) says:

The male gaze has been a theoretical tool of inestimable value in calling attention to the fact that looking is rarely a neutral operation of the visual sense. As Naomi Scheman states:

“Vision is the sense best adapted to express — dehumanization: it works at a distance and need not be reciprocal, it provides a great deal of easily categorized information, it enables the perceiver accurately to locate (pin down) the object, and it provides the gaze, a way of making the visual object aware that she is a visual object. Vision is political, as is visual art, whatever (else) it may be about.” (Ref: Scheman, 1993, p. 159. “Thinking about Quality in Women’s Visual Art.” Engenderings: Constructions of Knowledge, Authority, and Privilege. New York: Routledge)

Some more references:

  1. The phenomenology of social encounter: the gaze
  2. Sartre and Simmel on Sociology of the Senses
  3. Death and the Maiden: Torture and the Gaze
  4. Regarding the Torture of Others (Susan Sontag)
  5. Exceptional torture: Abu Ghrayb and rituals of viewing
  6. Staring at the Other


Over at Andy Jackson’s blog Among the Regulars there is a discussion about a book relevant to the theme of this post: “Staring: how we look” by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. A brief summary and commentary of the book is here at the Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database (New York University) which, incidentally, looks like a valuable resource.


About middleeuropeanmelancholy

64 year old Australian born male. Into travel, poetry, philosophy, music, popular physics, mathematics (especially topology)...
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