Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Part 3 of Erin's Weird Fascination with Catholic Figures of Authority

I spent four days in Boston at at conference. This is the only picture I took:

I was walking to my campus by cutting through Emmanuel College's campus, and I walked right by this statue of a nun. I love photography, and I love nuns so it seemed like a good fit. But as I continued to walk through the campus, I realized there were a number of religious statues placed all over it.

Obviously, the statues are not alive. I can do anything I want in front of them, and they can't do anything about it. Their carved eyes see nothing. But it made me reflect upon the idea of having them all over the place. Why are they there? Why do Catholic schools put then all over the place, and why are so they often elevated on carved corbel shelves in Catholic churches? 

Because it feels as though they're looking at you all the time. It feels as though they are a constant surveillance system (much cheaper than security cameras, too). Religion, Catholicism and many others, operates largely on guilt. If you're in Church (or in St. John the Evangelist school or Nazareth Academy) and you do something wrong, someone always sees you. Maybe not the priest or a teacher or principal, but these statues are always there, and it makes you feel guilty, and the idea is that you'll confess and monitor your own behavior.

Enter Foucault's panopticon.

A true panopticon is one building in the center of a prison, but the idea of it is the same.  It "allows an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched" (Wikipedia to keep it short, and because this is a blog not a school paper).

Replace "inmates" with "students" and you've got a built-in system of control, even when no other person is around. I think the statues at St. John's worked better than the Naz ones, b/c teenage girls are too self-centered to look around- they are almost always looking at themselves. 

I have always wanted to find a life size statue that I can put in my living room. Kind of like the one that Demi Moore has in "Ghost". That could probably be a psychological insight- they simultaneously creep me out and fascinate me, and I want one in my house?

It doesn't matter anyway because Eric does not share my enthusiasm, so I doubt I'll ever get one.

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