ethics, esteem


This essay is the third and final of a three-part series titled “The Veil of Esteem: On Seeing Oneself Being Seen.” Inspired by Walter Benjamin’s “reflection through vignette” method, I inquire into the notions and interconnections between memory and esteem. Esteem is the truth of oneself through the eyes of the other, and any truth of esteem must be told from the perspective of that other, through the spectating other. Thus, I find that any story of esteem is veiled. This final part, A Loan, posits that our unified recollection is a fiction culled from fragmented truths. This isn’t all bad. It’s the only way we can shape the heterogeneous multiplicity of happy accidents, shaping it in a poetic way. We need to look back from the future to cultivate things that may turn out to be desirable that are happening now. In other words, we can’t leave accident to chance. Otherwise, we’re left with a nothingness that’s but a lack of vision. The story is narrated not as a representation of a person or of people, but the discourse through which I have been lent her voice. I am the translator through which she is now speaking. The translator is the producer of the discourse that suffocates her and allows her to breathe in gasped breaths, the producer of the discourse that both takes away her voice and gives her voice. The first part of this series, “Fragment/Never Thinking of Tomorrow,” appears in International Review of Qualitative Research, Volume 5, Issue 1; the second part, “Riddle and Accident,” appears in Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, Volume 12, Issue 2.


Original Citation: Hoffer, Melba. "The Veil of Esteem: On Seeing Oneself Being Seen (Part Three: A Loan)." Qualitative Inquiry 18, no. 4 (2012): 378-386.