Problematization as Object

Saida Hodžić’s The Twilight of Cutting inspired me to experiment with a practice of slow reading, using drawing to express what theory says. I use the comics format to slow down, stretch out, and fully imagine a few of Hodžić’s important framing statements. Spatial metaphors infuse social theory, so I have long wondered whether arguments and analytical concepts could be expressed visually as much as verbally. Here I try to surface the metaphors, positional arrangements, and imagery implicit within our conceptual vocabulary. (This is my first effort.)

Hodžić introduces The Twilight of Cutting with a series of maneuvers that delineate – yes, sketch – the shape of her object of analysis. As I tried out preliminary drawings of passages in the introductory chapter, I realized that each arc of argument helped bring into sight a space of social action that is otherwise hard to see. For how many decades have we been saying that anthropology is no longer defined by its object of study (that is, the non-western other and the savage slot)? This leaves us all with the task of articulating our object of analysis. Often we point to such objects, taking their existence as objects for granted. Sometimes we lift a veil to reveal the object hidden underneath. Hodžić does something else. The text choreographs a set of analytical movements, positions, and maneuvers in such a way as to invite a visualization of dynamic form. To make her case that the object of analysis in this study is neither the practice of genital cutting, nor the NGO-led efforts to end this practice, but instead the problematization of cutting itself, Hodžić has to show us the gestures that give this problematization a shape. In drawing (I recently learned) this approach is known as drawing negative space. By rendering the shape of surrounding space, a form is made visible.

[All captions are quotes or paraphrases from the book.]

Stacy Leigh Pigg is a Professor of Anthropology at Simon Fraser University. Her research explores the global interconnections and uneven translations produced through medicine, science, and development. She is currently experimenting with the ethnographic form itself by exploring the potentialities of the comics (graphic narrative) medium as both a means to convey the stories ethnographers encounter in their research and as a theoretically-informed provocation to see contemporary social problems “otherwise.”