TitleBlind to sameness
NameFriedman, Asia M. (author), Zerubavel, Eviatar (chair), Cerulo, Karen (internal member), Gerson, Judith (internal member), Stein, Arlene (internal member), Chancer, Lynn (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
Attribution (Social psychology),
DescriptionIn this dissertation I explore two central questions: how does perception work sociologically and how does perception specifically function in the case of sex attribution? To capture the normally taken-for-granted process of sex attribution, I interviewed “outsiders” – people who either do not participate in sex attribution or do it very differently – and “experts” – people who are unusually self-conscious and deliberate about sex attribution. I chose to interview blind people because they literally cannot see sex, and as such their narratives reveal rarely-foregrounded non-visual perceptions of sexed bodies. I chose to interview transgender people as experts on sex attribution who view the human body in light of the possibility of transitioning between sexes. As a result, they are deeply aware of the underlying similarities between male and female bodies as well as their most recalcitrant differences. They offer an account of sexed bodies that is similar in its sensory content to the dominant perceptual experience (in that it is visual), but with a heightened awareness of sex cues that non-transgender people take for granted, and a unique point of view that brings some of the normally unseen similarities between male and female bodies into the foreground. In short, both groups, for reasons of circumstance, speak from unique perspectives that magnify the social construction of visual perceptions of sex. While sex attribution is my case, I also use my data to advance a more general theory of how – through what specific cognitive processes – visual perception is shaped by social categories and expectations. I argue that selective attention is a fundamental mechanism of the social construction of perception and that this dialectic of attention and disattention is most evocatively represented by the metaphor of a filter. In addition to capturing what I believe is going on interpretively when we see sex, or more broadly when we see anything as something, the filter metaphor also provides a new way to think about the relationship between social constructionist perspectives and material realities, one that captures the interaction of biology and culture without denying either one.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Asia M. Friedman
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.