Analyze "Not you/Like You" by Trinh T. Minh-ha.
In "Not You/Like You," Trinh T. Minh-ha addresses some of the problems with concrete conceptions of identity. She analyses how the idea of a "permanent essence" aligns with the "dominant stream of thought." For Minh-ha, identity is more intricate and mobile. The difference between who you are and you aren't needn’t be synonymous with oppression and disempowerment. Using the example of a silent woman, Minh-ha shows how difference can be subversive and creative.
"Not You/Like You" is filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha probing essay on identity. She helps us better understand the intricacies of identity.
First, Minh-ha provides us with a rather clear overview of how typical identity works. According to Minh-ha, identity "supposes that a clear dividing line can be made between I and not-I." Our search for our true "I" entails "the elimination of all that is considered other, superfluous, fake, corrupted, or Westernized."
For Minh-ha, the notion of "permanent essence" aligns with the "dominant stream of thought." Identity is much more complex than seeking and establishing a single, specific, concrete identity for yourself.
In Minh-ha's analysis, who you are and who you are not are not so different. As Minh-ha says, difference
does not necessarily give rise to separatism. There are differences as well as similarities within the concept of difference.
For, Minh-ha difference is not synonymous with oppression or disempowerment.
To help illustrate her point, Minh-ha provides us with the example of the silent woman. We might say this difference reinforces sexist norms. It perpetuates the nefarious notion that women are supposed to be silent and submissive. Yet we might see this difference as empowering. The silence frees the woman from dominant culture where speech is privileged. It allows her to subvert the power of speech and perhaps replace it with something else—something different.
Another kind of difference is outsider/insider. Minh-ha speaks of the insider as a "non-white filmmaker." According to Minh-ha, the White outsider sees the insider as a "projection of an all-knowing subject that this outsider usually attributes to himself and to his own kind."
That type of difference is a detrimental kind of difference. While the silent woman opens up new possibilities of communication, the outsider/insider difference confines the insider to a limited role predetermined by the white outsider.
Minh-ha shows how limiting the role of insider can be when "a Third World member makes a film on other Third World peoples." Such a development brings dismay to the outsider. That's not the role they've set up for the insider. The insider is supposed to represent one third-world people (her own). She's not supposed to expand to another set. That's what white people are allowed to do. As Minh-ha says,
That a white person makes a film on the Goba of the Zambezi, for example, or on the Tasaday of the Philippine rain forest, seems hardly surprising to anyone.
Minh-ha goes on to tell us about the "inappropriate other" who can look in from the outside and look out from the inside. Here, the difference between outside and inside collapses. It becomes navigable and open. The other isn’t always the other. A new, freer identity is created.
Minh-ha's keen analysis of identity makes us think of representation. Minh-ha makes us wonder how transformative representation can be. If we think someone represents us just because they have the same identity as us, are we not reinforcing constricting notions of identity? Maybe if we thought more like Minh-ha, we'd see how someone who is different than us might actually have more in common with us and then help us out more.
You might want to think about how Minh-ha's ideas about difference connect to the popularity of Bernie Sanders. Many of Sanders's supporters do not share his identity. They're not almost 80, white, straight, or male. Yet their differences don't lead to separation. They wanted/want him to represent them.
You might want to look into how his opponents tried to play up his differences in identity to dissuade people from supporting him. Were his opponents—whose identities are commonly portrayed as more progressive—actually representing the dominant ideology?
It’s a tough, contentious question. But Minh-ha's essay might give us a clue on how to answer it.
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