Speaking for others is discouraged based on the fact that people often rely on their own understanding to attempt and explain the situation of others. It is thus important that whenever one has to speak, he/she does not only speak for themselves but that his/her speech amplifies the voice of others. This is particularly true when one has to speak for individuals who have no voice in their respective societies. At the same time, retreating is not an option because, just like speaking for oneself, silence denies the possibility of political action and is a missed opportunity to empower the speech of others. It is imperative that performers strike the balance between the two extremes in order to be well placed to advocate for the interests of others. A proper performance ought to achieve a set of objectives including allowing for multivocality, investing in embodiment, and allowing for participatory learning. Such a performance is multisensory, embraces liveliness, produces presence, and enables sociality.
In the event that the observer feels detached from what they are observing, the right approach is to start imagining more ways to connect with the subject is to show better commitment. This is possible by engaging some elements of the enthusiast’s infatuation (Conquergood 6). According to Conquergood (6), the enthusiast’s infatuation gives way for too easy and too eager identification with the other. Accordingly, by showing more willingness to identify with the other, the performer is at a better place to resonate with the interests of the subjects he/she is observing (Alcoff 8). It is however important for the observer to be careful so that his keenness is not overridden by generalities (Conquergood 6). It is also imperative to permit the interests of the other to be a factor of priority, the result of which is genuine advocacy for the other. This is in line with the Conquergood’s (7) concept of the curator’s exhibitionism, which alludes the curator is committed to the difference of the other. Bearing in mind that relying too much on curator’s exhibitionism is likely to compromise on attentiveness, caution should always be exercised.
Another problem would arise when one feels too close or identifies strongly with the environment or activities they are observing. In this case, it is important for the observer to change his perspective to allow for a new view to enter. The best way to go about this would be to disallow one’s subjective judgment to affect his ability to make observations objectively (Alcoff 23). Even if one identifies with the subject or environment they are observing, it is only right to sit back and reflect on what they observe based on what is logically applicable, rather than what has been premeditated. For instance, the observer could focus on collecting only scientifically verifiable information. The observer should only rely on his/her familiarity to provide guidance on areas to explore.
It is important for an observer to rely on his/her objective reasoning to make a record of what he/she is observing. Avoiding subjective judgments will be helpful in avoiding problems associable with the enthusiast’s infatuation and curator’s exhibitionism. For an observer who feels detached from what he/she is observing, it is appropriate to start imagining more ways to connect with the subject by showing better commitment. For an observer who feels too connected with the subject/environment he is observing the observer ought to change his perspective to allow for a new view to enter. In either case, observers should disallow subjective awareness from affecting their performance.
Alcoff, Linda. “The problem of speaking for others.” Cultural critique 20 (1991): 5-32.
Conquergood. Reactions to Problem of Speaking for Others. PowerPoint Presentation