Appropriating the Self: The Experience of Self-Sovereignty
(University of Melbourne)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines our sense of 'ownership of oneself' and how it varies accross cultural spaces. it also examines how this experience co-exists with rather than negates the contrary experience of being 'determined' by forces on which we have no control.
Paper long abstract:
To what extent do we 'own ourselves'? Such a question links up with both folk and academic debates on 'free will'. Rather than asking the eternal question 'do we or don't we have free will?', this paper begins with the experience of 'self-sovereignty': the experience that we are in some ways in control of ourselves, regardless of whether or not we are. However, it begins by examining the fact that this sense of 'ownership of oneself' varies accross cultural spaces. It also examines how this experience co-exists with rather than negates the contrary experience of being 'determined' by forces on which we have no control. Using ethnographic details of the way drivers in Beirut and Sydney relate to traffic laws that differ in their capacity to impose themselves as such, the paper examines how this dialectical experience of freedom and determination plays out differently within different cultural contexts. It concludes by examining the extent to which such an investigation helps us understand what is culturally specific and what is universal about a sense of control over the self.