Accepted Paper:

Mask as and against 'the matter out of place'  
Gitika Saksena (SOAS University of London) Abhishek Mohanty (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

Researching digital/online and social media representations, the paper analyses the mask as both matter out of place, and as giving form to the formlessness of the Other as matter out of place. It thus interrogates imaginaries guiding the double becoming between the individual and the mask.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the mask through two parallel but inverted paradigms. First, we explore the mask as matter out of place (Douglas 1966), where Foucauldian discipline (1995 [1977]) and governmentality (1978), as constituted by liable relations between individual citizens, society, and the state, seemingly collide with expressions of free will and personal identity. Coterminously, we analyse the mask as giving form to the formlessness of another matter out of place, to the extent that it is through negotiation with a mask that an individual is able to ontologically realize and phenomenologically experience the presence of an unwanted other (is it a virus or somebody else?).

Situating our research within digital/online and social media prosumerism (Miller & Horst 2012), we interrogate imaginaries guiding the double becoming between the individual and the mask (Deleuze & Guattari 1987, Massumi 2010). The mask’s specific visual representations in product catalogues on select e-commerce platforms and media listicles, are then analysed to understand the semiotics adopted by designers and sellers, and how their power/knowledge practices shape ontological realizations and perceptions of masks in popular culture. If a mask is the matter out of place, what are the temporal or spatial elements as reinforced by visual media that constitute or challenge its placelessness? Subsequently, we study reviews and images posted by individual customers/users on these platforms and social media, to investigate how the embodied formation of boundaries at the site of wearing the mask lend themselves to understanding the Self versus the matter-of-the-Other out of place.

Panel P08b
Mask: the Face of Covid-19
  Session 1