(n) - the state or fact of being the same; the state or fact of being some specific person or thing; individuality

Are each of us, in the digital era of postmodernism, living out an identity of depthlessness and fragmentation, void of history and context?

Theorists of the postmodern era such as Fredric Jameson and Howard Besser claim that the ease with which images and text can now be reproduced and recontextualized has resulted in an ahistorical superficiality and flatness, in regards to both aesthetics and identity. This sense of the postmodern pastiche and fragmentation of self in the electronic era views identity as constituted paradoxically in the disappearance of the individual subject and in an increasingly fragmentary subjectivity.

The theories on deconstruction and the continually shifting center of Jacques Derrida similarly position the individual as a self without a stable anchor or a fixed historical referent.

From an ethnic-feminist perspective, Theresa Cha calls into question the possibility of and the very desire for an illusory identity of wholeness in her extended prose-poem Dictee. This work maintains a problematic relationship with the bodies of a particular history and ethnic-gender identity; through the text Cha seeks at once to expose the gaps of a history recorded and the lacks of an identity represented, as well as to reveal the necessary inadequacy of the textual body of Dictee itself to account for and to embody an experience, a history, and an identity that does not cease to continue.

When considering cyborgs and the interaction between human and electronic bodies we notice how electronic bodies - most notably at the level of such portable devices as the cellular phone and walkman, but also at the larger level of TV, voice mail boxes, and computers (especially with the recent explosion of email and Internet use) - have become both physical and virtual extensions of ourselves and our human bodies, and how such an extension works to fragment, or de-center and de-stabilize, our individual worlds.

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(Image: part of Paris Through the Window by Marc Chagall.
Oil on canvas, 1913.
c. 1992 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.)
Web page written and constructed by Laralynn Weiss, Georgetown University