Methods of Domination
Power and domination are the driving forces in society. Throughout history, there have always been those in power and those that are dominated. Many tactics have been used to keep this cycle of domination in tact. Two of these tactics are described in Erika Apfelbaum’s Relations of Domination and Movements for Liberation: An Analysis of Power between Groups. Through the descriptions of these methods of domination, the correlation between the methods of domination and the effect it makes on the subordinated is shown.
One method described in Apfelbaum’s analysis is that of grouping. In grouping individuals together, the dominator separates himself from those he wants to dominate by some physical attribute, real or imaginary to distinguish itself. ??power can be maximally exercised when there exists two disparate groups that have been differentiated to the point of a clear distinction between ?us’ and ?them’.? (Apfelbaum 197) In finding a difference the dominating group can mark the subordinates as lower because they possess the said ?defect.? An example of this is shown in Ronald Takaki’s Iron Cages. The enslaved blacks were grouped together by their dark complexions. One American, Dr. Benjamin Rush, further distinguished blacks as not only savage in their lifestyles but came to the conclusion that blacks suffered from a form of leprosy. ??Dr. Rush offered ?observations’ intended to ?prove’ that the ?color’ and ?figure’ of Negroes were derived from a ?modification’ of leprosy.? (Takaki 30) The traits found in blacks such as the ?big lip,? ?flat nose,? and ?woolly? hair were all a part of his ?diagnosis? for their difference from that of their white ?superiors.?
After hundreds of years of domination, blacks found a way to counteract the negative impact of white subjugation. As stated by Bell Hooks in Black Looks Race and Representation., blacks need to learn to cherish their blackness, and their other distinguishing figures. ?Cone calls upon whites, blacks and all other non-black groups to stand against white supremacy by choosing to value, indeed to love, blackness.? (Hooks11) By embracing their difference and relishing in it, blacks can try to over turn the vicious cycle of domination. One example of embracing ?blackness? is that during the 1960s and 1970s or even during the Reconstruction period, ?black pride? took the place of black or self -hatred. By reclaiming their views about their own beauty, blacks began the bitter struggle to gain victory over oppression.
Another tactic of domination is degrouping. Apfelbaum describes degrouping as stripping the ?grouped? subordinates of their identity and anything else that provided some sort of link to one another.
?the to-be-subordinated group is plunders of its self-identity and becomes less and less able to fulfill, for the individual member, the important role of providing ?the ground on which he stands, which gives or denies him social status, gives or denies him security and help’?Paradoxically, then, the marked collectively, at the same time that it is becoming an excluded group, is having its group essence destroyed-that is, it is in the process of being degrouped.? (Apfelbaum198)
By destroying the common bonds shared by the subordinate groups, the dominators keep the dominated separate from one another, thus hindering any uprisings that would lead to a disruption of the cycle of domination. Another way to ?degroup? a group is by isolating each member from another. Apfelbaum states ??an increasing isolation of members of the group from one another, as if partitions had come between them, blocking more and more of those communications relevant to, and functional for, the group’s autonomous life.? (Apfelbaum200) By alienating the members, the dominating group disposes of the interdependency within the group, leaving the subordinates to depend on their superiors.
One example of a group that has been ?degrouped? as a form of domination is that of women. Apfelbaum states that ??women would constitute a collectivity that is completely degrouped.? (Apfelbaum200) Women have been alienated from each other for hundreds of years. Audre Lorde shows in her piece, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House, how women are degrouped. ??there was no examination of mutuality between women, no systems of shared support, no interdependence?? (Lorde 98) As long as women have no connections with each other, they cannot change their subordinate role.
As women, we have been taught to either ignore our differences or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community, there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. (Lorde 99)
Years of domination have destroyed the bonds that women share thus degrouping them.
In an effort to correct this injustice, women also need to regroup. ?It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths? (Lorde 99) Instead of letting differences divide them, women need to accept them , and use these differences to defeat their oppressors. ?Divide and conquer, in our world, must become define and empower.? (Lorde 99) By joining together and using their differences as an advantage and not a drawback, women can begin to empower themselves and begin to reverse the horrors of domination.
As shown there are several ways to dominate and stay dominant over a group. Whether it be by ?grouping? or ?degrouping,? oppression is easily carried out once the initial seeds are planted. Domination is a vicious cycle that in the past has not seen any semblance of stopping. However in the cases mentioned, it appears that there is a simple answer: do not allow differences to manifest into total isolation from one another. Once the subordinate groups realize that differences can enhance and not destroy, they begin the breakdown of domination.