In one of my classes, our professor pointed out a structural parallelism between the traditional practice of male circumcision and text messaging using cellphones.
In circumcision, a practice widely observed here in the Philippines, the foreskin is cut from the penis. This is done for religious and hygienic purposes. Meanwhile, in text messaging, words are truncated or shortened for convenience and faster communication.
Both practices involve the removal of an inessential part. In the former, you can still urinate or engage in sexual activities with your penis even without the foreskin. In the latter, you can still understand a word even after the truncation. “Never” for example, becomes “Nvr” while “Someone” can be put in text lingo as “Sum1.”
Apropos the said parallelism between circumcision and text messaging, one can also add the structure of cropping in photography wherein the inessential portions of an image are cut off from the original. All these three practices can be associated to the act of cutting or severance.
Obviously, not all acts of cutting hold a homologous structure. For instance, the act of beheading a person, by using apparatuses such as the Guillotine or even just the sword or axe, has a different configuration to that of cropping in photography.
Cropping preserves the essential part in an image while beheading, which severs the head from the rest of the body, cuts off an essential part. Cropping, as well as photography, involves the preservation of life, of memory. Beheading, in the meantime, is about taking away lives.
On the other hand, the act of taking a picture with a camera can also share the same coordinates as beheading. When you speak of taking a picture, you don’t only preserve a memory into film or a digital container. It also involves a rupture, the violent ripping of a scene off its original circumstance in the world.
By clicking the camera, we remove a specific scene, a particular memory – which we take to be essential – from its original spatio-temporal context. In place of the imaginary fullness of our worldly reality, we replace a flat, static picture. ■