Emily Abbey
Clark University, Worcester (MA), USA

E-mail:eabbey@clarku.edu

 

CLARIFYING AMBIGUOUS SELF-VOICES:
THE DIALOGICAL SELF AS A MASTER VENTRILOQUIST

 

Mead's theory on the social nature of identity construction is combined with the idea of ventriloquism to describe the dialogical self as a master ventriloquist. The self is thought to perceive its own ambiguous voices by taking on the viewpoint of the social other who is part of the self's own group. Then, upon reflection with a more enduring self, this social self is thought to redefining itself as non-ambiguous by assigning its own ambiguous voices to the mouth of this external social other. The depiction of the social self as a master ventriloquist who performs away ambiguous voices for the more enduring self sheds light upon the phenomena of why, ironically, those most similar to one's self that are the individuals whose ambiguity one is least tolerant of. For example, a college athlete could be much less tolerant of the ambiguity of 'possible steroid use' in a fellow gym mate than he would be of a professional body builder. One is least tolerant of members of one's own group, for the ambiguity seen in them is really one's own displaced ambiguous voice. Thus, it is through transposing this voice back onto them (and not a social other from a different group) and then shutting out their voice that one clarifies one's own voice as non-ambiguous.