Wednesday, July 02, 2008

understanding the nomos

Sociologist Peter Berger defined the "nomos" as "a meaningful order" which makes the "antinomian" the opposite of meaningful order. One who is antinomian deliberately stands against existing norms and laws.

It is a long established principle in anthropology and sociology that it is difficult for people to recognize and articulate what is normal or normative, because the nomos to truly work in providing meaningful order it must be taken-for-granted. The nomos must be accepted as natural, unquestioned, and therefore to some extent unconscious. It is only when confronting the antinomian, that individuals within a society are able to articulate the nomos, and then only in part, because the nature of the nomos is that it must be taken-for-granted to be effective.

Emile Durkheim demonstrated in his research and theory that the existence of deviance in a society is functional (beneficial) because the existence of deviance and the sanctioning of deviance serves by comparison to define and reinforce adherence to the norms of society (nomos).

Consequently, for more than one hundred and fifty years, anthropologists and sociologists (not to mention psychologists) have used the examination of antinomians and deviants as the best means through which to access the unquestioned, unexamined nomos of society.

Recently David Edmunds a Family Foundation policy analyst asked in a Louisville Courier Journal op-ed piece, how the research of Professor Kaila Story of the University of Louisville on "how the black male-bodied Drag Queen's presence within queer "subcultures' disrupts mainstream notions of what is considered natural and fixed signifiers of black femininity and/or womanhood" moves Kentucky forward. The answer, as any anthropologist, sociologist or psychologist could tell him, is that it is only by examining the deviant and antinomian, that we can understand "what is considered natural and fixed signifiers of black femininity and/or womanhood."

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