Monday, 22 July 2013

'Deviant Heroes': A talk by Dr Brian Wolf

A talk by Prof. Brian Wolf

In everyday understanding, human beings associate deviance with something that is not the usual form of functioning or act of behavior. Thus anything that goes against this usual way is considered to be bad or detrimental to the society. In various contexts, rules and instruments of social control can represent an unjust and oppressive social force. 
On Wednesday, July 17 2013,we welcomed Prof. Brian Wolf, from the University of Idaho, Moscow, who helped us to understand this from a different perspective through his article on “Deviant Heroes” as agents of justice and social change. In his article he holds that deviant heroes are those who violate the existing unjust rules and norms and face the repercussions of social control, even as they simultaneously effect positive change. They bring about such changes in their own way. 
This session has been very interactive. It began with the definition of what deviance and its ways are. Students participated by stating their own views, and Prof Wolf elaborated further. There were also examples given with comparisons on how deviance and its understanding differ depending upon one’s culture. There are, for example, differences in the Indian and USA ways of considering an act to be deviant. He also laid emphasis upon the classical ways of understanding deviance by Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Socrates.
There were instances of real life deviant heroes who fought and struggled against the firm norms and rules which were harmful or were considered unjust. In India, Phoolan Devi, the Bandit queen fought against the existing system and could be considered to be a deviant hero too. There are religious leaders as well who showed great example of heroism. There was the instance of a woman given wherein she climbed and stayed on a tree for two years just to stop the cutting of trees. She remained there until the people concerned undertook not to cut them down. Deviance may be regarded as a crack in the society. Social control is one of the measures that could be used to keep a check.
Finally at the end of the session there was discussion with regard to the various perspectives of how and what students felt about deviance being a part of life and to share instances of heroic deviance. Heroic deviance can be practiced to some degree by anybody. Yet if more people were to embrace the principles of such heroism it could help alter the environment. Conformity in contrast to deviance would mean accepting the hurtful situations which is not right. Therefore deviance becomes important in order to have conformity of some kind or the other. The session thus ended with active participation and exchange among everyone present. We would like to thank Prof Brian Wolf for such an interesting and active session.
Anusuya Borkotoky

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