Violence and the Philosophy of Consumption
A storm like unkempt seams silently unraveling.
An angry cry stretched like thread. How long is a piece of string?
Gradual and out of sight is the decay of a wardrobe, so delicately curated. Slowly, Slowly.
“This looks a bit worn.”
S L O W V I O L E N C E
The Violence and the Philosophy of Consumption series calls for an evaluation of the relationship between consumers and producers. Global capitalism is, of course, highly complex, but, a r e p o s i t i o n i n g of our perspective can help reveal unseen faces of the multifaceted system.
A simple r e p o s i t i o n i n g of perspective can highlight the exploitative nature of the fast fashion industry, for example, allowing us to further understand fast fashion as more than a mere product of a global system, and acknowledge it as exercised violence against workers and the environment.
The term VIOLENCE is, of course, an unlikely provocation in discussions surrounding the clothes we wear. The discourse of violence rarely intersects with how we perceive fashion industries, despite our collective awareness of fashion’s exploits. The philosophy of consumption pertains to the unaccountability of the consumer. Yet, when we shift our perspective on fast fashion, holding both retailers and consumers accountable, the industry takes on a new role as the very definition of violence:
“the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.” (World Health Organisation, 2002)
The r e p o s i t i o n i n g of perspectives often calls for a change of discourse.
New terminology allows for new conversations.
r e p o s i t i o n i n g
Once we understand fast fashion as an act of violence against workers and the environment it is beneficial to once again r e p o s i t i o n. What do we mean by violence?
When we r e p o s i t i o n, violence can become
becomes V I O L E N C E
or even V I O L E N C E
S L O W V I O L E N C E
Slow violence is a term that was coined by Rob Nixon in his 2011 book, ‘Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor’. The term refers to “violence that occurs gradually and out of sight.”
Seemingly oxymoronic, slow violence is a concept that r e p o s i t i o n s our perspective on violence, proposing a subversion of the immediacy, explosiveness and spectacle that we regularly associate with it: “Violence is customarily conceived as an event or action that is immediate in time, explosive and spectacular in space, and as erupting into instant sensational visibility.”
Slow violence r e p o s i t i o n s VIOLENCE as V I O L E N C E;
“a violence of delayed destruction.”
An example of slow violence within the fast fashion industry is the use of polyester. As outlined in part 2 of this series, polyester, a plastic that makes up over half of the world’s clothing, is a non-biodegradable, energy-intensive pollutant. Its obnoxious occupancy of landfill as well as the numerous explosive tragedies across its hundreds of production plants are displays of violence “erupting into instant, sensational visibility”. This violence inflicts harm in a way that is perceptible and tangible. The violence of delayed destruction, however, creeps insidiously and comes, ironically, through consumption.
The release of microplastics as our garments tumble in detergent
The water, laced with polymers, draining into a water system
full of life
Through flesh and bone and flesh and bone ingested
Gradual and out of sight is the consumption of fast fashion.
Themes explored within this article have been researched extensively by a wide range of artists and academics. My aim was to introduce key concepts, and so I encourage you, reader, to explore and meditate over the plethora of research that exists on these topics.
PART 1 | PART 2
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