Page 99 of my dissertation provides a short glimpse of a key tension which characterizes Israeli Life Coaching as well as other projects of self-realization and therapeutic technologies. In a heading on page 99, I named this tension “from introspection to instruction” to describe coaches’ and trainees’ negotiations with the neoliberal and therapeutic notion of cultivating reflexivity and following the specific instructions of a professional authority. Scholars such as Michel Foucault, Nikolas Rose, James Faubion and others have extensively theorized how healers and experts of the soul exercise their power through the cultivation of their patients’ reflexivity. One of my contributions to this line of exploration is a focus on a local style of speech called dugri (direct speech) that entails a certain notion of caring and reshapes, in specific ways, the ethical dilemma between liberation and domination.
Dugri refers to utterances spoken in a blunt manner, as a form of criticism aimed at one’s interlocutor which symbolizes intimacy, authenticity, care, and courage. In short, dugri speakers speak their minds in a straightforward manner that is sometimes even intentionally aggressive. The logic behind dugri is that only someone who truly cares about their interlocutors will put him/herself at risk by expressing an unpopular critical view (Katriel 1986). Accordingly, this also means that smiling politely and avoiding confrontation is seen as inauthentic and careless.
The prevalence of dugri style of speech among Israeli life coaches, which encompasses making concrete assertions and determining what is right and wrong for a specific trainee, undercuts some global therapeutic notions which favor self-reflection and self-realization over such local professional calculations. In my dissertation I show how Israeli coaches and their trainees negotiate these two discourses – the global and local – as well as these two types of caring, in their effort to balance between focusing on the trainee’s abilities to be reflexive and centering around the coach’s expression of his/her authenticity as well as expert knowledge and power.
Dugri is idiosyncratically Israeli. But could such styles also be found in other cultures? Recently I had a chance to view the new Netflix documentary about the famous American life coach Anthony Robbins titled: “I am not your Guru” (which I highly recommend: https://www.netflix.com/watch/80102204?trackId=14277281&tctx=0%2C0%2C6f297f89-3322-4f91-b3ba-1ec0cb44108c-50113145). Robbins very vividly demonstrates an aggressive type of fearless speech, and I wonder – is it part of what renders coaching so popular in other places around the globe too? Are we witnessing the emergence of a new technology of selfhood which challenges the hegemony of a reflexive, psycho-therapeutic emotional style?
1986 Talking Straight: Dugri Speech in Israeli Sabra Culture: Cambridge University Press.
Tamar Kaneh-Shalit. 2015. Positive Thinking without a Smile: Self and Care in Israeli Life Coaching. Phd dissertation, University of Haifa.
When asked to say something about page 99 and its representation of my dissertation, my fingers and toes were crossed that the page would include an image. My dissertation, “Carmen Miranda: Ripe for Imitation,” is concerned with the Classic Hollywood star’s dress and performance and the significance of the countless Carmen imitations. In all there are 58 images in my dissertation. Given my page count, that meant there was about a 33% chance I’d land on a photo or film still. No such luck. Instead page 99 discusses the extractability of Carmen’s cinematic performance: musically (she was a talented singer accomplished in a Brazilian vocalization akin to American jazz scatting) and in terms of her comic dance and performance style. If ever a dissertation needed audio files, film clips, and still images this one did! The very extractability of sound, moving image, and performance I discuss on page 99 is represented entirely with printed words.
The good news is that university presses (such as Duke, University of California) are beginning to publish open access, digital books. The peer review process is as rigorous as for traditional publications yet the digital book creates opportunities for incorporating sound and film clips, while reducing the cost of publishing the many color still images I need to support the written word of my revised dissertation.
Page 99 reflects the value of my original research while highlighting the constraints I faced and accepted in the dissertation writing process. Accepting the limitations meant completing my degree in a timely fashion. My mentor didn’t quite put it like this but in essence he told me: “You don’t have to wear all your jewels to the prom. It’s ok to don a few baubles and save your turban for the next big occasion.”
Lori Hall-Araujo, “Carmen Miranda: Ripe for Imitation.” Phd. diss, Indiana University, 2013.
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