Hermeneutics (and the Need to Listen)
by Alex O’Rourke
Hermeneutics is the theory and practice of interpretation. Language requires a means of interpretation and hermeneutics, therefore, is its methodology. Hermeneutics is commonly associated with biblical interpretations and conventionally identifies a discipline and historical movements surrounding it. Interpretation however involves an understanding and consequently a willingness to understand. Failing or neglecting hermeneutics that differ from your own views and values is unjust and leads to discrimination and marginalization.
In his book, Trans Exploits: Trans of Color Cultures and Technologies in Movement, Jian Neo Chen (they/he) deliberately begins his first chapter with a quote by Jose Esteban Munoz regarding hermeneutics:
I refer to disidentification as a hermeneutic, a process of production, and a mode of performance...For the critic, disidentification is the hermeneutical performance of decoding mass, high, or any other cultural field from the perspective of a minority subject who is disempowered in such a representational hierarchy (Chen 30).
A little bit further on in the chapter, they then powerfully mention the idea that heterosexual and gender normative people stubbornly neglect to learn any language other than their own, consequently failing to understand and accept, resulting in the “othering” of fellow human beings. Chen discusses Mel Baggs, who identifies as both genderless and transgender. Baggs created a video which went viral on YouTube, directly addressing viewers, ‘failure to learn your language is seen as a deficit but failure to learn my language is seen as so natural that people like me are officially described as mysterious and puzzling’ (Chen 40).
Chen, Jian Neo. Trans Exploits: Trans of Color Cultures and Technologies in Movement. Duke University Press, 2019.
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Dr. Ikechukwu Aloysius Orjinta. “Hermeneutics as a Theory of Interpretation and as a Literary Theory.” GRIN, 2012, www.grin.com/document/191148. Accessed 25 Mar. 2021.
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