Videos > Joanna Hańderek - Everyday secrets

About the talk:

Joanna Hańderek is a philosopher who doesn’t think secrets are always a good thing. While secrets are often private or only shared by a few people, they can also be widespread. These everyday secrets, or culturally defined norms, can exclude and cause harm. As long as we don’t admit to their existence, they remain hidden from public debate and awareness.

Recorded during: TEDxKraków 2012

About the speaker:

Joanna Hańderek is a philosopher and lecturer at the Jagiellonian University specializing in the study of culture. She has written two philosophy books on culture and time, and she is working on two more at the moment. She’s a lover of cultural diversity, ideology, multiculturalism, dialogue (even if it causes a scene), and is opposed to fanaticism, close-mindedness, nationalism, racism, and all the phobias that prevent normal conversation.

While secrets are often private or only shared by a few people, Joanna believes that in the context of culture, secrets can be widespread but can serve to exclude and do harm. In her opinion, there is another kind of everyday secret, and it exists in the norms adopted by the mainstream culture of a society. The idea of normalcy - what is regarded as the common and acceptable - presupposes the existence of aberrations. Often people cannot cope with existing outside of these standards, so they hide their flaws, and when they cannot, they hide themselves, becoming a secret society, invisible people. In this case, secret lives can mean those that exist beyond the culturally accepted norm.

Immigrants, the sick, the disabled, people of colour or alternative sexuality, those working blue-collar jobs can all be hidden away. They can be ignored by their families as well as society in general due to their deviations from set norms. As long as their existence remains a secret, they remain hidden from public debate and awareness.

It is curious why such secret lives still exist. It would seem that the culture of the West (especially in the twentieth century, following the Cultural Revolution) worked out a lot of taboos, broke a lot of rules and principles, but still in different countries and in different environments we still clearly push those who do not fall within the classification of “normal” into a realm of non-existence. What are the reasons behind such categorizations, and are they inevitable?

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