The last day (for now) on the Restless walk took us from Porlock to County Gate where Somerset meets Devon high above the sea on the edges of Exmoor. The landscape is stunningly beautiful - wooded cliffs plummeting down to deserted beaches, waterfalls a go go and a rich symphony of raindrops, birdsong and the ever present churning tide.
The coast path takes you through Culbone Woods, a place with a poignant history. Local historian Joan Cooper tells us that over the centuries different groups of people considered to be a “nuisance to society” have been banished here and left to fend for themselves. In the 13th Century “dis-believers, practicers of magic, the mentally insane”, in the 14th & 15th centuries offenders of petty and moral crimes like theft or adultery, in the 16th & 17th centuries lepers. People who posed a threat in some way made outcasts.
Othering is a process where difference is used to deny individuals or groups basic human rights. I had to look it up (I’m tired and struggling to explain it - I expect many of you could do better!) The philosopher Richard Rorty put it, “everything turns on who counts as a fellow human being” - who gets to participate, to have dignity, power and autonomy. Ultimately it is a way of maintaining the status quo and existing power structures by discrediting and stigmatising different viewpoints, beliefs and lifestyles.
Survivors have been othered forever - outcast not to the woods but to the fringes of society - disbelieved, blamed, silenced, shamed, denied justice, labelled as mad, locked up in asylums - the list goes on and on. I believe that’s because abuse is so embedded in the patriarchal status quo - so deeply pervasive in our society - that our voices are dangerous, radical and revolutionary. Otherwise why work so hard to keep us quiet and seperate?
I’ve only got one thing to say to that - let's make some noise....
welcome to my blog
I'll be posting my personal reflections on creating work as an artist and survivor of childood sexual abuse, my work with the wider sector and interesting developments in arts and mental health.