Hilde Lindemann Nelson's Damaged Identities, Narrative Repair

Summary by Chris Potter

In Chapter 4 of Hilde Lindemann Nelson's Damaged Identities, Narrative Repair, she looks at the different functions and motivations for oppression through the use of master narratives. She defines oppression as the use of unjust structures of power which restrict the agency of particular groups. Lindemann identifies "five faces of oppression" which are different methods of oppression. The first face, exploitation, is used in the classic Marxist sense of the unjust transfer of the product of labor from one group to another. Such an unequal exchange leads the formation prejudice that fuels further oppression of the exploited group. The second face is marginalization which excludes groups that a system of labor cannot or will not use. Elderly people seeking work are often victims of marginalization. The third face is powerlessness which excludes people on the basis of privilege. The divide between professional and non-professional workers is an example of powerlessness. This exclusion impacts not merely the working life of the excluded group, but all areas including social life. Cultural Imperialism is the fourth face, which is the universalization of a particular culture's experience over humanity in general. Excluded cultures become important to the definition of the dominant culture's master narrative by serving as the negative example of the other. The final face Lindemann describes is violence which can range from humiliation to injury to killing.

Oppression according to Lindemann is not always based on expelling a certain group but it can also be dismissive, pressive or preservative. Dismissive oppression operates by merely tolerating a group on the fringe, for example the elderly or non-professional workers. These groups are generally not subject to expulsion but they do not receive any sort of privileged place with the master narrative. Pressive oppression differs from expulsion because it requires a degree of trust between the oppressor and the oppressed. American slavery is an example of pressive oppression because slaves and slave owners had fairly stable positions in relation to each other which allowed a degree of trust between them. This is a very limited trust however, for example the slave could generally trust that they would not become subject to random sadistic violence if they followed the owner's orders. Slave owners often trusted the care of their children to slaves, demonstrating a degree of coerced cooperation and limited trust. Preservative oppression differs from all the others because it can operate normatively over an entire population. The master narrative which privileges the status of heterosexuals is preservative over the entire population generally. These different functions often operate in tandem with each other, for example the preservative oppression toward heterosexuality leads to dismissive or even expulsive oppression of homosexuals.