Cornel’s "Normative Gaze" Theory


Cornel defines the idea of the “Normative Gaze” by using relation between historic background providing the ideals of beauty and the facts of white supremacy.  The ideals of beauty are those which seem to be deeply rooted in plainness, symmetry and what eventually came to be considered “normal.”  This production of normality through art and literature Cornel endeavors to show goes beyond just the proportion of body and structure of face but it in fact supersedes also into race.

From the literature of Wincklemann-opinionating that Greece houses the ultimate of beauty, to the 1520 Paracelsus claiming that black or primitive people were of separate origin of those of the European nature, to Buffon and Linnaeus who both held position that all races were a variation of one with differences explained by either climate or other chance.  Each analysis provides a comparison between differences, variations and measurements to find some type of normality or position to classify from.

Cornel concurs with Foucalt in his saying that, “Natural history…constitutes a whole domain empiricity as at the same time describable and orderable.” Meaning that it is natural history and therefore natural tendency to classify and organize (in this case human beings).  That classification can certainly come from many different directions but poignantly for our discussion it is simply coming from skin color and ethnicity.

From this Cornel determines is where white supremacy has sprouted-the need and tendency to classify and categorize.  White supremacy then becomes the first actual modern discourse of the modern West producing what can be referred to as the “Normative Gaze.”