Mutual Recognition in a Relationship with Domination

While reading all of these stories, many of them have interesting power dynamics. The Tlic with the Terran in Bloodchild, the designated mate with the beauty spy in Blackbox, the daughter and the mother from Good County People, the old man and the town’s people from the Very Old Man with Enormous Wings and many more. All of those stories contain a relationship between two parties where one is more so dominating the other.

With every story, I was trying to find mutual recognition between them. In Spiderhead was there mutual recognition between the man in charge and the narrator when the narrator had to first say “acknowledge” before anything was done to him? Was there mutual recognition between the narrator’s friend and Ms. Moore in The Lesson when the main character’s friend accepted the lesson? I’m still not sure. I believe that when a more powerful figure allows their less powerful counterpart a “choice,” it is not mutual recognition. I believe is more so them still lording their power over the other. Like saying “I will give a choice to make you feel like you have power,” but that way, they’re still in power but now only manipulating emotions.

If mutual recognition means that one party sees the other as an equal, I feel like majority of these stories lack that. But if mutual recognition simply means that one party sees the other as an individual with valid feelings and thoughts but still decides to lord power over the other, then the stories do have that. I’m not sure if mutual recognition is up to interpretation, but I believe that if something were to *mutually* recognize another thing, then it would have to see it as an equal being.

6 thoughts on “Mutual Recognition in a Relationship with Domination


    Great ideas in this post, Micah! I like the point you made about one party dominating another, I also saw that within some of the stories we read, particularly “Bloodchild” the concept of mutual recognition is a little grainy and hard to comprehend. Although both parties do mutually recognize each other, their responsibilities and duties differ, and most would argue that the Tlic had more power and control over the Terrans, so it was not completely “mutual”.


  2. Paige M

    I completely agree! I especially liked your point about how a powerful figure allowing the less powerful counterpart a “choice” is not mutual recognition. I agree that this is more of a manipulation tactic, rather than true mutual recognition.



    After reading Jessica Benjamin’s approach to intersubjectivity, I also strove to find mutual recognition within each of the short stories. With each story, I also concluded that mutual recognition requires treating the other person as an equal. This conclusion makes me wonder that if this is true, which I believe it is, can mutual recognition be achieved in relationships with innate hierarchical structures?



    I agree with you, Micah. I think your point about “fake” mutual recognition in many of the relationships in the stories we read is really interesting. Particularly in Spiderhead, the man in charge definitely wants the narrator to believe there is mutual recognition, even though there clearly isn’t. But unlike Bloodchild, I don’t think the narrator really buys that their relationship has mutual recognition. I think this is an interesting difference.


  5. mfriedman62

    I agree with you also and I really like how there are illusions of mutual recognition and that they can appear to be authentic but upon further interpretation, we can determine some to be feigned. It takes a very active reader to decipher between the fake and the real. I think the stories we read challenged us to delve deep to conclude if mutual recognition was achieved or if the reader just wanted us to think it was.


  6. Zach B

    I wholeheartedly agree with your post, Micah. These characters were only allowed to believe in the idea of mutual recognition, while they were seen as inferior by their counterparts. Your point holds very strong in Spiderhead, where Abnesti tries to convince Jeff that he’s acting with his best interests in mind. It’s almost easy to forget that Jeff is technically in a prison, but upon reflection, it becomes clear that Jeff really has no say in what happens to him.


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