Honors Program

Honors in Philosophy

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Leslie MacAvoy

Thesis Professor Department

Philosophy and Humanities

Thesis Reader(s)

Hilary Malatino, Keith Green


“Spaces of Visibility and Identity” is an exploration on how being immersed in constant visibility has an effect on an individual’s identity. Visibility is not a narrow term meant to signify solely observation; rather, visibility is the state of existing within a world that does not allow for total isolation. To exist within the world is to be visible to others, and this visibility is inescapable. Visibility can be seen as a presentation or a disclosure of oneself to other beings. Existing within the world inevitably implies that one is presenting oneself to others, whether or not the presentation is deliberate. I will be going over two different spaces of visibility throughout this paper: “space of surveillance” and “space of appearance.” The “space of surveillance,” discussed by Michel Foucault, is the space where normative standards of identity are created through discursive acts. This space is meant to control, coerce, and normalize. The “space of surveillance” is important for an exploration of identity formation, because it cannot be ignored that each individual is disclosing themselves in the context of a pre-existing world. This ‘pre-existing world’ is full of normative standards that affect identity formation, but it does not have to ultimately determine an identity. The “space of appearance,” as articulated by Hannah Arendt, is meant to be a supplement to the dogmatic normative standards created within a “space of surveillance.” The “space of appearance” gives those that do not, or do not want to, adhere to the normative standards created by the “space of surveillance” a space to disclose an identity that can challenge and rearticulate what is consider normal or culturally intelligible in the first place. The “space of appearance” is not meant to replace the “space of surveillance;” rather, it has the “space of surveillance” as a contextual background that can be challenged. I have found that both spaces of visibility are necessary for an exploration on identity formation, and I have used gender identity as a concrete example to exemplify both spaces.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
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