The most beautiful thing about reading this is feeling all the bodily incomprehension dissolve into language. It is a strange thing to have an event, a happening, that you experience be described in such beautiful poetic detail, enabling you to sit with, think through, struggle and claim the site that disrupts you.
We begin with a table. Around this table, the family gathers, having polite conversations, where only certain things can be brought up. Someone says something you consider problematic. You are becoming tense; it is becoming tense. How hard to tell the difference between what is you and what is it! You respond, carefully, perhaps. You say why you think what they have said is problematic. You might be speaking quietly, but you are beginning to feel “wound up,” recognising with frustration that you are being wound up by someone who is winding you up. In speaking up or speaking out, you upset the situation. That you have described what was said by another as a problem means you have created a problem. You become the problem you create.
To be the object of shared disapproval, those glances that can cut you up, cut you out. An experience of alienation can shatter a world. The family gathers around the table; these are supposed to be happy occasions. How hard we work to keep the occasion happy, to keep the surface of the table polished so that it can reflect back a good image of the family. So much you are not supposed to say, to do, to be, in order to preserve that image. If you say, or do, or be anything that does not reflect the image of the happy family back to itself, the world becomes distorted. You become the cause of a distortion. You are the distortion you cause. Another dinner, ruined. To become alienated from a picture can allow you to see what that picture does not and will not reflect.
Full article can be read here: http://sfonline.barnard.edu/polyphonic/ahmed_01.htm#text1