Strange Arts & Visual Delights
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Professional deformation was first introduced to me--by a student at the University of Poitiers, I think, who used the term in a joking comment and then had to explain the joke--when I was in France serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Déformation professionnelle is a term for how profession shapes understanding and perception of the world. The passage below, from Ryszard Kapuściński, Travels with Herodotus (Vintage, 2008), 149-50, gives a vivid illustration of a radical form of such deformation:
"They [Alexander the Great and party] encountered the first delegation [from Persepolis] immediately beyond the river. But these ragged figures differed greatly from the elegant opportunists and collaborators with whom Alexander hitherto had dealings. Their cries of greeting, as well as the branches of supplicants they carried in their hands, signified that they were Greeks: people either middle-aged or elderly, perhaps former mercenaries who had fought on the wrong side against the cruel monarch Artaxerxes Ochos. They were a pitiful, downright ghastly sight, because each of them was horribly disfigured. In accordance with the typical Persian method, they had all their ears and noses cut off. Some were missing hands, others feet. All had a disfiguring brand on their foreheads. 'There were people,' says Diodor, 'who were skilled in the arts and in various crafts, and did good work; they had their appendages cut off in such a way as to leave only those necessary for performing their profession.'"
I worry more about ideological deformation, that is, cutting off perceptions, sympathies, and openness to ideas and feelings that are not congenial to our understanding of the world and how we fit into it.