Transgression is defined using sociological, philosophical, and media perspectives, according to Nagle (2017), Gournelos & Gunkel (2011), and Hermes & Hill (2021). Nagle (2017) traces the concept’s history and situates it within Western social liberalism, allowing art critics to form and express views that, consciously or unconsciously, cross social and political boundaries. Gournelos and Gunkel (2011) extensively cited Jenk’s definition of transgression, which states that transgression is defined as “going beyond the bounds or limits set by a commandment, law, or convention, it is to violate or infringe…” This is consistent with Nagle’s (2017) historicization of the concept previously captured.
Before transgressing, people, in my opinion, must first recognize that certain social and political actions do not bode well for them. This position is becoming more apparent as new technologies help people and organizations create, distribute, and circulate messages that resonate with their ideologies and what they want the public to accept (Gournelos & Gunkel, 2011). Through a collection of academic articles for a journal’s special issue, Hermes & Hill (2021) explore transgression as a crucial concept for comprehending contemporary media engagement and experiences.
The scholars specifically used six cases to establish the place and roles of transgressions in today’s contemporary world of navigating and discussing various issues on the physical and virtual sphere with the intention of breaking social and legal boundaries perceived as incompatible with individual and collective freedom. Jenk’s (2013) definition of transgression, which reads: “a social process and a means of transcending boundaries or overstepping limits,”(p.4) is used by Hermes & Hill (2021) to support their argument.
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Hermes & Hill (2021) take a philosophical approach to the idea in order to better understand it, making specific allusions to Nietzsche, Freud, and Georges Bataille. The philosophers cited emphasize transgression as being opposed to moralism, against civilization, and as favoring self-determination over obedience. These explanations are closely related to the earlier definitions of the concept. They support the idea that transgression should always be understood as an idea that seeks to incite liberation and rebellion through carefully crafted and disseminated messages or materials using any form of media as well as psychical settings (Nagle, 2017; Hermes & Hill, 2021).
According to Hermes & Hill (2021), transgression can have both symbolic and material forms with varying connotations. For instance, transgression may manifest as nonviolence, invasion of privacy, and physical and sexual violence. When these take place, symbolic transgression will be given various interpretations (Hermes & Hill, 2021). For example, transgressions motivated by physical violence would be seen as a lack of respect for established social or political boundaries by those in positions of authority or by groups of people. A typical example is Nagle’s (2017) citation of Siouxse Sioux, who was assaulted for wearing a swastika armband. “Her intention was certainly to shock and offend, but few would argue that it was an earnest declaration of allegiance to Nazism,” (p.30).
Tactics of transgressing
What are the methods of transgression if these are the ways to comprehend the concept? Hermes & Hill (2021) provide some transgressors’ tactics by citing some scholar (Mikhail Bakhtin, Gramsci and Foucault). As fundamental tactics, carnival satire, cultural hegemony, and power as a product are offered. Mikhail Bakhtin is known for his carnival satire, in which transgressors use mockery to break down barriers and topple hierarchical authority. Hermes & Hill (2021) highlight how certain groups (transgressors) could exert dominance through cultural differences from Gramsci’s perspective on cultural hegemony.
Herms and Hill (2021) believe that transgression can occur from both people in positions of authority and those who do not hold any position, based on Foucault’s concept of power as both productive and repressive. This is consistent with Gournelos and Gunkel’s (2011) submission on the definition of transgression 2.0, which asserts that new technologies have profoundly redefined transgressive cultural practices through institutionalized surveillance, censorship, monopolistic consolidation, and discourse foreclosure.
Note to reference: A search using the scholars’ names will turn up the cited publications. Due to the need to conserve space, they are therefore not included here.