‘who is knocking at the door?’ if they are knocking, in pangnirtung, they are most likely a social worker (perhaps coming to scoop up the kids) or a police officer, who by legal statute must obey the law of the threshold. local people visiting each other simply walk in; sometimes calling out the name of the occupant they want to visit, or else simply making themselves at home until the occupant chooses to appear. when i ask inuit elders in pangnirtung how this came to be, they reply quite sensibly that one could not ‘knock’ on a tent or an iglu.
there is an extraordinary social practicality to this gesture. let us assume it is winter. why should we tax our guests (assuming we want them to visit and thereby save us the trouble of walking) by leaving them outside our door waiting as we put the baby down, waiting as we wipe our hands with the half soaking dish towel, waiting as we turn down the t.v., and still waiting as we run to the door in order to discover a frozen chunk of ice surrounding our dear friend? similarly, should we be so brave as to venture out on a visit, why tax our host by assuming we are so important that they should put the baby down, leave the dishes, turn down jerry springer right at the critical point when the mother is going to break down and confess that her son’s obesity was the result of her own neurotic affection, and run to the door in order to open it for us (an action, after all, we are quite capable on our own merits of engaging in)?
in pangnirtung as in many other a northern community, every door is an open door (for the most part unless the occupants are out overnight or for lengthy — multi day — durations). in this gesture, the displacing of the threshold, we find a tangible embodiment of a value critical to communities that deserve the name community, a value that is only found as a hollow shadow of itself in a dominant culture whose dominance presupposes the destruction of this once common social attribute: the value of trust. in pangnirtung, every private space is, however temporarily, a potential public shelter.
if gestures can be characterized as a writing with the body, then this gesture may be said to be emblematic of what i would call embodied deconstruction. the whole binary of public and private social relations, the instantiation of possessive individualism that continues to ground the established order, is challenged by this practice. the threshold as marker of the private, as legal guardian of the possessions, the threshold as limit before which even Law trembles, this threshold is entirely destabilized in pangnirtung, overturned and displaced in a parallel manner to the way in which deconstruction itself wants to overturn and displace a variety of metaphysical binaries. embodied deconstruction: rewriting the law of the threshold through movement of the body.
the unannounced entrance.