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Professional Vision Essay

The article “Professional Vision” by Charles Goodwin presented an interesting argument in demonstrating how perception can be constructed and developed in different contexts among different individuals or groups of people. In his discussion, Goodwin looked at two scenarios wherein perspective was influenced by three elements: coding schemes, highlighting, and articulation of graphic representations.  Ultimately, his discussion aimed to provide an explanation how an event such as the beating of cops of an African-American motorist (Rodney King) was construed by the public as an act of police brutality, rather than a response to King’s ‘aggressive behavior,’ as perceived by the cops accused of brutality.

Goodwin’s anthropological analysis of the professional vision is an effective illustration that individuals of a specific profession develop a perspective of their own, similar to ‘groupthink,’ which both impairs and improves an individual’s perception of an individual’s action.  Goodwin especially centered on Sgt Duke as an example of an individual who was deep into the professional vision concept, perceiving the cops’ actions as justifiable, in light of King’s response to the arrest, which he interpreted as a manner of “aggressive” behavior.

Officer Powell, one of the accused, proved this assumption about professional vision when he justified his actions, where ‘he landed the most blows’ to King, as “reasonable” when ‘he will put his perception’ on the action he did during the arrest.  It is striking that Goodwin did not argue for or against the case discussed, but most helpfully, he demonstrated why the officers and Sgt Duke perceived the arrest as an arrest, and the cops’ physical actions against King as responses to his aggressive behavior.  This perspective illustrates and brings to reality the professional vision, a vision developed because of individuals’ internalization of their interpretation of actions, as considered necessary in their profession.

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Reference:

Goodwin, C.  (1994).  “Professional Vision.”  American Anthropologist, Vol. 96, No. 3.

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