Right now I am waist deep in literary theory. I am at the end of my first semester of an English grad program and assembling a term paper. I’m interested in food studies, anticipate spending a lot of long nights cozying up to Claude Levi-Strauss’ The Raw and the Cooked. So, indulge my geek-out for a minute here, but I talk about binaries, as used by Levi-Strauss, the theorist, not the maker of fine denim apparel.
Binaries have fans all across the academic spectrum. There are binary numbers, binary code, binary stars and binary relationships in theory. What makes the term so popular is its articulation the relationship of two alternatives existing in opposition to one another. Levi-Strauss pointed out man:woman, raw:cooked, and young:old. The list can go on and on. As Book of Mormon scriptorians, we are all familiar with the discussion of opposition in 2 Nephi 2. Yes, there is opposition, in just about everything.
With the political high season winding down, we are all quite familiar with the binaries that separated and divided so much of the country. Many of us are downright exhausted by it, myself included. I stress and agonize over the structural lines, fissures that edge us apart and divide us into binaries. While I realize that opposition is natural, normal and sometimes useful, its not something I find productive. As I am writing and considering binary theory with my semester research, I have to ask the question, so what? It is not enough that matter and issues exist in a divided state. For me, the interest comes in the second half of binary structure, not the opposition, but the relationship between the two, or, how they then come together.