Thursday, November 17, 2011

Abdul JanMuhamed / "The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The function of Racial Difference in Colonial Literature" – summary part 1 - 2

Abdul JanMuhamed / "The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The function of Racial Difference in Colonial Literature" – summary  part 1 - 2


 At the beginning of "The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The function of Racial Difference in Colonial Literature" Abdul JanMuhamed is deliberating with different thinkers, mostly from the postcolonial tradition. He argues that they have failed to see that the question of representation is not confined to cultural products, but is rather entangled with political, historical and mainly economical structures that have to be taken into account.
JanMuhamed stresses that the center's symbolic superiority is constructed on overt as well as covert aspects. The covert aspect of colonialism aims at exploiting the other while the overt one aims at "civilizing" him. They relations between colonizer and colonized are characterized according to JanMuhamed by the "Manichean metaphor" – a system of dichotomies and oppositions between white and black, good and bad and so forth. This Manichean allegory is esstential in order to constitute the other as other and draw a line between subject and object. The writer is under pressure to cooperate with this system of distinctions as the center wishes, for the center always seeks to be justified and affirmed.

 European literature regarding the colonies, says JanMuhamed, faces an ethical problem when it seeks to represent the other, by falling into the traps and stereotypes that are meant to affirm its superiority. JanMuhamed distinguished two types of western writing about the colonies, borrowing apparently from the Lacanean vocabulary: imaginary and symbolic. Imaginary writing projects the westerner on to the other in order to fix the boundaries between them while symbolic writing is more open for negotiations of identity with the colonial other. For JanMuhamed, all imaginary writing and some symbolic writing is made to "articulate and justify the moral authority of the coloniozer and – by positing the inferiority of the native as a metaphysical fact – to mask the pleasure the colonizer derives from that authority".

Recommanded literature:




Abdul JanMuhamed / "The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The function of Racial Difference in Colonial Literature" – summary  part 1 - 2


Abdul JanMuhamed / "The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The function of Racial Difference in Colonial Literature" – summary


Abdul JanMuhamed / "The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The function of Racial Difference in Colonial Literature" – summary part 1 - 2

 In "The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The function of Racial Difference in Colonial Literature" Kenya born critical theoretician Abdul JanMuhamed is attempting to describe the central hardship facing every "marginal" writer which attempts to tell himself to a culture that has signed him off as inferior. JanMuhamed talks of the difficulty in escaping the system of representation enforced on the other by the hegemonic western center.

JanMuhamed's central claim is that every writer from the former colonies which seeks to tell the story of his marginalized community to the cultural center will have a difficult task on his hands. The difficulty, JanMuhamed holds, is in locating the postcolonial subject in the center of a literary text. This is because the discursive forces which interpolate literary production work to marginalize such subjects. In other words, JanMuhamed argues that western literature, and its constitutive discourse, is structured, from its very vocabulary to the collective psychology which underlies it, to accommodate a white protagonist, and it will require great ingenuity in order to replace him with a black one.

The post-colonial writer, according to JanMuhamed, needs to avoid duplicating the inscribed identities fixed by the center in regards to his culture of origin, or the general non-western other. JanMuhamed argues that the colonial site has been designated in advance by the cultural center (violent, emotional, sensual, lazy etc.). these stereotypes need to be subverted, and the writer needs to clear the "white" paper from its pre-inscribed representations of the colonial other.

According to JanMuhamed (and others like Edward Said) the cultural center projects its fantasies on minority groups in a manner that denies them the right to an independent formulation of identity, history and self perception and representation.

This turns JanMuhamed to the central question of "The Economy of Manichean Allegory" – how is it possible to be emancipated from the symbolic coercion dictated by the cultural center and to directly, without mediation, to represents the marginal in a manner which does not adhere to preexisting "knowledge" of him?

Recommanded literature:
 


Abdul JanMuhamed / "The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The function of Racial Difference in Colonial Literature" – summary  part 1 - 2

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gayatri Spivak / "Can the Subaltern Speak?" - short critical review


Gayatri Spivak / "Can the Subaltern Speak?" - review 

Gayatri Spivak devotes the first and main part of "Can the Subaltern Speak" to launching a massive attack on Foucault and Deleuze – two of the main figures of contemporary critical theory, and therefore Spivak's offensive can be considered as directed at this academic field in general.  Spivak doesn’t hold back in criticizing Foucault and Deleuze , and turns to especially insulting allegations, accusing them in cooperating with capitalism and imperialism, in essentialism,  positivism, in false claims to objectivity and transparency,  institutionalism and chauvinism.  Spivak uses Marx and through rereading him criticizes those that to a large extent work within the tradition founded by him. Spivak employed a deconstructionist tactic which reads the objects of her criticism "against themselves". Finally, to add insult to injury, she appeals to their eccentric "black sheep" of the family, Jacques Derride, who's method she favors over that of Foucalt and Deleuze. And all through her offensive Spivak makes sure to raise the shield of subject position that is supposed to neutralize the meaning of the words at the bottom of "Can the Subaltern Speak?"  - "California University, Berkeley".

And so Spivak joins Edward Said and other researchers before her of non-western origin that employ western thought and methods in order to criticize the way in which western cultures and academic discourse are representing the third world.

This means that Spivak's title – "Can the Subaltern Speak?" has another question folded inside of it, a question that is addresses to a larger extent in "Can the Subaltern Speak?" than the question formulated in the title, and that question is "Can the oppressor Speak?". It seems that spivak's (and Said's) answer to this question is a definite no, at least not without having their ethnocentrism and economical interests effecting the way they speak and eventually being a repressive act.  The inability, or invalidity, of westerners to speak about the other is derived, so is implied by Spivak, from their inability to listen to the other and understand him without enforcing their own western consciousness and values upon him. In the circle drawn by Spivak the colonial oppressor cannot speak about the Subaltern that he cannot hear since the subaltern cannot speak since the oppressor cannot listen to him. With everybody interlocked in this deaf-dumb cycle, it seems that Spivak leaves room for only one voice to speak – her own ,the female hybrid researcher that now poses the same claim for transparency and objectivity for which she criticized Foucault and Deleuze.

Support us and human knowledge by reading more Spivak:

  

Gayatri Spivak / "Can the Subaltern Speak?" - review - summary part 1 - summary part 2

Gayatri Spivak / "Can the Subaltern Speak?" – summary - part 2

Gayatri Spivak / "Can the Subaltern Speak?" - reviewsummary part 1 - summary part 2

In "Can the Subaltern Speak?" Gayatri Spivak is criticizing the intellectual west's "desire for subjectivity". Spibak claims that "research" or "knowledge" have served as a prime justification for the conquest of other cultures and their enslavement, as part of the European colonial project. The western scholar authoritatively presented himself and his produced knowledge about the other culture as objective. He presented himself is without interests, and scientific, ethical and accurate. This is, for Spivak, very much not the real case for the opening statement of "Can the Subaltern Speak?" is that knowledge about the third world was always tainted with the political and economical interests of the west.

Spivak points to the fact that the west is talking to itself, and in its own language, about the other. Like other commodities, data or raw material (ethnographical ,for example) is harvested in the third world country and taken back to the west, to be produced and sold for the benefit of the western readers and especially the western writer. Spivak wonders if under these conditions it can be possible for the west to speak about the non-west without sustaining the colonial discourse.

Spivak is hardly impressed with western efforts to speak for the other or try to "present his own voice". She believes that the west is obsessed with preserving itself as subject, and that any discourse is eventually about the discoursing agents themselves. Spivak is opposed to the western attempt to situate itself as investigating subject that is opposed to the investigated non-western object. Spivak's answer to "Can the Subaltern Speak?" is no, they cannot, not when the western academic field is unable to relate to the other with anything other than its own paradigm.

Support us and human knowledge by reading more Spivak:

  

Gayatri Spivak / "Can the Subaltern Speak?" - review - summary part 1 - summary part 2

Gayatri Spivak / "Can the Subaltern Speak?" – summary

"Can the Subaltern Speak?" (1988) by Gayatri Spivak relates to the manner in which western cultures investigate other cultures. Spivak uses the example of the Indian Sati practice of widow suicide, however the main significance of "Can the Subaltern Speak?" is in its first part which presents the ethical problems of investigating a different culture base on "universal" concepts and frameworks.

"Can the Subaltern Speak?" critically deals with an array of western writers starting from Marx to Foucault, Deleuze and Derrida. The basic claim and opening statement of "Can the Subaltern Speak?"  is that western academic thinking is produced in order to support western economical interests. Spivak holds that knowledge is never innocent and that it expresses the interests of its producers. For Spivak knowledge is like any other commodity that is exported from the west to the third world for financial and other types of gain.

Spivak is wondering how can the third world subject be studied without cooperation with the colonial project. Spivak points to the fact that research is in a way always colonial, in defining the "other", the "over there" subject as the object of study and as something that knowledge should be extracted from and brought back "here".  Basically we're talking about white men speaking to white men about colored men/women. When Spivak examines the validity of the western representation of the other, she proposes that the discursive institutions which regulate writing about the other are shut off to postcolonial or feminist scrutiny.
This limitation, Spivak holds, is sue to the fact that critical thinking about the "other" tends to articulate its relation to the other with the hegemonic vocabulary. This is similar to feminist writers which abide by the patriarchic rules for academic writing.

In the following parts of "Can the Subaltern Speak?" Spivak is criticizing different critical writers and then moves on to the example of the Indian "Sati" practice.   
Gayatri Spivak / "Can the Subaltern Speak?" - review - summary part 1 - summary part 2

Support us and human knowledge by reading more Spivak:

Jean Baudrillard / "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" – summary and review – the three orders of simulacra

Jean Baudrillard / "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" – summary and review
part 1 - 2 - 3 


In "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" Jean Boudrillard situates pre-industrialism, industrialism and post-industrialism as three periods with distinct differences regarding language and the linguistic market. Boudrillard holds the the pre-industrial, or modern, era had direct and strong linguistic relations between signifier and signified without the risk of confusing meaning (no double meanings).
The industrial, or modern era has multiplied the signifier, according to Boudrillard, and gave rise to polysemy. The stark example of this is the production line – there is no longer one unique product, there is only a model, an abstract universal which designated many signified. Boudrillard argues that the unitary sign system breaks at the signifier's end, which now signifies not one thing but many identical objects.
The third era mentioned by Boudrillard in "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" is the postindustrial or postmodern era, which continues the process of deconstruction which began with modernity. One the one hand Boudrillard argues that we reach a point in which the linguistic market has become total – with a multiple of reoccurring and self reproducing signs which take over our perception of reality and replaces it with a system of simulacra. On the other hand Boudrillard thinks that unclarity is brought about regarding the position of a certain object in relation to other objects. This is because of the transition to a world of simulacra which does not abide by a set structure of economy and value but by rules of hyper real and imagined representation. The realness of the industrialized era is replace according to Boudrillard by virtual manufacturing that can in certain cases break the link between signifier and signified. 
For example, Boudrillard says that we have no way of knowing if what is said on the news is true or not, with the signifier (the news) replacing the signified (the events). We don’t need the actual signified in order to know it. The news replace reality with accuracy and truthfulness taking second precedent to entertainment value.

You should also read:




Jean Baudrillard / "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" – summary and review – part 2



Jean Baudrillard / "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" – summary and review
part 1 - 2 - 3 


Television and internet society are one of Jean Baudrillard's focal concerns in "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra". These societies, writes Baudrillard, cease believing in their own realities, and have traded them for signs. The basic experience of postmodernity is the constant decoding of signs which have taken over the cultural arena and have become an end for themselves. The question of signifying has replace the question of meaning, Baudrillard holds, and has created formal communication which functions at the level of signs without having to be translated into referential reality. For Baudrillard this world, in which signs are endlessly recycled and produce a fictitious reality, undeniable on account of being fictitious, is called "hyperrealism" with relatiy functioning as a simulacra – a copy with no origin.
In "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" Baudrillard suggests a "structural revolution of value". For him, the world of hyperrealism creates a market economy of hyperrealist desires (i.e. a use of realistic apparatuses in order to represent simulacra). These desires are spread by the media in different corners of the cultural representation. Unlike the old economy, the Freudian one which deals with balancing the pleasure principle and social needs, Baudrillard's new hyperrealist economy gives itself to the pleasure principle without any restraints. However, Baudrillard notes, this economy is no threat to the social order, for it exits and function in a entirely fictitious world. In this world, it generate legitimacy for perceiving reality as a system of radicalized fantasies, which in time turn into the natural scale by which the world is comprehended. However, simulacra in not unified, and Baudrillard devoted the rest of "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" to describing the three orders of simulacra.

You should also read:


Jean Baudrillard/ "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" – summary and review
part 1 - 2 - 3 

Jean Baudrillard / "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" – summary and review

Jean Baudrillard / "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" – summary and review
part 1 - 2 - 3  


Jean Baudrillard's difficult "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" is an attempted account of the shift in the lingual social field from modernity to post-modernity.
Jean Baudrillard opens his "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" with the assertion that "symbolic exchange is no longer an organizing principle; it no longer functions at the level of modern social institutions". This assertion posed by Baudrillard needs to be understood in relation to lines of thought such as Pierre Bourdieu's concept of linguistic market  which views linguistic interactions as symbolic interactions following rules and structures of social formations. Contrary to Bourdieu, Baudrillard seems to be arguing that symbolic exchange are no longer an organizing principle and is has stopped functioning as a social institution. The ordered system theorized by Bourdieu collapses, according to Baudrillard, with the transition from modernity to postmodernity.
According to Baudrillard in "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" we live at a time in which the linguistic market has no regularity. Words and language gain autonomy of their own and the rigid control over the meaning of language is open for subversion.
Like Bourdieu, Baudrillard thinks that the social system is never without an ideology which hides itself behind what is presented as "natural" and self evident. However, Baudrillard claims that with the transition into the post-industrial era we enter a new structure of simulation and simulacra that operate in the virtual space. This new structure is detached from the "realness" that characterized the modern age. The rules of economy are now replaced by a new order that mixes reality and representation. According to Bourdirllard the economy of production is replaced by simulation.
According to Baudrillard the transition from modernity to postmodernity is also a transition from a "real" order of values to an imagined one. This does not mean that Bourdrillard is arguing that in the modern world things are real and in the postmodern world are detached from reality, but rather that the modern world tends to present its values as real and as having to do with the social system while the post modern world and its relative nature allows for autonomy for linguistic practices which are not measured easily by its value in the linguistic market. If Bourdieu's linguistic market had a closed and hierarchic structure, Baudrillard's simulation allows for much more freedom and equality which are the result of the virtual. Imagined or otherwise unreal nature of the visions we encounter.

You should also read:



Jean Baudrillard / "The Structural Law of value and the Order of Simulacra" – summary and review
part 1 - 2 - 3 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pierre Bourdieu's concept of linguistic market and linguistic capital

Pierre Bourdieu's concept of linguistic market and linguistic capital is the application of his important concept of habitus to the realm of linguistic and more specifically discourse analysis. In a sense, the idea of the linguistic market is the consideration of social structures when talking about what Noam Chomsky defines as lingual competence. While competence for Chomsky is universal, in Bourdieu's sense it very much depends on your background, social status etc. lingual competence, for Bourdieu, in the context of the linguistic market, is the ability to speak to the point, in a manner that fits the circumstances and objectives within those circumstances. It's an ability to use the right words, right grammar, register, tone, body language and so forth in a manner that is favorable by the social structure of the linguistic market.

The linguistic market, as the name implies, in build on economic relation within which certain lingual capabilities have a higher currency than others, what Bourdieu refers to as linguistic capital. The linguistic market, according to Bourdieu, is both substantial in being a certain social situation and an abstraction in the forms of rules that regulate the value of lingual utterances and the spread, accumulation and reproduction of linguistic capital.

To understand Bourdieu's idea of the linguistic market and linguistic capital, think about how Oxford English gives a speaker, in formal situation, much more voice and credibility than someone who speaks, for example, Black English. This is determined by the formation of the linguistic market which gives certain ways of communication a more favorable currency in comparison with others. According to Bourdieu, the linguistic market, much like other markets, in never a free market, for power relations within it predetermine the standards according to which linguistic capital is allocated, thus preserving the rule of the elite (which always speaks the most prestigious language).


See summaries of Bourdieu's work:
Pierre Bourdieu – The Historical Genesis of the Pure Aesthetic - summary and review


Suggested reading on Bourdiue:
   
  



 Pierre Bourdieu's concept of linguistic market and linguistic capital
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