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phalangingle in theoryishotcrew

Can I just substitute an interpretive dance in place of a list?

Although I am generally of the opinion that I would never be a member of a club that would have someone like me as a member, I decided to give this a try.

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  1. "Foucault" in "Dictionnaire des philosophes" 1984, - Maurice Florence

 

  1. Distinction - Bourdieu

 

  1. El Laberinto de la Soledad - Paz

 

  1. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life - Goffman

 

  1. Borderlands/La Frontera - Anzaldua

 

  1. The Interpretation of Cultures  - Geertz

 

  1. Aberrations in Black - Ferguson

 

  1. Ain't I a Woman  - bell hooks

 

  1. Giving an Account of Oneself - Butler

 

  1. Selections from the Prison Notebooks - Gramsci


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Comments

General opener

Please define "theory." In your definition, please refer to Anzaldua, hooks, and Florence.

Re: General opener

No! We simply must stop asking this. Especially of avowedly Marxist candidates like this.

Re: General opener

I never saw you as Defender of the Marxists.

Re: General opener

I am.

Re: General opener

You mean, you are a Defender of Marx's.

Re: General opener

Depends if your definition of Marxism is similar to mine here.

Re: General opener

Theory is a set of problematics, systems of categories, prepositions, and principles of evaluation. This is a broad definition and could encompass geography, physics, biology, etc.


I am going to start with Monsieur Florence (MF). I must first admit that I have only recently come across the "Foucault" entry by MF. Given its short length I have read it a few times. It makes my top theory list over, say, History of Sexuality, or Discipline and Punish. As an account of Foucault's work and thought it stands as exemplary compared to the more simplistic accounts - even when they exceed the length of "Foucault" - that settle for a structuralist Foucault or a Foucault offering a diffuse idea of power. The overview of Foucault's work is interesting, but this is not why I chose it.

Foucault wrote this originally for an introduction to History of Sexuality, and later submitted it under the pseudonym Maurice Florence to the dictionary. As a "Masked Philosopher", Foucault as Monsieur Florence serves as a critical observer of his work. Foucault distances himself from the author function and voices his assessment through a mask. M. Florence does not find the personal characteristics of Foucault's life all that compelling, and the pseudonym renders the critic free of personal baggage. The entry "Foucault" involves a work of self-criticism, practiced under pseduonym, and works out connections between Focault's work and a practice of criticism. Foucault's work is not reduced to a strawman, nor is it inflated into hyperbole. Instead, M. Florence's "Foucault" breathes life into the work of Foucault rather than try to relegate it to a dustbin or pin it to the ceiling as a pinata.

Anzaldua's text performs the theory that she develops in Borderlands through the texts that she discusses, presents, creates, and arranges. The book includes English, Spanish, Tejano, and Nahuatl. The reader encounters poetry, narrative, and arguments, with some of the poetry in various languages. The text is a hybrid form with poetry interrupting narrative and shifting historical and social references. The new Mestizo/a navigates the borders of culture. Mestizaje, neither a deviation, nor a simple mixing of any of its component cultures acknowledges contradictions at the intersections of identities, social positions, and vectors of power. Central to Borderlands/La Frontera is a focus on memory and identity. Memory is a collective and personal practice, not simply an account that can more or less be accurately held up against reality.

Anzaldua's text does not develop through linear narrative or a technical orientation to theory (hypothesis testing, etc). Instead, Anzaldua's development of theory involves forms outside of conventional philosophy, history, and sociology.


The hooks offers a theoretical orientation and criticizes dominate figures and tropes that organize historical research, social science, and popular culture uses to describe, evaluate, portray, imitate, and control African Americans. She places the experience of black women at the center of her analysis. Dominant discourses often assume/d -through choice of examples, cases, and representations - that race = black men and gender = white women. Moreover, the history of black life in the US often relied on the figure of the castrated male to narrate and make sense of the past, and the past's influence on the present. Considering the lives of black women, whether ignored by historians or cast as the causes of a "tangle of pathologies" via the Moynihan report, leads to a questioning of scholarship in many domains and requires a criticism of prominent forms of theory.

Re: General opener

Please ignore the prepositions part of the theory definition. Or focus on it. Either way I don't know why it is there.

Re: General opener

Propositions.

Re: General opener

Foucault distances himself from the author function and voices his assessment through a mask.

How does he distance himself from the author function?

Re: General opener

Oh, Knut.

Re: General opener

I figured you'd catch that. ;)

Re: General opener

Of course. But have you read the Foucault yet?

Let me rephrase...

As I understand Foucault's position in "What is an author?", the flesh-and-blood author is separate from the author function. When you suggest that "Foucault distances himself from the author function," however, you seem to imply that he at first occupied it. In other words, unless I'm mistaken here, you seem to be claiming that flesh-and-blood Foucault occupied the position of author function, a position he then distanced himself from.

What I'm interested in reading about here is, just how does one make this leap? Is it simply a matter of writing under a pseudonym, and speaking of yourself in the third person? That is, if the author function is something Foucault needs to distance himself from, how does he do that? Further, if I remember right (and please correct me if I'm mistaken), Foucault then moves from individual texts to discourses. Does Foucault-as-Florence's text participate in the discourse that Foucault-in-author-function (for his body of work) create? That is, in writing about his body of work, can Foucault-as-Florence really distance himself from that author function?

Re: Let me rephrase...

I think you are right to question my phrasing of distance from the author function.

Re: Let me rephrase...

I did not mean to imply that Foucault as 'flesh and blood individual' occupied the author function. Foucault explicitly rejects the absolute coupling of 'flesh and blood individual' with the author function. The author function classifies. It groups together texts under a name. However, there is always the question of what can be categorized as the work of the author. Foucault comments on Nietzsche's writings and asks what is to be included in a collection of his work? What to include: his books, workbooks, lists of aphorisms, a notebook page with thoughts and a grocery list, appointment times scrawled in the margins?. Foucault also, as you mention, extends this to discourse. An author's name can come to signify a movement, a characterization of a certain time period, etc.

What I meant by 'distancing from the author function' is that he does not classify the text as part of his work, withholding the ability to bestow upon it an authoritative designation. In History of Sexuality Vol 1 Foucault sets out an analytics of power and indicates how he will approach his sources. Under the name of Foucault, this statement of research process becomes part of Foucault's discourse. When Foucault recounts particular stories or cites an architectural design these can be understood in relation to his immediate explanations, and they can be related to his explicit discussion of methodology. For example, Foucault presents the 1867 case of a farm hand in a French village who plays a game of "curdled milk" with local village girls; then, "he was pointed out by the girl's parents to the mayor of the village, reported by the mayor to the gendarmes, led by the gendarmes to the judge, who indicted him and turned him over first to a doctor, then to two other experts who not only wrote their report but also had it published." Foucault comments that this episode became "the object not only of a collective intolerance but of a judicial action, a medical intervention, a careful clinical examination, and an entire theoretical elaboration” (32). This story can be recalled later in Chapter 2 where Foucault lays out his method (analytics of power). How was the sexual act classified, evaluated, constructed as object of examination and intervention through new forms of power/knowledge?

Under the name of M. Florence the "Foucault" entry will not alter the discourse about Foucault's work in the same way as a programmatic statement on method in HoS. The text of the former can either be read as part of M. Florence's discourse, under an unknown pseudonym, or "M. Florence's discourse" written by Foucault but not classified as a work marked by the authorial name "Foucault." By distancing I did not mean the text is connected to Foucault as individual. Instead, I mean distancing as removing it from the effects of categorization produced by the author function.

Now that you have called attention to the phrasing of 'distance from author function' I have reconsidered it. Rather than distance from the author function, it would be better to say Foucault is deploying the author function to distance the "Foucault" entry from the work categorized and characterized by the authorial name Foucault. Of course both were written by the individual Foucault, but that is not what links them as texts within discourse. The author is not the same as the individual, and the author function works to categorize. This function is not something that is occupied, it is not a position.

Critics of Foucault have used the author function to connect Foucault's work (which is constructed differently by commentators) with "poststructuralist," "structuralist," "postmodernist," and many other discourses. The entry by M. Florence avoids these stale caricatures. Foucault deploys the author function through pseudonym. The text cannot be categorized as by "Foucault" (carrying the authorial mark), but can be considered part of Foucault's work. This deployment of the author function differentiates the entry from the programmatic statement of method in HoS, under The name of Foucault. M. Florence reflects on Foucault's overall work, considering how his various texts can contribute to a larger project.

Re: Let me rephrase...

Is there a translation of the entry in English? (I'm assuming he wrote it in French.) I'm curious to read it now.

One of the difficulties I have with the concept of the author function is when we ascribe the name of the flesh-and-blood author to that role, making it difficult to see that distinction. For instance, when you write "Foucault comments on Nietzsche's writings," do you mean the flesh-and-blood Foucault, or the author function Foucault? It's even more confusing for me is when you write "Foucault is deploying the author function," because I now imagine an Author writing as Author Function who then deploys (another level of) Author Function. In my head, I picture a set of Russian nesting dolls, with various layers of author function separating us from the flesh-and-blood author. And like many (but not all) sets of such dolls, they are all painted the same.

Am I missing something here?

Re: Let me rephrase...

You monolinguists...

Re: Let me rephrase...

Now that you have called attention to the phrasing of 'distance from author function' I have reconsidered it. Rather than distance from the author function, it would be better to say Foucault is deploying the author function to distance the "Foucault" entry from the work categorized and characterized by the authorial name Foucault. Of course both were written by the individual Foucault, but that is not what links them as texts within discourse. The author is not the same as the individual, and the author function works to categorize. This function is not something that is occupied, it is not a position.

I like this.

Re: General opener

What does it mean to perform a theory? Is it similar to performing a concerto?

Re: General opener

I will address this question in relation to the Anzaldua,


Borderlands/La Frontera performs theory by using discursive techniques that produce effects to those she discusses in formal statements. The use of multiple languages puts the reader at a linguistic borderlands. I am able to read the English and Spanish but not the Nahuatl. I can see the Nahuatl text, but cannot grasp its significance. The text also creates a discursive borderland through mixing narrative, poetry, and socio-historical analysis. She rewrites the tale of La Malinche (the interpreter for Cortez) and questions the received version that distorts the social reality of the conquest.

All theory is performed. Borderlands differs from a positivist social scientific study of hybrid cultures, a traditional philosophical text, or a public policy report. All of these texts perform theory in a certain style. The positivist social scientific study will try to produce an objective report through language that performs the objectivity of the question at the level of discourse (use of third person pronouns, little mention of researcher except to describe attempts to reduce bias, formulation of hypotheses, explicit discussion of method)). Traditional philosophical texts generally make arguments through formal expositions of logic. Anzaldua does not take the new mestiza (figure of multiple identities) as a case or symptom of a broader phenomenon(mix of national cultures, changing social economic structures). She does not advance formalized hypotheses. Nor does she attempt to formally define the new mestiza. Instead the concept of mestiza is performed through the structure and devices of the text.


Re: General opener

And then, of course, there's the whole issue of "performance theory" which is a specific thing.

Re: General opener

That all theory is performed does not mean that all that theory is, is performance. By theory is performed I do mean something similar to apriori's 'promulgating through presentation'. Theory is performed through a set of literary devices.

A difference between the performance of theory and the performance of gender is that the latter is performative. Butler argues that there is no gendered core that individuals can be said to "express." Instead, the performance of gender creates the substance of gender (performativity: constructing the object posited through the utterance). Theory can be performative, but it is not necessarily. Some theories, like those of free market capitalism, are taken up and implemented. Those policies and programs embedded within the logic of theories of the free market make the social world more like the world described in the theory. In this case theory is performative. A typical form of the theory I am using in this example relies on the figure of the individual, utility maximizing, rational actor. The metaphor of the invisible hand, the narrative of economic and technical progress liberating western nations from the toil of labor, and mathematical formulas are common elements of this theory.

Theory is performed through the production of texts. Gender is a corporeal practice. Gender is performed through stylizing bodily practices, theory is performed through the production, circulation, and criticism of texts. There is a textual component of gender. Gender is constructed through popular culture, medical, juridical, sociological, sartorial, and other texts. Gender is also textural, gender is a form of embodiment and thus has a sensual component. Uses of the body do not just emanate from theories of the body (ideas, beliefs, and theories of the body), they also arise form a sense of the body and its capabilities (a habitus).


I will address the question of what it means to perform theory in my reply to apriori.

Re: General opener

"All theory is performed" strikes me as high-flown hogwash.

Suppose Anzaldua had set out to write a book attempting to make precisely the point as in the book she actually wrote, but did it in a different style/format. Suppose, for instance, she'd employed what you describe as a philosophical style: making arguments through formal exposition of logic.

Would any of this change the content of her theory? In what way? Or is it only a difference of presentation? And if that is the case, does "all theory is performed" just mean "all theory is promulgated through some sort or presentation"?