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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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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

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


Re: General opener

I meant linguistic devices. This point about theory using linguistic devices seems so obvious (theoretical works use metaphors, analogies; also theory uses literary devices such as allegory) that I can see why when I write things like "all theory is performed" it comes off as hog wash. "Performance," "performativity" and "performance studies" are overlapping and distinctly understood by different disciplines. I will draw out the implications to the performance point, and why I think reading theory as performed is important, in my reply to a priori for the Anzaldua question.

Re: General opener

I don't think that all theory is performance and metaphor. I agree that most literary theory is about analyzing rather than linguistic and literary devices. What I like about the Anzaldua is that it uses these devices not just to illustrate a theory that is taken as logically coherent and true before being exemplified, but instead, relies on these devices to build a rich and complex theory, one that is performed and cannot be separated from its performance.

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"?

Re: General opener

By all theory is performed I did mean something along the lines of "all theory is promulgated through some sort or presentation". Approaching theory as performed calls attention to performative effects of the text. If Anzaldua wrote Borderlands as a "traditional philosophical text" then it would not produce the new mestizo/a reader and major element of her project of theorizing the borderlands, or perhaps theorizing from the borderlands, would be lost. Her choice of narrative strategy, language, and figures are an integral component of her theory. Borderlands shifts between languages and narrative threads (history of conquest, indigenous myth, first person account). These shifts position the reader into a space of mestizaje, a space of hybridity. Rather than logical deduction or induction, Anzaldua turns more to poetry and narrative.

I think my discussion is posing a bit too sharp of a contrast between "traditional philosophical text" and Anzaldua's borderlands. There are parts of Borderlands that depend more on formal reasoning and a more traditional presentation of argument. While discussing the figure of La Malinche (the translator for Cortez) Anzaldua argues that La Malinche's actions were less decisive for the conquest of the Aztecs than the extreme social divisions and inequality that were emerging. The social inequality of the Aztec society created conflict and bands of indigenous warriors aided Cortez. These kinds of social historical arguments can be made through logical exposition and a careful consideration of historical evidence. If Anzaldua wrote Borderlands solely with this mold of argumentation, important aspects of the text would be lost. The historical context appeals to reason. Is it more reasonable to cast the downfall of an empire at the hands of a single woman or to examine the wider social context of rising inequality within Aztec society? The poetry, narrative, and memoir aspects of Anzaldua's text do not appeal to reason. These portions of her text are attempting to produce a consciousness of the new mestizo/a.