June 11, 2005

Secluded incompleteness

The New Zealand journal Philosophy and Literature used to hold a "Bad Writing Contest". People were encouraged to send in bits of obscure, impenetrable academic writing they had run across (or run into, giving them a headache in the bargain). Every year, P&L declared three prizes and, I think, some Honourable Mentions. I can't tell if they are still handing out these awards, but I recently ran into three superb candidates that I thought I'd share with you.

But first, just to set the mood -- candlelight and soft romantic music also recommended -- two prize winners from past years:
  • The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relationships in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation rought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

  • Indeed dialectical critical realism may be seen under the aspect of Foucauldian strategic reversal--of the unholy trinity of Parmenidean/Platonic/Aristotelean provenance; of the Cartesian-Lockean-Humean-Kantian paradigm, of foundationalisms (in practice, fideistic foundationalisms) and irrationalisms (in practice, capricious exercises of the will-to-power or some other ideologically and/or psycho-somatically buried source) new and old alike; of the primordial failing of western philosophy, ontological monovalence, and its close ally, the epistemic fallacy with its ontic dual; of the analytic problematic laid down by Plato, which Hegel served only to replicate in his actualist monovalent analytic reinstatement in transfigurative reconciling dialectical connection, while in his hubristic claims for absolute idealism he inaugurated the Comtean, Kierkegaardian and Nietzschean eclipses of reason, replicating the fundaments of positivism through its transmutation route to the superidealism of a Baudrillard.

If you can figure out what those mean, you're wasting your time reading this. Believe me. I hope you also noted that each of those gems is one sentence. Gasp with me at the scholarship on display.

And now the three bits of writing I mentioned. For no reason, I shall keep them anonymous.

  • If we understand colonial modernity as the disjunction from a Eurocentric, post-Enlightenment subjecthood, and if the political field is mutually constitutive, I submit, the recognition of the secluded incompleteness of the constitutive domains becomes thoroughly problematic.

  • Similarly, the cleansing of the reflex mind that operates in the seriality of phenomenal temporality can only mean its being rid of conceptualization. The 'dust that has to be removed from the surface of the mirror' is obviously the dust of objectivization.

  • The argument might seem self-defeating at the outset, since the negation of the spatial distribution is likely to jeopardise the move to bestow 'domesticity' with a certain sense of 'originariness' for the nationalist hegemony.

If yo know what any of those mean, you deserve a prize of my choosing and I shall personally adorn you with it. So fire away. Send in your interpretations.

Better yet, if you can find examples of writing that are as good, or better, send them in. (If by email to me, please attribute them. If in a comment here, please don't). Perhaps we can have our own BWC.

But do remember, I have a certain sense of originariness about these things, and I intend to get to the bottom of it. I think. One of these days. One of these fideistic foundational days, or do I mean fidelity fiduciary bank?


On another note altogether. There have been a few (well, two) queries about where the Amitav Ghosh radio show is available to listen to. Answer: click here. (Thanks, Amardeep).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's a gem from a book I am currently reading and trying hard to understand:
"If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be seen as the desperate effort to 'normalize' formally the disturbance of a discourse."

Having done that, let me add a note of defense (ok, maybe not defense...but something along those lines). Some of the usual suspects in the Bad Writing Contest (Homi Bhabha, Judith Butler, Frederic Jameson, and Gayatri Spivak are figures whose writing usually makes the list) will readily admit that their writing is far from easily understood. In an unguarded moment, they might even concede that their writing is at times unintelligible. But perhaps there is something to be said about a value-chain of new ideas? That seemingly muddled and incomprehensible thoughts and ideas get worked out over the years - by doctoral students, by academics who will never write so badly but who also find something useful in these works, and eventually, after perhaps a *long* period of time, the idea percolates down to the level of everyday thought and action. Case in point: Edward Said and his monumental work, "Orientalism". Not incomprehensible, but not a page-turner either. But after over 3 decades, the idea of 'orientalism' is in wide circulation in, for instance, journalistic writing.

Looking forward to hearing others' thoughts on this.