Monday, February 28, 2005

"Trout was the only character I ever created who had enough imagination to suspect that he might be the creation of another human being. He had spoken of this possibility several times to his parakeet." - Vonnegut

"With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he understood that he too was a mere appearance, dreamt by another." - Borges

"one can see the thumbprint of editors..we are embedded in something like a novel...and immediately, life became art...plot elements began to unfold." - McKenna
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"The Library is unlimited and cyclical. If an eternal traveller were to cross it in any direction, after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in the same disorder(which, thus repeated, would be an order: the Order). My solitude is gladdened by this elegant hope." - Borges
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Looking at the theoretical discussion in the appendix to Pablo Vila's analysis of identity construction in the Texas Border Region (Crossing Borders, Reinforcing Borders : Social Categories, Metaphors, and Narrative Identities on the US-Mexico Border, University of Texas Press, Austin, 2000), I am beginning to see how social scientists love to invoke post-modernism, post-structuralism, and deconstruction, often without truly understanding the relationships between these terms and the various names they toss around (Foucault, Derrida, Laclau, etc.). This is not surprising in Vila's case, as he is dealing with the complexity of subject positions in a contested border region, and how they are created through narrative structures. His mention of Baudrillard, Foucault, and Derrida in the same sentence as "post-structuralist authors...[who] concur in this characterization of the postmodern subject", stumped me. He also freely tosses around Gramsci in this discussion. While I have an interest in most of these theorists, and am not opposed to the use of their models, there are some issues here. I guess I am agreeing with Bryan Palmer in his insistence that the social sciences have latched onto the highly misunderstood tenets of authors commonly referred to as "postmodern", without actually understanding what these theorists are saying. Post-modernists are not neccessarily post-structuralists, and most are certainly not deconstructionists. It does not seem intellectually responsible to toss out these names, and equate them with each other based on limited knowledge of their work. This is not to say that I understand completely what any of these authors have said. I would assume that an accomplished scholar such as Vila would have more in-depth knowledge of the "post-modern" phenomenon than an aspiring grad student such as myself. Perhaps not. But either way, it is not necessary to wantonly lump together these theorists to advance the idea of provisional identity, fluctuating subjectivity, and all the rest of it.
Vila's methodology is wonderful, and the interviews reveal quite a bit about identity construction on the border. But his seemingly uninformed discussion of the post-modern lends credence to Palmer's theory of it's ineffectiveness as a transformative enterprise. From a Marxist perspective such as Palmer's, these narratives reveal something actual, a temporary experience, conditioned by the globalization of capital. For example, when the interviewed subjects were made aware of the narrative structure of their self-image, much of it gleaned from the dominant culture and it's need to preserve hegemony and power, many of them changed their story the second time around. For a Marxist, how these narratives of identity have been, or could be applied as an emancipatory strategy would be more important than highly abstract discussions about post-structuralism.
Ok, Ive had enough. It is way past my bedtime...and nobody cares about this anyway.

1 Comments:

Blogger k said...

My baby uses big words. He so smart !

No, seriously, I can't write like that - you are totally publishing material, babe. I felt like I was reading something for one of Lebovics's classes.
Awesome.

6:36 PM  

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