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Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 3:06pm

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p.232: "In these pages, I have repeatedly emphasized the complicity between subject and object of investigation. My role in this essay, as subject of investigation, has been entirely parasitical, since my only object has been the Subaltern Studies themselves. Yet I am part of their object as well. Situated within the current academic theater of cultural imperialism, with a certain carte d'entree into the elite theoretical ateliers in France, I bring news of power lines within the palace. Nothing can function without us, yet the part is at least historically ironic. What of the poststructuralist suggestion that all work is parasitical, slightly to the side of that which one wishes adequately to cover, that critic (historian) and text (subaltern) are always "beside themselves"? The chain of complicity does not halt at the closure of an essay."

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 2:33pm

p217: "[Subaltern Studies] can never be continuous with the subaltern's situational and uneven entry into political (not merely disciplinary, as in the case of the collective) hegemony as the content of an afterthe- fact description. This is the always asymmetrical relationship between the interpretation and transformation of the world which Marx marks in the eleventh thesis on Feuerbach. There the contrast is between the words haben interpretiert (present participle—a completed action—of interpretieren— the Romance verb which emphasizes the establishment of a meaning that is commensurate with a phenomenon through the metaphor of the fair exchange of prices) and zu verandern (infinitive—always open to the future—of the German verb which "means" strictly speaking, "to make other"). The latter expression matches haben interpretiert neither in its Latinate philosophical weight nor in its signification of propriety and completion, as transformierien would have done. Although not an unusual word, it is not the most common word for "change" in German—verwandeln. In the open-ended "making-other"—Veranderung—of the properly self-identical—adequately interpretiert—lies an allegory of the theorist's relationship to his subject-matter."

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 2:22pm

p217: "If it were embraced as a strategy, then the emphasis upon the "sovereignty,... consistency and...logic" of "rebel consciousness" (EAP, 13) could be seen as "affirmative deconstruction": knowing that such an emphasis is theoretically nonviable, the historian then breaks his theory in a scrupulously delineated "political interest."19 If, on the other hand, the restoration of the subaltern's subject-position in history is seen by the historian as the establishment of an inalienable and final truth of things, then any emphasis on sovereignty, consistency, and logic will, as I have suggested above, inevitably objectify the subaltern and be caught in the game of knowledge as power. Even if the discursivity of history is seen as a fortgesetzte Zeichenkette, a restorative genealogy cannot be undertaken without the strategic blindness that will entangle the genealogist in the chain. Seeing this, Foucault in 1971 recommended the "historical sense," much like a newscaster's persistently revised daily bulletin, in the place of the arrogance of a successful genealogy. 20 It is in this spirit that I read Subaltern Studies against its grain and suggest that its own subalternity in claiming a positive subject-position for the subaltern might be reinscribed as a strategy for our times.

What good does such a reinscription do? It acknowledges that the arena of the subaltern's persistent emergence into hegemony must always and by definition remain heterogeneous to the efforts of the disciplinary historian. The historian must persist in his efforts in this awareness that the subaltern is necessarily the absolute limit of the place where history is narrativized into logic. It is a hard lesson to learn, but not to learn it is merely to nominate elegant solutions to be correct theoretical practice."

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 2:05pm

p. 214: "Reading the work of Subaltern Studies from within but against the grain, I would suggest that elements in their text would warrant a reading of the project to retrieve the subaltern consciousness as the attempt to undo a massive historiographic metalepsis and "situate" the effect of the subject as subaltern. I would read it, then, as a strategic use of positivist essentialism in a scrupulously visible political interest. This would put them in line with the Marx who locates fetishization, the ideological determination of the "concrete," and spins the narrative of the development of the moneyform; with the Nietzsche who offers us genealogy in place of historiography, the Foucault who plots the construction of a "counter-memory," the Barthes of semiotrophy, and the Derrida of "affirmative deconstruction." This would allow them to use the critical force of anti-humanism, in other words, even as they share its constitutive paradox: that the essentializing moment, the object of their criticism, is irreducible.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 2:01pm

p.213:"I am progressively inclined, then, to read the retrieval of subaltern consciousness as the charting of what in poststructuralist language would be called the subaltern subject-effect.15 A subject-effect can be briefly plotted as follows: that which seems to operate as a subject may be part of an immense discontinuous network ("text" in the general sense) of strands that may be termed politics, ideology, economics, history, sexuality, language, and so on. (Each of these strands, if they are isolated, can also be seen as woven of many strands.) Different knottings and configurations of these strands, determined by heterogeneous determinations which are themselves dependent upon myriad circumstances, produce the effect of an operating subject. Yet the continuist and homogenist deliberative consciousness symptomatically requires a continuous and homogeneous cause for this effect and thus posits a sovereign and determining subject. This latter is, then, the effect of an effect, and its positing a metalepsis, or the substitution of an effect for a cause."

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 1:59pm

p. 212-213: "Another note in the counterpoint deconstructing the metaphysics of consciousness in these texts is provided by the reiterated fact that it is only the texts of counterinsurgency or elite documentation that give us the news of the consciousness of the subaltern...Yet the language seems also to be straining to acknowledge that the subaltern's view, will, presence, can be no more than a theoretical fiction to entitle the project of reading. It cannot be recovered; "it will probably never be recovered."

Once again, in the work of this group, what had seemed the historical predicament of the colonial subaltern can be made to become the allegory of the predicament of all thought, all deliberative consciousness, though the elite profess otherwise. This might seem preposterous at first glance. A double take is in order. I will propose it in closing this section of my paper."

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 1:33pm

p. 210-211:" It is the force of a crisis that operates functional displacements in discursive fields. In my reading of the volumes of Subaltern Studies, this critical force or bringing-to-crisis can be located in the energy of the questioning of humanism in the post-Nietzschean sector of Western European structuralism, for our group Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, and a certain Levi-Strauss. These structuralists question humanism by exposing its hero—the sovereign subject as author, the subject of authority, legitimacy, and power. There is an affinity between the imperialist subject and the subject of humanism. Yet the crisis of anti-humanism—like all crises—does not move our collective "fully." The rupture shows itself to be also a repetition. The collective falls back upon notions of consciousness-as-agent, totality, and culturalism that are discontinuous with the critique of humanism. They seem unaware of the historico-political provenance of their various Western "collaborators." Vygotsky and Lotman, Victor Turner and Levi-Strauss, Evans-Prichard and Hindess and Hirst can, for them, fuel the same fire as Foucault and Barthes. Since one cannot accuse this group of the eclecticism of the supermarket consumer, one must see in their practice a repetition of as well as a rupture from the colonial predicament: the transactional quality of interconflicting metropolitan sources often eludes the (post)colonial intellectual."

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 1:26pm

p. 210: "The group, as we have seen, tracks failures in attempts to displace discursive fields. A deconstructive approach would bring into focus the fact that they are themselves engaged in an attempt at displacing discursive fields, that they themselves "fail" (in the general sense) for reasons as "historical" as those they adduce for the heterogeneous agents they study; and it would attempt to forge a practice that would take this into account. Otherwise, if they were to refuse to acknowledge the implications of their own line of work because that would be politically incorrect, they would, willy-nilly, "insidiously objectify" the subaltern (2, 262), control him through knowledge even as they restore versions of causality and self-determination to him (2, 30), become complicit, in their desire for totality (and therefore totalization) (3, 317), with a "law [that] assign[s] a[n] undifferentiated [proper] name" (EAP, 159) to "the subaltern as such."

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 1:23pm

p. 209-210: "How shall we deal with Marx's suggestion that man must strive toward self-determination and unalienated practice and Gramsci's that "the lower classes" must "achieve self-awareness via a series of negations"?

Formulating an answer to this question might lead to far-reaching practical effects if the risks of the irreducibility of cognitive "failure" and of "alienation" are accepted. The group's own practice can then be graphed on this grid of "failures," with the concept of failure generalized and reinscribed as I have suggested above. This subverts the inevitable vanguardism of a theory that otherwise criticizes the vanguardism of theory. This is why I hope to align them with deconstruction: "Operating necessarily from the inside, borrowing all the strategic and economic resources of subversion from the old structure, borrowing them structurally, that is to say without being able to isolate their elements and atoms, the enterprise of deconstruction always in a certain way falls prey to its own work" (OG, 24).

This is the greatest gift of deconstruction: to question the authority of the investigating subject without paralyzing him, persistently transforming conditions of impossibility into possibility."

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020 - 1:05pm

p. 206: "They [Subaltern Studies] generally perceive their task as making a theory of consciousness or culture rather than specifically a theory of change. It is because of this, I think, that the force of crisis, although never far from their argument, is not systematically emphasized in their work...Indeed, a general sobriety of tone will not allow them to emphasize sufficiently that they are themselves bringing hegemonic historiography to crisis. This leads them to describe the clandestine operation of supplementarity as the inexorable speculative logic of the dialectic. In this they seem to me to do themselves a disservice, for, as self-professed dialecticians, they open themselves to older debates between spontaneity and consciousness or structure and history. Their actual practice, which, I will argue, is closer to deconstruction, puts these oppositions into question. A theory of change as the site of the displacement of function between sign systems—which is what they oblige me to read in them—is a theory of reading in the strongest possible general sense. The site of displacement of the function of signs is the name of reading as active transaction between past and future. This transactional reading as (the possibility of) action, even at its most dynamic, is perhaps what Antonio Gramsci meant by "elaboration," e-laborare, working out. If seen in this way, the work of the Subaltern Studies group repeatedly makes it possible for us to grasp that the concept-metaphor of the "social text" is not the reduction of real life to the page of a book. My theoretical intervention is a modest attempt to remind us of this."

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