Monday, June 21, 2010

note taking
The problem is when theory (the observer) becomes more important than the thing being theorized about (the observed). Absent some form of ironization -implicit in works of art- the observer model becomes a model of superiority and condescension. Reading Bourdieu years and years ago he pissed me off immediately because he reminded me of all those who used to argue [do they still?] that Jacqueline Susann is just as good as Shakespeare, which is the equivalent of saying Sarko’s second favorite singer Celine Dion [so much for "Distinction"] is Mozart and any anthro with two books is Levi-Strauss.

The reactionary avant-garde had a habit of attacking the ideal of mastery, by which they meant the mastery of craft; and what replaced it was the goal of the mastery of ideas. The definition of ideology. Ideology says that, ideology, subtext, meconnaissance, false consciousness, the subconscious and language games are for other people, not for us. A geologist looks at rocks. Anglo american academic theorists look at the the most complex forms of the human imagination as if they were rocks. Shakespeare’s plays are not rocks. Bourdieu is American in that regard. The French think of theory and philosophy as another form of literature, as forms of art, which is why those who use the American model of science have no patience. Or they try to pretend French rhetoric is like physics and make fools of themselves.

Your experience is a lens; the english language is a lens; the academic system is a lens. An American academic talking and writing about the Yanomami is writing by default about the present in the US as manifested in the structures of his or her imagination. Writing about anything you’re writing yourself. You can either use your subjects as fodder, which if your subjects are other human beings is profoundly disrespectful, or you can engage them in a reciprocal exchange. And if you’re a good writer you can describe the exchange later and maybe it will outlast you by a bit. Data is a McGuffin. A Ph.D. is a marker of status. And seeing everything in terms of ideology is ideology. It’s a Gordian knot. A great ethnographer is a great writer; a great craftsman. What’s a better way to honor the craftspeople you observe than to become one yourself? Theory at it’s best is an academic attempt to return to a model of writing as literature. At it’s worst it’s the celebration of the metaphysics of bureaucracy.

Rick is a “cultural materialist/ecologist” so welfare is the problem. A more “idealtional” approach would argue for racism as foundational.

Oy, Where to begin.

In NY they have French bistros. They have chefs who’ve studied the appropriate food and architects who know the appropriate interior designs but somehow it’s not Paris. The French forms of sociability aren’t there. The “forms” of social interaction aren’t there. The same is true for French theory in the US. American individualism replicates the ideas but not the manners and the manners are the underlying structure.

My mother was the worst technically proficient player of Bach keyboard works that I’ve ever heard. She “read” him while playing the keys that matched the notations on the page. Actual performance would have made it into something else, something personal. She did not perform she followed,

Rick’s “perfectly standard stuff” answers nothing except to give us another example of his politics (which in every other example he’s done a miserable job of backing up with evidence)
Interpretation of data requires that we become diagnosticians. What makes a good diagnostician? What makes a good interpreter? Interpretation is not following a tool, it’s using one. The hammer doesn’t drive the nail.

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