Characters in the Essay
Nas: The narrator whose self is split. He loves avant-gardism.
A: A part of narrator’s split self. She loves reader-response criticism.
B: Another part of narrator’s split self. He loves psychoanalysis.
(It is a Saturday afternoon. Nas, the narrator of this dialogue is sitting on his desk, with a laptop in front. He has intensely been working on Bourdieu’s, Clifford’s and Haraway’s articles since Wednesday. He is expected to write an essay until 30th of December. He is just about to start writing, when all of a sudden he discovers different voices in his self and lets them express themselves. He listens to the inner voices carefully. At first they are chaotic, but he gives them consistency. He decides to mediate between the outside world (theories, articles) and his inner self. In the meantime, A and B are over the moon for they get the chance of speaking. It seems they have a lot to say.)
Nas: To begin with, I would like to say that what you will read in this paper is not just a dialogue. It claims to be an essay written in the format of a dialogue. I am expected to write an essay which would compare and contrast Clifford’s dialogic authority, Bourdieu’s scholastic point of view and Haraway’s situated knowledges. Many thanks to the point of view of the skhole, that is, the academic vision to which I belong, I don’t have to play the role of a scholar inside the machine and that I feel myself free to experiment with the academic genre of “essay”. By this experiment, I would like not only to theoretically discuss these articles but also to convince my readers that dialogy and situated knowledges might practically exist through their realization in an essay. In this respect, I will write an experiential dialogue-essay which would manifest my partial and split self in the skhole, hence a situated knowledge. I suggest that the thinking and writing I does not possess a unitary self; instead, I consists of a split self who “can interrogate positioning and be accountable, the one who can construct and join rational conversations and fantastic imaginings that change history.” My challenge is against the monophony with which the genre of an essay is practiced at all times. Changing history would be an extreme claim for the interests of my paper however, my goal is to construct rational conversations and fantastic imaginings which would help me to come up with a paper that is not monophonic, but dialogic-polyphonic. Not only the objects of our studies in social sciences are too complex and chaotic to be explained monophonically with totalizations and generalizations, but writing and thinking self is also split in itself.
A: Since the outside world is chaotic, you cannot escape from it and tend to write as a unitary self in a monophonic way.
B: Well, according to Bourdieu, the monophonic practice is exactly what is done in scholastic tradition. Lacanian psychoanalysis would say that the self is split since the mirror stage; further Kristeva explained that the splitting of the self, that is, the subject formation gets constituted even before the mirror stage; but the scholastic self, – as the self who is involved in the academic knowledge production in accordance with one particular scholastic point of view, maybe like Fish’s notion of interpretive community -, is already unitary. Or, one could say that it has to be unitary as Bourdieu claims as the scholastic doxa: “Thinkers leave in a state of unthought, the presuppositions of their thought, that is, the social conditions of possibility of the scholastic point of view and the unconscious dispositions, .. which are … often inscribed in prolongation of an originary (bourgeois) experience of distance from the world and from the urgency of necessity.” In this statement, Bourdieu underscores the concrete motivations of the thinkers in bourgeois society that enable them to be involved in unitary and totalizing knowledge production.
A: Your argument isn’t convincing in demonstrating the reasons why the scholastic self is or has to be unitary. Actually, that self is already a dialogic-polyphonic one since we are in a constant state of brain storming with various different kinds of arguments and counter arguments in our minds; however, Bourdieu says that this is not the case, because firstly, the skhole “is what allows us to move from primary mastery to secondary mastery of language, to accede the meta: meta-discourse, meta-practice.” For him, “the fundamental anthropological fallacy consists in injecting into meta-practices.” The scholastic point of view lets one constitute meta-discourses about particular objects of study in order for us to explain those objects of study better which means in a totalizing manner. In course of constituting the meta-discourse, at some point the scholar is expected to get through the brainstorming, suppress the dialogy-polyphony in her mind, and come up with a final, totalizing, generalizing discourse. Secondly, Bourdieu’s notion of putting a scholar inside the machine illustrates the ways in which the skhole or the scholastic view engenders the unitary scholastic self, as Bourdieu states: “… to place the models that the scientist must construct to account for practices into the consciousness of agents, to operate as if the constructions that the scientist must produce to understand practices, to account for them, were main determinants, the actual cause of practices.” In this way, the scholar is given the role of propounding a concrete, final knowledge which would help one to explain all the practices of the objects of the study. But it is never a good explanation even though it is implied to be so.
B: What you said is convincing. While I was listening to you, I was in search of a psychoanalytical explanation for the unitary scholastic self. And I found one through Kristeva. I will then connect it to Haraway. But first, I have to summarize Clifford’s dialogic authority for our readers. However I’m afraid I might forget what I’m going to say about Kristeva and Haraway if I first dive into Clifford. As you said, I feel myself very much polyphonic right now!
A: Then let me briefly introduce Clifford’s ideas.
Nas: I’m sure you perfectly know what Clifford says in his essay “On Ethnographic Authority”. Why do you bother to introduce his ideas?
B: Right, then let’s undermine it. Now, according to Kristeva…
A: Sorry, let me explain. Haven’t you ever heard of the phrase, birth of the reader by Roland Barthes? I know this is insulting for you to hear this, that you were once the author, who was a part of scholastic view in Bourdieu’s terms, and of “an institutionalized situation of studious leisure” , and who was producing monophonic texts, essays, articles, in which you didn’t care about not only your inside thoughts like us, your inner polyphony, but also the readers whom you regarded as anonymous, unitary, random, and who, you assumed that in no way can participate in your scholastic production; hence you dismissed the outer polyphony. But thanks to reader-response criticism and Bakhtin, that now we and the readers are born from our ashes. Thanks to Bourdieu who declares that ordinary readers too have the right to access aesthetic experiences like you do. Clifford also points out the importance of the reader, when he says: “It is intrinsic to the breakup of monological authority that ethnographies no longer address a single general type of reader.” Further he states that “there is always a variety of possible readings (beyond merely individual appropriations), readings beyond the control of any single authority.” Thus, you within this dialogic space of scholarly production, should take into account your readers.
Nas: I object. What you were intending in introducing Clifford was something different than taking into account the readers. It aimed at enlightening the reader on a particular topic, which you assumed that readers didn’t know. Your approach isn’t libertarian; it is didactic and it comprises the feeling of superiority over your readers.
B: I don’t agree. Remember what Bourdieu tells about the involvement of every single individual in scholarly practices and aesthetic experience: “… we can expect the progress of reason only from a permanent struggle to defend and promote the social conditions that are most favorable to the development of reason, that is, institutions of research and teaching no less than scientific journals, the diffusion and defense of books of quality, the denunciation of censorship …” First, let me pose a question to both of you: Do we all agree on the need for the progression of reason among humanity as Bourdieu puts it?
Nas: I do.
A: Me too.
B: Then we can revise Bourdieu’s statements as this: “We can expect the progress of reason only from a permanent struggle to defend and promote ‘the scholarly-intellectual conditions’ that are most favorable to the development of reason.” I don’t think my friend is introducing Clifford’s ideas with an unconscious didacticism, or with the implication of her superiority versus her readers’ inferiority. She’s trying to provide the necessary intellectual conditions for every reader, regardless of their being in the academia or not, so that we altogether may proceed to a discussion on dialogic authority.
Nas: I believe that we’re already actualizing and illustrating that kind of discussion right now, here, in this paper and with this paper. Then why do we still need to talk about theory?
A: This has to do with two reasons. First and the most basic one is that, you are involved in an academic essay production process, and whether you accomplish the work in a dialogic manner or not, you are expected to write a paper in which you ought to show your instructors that you decently received what they gave you in their lectures.
Nas: You are wrong. They don’t expect me to give them back what I got; they have no need for it. They are interested in what I think about these notions, independent of any others’ interpretations. They are interested in my original academic production.
A: Original?! From a postmodernist like you?! Anyway, let’s assume you’re right. I will rephrase my first point as this: You need to get a grade. And as I know, since I’m inside your head, you are in pursuit of a good grade; maybe not an excellent one, but a good one. And you cannot get a good grade without at least referring to some theory. Secondly, we need to talk about theory here, so that we can get rid of the problem of what Bourdieu raises as the “incompatibility between our scholarly mode of thinking and this strange thing that practice is.” As I mentioned before, the production of meta-discourses and their injection into practices poses the problem of incompatibility of the two. Here, we are producing a dialogic essay, with the absence of monologic authority. We’re practicing. On the other hand, we have to resist “to apply to practice a mode of thinking which presupposes the bracketing of practical necessity, and the use of instruments of thought constructed against practice …” which means, for Bourdieu, “to forbid ourselves to understand practice as such.” Bringing practice and theory on the same level of academic enquiry doesn’t necessitate the abandonment of theory altogether. On the contrary, Bourdieu states that we have to analyze what it means to be a scholar, so that we should stay critical to the scholastic view. And in this conversation, in course of challenging the skhole, the essay genre as its concrete form of writing, we are actualizing the practice and referring to theory at the same time, so that we can stay critical to the skhole by indicating the compatibility between our scholarly mode of thinking and practice.
Nas: As Bourdieu suggests, what we’re doing is also an aesthetic experience.
A: That every human being must experience.
Nas: Will you be introducing Clifford now?
A: Well, I’m thinking of it, but I’m afraid we already arrived at the requested paper length, that is the maximum double spaced 7 pages.
B: God! I still have lot to say about Kristeva and Haraway. I have to talk about them. These opportunities to represent my thoughts in a written paper don’t come along often. Kristeva mentions of the semiotic and the symbolic…
A: Clifford proposes four kinds of authority in his essay; experiential, interpretive…
Nas: Hey, come on, both of you! Wait a second, I should intervene! I already got into trouble by challenging the essay as a scholastic genre and I don’t want to get into another trouble by enforcing the page limit, since I dream of a future in academia. Now that we already exceeded the page limit, and I’m already troubled, thanks to my instructors that they’ve always been indulgent towards me when my papers exceeded the limits, but at least let’s not make this an essay of 15 pages, and try to solve it in like 2 more pages maximum, let’s talk one by one, you introduce Clifford, then you begin with Kristeva and Haraway. I don’t want to sound authoritarian, but Kristeva isn’t really our topic right now, is she? Anyhow, let’s do this as quickly as possible.
B: I’m afraid you have already been authoritarian by silencing us with your intervention! But anyway, we should still be optimistic and pursue dialogy. So you begin with Clifford.
A: Sure. We talked about Bourdieu’s emphasis on incompatibility of practice and scholarly mode of thinking. This is also related to what Clifford mentions in describing interpretive mode of ethnographic writing. For the interpretive mode, Clifford speaks of two stages: “The research experience and the translation of that experience into a textual corpus by an author, that is, the interpretation.” Bourdieu on the other hand, is critical to “… the presuppositions inscribed in the fact of thinking the world, of retiring from the world and from action in the world in order to think about that action.” I think that in dialogic-polyphonic modes of ethnographic writing, the issue of separation and retirement are no longer the case. Clifford identifies dialogic mode of ethnography writing as rejection of “any sharp separation of an interpreting self from a textualized other.” This separation consists in what Clifford defines as interpretive authority. In the end of dialogic process, Clifford concludes that, “the ethnographer’s authority as narrator and interpreter is altered.” In dialogic mode, the ethnographer or the social scientist interacts with his/her objects of study, both in the field and during the textualization process. One might suggest that in dialogic authority, the text is in fact being written during interlocution, since the author no longer possesses the sole authority over the text; the objects of study are also agents. One doesn’t author an ethnographic work merely by him/herself, with his/her own totalizing and authoritative point of view. Hence, in case of dialogy-polyphony, what we have in the end is not a gaze from nowhere, which “mythically inscribes all the marked bodies, that makes the unmarked category claim the power to see and not be seen, to represent while escaping representation.” In this respect, the scholastic point of view which is a studious leisure that isn’t accessible to everyone and that distinguishes the scholarly mode of thinking from practice, can be regarded as a gaze from nowhere; similar to Clifford’s description of interpretive mode of ethnographic research. Besides, Bourdieu, like Haraway, points out the problematic of power. Bourdieu suggests that everyone should have access to power by which every individual can have aesthetic experience. In that regard, Bourdieu is against populism and conservatism; “two forms of essentialism which tend to consecrate the status quo.” Similarly, Haraway is also against relativism -similar to Bourdieu’s understanding of populism- and totalization, single vision -conservatism?-; instead, she lusts for “partial, locatable, critical knowledges sustaining the possibility of webs of connections called solidarity in politics and shared conversations in epistemology.” Haraway calls for situated knowledges which indicate that there is no single truth outside to be explored and uncovered and that all knowledge is partial and linked to other contexts. Moreover she also makes claims towards objectivity, which can only be achieved by situated knowledges, rather than by “the standpoint of the master, the Man, the One God, whose Eye produces, appropriates, and orders all difference.” Hence dialogic mode of ethnography writing can provide a space for situated knowledges to be manifested, to the extent that it accomplishes to alter the social scientists’ authority as narrator and as the sole interpreter of a particular social reality.
B: Haraway would not agree with Bourdieu when he defines the academic exercise as, “a gratuitous game, as a mental experience that is an end in itself.” Or, even if she agrees, she would attempt to revolutionize the academic exercise in a way that it can produce situated knowledges. All in all, “the goal is better accounts of the world, that is, science.” Academia has an important role in this scientific enquiry. On the other hand, I would like to draw your attention to one point which Haraway underscores. We should also think about it in relation to Clifford and ethnography in general. Haraway defines one important characteristic of situated knowledges, when she says; “situated knowledges are about communities, not about isolated individuals.” -In the introduction you said that this essay will manifest your situated knowledge but such manifestation is not possible since situated knowledges are not about isolated individuals like you- This aspect makes the notion of situated knowledges a very important and a useful element for ethnography which is the study of communities. Dialogic-polyphonic modes of ethnography writing will provide an essential space for situated knowledges to be manifested. Furthermore, Haraway states that “a splitting of senses, a confusion of voice and sight, rather than clear and distinct ideas, becomes the metaphor for the ground of the rational … We seek those ruled by partial sight, and limited voice – not partiality for its own sake but, rather, for the sake of the connections and unexpected openings situated knowledges make possible.” Dialogic-polyphonic ethnographic authorities will bring these limited voices together and instead of constituting a view from nowhere, these modes of authority will provide a space for “a collective subject position that promises a vision of the means of ongoing finite embodiment, of living within limits and contradictions – of views from somewhere.” However, Bourdieu on the other hand is right to underscore the risk to universalize the particular, since it is possible that the view from somewhere might become “a universal norm of all possible experience, and thus of tacitly legitimizing a particular form of experience and, thereby, those who have the privilege of access to it.” Here Bourdieu is very much a Nietzschean. What if these collective subject positions become universalized norms during the struggle for will to power? In other words, what if these particularities are universalized and we are then confined in a view from nowhere? Is view from somewhere really possible, is the crucial question.
Nas: It might be possible through dialogy, and situated knowledges as you indicated earlier. Situated knowledges are not essentializing, totalizing, absolute-truth claiming knowledges about the world. Hence it is not possible for them to become absolute truths all of a sudden. It will constantly deterritorialize the claims to absolute truths and scholastic views. And now you are contradicting yourself when you doubt its realization. And what would you say about Kristeva?
B: You’re right that I shouldn’t be pessimistic. I strongly believe in usefulness of dialogy-polyphony. I also remember what Haraway states: “Situated knowledges require that the object of knowledge be pictured as an actor and agent, not as a screen or ground or a resource, never finally as slave to the master that closes off the dialectic in his unique agency and his authorship of “objective” knowledge.” This statement supports Clifford’s description of dialogy in ethnography, since both aim at providing the object of knowledge with the agency and the authority. And, about Kristeva, I would just speculate… Let’s apply her notions of the semiotic and the symbolic to ethnographic textualization. For Kristeva, semiotic refers to an evocation of feelings, discharge of subjects’ energies, whereas the symbolic refers to the expressions of clear, logical, orderly meanings. It seems to me that dialogic-polyphonic ethnographies contain semiotic influences along with the symbolic constructions. On the other hand, ethnographies that are experiential in Clifford’s terms solely consist of the symbolic without any touch of the semiotic. Ethnographies written in interpretive authority might include the semiotic in addition to the symbolic; as Clifford exemplifies in “Geertz’ abrupt disappearance”. For Kristeva, the semiotic energizes the symbolic. Therefore dialogy is essential in self fulfillment of the ethnographic narration…
Nas: This is a speculation, and a good one I believe. I hope you elaborate this in time for another occasion. Now, I’m signaling the end of this paper. I will write down the cited works below, my name above, do the spell check and editing, and finally submit this paper to my instructors. Thanks for your cooperation.
A: Paul Rainbow once said: “Dialogic texts can be just as staged and controlled as experiential and interpretive texts. The mode offers no textual guarantees.”
Nas: He might be right.
B: All in all, you are textualizing us!
A: And textualizing the impossibility of dialogy!
James Clifford, “On Ethnographic Authority,” in The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art, Cambridge: Harvard University Press,  1988, 21-54.
Pierre Bourdieu, “The Scholastic Point of View,” Cultural Anthropology 5-4 (November 1990): 380-391 (reprinted in Practical Reasons, Stanford UP, 1998).
Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Feminist Studies 14(3): 575-599.
Paul Rainbow, (1986) “Representations are Social Facts: Modernity and Post-Modernity in Anthropology”, in Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, eds. James Clifford, George E. Marcus, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: 234-261.
Picture retireved from http://aegis-strife.deviantart.com/art/Test-for-Deconstruction-I-85844554