Wednesday, September 28, 2005

where is meaning?

I think Anthony might have dealt with this issue already, but to reiterate:

"But meanings cannot be abstract structures that are nowhere in particular...if they are nowhere in particular, how can they ever come to motivate action?" (19).

S and Q go on to state that "Geertz probably understood this too."

Now, I guess I should just quote anthony(below):

"I am beginning to sort of understand the need for them to reassert the "individual" in the context of the debates they are a part of. I just think that they are making the same mistake they previously criticized; instead of "culture," thought, they reify "meaning," saying that meaning has to "Really" "be" some-'where.'"

Yes, in a response to Geertz, S and Q are taking a hardline stance here. What's interesting to me is that their reading of Geertz is (and Butler) don't seem to be very fair (or just). Geertz's idea of "thick description" got some real traction in the field of cultural studies, and I'm wondering if that's why this book takes Geertz on. To quote my good friend Anthony again, maybe cultural studies/cultural theory isn't "sciency" enough for them?

This gets me to another point:

"by giving a wide-ranging set of practices a single label (e.g., 'sexual harasment') one is not so much making it possible to say what could not be said but rather creating a set of links among previously disconnected memories and assumptions" (41).

S and Q want to make the study of culture(s)/anthropology more of an "exact science" (bad pun intended). It seems to me that, for S and Q, the heuristics of Butler and Geertz are way too reliant on an idea of language that's ambigious.


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