speaking from ignorance

Danny the Destroyer (grin) taught me a lot tonight, as did everyone who participated in the critique of Smith. Thanks, Li, for telling me a gave a “good defense,” at least I have that to hold onto! ­čÖé and, the brief de-brief with Srinivas and Jung Yup, about how we all have different points of entry, was helpful somewhat reassuring. I knew I was entering new turf, but … well. I’ve never been one to learn quietly or make my mistakes in private. ­čśë Natalia, you ROCKED as a partner. Your balanced view and ability to shift between “pros” and “cons” enhanced our presentation a lot (although it might also have had the effect of highlighting my less (I won’t say “un”-) critical enthusiasm.
We’ve got one presentation down! I had one more thought (a parting shot?!) about the apparently pervasive view that Smith’s “stories” were “disconnected.”


These two terms frame and reveal assumptions that I think are part of the dialogue/debate Smith engages. “Story” is often equated with the folkloric, ephemeral, insubstantial and even (at the extreme) unconsequential. I *get* Danny’, Srinivas’ and Li’s critique of what Smith promises to offer and fails to deliver, and that it’s a survey or literature review instead of an in-depth research report. However it seems rather dismissive of the theory and concepts he’s trying to advance and critique to minimize his data as “stories” and his argument as “storytelling.”
As to the perception that the ethnographic studies he included were “disconnected”, I’d suggest that this perception is evidence of the totalizing discourse of structuralism (?) that he’s objecting to, because it assumes a particularization that I wager he’d argue against. In other words, not seeing the connectedness may be a ‘trained’ phenonmena – a social construction produced by the discourse of, say, Harvey. The sites may not be connected translocally by either the specific social actors or the identifiable macrosocial flows that bound the situation or context of these sites; it may be a connection of pattern, the bare beginnings of new kinds of cultural flows that will, someday ~ possibly ~ be as commonsensical and malleable to everyday subjectivities as contemporary consumer desires.
As for Hall, I guess I better figure out some time to read him. sigh!

2 thoughts on “speaking from ignorance”

  1. True, we could have started from and perhaps arrived at somewhere different, if Smith had given some account of such possible connectedness. And that was why I asked the “so what?” question.
    Now let’s move beyond the critique of Smith, although we may need to come back later. Do you guys see a way that the ethnographies add up to something more than …? And HOW do they add? Basically, I pose this as a question of political assessment. Do we need a scheme for such assessment? Do we have one?

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