intellectualizing “the gaze”

I’ve been getting clearer about some of the academic impulses (indoctrination?) that I’ve been resisting. This, from Paul Claudel on Bourdieu’s principle of aesthetic distance, sums it up:
“This typically intellectualist theory of artistic perception directly contradicts the experience of the art-lovers closest to the legitimate definition; acquisition of legitimate culture by insensible familiarization within the family circle tends to favour an enchanted experience of culture which implies forgetting the acquisition. The ‘eye’ is a product of history reproduced by education.”

While I understand the need for some distance, for some supposed “rationality” (As Chakrabartty argued is necessary in history), I am not willing to let go of the embodied sensibilities, and the phenomenal experiences and implications of the topics we choose to study and the methods we choose to go about such study. I think the way that I’m usually seeing (reading about) ethnography’s use in mass media studies, political economy, and cultural studies, is as evidence to support assertions of institution’s influence upon individuals, as if the institutions and their policies and practices exist a priori, within their own boundaries and autonomously of any human agency. My desire is to step back another step in the ongoing cycle of cultural reproduction, to the choices of decision-makers in these institutions which shape their impact upon the world.
So, I’m critiquing (I guess!), intellectual tendencies to study those whom we have easiest access to – general “publics” (in Habermasian or other terms), instead of the elites. Gaining access is of course the issue. I need to find people who are even trying.

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