I haven’t been blogging for a while again caught up as I got between some administrative and private struggles as well as writing-up my thesis … well, now that I’m stuck I thought I just share some of the rumblings that seem to block my progress with you, hope you don’t mind.
Basically, what I’m stuck with is the theoretical discussion. I’m trying to use critical discourse analysis and feel that such an approach requires you even more than others to make clear where your own argument is coming from, largely British academic discourses in the areas of writing about African (and other non-‘Western’) societies, arts and cultures in my case. So far so easy. Or rather not. Once you’ve acknowledged the discourses you’ve been (intellectually) brought up with and which (partly due to the claim to truth quasi-naturally inherent in every discourse and despite your awareness that they are just that ,discourses and not some objective truth) you still somehow belief them be ever so slightly more truthful, once you’ve acknowledged that different (academic) discourses are employed by local researchers into your own area of inquiry, after all that, how do you reconcile the two without disrespecting the legitimacy of the latter, which you feel you need to acknowledge?
In case you don’t really know what I mean, let me explain the example I’ve been struggling with. It concerns some terms at the very heart of much writing about African arts: traditional and modern/Western(ised). Originally I had intended to circumvent all these debates by using a, I thought, neutral term – local – and then within this particular local context analyse present-day artistic practices without caring about their origin in locally rooted or foreign traditions. However, local carries derogative connotations in
‘For it is true that [in Nostromo] Conrad ironically sees the imperialism of the San Tome silver mine’s British and American owners as doomed by its own pretentious and impossible ambitions, it is also true that he writes as a man whose Western view of the non-Western world is so ingrained as to blind him to other histories, other cultures, other aspirations.’
Discourse analysis requires me to acknowledge the embeddednes of my views in particular discourses which’s claim to truth is (tautologically) based in themselves, on the other hand I struggle to reconcile this with my instinctive (and philosophical) preference for a Western discourse in my study of African art. Maybe the solution is to simply acknowledge that and assume that it will nevertheless provide an equally valid outsider view … wasn’t it for the cultural politics involved. I mean, how welcoming am I to outsider views on my own cultural background? Honestly, how serious am I willing to take them? If that makes any sense … And if I feel that these same discursive practices that discredited notions of the traditional implicitly also legitimate current processes of economic and cultural globalisation by projecting them back into history as a quasi-natural part of human development, shouldn't I then consider and respect discourses that hold on to them also, at least at some level, as resistance to the former?I'm not anymore clear than when I started writing that ... arggghhhhh!!!