‘Thinking on Location': 'An Essay in the Vulnerability of the Subject’

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This essay addresses problems of how and what we know in an attempt to distinguish what’s inside from what’s outside and to figure out whether acts of knowing can be plotted on either side of any boundary that might claim to separate inside from outside. Moving beyond the familiar dialectics derived from Hegel’s theory of history, the essay reflects on the author’s experience as a teacher of English literature “abroad” who has tried to disclaim any privileged access to the interpretation of texts written in English. It was possible to maintain a status as outsider when teaching texts written across the postcolonial world, but such a position was not sustainable when teaching literature by authors from the First Nations of North America. Throughout, various theoretical alterna- tives are posited, from Mikhail M. Bakhtin’s “outsidedness” to Alain Badiou’s pursuit (following Saint Paul) of “universal singularity.” None of these theories seems adequate, and the essay’s argument finds itself circling around the intractable. That figure of “cir- cling around” would suggest that the outside had been attained, but one can always think of a theme, a context, or a relation in which the subject would find itself again inhabiting the inside. Structuring the argument is the notion of place and location and the Viconian yearning for the strictly geometrical representation of history, and thence of entities in fixed places, and of constant spatial relations between entities—and of metonymy as the figure by whose suppression, alone, space and time have been enabled to persist in their Kantian sovereignty as the a priori categories that ground all our knowing.
Tidsskrift Journal of History & Theory
Vol/bind 60
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)118-140
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2021

ID: 290524100