Cultural Studies, Volume 7 Number 2 May 1993 (Cultural Studies Journal)

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Cultural Studies, Volume 7 Number 2 May 1993 (Cultural Studies Journal)

CULTURAL STUDIES Volume 7 Number 2 May 1993 EDITORIAL STATEMENT Cultural Studies seeks to foster more open analytic,

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CULTURAL STUDIES Volume 7 Number 2 May 1993


Cultural Studies seeks to foster more open analytic, critical and political conversations by encouraging people to push the dialogue into fresh, uncharted territory. It is devoted to understanding the specific ways cultural practices operate in everyday and social formations. But it is also devoted to intervening in the processes by which the existing techniques, institutions and structures of power are reproduced, resisted and transformed. Although focused in some sense on culture, we understand the term inclusively rather than exclusively. We are interested in work that explores the relations between cultural practices and everyday life, economic relations, the material world, the State, and historical forces and contexts. The journal is not committed to any single theoretical or political position; rather, we assume that questions of power organized around differences of race, class, gender, sexuality, age, ethnicity, nationality, colonial relations, etc., are all necessary to an adequate analysis of the contemporary world. We assume as well that different questions, different contexts and different institutional positions may bring with them a wide range of critical practices and theoretical frameworks. ‘Cultural studies’ as a fluid set of critical practices has moved rapidly into the mainstream of contemporary intellectual and academic lif fe in a variety of political, national and intellectual contexts. Those of us working in cultural studies find ourselves caught between the need to define and defend its specificity and the desire to resist closure of the ongoing history of cultural studies by any such act of definition. We would like to suggest that cultural studies is most vital politically and intellectually when it refuses to construct itself as a fixed or unified theoretical position that can move freely across historical and political contexts. Cultural studies is in fact constantly reconstructing itself in the light of changing historical projects and intellectual resources. It is propelled less by a theoretical agenda than by its desire to construct possibilities, both immediate and imaginary, out of historical circumstances; it seeks to give a better understanding of where we are so that we can create new historical contexts and formations which are based on more just principles of freedom, equality, and the distribution of wealth and power. But it is, at the same time, committed to the importance of the ‘detour through theory’ as the crucial moment of critical intellectual work. Moreover, cultural studies is always interdisciplinary; it does not seek to explain everything from a cultural point of view or to reduce reality to culture. Rather it attempts to explore the specific effects of cultural practices using whatever resources are intellectually and politically available and/


or necessary. This is, of course, always partly determined by the form and place of its institutionalization. To this end, cultural studies is committed to the radically contextual, historically specific character not only of cultural practices but also of the production of knowledge within cultural studies itself. It assumes that history, including the history of critical thought, is never guaranteed in advance, that the relations and possibilities of social life and power are never necessarily stitched into place, once and for all. Recognizing that ‘people make history in conditions not of their own making’, it seeks to identify and examine those moments when people are manipulated and deceived as well as those moments when they are active, struggling and even resisting. In that sense cultural studies is committed to the popular as a cultural terrain and a political force. Cultural Studies will publish essays covering a wide range of topics and styles. We hope to encourage significant intellectual and political experimentation, intervention and dialogue. At least half the issues will focus on special topics, often not traditionally associated with cultural studies. Occasionally, we will make space to present a body of work representing a specific national, ethnic or social tradition. Whenever possible, we intend to represent the truly international nature of contemporary work, without ignoring the significant differences that are the result of speaking from and to specific contexts. We invite articles, reviews, critiques, photographs and other forms of ‘artistic’ production, and suggestions for special issues. And we invite readers to comment on the strengths and weaknesses, not only of the project and progress of cultural studies, but of the project and progress of Cultural Studies as well. Larry Grossberg Janice Radway *** Contributions should be sent to Professor Lawrence Grossberg, Dept. of Speech Communication, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 244 Lincoln Hall, 702 S. Wright St., Urbana, 111. 61801, USA. They should be in triplicate and should conform to the reference system set out in the Notes for Contributors, available from the Editors or Publishers. Submissions undergo blind peer review. The author’s name should not appear anywhere in the manuscript except on a detachable cover page along with an address and the title of the piece. Reviews, and books for review, should be sent to Tim O’Sullivan, School of Arts, de Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH; or to John Frow, Dept. of English, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia; or to Jennifer Daryl Slack, Dept. of Humanities, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI 49931,USA.

Advertisements: Enquiries to David Polley, Routledge, 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE. This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to Subscription Rates (calendar year only): UK individuals: £28; institutions £56; rest of the world: individuals £30; institutions £58; North America: individuals $40; institutions $88. All rates include postage. Subscriptions to: Subscriptions Department, Routledge, Cheriton House, North Way, Andover, Hants, SP10 5BE. Single copies available on request. ISBN 0-203-98970-8 Master e-book ISBN

ISSN 0950–2386 © Routledge, 1993


ARTICLES Redeeming witness: in the tracks of the Homeless Vehicle Project Dick Hebdige


On the road again: metaphors of travel in cultural criticism Janet Wolff


Knowledge and class John Frow


My space or yours? De Certeau, Frow and the meanings of popular culture Tony Schirato


Crosscurrents, crosstalk: race, ‘postcoloniality’ and the politics of location Ruth FrankenbergLata Mani


Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston: Hughes, biography and queer(ed) history Scott Bravmann


Studying the Other: a dialogue with a postgrad Stephen Muecke


REVIEWS The value of realpolitik in ‘Blandsville’ Tim Dwyer


Fernández Retamar Pilar Bellver


Rimbaud and the Paris Commune Robert Harvey


Notes on contributors





You don’t need no painting on a wall. You might want a painting but you don’t need it. This is what we need. (Homeless woman commenting on the Homeless Vehicle, interviewed in Krzysztof Wodiczko: Projections [dir: Derek May, National Film Board of Canada, 1991]) Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to be free: The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me (Emma Lazarus, Inscription at the Base of the Statue of Liberty) No Man’s land New York 1991 A friend tells me how she’s at Union Square one morning waiting for the uptown express when a body rolls out from under the platform. She watches a middle-aged man climb up, stand, swaying unsteadily at first, getting his balance, as he pats the dust off his suit before heading off purposefully, a plastic attaché case jammed under one arm, towards the stairs and the EXIT. Cautiously, one eye on the tunnel out of which her train is due to plunge at any moment, she leans over to inspect the dark space squeezed between the side of the platform, tucked out of sight beneath the narrow concrete overhang, and the rails. Could anybody really sleep down there? Waiting for his uptown express, Herzog made a tour of the platform, looking at the mutilated posters—blacked out teeth and scribbled whiskers, comical genitals like rockets, ridiculous copulations, slogans with exhortations: Moslems the enemy is white. Hell with Goldwater, Jews! Spicks eat SHIT. Phone, I will go down on you if I like the sound of your voice. And by a clever cynic, ‘If they smite you, turn the other face’. Saul Bellow (1974)


The other face Today many city dwellers (in Latin America) live in shanty towns, and these have become the most telling and guilt-inducing image of ‘third-world poverty’, inviting the voyeuristic horror of the westerner (Elizabeth Wilson, 1991). There are no dead spaces in today’s cities. In Manhattan where the ownership and use of every inch of territory is nailed down in the fine print of countless property deeds and city ordnances, those tiny temporary interstitial spaces that do open up get occupied immediately by PWAs (people without apartments). Buildings earmarked for demolition, construction sites, border zones where ownership or jurisdiction is blurred or in dispute— each can serve as a temporary landing pad. Hence the hobo cities of the thirties, hidden behind billboards on the edge of the freight yards. Hence too, the tent cities erected in municipal parks and transit points (e.g. Grand Central Station) in the eighties, pitched on the nervous urban line between leisure and work, departures and arrivals until, finally, the police arrive with bulldozers and razor wire to move them on again. One morning in December 1991 I go to see what I’m told is the last remaining Tent City in Manhattan. The police have recently cleared an earlier settlement (established in June after the closure of Tompkins Square Park) dubbed ‘Dinkinsville’ by the evicts who resided there in ‘honour’ of the mayor. Now a friend tells me there’s a vast, haphazard city of canvas and lean-tos spread out under the grey bulk of the Manhattan Bridge as it reaches out across the East River into Brooklyn. ‘You should go,’ she says, ‘you’ll get a sense of the scale of the problem.’ I spend a couple of hours criss-crossing back and forth between East Broadway and the river, wading in the bridge’s dank shadow, hunting in vain for the city of nomads I’d imagined nestling round the concrete columns which at the riverside lift the bridge 100 feet or more into the air. Eventually I thread my way back up past the projects and the demolition yards, the chop-suey houses and Chinese gift stores—right back almost to the Bowery, to the point where the bridge begins its half-mile elevation before heading on in a sweep to span the river. Here, at the bridge’s root, I get to see Tent City or what’s left of it in December 1991. A bunch of maybe ten or fifteen rusting corrugated iron shacks and packing cases crammed on to a narrow muddy triangle of land at the intersection of three busy roads. In the centre there’s a single canvas wigwam. This location, beset by every imaginable inconvenience—lack of privacy (it’s visible from every side), lack of drainage, proximity to traffic, noise, exhaust fumes, lack of cover from rain and snow—would hardly be anybody’s first choice. No one would choose to put down roots here—however briefly— if they had any kind of alternative. In retrospect, the spaces underneath the bridge look positively penthouse in comparison to this—roomier…quieter…more sheltered…better views. If a larger camp had existed once, then the police must have driven them back and back from the river until only a few seasoned veterans are left hanging on, dug in on this bleak, exposed peninsula pounded by a sea of traffic. The teepee at the centre of Tent City, the structure


that perhaps gave this other miniature metropolis its name, is the landmark focus of this alternative ‘development’—its single distinguishing feature. It towers over the other makeshift shelters—a cone of dirty undyed fabric held upright round a tall, treelike wooden pole. The megatent is functional. It no doubt offers rudimentary shelter to however many people crawl into it at night but it also functions as a beacon and a sign—a reversed reflection of Liberty’s torch held aloft in welcome out there in the Bay to light the tempest-tossed passage to the New World of the earth’s huddled, homeless masses. The Manhattan teepee has this disconcerting monumental aspect. It draws attention to itself as if it’s been designed like Tatlin’s Tower to make a historical point. Only the point this monument is making in its dingy 3-D grandeur is diametrically opposed to the one proposed by Tatlin’s model which, of course, remained just that—an unexecuted project stuck for all time at the design stage. For, whereas Tatlin’s utopian project was meant to herald the imminent (though as luck would have it, eternally delayed) arrival of the streamlined city of a heroic socialist future, Tent City’s wigwam announces the return of the repressed in the grimy nodes of New York’s ultra-rationalist grid system. It advertises the enduring failure of the capitalist city—and the abstract, technocratic regimes it represents and on which it depends—to cater for its own. Made by the homeless for the homeless after a ‘primitive’ design that dates back long before New Amsterdam was acquired from the natives for the legendary handful of beads, Tent City’s teepee is both an invocation and an indictment—an invocation of the history of expropriation and genocide which accompanied the founding of the nation and an indictment of a system that continues to uproot, ‘vanish’ and dehumanize the ghosts that (against all odds) go on dancing in its margins. As such you could almost say it functions like one of Krzysztof Wodiczko’s projections to disrupt the architectural ‘order’ of the city by superimposing a temporary ‘counterfactual’ image on a familiar city landmark, by superimposing that memory on this site… Perched on the central divide separating the two streams of traffic crossing the bridge as I stand for a moment self-consciously contemplating this architectural ‘statement’, a figure in a tracksuit steps from its interior into the cold winter sunshine. The black man stands there in the mud scratching for a moment, straightening the towel round his shoulders. Then he looks directly up at me, dissolving in an instant with the intensity of that stare the distance between us so that the roar of the traffic seems suddenly to drop away and all I can hear is him drawing all the morning’s phlegm up into his throat, siphoning as much as he can squeeze out of himself and letting it collect there, viscous, on his tongue, before moving his head back slightly and sending out a great fat spume of spittle in an arc on to the road that separates him—a refugee in the City of Tents, interrupted in his morning ablutions—from me and the harder, higher ground I’m standing on… Tramp steamer As necessarily as it produces machines and men-machines, the bourgeois world…produces the Tramp, its reverse image. The relation between the Tramp and the bourgeois order is different to the relation ‘proletariat-


bourgeoisie’. In particular it is more immediate, more physical, relying less on concepts and demands than on images. (Henri Lefebvre, 1991a) TRAMP, v. 1. To walk with a firm, heavy step; to trudge. n. 1. a heavy footfall; b. A heavy rhythmic tread, as of a marching army 2. A walking trip or hike 3. A person who travels aimlessly about on foot, doing odd jobs or begging for a living, as a vagrant 4 a. A prostitute b. A promiscuous girl or woman 5. A cargo vessel that has no regular schedule but takes on freight wherever it may be found and discharges it wherever required. Also called ‘tramp steamer’. (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton Mifflin, 1969) The first time I saw Krzysztof Wodiczko’s Homeless Vehicle was in a square-cropped monochrome photograph on a black catalogue cover where it sat, suspended in the gloom, like one of Wodiczko’s nocturnal projections—ominous and dislocated—as if transplanted from another dimension. The image showed a streamlined four-wheeled metal object, reminiscent of a high-tech version of a supermarket cart encased in a skin of plastic or rubberized fabric stretched across a skeleton of metal hoops. A wire cage containing cans and plastic bags was visible, bolted or welded to the chassis. But what drew the eye instantly was the gleaming metal nose-cone pointing off over the viewer’s shoulder so that the whole vehicle bore a strong resemblance to a missile primed and locked on to some invisible target. Parked under direct light on the parquet gallery floor, its hard, reflective surfaces shone with the spooky luminosity of a UFO in a 1950s sci-fi movie. Exhibited in this image like a prototype in a pamphlet at a munitions or medical appliances trade fair, the Vehicle appeared imbued with a powerful mystique as ‘a superlative (designer) objectx’.2 The parody of prof fessional design and display codes in the presentation of the HomelessVehicle-as-late-modern-gadget is integral to Wodiczko’s critical probing of ‘the symbolic, psychopolitical and economic operations of the city’.3 It is a key part of that larger strategy of projection which, as Rosalyn Deutsche has argued, might be chosen as an evocative title for all the work, once we acknowledge that the word ‘projection’ designates not just a technical mechanism but also, ‘first, a symbolic operation by which concepts are visualised as external realities and, second, a rhetorical device for speaking with clarity at a distance’ (Deutsche, 1990:31). The Homeless Vehicle was unveiled before the gallery-going public in an exhibition in New York in 1988, though the rhetorical strategies it embodies had been prefigured in Wodiczko’s public projection works. Three earlier ‘event-pieces’ are of particular relevance. In 1984, Wodiczko projected images of a giant padlock and chain on to the exterior of the Astor Building on Broadway which houses the New Museum of Contemporary Art to draw attention to art’s complicity (as investment and decorative adjunct) in the logic of real estate development. (The inflated asking price for the empty luxury apartments stacked on top of the gallery had, presumably, been partly determined by their physical proximity to the symbolic capital art represents.) Two years later Wodiczko proposed to ‘disable’ the statues of Lincoln, Lafayette, Washington and Charity which had presided over the recent ‘refurbishment’ of Union Square Park by projecting images of bandages, wheelchairs and derelict buildings directly


on to them. The Homeless Projection Proposal memorialized the eviction of the homeless from the Park prior to the implementation of a renovation program designed to complement the new offices and condominiums springing up in the vicinity. By ‘dressing’ the statues in bandages etc., Wodiczko drew an analogy between commemorative architecture and that ‘new symbolic architectural form’ (Wodiczko): the homeless themselves. The Proposal was another attempt literally to ‘throw light’ on the process whereby architecture ‘denying the homeless as its own social outcome…must continually repress the monumental condition of the homeless deeper into its (political) unconscious’ (Wodiczko quoted in Lurie, 1986; also Lajer-Burcharth, 1987). In both projections, the homeless are revealed to be less the victims of their own inadequacies than of that linked process of economic and social transformation which Marshall Berman has dubbed ‘urbicide’ (Berman, 1986), whereby speculative property developments, the suspension of planning controls, redlining, blockbusting, gentrification, soaring rents, the casualization and deskilling of manual labor and drastically reduced welfare and public housing programs actively conspire to produce homelessness.4 One example—the spectacular failure in the early nineties of Canary Wharf and parallel developments in London’s docklands—should serve to clarify the social and economic costs of ‘urbicide’. Since its inauguration in 1981, the state-appointed but not publicly accountable London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) had spent over £700 million of public money in a largely failed attempt to attract national and international capital to the area. With little regard for the housing and employment needs of the indigenous, overwhelmingly working-class population (30 per cent of whom were unemployed by 1987 after the closure of the docks), the LDDC erected luxury riverside apartments, private estates and office blocks aimed at wealthy buyers from the then burgeoning financial sector of the nearby City of London. The LDDC took over most of the land reserved for housing held by the Greater London Council, a since abolished publicly elected body, along with its residual planning powers. Meanwhile, a virtual block was placed on the GLC’s house-building program by central government. The docklands area was declared an ‘Enterprise Zone’ and new businesses were exempted from paying rates for ten years. By the end of 1987, homelessness had increased by 120 per cent in comparison with its pre-1981 level. Thousands of families were being housed in temporary bed-and-breakfast accommodation at inflated rents paid by Newham Borough Council and it was estimated that only 1 in 30 local residents could actually afford to buy one of the ‘affordable homes’ the LDDC had pledged to provide. In Docklands, house values tripled in two years. By the late eighties the docklands ‘miracle’ was being routinely described in the media as a ‘fiasco’ or ‘disaster’. The Isle of Dogs, socially deprived for decades, was now a bleaker environment than ever: a socially divided landscape of half-empty office blocks, overcrowded public housing and unsold luxury apartments5 served by a pitifully inadequate infrastructure of half-finished roads and the aptly named Docklands Light Railway which soon proved unable to cope with the scale of commuter demand.


With the property market crash in 1989, many LDDC developers went into receivership including Kentish Property, the consortium responsible for the transformation of the old Bryant & May match factory (where Annie Besant had led the match-workers’ strike a century earlier) into the ‘Bow Quarter’, an exclusive residential sanctuary for young professionals. According to a recent report in the London Evening Standard, the two swimming-pools, gymnasium, brasserie and running track promised in the brochures are yet to be completed.6 Wodiczko’s projections expose the hidden costs of gentrification and ‘slum clearance’ by making the darkness surrounding such developments visible. They draw on photography’s powers not just to expose or disclose material conditions but to redeem or resurrect the dislocated supplement. In the Homeless Projection Proposal, the vanished and the marginalized troop back like the ghostly casualties of some undeclared war to haunt the scene of renovation. Wodiczko here mobilizes what Roland Barthes ‘would like to call the Spectrum of the photograph because this word retains, through its root, a relation to “spectacle” and adds to it that rather terrible thing which is there in every photograph: the return of the dead’ (Barthes, 1981:9). Specular relations become themselves the focus of attention in Wodiczko’s 1987 Real Estate Project. In this piece, Wodiczko projected photographic images of three apartment windows on to the interior walls of Hall Bromm’s gallery in Manhattan’s East Village. The windows (taken from a model apartment in a neighboring condominium) overlooked buildings undergoing renovation and the projected images were framed by props (e.g.


vertical blinds, a pair of binoculars, copies of real estate brochures etc.) (see Jones, 1987; Phillips, 1987). If these situationist devices questioned common-sense understandings of homelessness, then the Homeless Vehicle Project disturbed such understandings still further by targetting an occupational subculture of single homeless men (those who survive by ‘redeeming’ empty cans and bottles for the 5 cent deposit) as potential user-‘consumers’ of an ostentatiously designed object. The prototype on show in 1988 consisted of a hinged metal unit which could be extended to provide sleeping, washing and toilet facilities as well as a can-storage compartment. The product had been tested by a panel of homeless consultants and adapted to the precise subsistence needs of its prospective users.7 This replication of design and market-research procedures parodied the ‘logic’ of the late capitalist equation between consumption and active citizenship and was carried over forcefully into the final ‘product launch’. The vehicle stood in its fully extended ‘sleeping mode’ at the centre of the exhibition surrounded by sketches of early prototypes and diagrams advertising its versatility and design features (e.g., the hinged nose-cone transforming into a washing bowl, the toilet-and-tarpaulin configuration for guaranteed privacy, the large rear wheels for stabilizing the machine when mounting curbs and increasing maneuverability, etc.). In another room, slides of public spaces in New York were projected on to the gallery walls, the scenes overlaid with blurred images, blown up


from sketches, of the vehicle being pushed through the city by a ghostly hooded figure in a track suit. Meanwhile extracts from Wodiczko’s taped discussions with the homeless consultants were relayed through loudspeakers.8 A document produced by Wodiczko and David Lurie was also on display. Like the vehicle itself this document has gone on circulating in slightly different forms ever since, its arguments refined and adapted in the light of further consultation with the client group for which it is intended: This vehicle is neither a temporary nor permanent solution to the housing problem, nor is it intended for mass production. Its point of departure is a strategy for survival for urban nomads—evicts—in the existing economy. It corresponds to the needs of a particular group of homeless, for it provides equipment for bottle collection and storage but can also be used for emergency personal shelter. In 1988 and 1989 four variants of the homeless vehicle, differing in the materials with which they were constructed and resulting in various technical improvements were tested, used and publicly presented in the following places:


Variant 1: In City Hall Park and the parks across from the Criminal Court and the Municipal Building, New York. Variant 2: Tompkins Square Park and the surrounding area; Wall Street; and the area around Battery Park. Variant 3: Central Park; Grand Army Plaza; Fifth Avenue; across from Trump Tower; Battery Park City, all Manhattan and Greenpaint Park, Brooklyn. Variant 4: Washington Sqaure Park and the surrounding area; the area around Broadway—Lafayette, Manhattan. Dilworth Plaza; Rittenhouse Square; the area around the Liberty Bell; the area around City Hall; and the National Temple Recycling Centre, all in Philadelphia. (Wodiczko and Lurie, 1988) The machine is Unheimlich I begin to see…an object when I cease to understand it. (Henry David Thoreau) Wodiczko’s image-projections montaged on to buildings or concretized in three dimensions in the Vehicle itself produce a dreamlike effect. The first exposure to the Homeless Vehicle is likely to precipitate a sense of dêjà-vu. Instead of you discovering it, it can—if encountered in the right circumstances—introduce itself to you provoking that shock of recognition you sometimes get when, wandering round a gallery in a daze, some object whose presence you’ve failed to register (despite the fact that you’ve been standing in front of it for several minutes) suddenly falls into focus and you seem to apprehend it in an instant in all its singular wholeness with an effortlessness that belies its unf familiarity leaving you convinced for that one instant—(though you’re aware this isn’t really possible)—you somehow know this thing already, that you’ve seen it somewhere else before…


The Poliscar is designed for a particular group of homeless, those who earn their meager income from collecting resellable discarded objects from the streets…. Not merely an emergency tool, it is an experiment in cultural and social communication and equipment. It is a machine for homeless self-representation and expression, a speech-act machine challenging fixed and a priori notions of homeless identity produced and reproduced by the media, a process of subordination of the homeless by the non-homeless (Wodiczko, 1991a). …Wodiczko’s Vehicles actively invite this sense of dêjà-vu. As Patrick Wright has pointed out they look ‘unlike anything that has ever existed before, and yet deliberately engineered out of resemblances to things familiar’ so that the solidity of the vehicle itself threatens to dissolve under the weight of its constitutive analogies (Wright, 1992:13). For Wright the first Homeless Vehicle conjures up a conjunction every bit as bizarre as Lautreamont’s union of an umbrella and a sewing machine on an operating table: ‘[it] looked like…a cruise missile that had landed on a surprised shopper’s Baskart’. The Poliscar, Wodiczko’s latest prototype on the other hand, suggests a: hectic rehearsal of precedents for itself: allusions to Kafka, Goya, Aldo-Rossi, Tatlin’s famous tower…the visionary machines designed by Leonardo…fantastical robots…Dr Who’s daleks…the first tanks that went into action on the western


front in 1916…a mechanised Ku Klux Klansman and an automated wigwam. (Wright, 1992) Elizabeth Hess, writing for the Village Voice is more restrained (and less sympathetically attentive) in the associations she suggests for the Poliscar: ‘a cop from another planet…a souped-up tin man…a war toy for the homeless…a prop in search of a narrative’ (Hess, quoted in Wright 1991:12). But the sense of familiar unfamiliarity engendered by these objects—their capacity to go on ‘making strange’ our habituated ways of seeing—cannot be explained solely by reference to the connotative density of the objects in themselves. Instead, it is in the temporary conjunction of text and context—in the precise combination of image, site and object—that Wodiczko’s work acquires its peculiar resonance: that echo-chamber effect which can suddenly suffuse a neutral exhibition space or a dead historic building with new and unexpected meanings. For the homelessness of Wodiczko’s Homeless Project derives in part, like the spectral portability of film, from the nature of the apparatus through which the project as a whole is articulated. It is integral to his mode of operation as an itinerant artist and teacher. Wodiczko’s vehicles aren’t just metaphors or tools. They are not just ‘about’ homelessness any more than they are simply ‘for’ the homeless. They are also unheimlich (literally ‘unhomely’) in that other stranger sense to which Freud was alluding in his essay of that name.9 For although these peculiar aluminium contraptions come equipped with storage compartments for redeemable tin cans, they are also at the same time uncanny vehicles. Like the Trojan Horse they work under cover in the labyrinth which, wherever you find them in the real world, remains their only true location. And it’s as well to


remember at the outset that the full disturbing impact of the Homeless Vehicle Project only gets disclosed once the projectors have been switched off, after the machines have been wheeled through the gates of our attention and left to stand there in the silence unloading their secret cargo while the guards are still asleep. For the power of insinuation is by no means incompatible with the process of interrogation the Project sets in train. In Wodiczko’s cryptic phrase ‘something is damaged’ (Wodiczko quoted in Maxwell, 1982): after seeing his work a supermarket trolley, a homeless person, a public statue or war memorial will never seem quite the same again. The shadow of his imagery goes on playing on the buildings he has ‘dressed’ like the unadmitted Other lingering at the threshold of the frame. Rather than diminishing the urgency or bite of Wodiczko’s timely interventions, it is this dreamlike incandescence of the after-image—its chilly, smiling aftermath—that in the end makes the agenda he proposes for art’s critical relation to the city really stick. Interrogative machines When you close your eyes, you lose your cans. (Mr Cliff Chapman, homeless ‘redeemer’ referring to his nightly vigil over his can and bottle haul [Globe and Mail, 25.10.91])


They look at us like a lot of empty bottles that they don’t intend to fill… Imagine all the decent things that they could do with just a little common sense if you were not thinking of this situation as a penalty for failure. (Homeless woman interviewed by Jonathon Kozol in Kozol, 1988) This review of first impressions is meant to draw attention to those aspects of Wodiczko’s work—its playfulness, the uncanniness of some of its effects—which tend to get overlooked in the more politically engaged accounts of the Homeless Vehicle Project. Yet it could be argued that it is precisely these aspects which draw us in and prevent us from jumping to conclusions in our efforts to assess the status of Wodiczko’s strange proposals and the seriousness or otherwise of his overall intent. For it is the equivocal or interrogative status of the Project which provokes (or scandalizes) and intrigues (or attracts) its various potential audiences. The appeal of Wodiczko’s work is that it steps straight into the breach left by the continuing trend within much acclaimed contemporary art away from direct engagement in the war zone of today’s metropolitan scene. Its beauty consists in the tact, precision, elegance and wit with which it highlights—literally in the case of the public projections— not just the hidden face of power in the city but ways of approaching ‘problem issues’ and addressing audiences and constituencies which have remained resolutely unapproachable within the terms laid down by seventies and eighties ‘art language’. And its interrogative power derives from the way Wodiczko facilitates multiple and sustained questioning of the authority of social ‘probabilities’ by turning his art into a rhetorical tool which, in marked contrast to the ‘empty’ rhetoric of morally outraged ‘political art’, is designed to work directly in the world rather than upon it. We are forced by the interrogative mode in which Wodiczko frames the Homeless Project to ask the question what exactly are the Homeless Vehicles for? Are they, as one critic asks of Wodiczko’s earlier series (e.g., the Sisyphus, Democracy and Artist machines), ‘working prototypes, functioning models or engineering blueprints’?10 Do we regard them, first and foremost, as provocations to future thought and action—what Harold Garfinkel has called ‘aids to sluggish imaginations’—or as temporary stop-gap measures for dealing with the housing problems of single homeless men? Alternatively, are they intended as a communications aid for an emergent homeless ‘constituency’? Or are they conundra in a broader sense—open questions, impediments to closure, propositions designed to lengthen the hiatus between what we think is probable and what we imagine might be possible. In the awkward process of interrogation which they initiate, the vehicles make everybody feel uncomfortable (apart, that is, from the many homeless nomads who see them as a godsend—an ideal-utilitarian [rather than uselessly utopian] answer to their immediate housing needs). What makes it so difficult to dismiss the project out of hand is the challenge it issues to all of those who enter into dialog with it to improve upon Wodiczko’s own ‘modest proposals’. For, like Jonathan Swift’s ‘solution’ to the ‘Irish problem’ put forward in his famous essay written for (or rather at) the English that impoverished Irish peasants should raise children to sell as food (Swift, 1991), Wodiczko’s machine-offensive on the streets of US cities demands that we acknowledge


the existence of a specific crisis, reflect upon its causes and respond to the question it provokes: if not this, then what do you suggest? In the areas where (the homeless) live you will find there is shelter for them and they simply will not go to that shelter. (Prime Minister John Major interviewed on BBC Radio 4, 2.2.92) But even at the day centres and the hostels it’s dangerous. It is dangerous on the streets, anyone who says it isn’t dangerous is full of shit. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of men bothering me. (Joanna, 21-year-old homeless woman interviewed in the London Independent, 16.2.92) Ever since Martha Rosler’s caustic demolition of photography’s claim to ‘represent’ the inhabitants of Skid Row in her installation, The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems (1974–5), the force of Deleuze’s remark about ‘the indignity of speaking for others’ has been felt throughout the art world.11 Rosler’s two systems comprising ‘intentionally flatfooted’ (Owens, 1985) snaps of Bowery store fronts and typewritten words connoting drunkenness redirected the focus of concern away from ‘the People of the Abyss’ on to the representational codes governing their depiction and the power stakes masked within those codes. For, to quote Craig Owens in his explanatory gloss: ‘concerned’ or what Rosler calls ‘victim’ photography overlooks the constitutive role of its own activity, which is held to be merely representative…Despite his or her benevolence in representing those who have been denied access to the means of representation, the photographer inevitably functions as an agent of the system of power that silenced these people in the first place. Thus, they are twice victimized: first by society, and then by the photographer who presumes the right to speak on their behalf. In fact, in such photography it is the photographer rather than the ‘subject’ who poses—as the subject’s consciousness, indeed, as conscience itself (Owens, 1985:69). Rosler’s project and its motivating intentions, cogently summarized here in Owens’ analysis, were of undoubted value in their time. Moreover they were prescient in signalling the now long-established shift of engagement within critical cultural work away from substantive to discursive issues and concerns. And eventually, new etiquettes of practice and critique were developed to accommodate the silence produced by the evacuation from art and debates around art of what used to be called the ‘social’. Nowadays nobody attempts to approach the ‘other’ without first taking a body-dip in psychoanalysis and French poststructuralist theory. Yet in the intervening years, social and economic polarization has intensified at a rate which by the mid eighties had left contemporary art (including much ‘political’ work) commanding hyperinflated prices and ‘Skid Row’ (i.e., the streets of most big American cities) more desperate and more desperately over crowded than at any other time in living memory. By the time of the first Homeless Vehicle exhibition in 1988 at the city-owned Clocktower Gallery in lower Manhattan, the streets of New York played ‘host’ to an


estimated 70,000 homeless individuals, many on the run from the violent, insanitary municipal ‘shelters’.12 A year later it was estimated that the number of families doubled up illegally in public housing had risen from 17,000 in 1983 to almost 300,000.13 By 1988 there were 200,000 names on the waiting list for apartments in New York City housing projects. Any vacancies in subsidized temporary accommodation were reserved for higher priority homeless families. At the time of the exhibition’s opening some 15,600 people including 10,000 children were living in 82 welfare hotels citywide. The presence of large numbers of displaced individuals on the city streets had been a national scandal since the mid eighties, producing spectacular proof of a ‘crisis in caring’ matched only by the parallel rise in visible homelessness in central London—most notoriously in the ‘cardboard cities’ adjacent to Charing Cross railway station, along the Thames Embankment, the Strand, Lincolns Inn Fields, Kingsway and Covent Garden. In London, the number of households officially designated ‘homeless’ had doubled between 1982 and 1985 rising to 28,000 (Shelter, 1985) with 8,500 families in minimal bedand-breakfast accommodation two years later (London Guardian, 15.12.87). The number of new houses built in central London fell by 60 per cent in the period from 1982–8. Meanwhile the Local Government Housing Act stipulates that no more than one quarter of the earnings made on selling formerly publicly owned council (i.e., Project) houses can be spent on the construction of new homes (see McKintosh and Wainwright, 1987). Comparisons between London and New York as ‘dual cities’ indicate similar though not identical patterns of development. Both New York and London have the highest house prices and highest levels of homelessness nationally, and among the unemployed sector, the highest levels of inequality of earnings and highest rate of increase of inequality. (Sassen-Koob, 1988; Castells, 1991). Demographic studies indicate that a disproportionate number of homeless individuals and single-parent families in London and New York are non-white. At the same time the number of single homeless sleeping in the streets of both cities has been swollen by the closure in the 1980s of long-stay mental institutions and public hospital psychiatric wards which signals the shift into (largely nonexistent) ‘community care’.14 The Homeless Vehicle (which incidently also looks like a cross between an iron lung and a surgical trolley) parodies this ‘rationalization’ of health-care provision and the ‘streamlining’ of public health and housing costs. Abandoning both the fiscal/budgetary ‘reasoning’ behind eighties and nineties ‘new (conservative) realism’ and the mirroring tactic of denunciation, Wodiczko offers ‘rational’ design solutions to the practical exigencies of living on the streets, solutions attuned to the economic logic of subsistence scavenging: Oscar

Kryzsztof: Oscar:

(a homeless consultant for the project): Alright, this is the front of the vehicle. This right here is the opening of the front, right? This is where I’d put my bottles; you get more bottles than anything else. And plastic bags on top? No, if possible, cans and plastics; but you see, you have beer cans, tall and small, tall cans, little cans, soda cans.


So you want to keep your soda cans to the soda cans, tall cans with tall cans, little cans with little cans, glass with glass, beer bottles with beer bottles…You want the simplest way to unload your cart, get everything processed, get your money and get out. As soon as you turn that first corner you come to, there’s another can— you can actually work in a circle. I could circle this park three times and come up with shit everytime…I can fill up one cart in one block…(Wodiczko and Lurie, 1991). Rather than representing either ‘homelessness’ (by framing it iconically) or homeless people themselves (by ‘standing in’ or ‘speaking for’ them) Wodiczko conducts enquiries into the conditions that produce and reproduce the displacement of evicts from physical and social space and offers survival and self-imaging strategies for homeless men and women—strategies developed and adapted in consultation with relevant homeless organizations (e.g., New York’s WECAN Redemption Center15) and evicts on the street. Each variant of the Homeless Vehicle incorporates design modifications suggested by the homeless themselves (e.g., larger front wheels; much larger rear wheels closer to the Vehicle’s centre of balance; a brake; an enlarged ‘seat’ section [which doubles up as a toilet seat] on the collapsible handle; reinforcement of structural components; a reshaped back for easier collecting; incorporation of semi-translucent reinforced plexiglass roof sections to enhance visibility at night; curtains for privacy; a fire escape). As Julie Courtney (1990) has explained, the vehicles are also adapted to the local conditions pertaining in particular cities: The Vehicle that was designed for use in New York, where there is a bottle-and-can law (1984), is different from the one built in Philadelphia. In New York anyone can return any can or bottle to any store that sells those cans and bottles. In Philadelphia people must travel, and often some distance, to recycling centers. The Vehicle’s basket holds more than an ordinary shopping car, and in Philadelphia, where cans may be crushed and a variety of scrap metal materials are accepted for cash at a recycling center, the basket has been redesigned to accommodate a larger load. The vehicles are thus hybrid propositions which bear an organic relation to the ground on which they move, i.e., the concrete conditions facing people without apartments, specif ically in the case of the first series, single homeless men.16 It is this originary entanglement of the vehicles in the actual lives of the evict (can) ‘redeemers’ that endows them with their (other) worldly force. Wodiczko is designing for a ‘fallen’ world and it is this acknowledgement of complexity and imperfection that distinguishes his project, its motivations and objectives from both the start-from-scratch heroics of the Modern Movement and the cynical indifference to social inequality, scarcity and waste of today’s designers-for-consumption. At the same time the work and the


rhetorical strategies it embodies are predicated on a recognition of the limited effectiveness of ‘radical’ polemic (its partial use/truth value). One of the questions Wodiczko’s work raises, almost incidentally, concerns the ‘radicalness’ of ‘radical’ proposals in the arts: where (if anywhere) should politically engaged work ‘lead’ (i.e., towards which effects, e.g., policy change, ‘consciousness raising’, pragmatic expedients to ameliorate conditions for specific groups at a local level, the opening up of discursive positions from which new kinds of political subject can speak? To which audiences? Towards which institutional ‘homes’: the gallery, the art market, the private collection, the ‘street’?). By starting with a concrete given—the condition of the single homeless— by allowing that condition to dictate the terms of the enquiry and the shape of the ‘solution’, Wodiczko moves away from the didactic mode which secures the self-identity of much ‘political art’ (and thus frees himself to act as an educator). The uncanny appropriateness of his proposals indicates that he is taking that dictation in his sleep. Either way, by working microscopically on a grand scale, Wodiczko challenges implictly the radical abstractions inherited from seventies art and social theory while moving beyond but through more recent critiques of the construction of Otherness by directly addressing those others who live out on the streets and by listening carefully to what they have to say. Evaluations of the Homeless Project’s usefulness and purpose have been as varied and as mobile as the vehicles themselves. Uniquely for a set of artworks, it has helped to spark an important debate on the transformation of the city which has ranged over issues as diverse as the capitalist ‘production of space’ and its implications for inherited models of political organization and resistance; the meaning of citizenship and community in the contemporary urban context and the hidden relations between eviction and ‘flexible accumulation’, between the art and real estate markets.17 The process of critical and reflexive questioning engendered in that debate has changed the terms in which the artcity nexus is discussed in critical theory journals in North America today.18 But beyond the confines of October magazine and despite Wodiczko’s explicit caveats about the vehicles’ wider signifying functions, many critics understandably continue to use the Project first and foremost as a pretext for reflecting on the immediate conditions in which homeless people live. Other critics have condemned the artist’s ‘failure’ to offer political solutions capable of transforming current social realities. One of the most common objections levelled at Wodiczko’s work, especially by those involved with professional agencies representing the homeless or catering to their perceived needs are that the Homeless Project threatens to trivialize or reify homelessness by appearing to offer pragmatic solutions to a problem which can only be tackled at its root, i.e., through the provision of permanent accommodation. These objections continue to haunt reception of the work despite Wodiczko’s insistence that, as Deutsche puts it, ‘implicit in [the vehicle’s] impermanence is a demand that its function become obsolete’ (Deutsche, 1990: 51). It is here, perhaps, that we begin to touch on the deeper sources of the discomfort many people feel when confronted by a vehicle which moves with apparent ease back and forth between sedimented categories (art/not-art; use value/sign value; play/problem). The Project’s provenance within the institutionalized realm of art and ‘Art Theory’ can


only confirm this feeling of awkwardness. For the fundamental problem which is likely to dog anyone out to get a purchase on Wodiczko’s work with and on the homeless remains not just the impossibility of the vehicle-as-practical-solution but the qualitative discrepancy between the space of legitimated art and the day-to-day experience of actual evicts, between Wodiczko’s signifying strategies and their displaced (and terrifying) referent, homelessness itself. An unbridgeable gulf inserts itself between the muted, plush if tastefully ‘austere’ interiors of art galleries and catalogs and the catastrophic, unwalled, uninhabitable exteriors in which homeless people struggle to survive. Any critical engagement with the Homeless Vehicle Project is obliged to acknowledge the existence of that gulf in whatever way it can. No place like…19 Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today. I want to be a part of it— New York, New York. These vagabond shoes Are longing to stray Right through the very heart of it— New York, New York (Fred Ebb and John Kander, ‘New York, New York’). New York 1988 I am staying here at Angel’s first-floor, one-room apartment in the Lower East Side on East 4th Street between avenues C and D just a few blocks along and down from Tompkins Square Park where the young black men play basketball behind the wire mesh. A Kathy Ackers type strides past the game one afternoon, head shaved, studiously indifferent to the looks from the guys hanging out of the bar on the corner. She’s dressed top to toe in black leather. Her black Japanese boots trace a line down the sidewalk as tight as the leash that ties her to the bull terrier a few paces in front. The dog’s bucket head is encased in a muzzle that matches the lederhosen strapped on to its hindquarters. In the park at certain times of the day the bag men and women go walkabout. Bundled in coats, they push their prams loaded down with empty cans and bottles: not one or two but five or six—a pack, a peasant’s army…One early morning I saw a dozen standing in a silent circle. From a distance they look squat and round, their outlines swollen by the layers of clothing like Polish peasant women at a winter market. Across from the park in the streets of Tompkins Square there are a growing number of galleries, restaurants that look like galleries, chic postcard, gift and retro clothes shops nestling alongside the old Polish bars and eating houses, the old apartment blocks and the Russian steam baths. You can eat sushi off the square, buy designer furniture, read the latest issue of Flash Art. Facing the park a row of shops is being transformed behind the


screens of ho ardings into luxury condos. In a year, Angel tells me, this place will be a Wasps’ nest… The park feels safe enough, but 15 yards away down the stretch of streets that run from Tompkins Square to Angel’s apartment doesn’t. The place feels sunk in shadow even at midday. Hand-painted signs warn that CRACK KILLS…that THIS IS A CRACK-FREE ZONE while on the edge of doorways notices scrawled in chalk indicate with arrows CRACK SOLD HERE or CRACK DEN…Men stand stoop-shouldered and strung out under every other lamppost. If you linger at the junction, waiting to cross, they fall out of the yellow light and block your path: ‘Change? You got change?’ or ‘You wan’ crack? Smack? Blow?’… One day a young Hispanic couple, with a kid of about nine in tow, stumble past us up the street arguing. The kid breaks away, runs ahead and starts yelling. His eyes are half closed, swimming slightly, and he is grinning through the deafening noise as if the sounds coming out of his mouth have nothing to do with him, as if he’s standing at the other end of the block watching some other kid hollering. I’ve stayed in New York before but it was never like this. In the early eighties I even got a glimpse of the very different New Yorks immortalized respectively by Jay McInerney in his yuppie West Side novels and by Miles Davis in his trailing, angry trumpet solos. But none of that was anything like this. This was worse than Hubert Selby Jr, George Romero, William Burroughs. The floor of the apartment sloped crazily so when you got out of bed you literally fell into the day. A vacant lot stretched out behind the apartment. I would stand at the window in the mornings listening to The Prairie Home Companion on public radio, listening to Garrison Keillor’s soft, bass voice bringing the news from Lake Wobegon, the mythical midwestern town ‘where the men are strong, the women handsome and all the children are above-average’20 and I would watch human figures literally crawling out of holes in the one remaining wall of a demolished apartment block where they’d spent the night, and slowly easing themselves down the broken fire escapes towards the fires started by the early risers. On the night before I was due to fly back to London, an ugly argument broke out between me and Angel as we walked back from a bar. She’s lived in the neighborhood for years and watched it go down and up simultaneously, block by block, as the white powder and the yuppies moved in and the old residents got shunted off the island or on to the streets. As we came off the square in silence she turned abruptly on me and told me not to walk in that ‘dumb way’. She parodied a kind of hokie smalltown amble, swinging her arms, swaying her head loosely back and forth from side to side. It was the wide open gait of a country boy climbing down from the Greyhound bus and heading off to Times Square to get robbed. ‘This is how you walk’, she snapped. Head down, purposeful, short quick steps, the body hunched in on itself like a compact, hard projectile. ‘And when you come up right alongside the apartment house door, you turn like this’…and she demonstrated…‘ninety degrees…and your key’s already in the lock. Then when you’re inside you get time to relax but you don’t really relax till you’re out of the


lobby, up the stairs and inside the apartment with the door locked and bolted behind you.’ It was as if she had been watching me all week, had seen that I still hadn’t sussed that this was for real. I bit back like a fractious child lashing out at an irritated parent at the end of some unsuccessful holiday excursion: ‘Don’t tell me how to walk! I grew up in Fulham!’ Later on, at the airport we could both afford a laugh. Fulham was still a working-class inner London borough in the fifties and sixties of my childhood and adolescence but, whatever it had been back then, we both knew that Fulham nowadays means property prices way up at the top end of the market. It means wine bars with real cellars, art galleries and restaurants that look like art galleries… And your origins? Talk to us about them, they must be thrilling! The untravelled do not miss an occasion to ask this question. Their apparent kindness hides a sticky heaviness which exasperates the stranger. At the ‘origin’, precisely the stranger— as a philosopher in action—does not attach importance to the origin as common sense does. This origin—family, blood, soil—he has fled from…He is foreign: he is from nowhere, from everywhere, a world citizen, cosmopolitan. Do not send him back to his origins. If the question burns you, go and ask it of your own mother. (Julia Kristeva, 1988) No place like (home) She wakes up early every morning just to do her hair now Her hair wouldn’t be right without her make-up She’s just like you and me but she’s homeless, she’s homeless And she stands there singing for money La da dee lal lal La da dee lal lal (Crystal Waters, ‘Gypsy Woman’ [‘She’s homeless’; Polygram Records Inc, 1991, written by C.Waters/ B.Collins]). The Berlin Wall has nothing on this (Ms Yve Amor, chair of London’s West Ferry Tenants Association referring to the construction in 1990 of an 18 foot wall erected around a luxury Docklands development abutting West Ferry council estate.) Far from seeking to reduce by pious hoping or ‘political’ rhetoric (claiming ‘shared humanity’ or ‘solidarity’) the distance between the homeless and the domiciled (or ‘evicts’ and ‘non-evicts’ to use Wodiczko’s preferred vocabulary) the Homeless Vehicle Project, through all its evolutions, accentuates the irreducibility of the distinction between having and not having ‘a place’ (to live in/speak from). This double exile (from the community of non-evicts/the body politic) is in itself hardly new. But the registers in which it’s currently experienced together with the wider socio-political and ethical


conundra such extreme forms of exile pose for artists and intellectuals intent on intervening critically in today’s urban arena are peculiar to the late modern scene. While the ‘homeless’ label may, as Wodiczko indicates, be ultimately of doubtful use (it lumps Them’ all together, detaches causes from effects and tends to reinforce victim-status by making a lack, i.e., the absence of a ‘home’ into an identity marker), the category remains active in policy terms and it needs to be historicized before it can be dismantled or replaced. It is often pointed out that the picture of the homeless found in most contemporary fiction, reportage, charity appeals and policy documents has its historical roots in the nineteenth-century literature of ‘social concern’ and ‘social exploration’ (Mayhew, Dickens, Booth, Zola, etc.) and in the photographic imagery of early practitioners like John Thompson, Jacob Riis and the inheritors of that tradition in the 1930s: the FSA Depression documentarists (e.g., Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans) and softer-focused European photo-flaneurs like Brassaï.21 The fixing of the image of today’s homeless within archaic nineteenth-century discourses has direct consequences on the diagnosis and ‘treatment’ of the homeless-as-problem not least in Britain where homeless teenagers are still routinely charged as ‘rogues and vagabonds’ under the provisions of the Vagrancy Act (1823) introduced to clear London’s streets of destitute veterans of the Napoleonic Wars.22 However, the construction of the outsider-tramp as civilization’s repudiated (or scapegoated) Other—the object variously of compassion, fear, desire and disgust—has, of course, a much longer history. The exclusion (hence mythologization) of the nomad and the wanderer-pariah is as old as the walls around the first city.23 Full or ‘proper’ citizenship has always implied not just rootedness in place but property ownership. In classical Mediterranean cultures, once the hospitality traditionally extended to the stranger had been exhausted, access to the civitas —the community and its sustaining networks of ritual, privilege and obligation— remained contingent on a more primeval order of belonging: an investment in the urbs, literally the stones of the city.24 With the establishment in eighteenth-century Europe of a bourgeois public realm where differences, ideally, were to be ‘aired’—hence reconciled by Reason as they circulated openly in the new coffee shops and classically proportioned squares—owning property and speaking ‘properly’ became the dual prerequisites for being heard at all. The democratic injunction: ‘Stand up and be counted’ requires, after all, a place to stand up on. Later, the two fundamental bases of human ontology— language and habitat—became further (con)fused at the point when the state began demanding a ‘fixed address’ in exchange for citizenship rights. Now—at the end of the twentieth century—this bourgeois bottom line is set everywhere in concrete, in a spatial order which disarticulates social forces from potential strategies of communicative action by naturalizing the unequal allocation of resources (including information-as-resource) and the power hierarchy in whose interests that order operates. And it achieves this partly like Jerzy Koszinski’s bland-faced gardener-president by simply ‘Being There’ (Koszinski, 1970), through the ruse of architecture’s self-effacing ‘silence’—the disarming ‘innocence’ of its ‘imposing’ or ‘anonymous’ façades. The built environment appears simply to exist outside of the interests it was built to serve. The professional alibi of ‘function’, ‘form’, ‘investment’, ‘enhancement’, ‘improvement’ and so on further mystify the complicity of speculative property development in social and



environmental disaster (e.g. the systematic destabilization of low-income neighborhoods prior to redemption-through-gentrification, insurance fires, rent rises, evictions, etc.). Design discourses and development proposals accomplish this mystification by burying the key which could decipher what Wodiczko calls the pervasive ‘state and real-estate symbolism’ of an emergent global economy (Wodiczko, 1990) in a bogus language of pure aesthetics and narratives of self-evident necessary progress. The social and economic polarization of today’s ‘dual cities’ (Mandel, 1991) where during the eighties, the survival of a growing mass of low-paid casual service workers came to depend on the consumption choices and discretionary tips of high-salaried finance and communications élites has made those alibis appear all the more cynical. At the same time it has produced new forms of disenfranchisement for an outsider class whose visible lack of means prevents it getting past the security guards stationed at the entrances to the air-conditioned shopping malls and luxury estates. This pattern of selective exclusion, denial and withdrawal is reproduced at other levels through less immediately trackable forms of spatial restructuring. Today when the ‘universal placelessness’ (Meyrowitz, 1989) of electronic communications technologies together with cheap air travel and the globalizing pressure of ‘nomad capital’ (Williams, 1989a) have conspired to produce the ‘exploded’ or ‘overexposed city’ (Virilio, 1987), the demands of state surveillance and the security policing of private enclaves in the city have become that much more insistent and intrusive, and the exile of the homeless that much more complete. At the same time, the language of eighties and nineties political populism operates a subtle though no less effective doorkeeping policy. The decentering of the contemporary metropolis and ‘the ruling image of the (TV, VDU) screen’ (Hewison, 1990) may mean, as Todd Gitlin puts it, that ‘uprooted juxtaposition’ is simply ‘how (all) people live’ these days (Gitlin, 1986). But the countervailing stress in populist discourses promoting individual ‘responsibility’ and ‘community belonging’ on the values and virtues of the homes automatically disqualifies the literally uprooted evicts from even entering the game. The language of ‘rights’ and ‘natural justice’ has been so thoroughly diverted from its origins in seventeenth-and eighteenth-century social radicalism that the columnist George Will could argue in a TV discussion on the urban homeless in 1986 that the presence of beggars in front of midtown New York office buildings constituted an ‘infringement of the rights’ of the already harassed executives who worked there.25 In the same spirit, Norman Lebrecht writing in the London Sunday Times (26.2.89) took the Board responsible for administering the Thameside South Bank Arts complex to task for failing to ‘protect the fundamental rights of concert patrons’, harassed by vagrants ‘pestering them for small change and pursuing them far into the lobbies’ in an ‘intolerable’ ordeal which ‘takes the civilised experience of concert-going out of the realms of Orpheus and plunges it deep into an underworld of dereliction’. In this hyperbolical account, beggars and public buildings become interchangeable as the ‘ageing concrete…jungle’ of the South Bank Centre (opened 1960) merges with the transients who occupy its ‘sheltered…underbelly’ to produce a visceral metaphor of public sector values in pungent decline. The whole place is an ‘eyesore where foreign guests avert their eyes politely and music lovers learn to hold their noses’ (Lebrecht, 1989).


Rhetorical excesses such as these are predicated on a Kleinian splitting of social space into two antagonistic camps (public/Them v. private/Us) organized around a set of oppositions which have already been institutionalized in the fiscal, housing and law and order policies of successive British and US administrations. The dominant moral order becomes spatialized, to borrow at length from Mike Davis’s description of ‘Fortress LA’, in the division between: ‘good citizens, off the streets, enclaved in their high security private consumption spheres…[and]…bad citizens, on the streets (and therefore not engaged in legitimate business) caught in the terrible, Jehovan scrutiny’ of police helicopter surveillance (Davis, 1990:233). Some of the most dystopian design and policing initiatives to date derive from this pathological terror of the (revenge of ?) the disenfranchised Other. Davis lists a few local examples: painfully uncomfortable ‘bumproof’ barrel-shaped bus benches, parks in the exclusive San Marino district locked at weekends to keep out Latino and Chinese families from adjacent neighborhoods; beaches closed at dusk patrolled by police dune buggies; and the ultimate mean-machine stationed outside a fashionable seafood restaurant: a ‘$12,000 baglady-proof trash cage made of ¾ inch steel rods with alloy locks and vicious outturned spikes to safeguard priceless mouldering fishheads and stale french fries’.26 In Fortress LA, the removal of public toilets to deter ‘unsuitables’ is inevitably followed by the introduction of a by-law throughout Southern California making public washing of the arms ‘above the elbow’ illegal. The same double bind is blithely activated to keep the homeless perpetually on the move: the head of LA’s city planning commission explained to reporters in 1987 after the mayor had ordered police to clear the ‘cardboard condos’ that it was not illegal to sleep on the streets ‘only to erect any sort of protective shelter’ (Davis, 1988:37–60): ‘The camping aspect is what we are trying to get at, the jumble of furniture on the street, the open fires.’27 In this paranoid, bisected universe, the dereliction of both public space and the outsider class who ‘own’ (i.e., have ‘stolen’) it is contrasted with the perfectibility of the private realm where rightful ownership is (ideally) never in dispute. We hardly need reminding in the late twentieth century of the success of ideological appeals to the ‘primary’ commitments of home and homeland or of the abiding power of the deep psychic (and financial) investments people everywhere continue to make in private domestic space. Those appeals and investments become increasingly tangled and confused as rival agencies and institutions seek to enlist individual and collective subjects to competing ‘identity’ projects (e.g., as consumers, citizens, national/ethnic/ family/memberships, voters, etc.). Thus as east and central Europe disintegrate under the pressure of massive shortages and microscopic ethnic rivalries, the immigration and housing policies of the EEC states look set to engineer the ‘South Africanisation of spatial relations’ (Davis, 1990) already under way, in racially segregated LA, while at the same time, the retail returns of the giant DIY and home-improvement chains in western Europe remain buoyant despite the current cash and credit crisis.28 To concentrate on matters even closer to home, the rhetorical construction under Mrs Thatcher of the imaginary community of the United Kingdom as both ‘national [nuclear] family’ and ‘property-owning democracy’ may have worked in the eighties to secure popular consent for her project of ‘regressive


modernisation’ (see Hall and Jacques, 1983; Hall, 1986). But that consensus is today falling apart in the wake of an economic recession which left anti-Tory Scotland, in the run-up to the last election, threatening to secede from the Union and thousands of ‘ordinary [British] families’ out on the streets or in emergency bed-and-breakfast accommodation as more and more homes are repossessed by loan companies because unemployed ‘breadwinners’ find themselves unable to keep up with the mortgage repayments.29 None the less, despite the failure of Thatcherism at this level, the longer-term historical trend towards ‘mobile privatisation’,30 in which the old public, collective forms of cultural and political identity are supplanted by market-driven consumer lifestyles based round ‘personal choice’ and home-and-family-centered leisure shows few signs of abating. And whatever contortions are produced in national populations by the manipulation of the ‘homing instinct’ for political or commercial gain, the imbrication of libidinally charged images of heimat as first place and safe place in constructions of legitimate belonging seems immune to historical or geographical variation.31 The idealized shelter as recollected ‘firm position’ (Agnes Heller), ‘the territorial core and fixed point of reference’ (J.Douglas-Porteous)32 is, perhaps, the fundamental trope in narratives of identity-formation. The lost time-space of the nurturing source remains the radiant wall on to which all our fantasies of closure, all our desires for ontological security get ultimately back-projected. The overwhelming sense of shame most of us experience when confronted by the spectacle of Manhattan’s homeless shanty towns and London’s cardboard cities must stem in part not simply from the affront they represent to any sense of achieved social justice but in the ragged edges they impose around the frames of our most cherished fantasies, in the cracks they open up in our fundamental sense of what and who we are as human beings. In the words of Crystal Waters’ ‘Gypsy Woman’, the first homeless hit song of the nineties, quoted at the opening of this section, ‘she’s just like you and me but…’ The Hate Man …she’s homeless, she’s homeless California 1991 In Berkeley on Telegraph Avenue, down among the coffee shops and clothes stalls, an evangelist counsels the small crowd of Saturday afternoon window-shoppers halfheartedly in attendance to repent and take Christ into their lives. ‘God loves you,’ he barks, jabbing his finger in the air ‘and you and you.’ At the mention of the word ‘love’ a voice barks back, ‘I hate you.’ Its source, bulky, bearded, lurks half hidden in the doorway of the psychedelic Tshirt shop opposite.


As if responding to a prearranged signal, the preacher swings round to face his ‘fraternal’ adversary: ‘God loves you, friend.’ The voice yells back: ‘I HATE you’. ‘ and EVERY ONE of us.’ Preacher: God loves EACH Doorway: ‘I HATE you.’ This is the Hate Man, my new friends tell me as we drift off to find a bar. And he’s always here on preachers’ corner, standing in a doorway dressed in John the Baptist rags, waiting to pounce on the hated LOVE word… Later that afternoon we stand in a bunch on the sidewalk exchanging addresses, a minor obstruction holding up the flow of pedestrian traffic. Just as we’re shaking hands and getting ready to move off, a figure barges past, shoulders draped in a grey blanket, head down, muttering, rattling a polystyrene beaker full of change. Another enraged mendicant. Once clear, he pauses to straighten the blanket and our eyes lock— aggressively at first though something (maybe the out-of-towner’s look on my face, the question-mark expression) seems to break through, to break the curse he’s placed on us and all the other strangers on this street, so that we stand—unexpectedly—the two of us, smiling broadly, aware of the differences in each other’s status as outsiders, amused for once, perhaps, not angered or intimidated or ashamed by that awareness. I remember feeling simultaneously abused by his elbow and honoured by that look, by this invitation to step for a few seconds out of the role of tourist or crazy nomad, to stand backstage reviewing our respective performances. Instead of demanding cash or offering insults he looks at me looking at him and for a few seconds we hover on the threshold of some kind of confidence—an exchange of ironies at least if not of intimacies. Still holding the grin, he says: ‘Excuse me, sir. I’m just tryin’ to fuck up someone’s day.’ Then he wheels round, wild-eyed again and resumes the swaying walk, the incoherent barrage. She’s homeless (la da dee lal lal)… People with supermarket carts. When did these things come out of the stores and into the streets? She saw these things everywhere, pushed, dragged, lived in, fought over, unwheeled, bent, rolling haywire, filled with living trivia, the holistic dregs of everything if that is correctly put. She talked to the woman in the plastic bag, offering to get a shopping cart for her, which is something I might be able to do. The woman spoke out at her from inside the bag, spoke in raven song, a throttled squawk that Karen tried to understand. She realized she understood almost no one here, no one spoke in ways she’d ever heard before. The whole rest of her life had been one way of hearing and now she needed to learn another. It was a different language completely, unwritable and interior, the rag-speak of shopping carts and plastic bags, the language of soot, and Karen had to listen carefully


to the way the woman dragged a line of words out of her throat like hankies tied together and then tried to go back and reconstruct. The woman seemed to be saying, ‘They have buses in this city that crouch for wheelchairs. Give us ramps for people living in the street. I want buses that they crouch for us.’ She seemed to say, ‘I want my own blind dog that it’s allowed in the movies.’ But maybe it was something else completely. …She said, ‘Let me into vibration’ or ‘Get me annihilation’, and when Karen brought her hot food on a pie plate she took it into her bag and disappeared (Don DeLillo, 1991:180). The Poliscar: an articulated vehicle In England the term [articulation] has a…double meaning because ‘articulate’ means to utter, to speak forth, to be articulate. It carries that sense of language-ing, etc. But we also speak of an ‘articulated’ lorry (truck): a lorry where the front (cab) and back (trailer) can, but need not necessarily, be connected to one another. The two parts are connected…but through a specific linkage, that can be broken. An articulation is thus the form of the connection that can make a unity of two different elements, under certain conditions. It is a linkage which is not necessary, determined, absolute and essential for all time. You have to ask under what circumstances can a connection be forged or made? So the so-called ‘unity’ of a discourse is really the articulation of different, distinct elements which can be rearticulated in different ways because they have no necessary ‘belongingness’. The ‘unity’ which matters is a linkage between that articulated discourse and the social forces with which it can, under certain historical conditions, but need not necessarily be connected. (Hall, 1986) VEHICLE: n.1 medium of application or transmission; 2. means of conveyance or transport (Oxford Dictionary of Etymology). The name of the vehicle, ‘Poliscar’ comes from the same root as police, policy, and politics, namely from the Greek word for city-state, polis. In ancient Greece the word referred more to a state of society characterised by a sense of community and participation of the citizen (polites), than to an institution or a place. (Wodiczko, 1991a) Wodiczko’s project has always been about articulation in the double sense outlined above by Stuart Hall—as both performative utterance and non-necessary linkage.33 From the proposed series of ‘rhetorical vehicles’ in the seventies, some literally powered by the human voice (the ‘Coffee Shop’ Vehicle, the ‘Orator’s Vehicle’34) to today’s Homeless ‘speech-act ma-chines’, he has produced a fleet of moving metaphors explicitly designed to provoke dialogue amongst diverse audiences across multiple boundaries. The routes


these vehicles take are, like the act of utterance itself, erratic, unpredictable, driven by contingent factors. The metaphors bite back (for Wodiczko the passage of the Homeless Vehicle through the city ‘symbolises…(an) act of aggression’) (Wodiczko, 1991a). The dialog is as much about identifying points of conflict and uncovering sublimated social violence as it is about forging specific alliances. In Wodiczko’s universe there can be no ideal consensus. Habermas’s hypothetical ‘ideal speech situation’ remains suitably remote. The utopian public space imagined in modernity—neutral, transparent, open to all—is replaced by social space which is always already inhabited hence always circumscribed, contested, interdiscursive. As emigré and artist, as one of Julia Kristeva’s ‘permanent strangers’ and ‘philosophers-in-action’,35 Wodiczko’s point of origin remains for him the war zone of the (global) city where multiple accents and conflicting interests clash and mingle producing lines of antagonism which cut into the social body in ways that can never be guaranteed or predicted in advance. Wodiczko renounces the ‘politics of representation’ in which much ‘political art’ remains lodged in favour of a performative politics of articulation. The ‘art of politics’ made possible by the speech-act theory to which he subscribes undermines the neat Kantian separation of the (moral, aesthetic and scientific) spheres on which our lazier assumptions of what art is and ought to be still rest. The Homeless Vehicle—as an interrogative tool for examining social relations rather than as yet another ‘engine of history’, yet another utopian deliverance-machine—is perhaps the key articulating metaphor within Wodiczko’s politicized aesthetic. The various prototypes operate rhetorically insofar as they actively effect changes in the way the homeless see themselves and are seen by the non-homeless. As they move around the city the vehicles and the discussions they engender work to shift the terms in which homelessness is discussed and understood so that the concealed structural links between development and displacement can be exposed and subjected to concerted challenge. At the same time, Wodiczko uses the Project as a whole to articulate a nexus of blocked or disavowed connections between art’s ethical and aesthetic vocations, its analytical and performative functions, between the formal grandeur of a new public building and the social squalor that collects around its base. These strategies and concerns come together in the Poliscar, an articulation device for countering the infantilized status (infans: speechless) of homeless men and women through the establishment of a homeless network adapted to the communicative conditions prevailing in the horizontal ‘information’ cities of the late twentieth century. From the outset, Wodiczko and Lurie have taken pains to stress the Januslike character of the Homeless Vehicle Project: the way it both feeds into the local economy of (can and bottle) redemption while at the same time providing the visibility which is the necessary precondition for the eventual enfranchisement of evict communities. In the most recent model, the double-sided (or two-faced) disposition of the Project is retained though the vehicle’s practical and communicative functions have been brought into even closer alignment. The Poliscar is a Jodrel Bank on wheels. It is a tramp steamer designed for tomorrow’s world. In addition to the now expandable storage compartment and sleeping spaces, the vehicle bristles with CB radio aeriels, electronic sensors and video transmitters. Driven by an auxiliary battery-powered motor, the Poliscar comes complete with specially designed



wheel and track systems for negotiating curbs, potholes, soft ground etc. The rotatable triangular ‘communications unit’ (which looks like a witch’s hat) located at the top of the cab contains a TV monitor, loudspeakers, electronic signboard, solar panel, a video camera that also functions as a surveillance camera, an unfolding TV-broadcast antenna and hazard lights. The operator, enclosed within the reinforced fibreglass chassis becomes invisible, shielded from the elements and the scrutiny of passers-by, while having visual access to the street via the video cameras and removable windshields made of Lexan (‘a very strong material similar to Plexiglass and used for space-suit helmets’ (Wodiczko, 1991a)). In a move that exposes through mimicry the design-led strategy of ‘planned obsolence’, Wodiczko applies the ‘progressive’ dynamic of product development to the lifeworld of evicted men and women, and in the process consigns the supermarket trolley to the dustbin of history. The Poliscar is an ironic rhetorical statement conjugated in the future perfect tense so beloved of techno-freak designers. Here Wodiczko introduces us to a new social category—the accessorized evict. He lists the essential items ‘that the urban nomad must carry with him or her at all times’, to be secured in the locker situated beside the motor: water and other beverages; food supplies (e.g., special diet food); baby food; dog food; cooking tools; equipment for washing; emergency medical kit (including emergency shots for infections; medication for asthma, diabetics and for


malnutrition, poisoning and drug or alcohol overdose; sleeping aids; vitamins; birth control; pregnancy tests; AIDS tests etc., along with a medical history); gas mask; umbrella; suntan lotion and sunglasses; alarm clock, stationery; books; toys and games; audio and video tapes; disposable bags; spare parts; tools (e.g., flashlight, binoculars, tools for emergency repairs and for attaching the vehicle to other Poliscars); and valuables (money, personal and official documents, food stamps, drug and alcohol reserves etc.). (Wodiczko, 1991a) A whole way of life is conjured up in detail round the Poliscar which functions as vehicle of transmission for a new set of demands on the part of an emergent ‘proto-community’. (A proto-community can be defined as a ‘community without propinquity’,37 an alliance of spatially dispersed groups and individuals united by common interests). Inscribed in Wodiczko’s list of things is another list of rights: the right of homeless people to operate equipment, to bear children, wear sunglasses and condoms, to own valuables and pets, to protect themselves from pollution and poison-gas attacks, to drink alcohol and keep appointments (the alarm clock). The most important entitlement remains the right to speak from a position, to initiate dialog and to ‘beg to differ’. There can be no identity without difference, no community without a metaphorical frontier-effect, no boundary without culture, no culture without language and exchange and ‘no alliance without treason’ (Brendan Behan). The Poliscar offers a position from which nomadic evicts could begin to talk back—to resist or reverse police surveillance, exchange information, and co-ordinate tactics. It represents a mechanism for activating the latent networks of the heterogeneous community of evicts so


that control over territory can be exercised internally over time and at a distance. Wodiczko envisions using the repeaters on the Empire State Building to establish direct video links between Poliscars via an IF Through-Relay System positioned on a nearby rooftop (Wodiczko, 1991b). However he remains a (fantastical) realist. Access to the Poliscar, he suggests, would be restricted to potential evict-organizers—organic intellectuals, people with technical training, etc. In the hands of competent volunteers drawn from the ranks of the homeless, the vehicles would be able to perform the more general service of establishing a homeless network within the larger polis of active, legally protected citizens. The Poliscar as mobile (homeless) home could in this way give back voice and agency to a group condemned to silence and inaction. Insofar as the homeless population literally lives on the street, the Poliscar as speech-act machine promises to restore ‘the only true public of the city’ (Wodiczko, 1991a) to itself. Since the Homeless Projection Proposal in 1986, Wodiczko has used the analogy between physical and metaphorical ‘public space’ and the homeless condition, referring to both commemorative monuments and homeless evicts as ‘silent witnesses’ to the betrayal of the promises of urban planners and developers and the civic ideals supposedly encoded in public architecture (Wodiczko and Lurie, 1991). Now through the Poliscar he exposes the exclusion produced by that betrayal not just of the homeless but of ‘us—the “community”—from those real masses of “strangers” from whom we are estranged and with whom we presume to have no common language’ (Wodiczko, 1991b). In the world of the ‘as if’ which is where the Poliscar operates, the rootlessness (or, more accurately, uprootedness) that distinguishes the homeless from the non-homeless is turned to their advantage. The concentration of (solar-powered) communications devices within the cab of the vehicle has less to do with Wodiczko’s interest in technology per se than with his recognition that in the electronic fin de siècle city the three-dimensional structures of the built environment are overlaid by another ‘architecture of light’ (Virilio, 1987). In a global space of image-people-information flows, the imagined ‘groundedness’ and ‘sanctity’ of place seem increasingly spurious and irrelevant. And in a typical inversion of common-sense approaches to ‘The Homeless Problem’, Wodiczko presents the Poliscar as a Brechtian history lesson directed at those of us with homes who step over the bodies of the ghosts who line the street without, perhaps, pausing to think not where they come from or who they are (after all, most citizens are moved to ask those questions) but what it is they know. The Poliscar, as the ‘advanced’ model of nomadic transmission and self-imaging forces us to pause and look again. We are stopped in our tracks as Wodiczko turns the tables on our most cherished assumptions about our ‘place’ in the social order by posing another set of questions: what if people without apartments constitute a diaspora more effectively adapted than most to the new conditions of the city? Supposing that, as bearers of the brunt of the upheavals which are remaking urban space everywhere, they have learned their lessons and are keeping what they’ve learned—the value of their witness—strictly to themselves? As Wodiczko writes, ‘to us they may seem strange in the city, but are not strangers to the city’ (Wodiczko, 1991b). What if they know not just the world outside our doors but us far


better than we could ever hope to know them? In other words, supposing we’ve become the objects of their predatory, pitying or indifferent gaze rather than vice versa? The Poliscar reminds us that in any dialog or exchange all positions are reversible. It reminds us, too, that this reversibility should be regarded less as a threat to the security of those boundaries that seem to guarantee our place in the world than as an invitation—the fundamental dialogic promise of all sociality—to step outside ourselves, to give ourselves up, to be carried by the other like a bride across the threshold of the f ractured and divided habitat of language, which remains f or each of us, a common point of origin, an always broken home. That promise is sufficiently important to warrant one last ‘digression’. Conclusion: Reversibility and Witness (caught in the eye of the object) Certainly one can see them early in the morning, gathered together on a bench, their movements slightly exaggerated and slow as the first cider bottle of the day begins to release its destructive magic. But the complexity and coherence of the world through which they move—the round of begging, drinking, sleeping, fighting—was something I had never imagined. Nor…had I ever considered that invisible social area where these most marginal of people encounter the central power of the State (Colin McCabe, in Healey, 1988).38 ‘Witness’, an Anglo-Saxon word of ancient religious usage, adopted again in our time, has been used to name our human, and therefore imperfect, attempt to impart to others the grace and perhaps the excitement perceived in the personal and partial experience of the divine…(T)he word derives from the root whose survivals today include ‘wit’, ‘to wit’, and ‘wittingly’ and which meant to know. Literally ‘witness’ is an abstract noun having to do with the condition, degree, or quality of knowing, in that sense of the word which implies both perceptivity and ‘wisdom’, another word from the same root (Thomas A.Dooling, 1986). Debates on the validity or otherwise of ‘participant observation’ research conducted by displaced scholar-‘experts’ into ‘other’ ways of life (e.g., urban subcultures and ‘traditional’ societies) have moved away in recent years from an exclusive concern with epistemological or ethical issues (the question of whether the ‘professional stranger’ can ever ‘get it right’ or ‘do justice’ either to the people or the lifeworlds under study). Instead the focus falls more directly on the act of writing itself as an instance of power (see, e.g., Clifford and Marcus, 1986). Clifford Geertz lists the favored rhetorical strategies of the new reflexive anthropology (‘ethnographic ventriloquism’, ‘heteroglossia’, ‘confessionalism’, etc.), but remains skeptical of attempts to deconstruct the authority of ethnographic accounts or to relieve the writing subject of ‘the burden of authorship’ (Geertz, 1984).


Controversies surrounding the probity and value of I-witnessing in anthropology supply a useful counterpoint to Wodiczko’s project. For Wodiczko’s work with the Homeless Vehicles offers a different way into questions of discursive positioning and otherness from approaches preoccupied with the dilemmas of reflexivity. Not only does Wodiczko take the worldly imbrication of discourse and cultural and artistic production in social, hence power, relations as given. He also acts to initiate (rather than passively ‘frame’) relatively open-ended, inconclusive forms of dialog, the outcomes of which cannot be anticipated in advance. It is in this sense that Wodiczko’s contraptions can be described as ‘probes’ or ‘self-estrangement devices’ or ‘speech-act machines’. As objects, they concretize rhetorical strategies via metaphor while as objects-in-motion they string disparate sites together syntagmatically in their erratic passage from point to point across the city. The Homeless Vehicles thus work metaphorically and metonymically to delineate social-spatial divisions and to articulate prohibited or unadmitted social possibilities by provoking discussion and establishing lines of effective linkage. The contrastive analogy between the Vehicle-as-stylus and ethnographic writing and the implications of the different models of surrendered mastery suggested by a practice based on the reflexive ‘transcription’39 of encounters ‘in the field’ and one based on what I would like to call ‘articulated witness’ deserve fuller elaboration than is possible here.40 Suffice it to say that the word ‘witness’ possesses charged connotations—both legal and religious—which make its invocation peculiarly loaded in this context. Intuitions of apocalypse and impending judgment are, after all, intrinsic to the indigenous puritan culture, especially to the ‘noir’ tradition of American gothic which still frames today’s perceptions of the ‘terminal’ or ‘fallen’ US city. We should question the plausibility of these apocalyptic narratives and the teleology that seems to underpin them (e.g., the expectations of Revelation/resolution and divine retribution). It would simply be wrong, for instance, to imply that the often bloody conflicts between legally enforceable property ‘rights’ and the ‘black economy’ of recycling and ‘redemption’ or between the socially sanctioned discourses of the ‘proper’ and the ‘tidy’41 and Don DeLillo’s deranged-butindelible ‘language of soot’ are in any way reducible to the symmetrical reversals-offortune narrated in a traditional fairy-tale (where the only truths worth telling exist heroically ‘beyond the pale’, ‘beneath contempt’, etc.). The superimposition on the figure of the ‘tramp’ of various outsider-seer ‘types’—the religious ascetic, the schizophrenic, the flâneur/nomadic intellectual—is a familiar enough roam-antic slippage uniting texts as diverse as The Fisher King and Anti-Oedipus. It may well be that the present essay (and Wodiczko’s leading ‘homeless’ metaphors) effect similar projections. However some of the eschatological nuances are worth hanging on to. The linked collapse of the bi-polar world order, the US domestic economy and ‘Big Picture’ predictive theories (e.g., Marxism) together with the unprecedented scale of the national debt ($4 trillion and rising) all serve to overdetermine the significance of homelessness as sign-of-the-times and portent of the Last Days (of guaranteed economic growth in North America). Moreover, if the current epoch is characterized by a general decline of faith in the secular epistemologies of modernism, it also spells the end of that disavowal of contingency and immanent affect which has always marked the more ‘systematic’ variants of political and social theory. From this perspective, part of the value of a term like


‘bearing witness’ resides in the emphasis it places—even after the ‘death of the subject’— on the attainable integrity of what will always be partial and imperfect individual testimony, on the importance of individuals taking responsibility for resisting (if only by recording and attending to) the multiple injustices perpetrated in temporal proximity to their lives. Notwithstanding semiotic and/or hermeneutic critiques of the appropriative and representational strategies of documentary realism and empiricism, I would argue for the value of witness as positioned testimony in rather than (un)positioned knowledge of a field. Whereas models of ‘observational science’, even those which underpin symbolic interactionism, remain tied, however loosely, to the idea(l)s of typicality, abstraction and generalizability, witnessing is anthropocentric, conjectural, embedded in epiphanous experiences that remain irreducibly concrete and particular. We could say that witnessing, in the sense I am using the term here, refers to the possibility of a ‘third space’ beyond, beneath or inside (transcendence is by no means implied here) the opposition between watcher and watched (i.e., neither subject nor object [nor Kristeva’s ‘abject’42]). The experience of (the encounter with and surrender to) otherness, however mundane the medium of contact, might be said to constitute this space for the duration of whatever is seen to occur ‘inside’ it. If ‘classic’ participant observation studies are founded on a realist epistemology (albeit, in the ‘new ethnography’, a qualified and dialogical one), then the kind of transitive witnessing which I am attempting to outline here might be said to rest on an ‘epistemological’ base which is, by way of contrast, ‘magically realist’. Though anything can happen in the witness-space of mutual implication that binds two or more subjects in a ‘telling’ encounter, the significance or truth—value of this ‘anything’ cannot be tested by the extrinsic criteria of scientific method (e.g., ‘typicality’, ‘repeatability’, ‘falsifiability’, etc.).43 Whether or not such a distinction is seen as useful or viable, the principle of reversibility (rather than identification-with or fetishization-of-otherness) which crucially informs Wodiczko’s ethic and aesthetic is itself encoded as a latent possibility in the ethnographic experience in ways which justify a brief return to the comparative example. It is through this comparison that the psycho-political connotations of terms like ‘projection’, ‘transference’ and ‘resistance’ as applied to Wodiczko’s work can be brought, at last, fully into view. For we could say that the classic texts of anthropological fieldwork and social exploration testify to the ambivalence of the writing subject’s relation to the tabulated Other who, whether knowingly or not, constitutes the object that draws the subject on. The prospect of dissolving the distance that separates the watcher and the watched is what motivates both the quest for knowledge and the fear of ‘going native’ which always dogs the knowing subject from the shadows. Yet we could say that it is only when we fall beneath the shadow of the object, in that switching of positions, that something else gets through. What we call a ‘genuinely educative experience’ is what comes back in the wake of that descent (education n. a leading out):44 a return (though never to the same place) and a return, too, in that other sense—a return on an ‘investment’ which, like the coin paid to the ferryman, represents a debt redeemed—the price extracted for the passage. It was, after all, not until Jack London stepped quite literally into ‘the other person’s shoes’ during the course of his


investigations into conditions in the East End of London in 1903 that he got to see what life was like in the ‘abyss’. Disguised as a ‘common workman’, he learned at once that In crossing crowded thoroughfares…I had to be, if anything, more lively in avoiding vehicles, and it was strikingly impressed upon me that my life had cheapened in direct ratio with my clothes.45 Only by merging with his shadow, the ‘reverse-image’ of the class to which he belonged, could London find that other London and the homely, ‘heimlich’ violence of an order that insisted, then as now, that its shadows get out of the way. Wodiczko’s vehicles move differently on different principles. As they are pushed or driven through a succession of physical spaces, discursive frames and contexts, as they trundle on towards Paris, Barcelona or Minneapolis from 5th Avenue via Tompkins Square Park or the streets of Philadelphia or Sheffield, they attract non-evicts like a lure attracting fish. Wodiczko writes: The middle classes are well trained as consumers. As good consumers they know how to quickly and accurately evaluate the ‘value’ of every new functional and symbolic form that appears before their commodity-tuned eyes. Many non-evicts were engaged and approached us to ask ‘What is this for?’ These same people see evicted individuals every day on the street and never ask questions. Now they are provoked to ask questions (Wodiczko and Lurie, 1991). With the Poliscar the splash of the lure in the water has become that much louder, the rhythm of seduction and enquiry that much more pronounced. We have all been led to this. At the end of the line, in the heart of the labyrinth, we find ourselves confronting a tanklike communications center operated by unseen hands. This, perhaps, is not what we were expecting at all. Through every stage of the Project, Wodiczko has set about educating us as to what is at stake in the ‘homeless question’ not by relaying the ‘findings’ gleaned from his prolonged researches into homelessness or by parading the homeless as victims or objects or (barely) animate ‘issues’ but by looking back at us from the other side of property, by hailing us, so to speak, through the loudspeakers mounted on the front of the Poliscar and making us turn round. We should hardly be offended to discover when we turn to face the face whose eyes (perhaps) we’ve been avoiding in the street that there is no one there (that we can see) just a speech-act machine, that it is, precisely, no one that is looking back at us. Appendix For various reasons (primarily restrictions on word-length) I decided to drop the I-witnessing sections from the version of the preceding article that appears in the Wodiczko catalog, Public Address. A few months later I included the description of the Manhattan teepee in another article entitled ‘America is an old country’ (Art Forum, October, 1992). The letter reproduced below—from Nick and Gabriele Manhattan, the artists who, as it turns out, put the teepee up in 1990—came through


the office fax soon after publication. I include it here because it adds another strange loop to the ‘tramp’ undertaken in the essay through Art’s place vis-à-vis the urban war zone, homelessness, the ethics of disclosure, reversibility, the politics of representation/speech act theory. New York October 1992 Re: Article in Artforum, October ‘92 Dick, A couple of days after Gabriele and I put the tepee up, I was walking across Chrystie Street at Canal when a 5×8 print blew up at my feet. Curious, I picked it up and continued walking. As I studied it more closely, I suddenly stopped and looked around quickly to see who had ‘planted’ this photo on me. Of course, no one was there but the wind. I walked up on the Manhattan Bridge carrying the image, past your final perspective as described in the article, trying to find the perspective of the camera that had shot the print I was holding. Difficult, because the image was at least five years old. Walking back into time, I finally found it. It. Where the tepee now stood there used to be a scrawny tree. The rest of the triangular lot was barren. No shanties. I would learn later from some of the residents who had been there the longest, that at Christmas one year, they had put ornaments on the tree and some mornings when they woke, they had found different kinds of gifts under it. When we put the tepee up on Thanksgiving, 1990, there was no physical evidence of the tree, only the memory that it was once there, right where the tepee now sat. Gaby and I had been trying to ‘work with’ ‘the homeless’ ‘work for’ ‘work by’ for quite a while. Us/them was always the problem. But after living in the tepee for a few months, we became very much like ‘the homeless’. The drama of ‘the Hill’ was our drama as much as theirs. The police, the tourists, the press, all those eyes out there. Them and us. Around the fire in the tepee at night, we told our stories. Gaby and I told of how there used to be a large freshwater pond called Collect Pond just to the west and south. The only known Indian settlement in southern Manhattan was high ground near the edge of Collect Pond. The chief or the tribe or the village was named Warpoes. The translation meant ‘little hill’. The story amazed everyone, for where we now were was colloquially called ‘the Hill’ for as long as anyone could remember. We told them how the Dutch had bought Manhattan from the Warpoes for $26 in beads. During the days from then on, visiting tourists were told this story with the enthusiasm and imaginative embellishments of children excitedly repeating the day’s history lesson for their parents. We added a postcard to sell. Photographs by press and tourists were still forbidden, but instead of throwing rocks, cursing and scaring away the peepers, everyone was armed with disposable cameras. The game was to sneak up on the unsuspecting voyeurs and snap them in the act. Hundreds of prints of these surprised, horrified, embarrassed, angry faces were sewn onto fur and hung on the scalp pole outside the tepee. ‘Counting Coup’—more a dialog than war between us and them. In May, our friend and neighbor on the Hill died in one of the many fires. Only then Gaby and I realized who our true peers were. Not the dozens of artists of various disciplines who had visited us in


the tepee, suggesting this that or the other film, project, story, etc. But Mr Lee and others like him. Our grief was overshadowed only by our former ignorance in not recognizing who he was. Reviewing the enlargement of the photo that blew up on my feet, I found that the large billboard in it was ‘Winston—America’sBest’. The tepee today is only the 17 poles in a cone with no cover. Skeleton. The big billboard has changed a couple of times now and I can’t recall what it is at ‘present’. It has been 4 months now since Mr Lee’s death. I have been smoking a lot of Winstons. They’re getting me through. Not the tobacco, but the new campaign for Winston Select: a gold eagle silhouetted against the red background. Gaby and I bought a brand new 1992 Eagle Summit Wagon last month. As I’m writing this, she and 2 friends are painting the new cover for the tepee. The vision is that of an eagle carrying a turtle. The sticks will walk again. Ten feet over to where the old warrior lived and died. On Columbus Day we will cover the power of his memory with as much sincerity as we can achieve. Then try and live true to the vision given. When you were on the Manhattan Bridge in December, Gaby and I were either in the Black Hills or at Wounded Knee. We were out there that whole month. We found out that the people had forgotten how to make the tepee, but that they had learned to talk again to the other four-legged and two-legged people. New stories were being told. The turtle people were telling why and how they carried their house on their back. The eagle people brought the sticks from their nests and told their secrets. The people were learning to build the tepee again. The Medicine Wheel was forming the Sacred Hoop. After the fire, I was in the Assistant DA’s office. He had ruled it arson. I was talking to him about Mr Lee. He was trying to decode who Mr Lee was from all the homemade passports and pictures and writings in Cbinese characters that I had collected from the rubble and brought to him. He was half ass trying to work Mr Lee’s immigration from China to Cuba and then to the US at the time of the takeover by Castro into something which would explain the unintelligible passports, writings, and hundreds of nameless pictures Mr Lee possessed. I told him about the picture that had blown up at my feet and the rest of the story: how I found out that a photographer ‘artist’ was displaying a ‘stolen’ photo of the tepee at a gallery; how I had gone to the gallery and taken measurements of the print and matting and then enlarged my found print and put it into the correct sized matting; how one of the residents of the Hill and I went to the gallery and did the ol’ switcharoo. It stayed there for the run of the show. So the photographer got back not the photo he had taken, displayed and tried to sell for $400, but a photo of the same place from a different perspective and time. ADA Greenbaum was smiling as I told him this. I said ‘Now, you can imagine how that photographer felt when he found that photo instead of his. He would have thought some kind of magic and voodoo were happening, at least momentarily. He would never find out what really happened. So more than likely he would be plagued with doubts and paranoia. He would exhaust rational explanations every time he reflected on it. But of course it wasn’t magic. I’m not a magician. The magician was the person who blew that print up to my feet a year and a half ago.’ Mr Greenbaum lost his smile and then gave a nervous laugh. Later on he would target and intimidate me with his arson investigation to the point where I no longer knew who were the police and who were the criminals. To be fair, he didn’t know either. It was obvious that nets were going



over other nets at the time. That’s always the case or at least the fear: No one is safe. Anyone can be set up. For my part, I found some children’s drawings in the garbage and started painting and altering them. One a day keeps the doctor away. Until I healed. The final one had a tree in it. I wrote GREENBAUM into the trunk and branches, baum being German for tree. The branch of a large tree had reached over Mr Lee’s house. The intensity of the fire scorched and perhaps destroyed it—hard to tell. The poles of the tepee will reach up into that branch. There’s always some kind of quincentennial happening. Goodbye, Columbus. STREETS BLOSSOM WHERE YOU STROLL UNTIL TIMELESS SPRING NOW GOLDEN WINGS UNFOLD Thank you for seeing this. Sincerely, Nick Manhattan

Notes 1 This is a revised and extended version of an article entitled ‘The machine is Unheimlich: Wodiczko’s Homeless Vehicle Project’ published in Public Address: Krzysztof Wodiczko


(Walker Art Center, 1992), the catalog accompanying a retrospective exhibition of Wodiczko’s work at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (11 Oct. 1992–3 Jan. 1993) and Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas (22 May-22 August 1993). 2 ‘The new Citroën’ (Barthes, 1972): ‘It is obvious that the new Citroën has fallen from the sky inasmuch as it appears at first sight as a superlative object…. The D.S—‘the ‘Goddess’— has all the features…of one of those objects from another universe which have supplied fuel for the neomania of the 18th century and that of our own science-fiction: the Deese is first and foremost a new Nautilus.’ 3 Wodiczko (1987). But see also Wodiczko (1986), Lurie (1986) and LajerBurcharth (1987) for further suggestions concerning the ‘psychopolitical’ ramifications of Wodiczko’s work. 4 See Berman (1986). See also, e.g. Deutsche (1986, 1988, 1990); Smith and Feagin (1988); Sassen-Koob (1988); Smith and Williams (1986); Smith (1987; 1990); Palen and London (1984); Gottdiener (1985). The causal connection between speculative development and homelessness was, perhaps, more immediately visible in the nineteenth-century as this verse from The Builder (Vol. ix), published in 1851, demonstrates:

Who builds? Who builds? alas ye poor! If London day by day ‘improves’ Where shall ye find a friendly door When everyday a home removes? 5 For example, the construction in 1989 of an 18 foot wall separating a new Docklands housing development from the neighboring complex of ‘soulless 30s (council) flats’ symbolized ‘a border line…the Berlin Wall’ for one council tenant interviewed in the Guardian: There is room for 400 properties to rent, but nothing has happened. All we get are glossy brochures shoved through the door. You think what they spend on those: if you add it up over the 8 years, you could probably have refurbished every council house in London. (see ‘Border wall division for island communities’ and ‘Thatcherite success story or social disaster’ in the Guardian, 9.12.S9.) 6 See ‘Debacle in Docklands’, London Evening Standard (2.8.89). See also King (1990); McKintosh and Wainwright (1987); Hebdige (1988a); Wallis (1991); Wilson (1991) and The East London File, Four Years Reveiw of the LLDC (Docklands Consultative Committee Support Unit, 1985). 7 Operators and consultants for the project have included: ‘Allan, Benjamin, Pierre, Oscar and Victor, residents of Tompkins Square Park; Alvin, a homeless person in San Diego; homeless workers at the WECAN Redemption Center, New York; Vanessa Brown, John Alston and Vernon Wilson, operators in Philadelphia; Arlene Wilson, Margaret Stevens, Marie General and Harvey Wilson, from the National Temple Recycling Center, Philadelphia’ (Wodiczko and Lurie, 1991). 8 See Deutsche (1986, 1988, 1990). Transcripts of these conversations are included in both the Exit Art and ArTRANDOM catalogues. See also the transcript extract of a conversation between Oscar and Krzysztof (page 21). 9 Freud (1919:729):


The German word ‘unheimlich’ is obviously the opposite of ‘heimlich’ [‘homely’], ‘heimisch’ [‘native’]—the opposite of what is familiar…In Daniel Sanders’s Worterbuch der Deutschen Sprache (1860, Vol. 1, 729), the following entry…is to be found under the word ‘heimlich’: Heimlich, adj., subst. Heimlichkeit (pl Heimlichkeiten): 1. Also heimelich, heimelig, belonging to the house, not strange, familiar, tame, intimate, friendly etc. Note especially the negative ‘un-’: eerie, weird, arousing gruesome fear: ‘Seeming quite unheimlich and ghostly to him’…‘These pale youths are unheimlich and are brewing heaven knows what mischief. ‘“Unheimlich” is the name for everything that ought to have remained…secret and hidden but has come to light’ (Schelling).

Freud takes off with an example from Gutzgow in which the meanings of heimlich and unheimlich are interchangeable so that the word ‘heimlich’ ‘is not unambiguous, but belongs to two sets of ideas, which, without being contradictory, are yet very different: on the one hand it means what is familiar, agreeable, and on the other, what is concealed and kept out of sight.’ It is in this sense of an ambivalence or oscillation between the familiar and the unfamiliar, disclosure and concealment, that I’d suggest Wodiczko’s projection-machines are unheimlich. 10 Coutts-Smith (1979). Alisa Maxwell’s suggestion that we ‘understand Wodiczko’s vehicles as interrogative models of social realities, not as utopian models’ has influenced the arguments put forward in the present essay. The Sisyphus, Democracy and Artist vehicles were part of a series of models produced by Wodiczko between 1973 and 1979. The Sisyphus machine was so named by Kenneth Coutts-Smith because ‘forward motion is achieved as a result of the operator pushing a heavy weight up an inclined plane, which, turning under gravity on a fulcrum, returns both weight and operator ceaselessly once more to the lower level where he constantly faces the slope before him and the necessity to repeat his actions.’ (CouttsSmith, 1979)) The Democracy machine consists of a large square platform capable of holding a crowd of people. The undirected movements of the crowd are translated through mechanical and pneumatic systems installed in the floor into energy which rotates the wheels though the vehicle can only move slowly in one direction. The Artist vehicle (the only one of this series actually produced as a working prototype) again moves in a unilinear direction and is powered by the artist who walks up and down a tilting platform with his hands behind his back in a posture of Napoleonic isolation. The artist’s solitary ramble causes a seesaw movement which generates energy transmitted by a system of cables and gears to the wheels. Again progress is unilinear. In each case there is an ‘elaborate discrepancy between energy expended and work achieved’ (Coutts-Smith, 1979) and the vehicles can be regarded as ‘ironical learning tools’ (Maxwell, 1982) for the critical examination of both technocratic/ instrumental rationality in general and specific ideological constructions of labour, utility and progress. 11 The comment was made with reference to the work of Michel Foucault: ‘In my opinion, you were the first—in your books and in the practical sphere—to teach us something absolutely


fundamental: the indignity of speaking for others.’ As Craig Owens indicates in a footnote, Foucault responds by citing the work of the ‘Groupe d’information de prisons’ and the political importance of the process of empowerment that begins when prisoners themselves begin speaking: ‘the counter-discourse of prisoners and those we call delinquents—not a theory about delinquency’. See ‘Intellectuals and power: a conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze’ in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice cited in Owens (1985:801, n.7). 12 The barracklike EAUs (Emergency Assistance Units) were one of the scandals of Mayor Koch’s public ‘housing’ provision exposed in Jonathon Kozol’s book, Rachel and Her Children. One of Kozol’s homeless respondents gives the following description of the ‘shelter’ afforded by the local State: I’m alone there in this place with about 200 cots packed side by side. Men and women, children all together. No dividers. There’s no curtains and no screens. I have to dress my kids wit h people watching. When my girls go to the toilet I can’t take them and they’re scared to go alone. A lot of women there are frantic. So I stand and wait outside the door. (J.Kozol, 1988)

Hostel, ‘spike’ and ‘doss house’ accommodation in Britain has an equally bad reputation. The Independent quotes Charles King, a captain in the Salvation Army: We will never again build a dormitory hostel…There are many reasons why people are homeless—underlying emotional and mental difficulties exacerbated by living rough. Put together in a hostel which is under-staffed, with no on-site care, they can only cause problems. People would either not go or would leave, preferring the safety of Lincolns Inn Fields and streets. We don’t need another doss-house. (See Sean O’Neill, ‘The £27m hostel revolution’ in the London Independent, 16.2.92) 13 Statistics, as usual, vary. Patrick Wright suggests that there are 100,000 homeless people in New York in 1992 while in 1988, the New York Times (15.5.88) gave a figure as low as 28, 000. The figures cited here are taken from Lurie (1991); Kozol (1988) and S.Sassen-Koob (1988). 14 The brutal truth, however, is that as a community we are not good enough, and the care we offer is not good enough. (‘Stranded in a careless community’, The Independent, 16.2.92). The MIND organization estimate that some 15,000 mentally ill people in Britain are homeless. Apart from the scale of the problem, one difference between the two cities is the large number of homeless teenagers, refugees from family friction and unemployment in the north, who arrive in central London and get absorbed into the ‘abject economy’ (begging, sometimes pornography and prostitution). 15 The WECAN Redemption Center was founded by Guy Polhemus in 1986 as a non-profit organization to provide a central bottle and can depository (located in a converted midtown garage near the Hudson river) for the homeless. It now employs 40 full-time staff and during the peak summer season 100 mostly homeless men to sort and bag up to 200,000 cans and bottles a day. The depository makes bottle and can redemption a viable source of income for the homeless who would otherwise waste time lining up outside stores reluctant to take more than a few containers. According to the Globe and Mail, redeemers earn an average of $35 a day, typically for about four hours spent collecting 700 cans. WECAN pay redeemers 5 cents for each container and sell them back to the manufacturers for 6½ cents. The




18 19 20

21 22 23 24 25 26

Center’s income is supplemented by corporate and personal donations. A secondary market has also opened up among the homeless as independent refund operators, called ‘two fors’, travel round the city offering homeless people 5 cents for every two containers during the hours when the Center is closed. See the Canadian Globe and Mail, 25.10.91. The realization that women using the vehicle as ‘temporary emergency shelter’ would be exposed to risk became apparent in the course of Krzysztof’s consultations with female evicts. For the arguments about the ‘production’ of space, see for instance, Lefebvre (1991a, 1991b); Castells (1991); Gottdiener (1985); Deutsche (1988); Harvey (1989). ‘Flexible accumulation’ is a term coined by the Marxist geographer, David Harvey. Harvey argues that commercial, technological and organizational innovations have conspired to increase the flexibility and mobility of finance and industrial capital today to such an extent that it signals the emergence of a new regime of capital accumulation. This regime affects the structure and international division of labour markets and leads to an expansion of the informal economy and service sectors and a corresponding decline in developed economies of manufacturing industries dominated by organized labour. Flexible accumulation is equated with the simultaneous deregulation and increased monopolization of markets, the growth of sub-contracting and professional consultancy, accelerated product turn-over and product differentiation, ‘just-in-time’ distribution systems; the ‘instantaneous international coordination of financial flows’ with global on-line banking and computerized stock-market transactions and a general ‘space-time compression’ whereby ‘the time horizons of both private and public decision-making have shrunk, while satellite communication and declining transport costs have made it increasingly possible to spread those decisions immediately over an even wider and more variegated area.’ (Harvey, 1989). The representation and experience of place is also affected as the workforce is subjected to employer demands for increased worker flexibility and a willingness to ‘relocate or go under’ and as cities and regions as well as nations compete to attract investment in a process which leads to the packaging of place as commodity (cf. debates on ‘fake’ v. ‘authentic’ heritage, etc.). The term ‘flexible accumulation’ signals a commitment to a classical Marxist theory of development and is intended partly as a Marxist corrective to postmodernist, postindustrialist and post-Fordist accounts of contemporary socio-economic and cultural changes. See Harvey (1987, 1989). Also Lash and Urry (1987); Hall and Jacques (1990). See, for example, October 38, Fall 1986, especially K.Wodiczko and R. Deutsche; and R.Deutsche, October 47, Winter 1988. This section is extracted from Hebdige, 1988a. Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon Days, (Faber & Faber, 1985). But see also ‘The autograph’ in Keillor (1990), a nicely judged account of a meeting in Manhattan between Keillor and a homeless man who tries to sell the narrator one of his own books, and then insists on an autograph. See for instance, Tagg (1981); Hebdige (1988b); Jeffrey (1981); Mayhew (1861); Pinchbeck and Hewitt (1981); Dyos and Wolff (1980); Keating (1976). See John Carvel, ‘Destitute teenagers face jail penalty’ in the Guardian, 9.12.89. See, for example, Chatwin (1987); Sennett (1977,1990). See Sennett (1990). See Lurie (1986) and Lurie and Wodiczko (1990). Davis (1990). Davis cites other, equally ingenious dystopian initiatives: the downgrading of Elysian Park f rom tourist attraction to police shooting range; the introduction of automatic 24-hour pre-programmed water sprinklers strategically placed to deter homeless catnappers


in the remaining public parks; the construction of private developments, secluded to the point of invisibility, with appropriate names like Hidden Hills and Rancho Mirage and an ‘imbrication of the police function into the built environment’ so naturalized that residential rooftops have been painted with identifying street numbers to facilitate helicopter surveillance. Davis further reports a tripling in security service industry sales and workf force during the eighties and resistance f rom an exclusive residential estate to the proposed siting outside its gates of forty-five homes for senior citizens on the grounds that it ‘will attract guns and dope’. See also Davis (1988); Wilson (1991); and Mike Byegrave, ‘LA Law: the bust live from Los Angeles’, a report on the background to the police assault on Rodney King in Lake View Terrace on 3 March 1991 (the Guardian, 25–26 January 1992). The limitations of a policing policy based on a small, heavily militarized Robocop-style force became apparent, however, in the upheaval following the King verdict in April 1992. 27 Jim Woods, Chairman of the Community Redevelopment Agency in Los Angeles Times, 19.2. 87 quoted in Davis (1988). 28 See Hall and Jacques (1990). Also Tomlinson (1990). Tomlinson cites the following statistics: Home maintenance and d-i-y (do it yourself) is no minor activity. In 1983 one of the UK’s major national surveys indicated that 51% of all males aged 16 and over had done some d-i-y in the four weeks before the interview took place. Among women, 24% had also been active in this area. With 68% home ownership predicted in 1990, …the d-i-y and associated gardening markets offer one of the growth markets for home-centred consumption. There has been a 9% real growth in spending on d-i-y goods from 1981 to 1986, with £3,161 million being splashed out on such goods in 1986. Home-based consumption, home ownership and autonomy in decorative display—these are intensifying trends in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. 29 The unprecedented number of house repossessions due to the recession and a stagnant property market prompted the British Government in early 1992 (an election year) to pressurize lending companies to offer ‘mortgage rescue schemes’ for struggling houseowners. In February 1993 it was estimated that 600,000 people in Britain were having difficulties with mortgage arrears (You and Yours, BBC Radio 4,18.2.92). 30 Williams introduced the term ‘mobile privatisation’ in Television, Technology and Cultural Form (Fontana, 1974) and developed it subsequently (e.g., Williams, 1989b) to refer to the transition from the older, more public, collective forms of social affiliation to an investment in the private sphere, domestic space and the family as focal point. He likens ‘this unprecedented condition’ to being enclosed in a mobile ‘shell’ that provides the primary sense of identity and reality against which the ‘distractions…and destructive interventions’ of the larger outside world appear as ‘mere abstractions’ (Williams, 1989b). 31 For an interesting examination of the abiding power of notions of heimat (literally ‘homeland’) in contemporary Europe, especially with reference to the construction of postwar German identity see Morley and Robins (1990). The projection of a common homeland cuts both ways of course and has as much to do with excluding outsiders as ‘redeeming’ lost or threatened imaginary communities. 32 Quoted in Joan Kron (1983). Kron also quotes Gaston Bachelard (‘Home is our corner of the world…our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word’) and ‘architectural phenomenonologist’, Kimberly Dovey (‘Home is an ordering principle in space…a place




35 36


that is loved or a place of loving…a place where one has some degree of control…an option to modify’). But see also Putnam and Newton (1990) especially contributions by T. Putman, M.Bulos, R.Madigan and M.Munro, D.Miller, V.M.Swales, R. Silverstone and D.Morley. Hall’s work on articulation is related politically and philosophically to the work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, e.g. C.Mouffe, ‘Radical democracy: modern or postmodern’ in Ross (1988); Laclau and Mouffe (1985); Laclau (1990). Each of them uses the term differently but taken together their work represents an attempt to pursue the ‘discursive turn’ which marks contemporary social and political thought while thinking through the implications for established (Marxist) models of political agency and political organization of a theory of ‘non-necessary correspondence’ in a world marked by multiple social antagonisms (e.g., ethnic, gender, sexuality, evict/non-evict, etc.) where Lefebvre’s ‘proletariatbourgeoisie’ relation (Lefebvre, 1991a) is no longer guaranteed paramount importance. The acknowledgement of fragmentation, incompleteness and plurality associated with work that takes ‘articulation’ as its central metaphor also involves—at last!—a recognition of ‘the dignity of the specific’ (Laclau, 1990). Two more of Wodiczko’s first Vehicles series. The Orator’s Vehicle is a lectern on wheels and the speed of the vehicle which moves in one direction only and is propelled by an electric motor is determined by the strength of the orator’s voice. There are two versions of the Coffee Shop machine though the chassis in both cases consists of a table and two seats mounted on wheels. In the first, the voices of the conversants activate the engine of the vehicle which is kept in (unilinear) motion by the liveliness of the conversation. In the second, the animation of the speakers’ movements causes a swinging motion which is transmitted through a system of gears to rotate the wheels which move the vehicle in a straight line in one direction only. (See Wodiczko, 1982; Coutts-Smith, 1979.) Kristeva (1988). I am grateful to Catherine Gaitte for translating this passage for me. The details of the Poliscar project included here paraphrase two unpublished Restless Production documents (Wodiczko, 1991a and 1991b) produced by the artist in New York during August and September 1991. One of them was handed out to visitors to the Poliscar exhibition (7 September-5 October 1991) mounted at the Joss Baer gallery. Mulgan (1989); See also Morley (1991). Paul Willis defines ‘proto-communities’ as ‘new, emergent or potential communication communities’ and distinguishes ‘proto’ from ‘organic’ communication: Organic communication, where communities communicate within themselves and then outwards, sending messages about their conflicts, oppressions and material conditions of existence, is breaking down…. [Proto-communities] are flatter and much more resistant to top-down communications of all kinds. They have different origins and different stakes in communication. They start and form not from intentioned purposes, political or other, but from contingency,…from shared desires, from decentred overlaps, from accidents. They form from and out of the unplanned and unorganized precipitations and spontaneous patterns of shared symbolic work and creativity (Willis, 1990).

Wodiczko’s Poliscar is oxymoronic insofar as it ‘engineers’ a proto-community. 38 This is not from a Participant Observation study of homeless alcoholics but from Colin MacCabe’s introduction to John Healy’s (1988) extraordinary autobiography The Grass


Arena. MacCabe’s comments are disarming in their sincerity (and his remarks about the role of first-person narration are pertinent to the discussion of ‘I-witnessing’ in the present article). Predictably, MacCabe’s legitimation of the book by Healey, a recovered lower working-class alcoholic (MacCabe places it in the masterpiece tradition of European high modernism), proved as offensive and ultimately as unacceptable to the liberal and/or genteel tastes of ruling English literati in the nineties as Healey’s writing itself (which included, in addition to the book, letters threatening violence to the chairman of Faber & Faber). 39 J.Clifford in Clifford and Marcus (1986): Every description or interpretation that conceives itself as ‘bringing a culture into writing’, moving from oral-discursive experience (the ‘native’s’, the fieldworker’s) to a written version of that experience (the ethnographic text) is enacting the structure of ‘salvage’. To the extent that the ethnographic process is seen as incription (rather than, for example, as transcription or dialog) the representation will continue to enact a potent, and questionable, allegorical structure.

When judged in these terms, the present article is, no doubt, a failed attempt to move ‘beyond the salvage paradigm’. 40 I have invoked and explored the idea of ‘witness’ in relation to otherness and truth (though— perhaps not surprisingly—I have never tried to theorize it) in a number of articles in the past few years (e.g., ‘Guilt trips—coming up against the wall’ in Art and Text No. 31, Summer 1990; ‘Transmissions’, a catalog essay for the Rooseum (Malmö, Sweden, 1991); Down the Line: An Identity Production (Winnipeg Art Gallery, forthcoming). 41 For important analyses of the category of the ‘proper’ see, for instance, Mary Douglas and Luce Irigaray. Eric Michaels conducts an intermittent assault on the discourse of the ‘tidy’ in his AIDS diary. For instance: Tidiness is a process which, while avowedly in the service of cleanliness and health, in fact is only interested in obscuring all traces of history, of process, of past users, of the conditions of manufacture (the high high-gloss). Tidiness inhabits and defines a ‘moment’, but one outside time, ahistorical, perhaps the ancestral dreamtime home of all ‘Lifestyles’. It is a perfect bourgeois metaphor. The tidy moment does not recognise process, and so resists deterioration, disease, aging, putrefaction. On this basis, it justifies its association with health and cleanliness and is considered an appropriate discourse to inflict on the diseased, the aging, the putrefying (Michaels, 1990). 42 See J.Kristeva (1988). The sense of grace or Zen jijimuge (‘the unimpeded interdiffusion of all particulars’ (D.T.Suzuki)) implied here may seem, on the face of it, diametrically opposed to the sense of revulsion Kristeva sarcastically associates with patriarchal horror at the prospect of merger with the mother’s body. However, the sensation of ego-loss which occurs in I-witnessing can be no less visceral. Padma Perera relates one such moment, experienced as a child standing on the threshold of a gopuram, a gigantic twelth-century stone shrine:


When the priest started to chant, his voice rose and echoed and melted away: into that shadow, into that stone. And when he stopped, the silence was as sculptured as the stone. It was as if all boundaries had disappeared: between solid and void, between light and dark, between sound and stillness—between you and what you saw…. Describing her similar experience while watching the sunset one evening, and merging imperceptibly into it, my mother wrote to me: ‘Somewhere along the way, my seeing eye was no longer an individual point but a part, as it were, of the whole circumference’ (Perera, 1986). 43 For an attempt at magically realist ethnography see, for instance, Hebdige (1987). 44 ‘You have learned something. That always feels at first as if you have lost something’ (George Bernard Shaw). 45 Jack London, The People of the Abyss (1903) extracted by P.Keating (1976).

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Theory is a product of displacement, comparison, a certain distance. To theorize, one leaves home (Clifford, 1989:177). A model of political culture appropriate to our own situation will necessarily have to raise spatial issues as its fundamental organizing concern. I will therefore provisionally define the aesthetic of such new (and hypothetical) cultural form as an aesthetic of cognitive mapping (Jameson, 1984:89). While it is important to recognize the specific power of intellectual practices, they cannot be separated from our existence as nomadic subjects in everyday life…Cultural critics are co-travelers. (Grossberg, 1988:388–9) Vocabularies of travel seem to have been proliferating in cultural criticism recently: nomadic criticism, traveling theory, critic-as-tourist (and vice versa), maps, billboards, hotels and motels. There are good reasons why these particular metaphors are in play in current critical thought, and I’ll review some of these in a moment. Mainly, I want to suggest that these metaphors are gendered, in a way which is for the most part not acknowledged. That is, they come to critical discourse encumbered with a range of gender connotations which, I will argue, have implications for what we do with them in cultural studies. My argument is that just as the practices and ideologies of actual travel operate to exclude or pathologize women, so the use of that vocabulary as metaphor necessarily produces androcentric tendencies in theory. I think it therefore follows that it will not do to modify this vocabulary in the attempt to take account of women, as some critics have suggested we might do. Some discourses are too heavily compromised by the history of their usage, and it may be that the discourse of travel (or at least certain discourses of travel) should be understood in this way. Gender is not, of course, the only dimension involved in travel. Disparities of wealth and cultural capital, and class difference generally, have always ensured real disparities in access to and modes of travel. In addition, it is clear that the ways in which people travel are very diverse, ranging from tourism, exploring and other voluntary activity to the forced mobility of immigrant workers and ‘guest workers’ in many countries, and to the extremes of political and economic exile. In examining here a single notion of travel, which for the most part rests on a Western, middle-class idea of the chosen and leisured


journey, I am merely taking as my subject that metaphor which is in play in these particular discourses. (The fact that it is this idea of travel which is operating here is another important question which deserves examination, though it is not my focus here.) Theory and travel Quite apart from the increasing use of travel metaphors in critical theory, it is worth noting that a number of cultural analysts have been writing about travel itself.1 Dean MacCannell’s book, The Tourist, first published in 1976, was reissued in 1989 with a new introduction in which the author responds to more recent work on theory and travel.2 Other studies of travel include John Urry’s The Tourist Gaze (1990), and essays on the semiotics of travel by Jonathan Culler (19883) and John Frow (1991). In addition, the work of travel writers is more prominent, with (at least on an impressionistic rather than statistical count) more review space in newspapers and journals.4 In some cases, the work of travel writers is cited by theorists of travel (and theorists of travel-theory), as for example in James Clifford’s reference to Bruce Chatwin (Clifford, 1989:183). Clearly this is a restless moment in cultural history. In MacCannell’s account of the nature of tourism, we are first presented with the idea that the tourist is typical of the modern person and, in particular, of the social theorist. In all three cases, it is a question of reacting to the increased differentiation of the contemporary world, and the consequent loss of sense or meaning. Sightseeing is a kind of collective striving for a transcendence of the modern totality, a way of attempting to overcome the discontinuity of modernity, of incorporating its fragments into unified experience (1989:13). Social and cultural theory are then reconceptualized as a kind of tourism, or sightseeing, founded on the search for authenticity and the attempt to make sense of the social. (In the introduction to the second edition of the book, however, MacCannell firmly distances himself from postmodern theories which take the more radical view that there is no social, or that there is no fundamental [‘real’] structure below the play of signifiers. In this his notion of sightseeing is something like Jameson’s concept of ‘mapping’, which is also based on the need to negotiate the lost [but still existing] totality.) A different link between travel and theory is made in Edward Said’s influential essay, ‘Traveling theory’ (1983). Somewhat strangely, the use made of this notion hasn’t always had much to do with Said’s argument in that piece, in which he is interested in the question of what happens to theory when it does travel—for example, the transformations of a theory in passing from Lukács to Goldmann to Raymond Williams, and its location/ interpretation in very different historical and political moments. (Said also refers to this as ‘borrowed’ theory: 241.) This is not the same thing as arguing that there is something mobile in the nature of theory, which is the way the notion of ‘traveling theory’ has been interpreted. In other words, the fact that theories sometimes travel (and


therefore mutate) does not mean that theory (transported or not) is essentially itinerant. Actually, both senses of ‘traveling theory’ are in currency in cultural criticism. Postcolonial criticism and travel The quotation with which I began, from James Clifford, has to be seen in the context of important developments in postcolonial criticism. Here, the metaphors of mobility operate to destabilize the fixed, and ethnocentric, categories of traditional anthropology. Clifford is one of a number of cultural theorists who have recently revolutionized the methodologies and conceptual frameworks of cross-cultural study, at the same time demonstrating and deconstructing the entrenched ideologies of self and other on which such study has been based. For Clifford, the metaphor of ‘travel’ assists in the project of de-essentializing both researcher and subject of research, and of beginning to transform the unacknowledged relationship of power and control which characterized postcolonial encounters. Here, the notion of ‘travel’ operates in two ways. It is both literal—the ethnographer does leave home to do research—and epistemological—it describes knowledge in a different way, as contingent and partial. Related ‘travel’ vocabulary in this particular discourse includes Clifford’s invocation of the hotel as ‘a site of travel encounters’, rather than either a fixed residence or a tent in a village (1992:101). It is a notion (or, as he puts it, following Bakhtin, a ‘chronotope’) which registers both location and its provisional nature. Postmodern theory and the need for maps The quotation from Fredric Jameson is from his important essay on postmodernism as ‘the cultural logic of late capitalism’ (1984). The motivation behind a travel vocabulary here (and in the next case I shall take) has something in common with its location in postcolonial criticism: namely the response to, and attempt to negotiate, a crisis in both the social and the representational in the late twentieth century. Nevertheless, we should not equate postcoloniality, postmodern theory and poststructuralism, though it is important to keep in mind that there are intellectual and political links between them. Jameson’s notion of ‘cognitive mapping’ (spelled out in more detail in a subsequent essay: 1988) is offered as a metaphor which captures the nature of theory in the postmodern age. As is well known, Jameson’s argument here is that in the era of late capitalism, it is no longer possible to perceive the social totality. At the level of the economy, multinational capitalism is not ‘visible’ in the way that entrepreneurial capitalism, and even monopoly capitalism, were. At the level of technology, steam and electric power (characterizing respectively the two earlier stages of capitalism) have given way to the hidden processes of nuclear power and electronic knowledge. The social subject (and a fortiori the sociologist and cultural critic) must therefore resort to new strategies of orientation and analysis. Already immersed in the chaotic and disorganized flow of late capitalist society, the only strategy is to ‘map’ the social from within. As I said earlier, like MacCannell (and unlike other theorists of the postmodern) Jameson has not


given up on totality himself. His argument is that we need new ways of grasping and understanding the fundamental social structures and processes in which we live.5 Poststructuralism and nomadic subjects The third theoretical origin of travel vocabularies, and the last I shall discuss here, is the poststructuralist theory of the subject. The product of radical semiotics, Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, and deconstruction, this critique demonstrates the fluid and provisional nature of the subject, who must now be seen as decentred. In the context of media studies and reception theory, Deleuze’s notion of the ‘nomadic subject’ has been found to be a useful way of acknowledging the television viewer’s (or the reader’s) complex ability to engage with a text both from a position of identity and in an encounter which also (potentially) changes that identity. Lawrence Grossberg puts it like this: The nomadic subject is amoeba-like, struggling to win some space for itself in its local context. While its shape is always determined by its nomadic articulations, it always has a shape which is itself effective. (1987:39. See also Grossberg, 1982 and 1988) Similarly, Janice Radway (1988) has employed the notion of the nomadic subject to provide the necessary conception of readers/viewers as active producers of meaning in their engagement with texts. (See also Meaghan Morris, 1988)6 Related metaphors of travel here are the idea of the ‘billboard’ (Grossberg, 1987; Morris, 1988) as signposts which ‘do not tell us where we are going but merely announce… the town we are passing through’. (Grossberg, 1987:31); and the concept of the ‘commuter’, also suggested by Grossberg (1988 384)7 Off the road: women and travel So far, I have located the emergence of vocabularies of travel in three related major theoretical developments; postcolonial criticism, postmodern theory and poststructuralist theories of the subject. There is no doubt that in each case the metaphors I have identified have proved useful and suggestive, as well as promising specific solutions to the ideological effects of dominant terminologies. In all three cases, it is easy to see why notions of mobility, fluidity, provisionality and process have been preferable to alternative notions of stasis and fixity. In cultural criticism in the late twentieth century we have had to realize that only ideologies and vested interests ‘fix’ meaning, and it is the job of cultural critics to destabilize those meanings. Of course, this work has already been criticized on a number of counts. The radical relativism of some of these texts has proved unacceptable for those who are not prepared to abandon certain meta-narratives. In addition, there is a tension between what we might think of as the more and less radical versions of semiotics: in short on the question of what (if anything) lies behind the play of signifiers in our culture. From the point of view of engaged politics, and here specifically in relation to feminism, a certain postmodern


stance is incompatible with the fundamental commitment to a critique which is premissed on the existence of systematically structured, actual, inequalities (of gender). In a recent critique of some tendencies in cultural studies in the United States, the point is made in this way: Unless it is reflexive and critical, nomadic subjectivity is unlikely to organize meaningful political thought or activity, especially against élites whose thinking is more organized and purposeful. People who are nomads cannot settle down. (Budd et al., 1990:176) I don’t want to rehearse the various critiques of ‘post’ theories here, but instead to focus on the narrower case of a possible feminist critique of travel metaphors. I should start by explaining the untheoretical, and coincidental, origin of my unease with this vocabulary, which was twofold. Like many other people, I had read Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines (1987) a few years ago, when it first came out. Also like many of its readers, I found it a compelling journal of the author’s travels in Australia. At the same time, I felt, in a somewhat unarticulated way, alienated from it as a ‘masculine’ text. In particular, in a long section of the book which consists entirely of quotations about travel (including from Chatwin’s own diaries from other travels), I had the sense that women did not travel like this.8 The fact that Clifford and others cite this particular text mobilized that reaction again. Secondly, I had been doing some work on the 1950s—specifically on the fantasy of ‘America’ in Britain in that decade. In this connection, I was reading newly published accounts of the period by the women of the Beat generation: Joyce Johnson, Carolyn Cassady, Hettie Jones. This was the other side of the stories we already knew, which was until now unrecorded—as the title of Carolyn Cassady’s book puts it, what it was like ‘off the road’. Reading Johnson (one of Kerouac’s women) and Cassady together was illuminating—one woman on each coast, both waiting for Jack or Neal (in Cassady’s case, sometimes for both) to get back. Johnson once wondered if she could join Kerouac on the road: In 1957, Jack was still traveling on the basis of pure, naive faith that always seemed to renew itself for his next embarkation despite any previous disappointments. He would leave me very soon and go to Tangier…I’d listen to him with delight and pain, seeing all the pictures he painted so well for me, wanting to go with him. Could he ever include a woman in his journeys? I didn’t altogether see why not. Whenever I tried to raise the question, he’d stop me by saying that what I really wanted were babies. That was what all women wanted and what I wanted too, even though I said I didn’t…I said of course I wanted babies someday, but not for a long time, not now. Wisely, sadly, Jack shook his head. (Johnson, 1983:126)9 Reading these texts, I was already sensitized to certain questions of gender and travel, and perhaps suspicious of the appearance of travel metaphors in cultural theory. But this, of


course, only raises the question of whether such metaphors are gendered—it doesn’t decide the issue.10 Histories of travel make it clear that women have never had the same access to the road as men: In many societies being feminine has been defined as sticking close to home. Masculinity, by contrast, has been the passport for travel. Feminist geographers and ethnographers have been amassing evidence revealing that a principal difference between women and men in countless societies has been the licence to travel away from a place thought of as ‘home’. (Cynthia Enloe, 1989:21) In a major study of travel over centuries (‘From Gilgamesh to global tourism’ as his subtitle says), Eric Leed makes similar generalizations about gender imbalances: The erotics of arrival are predicated on certain realities in the history of travel: the sessility of women; the mobility of men…In the conditions of settlement and civility, travel is ‘genderized’ and becomes a ‘gendering’ activity. Historically, men have traveled and women have not, or have traveled only under the aegis of men, an arrangement that has defined the sexual relations in arrivals as the absorption of the stranger—often young, often male—within a nativizing female ground. (Leed, 1991:113) Of course, women do have a place in travel, as also in tourism. Often that place is marginal and degraded. John Urry (1990) and Cynthia Enloe (1989) both discover women in the tourist industry in the role of hotel maids, or active in sex-tourism. I will come back to the question of women who do travel. For the moment, I am simply recording the limited access and problematic relationship women have generally had to varieties of travel. (Another example, from Judith Adler’s history of tramping [1985], also confirms the tendency for such undirected mobility to be the preserve of men.) I have yet to move from the recognition of travel as predominantly what men do to, first, an argument that there is something intrinsically masculine about travel, and, secondly, that therefore there are serious implications in employing travel metaphors. At this point, though, I should note that at least two of the cultural critics I have been discussing recognize that there is a problem. James Clifford acknowledges that travel, and therefore travel metaphors, are not gender-neutral: The marking of ‘travel’ by gender, class, race, and culture is all too clear…‘Good travel’ (heroic, educational, scientific, adventurous, ennobling) is something men (should) do. Women are impeded from serious travel. (1992:105) Meaghan Morris, who, as I have said, has also employed travel metaphors in her recent work, makes the same point:


But, of course, there is a very powerful cultural link—one particularly dear to a masculinist tradition inscribing ‘home’ as the site both of frustrating containment (home as dull) and of truth to be rediscovered (home as real). The stifling home is the place from which the voyage begins and to which, in the end, it returns…The tourist leaving and returning to the blank space of the domus is, and will remain, a sexually in-different ‘him’ (1988:12). Her suggestion is that the metaphor of the ‘motel’ may prove more appropriate for a nonandrocentric cultural theory. With its peculiar function as a place of escape yet as a home-away-from-home, the motel can be rewritten as a transit-place for women able to use it…Motels have had liberating effects in the history of women’s mobility. (2) The question is: What is the link between women’s exclusion from travel, and uses of notions of travel in cultural theory and analysis? (And then: Will modified metaphors of travel avoid the risk of androcentrism in theory?) Masculinity and travel If it is only a contingent fact that, as Eric Leed says, ‘historically, men have traveled and women have not’, there might be no reason to argue that the vocabulary of travel is irrevocably compromised and, hence, unacceptable to cultural criticism. Here, I want to explore the possibility that the connection isn’t just contingent, but that there is an intrinsic relationship between masculinity and travel. (By ‘intrinsic’, though, I do not mean ‘essential’; rather my interest is in the centrality of travel/mobility to constructed masculine identity.) Leed himself has a fairly straightforward view of what he calls the ‘spermatic journey’. He argues that it is likely that ‘much travel is stimulated by a male reproductive motive, a search for temporal extensions of self in children, only achievable through the agency of women’ (1991:114). On this view, women’s identification with place is the result of reproductive necessities that require stability and protection by men.11 Such an account, however, does not really get us very far in explaining the persistence of these arrangements in totally transformed circumstances. Mary Gordon has recently argued that men’s journeys should be construed as a flight from women. In an essay on American fiction, she notes the centrality of the image of motion connected with the American hero (authors she discusses include Faulkner, Dreiser and Updike). At work here is ‘a habit of association that connects females with stasis and death; males with movement and life’ (1991:17). Indeed, she notes how frequently in such fiction the females have to be killed to ensure the man’s escape. According to Gordon, ‘the woman is the centripetal force pulling [the hero] not only from natural happiness but from heroism as well’ (6). I think it would be possible to pursue this suggestion in psychoanalytic terms (though I don’t propose to do this here): for example, feminists have used the (very different) work of Nancy Chodorow and Julia Kristeva to


explore the male investment in strong ego boundaries, and the consequent and continuing fear of engulfment (in the female) and loss of self. In MacCannell’s account of tourism, the search for ‘authenticity’ is foregrounded. By this he means the attempt to overcome the sense of fragmentation and to achieve a ‘unified experience’, which is less to do with the ‘authentic’ self than a quest for an authentic social meaning. But tourism and sightseeing can be seen just as much to operate as productive for the ‘postmodern self’ so frequently diagnosed by sociologists, and to that extent I think the gender implications are equally clear. (If, that is, we do take the view that in our culture men have a different and exaggerated investment in a concept of a ‘self.) Some years ago, two British sociologists wrote a book entitled Escape Attempts, whose subtitle is ‘The theory and practice of resistance to everyday life’ (Cohen and Taylor, 1976).12 I had always wondered why one would need to ‘resist’ everyday life (by which the authors mainly mean routine, meaninglessness, the domestic, repetitiveness). Certainly the particular account they give, both of that everyday life, and of the types and strategies of resistance discussed (including fantasy, hobbies, role-distance, holidays), are, to say the least, extraordinarily male. Could such a text be written from the point of view of women, or in a gender-neutral way? My sense is that it probably couldn’t. My suggestion that a connection of masculinity/travel/self can be made is not unproblematic. First, I could argue the opposite case, based on the same theories. For example, since (according to Chodorow and others) women are produced as gendered subjects at the expense of any clear sense of self (of definite ego boundaries)—the result of inadequate separation from the mother—one might think that women have more of an investment in discovering a ‘self and that, if travel is a mode of discovery, then this would have a strong attraction to women. (Indeed, Dea Birkett, in her study of Victorian lady travellers, has suggested that it operated this way for some women, whose fragile sense of identity collapsed on the death of parents in relation to whom such women defined themselves [Birkett, 1991:71]). Here I think the important distinction is between the defence of a precarious but already constructed self (the masculine identity) and an unformed, and less crucial (to identity) sense of self. The investment in travel in relation to the former seems to me to be potentially far greater. Secondly, the notion of feminine identity as relational, fluid, without clear boundaries seems more congruent with the perpetual mobility of travel than is the presumed solidity and objectivity of masculine identity. And thirdly, and related to this, it might be argued that women have an interest in destabilizing what is fixed in a patriarchal culture (as those who propose an alliance between feminism and postmodernism have suggested), and hence that methods and tactics of movement, including travel, seem appropriate.13 I want to return to these last two points later, when I will suggest that such destabilizing has to be from a location, and that simple metaphors of unrestrained mobility are both risky and inappropriate. I haven’t set myself the task of analysing in depth the gendered nature of travel and escape, and all I have done in this section is to indicate some of the ways in which this might be pursued. My interest in this paper is to explore how metaphors of travel work. So far, I hope to have shown that they are (in fact and perhaps in essence) androcentric. For although I do think it is interesting to pursue the possible connection between


masculinity and travel, my real interest is in the discursive construction involved—in other words, in the ways in which narratives of travel, which are in play in the metaphoric use of the vocabulary, are gendered. As Georges van den Abbeele has recently argued (1992: xxv–xxvi), although there is nothing inherently or essentially masculine about travel, in the sense that women have certainly travelled, nevertheless ‘Western ideas about travel and the concomitant corpus of voyage literature have generally—if not characteristically—transmitted, inculcated, and reinforced patriarchal values and ideology’. The discourse of travel, he argues, typically functions as a ‘technology of gender’. Women who travel The major objection to my argument so far is that, in fact, women do travel.14 The case of the ‘Victorian lady travellers’ is the prime example.15 Isabella Bird, Isabelle Eberharht, Mary Kingsley, Freya Stark, Marianne North, Edith Durham and many other redoubtable women at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century left homes that were often extremely constraining to travel the world in the most difficult and challenging circumstances. Their lives and their journeys have been well documented, both by themselves and by subsequent historians (Eberharht, 1987; Birkett, 1991; Middleton, 1965; Russell, 1988). If indeed travel is gendered as male, and women’s travel restricted, here is a case when at a moment of exaggerated gender ideologies of women’s domestic mission the most dramatic exceptions occur. It is interesting, here, to consider how this travel was construed and constructed, both by the travellers themselves and by the cultures they left and returned to. Dea Birkett has suggested that in an important way these women inhabited the position of men. In fact, they rarely dressed as men (Hester Stanhope and Isabelle Eberharht were among the few who did) though they did, like Isabella Bird, sometimes modify their dress in a practical way. Nor did they define themselves as anything other than ‘feminine’ (and in many cases, also anti-feminist). But the relationship of authority they unquestioningly entered with the natives of places they visited and traversed (they were often addressed as ‘Sir’: Birkett, 1991:117), overrode considerations of gender: As women travellers frequently pointed to the continuities and similarities with earlier European male travellers, the supremacy of distinctions of race above those of sex allowed them to take little account of their one obvious difference from these forebears—the fact they were female. (125) In addition, Birkett suggests that many women travellers had a strong identification with their fathers from an early age, and through that identification learned to value the prospect of escape and freedom, since several (Ella Christie and Mary Kingsley for example) had fathers who travelled widely: Their mothers’, and sometimes sisters’, domestic spheres were associated with cloistered, cramped ambition and human suffering. In response, they created their


own sense of stability and belonging in exploring their paternal ancestors, thereby reinforcing their identity with their father and his lineage. (18) Isabella Bird resolved some of the problems of gender-identification which ‘masculine’ travel could have produced by externalizing the feminine in her sister, Henrietta—to the extent that on Henrietta’s death in 1880, she ‘lost her ability to revel with impunity in her travels’ (95), and in fact married (at age fifty) and settled (for a while) back in Scotland. Sisters played a similar role, as conscience, home-self, and recipient of journal-letters, in the travels of Ella Christie, Mary Slessor and Agnes Smith Lewis. This suggestion of the coexistence of two identifications is attested to by Isabella Bird’s remarkably dual life. She started travelling in her forties, having so far lived the life of the frail, and sometimes invalid, daughter of a Victorian clergyman. She travelled to Hawaii, Australia, across the Rockies on horseback, to India, Persia, Korea, China and (at the age of seventy) Morocco. Between travels, back in England and Scotland, she invariably became ill again and spent much of the time on her day bed. When women do travel, then, their mode of negotiating the road is crucial. The responses to the lady travellers by those back home are also illuminating in their own contradictory negotiation of a threatening anomaly. Dea Birkett discusses the reactions of the press, other travellers and members of the Royal Geographical Society, which included minimizing the travels (in relation to those undertaken by male explorers), stressing the ‘femininity’ of these women (despite such masculine pursuits), and hinting that their conduct overseas might well have been improper. In other words, we do not need to discover that women travellers were in any straightforward sense ‘masculine’ to conclude that their activities positioned them in important ways as at least problematic with regard to gender identification.16 The gendering of travel is not premissed on any simple notion of public and private spheres—a categorization which feminist historians have shown was in any case more an ideology of place than the reality of the social world. What is in operation here, I think, is that ideology. The ideological construction of ‘woman’s place’ works to render invisible, problematic, and in some cases impossible, women ‘out of place’. Lesley Harman, in her study of homeless women in Toronto, shows how the myth of home constructs homeless women in a very different way from homeless men. As she puts it, ‘the very notion of “homelessness” among women cannot be invoked without noting the ideological climate in which this condition is framed as problematic, in which the deviant categories of “homeless woman” and “bag lady” are culturally produced’ (1989:10). It seems to me not entirely frivolous to consider the hysterical and violent responses to the film Thelma and Louise in the same way. As Janet Maslin has pointed out (1991), the activities of this travelling duo are as nothing compared with the destruction wrought in many male road movies. She writes in response to an unprecedented barrage of hostile reviews, of which one in People Weekly (10.6.91) is an example: Any movie that went as far out of its way to trash women as this female chauvinist sow of a film does to trash men would be universally, and justifiably, condemned… The movie portrays Sarandon and Davis as sympathetic…. The music and the


banter suggest a couple of good ole gals on a lark; the content suggests two selfabsorbed, irresponsible, worthless people. My argument is that the ideological gendering of travel (as male) both impedes female travel and renders problematic the self-definition of (and response to) women who do travel. As I have said, I don’t claim to have offered an analysis of this gendering (though I have suggested that, for example, a psychoanalytic account would be worth pursuing). Nor, once again, am I arguing that women don’t travel. I have been primarily interested in seeing how metaphors and ideologies of travel operate. In the final section, I will consider the implications of this for a cultural theory which relies on such metaphors. Feminism, travel and place By now, many feminists have made the point about poststructuralist theory that just as women are discovering their subjectivity and identity, theory tells us that we have to deconstruct and de-centre the subject. Susan Bordo has identified the somewhat suspicious timing by which ‘gender’ evaporates into ‘genders’ at the moment in which women gain some power in critical discourse and academic institutions (Bordo, 1990). In the same way, I’d like to suggest that just as women accede to theory, (male) theorists take to the road. Without claiming any conspiracy or even intention, we can see what are, in my view, exclusionary moves in the academy. The already-gendered language of mobility marginalizes women who want to participate in cultural criticism. For that reason, I believe there is no point in tinkering with the vocabulary of travel (motels instead of hotels) to accommodate women. Crucially, this is still the wrong language. How is it that metaphors of movement and mobility, often invoked in the context of radical projects of destabilizing discourses of power, can have conservative effects? As I said earlier, one would think that feminism, like postcolonial criticism, could only benefit from participating in a critique of stasis. Here I think we confront the same paradox as in the proposed alliance between feminism and postmodernism. The appeal of postmodernism lies in its demolition of grand narratives (narratives which have silenced women and minorities). The problem with an overenthusiastic embrace of the postmodern is that that same critique undermines the very basis of feminism, itself necessarily a particular narrative. Feminists have only reached provisional conclusions here based on either a relative rejection of grand narratives, or a pragmatic retention of (less grand) theory. In the same way, I think that destabilizing has to be situated, if the critic is not to selfdestruct in the process. The problem with terms like ‘nomad’, ‘maps’ and ‘travel’ is that they are not usually located, and hence (and purposely) they suggest ungrounded and unbounded movement—since the whole point is to resist fixed selves/viewers/subjects. But the consequent suggestion of free and equal mobility is itself a deception, since we don’t all have the same access to the road. Women’s critique of the static, the dominant, has to acknowledge two important things: first, that what is to be criticized is (to retain the geographic metaphor) the dominant centre; and secondly, that the criticism, the destabilizing tactics, originate too from a place—the margins, the edges, the less visible


spaces. There are other metaphors of space which I find very suggestive, and which may be less problematic, at least in this respect: ‘borderlands’, ‘exile’, ‘margins’—all of which are premissed on the fact of dislocation from a given, and excluding, place. Elspeth Probyn (1990) recommends we start from the body—what Adrienne Rich has called ‘the politics of location’ (1986)—to insist on the situated nature of experience and political critique. Caren Kaplan’s (1987) use of the notion of ‘de-territorialization’ similarly assumes a territory from which one is displaced, and which one negotiates, dismantles, perhaps returns to. For all these metaphors, there is a centre. In a patriarchal culture we are not all, as cultural critics any more than social beings, ‘on the road’ together. We therefore have to think carefully about employing a vocabulary which, liberatory in many ways, also encourages the irresponsibility of flight and misleadingly implies a notion of universal and equal mobility. This involves challenging the exclusions of a metaphoric discourse of travel. Metaphors, though, are not static.17 My critique of the specific metaphors of travel in relation to gender should not, therefore, be read as either a ban on metaphors (which are inevitable in thought and writing, and which always import certain limits and ideologies), or as a definitive condemnation of travel metaphors, but rather as a provisional and situated analysis of the current working of discourse. In the end, too, a different critical strategy might be the reappropriation, not the avoidance, of such metaphors—a good postmodern practice which both exposes the implicit meanings in play, and produces the possibility of subverting those meanings by thinking against the grain. Notes This paper is based on a lecture first given at Dalhousie Art Gallery in November 1991. I’d like to thank the Gallery for inviting me, and those who attended and participated for their comments. Thanks, too, to seminars at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design; the Susan B.Anthony Center, University of Rochester; Nazareth College, Rochester; the Cultural Studies Work Group at Northwestern University; Ontario Institute for Studies in Education; and the Center for the Humanities, Wesleyan University. 1 The real proof of this is that in David Lodge’s latest novel, Paradise News (Viking, 1992), there is a character who is a professor investigating the sightseeing tour as secular pilgrimage. 2 An early example of the current interest in travel and theory, however, was Georges van den Abbeele’s (1980) review of MacCannell’s book, four years after its publication. 3 In fact, first published in 1981 but, as far as I can see, provoking more of a response in the last few years. 4 For example, the full-length, front-page symposium in The New York Times Book Review, 18 August 1991, entitled ‘Itchy feet and pencils’, in which Jan Morris, Russell Banks, Robert Stone and William Styron discuss travel writing. 5 In a different use of the metaphor of a ‘map’, Iain Chambers, describing the intellectual as a ‘humble detective’, explicitly abandons the idea of social totality (1987). 6 My knowledge of Deleuze’s work is mostly secondary, but it is worth pointing out that in his essay ‘Nomad thought’, Deleuze means something rather different: the nomad as


someone who opposes centralized power (1977:148–9). This doesn’t seem to have anything to do with de-centred subjects, but more with the idea of displaced (groups of) people, able to contest authority from the outside. 7 This metaphor does not work so well, I think. Grossberg says this: Nomadic subjects are like ‘commuters’ moving between different sites of daily life…Like commuters, they are constantly shaped by their travels, by the roads they traverse…And like commuters, they take many different kinds of trips, beginning from different starting-points, punctuated by different interruptions and detours, and arriving at different stopping-points (1988:384).

But I would have thought that the central characteristic of commuting is that you always start from the same starting-point and end at the same stopping-point: primarily, of course, home/work. 8 In going back to read that section, some forty pages of text, quotation and aphorism, I couldn’t find very much to support my sense of it as ‘masculine’. It even included a reference to nomadic cultures in which it is the women who initiate the move. One entry was clearly ‘male’—even misogynistic: To the Arabian bedouin, Hell is a sunlit sky and the sun a strong, bony female— mean, old and jealous of life—who shrivels the pastures and the skin of humans. The moon, by contrast, is a lithe and energetic young man, who guards the nomad while he sleeps, guides him on night journeys, brings rain and distils the dew on plants. He has the misfortune to be married to the sun. He grows thin and wasted after a single night with her. It takes him a month to recover. (Chatwin, 1987:201)

Nevertheless, I retained the feeling that I was ‘reading as a man’ here—a feeling which partly motivated the initial attempt in this essay to analyse that feeling. 9 This is also cited by Alix Kates Shulman in her review of Minor Characters (1989). 10 For one thing, it may be that the fifties, and more particularly the so-called Beat Generation, constituted a very specific phenomenon, in which case any generalization would be totally misconceived. It’s part of my project here to examine how general the gendering of travel might be. But here I might also mention a recent piece of journalism, which replays Kerouac/ Cassady, if in ironic form. Nicolas Cage, the movie actor, wrote a piece for the magazine Details (July 1991) entitled ‘On the road, again: retracing Kerouac’s footsteps in the wild heart of the country’, documenting his drive from LA to New Orleans and his experiences and reflections en route. To me, both the events and the recollections seem very much in the Kerouac mode, despite a certain self-awareness and irony (for example, in relating the fact that the first car he took broke down when he and his friend were ‘still comfortably within the 213 area code’). 11 This is an argument that was used, a few years ago, by feminist anthropologists concerned to explain the historical and apparently universal oppression and domestication of women. Here, as in its other manifestations, it is an argument that raises as many problems as it solves. 12 This is soon to be reissued, by Routledge, in a second edition.


13 Here Deleuze’s sense of ‘nomad criticism’ (see note 6) is more appropriate than the usage I have taken up in this paper. 14 Often, the fact of women’s travels has been obscured by historians and other narrators. Gordon DesBrisay has pointed out to me that recent historical research has shown that in early modern Scotland women were more mobile than has generally been thought. (Whyte, 1988) 15 I could, of course, have taken other examples—contemporary women explorers, round-theworld yachtswomen, female truckers, for instance. Many of the suggestions I make here about the Victorians would then be likely to be seen as specific to their case. 16 Box Car Bertha, who spent her life on the road, took advantage of similar ambiguities in gender identification, in this case in her unusual upbringing. My childhood was completely free and always mixed up with the men and women on the road. There weren’t many dolls or toys in my life but plenty of excitement… We took for playthings all the grand miscellany to be found in a railroad yard. We built houses of railroad ties so big that it took four of us to lift one of them in place. We invented games that made us walk the tracks…We played with the men’s shovels and picks and learned to use them…We girls dressed just like the boys, mostly in handme-down overalls. No one paid much attention to us. (in St Aubin de Teran, 1990: 48–9) 17 Indeed, van den Abbeele points out that the word ‘metaphor’ comes from the Greek word which means to transfer or transport (1992: xxii).

References Abbeele, Georges van den (1980) ‘Sightseers: the tourist as theorist’, Diacritics December. ——(1992) Travel as Metaphor: From Montaigne to Rousseau, University of Minnesota Press. Adler, Judith (1985) ‘Youth on the road. Reflections on the history of tramping’, Annals of Tourism Research Vol. 12. Birkett, Dea (1991) Spinsters Abroad. Victorian Lady Explorers, London: Victor Gollancz Ltd. Bordo, Susan (1990) ‘Feminism, postmodernism, and gender-scepticism’, in Nicholson(1990). Budd, Mike, Entman, Robert M. and Steinman, Clay (1990) ‘The affirmative character of U.S. cultural studies’, Critical Studies in Mass Communication Vol. 7. Cage, Nicolas (1991) ‘On the road, again’, Details July. Cassady, Carolyn (1990) Off the Road. My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg, New York: Wm Morrow & Co. Chambers, Iain (1987) ‘Maps for the metropolis: a possible guide to the present’, Cultural Studies Vol. 1, No. 1, January. Chatwin, Bruce (1987) The Songlines, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Clifford, James (1989) ‘Notes on travel and theory’, Inscriptions 5. ——(1992) ‘Travelling cultures’, in Grossberg, Nelson and Treichler (1992). Cohen, Stanley and Taylor, Laurie (1976) Escape Attempts. The Theory and Practice of Resistance to Everyday Life, Allen Lane. New edition to be published by Routledge, 1992. Culler, Jonathan (1988) ‘The semiotics of tourism’, in Framing the Sign. Criticism and its Institutions, University of Oklahoma Press. Deleuze, Gilles (1977) ‘Nomad thought’, The New Nietzsche, David Allison (ed.) New York: Delta.


Eberharht, Isabelle (1987) The Passionate Nomad. The Diary of Isabelle Eberharht, London: Virago. Enloe, Cynthia (1989) Bananas, Beaches and Bases. Making Feminist Sense of International Politics, London: Pandora Press; (University of California Press, 1990). Frow, John (1991) ‘Tourism and the semiotics of nostalgia’, October 57, Summer Gordon, Mary (1991) ‘Good boys and dead girls’, in Good Boys and Dead Girls and Other Essays, Viking. Grossberg, Lawrence (1982) ‘Experience, signification, and reality: the boundaries of cultural semiotics’, Semiotica 41–1/4 ——(1987) ‘The in-difference of television’, Screen 28, 2 ——(1988) ‘Wandering audiences, nomadic critics’, Cultural Studies Vol. 2, No. 3, October. Grossberg, Lawrence, Nelson, Cary and Treichler, Paula (1992) editors, Cultural Studies, London: Routledge. Harman, Lesley D. (1989) When a Hostel becomes a Home. Experiences of Women, Toronto: Garamond Press. Jameson, Fredric (1984) ‘Postmodernism, or the cultural logic of late capitalism’, New Left Review 146. ——(1988) ‘Cognitive mapping’, in Nelson and Grossberg (1988). Johnson, Joyce (1983) Minor Characters, London: Picador. Kaplan, Caren (1987) ‘Deterritorializations: the rewriting of home and exile in western feminist discourse’, Cultural Critique No. 6. Leed, Eric J. (1991) The Mind of the Traveller. From Gilgamesh to Global Tourism, New York: Basic Books. MacCannell, Dean (1989) The Tourist. A New Theory of the Leisure Class, New York: Schocken Books [1976]. Maslin, Janet (1991) ‘Lay off “Thelma and Louise”’, The New York Times 16 June. Middleton, Dorothy (1965) Victorian Lady Travellers, Chicago: Academy Chicago Books. Morris, Meaghan (1988) ‘At Henry Parkes Motel’, Cultural Studies Vol. 2, No. 1, January. Nelson, Cary and Grossberg, Lawrence (1988) editors, Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, London: Macmillan. Nicholson, Linda J. (1990) editor, Feminism/Postmodernism, London: Routledge. Probyn, Elspeth (1990) ‘Travels in the postmodern: making sense of the local’, in Nicholson (1990). Radway, Janice (1988) ‘Reception study: ethnography and the problems of dispersed audiences and nomadic subjects’, Cultural Studies Vol. 2 No. 3, October. Rich, Adrienne (1986) ‘Notes towards a politics of location (1984)’, in Blood, Bread and Poetry, Selected Prose 1979–1985, New York: W.W.Norton & Company. Russell, Mary (1988) The Blessings of a Good Thick Skirt. Women Travellers and their World, London: Collins. Said, Edward W. (1983) ‘Traveling theory’, in The World, The Text, and the Critic, Harvard University Press. Shulman, Alix Kates (1989) ‘The Beat Queens. Boho chicks stand by their men’, Voice Literary Supplement June. St Aubin de Teran, Lisa (1990) editor, Indiscreet Journeys. Stories of Women on the Road, London: Faber & Faber. Urry, John (1990) The Tourist Gaze. Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies, London: Sage. Whyte, Ian D. (1988) ‘The geographical mobility of women in early modern Scotland’, in Perspectives in Social History: Essays in Honour of Rosalind Mitchison, Leah Leneman (ed.), Aberdeen University Press.



Capitalism is one of the names modernity goes by. It consisted in the retraction of the infinite into an instance that had already been designated by Descartes (and perhaps by Augustine, the first modern): the will… Capitalism posits the infinite as that which is not yet determined, as that which the will must indefinitely master and appropriate. The infinite bears the names of cosmos, energy, and research and development…The decisive factor in what is called the postindustrial (Touraine, Bell) is that the infinity of the will invests language itself. The major development of the last twenty years, expressed in the most vapid terms of political economy and historical periodization, has been the transformation of language into a productive commodity: phrases considered as messages to encode, decode, transmit, and order (by the bundle), to reproduce, conserve and keep available (memories), to combine and conclude (calculations), and to oppose (games, conflicts, cybernetics); and the establishment of a unit of measure that is also a price unit, in other words, information. The effects of the penetration of capitalism into language are just beginning to be felt. Beneath the surface of market expansion and a new industrial strategy, the coming century will be characterized by the investment of the desire for the infinite in language transactions, following the criterion of maximum performativity (Lyotard, 1986–7:215, 217). I The work of intellectuals is the implementation of modernity. By ‘intellectuals’ I do not mean the ‘traditional’ or ‘high’ intelligentsia: the small élite of men and women of letters who act as public spokespersons for the ‘noble’ disciplines of knowledge (philosophy, the arts, the social sciences, the higher natural sciences). Rather, following Gramsci,1 I mean all of those whose work is socially defined as being based upon the possession and exercise of knowledge, whether that knowledge be prestigious or routine, technical or speculative. (This definition will be made more precise in the course of this essay.) Unless this broader and socially relational categorization is adopted, it seems to me that any account of the


stratum or class of intellectuals can only be a moralizing exercise in self-hatred and selfidealization.2 The work of intellectuals comprises a set of historically defined tasks which I summarize, in Foucault’s terms, as a mode of ‘governmental’ regulation that makes all domains of life, including both the ‘public’ domain of work and the realm of the ‘private’ whose borders it defines and patrols, visible to the scrutiny and the calculations of power. (‘Power’ here includes but is not restricted to the state.) Its instrument and medium is a culture of enlightened discourse which mobilizes a historically specific apparatus of power and knowledge around the claim to truth. And it is grounded in a set of economic conditions which make possible the constitution of the intelligentsia as a class, or a class fraction (I leave this question open for the time being). These conditions are, in brief, the structural possibility of converting knowledge into cultural capital. To speak of cultural capital is to invoke the history of the integration of knowledge into commodity production—the establishment of knowledge as a central productive force. Lyotard speaks of the ‘banality’ of the thesis that commodified knowledge ‘has become the principal force of production over the last few decades’ (1984:5); but it is perhaps only when we understand the dimensions of this development that we can understand, on the one hand, the internal contradictions of enlightened rationality, and on the other the social interests which are invested in the sphere of disinterested reason, and thus the particular range of class interests which define the intelligentsia. Let me briefly outline some of the quantitative information about the capitalist transformation of knowledge into a productive resource, relying in particular on Fritz Machlup’s The Production and Distribution of Knowledge in the United States (1962)3 and on the nine-volume report, The Information Economy (1977), compiled by Marc Uri Porat for the US Department of Commerce. Porat uses a more orthodox form of accounting (the National Income Account system devised by the US Department of Commerce) and works with ‘value added’ rather than ‘final demand’ figures; this means that items which don’t show up in the national accounts (such as the ‘earnings foregone’ by mothers educating their pre-school children, or by students) cannot be entered into the calculation of the economic costs of knowledge. Machlup’s is the broader definition of knowledge, and his use of the category has provoked considerable criticism. Daniel Bell insists, against Machlup, on a quantitative restriction of knowledge to its traditional cognitive definition: it should be used to refer only to ‘research…, higher education, and the production of knowledge…as an intellectual property, which involves valid new knowledge and its dissemination’ (1973:213). But the value of Machlup’s analysis is precisely that by refusing qualitative discriminations of this kind he can get at the full extent of what might be counted and costed as knowledge in a modern economy—and can thereby get at real qualitative shifts in the structure of capital and the structure of social class. Machlup’s major categories are education, research and development, media of communication, information machines, and information services. Let me summarize his categories and his findings as follows: • The category of education includes education in the home, in the Church, and in the armed services, on-the-job training, and elementary, secondary, and tertiary education. The tables referring to this category show a rise in enrolments in elementary and secondary


schools in the years 1890–1960 from 78.1% to 95.6% of the school-age group (all figures refer to the United States), and of per capita expenditure from $2.54 to $103.38. Enrolments in higher education (1870–1960) rose from 1.7% to 33.5% of the 18–21 age group, and per capita expenditure from $0.60 to $34.59 (1962:71–9). • Research and development expenditure is roughly estimated at $80 million in 1920, $130 million in 1930, $377 million in 1940, $2,870 million in 1950, and $14,000 million in 1960. This represents a growth in the 20 years to 1960 of 3,714%. Expenditure relative to GNP is 0.09% in 1920, 0.14% in 1930, 0.37% in 1940, 1.01% in 1950, and 2. 78% in 1960. Government has played a central role in this growth. (155–6) • The category of media of communication includes printed matter, photography and phonography, stage and cinema, broadcasting, advertising and public relations, telephone, telegraph, and postal services, and conventions (207–94). These media show complex variations in growth according to their closeness to financial and industrial functions. • The category of information machines includes instruments, office information machines, and computers, with the beginnings of a massive growth in computer sales in the late 1950s just registering in Machlup’s tables. (295–322) • the final category, information services, includes professional knowledge services (legal, engineering, architectural, accounting, medical); information and financial services (cheque-deposit banking, security and commodity brokers, insurance, and real estate); the intelligence service of wholesale traders; miscellaneous industries (business consultancies, etc.); knowledge transmission services (mailing, duplicating, etc.) and two-way transmission (credit bureaux, employment exchanges, auctioneers); and government as a knowledge industry (the state bureaucracy). (323–53) • The value of output for different knowledge industries in 1958 was: education: research and development media of communication information machines information services

$60,194 million $10,990 million $38,369 million $8,922 million $17,961 million

The total value of output was $136,436 million, paid for 27.8% by government, 30.9% by business, and 41.3% by consumers. Total knowledge production in 1958 was almost 29% of adjusted GNP (354–62), rising to 31.0% in 1963, 33.3% in 1967, 33.9% in 1972, 34.7% in 1977, and 36.5% in 1980 (Rubin and Huber, 1986). (Porat’s figures are even higher—he classifies 46% of GNP as information activity, and 53% of all income as earned by information workers.) • Of particular significance are the shifts in the workforce measured in Figure 1. LABOUR FORCE: PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OVER BROAD OCCUPATION CATEGORIES, 1900–1959 Category








Wh. Collar

















Manual/Service 44.9 47.7 Farm 37.5 30.9 Source: Machlup (1962:382, Table X-2)

48.1 27.0

49.4 21.2

51.5 17.4

51.6 11.8

48.0 9.9

The table is continued by Rubin and Huber as follows: Category







Wh. Collar 43.0 Manual/Service 48.2 Farm 8.8 Source: Rubin and Huber (1986:195)

45.6 47.9 6.5

46.0 49.2 4.8

47.8 48.4 3.8

49.9 47.1 3.0

52.2 45.0 2.8

• After a more detailed analysis of these figures into occupations producing or not producing knowledge, Machlup summarizes the trends read from the statistical series as follows: (1) The knowledge-producing occupations have grown over the last sixty years much faster than occupations requiring manual labour. (2) The share of knowledgeproducing occupations in the total labour force tripled between 1900 and 1959. (3) The share of these occupations in total employment has increased even more. (4) While in the first part of this century growth was f fastest in clerical occupations, the lead was then taken by managerial and executive occupations, and more recently by professional and technical personnel. (5) The share of knowledgeproducing occupations in total income has increased during the last decade. (6) The share of professional and technical personnel in total income has increased during the last two decades…[In general:] The changing employment pattern indicates a continuing movement from manual to mental, and from less to more highly trained labour (396–7). These conclusions are very general and do little more than provide a statistical basis for a widely accepted understanding of changes in the workforce of the advanced capitalist economies. What they don’t conceptualize is the reasons for the increased productivity of the ‘knowledgeproducing occupations’: that is, they offer no theory of the historical change in the composition of capital, and indeed of how it might be possible to understand knowledge as a form of capital. The starting point for such a theory might be an understanding that knowledge is a moment of both capital and labour, and can be translated into each of these categories (as indeed they are constantly translated into each other); the productivity of knowledge could thus be thought on the one hand as an increase in the proportion of constant to variable capital, on the other as a ‘rising proportion of embodied to direct labour’ (Westoby, 1987:130). Such a theorization would require a disruption of the Marxist opposition, fundamental to the labour theory of


value and founded in an anthropology which privileges the immediacy of human work over its mediate transformations, between ‘living’ and ‘dead’, direct and indirect, immediate and stored labour. And it would have to move beyond the sociological level of an analysis of patterns of change in occupational proportions, since ‘the underlying transformation consists not simply of a shift in the proportion of people who have specialized knowledge but also of the new centrality of the structures of socially objectified knowledge’ (147).4 Machlup’s conclusions, and even more the methodological framework from which they are derived, do, however, seem to me to prepare the way for a class-based account of the work of intellectuals which would be broadly Gramscian in its refusal to separate valued from disvalued knowledges.5 In so doing they make it possible to broach the following questions: –How is the vocational complicity of intellectuals with modernity established? –How, if at all, does knowledge constitute the basis for a class formation?6 –What role do cultural practices play in forming the common interests of this class, and how can we define the intelligentsia’s class interests and institutional investments in the domain of culture? These questions then in turn open out on to the political question of the claim of intellectuals to the right to speak on behalf of others, or on behalf of a universal reason: which is, at the last but also always from the beginning, the question of the position of interest from which I formulate these questions. II Yet there is reason to doubt whether the analysis of social class is any longer a feasible or even an interesting project (and indeed, it has been precisely a preoccupation with the knowledge classes, with the ‘embarrassment’ of the new middle class,7 that has helped to undermine much of the simple explanatory power of class theory).8 The theoretical analysis of social class has become deeply unfashionable, and for good and persuasive reasons. Briefly, they are these: that class analysis reduces political and ideological struggles and determinations, and the specific institutions through which they work, to the singular underlying logic of the economy and of places generated in economic production; that it describes social groups as essences, unified subjects with a pre-given structure of interests to which real behaviour and awareness may or may not correspond; that even when it recognizes the social effectivity of gender, race, ethnicity and religion, it is constitutionally incapable of treating them as other than supplementary determinations which are to be integrated into the master code of class; and that even at its most sophisticated, it tends to be a taxonomy rather than an account of processes and interrelations. In pursuing a class-based analysis of the vocation and the social capacities of knowledge workers, and in exploring some of the theoretical preconditions of such an analysis, I am driven by the strong sense that in throwing out reductionist conceptions of class—and they have virtually all been reductionist—we have lost an indispensable analytic tool. Not only can we no longer explain crucial aspects of the role of cultural capital in production


and in the exercise of political and ideological power, but we open up areas of necessary blindness towards the interests which limit, but also constitute, the power of theoretical work. Class theory is an instrument (not the only one: the choice of focus on class rather than gender or race or ethnicity will be one determined by narrative usefulness rather than by a hierarchy of theoretical models) for setting up relations between asymmetrical relations of power, social relations within the realm of organized work, and the play of overdetermined differences within the symbolic order. It offers a way of pulling together the strands of social being, thinking it in terms of relationality (which is not the same as totality) rather than the pure dispersal of social action over a multiplicity of disconnected sites. My expectation is that a more adequate theory of class might be able to situate the group of ‘cultural’ intellectuals9 within a broader social formation made up of all those who work in the knowledge industries (all those whose income depends on possession of cultural capital); and might make it possible to identify a range of interests which would in some sense limit the actions and the social relations of this class or class fraction. My initial argument here is that the various post-Marxist critiques of the category of class have been flawed by equating the concept of class with precisely the economistic and reductionist model they reject. They have been trapped in a specular relationship to Marxist orthodoxy, repeating the structure of its category of class and simply reversing the value and the explanatory force attributed to it. The authors of a recent survey have this to say about movements in the post-Marxist theorization of class: A curious but largely unnoticed feature of recent class analysis has been a convergence in viewpoint between mainstream empirical sociological researchers and the ‘post-Marxist’ discourse approaches concerning the rejection of orthodox structural Marxist accounts of the relation between class position and consciousness. Central to this convergence are a series of arguments concerning the importance of ‘non-class’ identities or subject-positions in theorizing contemporary political behaviour (Baxter, Emmison and Western, 1991). This is to say that a series of determinations of agency are conceived as external to the category of class insofar as they cannot be explained as the effects of a necessity given in the logic of economic production; but this in turn means that the category of class is being reserved for the realm of that necessity. Thus Chantal Mouffe sets up as follows the reasons for the virtual irrelevance of the concept of class within the move that she and Ernesto Laclau make to disarticulate discursive domains from each other: the rejection of a reductionist conception of class, she says, leads to one of two options: We can use the concept of class to designate positions at the level of the relations of production, but in that case we cannot deduce from it anything necessary concerning politics or ideology. Or, we can reserve the term to designate collectivities in struggle at the political level and whose objectives include the


transformation of the relations of production. But in this case we cannot know anything necessary concerning the position of those agents in the process of production (1982:107–8). As a consequence, she concludes: the concept of hegemony is more fundamental than class, since the role that the class positionality plays in the constitution of political subjects depends on the type of hegemony existing in society at a given moment (108). This is a hegemony defined neither in terms of a hegemonic class nor of the interests yielded by such a class’s relation to the relations of production; and the aporia to which this thesis inevitably leads is that, if there are no necessary effects of an agent’s place in production, or if there are no determinate connections between the distinct domains of discursive positioning, including the economic, then there can be no possible explanation of why any particular politics is or should be engaged, except in terms of an arbitrary act of will.10 The move made by Laclau and Mouffe to disarticulate the domains of the social, and indeed to refuse any totalized notion of the social system, is similar to that made within a more generalized post-Marxist discourse. Paul Hirst’s (1977) significantly entitled essay ‘Economic Classes and Politics’, for example, sets up a conceptual opposition between ‘classes of economic agents’ and ‘political institutions, practices and ideologies’, in order then to refuse any causal linkage between them insofar as categories of class agents ‘are not directly present’ and are not visible in day-to-day political struggles (125). The fact that these categories cannot be directly witnessed means that political interests are specific functions of the political apparatus, rather than being transposed to it from some other domain. Thus not only is there no necessary correspondence between political institutions and ‘economic classes’, there is a necessary non-correspondence between them (130). The central argument here, as also in Barry Hindess’s Politics and Class Analysis,11 is that, given the specificity of political forces (political parties, trade unions, pressure groups and so on) and the impossibility of deriving them directly from or reducing them logically to social classes, which in any case are complex in themselves and complicated by their relation to other structures such as gender and race, there is therefore no connection to be found between ‘economic class’ and the forces operating in the political arena, and certainly classes themselves are not such forces. All this depends, however, on understanding classes as ‘economic’, and on a refusal to conceive social forces in terms of a multiple and dispersed causality (since either there is a fully determinant ‘last instance’ or apparently there is pure indeterminacy). Cutting the tie between class and politics, both Hirst and Hindess continue to assume a motivation for political action—but it is unclear how motives or interests are generated if they are purely internal to the political domain. At the same time, the complex dynamic of social relations of production is relegated to a self-contained sphere of ‘the economic’ where these relations contaminate nothing else, have effects on no other spheres of life.


But the basic premise is as false here as it was in Second International Marxism: as Connell bluntly says, there are no such things as ‘economic classes’(1983:229). The consequences of throwing out the category of class together with the logic of economism has not been to institute a new and more adequate model of class analysis, but to abandon the field to the wilderness of stratification theory, for which, in Don Aitkin’s terms, class ‘is a concept of merely nominal value: it is simply the term used to subsume the manifold differences in occupation, income, prestige, residence, life-style and education that characterize a complex urban industrial society’ (1982:130). The implication of such a model is that these dimensions are quite disconnected from each other: that they are aggregated rather than structured, or that they form a continuous, indeterminate, and potentially infinite scale without structural polarizations, and therefore without any way of explaining consolidations of discrepant interests.12 I am not of course advocating a return to more traditional Marxist models, or to some combination of Marxist and Weberian schemata which would allow the integration of economic with non-economic determinations. All such approaches continue to be organized around the opposition of two logical planes: a deep structure carrying the necessary logic of the economic, and a surface structure where contingent variations on this necessity are played out. As I have suggested, even a move to abandon the level of deep structure continues to depend upon this binary logic as long as the category of class is understood to be the province of strictly economic determinations. Nor, despite appearances in what immediately follows, do I think it is possible to return to a classical model of class as a closed and comprehensive set of determinations of individual and group identity. I shall talk briefly later about some of the ways in which I think it is possible to work with a non-totalized model of class. In building an alternative account I shall draw, with some diffidence, on a central concept in the work of Nicos Poulantzas; and with somewhat more confidence on the work of Adam Przeworski. Let me concede immediately that Poulantzas’s work on class is severely flawed, and that he fails completely to realize the promise of his theoretical model. I shall indicate shortly some of the outlines—and some of the extent—of the critique that needs to be made of his work; what I draw from it, however, and what I find invaluable, is the argument that class is defined not on the terrain of the economic but on each of the levels of economic, political and ideological structure. Class is an ensemble of these three structural levels, which are the loci at once of determination and of struggle. The following passage gives one of the central formulations of the argument: It must be emphasized that ideological and political relations, i.e., the places of political and ideological domination and subordination, are themselves part of the structural determination of class: there is no question of objective place being the result only of economic place within the relations of production, while political and ideological elements belong simply to class positions. We are not faced, as an old error would have it, on the one hand with an economic ‘structure’ that alone defines class places, and on the other hand with a class struggle extending to the political and ideological domain. This error today often takes the form of a distinction between ‘(economic) class situation’ on the one hand, and politico-


ideological class position on the other. From the start structural class determination involves economic, political and ideological class struggle, and these struggles are all expressed in the form of class positions in the conjuncture (Poulantzas, 1975: 16).13 Before I go on to develop the implications of this formulation, let me quickly sketch out a number of criticisms of Poulantzas’s actual theoretical practice. • the retention of the category of ‘determination in the last instance’ by the economic in practice invalidates the formative roles he assigns to political and ideological struggle; • the opposition between structural places and conjunctural class positions (corresponding to the distinction between ‘abstract’ mode of production and ‘concrete’ social formation) invalidates the attempt to bypass the model of a relation between deep structure and surface structure, and entails, too, that structural categories are never in practice thought of as being formed and reformed by concrete conjunctural struggle; • the use of a narrow, and technically inaccurate, conception of productive labour as a way of excluding non-manual workers, including intellectual workers, from the working class—that is, as a way of excluding all indirectly productive forms of labour—has the ef fect of reinforcing a classically binary model of two fundamental or pure classes based on the logic of the capital/labour relation, and hence of designating the so-called new petty bourgeoisie as a non-class; • the distinction between productive and unproductive labour is indiscriminate and produces various absurd results: a nurse or a schoolteacher in the private sector is classed as productive and therefore as belonging to the working class, whereas a nurse or teacher performing precisely the same work in the public sector is neither (Carchedi, 1977:44); a capitalist can well be defined as performing productive labour, whereas a cleaner or a porter in a government department would not; a housewife performing ‘unproductive’ labour in a working-class family would not herself satisfy the criteria for membership of the working class;14 • in practice Poulantzas uses political and ideological determinants as a way of retaining the purity of the two-class model. As Wright notes in his analysis of the working class, ‘any deviation at all from the pure working-class criteria…is sufficient for exclusion from the proletariat; in his analysis of the bourgeoisie, on the other hand, it is necessary to deviate on all criteria in order to be excluded from the capitalist class. In neither case is the possibility allowed that positions within the social division of labour can be objectively contradictory’ (1979a: 61); • this is to say that political and ideological criteria are actually used to reinforce economic determinations and hence an economistic definition of class in those cases (such as intellectual work) where economic criteria alone produce what look like ambiguous results; political and economic criteria are given no real specificity or autonomy (cf. Hunt, 1977a: 95). In order to develop what I take to be potentially fruitful in Poulantzas’s work, let me supplement it with a further argument of Adam Przeworski’s. Rather than seeing economic relations as having the status of objective conditions and all other relations as ‘subjective’ or contingent, Przeworski attempts to elaborate a model of class ‘in which


economic, political, and ideological conditions jointly structure the realm of struggles that have as their effect the organization, disorganization, or reorganization of classes. Classes must thus be viewed as effects of struggles structured by objective conditions that are simultaneously economic, political, and ideological’—and which have indeterminate outcomes (1985:47).15 Classes are thus not the direct effects of structure but the outcome, never given in advance, of struggles which take place at all three structural levels. This seems to me to introduce the measure of indeterminacy that post-Marxist theorists like Laclau seek, without surrendering the structuring moment of objective conditions. Thus, as Przeworski argues, whereas the traditional formulation of class struggles ‘either reduces them to an epiphenomenon or enjoins them with freedom from objective determination’, this model posits that ‘classes are not given uniquely by any objective positions because they constitute effects of struggles, and these struggles are not determined uniquely by the relations of production’ (1985:66–7). They ‘are not a datum prior to the history of concrete struggles’ (67); and ideological and political struggles constitute a process, not of class-representation (that is, representation of pre-given interests) but of class-formation (including the formation of class interests). This takes me to the core of my argument. Let me articulate it in terms of a number of theses: • class is not an economic structure with effects on other dimensions; class structure is defined in each of the economic, the political, and the ideological spheres; • there is no necessary congruence or homology between these spheres: it is precisely because of this that we can take political action or rational arguments (and indeed irrational arguments) seriously, as not being reducible to economic position and to an ‘interest’ defined elsewhere; • class position is thus not necessarily unified or non-contradictory; • each of the three structural spheres is an arena of struggle and of class-formation— not of fixed class positions. Class interests exist not as ‘underlying’ or objective relations or outcomes but as hypotheses, more or less rationally calculated (or miscalculated). There is no objective criterion of interest given by history or by a non-class or supra-class knowledge: every assessment of interest is itself interested; • since each sphere is a domain of struggle, each is therefore organized as a bundle of economic, political, and ideological relations which constitute its material conditions of existence. In what follows I try to spell out some of the implications of this final thesis, which produces a considerably more complex map of the structural conditions of class formation; a version of it has been adumbrated in a recent essay of Erik Olin Wright’s but only to be rejected as too complex and too difficult to operationalize; I’m not for the moment concerned with these objections. Wright distinguishes between three sets of possible criteria for the commonality of class locations: (1) material interests; (2) a set of common lived experiences; and (3) a set of collective capacities for struggle; these correspond roughly to what I have called the economic, ideological and political dimensions of class struggle.16 He then suggests that:


A general strategy for contending for the concrete non-coincidence of class interests, experiences and capacities would be to escalate the complexity of the concept of class structure at the concrete level of analysis by retaining all three aspects of the commonality of class location but allowing them to vary independently of each other. We could then define a kind of three-dimensional class structure space consisting of: class-interest structure, class-experience structure, and class-capacity structure (1989:297–8). At least at the lower levels of abstraction there would be no coincidence between these structures, ‘thus allowing for a much wider array of structural “locations” defined by the disjunctures between interests, experiences, and capacities’ (298). Wright isolates two problems with this strategy: the first is that, ‘while there are a range of strategies for deriving concrete material interests from the abstract concept of class relations, I know of no parallel way of deriving concrete lived experiences and collective capacities’ (298); and the second is precisely the taxonomic problem caused by the possibility that class interests, class capacities, and class experience would not be congruent with each other. Both of these problems seem to me to be virtues of the strategy. My argument is designed to dispense with Wright’s consistent opposition between ‘abstract structural maps of class relations’ and ‘concrete conjunctural maps of classes-as-actors’ (1985:6), together with the whole problematic of the derivation of one from the other which it entails; and taxonomic complexity and indeed ambiguity are surely truer to our ordinary experience of class than is neatness of fit. In diagrammatic form, the more complex map of the conditions of class formation that I propose would look something like Figure 2. Several explanatory codas need to be added to clarify this diagram: • This map does not describe or predict what classes there are. It specifies the range of areas in which class struggle, and therefore the experience of belonging to a class, take place. It does not specify the weight to be given to these areas, since this weighting is always a matter of particular historical conditions. • Actual experiences and assignments of class would be the results of a still more complex version of the map in which each area would be subject to historically and geographically specific binarizations (of the form +/• possession of economic capital, for example, or +/• membership of a dominant religious group). Any operationalization of the schema would similarly have to convert it into a complex and locally sensitive scoring system with a binary structure—with the degree of complexity or delicacy determined by the requirements of the analysis. • Rather than positing a relation between economic production and political and ideological reproduction, the model suggests that processes of reproduction of social relations, as well as failures and contestations of reproduction, are aspects of each sphere. Similarly, despite the heuristic distinction, all social relations are made up of elements which are simultaneously economic, political and ideological.


Figure 2 • Relations between the three spheres, and between sets of relations of struggle within each sphere, are relatively contingent; there is no necessary coherence or overlap between positionings in each sphere, and the experience of class may be discrepant in each. • The inclusion of gender, race and ethnicity as an ‘ideological’ moment within the domain of production is not intended to indicate that these categories are somehow illusory, but on the contrary to indicate the way in which ideological values attributed to gender, race and ethnicity work to structure relations of production. • Thus the category of gender, for example, must be taken as an overdetermining aspect of every area of class relations. Within the production process it operates to organize the division of labour by determining what counts and what doesn’t count as a skill, and then to assign valued skills to men and devalued skills to women (see Game and Pringle, 1983:19). It organizes separate status hierarchies for men and women, it allocates gender-differential positions within kinship systems, and it supports the richly consequential distinction between the private and the public domains. In the same way, class is always, and to a greater or less extent, at once overdetermined by and overdeterminant of ethnicity. The particular articulation of class and ethnicity is always nationally and regionally specific, but seems in many cases to have greater force in relation to the working class than to the more nationally unified middle and upper classes. Ethnic rivalry is one of the most common forms taken by class struggle and class hatred (both


between classes and within a class). In the United States, to be of Polish or Italian, Irish or Jewish, Puerto Rican or African-American descent is to have alternative modes of access to and integration in class, at the same time as ethnic identity is always rigorously positioned within a racially structured class hierarchy, the crucial f act about which is that it is the class of former slaves, not the (white) proletariat, which occupies the bottom rung.17 In Australia, working-class identity is fatefully intertwined with Irishness and Roman Catholicism, even where these are purely virtual inheritances. • Like race and ethnicity under some historical circumstances, gender is in all societies so crucial a determinant of class relations that it must be asked whether it is theoretically adequate simply to integrate it as a subsystem of class. My tentative preference is to use two different modes of description, according to the task at hand. The first speaks of a class-gender system as a way of talking about specific local relations where the two are methodologically inseparable. The second speaks of gender as a separate system which is inevitably enmeshed in the class system; the latter strategy will be used wherever class relations are not the primary focus of the analysis, or where it becomes important to decentre the concept of class in order to stress that it should not work as a totalizing category. The centrality of class to various forms of social explanation is no more than an explanatory convenience; the category will in its turn show up as a subsystem in accounts which are concerned primarily with the system of gender or of race or of age. Social interpretation deals with multiple centres (or with no centre) and can only ever account for a heuristic confluence of factors for a particular explanatory purpose. • To take this a little further: what is it that makes this a class map rather than simply a map of general social determinations? Shouldn’t the concept of class be tied above all to the social relations of production, and isn’t this perhaps a reason for reintroducing a notion of the primacy of or the structural overdetermination of other spheres by the economic? My answer is no, because any such notion inevitably leads to the ultimate negation of the specificity of the political and the ideological. What makes this a class map is the decision to read it that way: that is, the decision to read it in terms of a possible or actual linkage, however indirect or discontinuous, between the three spheres, giving rise to historical consolidations of interests. Other social maps (those of gender or ethnicity, for example) will privilege other kinds of linkage, though they may contain many of the same features. • This is perhaps the point at which to indicate how I think it is possible to use the category of class in a non-systemic way. Clearly the full map of class determinants is both impossibly cumbersome and complex, and impossibly totalizing in its scope. It can however in practice always be replaced by a shorthand citation of the analytical features relevant to a particular situation or a particular argument, and these would be hybrid in form (class/gender, class/race class/kinship). Rather than being a catalogue or a proliferating taxonomy, the use of the map would be pragmatic in its orientation and responsive to the limits of class explanation. There is no internal necessity for it to function as a totalizing concept. • The force of Poulantzas’s characterization of the distinction between manual and mental labour as ideological is that it allows him to specify the domain of production as constituted by processes of political and ideological struggle. The distinction, he writes, is


‘directly bound up with the monopolization of knowledge’ and correspondingly with ‘the permanent exclusion on the subordinated side of those who are deemed not to “know how”’ (1975:237). The distinction works irrespective of whether the ‘direct producers’ posses a knowledge or a competence which they are not in a position to use, or do not possess it because it has been kept from them, or indeed of whether there is nothing that needs to be known. It is a relational—which is to say a politically constructed— distinction, since the fact is that ‘every kind of work includes “mental activity”, but…not every kind of work is located on the mental labour side in the politico-ideological division between mental and manual labour’ (254). And it is based in a schooling system the primary function of which ‘is not to “qualify” manual and mental labour in different ways, but far more to disqualify manual labour’, and which works through ‘the inculcation of a series of rituals, secrets and symbolisms which are to a considerable extent those of “general culture”, and whose main purpose is to distinguish [mental labour] from manual labour’ (268). This dimension, then, will constitute a key criterion in the definition of the class of intellectuals. • Finally, the model makes it possible to dispense with the notion of objectively pregiven class interests, and to avoid the aporia of what happens when a class turns out not to be interested in its supposedly real interests: the classic dilemma of revolutionary Marxism. If class formation is based on struggle in three dimensions, then interests are constituted by and within (and—crucially—between) the economic, the political, and the symbolic institutions of this formation. It is a question of the discursive representation of interests, of calculation and hypothesis. There is no class essence and there are no unified class actors, founded in the objectivity of a social interest; there are, however, processes of class formation, without absolute origin or telos, with definite discursive conditions, and played out through particular institutional forms and balances of power, through calculations and miscalculations, through desires, and fears, and fantasies. Before I conclude this section of my argument, let me briefly mention three further necessary qualifications of the model. The first is that, whereas traditional class analysis, based in the sphere of production, has taken account only of a minority of the population, it is crucial to build into any class model ways of talking both about unwaged employment (such as housework) and unemployment (including children, students, the retired, those on welfare, and the criminal and insane); the concept of an underclass, which is of central importance to political relations in most of the advanced capitalist societies, depends upon these dimensions. Second, if the possibility of discontinuity between class formation on the economic, political and ideological levels is to be taken seriously, then we must equally take seriously the possibility of individuals occupying multiple class locations and mediated class locations:18 both are crucial to thinking the class location of women, and the latter is indispensable to thinking the class location of children and other dependants. And third, class must be thought diachronically; in particular, the notion of a class trajectory is important to understanding the class situation and the calculations of interest of the credentialled middle classes.19


III Most dispute in recent class theory has had to do with the relations between the areas mapped by this sketch of the conditions of class formation: for example, with the question of how performance of a supervisory function or the possession of cultural capital or membership of a dominant ethnic group are to be weighted against non-ownership of the means of production; or of how class position defined by and formed within the family relates to the potentially different class position defined by employment or by lack of employment. And all recent major theories of class structure have had to devise means either of resolving or of accepting the ambiguity of certain key structural locations. In the remainder of this essay I examine some of the possible specifications of that class whose existence is grounded in the production and circulation of knowledge; this examination includes the question of whether there is or could be any such homogeneous class. I begin with an extended analysis of four accounts: that given by Gouldner (amongst others) of a so-called New Class of intellectuals and the technical intelligentsia; the Ehrenreichs’ concept of a professional-managerial class; the account by Offe, Gold-thorpe, Urry and others of a service class; and Wright’s various descriptions of the class of semiautonomous employees, occupying a contradictory class location. (1) Extrapolating from the work of Djilas (1957) and of Konrad and Szelenyi (1978) on the formation of a ‘new class’ of intellectuals and functionaries in the former communist bloc, Alvin Gouldner posits the emergence of a New Class composed of two distinct fractions, the ‘intellectuals’ and the ‘technical intelligentsia’ (1979:1). Its origins lie in the Enlightenment processes of secularization and modernization, in the culture of rationality and personal autonomy which emerges from the localized, ascriptive, interdependent culture of feudalism, and, above all, in the institution of public education (and, one might add, in the formation of markets in which educational qualifications are exchangeable values). Called into being in order to serve the bourgeoisie in the increasingly specialized functions of rationalizing production and of ensuring social reproduction, it nevertheless develops an ideology of professional autonomy, an ideology ‘grounded in the specialized knowledge or cultural capital transmitted by the educational system, along with an emphasis on the obligation of educated persons to attend to the welfare of the collectivity’ (19). The ethos of professionalism is tacitly a claim to technical and moral superiority over the bourgeoisie. What gives the New Class something more than a moral power is the significant role it plays in both the former Eastern European command economies and the economies of the capitalist West. This power is based in the fact that the tendential separation of financial and legal ownership from the effective possession and control of large (public or private) corporations—that is, the relative decision-making autonomy of managers—has given a roughly equivalent role to the managerial élites in both systems.20 The New Class ‘already has considerable de facto control over the mode of production and hence considerable leverage with which to pursue its interests’ (12), including the pursuit of its struggle with the ‘old class’. The immediate problem here, of course, is that the class is by definition larger than its managerial or technocratic fraction. What might subtend its unity as a whole? Gouldner


gives two complementary answers to this question. The first is situated at the infrastructural level: the unity of the New Class derives from its possession of cultural capital, a term that, far from being merely a metaphor, designates a real stock which, like a stock of money capital, generates privately appropriated income.21 The second is cultural: the New Class is bonded as a class by its formation as a speech community characterized by ‘an orientation to a qualitatively special culture of speech: to the culture of careful and critical discourse’ (27). By this Gouldner means something like a discursive ethos: such a culture relies on justification by argument rather than by an appeal to authority or precedent; like Bernstein’s elaborated code, it values explicitness and universality of reference; above all, it is inherently self-reflexive and self-problematizing (27–9). As enlightened reason it thus underlies both technical or instrumental reason and critical or symbolic reason—and is thus at some level common both to ‘intellectuals’ and to the ‘technical intelligentsia’. Its dimension of self-reference means that there is an ‘unending regress’ in this discursive ethos, ‘a potential revolution in permanence; it embodies that unceasing restlessness and “lawlessness” that the ancient Greeks first called anomos and that Hegel had called the “bad infinity”’ (60). From this Gouldner draws certain conclusions about the political potential and the political interests of the New Class. These are defined by its revolutionizing relation to the mode of production (the modernizing imperative to ‘make it new’) and its ambivalent relation to the classes above and beneath it. In the advanced industrial economies it serves as ‘a technical intelligentsia whose work is subordinate to the old moneyed class. The New Class is useful to the old for the technical services it perf forms and, also, to legitimate the society as modern and scientific’ (11–12). As its effective control over production grows, however, so does its political power vis-à-vis the bourgeoisie. In the political sphere proper, it is only through the New Class that the old dominant class can exercise an influence on state policy, and ‘as the organizational units of the economy and state become larger and more bureaucratic, the survival and control of the old class becomes more attenuated, more indirect, ever more dependent on the intelligentsia of the New Class’ (Gouldner has an interesting argument at this point about the replacement of an older, authoritarian, status-and rule-governed form of line bureaucracy by a New Class form based on merit and reward [50]). In terms both of its relation to the mode of production and its relation to the bourgeoisie, then, the New Class is an inherently progressive political force, and indeed is ‘a centre of whatever human emancipation is possible in the foreseeable future’ (83). It neither restricts the forces of production nor develops them only insofar as they are profitable; it is sensitive to the ecological consequences of technology; in its commitment to an ideal of freedom of knowledge it embodies a rationality which is broader than the merely instrumental; it is internationalist and cosmopolitan (I quote these idealizing judgements for what they are worth). By extension—this is perhaps the most dated aspect of Gouldner’s argument—its politics are logically left-wing: both the ‘welfare state’ and the ‘socialist state’ are possible political strategies, with the key difference that ‘in a socialist state, the hegemony of the New Class is fuller, its control over the working class is greater’ (17). Bolshevism, and indeed all twentieth-century political élites, have been dominated by middle-class intellectuals alienated from the given order by their ethos of


criticality, by a blockage of upward mobility, by the disparity between their stock of cultural capital and their low social status, and by a limitation of their technical interest in the modernization of production (58). By extension, Marxism represents the false consciousness of this radicalized cultural bourgeoisie: In holding that the working class will set itself free, there are two elements of false consciousness: (1) that the class to be set free is the working class, whereas in fact it is the cultural bourgeoisie; (2) that the class to make that emancipatory act will be the working class, whereas they will succeed in doing this only under the political leadership and cultural tutelage of the cultural bourgeoisie. (76) The political potential of the New Class is thus that of a flawed universal class. Its interests are limited to the extent that they are those of a restricted capital fund, and, while it portends the end of the old class’s domination, ‘the New Class is also the nucleus of a new hierarchy and the élite of a new form of cultural capital’ (83). Perhaps the crux of Gouldner’s argument is the question of the internal differentiation of the New Class between its humanistic and technical wings. Gouldner himself is ambivalent about this, on the one hand stressing the alienation of liberal intellectuals in a technocratic and industrial society (and often slipping into a traditionally narrow conception of who these ‘intellectuals’ are), on the other committing himself methodologically to ‘a general theory of the New Class as encompassing both technical intelligentsia and intellectuals’ (5). The strain between these two moments is often telling, and often the methodological commitment is fulfilled only by a conflation of the two fractions without demonstration. Equally problematic is Gouldner’s often simplistic acceptance of the equivalence between the delegation of power by the dominant class and a loss of power: the class of capitalists (which comprises individuals, families, and legal institutions such as trusts and holding companies) exercises its power through indirection, through ruse, through force, through whatever means seem appropriate, but has not surrendered it. (2) Barbara and John Ehrenreich developed the concept of a ‘professional-managerial class’ (PMC) partly as a response to a theoretical crux but also, by extension, as a way of understanding the implications of the middle-class political activism of the 1960s and 1970s New Left and its successors. The theoretical problem was the various ways in which Marxist theory had evaded the need to conceptualize ‘the middle class’ as a class in its own right, doing so either by reducing it to one of the ‘fundamental’ classes (as in the ‘new working class’ theory of Gorz [1982] and Mallet [1963]) or by characterizing it as a ‘residual’ class within a two-class framework (Poulantzas’s [1975] account of the ‘new petty-bourgeoisie’). By contrast, the Ehrenreichs (1979) argued that ‘the “middle class” category of workers which has concerned Marxist analysis for the last two decades— the technical workers, managerial workers, “culture” producers, etc.—must be understood as comprising a distinct class in monopoly capitalist society’ (1979:8). Many of the economic relations defining the structural position of the professionalmanagerial class apply also to the working class, but the two are strongly (perhaps essentially) differentiated in terms of social function. The professional-managerial class


consists of ‘salaried mental workers who do not own the means of production and whose major function in the social division of labour may be described broadly as the reproduction of capitalist culture and capitalist class relations’ (12), and who share as well ‘a coherent social and cultural existence’ (11). It is this commonality of function and of culture that makes it possible, and makes it taxonomically illuminating, to group together such disparate occupational groupings as cultural workers, engineers, scientists, managers, and so on. If we look more closely at what the Ehrenreichs mean by ‘reproduction’, however, it begins to look as though it works in several different ways: minimally, it means both the reorganization of the productive process through scientific and managerial innovation (thus, a differential reproduction of the forces of production), and the reproduction of social relations, through the schooling system and the culture industries in particular. Both senses involve an exploitative relation to the working class: in the first, the rationalization of production is possible ‘only by virtue of the expropriation of the skills and culture once indigenous to the working class’ (17); in the second the reproduction of ‘capitalist culture’ involves the suppression of oppositional cultures. ‘Reproduction’ is a use of knowledge, then, but of rather different kinds. In its relation to the ruling class the professional-managerial class is caught uneasily between its real subordination in the service of capital and its ethos of independence. This ethos has a grounding in the relatively high degree of autonomy characterizing its work practices, and in the organization of its mode of work by the structure of the profession. Professionalism is defined by three kinds of claim: to the possession of a specialized body of knowledge; to the upholding of ethical standards; and to the need for autonomy from outside scrutiny and control. These are different kinds of claim, though, with the first two serving to act as a justification for the third; indeed, the whole ethos of autonomy is rather more normative than descriptive. In addition to the organizational structure of the profession (which, however, is also one of the sources of a deep rift within the class, between ‘the managers, administrators and engineers on the one hand, and those in the liberal arts and service professions on the other’) (28), the professional-managerial class is knit together by a common culture which includes distinctive patterns of family life, a shared ideology of social rationalization, and specific institutions of socialization (those of tertiary education). The university and the professional body, and the claim to specialized knowledge which they embody, are what enable the professional-managerial class to control its own reproduction. This is perhaps the most insightful aspect of the Ehrenreichs’ discussion: the recognition of the importance for this class of the reproduction of positions which, rather than being inherited, are acquired only within the class-productive apparatus of education. Hence the importance of control of this sphere.22 The political questions that arise from this argument have to do above all with the specificity of the interests of this class. Reflecting its ambivalent structural situation, these ‘interests’ are angled in two different ways: on the one hand, there is an interest in the extension of a ‘cultural and technological hegemony over the working class’; on the other there is an anti-capitalist radicalism which would lead logically to a kind of technocratic socialism, ‘a society in which the bourgeoisie has been replaced by bureaucrats, planners,


and experts of various sorts’ (42). Central to both aspects is the process of monopolization of knowledge, and this too is the repressed interest that haunts post-New Left activism: if, in the process of identifying with the oppressed groups, middle-class activists deny their own origins and ‘abandon consciousness’ of the structural relationship between the working class and the professional-managerial class, then ‘the way is open to replicating that relationship within the left. The vanguard/mass relationship comes to duplicate the PMC/working class division of labour within capitalism, with the vanguard providing the expertise and managerial skill’ (41). This is the problematic of ‘speaking on behalf of’ which recurs in any consideration of the political role of intellectuals.23 There have been extensive criticisms of the Ehrenreichs’ category; let me briefly cite some of the more cogent ones. First, there is agreement among a number of critics that it is misleading to derive the class location of the PMC from the function of social reproduction, both because this tends ‘to collapse the structural and functional aspects of class into a single dimension’ (Wright, 1979b: 201), and because the function of reproduction is in fact performed, incidentally or directly, by all groups engaged in the process of production (to work is not just to produce but also and thereby to reproduce the relations of production) (Callinicos, 1983:94; Burris, 1987:28). Moreover the concept of reproduction tends to be predicated on a functionalist view of the social order (social relations are reproduced as a whole from moment to moment and as a result of an act of will). The category of the professional-managerial class thus tends to work as ‘a terminological gloss for intuitively assigning the “PMC” label to whatever groups appear to have some modest privilege or stake in the established order’ (Burris, 1987:30). Finally, if the category of reproduction is problematized, the question of the homogeneity of the class becomes acute and the equation between supervisory workers (managers) and non-supervisors (professionals and service workers) becomes particularly difficult to sustain. (3) A somewhat different theorization of the ‘new middle classes’ is performed, usually within a Weberian framework, by the concept of a ‘service’ class. John Urry gives the following general definition: The service class consists of that set of places within the social division of labour whose occupants (1) do not own capital or land to any substantial degree; (2) are located within a set of interlocking social institutions which collectively ‘service’ capital; (3) enjoy superior work and market situations generally resulting from the existence of well-defined careers, either within or between organizations; and (4) have their entry regulated by the differential possession of educational credentials. These serve to demarcate the service class from more general white-collar workers and generate distinctions of cultural capital and taste (1990:89). This summary draws upon earlier work of Urry and Nicholas Abercrombie. In Capital, Labour and the Middle Classes, they differentiate sharply between two groups within what is usually called the ‘middle class’: deskilled white-collar workers (lower-grade office and sales employees), on the one hand, and on the other an ‘upper’ middle class of managers,


administrators and ‘established’ professionals. This differentiation has a historical dimension: With the rationalization of the labour process, the fragmentation and standardization of tasks, and the increasing bureaucratization of administration, the mental labour content of white-collar jobs passes further up the hierarchy. The process of rationalization has undermined the traditional sociological distinction between manual and non-manual work; clerks are manual workers. (Abercrombie and Urry, 1983:118) Although the service class is not defined functionally, as unproductive labour or as performing the ‘function of capital’,24 nevertheless Abercrombie and Urry lay considerable stress on the functions carried out by the class, which are those of supervision and control; of the conception and design of labour processes; and of the reproduction of the relations of production. For the most part, places for members of the service class are located in public-or private-sector bureaucracies which function as ‘internal labour markets’ providing stable career paths and relative autonomy within the work process. The bureaucratic authority in which they participate is “‘borrowed” from positions of more general authority outside the hierarchy’ (120) (that is, from the ruling class), and it is in this sense that members of the service class ‘serve’; increasingly, however—given the tendential separation of effective possession from economic and legal ownership, and given that the service class now discharges many of the functions formerly the domain of individual capitalists—it is no longer a distinct capitalist class but rather capital itself that they serve, and it no longer makes a great deal of sense ‘to refer to the service class as a class “in the middle”’ (124). For Claus Offe, the service class is to be defined in terms of a certain rationality (or rather several rationalities) grounded in the particularity of its work practices. Again, these are thought largely through the model of bureaucracy. Service activities, he writes, ‘are always oriented to the maintenance of “normal conditions” within a society or among its parts, that is, to the task of defending and preserving the differentiated elements of the social structure, as well as mediating between them (1985:105). This necessarily involves a ‘synthesizing’, ‘mediating’, ‘normalizing’ labour which seeks to respect both the particularity of the needs of clients and the establishment of a generalized state of regularity, to achieve a balance between the ‘specificity of the case’ and the ‘generality of the norm’ (106). Thus: Service labour is…always located at the intersection of two rationalities: (i) the rationality of ‘industrial economy’ based on contractual employment, which entails the detailed specification of means and ends, direct vertical control over work activity, little scope for manoeuvre and high levels of standardization; and (ii) the rationality of ‘mediation and conciliation’ typical of service activities, which require room for manoeuvre precisely in order to respond as services to specific situations. (107)


This emphasis on the structure of employment or the ‘code of service’ is extended by John Goldthorpe (1982) in an essay which in turn draws extensively on Karl Renner’s (1953) pioneering essay on the Dienstklasse. Renner identifies three elements of this class: ‘employees in public—i.e., governmental—service (civil servants and other officials); employees in private economic service (business administrators, managers, technical experts, etc.); and employees in social services (“distributive agents of welfare”)’ (167). Initially these groups are defined by their performance of non-productive labour (that is, labour which produces no surplus value), but Renner then further distinguishes this class in terms of the structure of its employment, emphasizing ‘the extent to which the “code of service” that regulates the employment relationship of service-class members differs in its implications from the “labour contract” that applies in the case of the working class’ (167). The key to this code, in Goldthorpe’s reading, is the relationship of ‘trust’ that it sets up in response to two exigencies: the need of employers to delegate authority within large and differentiated enterprises, and their need to draw upon specialized knowledge and expertise. The basis of this relationship, then, is a moral commitment required of the employee and which forms the basis for a different kind of contractual regulation of work. Whereas ‘the labour contract provides for more or less discrete amounts of labour to be exchanged for wages on a relatively short-term basis’, the service relationship is such that the exchange in which employer and employee are involved has to be defined in a much less specific and longer-term fashion and with far greater moral content. It is not so much that reward is being offered in return for work done, but rather ‘compensation’ and ‘consideration’ in return for the acceptance of an obligation to discharge trust ‘faithfully’. (1982:168–9) Given the much narrower scope and much greater homogeneity of the class defined in each of these accounts, it is not surprising that the problem of reconciling diverse class elements does not arise with the same intensity for the concept of a service class; nor is it surprising, since this class is located much higher on the ‘managerial’ end of the spectrum, that the tension between conservative and radical political possibilities falls away: this class is unambiguously the servant of capital. At the same time, and perhaps precisely because of its lack of internal tension, the concept seems to me much less useful for talking about the relations between different kinds of knowledge workers—indeed, the implication of the concept is that possession of cultural capital is not a particularly relevant criterion in the definition of the ‘new’ middle classes. Thus the complexity of intellectual work is diminished in two different ways. On the one hand, intellectual work is defined ‘positively’ in terms of its rational and, especially, its ethical content, rather than as the site of a matrix of social relations; on the other, however, this content itself is then reduced to an ultimately functionalist notion of direct service to the capitalist class. (4) Erik Olin Wright has produced two major neo-Marxist models of social class, and a major self-criticism of each. In all of his work he has sought to achieve a theorization of class which would be structural (grounded in the underlying logic of a mode of production rather than in the historical contingency of a social formation) and relational (rather than gradational). The assumption is that ‘a relational specification of the positions which


become formed into contending groups has more explanatory power for such formations than a non-relational specification’ (1985:35) since it will generate structural oppositions rather than scaled distributional outcomes (such as a gradient from rich to poor). These oppositions are the effect of exploitation; they are not simply social inequalities but are causally related to the social relations of production. The class structures that are formed on the basis of exploitation ‘constitute the most fundamental social determinant of limits of possibility for other aspects of social structure’ (31); in particular, they are the central mechanism for (not a secondary effect of) the appropriation and distribution of resources. Wright’s first model is expounded in its fullest form in Class, Crisis and the State (1979a). In one sense it can be read as a response to the major dilemma of recent Marxist class theory: the question of how to take seriously the existence of substantial middle-class groupings in advanced capitalism without either reducing them to one of the ‘fundamental’ classes or abandoning the requirement of relational definition. Three sets of structural changes have contributed to the formation of this class, or these classes, as a key player in developed capitalism: ‘the progressive loss of control over the labour process on the part of the direct producers; the elaboration of complex authority hierarchies within capitalist enterprises and bureaucracies; and the differentiation of various functions originally embodied in the entrepreneurial capitalist’ (64). The effect of these changes is the development of complex structures of mediated control both in the economic sphere and in civil society. Wright’s solution to the theoretical problem is to assume that class structure is not in any simple way isomorphous with the locations filled by individuals, and that some positions may thus have a multiple or fractured class character. He can then posit two forms of complication of the two-class model (which nevertheless retains its force): first, the persistence within advanced capitalism of a residual mode of production, simple commodity production, of which the structural representative is the petty bourgeoisie; second, the existence of ‘objectively contradictory locations within class locations’ situated at the intersection of the three fundamental classes within these two modes of production. The concept accounts for three groups: managers and supervisors (situated between bourgeoisie and working class); semi-autonomous employees (situated between working class and petty bourgeoisie); and small employers (situated between petty bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie). These relations are mapped in Figure 3. In order to generate this map Wright uses three sets of criteria, all of which are derived from the distinction between ownership of the means of production (giving control over investments) and possession (giving control of the actual operation of the means of production—either of the physical plant, or of labour). The criteria are then the presence or absence of control over investments and resource allocation, over the physical means of production, and over labour. It is also possible, however, to use the degrees of such control as a meaningful discriminator. In later rejecting this model Wright makes a number of criticisms, many of them having to do with what is, for my purposes, the theoretically most interesting category, that of semi-autonomous employees. There is a problem about how this group’s class interest in autonomy (that is, control over their own labour) differs in any way from that


Figure 3 Source: Wright (1979a: 63)

of workers, and of whether it makes sense to characterize autonomy as having a ‘pettybourgeois’ class character. Further, the category lumps together two distinct groups: highly autonomous craft wage-earners, and professional-technical wage-earners. And it is treated as the trace of an obsolescent mode of production rather than as part of an emergent structure. In methodological terms there is the weakness that the concept of autonomy can be a relatively contingent criterion rather than designating ‘fairly stable and structurally determinate properties of locations within the relations of production’ (1985: 55);25 and because of the centrality of this criterion, the concept of contradictory locations tends to concern relations of domination rather than of exploitation, thus leading to a ‘social-democratic’ focus on the symptoms of power relations—‘inequality’—rather than on their root causes. The starting point for Wright’s second model of class structure is his reading of John Roemer’s analytical reworking of Marxism, specifically his argument that inequalities in the distribution of property rights can serve as the basis for a theory of exploitation and hence of class relations. I should perhaps say at once that I find Roemer’s model regressive, since it takes as given a cluster of key neo-classical concepts: private property, the selfpossessing subject, rational choice; and since, in focusing on the distribution of assets, it begs the question of the system of production that gives rise to the private ownership of assets. Wright takes three kinds of asset as definitive of class position: ownership or not of the means of production (capital assets); possession or not of skill/ credential assets (specialized knowledges or qualifications); and possession or not of


organization assets (the ability to control the conditions for the co-ordination of labour). These are intended as the three key areas of exploitation. Within this new framework Wright then identifies two different kinds of non-polarized (i.e., non-‘fundamental’) class locations: those which are neither exploiters nor exploited (the ‘traditional’ or ‘old’ middle class), and those ‘which are exploiting along one dimension of exploitation relations, while on another are exploited’ (professionals, the ‘new middle class’) (86–7). He maps the set of class relations in Figure 4. The point of conceptualizing ‘middle-class’ locations in this way is to clarify the class interests (the ‘material optimizing strategies’ [91], to use the decisionistic language of rational choice theory) which are given by the ownership of certain kinds of asset; and, as he argues elsewhere, this model has the advantage that, ‘rather than trying to situate professionals and experts in the class structure via the slippery concept of their selfdirection within work, they were now situated with respect to their capacity to appropriate the surplus due to their monopoly of certain skills, particularly when this monopoly was legally certified through credentials’ (1989:307). Certain problems, however, were already foreseen: Wright’s main reservations have to do with the question of whether skill assets can constitute the basis of an exploitative relationship. This reservation is confirmed in his later reflections on the model, when he comes to the conclusion that ‘the idea of credential or skill-based classes is less relational than the idea of capital-based classes’, and that skilled employees are not necessarily in an antagonistic relation to the unskilled: they may simply be less exploited by capital (308–9). Others have taken these criticisms further. Burris asks how ‘organization’ can be conceived as an asset, since it is not transferable and is thus ‘indistinguishable from the exercise of hierarchical authority’ (1987:22). Carchedi argues that, by displacing categories of production into those of appropriation and ownership, what Wright produces is a distributional theory of exploitation, describing occupational groups rather than classes (1989:114). And Chris Smith similarly contends that Wright’s twelve-class map ‘severs any sense of social action within the class structure and produces a distributive classification…concerned with labour market segmentation rather than class relations and action’ (1990:234). To the extent that these criticisms find their mark, they indicate the difficulty of integrating the categories of knowledge and organization assets into a map of structural relations, and perhaps also, more generally, Wright’s failure to find a way beyond the alternatives of structural binarism and distributional pluralism. IV I find no good solution, in these various accounts, to the problem of mapping contemporary class relations in such a way as to produce a coherent and integrated model of the knowledge class and its social interests. But two things need to be said about this. The first is that each of these accounts, though partial and limited, has generated strong insights into the conditions of possibility and the defining characteristics of such a class. The second is that the demand itself—for coherence and integration—may be wrongly formulated in supposing the objective existence of class structures. Rather than asking ‘what classes are there?’, or ‘who is in this class?’, we should perhaps be concerned with class



Figure 4 Source: Wright (1985:98, Table 3.3)

as a theoretical construct with discursive effects. Thus the value of positing the claim to possession of knowledge as a key criterion for defining the knowledge class may be a strategic rather than a descriptive value: it works to set up a relation between cultural intellectuals and a broader social grouping which has some shared social interests, a fiction which may or may not prove fruitful. John Goldthorpe has challenged the usefulness of seeking to define the knowledge class, or service class, ‘in terms of their distinctive possession of “cultural capital” or of their “command over theoretical knowledge”’ (1982:174), since data on credential levels indicate considerable crossnational variation. But the point here must be that what is at issue is the claim to knowledge rather than its actual possession, and that credentials are only one of the ways in which this claim can be pursued. This is the reason why I signalled the importance of Poulantzas’s situation of the distinction between manual and mental labour as an ideological dimension of the production process. His argument makes it possible to take a good deal further an exploration of some of the crucial determinants of the organization of work and of the social relations bound up with it.


The historical conditions for the growth of a class based in the performance of knowledge functions are, very broadly, these: (i) The protracted development of a public sector in which a range of ethicodisciplinary functions—those of education, of public health, and a variety of welfare services—are removed from the family or the kinship network and assumed as state responsibilities.26 The constitution of ‘the population’ as an object of knowledge and of deliberate policy measures is the formative moment in the establishment of this sector (Foucault, 1991). (ii) The transformation and diversification of the managerial functions involved in controlling the work process: on the one hand the development of the techniques and ideologies of ‘scientific management’, which radically separate the functions of labour and of knowledge; on the other the increased importance to mass industrial production of the co-ordinating functions of contractual regulation, accountancy and financial services, computing, ‘human resource’ management, and so on. (iii) The growth in complexity of the planning function, including research and development, market research, and advertising. As Abercrombie and Urry point out, it is the reduction in contemporary capitalism of the turnover time of fixed capital that forces the expansion of technological innovation and of the controlled generation of desires, and thus makes these functions central to capitalist production (1983:97). Each of these clusters of historical transformations is closely bound up with, and has powerful consequences upon, the tendential separation of ‘manual’ from ‘mental’ labour. Their effect, however, is not to produce a dichotomous class structure (workers and capitalists) but to generate new occupational groups with alternative grounds for formation as a class. These grounds include, crucially, the definition of members as ‘mental’ workers with specialist expertise; the possession of cultural capital in the form of credentials; the claim to autonomous work conditions; and the enforcement of this claim, as well as the organization of a loose class cohesion, through professional associations or similar forms of peer recognition. The development of new class relations, however, transforms the existing ones, and in this case transforms, above all, social understandings of what counts as knowledge. The ideology of rationalized, ‘scientific’ management was decisive in this respect in that it defined ‘manual’ workers as lacking in relevant knowledge. More precisely, by analysing production into its discrete stages and components, and then retraining workers in the mechanical performance of these disconnected and incoherent fragments of a total operation, it acted to strip them of their craft knowledge and to reinvest it in the ‘specialist’ manager.27 (The process of appropriation of craft knowledges is taken to its extreme in robotization.) The result of this reorganization of work is not exactly a deskilling, but rather, as Littek and Heisig argue, the establishment of a hierarchical division between knowledge and skill, where skill is understood as ‘the ability to carry out more or less complex prescribed work’ and knowledge is ‘the prerequisite to perform more or less complex work in which personal decisions and flexibility are required’ (1990: 303). Crucially, both knowledge and skill are strongly gendered concepts: definitions of what counts as skilled work tend to exclude work performed by women (both paid and unpaid) (Game and Pringle, 1983:18), and within the domain of ‘mental’ labour there is a


clear hierarchical distinction between routine and non-routine work, again to the disadvantage of women; lower-level clerical, teaching, and white-collar service work are now preponderantly female sectors. The grounds on which the ‘new middle class’ of knowledge-workers is formed constitute at the same time the foundations for its social interests and for its ‘causal powers’. Scott Lash and John Urry define the latter as being: to restructure capitalist societies so as to maximize the divorce between conception and execution and to ensure the elaboration of highly differentiated and specific structures within which knowledge and science can be developed and sustained. These powers thus involve the deskilling of productive labourers; the maximizing of the educational requirements of places within the social division of labour and the minimizing of non-educational/non-achievement criteria for recruitment to such places; and the enhancement of the resources and income devoted to education and science (whether this is privately or publicly funded) (1987:177– 8).28 As the powers of this class increase, so do the powers of the working class, dispossessed of its traditional knowledges, decline. The relation is not, however, one of a simple inverse proportion: the working class is not reduced to being a passive instrument (nor should we idealize a mythical past in which it had full control over the production process); nor is knowledge ‘owned’ by the professional-managerial middle class. Certainly knowledge, especially economically productive knowledge, can be privately appropriated, and the whole apparatus of intellectual property law exists to sustain this possibility; but ownership is vested in that class which owns the rest of the means of production, not in knowledge workers. Alternatively, knowledge which is in the public domain circulates within the institutions of science, the professions and education, rather than being the property of its individual users (cf. Lash and Urry, 1987:194). The power of the knowledge class is the power of legitimate access to and use of this domain of knowledge, and the power to define what this domain is; but it should not be forgotten that there are other and more decisive powers.29 The origins of this class lie in an expansion of the roles of the traditional intelligentsia. One wing derives from the intelligentsia of letters: from the priest, the teacher and the journalist, who share between them the functions of the cure of souls, the propagation of enlightenment, and the inculcation of ruling-class ideology. The other wing derives from the technical intelligentsia, especially the ‘old’ professions and the somewhat younger profession of engineering, which have as their function the application of useful knowledge. But speaking of origins says nothing of present structures. What allows us to imagine that this class possesses some integrating principle of unity? To pose the question in this way is to assume a distinction between an alliance of fractions or of occupations and a class formation held together by some stronger bond (which may be that of a common social function, or of a shared experience of class socialization, of a common experience and expectation of work, or of the jointly undertaken risk of investment in cultural rather than monetary capital). The most likely


hypothesis, however—since otherwise there would not be so serious a problem of definition—is that it does constitute a more or less coherent class in some respects but not in others; the new middle class (the knowledge class) is an entity that doesn’t respond well (for good structural reasons, I think) to the question: is this a fully-formed class?30 There is, nevertheless, a valid and difficult question to be asked about the composition of the new middle class. This is not quite the question: ‘Who is in this class?’ (a question that corresponds to a naïvely realist epistemology) but is rather a question about the consequences of theoretical choices made in describing the make-up of the class, and of the logic according to which these choices should be made. For example: should upperlevel managers be said to belong to the new middle class? The answer will depend not just on how this class itself is conceived but on our conception of the interlocking structure of relations between classes, on the particular criteria of class membership that we apply, and on how individuals identify themselves.31 Wright notes at one point that the consequence of Poulantzas’s narrow definition of the working class in terms of productive labour is that the working class of the United States would constitute less than 20 per cent of the economically active population, and the petty bourgeoisie would constitute some 70 per cent (1979a: 55).32 Burris’s schematization of the different maps of class relations (see Figure 5) produced by the models of Poulantzas, C.Wright Mills, the Ehrenreichs, Carchedi, and Wright illustrates even more graphically the consequences of theoretical choices (although Burris of course implicitly privileges his own mapping of the class structure in doing so) There are choices to be made, then, but no objective criteria given in the statistical data or in the self-consciousness of individuals against which to measure their correctness. The criteria, that is to say, can only be those of productiveness and of plausibility—not of descriptive accuracy. The least problematic structural question concerns, I think, the distinction between the new middle class and the traditional petty bourgeoisie. The latter own their means of livelihood, may be small employers, and historically have possessed a distinctively illiberal ideology (see Bechhofer and Elliott, 1981:182–3); the overlap with self-employed professionals is therefore not as significant as would be indicated by purely economic criteria. The division between the new middle class and the working class is less well-defined, in part because the working class itself is now not so coherent a formation as it was in Fordist capitalism. There is agreement among most theorists that ‘routine’ white-collar workers—clerical workers, lower public servants, nurses, technicians—are closer to the working class (for example, to skilled tradespeople) than to the credentialled middle classes, but the uncertainties of self-definition and particularly the force of class aspiration make this boundary ambivalent. The same is true at the top end of the new middle class, where upper-level managers, often holding stock in the companies they control or, in the case of public-sector executives, sharing a common managerial culture, merge into the dominant class; similarly, upper-level professionals (for example in the medical and legal professions) pass more or less easily into the haute bourgeoisie. The class boundary is thus not an occupational



Figure 5 Source: Burris (1987:33, Fig. 1)33

boundary, since it is formed in part by differences which have to do with generation and with class trajectory. The group that remains—professionals, lower-level managers and administrators, and salaried or self-employed intellectuals, including cultural intellectuals, scientists, and higher-level technicians—is structured ‘internally’ by multiple splits and antagonisms which I take to be definitive of this class, and which can be grouped in a number of different ways: as a tension between managers and professionals; between ‘cultural’ and ‘technical’ intellectuals; or between public-and private-sector employees. I call these tensions definitive because it seems to me that the crucial attribute of this class is that it is weakly formed as a class. This weakness has to do above all with the f act that the key mechanisms of its formation as a class are those which relate to its claim to knowledge, rather than those which relate to the ownership of the means of production and to direct exploitation. The formation of the knowledge class characteristically takes place around the professional claim to, and the professional mystique of, autonomy of judgement; this forms the basis both for the struggle over the organization of work and for individual self-respect (that is, for a particular mode of subjectivity) grounded in this relation to work. It underlies the differentiation of middle-class from working-class forms of work: one based in ‘knowledge’ and structured around loyalty, ‘social exchange’, and responsibility, the


other based in ‘skill’ and structured around ‘low trust, economic exchange and direct control’ (Littek and Heisig, 1990:300). At the same time the claim to autonomy underlies the complementary strategies used in the struggle to achieve appropriate working conditions: a professional strategy of arguing that access to specialized mental labour can and should be achieved only by way of institutionally controlled credentials; and a managerial strategy of bureaucratization, that is, ‘the protection of managerial prerogatives from direct interference by capitalist owners, particularly over the control of the managerial hierarchy itself’ (Wright, 1989:339, n.91). The historical shaping of the knowledge class accordingly took place around a process of legal and industrial struggle over the conditions for autonomy of work practices. A number of writers cite the engineering profession in the United States early in the twentieth century as exemplary in its pursuit of an integration of industrial careers with educational credentials (see Noble, 1979). Lash and Urry write of this process: One occupation after another sought to strengthen its market-power by connecting together the production of knowledge with the production of the producers via the modern university. There was a structural linkage effected between two sets of elements, specific bodies of theoretical knowledge, on the one hand, and markets for skilled services, or labour, on the other. By contrast with, say, nineteenthcentury Britain, higher education became the means for bringing about professionalization and for the substantial transformation of the restructuring of social inequality (1987:173). The new middle class acquires legitimacy through the acquisition of credentials, and at the same time achieves a measure of class closure through the double operation of integrating the community of those with appropriate credentials and excluding those without (see Collins, 1979). This closure is then reinforced through the ‘cultural’ mechanisms of taste and ‘lifestyle’.34 One of the reasons for its relative lack of cohesion as a class, however, is precisely that, as the disciplines of knowledge become institutionalized, it is these particular territories of knowledge, and the disciplinary mysteries appropriate to each,35 rather than knowledge in general, that come to be invested with value. The potential for fractional division that this brings with it is exacerbated by other structural rifts, in particular that between the public sector and the service professions, on the one hand, whose relation to the exploitation of the working class is tangential, and, on the other, privatesector managers and administrators, who participate directly in it, albeit from the ambivalent position of salaried supervisors (Burris, 1987:39). (At the same time, the possibility of critical intellectual work—work that cuts against class attachments—is given, in the first instance, not as a matter of ethical decision but in the double fracture that separates the knowledge class from the dominant class and then divides it internally along a number of different fault lines.) If we take seriously Wright’s self-criticism that possession of skill assets does not in itself constitute an exploitative relation to those without them, however, then it is clear that the new middle class cannot be defined directly on the axis of exploitation. It is


structured by the indirectness of its insertion in the relations of production; by the salience for its self-definition of an ideology of autonomous work practice; and by its weak classificatory structure—the fuzziness of its boundaries with other classes (Urry, 1990: 88). It is a class which is necessarily-not-for-itself, and a class which is coherent only in its lack of structural cohesion. Concomitantly, its interests in the political sphere, reflecting this internal dividedness, are structured by its ambivalently tutelary and antagonistic relation to the working class, its identification with both public and private sectors, and its ethos of professional autonomy and service. Above all, it is formed politically by its close relation to bureaucracy (in both sectors) and to ‘flexible’ forms of bureaucratic rationality —and thereby to the forms of governmentality most characteristic of advanced capitalism. V The work of intellectuals is the implementation of modernity; their commitment is to enlightened rationality. But modernity and Enlightenment reason have become paradoxical monsters; they are nuclear power plants and anti-discrimination laws; they are the computer-modelling of war games, and national-health systems; they are socialism and economic rationalism, feminism and genetic engineering; they are the state as the locus of defence of rights, freedoms, and services, and the state as instrument of oppression. Suppose that the predictions made forty years ago by the Frankfurt School had been realized.36 Our world would now be one in which every aspect of human life had become commodified; in which reality had been displaced by its endless, inventive simulation; in which the bourgeois culture of the book had given way to the culture of the electronic media; in which populations were supervised by vast bureaucracies of surveillance. This vision is a flawed and unsatisfactory basis for critique because it’s nostalgic, because it demonizes structures of mediation, and because it assumes that structures are imposed without being transformed in the very act of imposition. Nevertheless, there is surely little doubt that it looks very like the world we have, and that it describes a rationality which, without having become other than itself, has nevertheless become an instrument of social control rather than an instrument of liberation or of equity (or, rather, which manages to be both at the same time: progressive universal taxation exemplifies the ambiguity). This might be one way to describe the postmodern: as the project of modernity turned into something quite different which is yet recognizably modern; as a ‘post’ which means a transformation, even a reversal, but without a change of terms or terrain. Intellectuals would then be, not the ‘representatives’ of this ‘epoch’, but those who live the paradox of the transformations of that modernity which it is their calling to implement. This is something rather different, I hope, from saying that postmodernism is the ‘expressive form’ of the ‘social and material life-experience’ of the professionalmanagerial class (Fred Pfeil’s [1990] argument is predicated upon an entirely spurious equation of this class with a generation, that of the ‘baby boom’ [98]); from Christa Bürger’s (1986) argument that the concept of the postmodern ‘provides critical


intellectuals with the consciousness of their own historicity’ (96); or from Lash and Urry’s slightly more cautious claim that: it is the developing service class which is the consumer par excellence of post-modern cultural products; that there is a certain ‘hegemonizing mission’ of the post-modern tastes and lifestyle of significant sections of this new middle class; and that there are certain structural conditions of the service class that produce a decentred identity which fosters the reception of such post-modern cultural goods (1987:292; cf. Lash, 1990:20). All such claims treat classes as unified subjects expressing a sensibility (something like a soul, an essence) in unified cultural forms; classes are like Wordsworthian wanderers, spontaneously overflowing with the appropriate class-emotions. But, as I’ve argued at length elsewhere (Frow, 1991), there is no unitary culture of the postmodern, pulled together by a principle of epochal coherence. Postmodernism is not a specific, enclosed domain: indeed, the very vagueness of the term is what enables such easy generalizations to be made about it. It is, however, perhaps possible to argue that the forms of theorization of the postmodern are closely related to the interests and the anxieties of cultural intellectuals. Michael Rustin makes a parallel and, I think, persuasive argument about the ideological bases for the conceptualization of post-Fordism. The world of flexible specialization, he writes, ‘is the world as seen from the point of view of some of its beneficiaries— themselves “flexible specialists” such as researchers, communicators, information professionals and designers, whose specific capabilities involve the handling and processing of information’ (1989:63). The way in which a particular set of class interests is carried is most evident in the high programmatic priority given to education, training and research as functional for ‘progressive modernization’, but also, of course, as central to the lifeworld of the man or woman for whom the capacity to acquire, apply and transmit knowledge is the market resource (64). Correspondingly, even the more ‘progressive’ aspects of the concept translate interests which are not universal: arguments for the decentralization of decision-making, for the informal welfare sector, for neighbourhood control, parent power and cooperative housing, also reflect the central position that this new and enlarged intelligentsia is likely to occupy in more pluralized and devolved systems, as the strata who have the cultural capacities to make use of such spaces to find fulfilling and influential roles (64). In much the same way, the concept of the postmodern seems to me to carry both the one interest that can be attributed with some certainty to the knowledge class: a commitment


to the institutions of cultural capital, and simultaneously a set of anxieties about its place within these institutions. Displaced from the position of cultural authority which it once believed itself to hold, controlling one rather small market within a pluralized market system, and properly uncertain of its right to speak in and for other cultural domains, the cultural intelligentsia (and most of the knowledge class has some claim to cultural expertise) can construct its own historicity only in the negative and paradoxical terms of an endlessly transcended modernity. Notes 1 Gramsci’s understanding of intellectuals is built around the interplay between the universality of intellectual activity and the historical specialization of intellectual functions, which are bound up, either directly or indirectly, with the establishment of class hegemony. Intellectual work is thus not defined by its intrinsic characteristics but by its place within a complex ensemble of social relations (Gramsci, 1971: esp. 5–13). 2 Subtle and cogent as much of it is, Zygmunt Bauman’s (1987) argument in Legislators and Interpreters and elsewhere is ultimately flawed by its attribution to intellectuals (meaning ‘traditional’ intellectuals) of the autonomy and effective social power which they have claimed for themselves. In this respect it repeats the various right-wing versions of the critique, which dissociate the ‘New Class’ from the real embeddedness of knowledge in capitalist production. (See the essays by Daniel Bell, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Norman Podhoretz and others in The New Class? [Bruce-Briggs, 1979]). 3 This volume is expanded and supplemented by the three published volumes of Knowledge: Its Creation, Distribution and Economic Significance, Fritz Machlup (1980,1982,1984). The series is completed by Michael Rogers Rubin and Mary Taylor Huber (1986). 4 Westoby adds that there are two general trends that increase the ratio of educated labour: first, its increasing share as an input, both as research and development and through the increasing relative weight of the control functions of organization and administration; and second, preceding these, the increasing proportion of labour which is employed (largely by the state) in maintaining and reproducing the labourers, the population, and the social organism (e.g., health and social services, education, and civil and social administration). Together, these trends mean that the production of both labour and other goods is becoming more and more intensive of educated labour. If, then, we speak of the rise of a knowledge class, it must be understood that its origins lie as much in production as in distribution or in control over it’ (1987:131). 5 I differ from Gramsci, however, in that I attempt to relate the possession of specialized knowledges to membership of a distinct class formation rather than to already existing, economically defined classes. On this point, see Armstrong and Tennenhouse (1992:130) who propose breaking the opposition between intellectual and ‘productive’ labour, not by defining intellectuals as a ‘new’ social class but by seeing the bourgeoisie itself (at least in England) as a class whose power was primarily based in the control of information. 6 Note that this is not an attempt to ground a social class in a fundamental economic category. As I indicated above, the Marxist understanding of knowledge either as constant capital or—


7 8

9 10

11 12 13




its dialectical equivalent—as stored or ‘dead’ labour (neither of which can create new value, and neither of which can therefore function as a productive force) is quite useless. Several interesting passages in the Grundrisse on machinery (the section on the concept of fixed capital at the end of Notebook VI and the beginning of Notebook VII, written in February and March of 1858) do, however, suggest the possibility that indirect labour might be capable of producing value, and that the labour theory of value, and hence the domination of capital over production, might be dissolved under technologically advanced conditions of production (Marx, 1973:691–700). Erik Olin Wright speaks of recent class analysis’s ‘pre-eminent preoccupation’ with the ‘“embarrassment of the middle classes”’ (1985:13). The problems in the conceptualization of class structure arise principally, although not exclusively, from the appearance of people variously termed salaried employees, whitecollar workers, nonmanual workers, ouvriers intellectuels, service workers, technicians, “the new middle classes”’ (Przeworski, 1985:62). By ‘cultural intellectuals’ I mean most of those in Machlup’s categories one and three, education and media of communication, and who count as performing ‘mental labour’. As Tony Bennett (1990) argues, if we except Laclau and Mouffe’s appeal to ‘left-’ and ‘rightwing’ positionalities, since these are purely relational terms and have no self-evidence, then there is ‘no logical reason why, from Laclau and Mouffe’s perspective, the struggle of workers versus capitalists should be politically privileged above, or regarded as more leftwing than, the antistatist arguments of small businessmen—arguments which often claim precisely the radical democratic political lineage upon which Laclau and Mouffe seek to found a new political imaginary’ (266). Cited in Baxter, Emmison and Western (1991:307). For a fuller account of the inadequacies of stratificationist theory, see Kosik (1967:111–13), Giddens (1973:72–80), Connell (1983:85–97), Wright (1985:34–7). Similar adumbrations of such a multidimensional model of class structure can of course be found elsewhere. Pierre Bourdieu, for example, defines the ‘fundamental social powers’ in terms of three types of capital: ‘firstly, economic capital, in its various kinds; secondly, cultural capital or better informational capital, again in its different kinds; and thirdly two forms of capital that are very strongly correlated, social capital, which consists of resources based on connections and group membership, and symbolic capital, which is the form the different types of capital take once they are perceived and recognized as legitimate’. The distributional effects of these forces is a function of the global volume of capital possessed, of its composition (the relative weight of each form), and of the trajectory (the changes in volume and composition) of this capital (1987:4). Poulantzas chooses not to accept Marx’s concept of the socialization of labour under capitalism, a process which Marx calls Gliederung (‘combination’) and which he embodies in the notion of the ‘collective labourer’ within which both ‘productive’ and ‘unproductive’, both material and immaterial labour are subsumed. Cf. Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I (Penguin), pp. 508–9 and the Appendix, ‘Results of the immediate production process’, pp. 1039–40. Poulantzas’s discussion can be found in Classes in Contemporary Capitalism (1975:231–3). This passage was initially published in ‘Proletariat into a class: the process of class formation from Karl Kautsky’s The Class Struggle to recent controversies’, Politics and Society, 7:4 (1977), p. 343. Cf. Stanley Aronowitz’s (1990) argument that ‘classes come into being under conditions of (1) the occupation of a common structural space; (2) a common discursive (cultural) position that, however, is not presupposed by structural unity; and (3) political organization


17 18 19



exemplified by political parties and national trade unions that also function discursively’; and that ‘each level of articulation is underdetermined by the others, at least in advance’ (1990: 8–9). On the interconnections of class, race and ethnic identity in the United States, see Richard D’Alba (1990) and David D.Roediger (1991). I take these terms from Erik Olin Wright (1989:324–5). See Pierre Bourdieu (1984:110–12; Wright (1989:324–34). Alex Callinicos (1983) points out that, in contrast to the expectation of sharply rising income for upper white-collar workers, the career trajectory of manual and routine clerical workers is much flatter, rising only in relation to overtime worked and normally declining in later years (1983:103). The thesis of an increasing separation of ownership and control was articulated as early as 1941 in James Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution. For a critique of the argument, see Zeitlin (1982:196–223). I have no strong position on the question of whether or not the term ‘cultural capital’ is a metaphor, since I am not convinced that the question is well posed. The Swedish sociologist Adam Westoby puts forward the following arguments that it should be treated as a metaphor: Knowledge, as intangible and universal, can only give rise to stretched and imperfect property rights. It cannot assume a full commodity form, and its circulation and expansion cannot rest fundamentally on exchange. New theoretical knowledge, for example, supplants and modifies the existing stock directly, not through devaluing it. And as far as the structures of motivation facing the individual ‘capital’ are concerned, any similarities are superficial: to the essentially quantitative, unbounded expansion of money capital corresponds the qualitative and finite life, education, and career of the individual (1987:148–9).

This presupposes, however, that there exists a literal or fundamental form of capital (money, for example); I disagree. Capital is a purely relational concept, the most abstract and disembodied of all economic concepts. It is a historically specific social relation, involving commodity production, private ownership of the means of production, and the objectification of labour power; and in all these respects it seems to me that it can take the form of socialized knowledge as well as it can that of, for example, money capital. 22 Immanuel Wallerstein writes that the new middle class is differentiated from the working class by its possession of ‘human capital’, which is acquired ‘in the educational systems, whose primary and self-proclaimed function is to train people to become members of the new middle classes, that is, to be the professionals, the technicians, the administrators of the private and public enterprises which are the functional economic building-pieces of our system’; thus ‘a key locus of political struggle is the rules of the educational game’ (1988: 105). 23 Carl Boggs describes the central political aporia of Marxism as ‘the contradiction between a theoretical identity rooted in the vision of proletarian self-emancipation and the political reality of a movement dominated by intellectuals’ (1979:7).


24 On the distinction between the ‘global function of capital’ and the ‘function of the collective worker’ as it relates to the new middle class, see Carchedi (1977:66) and (1983:174). 25 Burris adds that: Since Wright defines autonomy as a technical relationship between workers and their physical means of production, his model fails to specify any social relationship between those who possess a certain level of autonomy and those who do not. The boundary between the working class and semi-autonomous employees is therefore merely a point on a scale, not a division between two groups of class positions which are defined by their antagonistic relation to one another (1987:18). 26 The distinction between the public and the private sectors is not in itself the crucial one, since the distribution of services between these sectors varies considerably from country to country, and many ‘public’ functions may be handled by ‘private’ agencies; the determinant factor is the autonomization of these functions: their socialization, and their ultimate regulation by the state. See, however, the argument made by Harold Perkins (1989) that ‘the struggle between the public and private sector professions is the master conflict of professional society’ (10)—by which he means contemporary advancedcapitalist societies, which are dominated in all aspects by the ‘professional class’. 27 The classic source is still Harry Braverman (1974). 28 This passage is a slight reworking of a passage in Abercrombie and Urry (1983:132). 29 ‘The means of mental production—laboratories, universities, television stations—are rarely owned by their workers, and indeed in most of these sectors we have recently seen an increasing assertion of external control, by other capitals and powers than those of pure ideas’ (Rustin, 1989:66). 30 Ralf Dahrendorf gives a lucid orthodox definition of the distinction between class and stratum. Classes, he says, are ‘“major interest groupings emerging from specific structural circumstances, which intervene as such in social conflicts and play a part in changes of social structure”. Whereas a “stratum” is merely an analytical category, identifying persons of a similar situation in the social hierarchy, who share some situational identities such as “income, prestige, style of living, etc.”’ (1957: ix, 139. Quoted in Alec Nove [1982:602]) Paradoxically, many Marxist theorists resort to stratification theory in order to solve the conceptual untidiness of the middle classes. Thus Alex Callinicos argues that the new middle class is not a ‘proper’ class with a ‘distinct and coherent set of interests deriving [from] their position in the relations of production’; it is no more than ‘a collection of heterogeneous social layers who have in common an ambiguous and intermediate position with respect to the fundamental contradiction between capital and wage-labour’ (1983:163–4). Since I have no commitment to the model of a fundamental and unmediated contradiction, however, the distinction between class and stratum loses much of its importance. 31 That is, on whether they perceive some sort of commonality of interests and culture with others whom we assign to the class; but note that this perception of salience need not take the form of an articulate sociological definition; and it may involve a denial of a particular or indeed of any class status. 32 To say this is not necessarily to make a criticism, as Wright seems to believe. 33 Note that Burris seems to me to be wrong in assuming that Carchedi assigns managers and supervisors to the new middle class, since Carchedi explicitly differentiates them. On p. 96 of On the Economic Identification of Social Classes (1977), for example, Carchedi writes that ‘the


top manager has real, economic ownership and thus has economic power. He must delegate a part of his work of control and surveillance to lower managerial strata and to the new middle class’. 34 ‘Lifestyle’ is one of the most obvious defining characteristics of the new middle class; I have paid no attention to the category here because I think its very obviousness can be misleading. Many descriptions of the class—Featherstone’s (1991:45–6), or Urry’s (1990:92–3),or Harvey’s (1989:347–8), for example-use the visibility of lifestyle as the occasion for a moralizing account of the class. Folk-taxonomic terms like ‘yuppy’ and ‘trendy’, although they are of considerable interest as indications of popular perceptions of a self-contained class, tend to work the same way (Lyons, 1989). 35 H.Jamous and B.Peloille distinguish between technical competence over an explicit and testable body of knowledge (‘technicality’), and a charismatic mode of ascribed knowledge which forms any profession’s ‘mystery’ and which, since it is never codified, cannot be appropriated by outsiders (‘indetermination’); the acquisition of credentials for a profession involves in part the acquisition of the ‘margin of indetermination’ proper to it, which is not transmitted by explicit procedures of training and evaluation (1970:112,115). 36 I mean specifically Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s Dialektik der Aufklärung (l947).

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This paper is divided into three main sections. The first will offer a description of what I consider to be some of the more important difficulties or theoretical problems associated with attempts to call up or define popular culture; this section will take off from and concern itself with certain notions put forward in de Certeau’s ‘The beauty of the dead’ (1986). The second section will look, in detail, at some criticisms of de Certeau’s construction of popular culture as outlined in a recent paper by John Frow (1991). I have made use of Frow’s work here because it constitutes the most interesting and valuable description/ analysis of de Certeau’s notions of popular culture and ‘practice’ that I have encountered; his work is even more useful, however, because while Frow demonstrates his grasp of the complexities of de Certeau’s construction of popular culture, and particularly the workings of ‘practice’, his analysis, I suggest, contains the traces of, and is constrained by, an Althusserian ‘scientifism’ which impinges upon, and partly negates, his reading and evaluation of ‘practice’; and this ‘scientific’ denial of the possibilities opened up by ‘practice’ is as central to my paper as it is to de Certeau’s analysis of popular culture in ‘The beauty of the dead’. The third section provides a critique of Frow’s criticisms, and is meant to lead, not particularly dialectically, to a consideration of de Certeau’s question: ‘Does popular culture exist outside of the act that suppresses it?’ It is important, before proceeding, to attempt to contextualize Frow’s essay on de Certeau, and the meanings and uses I make of it. Frow’s essay could be understood as a contestation of certain meanings that have been made of de Certeau’s work (particularly with regard to The Practice of Everyday Life [1988]); and again, as an attempt to ask and think through questions about the politics of de Certeau’s theories. This is something that has not been done very ef fectively by popularizers of de Certeau, who by and large have appropriated and generalized aspects of, say, theories of practice, without paying much attention to de Certeau’s refusal to separate practices from specific contexts—and specific perspectives. Thus we can have academics such as John Fiske taking what might easily be read as instances of sexual harassment and inscribing them as authentic examples of marginalized groups making subversive uses of popular culture: a reading which perpetuates the exploitation of another ‘marginalized’ group—in this case, women (1988: 31).


I want to make the point, then, that, although this paper largely contests the kinds of conclusions Frow comes to with regard to issues such as practice, it is appropriate to keep in mind that Frow’s essay itself constitutes an example of practice; that is to say, it constitutes a specific intervention in a particular place in the field(s) of Cultural Studies; and that intervention is predicated upon certain political perspectives and agendas. My critique of Frow’s essay necessarily moves it to another place—my place—and reads it in terms of a different political agenda; a charge I level at Frow’s appropriation of de Certeau’s work. The only point I can make in my defence is that there is no claim that this paper is being written out of any objective/scientific perspective; on the contrary—this is a practice. The question of what constitutes popular culture always needs to be contextualized, as de Certeau and Bourdieu have demonstrated, in terms of three crucial additional questions: ‘Who is constituting it?’; ‘From which position are they speaking?’; and ‘For what purpose?’. For de Certeau (1986), popular culture is predominantly constructed from positions or contexts of high or official or ‘real’ culture; and mediated through what could be called an academic or scientific gaze. Popular culture, then, has largely been constructed—at least officially—by its other; that is to say, by agents of high culture. De Certeau refers to a variety of French examples (Nisard, Soriano, Mandrou, amongst others); while we need not look any further than the current proliferation of books on popular culture, perhaps exemplified by any number of texts by John Fiske. Definitions of what constitutes the popular are largely produced, then, by academics (operating out of what de Certeau calls ‘a scientific curiosity’ (119), who speak from a variety of culturally legitimate places (the university, the journal, the textbook, on radio or television as experts on the media). The third question remains, however: ‘For what purpose do they speak?’ Or again: ‘What is the politics of this high cultural construction of popular culture?’ The thesis de Certeau puts forward, in The beauty of the dead’, is that popular culture is unswervingly subversive of official culture, and the interests official culture serves, including capitalists, the state, power élites—those Bourdieu calls the dominant. Popular culture is subversive, for de Certeau, because it is constituted by a heterogeneity which is oppositional to, and a denial of, homogeneity, community and, eventually, hegemony. Popular culture, however, not only carries the traces of its own difference; even more importantly, it carries the marks of violence of its own exclusion from that hegemonic community; that is to say it tells the stories that hegemonic ideology works to erase. I want to leave aside, for the moment, any critique or contestation of this version of popular culture and, equally importantly, de Certeau’s unproblematized distinction between high and popular culture; these are issues which I will return to in the third section of this paper. Instead I want, now, to direct this inquiry to de Certeau’s version of how hegemonic forces—and official culture—reconstitute popular culture. In ‘The beauty of the dead’ de Certeau identifies two strategies—two attitudes, if you like—which characterize, within a French context, the relationship between the high cultural subject and the object of popular culture. The first is one of censorship, which is seen as occuring during times when ‘the people’—and ‘the people’s’ recognition of their grievances—are conceived of as a serious threat to the power and stability of the state. The years 1848 and 1968 come to mind, at least with regard to France, as such times;


however there are numerous examples, such as certain practices of covert censorship involving American popular films of the fifties, which suggest that such a strategy is neither confined to France, nor as infrequent as one might suspect. The second strategy, one de Certeau regards as being more frequently employed, and more insidious, involves idealization. Here the people, and popular culture, are ‘associated with what is natural, true, naive, spontaneous, and childlike’ (1986:124); which allows high culture to speak for an other which is altogether innocent, carefree, apolitical and unthreatening: ‘The people may not speak,’ writes de Certeau, ‘but they can sing’ (122). And if anyone doubts the validity of this assessment, or thinks it is only relevant to eighteenth-century France, I would suggest they consider any number of Fiske’s recent idealized descriptions—ironically often taken in a very depoliticized and uncontextualized fashion, from de Certeau—that purport to authentically represent the ways of ‘the people’. These high cultural constructions of popular culture constitute, for de Certeau, not a calling up of their object but, on the contrary, a re-marking of the origins of hegemony: The object, as it is called up, disappears; reconstituted, it comes back as an absence, as a fake, a ‘not this’. The discourses and narratives used to define, explain and categorize can finally only exclude the popular, because such discourses cannot recognize heterogeneity, or, for that matter, the violence they direct against the heterogeneous. Where, then, is the popular? John Frow, in his reading of de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life (1988), identifies certain kinds of practices which could be said to constitute, for de Certeau, popular culture. These practices are predicated on the exclusion of popular culture from the places, activities and discourses of legitimate culture; places and discourses, activities and rituals, however, may be inhabited and utilized in an intentionally illegitimate manner. To quote Frow: To use is not simply to apply, to put into practice, but to evade the prescriptions embedded in ‘official’ textuality. It opens up a gap between the two. Hence, as a general thesis, [and here he quotes de Certeau] ‘a way of using imposed systems constitutes the resistance to the historical law of a state of affairs and its dogmatic legitimations…that is where the opacity of a “popular” culture could be said to manifest itself—a dark rock that resists all assimilation’ (1991:53). Although accepting much of what de Certeau makes of popular culture, Frow identifies two areas—firstly, what he calls de Certeau’s ‘understanding of power’(57), and secondly, ‘the problem of the textual form in which we have access to the “doings” of popular culture’(58)—as particularly problematical. I would now like to refer to and describe, in some detail, Frow’s arguments about these points. Frow’s first criticism of de Certeau’s construction of popular culture is that it is based on an inadequately theorized notion of power; an argument that can be pushed quite a way. There is nothing in de Certeau’s work—certainly nothing in either The Practice of Everyday Life or ‘The beauty of the dead’—which provides any indication of an awareness, so central to much of Foucault’s work, of the ways in which power moves through and across social agents; or again, of the ways in which agents move in and out of various


positions, places and sites of power. De Certeau never seems to take into account the possibility that the categories dominant/dominated, élite/people, or specific class positions (working class, upper middle class) are anything but clear and settled; and because of this apparent failure there is, concomitantly, no understanding that an agent may be, often simultaneously, dominant and dominated, or working class and upper middle class. The purity of these categorizations constitutes, in fact, a kind of tyranny of theory over practice that de Certeau identifies—albeit without much malice—in the works of Foucault and Bourdieu. And Frow is quick to drive this point home: Nowhere in his work is there anything other than a polar model of domination, according to which sovereign power is exercised by a ruling class…over a mass of oppressed popular subjects who lack all power. It is true that these subject groups exercise an art of the weak which modifies or deflects the power of the dominant order, but the flow of power is nevertheless all in the one direction and from a singular source. Rather than being defined by complexity, diversity, and ambiguity, the struggle for social power is thought of in terms of a simple pathos of resistance (1991:57–8). The explanation offered by Frow for this apparent difficulty is that de Certeau’s analysis of the workings of power rely on an idealized notion of the people. This idealization is predicated, for Frow, on two unsustainable assumptions: firstly, that ‘the people’ are a homogeneous group all equally conscious of their status as oppressed; and secondly, that this undifferentiated group, and here I quote Frow, ‘necessarily operates in a progressive way’ (58). Such a notion, Frow points out, excludes consideration of the complexities of hegemony, which takes for granted not the homogeneity of oppressed peoples but, on the contrary, rivalries across and within oppressed groups, and the complicity of such groups in various processes of domination. The second criticism Frow levels at de Certeau is much more complex, and I don’t have the space here to deal with it in anything like the complexity it deserves. To run through it quickly, Frow makes the point that de Certeau’s theory of ‘practices’ (a theory which has the dominated making use of what could be called legitimate cultural texts for their own purposes) can never be identified or described—can never be called up—because they are codes which cannot be generalized. Although they attach themselves to official systems and places which are in themselves clearly codified, transgressive uses of official culture always leave that culture more or less intact, and without an apparent trace of that use. Acts of transgression are practiced, and their effects feed back into the systems they have come to inhabit, but since these practices are always context specific, they can never be represented or ‘realized’. They are—they have to be—of the moment; and so they are neither tied to the regime of desires constituted by an official system, nor any prescribed or preordained reading of the relationship between the constraints of the system and the desires of the user. They are, instead, what de Certeau describes as ‘a silent production’ (1988: xxi; quoted in Frow 58); and it is the silence of these productions which constitutes, for Frow, a major difficulty.


Frow’s difficulty with this aspect of de Certeau’s version of popular culture is that in the absence of any realizations of practices there will be a temptation for analysts to represent what cannot be represented: The danger is this: that in the absence of realized texts which can be subjected to determinate analysis—in the absence of a definite and graspable subject—the analyst will inevitably reconstruct such an object. This will usually be done either through a direct substitution of the analyst’s own experience…for that of the user, or through indirect modes of textual objectification, such as the administration of questionnaires. In both cases there is a politically fraught substitution of the voice of the middle-class intellectual for that of the users of popular culture; and it is characteristically in the space of this substitution that the category of the popular is constructed (1991:59–60). In this way the kinds of practices that constitute, for de Certeau, the false calling up of the popular are perpetuated and reinscribed precisely because they cannot be realized; the strength of invisibility becomes then, at least as far as Frow is concerned, the weakness of absence. These two aspects of de Certeau’s version of the popular—his reliance on an homogenized notion of ‘the people’, and the impossibility of realizing ‘authentic’ popular practices—constitute, for Frow, major theoretical weaknesses. I would like to move, now, to a more critical consideration of Frow’s critique of de Certeau. Let us turn to Frow’s first criticism, which has two main points. The first is that the workings of power—and power itself—are constructed, quite naively, as the prerogative of an élite class who exercise it at the expense of a homogeneous and idealized dominated class. The second point is that de Certeau’s theory of ‘practice’ doesn’t allow for the official system to be changed, but instead perpetuates it; the dominated ‘escape without leaving’ (56). Both points have one thing in common: they are the product of a kind of reading which can perhaps be described as ‘literal’; that is to say, in order for these readings to be produced from de Certeau’s texts, the reader firstly needs to construct those texts (or that text, The Practice of Everyday Life [1988]) as a literal description of how things work. In other words, the text must conform to the status of explanation. De Certeau can write, in ‘The beauty of the dead’, of the impossibility of calling up popular culture; can write of the way in which such a move can only reinscribe the violence of its own desire. And yet this particularly important contextualizing detail is ignored or passed over—in an attempt to make de Certeau (or the meaning of his writing) appear. Writing, for de Certeau, can be understood—can be read—in different ways. Firstly, it can be read the way Frow reads de Certeau’s texts—as an attempt to call up the real or the authentic. On the other hand, it can be read, not as a substitute for reality, but as a move in a game. For Bakhtin/ Volosinov: ‘Whenever a sign is present, ideology is present, too’ (1986:10). And again: ‘differently oriented accents intersect in every ideological sign. Sign becomes an arena of the class struggle’ (23).


And the same could be said of texts, of narratives, of stories. Stories in particular occupy an important place in de Certeau’s work: he refers, for instance, to the transgressive ‘stories’ of Foucault and Bourdieu, where the law, the system, and theories are retold and, at the same time, undone by the interpolation of certain moments in the story—what he calls ‘coups’—when ‘thinking otherwise’ (197) becomes possible. He writes, too, of ‘spatial stories’ or practices of movement, predicated on habitus and done with a flexibility which allows agents to inhabit places by transforming them into spaces: for de Certeau, stories can contest hegemonic meanings and create a space out of a place. In a chapter of The Practice of Everyday Life, titled ‘Story time’, de Certeau makes the following observation about the work of Marcel Detienne: Marcel Detienne, who is a historian and an anthropologist, has deliberately chosen to tell stories. He does not examine Greek stories in order to treat them in the name of something other than themselves. He rejects the break that would make of them objects of knowledge and also objects to be known, dark caves in which hidden ‘mysteries’ are supposed to await the scientific investigation to receive a meaning. He does not assume that behind all these stories, secrets exist whose gradual unveiling would give him, in the background, his own place, that of interpretation. For him, these tales, stories, poems, and treatises are already practices (1988:80). A similar case might be made out for the ‘stories’, that is to say, the practices, of de Certeau. If, then, de Certeau’s texts operate as practices, then the kind of recitation attempted by Frow is only chasing a trace that doesn’t appear; and the kinds of rigidities that Frow identified in de Certeau’s theorizing of the workings of power are only rigidities if taken to another place—Frow’s place. I want to pursue this point a little further, now, and move back specifically to Frow’s twin criticism of de Certeau, by way of a reference to Frow’s analysis of de Certeau’s ‘The politics of silence: the long march of the Indians’. Frow describes this example of the Indian resistance to the Spanish in the following way: While remaining submissive to their subjection, and even accepting of it, the Indian peoples [and here he quotes de Certeau] ‘often made of the rituals, representations and laws imposed on them something quite different from what their conquerors had in mind; they subverted them not by rejecting or altering them, but by using them with respect to ends and references foreign to the system they had no choice but to accept’ (1991:56). Frow’s objection to this ‘story’ would be twofold, as we have seen. Firstly, it constructs a rigid and unsustainable binary—the dominating Spanish, the dominated Indians. Secondly, it presumes that the ‘silent’ uses that the Indians make of Spanish culture only helps to reinscribe its power; or, as Frow writes:


The peculiar ambiguity of the problematic of transgression lies in its total dependence upon the law that is to be transgressed. I can only transgress against the state or against God if I believe in them and in their authority (56). To take the first point: Not only can this ‘story’ be understood as practice, or as a move in an ideological game (a Bakhtinian ‘contestation of meaning’); it could also be read as a part of a narrative—a recitation—of the ‘real’ constructed by hegemonic forces; a narrative designed ‘for changing belief into mistrust’ (189); in other words, stories function, for de Certeau, as political tactics. Hegemony makes use of various stories—the naturalness of the law, the rightful exercising of power by one group—to establish and perpetuate itself. Perhaps even more importantly, it circulates narratives which speak of the widespread belief in those stories (the common sense of the people, the silent majority). Stories, for de Certeau, however, can be utilized, appropriated, inhabited; and once inhabited, can be recycled so as to provide opportunities ‘for citizens to manipulate politically what serves as a circular and objectless credibility for political life itself’ (189). Their ontological status is neither that of truth nor explanation, but rather that of an ideological move in a long-running political game. Frow’s second point, that ‘I can only transgress against the state or against God if I believe in them and in their authority’ (57), requires a different response. It presumes, quite incorrectly, that an awareness of the power of the state is the same as a belief in the natural authority of the state; or again, that a consciousness of the power exerted by those who speak in the name of God is the same as belief in God. This is patently not the case. The Indian response to the Spanish was predicated, according to de Certeau, on a pragmatics: ‘they had no choice but to accept’ (1988: xiii; quoted in Frow 56). This does not mean a belief in the naturalness of Spanish authority or the Spanish god, but rather an awareness of power and its effects—and, at the same time, an awareness/evaluation of the possibilities of resistance; something that can only be decided upon by those concerned or involved, and not prescribed by those outside of the moment and the place. Frow’s objections to de Certeau’s writings on popular culture are predicated, then, on an unconsciousness of, or unwillingness to accept, what might be called the politics of practice; and it is at this point that we need to address the last part of Frow’s critique. The difficulty Frow identifies with the notion of practice is, above all else, a political one; where practice cannot be called up, cannot be ‘scientifically’ determined, then there is the danger that substitutes will be found to take its place. If practice can’t speak for itself, voices—middle-class academic voices—will speak for it. What Frow forgets, however, and what de Certeau doesn’t forget, is Derrida’s point that writing never delivers its other —is incapable of delivering its other. ‘There must always be a death’, de Certeau writes, ‘for there to be speech’ (1986:136). The scientific studies of popular culture that de Certeau refers to in ‘The beauty of the dead’ deliver up neither the ‘real’ people nor their culture, but rather ‘vast and strange expanses of silence’ (131). Frow, then, would either have practice deliver up itself, unmediated, or, and this amounts to much the same thing, he would have it delivered up through a pure and objective


scientific gaze and discourse. Frow is aware that the notion of practice exposes the claims of science, but the desire to know and explain makes him forget what he already knows. There are doubtlessly political advantages to knowing and explaining—or claiming to know and explain; but to institute what amounts to a new regime of truth is at the same time to perpetuate a repression and a violence. Why can’t practice speak in its own way? In its own place? Because, Frow would answer, it is politically dangerous. But who decides what is politically dangerous—or useful? And for whom? In what context? At what moment? In what way? Popular culture may or may not exist outside the act that suppresses it, but if it does its political status cannot be categorically prescribed. Bourdieu asks: When the dominated quest for distinction leads the dominated to affirm what distinguishes them, that is, that in the name of which they are dominated and constituted as vulgar, do we have to talk of resistance? In other words, if, in order to resist, I have no other resource than to lay claim to that in the name of which I am dominated, is this resistance? Second question: when, on the other hand, the dominated work at destroying what marks them out as ‘vulgar’ and at appropriating that in relation to which they appear as vulgar…is this submission? I think this is an insoluble contradiction: this contradiction, which is inscribed into the very logic of symbolic domination, is something those who talk about ‘popular culture’ won’t admit. (1990:155) This ‘insoluble contradiction’ constitutes the crack or fissure through which de Certeau’s notion of practice—and his reading of popular culture—enters and inhabits the place/ space of science. This is possible because the ‘object’ of popular culture is actually more of a field—a place—constituted by science and scientific methodologies where mediations/ readings/meanings contest the right to claim to know and explain that object, all the while excluding the practitioners and practices of popular culture from their purview. Theories of practice, each one claiming to speak from a position of authenticity, re-present practice as being as solid and codifiable as a dead language. This corpse of popular culture, a corpse verified and guaranteed by the methods and status of science, is then turned around and used as the basis—it provides the starting points, the categories, the questions—for further pursuit and interrogation and analysis of the same field and object; that is to say, the corpse produces another corpse, and another, ad infinitum. De Certeau’s notion of practice, and his critique of ‘scientific’ representation of the popular in ‘The beauty of the dead’, deny the authenticity of these corpses by specifically targeting the claim of science to know and explain; in other words, they challenge science’s claim that it can provide the solution to the ‘insoluble contradiction’ to which Bourdieu refers. Any theory or codification of practice must be able to claim that the combinations of contexts in which practice take place, and the meanings a subject or agent makes of those contexts, are identifiable and explicable. To put it simply, it is necessary for any representation of the popular to claim not only to be in the place of the other, but that they are the other; or rather that there is no other, in any strict sense. Now the


notion of the other is already inscribed in—one might even say that it is, to a certain extent, constitutive of—so-called scientific inquiry. A subject always inquires of an object —this is what Spivak calls the condition of politics—and at the moment of the construction of this binary the name of the other is inscribed. This is the kind of illogic within the logical that de Certeau points to: I must renounce otherness in order to call it up, to constitute it, to represent it. In the end science can only call up practice, and high culture can only call up the popular, through a theoretical sleight of hand; through claiming to know what their own logic says is unknowable; through claiming to bring into its place what it acknowledges must always be in a different place; or again, to see that which is, from the perspective of, say, high culture, unseeable. The resistance of the popular occurs, to quote Bourdieu again, ‘on terrains altogether different from that of culture in the strict sense of the word…. And it takes the most unexpected forms, to the point of remaining more or less invisible to the cultivated eye’ (1990:155). References Bourdieu, P. (1990) In Other Words: Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology, Cambridge: Polity Press. de Certeau, M. (1986) ‘The beauty of the dead’, in Heterologies, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ——(1988) The Practice of Everyday Life, Berkeley: University of California Press. Fiske, J. (1988) Understanding Popular Culture, Boston: Unwin Hyman. Frow, J. (1991) ‘Michel de Certeau and the practice of representation’, Post-Colonial Literature and Advanced Literary Theory: English Department Study Guide, St Lucia: University of Queensland. Volosinov, V.N. (1986) Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.



This paper had its immediate point of origin in the invitation to contribute to a lecture series on ‘Postcoloniality and California’ in the spring of 1991. Commonplace as the term ‘postcoloniality’ has rapidly become in literature, anthropology and Cultural Studies in recent times, the title begged a number of questions, about the notion of ‘postcoloniality’ and its efficacy, either in relation to California in particular, or to the United States in general. If the concept of ‘post-coloniality’ is spreading like brushfire through the terrain of cultural theory, what we propose by way of remedy is a carefully strategized ‘controlled burn’ approach that begins by posing the following questions. What does ‘postcoloniality’ mean, for whom does it resonate, and why? What are the risks and effects of too hastily globalizing the concept?1 In what senses, for example, are India, Britain or the United States ‘postcolonial’ locations? What are the multiple implications of ‘post-ness’ in relation to ‘colonialism’, in context, for example, of the persistence and current escalation of racism? We will argue that rigorous attention to that which neo-Gramscians and Althusserians call ‘conjuncture’, and some feminists describe as a ‘politics of location’, is critical to specifying both the limits and value of the term ‘postcolonial’. In this paper we sketch the beginnings of what we call a ‘feminist conjuncturalist’ approach to the issue of which spaces and subjects might be conceived as ‘postcolonial’, and in what senses such a description might hold.2 Notes on the term ‘postcolonial’, or what we think it means, anyway INDIA: ‘postcolonial’ implies independence from Britain; birth of the nation-state; end of territorial colonialism; inauguration of a path of economic development characterized by the growth of indigenous capitalism; neo-colonial relationship to the capitalist word; aid from socialist countries and horizontal assistance from other Third World countries nonaligned to either the First or Second World. BRITAIN: ‘postcolonial’ signals loss of most, though not all, former colonies—bear in mind Hong Kong, N. Ireland, the appearance on British landscapes of a significant number of people from the former colonies: ‘We are here because you were there.’ The transition from a society of predominantly white ethnic groups to one that is multiracial. The ‘Other’ no longer geographically distanced, but within, and over time significantly shaping landscape and culture. Samosas at the National Theatre café. Race riots.


USA: Here, the term ‘postcolonial’ sticks in our throats. White settler colony, multiracial society. Colonization of Native Americans, Africans imported as slaves, Mexicans incorporated by a border moving south, Asians imported and migrating to labor, white Europeans migrating to labor. US imperialist foreign policy brings new immigrants who are ‘here because the US was/is there’, among them Central Americans, Koreans, Filipinos, Vietnamese and Cambodians. The particular relation of past territorial domination and current racial composition that is discernible in Britain, and which lends a particular meaning to the term ‘postcolonial’, does not , we feel, obtain here. Other characterizations, other periodizations, seem necessary in naming for this place the shifts expressed by the term ‘postcolonial’ in the British and Indian cases: the serious calling into question of white/Western dominance by the groundswell of movements of resistance, and the emergence of struggles for collective self-determination most frequently articulated in nationalist terms. ‘Post-Civil Rights’ is a possible candidate for signalling this double articulation in the United States context. Let us emphasize at the outset that we use the term ‘post-Civil Rights’ broadly, to refer to the impact of struggles by African American, American Indian, La Raza and Asian American communities that stretched from the mid 1950s to the 1970s, movements which Michael Omi and Howard Winant have credited with collectively producing a ‘“great transformation” of racial awareness, racial meaning, racial subjectivity’ (1986:90).3 However, the name, ‘post-Civil Rights’; would only grasp one strand of our description of the US. The term would have to be conjugated with another, one that would name the experience of recent immigrants/refugees borne here on the trails of US imperialist adventures, groups whose stories are unfolding in a tense, complicated relation—at time compatible, at times contradictory—with post-Civil Rights USA. Post-what?! We are quite aware that the terms ‘postcolonial’ and ‘post-Civil Rights’ are, in important senses, incommensurable. First, ‘colonial’ refers to a system of domination while ‘Civil Rights’ designates collective struggle against a system or systems of domination. Strictly speaking, the analogous term to ‘post-Civil Rights’ would be ‘post-decolonization struggle’. Conversely, the term analogous to ‘postcolonial’ at its most literal would be ‘post-racist’. This in turn underscores the dangers of a literalist reading of the word ‘postcolonial’. It seems to us that placing the terms ‘postcolonial’ and ‘post-Civil Rights’ alongside one other immediately serves to clarify some of the temporal and conceptual ambiguities of the ‘post’ in both cases. From the vantage point of the US today, it draws attention to the unfinished nature of the processes designated by both terms. It undermines, specifically, the sense of completion often implied by the ‘post’ in ‘postcolonial’, and which, if political conservatives could have their way, would settle upon the ‘post’ in ‘post Civil Rights’. In doing so it helps to clarify that the ‘posts’ in both cases do not signal an ‘after’ but rather mark spaces of ongoing contestation enabled by decolonization struggles both globally and locally. Finally, ‘post-Civil Rights’ has not, to our knowledge, been used to name or claim identity. Questions of subject formation have


on the other hand been integral to a consideration of the ‘postcolonial’ (see, for example, Said, 1986; Bhabha, 1989; Harasym, 1990). Accordingly, in this paper we move between considering ‘postcolonial’ as periodization and axis of subjectivity. By contrast, ‘postCivil Rights’ is developed here as a form of periodization that we believe to be particularly helpful in coming to terms with the ideological and political landscape of the US today.4 Postcolonial(ity?): a state of being? Taking the word apart, with the help of the dictionary, we find that ‘post’, in the sense that it interests us here, means variously ‘after in time’, ‘later’, ‘following’, or ‘after in space’. Without the benefit of the dictionary, we take it that ‘colonization’, and ‘colonialism’ indicate a system of domination, in particular one involving geographical and/or racial distanciation between the rulers and the ruled, and one which, like all systems of domination, has interlinked political, economic and discursive dimensions. The suffix, ‘i-t-y’, in English ‘ity’, in French ‘ité’, in Latin ‘itas’ is said to mean ‘character’, ‘condition’ or ‘state’, with ‘state’ defined as ‘a set of circumstances or attributes characterizing a person or thing at a given time’, a ‘way or form of being’. This confirms the suffix, ‘ity’ in ‘postcoloniality’ as connoting a condition that is evenly developed rather than internally disparate, disarrayed or contradictory. Dictionary explorations, of course, mean little, in the sense that there is no collective unconscious, nor even a common Spellcheck and Thesaurus in the hard-drive, by means of which cultural critics continually confirm their intended meanings by reference to Webster’s. But it seems to us that this staged form of attention to both prefix and suffix dramatizes the crux of what is problematic in the concept of ‘postcoloniality’. The first problem lies with the ‘post’. ‘Post’ means ‘after in time’. But what happened during that time—presumably in this instance a time between ‘colonialism’, or ‘coloniality’, and now? In what senses are we now situated ‘after’ ‘coloniality’ in the sense of ‘coloniality’ being ‘over and done with’? What, about ‘the colonial’, is over, and for whom? This is not a rhetorical but a genuine question, for it seems to us that, in relation to colonialism, some things are over, others transformed, and still others apparently unreconstructed. What, by the way happened to ‘neo-colonialism’ in all of this talk of the colonial and the post? In short, what do we too hasily elide when we involve the ‘postcolonial’, especially as an ‘ity’, as a condition, state, way or form of being spread evenly over an area without specified borders or unevenness or contradiction? Autobiographical riff: Lata As things go, I qualify rather well for the appellation ‘postcolonial’. Born and raised in post-independence Bombay, singing the Indian national anthem in school assemblies, standing to it in movie theatres, submitting endless unsuccessful entries to essay competitions on the theme ‘India’s unity lies in her diversity’. In my youth the colonial period was just that—a demarcatable historical phenomenon. Its greatest significance, we learnt, lay in its incitement and provocation of a national liberation movement whose heroes we encountered, sometimes daily, as street names, as marble busts in school yards


or as statues presiding over busy intersections, home to pigeons and the poor. Yes, I think there is a way in which my sense of self, my subject position, if you will, takes shape within a ‘postcolonial’ context, one also constituted among other things by my gender, class and thoroughly urban upbringing. And yet there is something about the privileging of the concept of ‘postcoloniality’, the particular way in which it is globalized, either as a description of the world or of identity, that makes me exceedingly anxious. I think about Native American friends who rightly cringe at the suggestion that the Americas are ‘postcolonial’. I ponder the fact that Black and Chicano critics have in the main not rushed to embrace the term as adequate to their present condition. I wonder if it is significant that the theorists most associated with the term—Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak and Homi Bhabha are themselves first-generation diasporic intellectuals, displaced to the US and UK from an elsewhere that shaped them in fundamental ways. At this point in my musings, I recognize two strategies that I could adopt in pursuing the question further. I could explore the historico-intellectual and political biographies of Said, Spivak and Bhabha in relation to their theoretical production, tracing the disjunctions between their own formulation of the issues and the politics of their reception within the Western academy. Alternately, I could explore my disquiet about ‘postcoloniality’ in relation to stories that narrate my own experiences and those of others with whom I debate such things. Identity is neither continuous nor continuously interrupted but constantly framed between the simultaneous vectors of similarity, continuity and difference. (Hall, in Chabram and Fregoso, 1990:206) Stuart Hall’s formulation, which charts a path between an essentialist and a rigorously poststructuralist conception of identity, captures the complex and dynamic interplay of modes of Othering and racialization within and against which, for instance, my own sense of self and construction by others can be understood. INCIDENT 1

It is dark and pouring with rain and I curse, unprepared as I am for the downpour and for the fact that buildings on campus are locked at 5.00 p.m. for reasons of safety. I am keeping a colleague waiting and there is no phone nearby. I decide to knock on the window of the office closest to the entrance. The gentleman, white and in his mid forties, is on the phone and gestures impatiently for me to wait. Although he is less than a minute, it feels much longer and I hop from foot to foot in the vain hope of dodging the raindrops. Placing the receiver on the cradle, he comes to the door. Opening it a crack, he asks me irritatedly what it is that I want. Surprised that he needs an explanation, I ask to be let in, stating that I am to meet someone in the building and had forgotten that the doors were locked at 5.00 p.m. Refusing to open the door any further, he states flatly that he cannot let anyone in off the street, god knows what I might do. I stand there gaping at him, shocked and taken aback. INCIDENT 2


Later that same week I am hurrying to my car loaded down with books. I hope that luck is on my side and that some kindly soul will let me into the building that borders the parking lot, thereby saving me the trouble of walking all the way around it. I dare not assume too much given my experience earlier in the week. As I approach the door I notice a Filipina woman at work cleaning the corridor. She looks up at me, smiles, and without a word opens the door for me. Occuring as they did back to back, these incidents illustrated for me that which we otherwise experience in more undramatic ways: that identity is both relational and situated. Not having interviewed either the professor or the cleaning lady, I cannot claim to have their account of the incidents. My comments therefore are to be understood as my account of their constructions of me. In the first case my colleague refused to let me in, presumably concluding that I did not look like someone who had legitimate business in a university building at that time of the evening. I did not, I suppose, look like an authority figure. My clothes or books which could have signified either class or profession were clearly not sufficient clues as to who or what I might be. Race appears to have overriden class. In the latter incident, however, it took the Filipina worker less than 30 seconds to size me up. With similar visual clues and no request from me, she appears to have deemed it safe or appropriate to allow me to enter the building. Class appears to have determined her decision. These incidents clarified for me a general confusion I had been experiencing in my institutional life in the contrast between the warm response to me of people who explicitly knew what my business was at the university, and the wariness of those who did not, and whose suspicions required explanations or ID cards in order to be allayed. I should stress here that I am not singling out any particular institution as an especially reprehensible site of racism, but am drawing on some of my experiences to think through my inscription into racist as well as colonial and postcolonial discourses. My initial naïveté and surprise in response to such incidents as I have just described speaks to my own ‘postcolonial’ and class identity. Not having grown up as the Other of my society, I do not expect to be positioned as such. Indeed, this fundamental difference in life experience has led to my own sense of the importance of specifying the differences between those of us from the geographical Third World and those of us who came to adulthood as people of color in the West. Attention to such differences is crucial if we are not to falsely equalize groups with very different relations to the US power structure. We need to be wary of the possibility that university affirmative action or diversity agendas might be met by filling positions with people trained elsewhere, a strategy common in the business world, and one further enabled by the 1991 Immigration Act. In sum, as many have pointed out, the Other is not a homogeneous entity. Having said that, however, what has been instructive to me is the extent to which modes of racialization specific to the history of certain Others are available for extension to other Others. The best instance of this comes from a story of an Arab woman who was told by a prospective employer in the midst of job negotiations that ‘I will not haggle over your head.’ As she put it, she felt dumbstruck as the discourse of slavery, of the trade in human beings as property, re-emerged in context of the bargaining that is an integral part


of all hiring and is usually assumed to be a process that is at least nominally one among equals, not between master and slave. The eruption in unexpected places of elements of the discouse of slavery or of the Other as trespasser or potential thief does not in any way undo the specificities of our positionings, but does point to the necessity that any consideration of ‘postcolonial’ identity must necessarily engage the vectors of similarity, continuity and difference. For the ‘postcolonial’ we will argue, is no unifying moment. Not only are we positioned differently in relation to that which is called up by that term, but disjunction must be central to our understanding of it (for an analysis of contemporary culture that proposes the centrality of disjuncture see Appadurai, 1990). Autobiographical riff: Ruth Like Bombay, India, my home—Manchester, England—has a Victoria Station. Two ends of the same imperial line. My first twenty years were shaped both by British imperialism, and by the diasporas that sprang from its demise. Thus in my childhood in the late 1950s and 1960s, some of my toys, clothes and combs were marked ‘Empire Made’. Colonial encounters marked the English language: I used and still use words transformed from Hindi and other Indian languages—shampoo, dungarees, pyjamas, cushy. As a small girl my favorite bedtime stories were about Epaminondas, the ‘naughty picanniny’ who lived on a plantation, and who according to his mother, illustrated in the books as large, cheerful, wearing bright dresses, a white apron and headscarf, ‘didn’t have the sense he was borned with’. Among my dolls was a black, cuddly ‘Gollywog’, Sambo crossed with Teddy Bear. In one of my proudest moments, my sister and I marched down the aisle of our Unitarian Chapel dressed in feathered headdresses and fringed tunics made of old curtains and, beating out a rhythm on drums that my father had brought back from Kenya, sang to the assembled congregation something that claimed to be ‘The Huron Indian Christmas Carol’. It began, ‘Twas in the moon of wintertime/when all the birds had fled…’5 Postcolonial times brought imperialist nostalgia, crudely slapstick TV shows like Up the Jungle, It Ain’t ’Alf Hot, Mum and The Black and White Minstrel Show, in which white men went into blackface as South Asians and African Americans, and the more recent, more upscale Jewel in the Crown serial drama in the early eighties. For many white Britons, the Other was more palatable confined within the white imaginary than in person. During my teens, Enoch Powell made his infamous ‘rivers of blood’ speech, marshalling the white population’s fear and hatred of immigrants of color, as South Asians, transported to East Africa by the British at the height of Empire, were caught in the crossfire of Ugandan and Kenyan nationalism and came to the ‘mother country’. There, they found themselves joining African-Caribbeans in, among other things, selling bus tickets and emptying hospital bedpans. I remember newspaper articles about Indian and Pakistani ‘multi-occupied houses’, where new immigrant families would work, and sleep, in shifts. The moral of these stories was not, however, that the UK was less than hospitable to its new arrivals, but rather that South Asians were dirty and uncivilized. There were court cases, about whether turbans were or were not an


appropriate adjunct to a bus conductor’s uniform, an adequate substitute for a motorcyclist’s helmet. Raised left-wing, my first involvements as a student activist were with ‘Rock against Racism’ and the ‘Anti-Nazi League’, massive youth movements in response to an upswing of racist violence and electoral success by neo-Nazi parties around the country. Our chants of ‘Black and White, Unite and Fight!’ and ‘Never Again!’ scrambled together a ‘Just Say No!’ approach to racism with another ‘moment of glory’ in British popular memory —World War II and the fight against Hitler. This is, of course, a partial and idiosyncratic history. But my point here is that, in my own and, most likely, my white compatriots’ subject formation, a tangle of images and practices, colonial and ‘postcolonial’, from the relatively benign to the brutal, are jostling for position. This has several implications for the present re-examination of ‘postcoloniality’. First, it suggests that periodizing colonialism and its ‘posts’, is not a simple task. There is no evidence here of a smooth march-in-formation, such that, as the economics and politics of domination are transformed, the discursive aspects of colonization follow along and change from colonial to ‘postcolonial’ forms. The white subject, in short, remains enamoured of colonial imagery long after the heyday of direct rule, in ways that are both different and the same, changed, and not changed much at all. Second, it is in this context that colonial discourses can plausibly be hauled out apparently unchanged, and redeployed. Telling examples of this, so to speak, renewable energy source, were British and US descriptions of Saddam Hussein, his army and Arab people in general, during the recent period of military engagement with Iraq. Here, the rhetoric of colonialism and racism were so evident as to require few if any skills in cultural criticism. The British press, for example, referred to the Iraqi army as, amongst other things, ‘hordes’ and to the troops as ‘bastards of Baghdad’, ‘mad dogs’, ‘blindly obedient’, ‘ruthless’ and ‘fanatical’. Meanwhile, the British forces were ‘lionhearts’, ‘heroes’, ‘dare-devils’ and ‘young knights of the skies’ (Guardian Weekly, 3 Feb. 1991). In Bellevue, Washington, a Republican State Senator insisted on local radio that ‘there’s no such thing as a moderate Arab.’ And on National Public Radio, during the period of US bombing of Iraq, a white woman American ‘expert’ on the Arab world confidently described ‘the’ Arab psyche as fundamentally narcissistic and yet low in self-esteem. This tragic contradiction, she felt, explained both why Saddam Hussein had gone to war, and why future wars, future Saddam Husseins, were an inevitability for which the US and its allies must be prepared. In short, although the period of the build-up to armed conflict between the US-European Allied force and the Iraqi army was relatively brief, it provided ample time for a dramatic resurgence of elements of colonial discourse, premised for their form on notions of essential, ontological difference between the Other and the Western ‘self’ (extremist and irrational versus calm and rational, infantile narcissism versus maturity), and for their content on Orientalist categories (ruthlessness, fanaticism, Oriental despotism, etc. [Said, 1979]). Moreover, colonial discourses in the white imaginary are dispersed across space as well as time, evoking images from British colonization of India and Africa, as well as from the history of the United States as a settler, slave-owning colony. As in the incidents and events Lata Mani has described here, my own psyche and material experiences have been


and continue to be assailed both by my own country’s engagements with colonialism and those of others. All of this suggests that white, Western ‘postcolonial’ subjects are still interpellated by classical colonialism itself. Which raises a question—when does ‘colonial’ become ‘post’? And what, in this context, does ‘post’ mean? This kind of ‘bricolage’ cannot, we feel, be fully explained by reference to ‘postmodernity’ and thence by extension to the ‘postcolonial’. For even in the heyday of direct-rule colonization, colonial fiction, museum exhibits, travel accounts and even ‘discoveries’ at times shared this same disrespect for location and veracity (see, for example, Hulme, 1986; Pratt, 1985; Mullen, 1987; Grewal, 1990). Stuart Hall makes an observation about time and social transformation that is helpful here. Hall argues that history consists of processes with different timescales, all convened in the same conjuncture. Political time, the time of regimes and elections, is short: ‘A week is a long time in politics.’ Economic time, sociological time, so to speak, has a longer durée. Cultural time is even slower, more glacial. All human action has both its subjective and its objective side. (Hall, 1991:61) This observation certainly confirms one part of what I am claiming here about white subject formation and cultural context in Britain: both form and content continue to echo colonialism well after the decline, if not demise, of the British Empire. However, we would add some further observations to those of Hall, beginning by noting in passing that we take it that ‘culture’ here refers to structures of thinking, not to ‘style’—for style, as we know, changes rapidly. We would suggest that perhaps cultural time is paced differently according to one’s location in relation to systems of domination. Thus, the ‘afterlife’ of colonial discourse is very different for the colonizer and for the colonized. Finally, perhaps for each of us there are multiple time-pathways, variously paced, so that cultural change is simultaneously slow and fast, not just across communities, but within socially and historically positioned selves (for a fuller discussion of this point with respect to white American female subjectivity, see Ruth Frankenberg, 1993). Something ‘postcolonial’ is happening—but what, where and to whom? It is this notion of a political, economic and discursive shift, one that is decisive without being definitive, that we would like to argue regarding the term ‘postcolonial’. For it enables us to concede the shift effected by decolonization without claiming either a complete rupture in social, economic and political relations and forms of knowledge (an end to racial inequality, economic self-sufficiency for new nations, ‘the end of History’) or its opposite, admittedly argued by few, that the present is nothing more than a mere repetition of the past. The distinction between ‘decisive’ and ‘definitive’ seems to us important given the enabling status accorded to decolonization in discussions of the new ethnography,


contemporary cultural theory, the crisis in the Humanities, and more recently, in Robert Young’s important discussion of the emergence of poststructuralism (Young, 1990). While we are generally in sympathy both with the direction of such discussion and with the ethical impulses that motivate it, we are wary of certain tendencies within the debate (see also Mani, 1991). We would like to note two concerns in particular. Robert Young’s White Mythologies: Writing History and the West (1990) is a fine example of a project that embodies both the promises and some of the problems of the rethinking currently underway. Young makes a compelling argument for considering the impact of the Algerian War of Independence on French political and philosophical thought. However, his powerful critique of ethnocentrism is undermined by his general tendency to read anticolonial movements as primarily engaging the logic of Western philosophy. Thus it seems, at times, that a key object and achievement of the Algerian War of Independence was the overthrow of the Hegelian dialectic! An argument that a critique of colonial discourses is implicitly a critique of the West becomes in effect an argument that a critique of colonial discourses is primarily and fundamentally a critique of the West. In failing to specify and delimit its own project, White Mythologies ironically ends up universalizing and thus compromising its own critique. One is tempted to wonder whether we have merely taken a detour to return to the position of the Other as resource for rethinking the Western Self, only this time, it is not the Other as ‘ourselves undressed’ so much as ‘ourselves disassembled’.6 We would also urge a greater awareness than is sometimes evident in such debate that, despite the impact in certain quarters of the critique of specific textual practices and philosophical presumptions, elsewhere much remains the same—it’s business as usual. The integrity of the Subject may have been exposed as a ruse of bourgeois ideology by philosophers and cultural critics, but law, to take one powerful institution, still operates as though this were not the case. To cite only one example, the legitimacy of land-rights claims of indigenous or Fourth World peoples turns on ahistorical conceptions of culture and essentialist notions of identity. An American anthropologist, having recently discovered Benedict Anderson (1983), can unwittingly create complications for Maori land claims in arguing that Maori traditions are ‘invented’ (Hanson, 1990). The point here is not so much that anti-essentialist conceptions of identity are reactionary, as that, so long as other conceptions of identity have effectivity in the world, we necessarily need to engage them (Clifford, 1988; Legare, 1990). A position of abstract theoreticism that adjudicates between positions solely on the basis of ‘theoretical correctness’ seems to us to aggrandize theory, while failing to grasp the complex and contradictory workings of power/knowledge. Returning to our conception of the term ‘postcolonial’ then, we would like to accent the ambiguity of the ‘post’ in ‘postcolonial’ and underscore the twin processes that are evoked by it, namely colonization/decolonization. We would argue that ‘postcolonial’ marks a decisive, though not definitive shift that stages contemporary encounters between India and Britain and between white Britons and their non-white Others, though not always in the same way or to the same degree. Location is in many respects key in determining the importance of the ‘postcolonial’ as an axis staging cross-racial encounters. In Britain at least, it seems to us that the


‘postcolonial’ is an axis with effectivity. The memory and legacies of colonization/ decolonization form one axis through which social relations and subjectivities are shaped. The operation of the ‘post-colonial’ axis—of the memories and legacies of colonization/ decolonization—may be either explicit or implicit. When we argue that the axis of colonization/decolonization stages cross-racial encounters in Britain, we suggest that whether through negation, denial, affirmation, repression or evasion, the history condensed in the sentence ‘We are here because you were there’, is necessarily engaged. To say this is not to indicate anything about how this history of colonization/ decolonization is engaged. One need only point to the positions taken on Satanic Verses (Rushdie, 1989) by Salman Rushdie himself, the Bradford fundamentalists, the irate white conservatives, the confused and then outraged white liberals, and the feminist group Women Against Fundamentalism, to note something of the range of possible ways of negotiating this history (for a sense of the debate see Appignanesi and Maitland, 1989; Women Against Fundamentalism, 1989; Connelly, 1991; and for Rushdie’s shifting position, Rushdie, 1991:393–432). The example of Satanic Verses also serves to clarify another point. It is also not our claim that colonization/decolonization is the only axis with effectivity in the British context. For, obviously, positions on the Rushdie controversy were equally shaped by other axes, among them gender, race, religion, sexuality, political orientation. The ‘postcolonial’ as an axis of subject formation is constructed not simply in dialogue with dominant white society, but is an effect of engagement between particular subjects, white society, region of origin and region of religious and/or political affiliation, what Paul Gilroy (1990/91) describes as ‘the dialectics of diasporic identification’. Thus, many African or South Asian Muslims in Britain, would include in this matrix the home of their religion, the Middle East. Similarly, the films of Isaac Julien and the Black film collective Sankofa, for instance, Passion of Remembrance and Looking for Langston, are transatlantic meditations on African-Caribbean political and sexual identity. The struggle of African Americans in the USA becomes a political resource for forging imagined diasporic communities. The engagement of colonization/decolonization thus has transnational dimensions, its local expressions multiply inflected by regional and global affinities and considerations, in turn crosscut by class, race, gender, sexuality, etc. Not all places in this transnational circuit are, however, similarly ‘postcolonial’. The active, subjective, inescapable, everyday engagement with the legacies of colonization/ decolonization that is part of the British matrix for reggae, bhangra rap, Hanif Kureshi’s screenplays, or Homi Bhabha’s conception of ‘hybridity’ (Bhabha, 1985), are not the terms of theoretical, artistic or political endeavors in India. As noted earlier and argued more fully elsewhere (Mani, 1990), in India it is the nation state and its failure to represent anything other than narrow sectional interests that provides grist for the mill of politics and theory. We are not claiming here that India is not ‘postcolonial’, that would be an absurd proposition; rather that it is not ‘postcolonial’ in the same way. The hand of the past in the shape of the present is multiply refracted such that the term ‘postcolonial’ fails to grasp the ways in which people are driven to apprehend the world and their relation to it.


Meanwhile back at the ranch in the good old USA We suggested at the very beginning of this paper that ‘post-Civil Rights’ may be to the USA what ‘postcolonial’ is to Britain: a name for a decisive though hardly definitive shift that implicitly or explicitly structures, whether through affirmation, negation, denial, repression or evasion, relations between the races in this country. We use the term ‘Civil Rights’ here to signal a range of struggles including those against segregation, for voting rights and political representation, for institutional and economic equality, as well as the cultural renaissance and cultural nationalisms of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Like ‘postcolonial’, ‘post-Civil Rights’ retains the ambiguity, perhaps more immediately telling given this is our back yard, of the ‘post’ in relation to Civil Rights: the way it simultaneously signals both the fight against entrenched institutional and cultural racism, and the need for continued struggles for racial equality. Whether one is left or right on the political spectrum, for or against affirmative action, for or against an ethnic studies requirement, it seems to us that we all necessarily do battle on a discursive and political terrain that is distinctly ‘post-Civil Rights’. This was abundantly evident in the debates surrounding the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court and the challenge to it presented by Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment. Indeed, the concerted effort over the last decade by the Reagen and Bush administrations to dismantle the gains of the Civil Rights movement is testimony to the shifts effected by it and to the power of the term to signify both the history of colonial and racist domination and collective resistance to it. The history of 1950s and 1960s civil rights movements is, however, the narrative of the domination and resistance of established communities of color in this country: the original Native Americans, African Americans, Latino/Chicanos, Asian Americans. To this we must add the tales of recent immigrants/refugees, who rather more like Asians and AfricanCaribbeans in Britain represent the return of the repressed on the borders of the imperialist center. They also negotiate a ‘post-Civil Rights’ US landscape. Their travel to the US has been occasioned by a history related to, but distinct from, that of people of color already here. Their historical experiences stretch existing categories—‘Hispanic’, ‘Asian’—inflecting them with new meanings. Relations between recent immigrants/ refugees and those already here, whether whites or people of color, are constituted through discourses that draw heavily on colonial and racist rhetoric both in form and content. Such mutual ignorance and parochialism in context of economic depression and state supported nativism can be, and has been, explosive. Nothing but the most complex and historically specific conceptions of identity and subjectivity can sufficiently grasp the present situation and articulate a politics adequate to it. Multiple axes, conjunctures, and politics of location Thus far in this paper, we have attempted to situate the term ‘postcolonial’ in time and space, pointing to differences in its effectivity in a range of contexts. In this final section of the paper, we wish to take our argument a step further, suggesting that it is also necessary to view colonial/postcolonial relations as co-constructed with other axes of domination


and resistance—that the ‘postcolonial’ is in effect a construct internally differentiated by its intersections with other unfolding relations. We propose here the value of what we will term a ‘feminist conjuncturalist’ approach, drawing tools and inspiration from both Marxist cultural criticism and US Third World feminism (for one definition of the latter see Sandoval, 1991:18, note 3). We believe such a framework serves well our goal of benefiting from the analytical space opened up by the term ‘postcolonial’ while avoiding the dangers of failing to delimit it. It enables us to argue that at given moments and locations, the axis of colonization/decolonization might be the most salient one, at other times, not so. In the past two decades, there has been underway in feminism, a process of decentering the white/Western subject (whether male or female) which has been at times similar to, enabling of, and indebted to, but most often separate from, the projects of poststructuralist and ‘postcolonial’ cultural criticism. Since the late 1960s, US women of color, frequently speaking simultaneously from ‘within and against’ both women’s liberation and anti-racist movements, have insisted upon the need to analyse and challenge systems of domination, and concomitant constructions of subjecthood, not singly, but multiply.7 More recently and following their lead, US white feminists have made parallel arguments. From the inception of second-wave feminism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Black women activists like Francis Beale, Toni Cade, Florynce Kennedy and later the Combahee River Collective argued that race and gender domination (and in Combahee’s case, class and sexuality also) were inseparably involved in their experience of subordination (Beale, 1970; Cade, 1970a; Kennedy, 1970; Combahee, 1979). And as Norma Alarcon argues in her 1990 essay on the 1981 anthology This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color: As speaking subjects of a new discursive formation, many of Bridge’s writers were aware of the displacement of their subjectivity across a multiplicity of discourses: feminist/lesbian, nationalist, racial, socio-economic, historical, etc. The peculiarity of their displacement implies a multiplicity of positions from which they are driven to grasp or understand themselves and their relations with the ‘real’ in the Althusserian sense of the word (356). Parallel with Alarcon, and exemplifying for our purposes the move by some white feminist critics to follow the analytical direction proposed by US Third World feminisms, Teresa de Lauretis writes: What is emerging in feminist writings is […] the concept of multiple, shifting, and often self-contradictory identity […] an identity made up of heterogeneous and heteronomous representations of gender, race, and class, and often indeed across languages and cultures; an identity that one decides to reclaim from a history of multiple assimilations, and that one insists on as a strategy (1986:8).


What is significant to us here is the emphasis, within feminist theorizing, on the complexity of effective links between intersecting axes of domination, and the concomitant complexity of subjectivity and political agency. Moreover, as de Lauretis adds, axes of domination and of representation at times clash or contradict, while at other times they may be mutually supporting or mutually irrelevant. Each axis involves the unfolding of both material and discursive relations. To this list we would add that this unfolding, this displacement of subjectivities is ‘variously and contradictorily paced’. For we have argued that the discursive legacy of ‘colonization/decolonization’ is radically nondiachronic. We have also indicated the interplay of different axes of domination/ resistance and history, as for instance when US race and class relations, and Indian ‘postcolonial’ relations, may hail the same subject in mutually contradictory or supportive ways. Although not the direction or intent of any of the feminists named and quoted above, it should be recognized that notions of ‘multiplicity’ have at times led critics down the very problematic path of what one might call ‘neo-relativism’, such that it is sometimes argued that ‘we’ are all decentered, multiple, ‘minor’ or ‘mestiza’ in exactly comparable ways. It becomes critical, then, to maintain a sharp analysis of the relationship between subjectivity and power, subjectivity and specific relations of domination and subordination. In this regard, some feminist theorists have argued for attention to the ‘politics of location’, to ‘the historical, geo-graphic, cultural, psychic and imaginative boundaries which provide the ground for political definition and self-definition. […] [L] ocation forces and enables specific modes of reading and knowing the dominant’ (Mohanty, 1987:31;42) However, these problems do in a sense arise out of the current state of feminist theorization of subjectivity and systems of domination. For feminist theory—by no means a unified terrain—has vacillated over how to analyse the relationships between the multiple axes of oppression that it names. Thus, feminism seems to comprise at least four tendencies. First we can distinguish a white feminist ‘rearguard’ that continues to argue for the primacy of gender domination, as well as a second, so to speak, ‘neo-rearguard’ tendency, again especially by white feminists, to reabsorb notions of multiply determined subjectivity under the single ‘mistress narrative’ of gender domination. Thirdly, other theorists and activists, frequently but not exclusively women of color, responding both to the prioritization of gender in ‘hegemonic’ feminism, and to the pervasive sexism and/or heterosexism and/or racism of other movements, insist on the ‘simultaneity’ of the workings of axes of domination (Combahee, 1979; Zavella, 1988). This insistence on a non-hierarchical analysis of how oppression works was born of political practice and has been critical to coalition building. It is, in fact, articulated in response to prior elisions and erasures in analyses of subject and social formation, whether in feminism, La Raza, Black Power, the Marxist left, or elsewhere. There is finally a fourth tendency which is in fact an outgrowth of the third. This builds on and further complicates the ideas of ‘simultaneity’ and ‘multiplicity’ to examine how oppression may be experienced in specifiably complex and shifting relationships to different axes of domination (Moraga and Anzaldua, 1981; Sandoval, 1991). Lest this four-part map be taken to describe a straightforward diachronic unfolding, it is important to point out that, in fact, the editors


and contributors to This Bridge Called My Back, the 1981 anthology to which Alarcon’s article refers, were already practitioners of the fourth tendency, that of complex, multiply engaged yet locally focused analyses. Building complex analyses, avoiding erasure, specifying location: feminist analysts of this kind share a great deal, some consciously and others not, with ‘postmodern conjuncturalism’ as described by Lawrence Grossberg in his avowedly partial intellectual history of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies during Stuart Hall’s tenure as Director. We find postmodern conjuncturalism helpful to our current project for, like the feminist developments just noted, it firmly centers the analysis of subject formation and cultural practice within matrices of domination and subordination. Moreover, it does so in a way that neither conceives domination in single-axis terms (‘Even at their most concrete, relations of power are always multiple and contradictory’) nor falsely equalizes the effects of these relations on subjects: A conjunctural theory of power is not claiming […] that all such relations of power are equal, equally determining, or equally liveable; these are questions that depend on the analysis of the specific, concrete conjuncture. (Grossberg, 1989:138) Also key for our purposes, postmodern conjuncturalism asserts that there is an effective but not determining relationship between subjects and their histories, a relationship that is complex, shifting and yet not ‘free’. The concept of articulation links subjects and structures dynamically, such that practices, meanings and identities ‘are forged by people operating within the limits of their real conditions and the historically articulated “tendential lines of force”’(136) This framework intersects with feminist appropriations of Althusser, such as de Lauretis’s insistence on ‘an identity that one decides to reclaim’, (emphasis ours) and, stating even more succinctly the dialectic of agency and context, Alarcon’s conceptualization of subjects ‘driven to grasp’ their subject positions across a shifting, though not randomly shifting, field. The concept of articulation within postmodern conjuncturalism foregrounds the production of contexts, the ongoing effort by which particular practices are removed from and inserted into different structures of relationships, the construction of one set of relationships out of another, the continuous struggle to reposition practices within a shifting field of forces (137). This brings us full circle to one of our arguments about the term ‘postcolonial’. For we have noted the complex temporal and spatial repositioning and recombining of practices and signifiers from the histories of racism and colonization, in the construction of contexts and identities in the USA and Britain. We have emphasized the ways practices may be given new meanings, and create ‘new subjects’, in different locations. Finally, postmodern conjuncturalism’s call for attention to the ‘tendential lines of force’, its insistence that the meanings and effectivity of particular practices and relations of power are dependent on historical moment and locale, underscores our other central


argument about the term ‘post-colonial’. For we have argued that the concept must be carefully specified, used to describe moments, social formations, subject positions and practices which arise out of an unfolding axis of colonization/decolonization, interwoven with the unfolding of other axes, in uneven, unequal relations with one another. The affinities between US feminist developments we have described and a conjuncturalist approach to Cultural Studies are all the more interesting once one notes the context in which the latter came into being. For, in fact, the theoretical appropriations of Althusser and Gramsci we draw on here, like US Third World feminism, were not developed as part of an abstract ‘race for theory’. Rather, they were generated out of the endeavor of a group of scholar-critic-activists (including amongst others, Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy) to analyse racial domination and resistance in 1970s Britain—a Britain in which, to adapt the title of a book published by Birmingham Centre scholars in 1982, ‘the Empire struck back’ (Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, 1982). In short, British conjuncturalist analysis emerges from and speaks to a postcolonial Britain, just as US Third World feminism develops out of and addresses a post-Civil Rights USA. What we have attempted in this paper is to sketch in outline a feminist conjuncturalist reading of the term, ‘postcolonial’ in three locations—India, Britain and the USA. We wish to emphasize once again that we have not undertaken here a general reading of the ‘postcolonial’ that is applicable to all places at all times. Not only are we inadequately placed to undertake such a task, but we would argue against the idea that there is such a thing as ‘the’ ‘postcolonial’ in any simple sense. This does not mean, however, that we are against theorizing the term, nor that it is without utility. Rather, as we have said, we would argue that the notion of the ‘postcolonial’ is best understood in context of a rigorous politics of location, of a rigorous conjuncturalism. There are, then, moments and spaces in which subjects are ‘driven to grasp’ their positioning and subjecthood as ‘postcolonial’; yet there are other contexts in which, to use the term as the organizing principle of one’s analysis, is precisely to ‘fail to grasp the specificity’ of the location or the moment. Notes We would like to thank Chetan Bhatt, Avtar Brah, Rosa Linda Fregoso, Lisa Lowe, Ted Swedenburg and Kamala Visweswaran for their comments on earlier incarnations of this paper. 1 In his analysis of artistic and literary production in Sub-Saharan Africa and the reception of the former in the US, Kwame Anthony Appiah (1991) makes a persuasive argument about the importance of circumscribing the postcolonial and specifying its relation to postmodernism. 2 We note with pleasure the publication of Social Text 31/32 on questions of the postcolonial, which appeared whilst our article was under review. Many of the concerns authors raise there intersect with our own. On questions about the efficacy of the term postcolonial see especially McClintock and Shohat.


3 Omi and Winant state that the phrase ‘great transformation’ is taken from Karl Polyani, and is deployed by them to indicate the epochal nature of the transformation under consideration in their text (1986:172, note 2). 4 The terms ‘postcolonial’ and ‘post-Civil Rights’ as we use them, are periodizations that name the initiation of particular struggles. These struggles were, of course, to develop in heterogeneous directions, for example, socialism and bougeois nationalism in the case of India, cultural nationalism and revolutionary race-class struggle in the example of the US. 5 ‘Twas in the moon of wintertime/When all the birds had fled/That mighty Gitcheemanitou/ Sent angel choirs instead/Before their light the stars grew dim/And wandering hunters heard the hymn/“Jesus, your king is born/Jesus is born/In excelsis gloria.”’ Huron Christmas Carol. 6 We refer here to Michele Rosaldo’s (1980) essay, ‘The use and abuse of anthropology: reflections on feminism and cross cultural understanding’. In it Rosaldo argues that 1970s feminist anthropologists frequently viewed their studies of the status of women in ‘non western’ societies as occasions to examine themselves ‘undressed’, that is, to analyse world cultures in explicitly or implicitly evolutionary terms. 7 Parallel debates have also gone on in Britain. See the journals Spare Rib and Outwrite, and also Amos et al, 1984; Bhavnani and Coulson, 1986; Grewal et al, 1988.

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Morgan, Robin (1970) editor, Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Women’s Liberation Movement, New York: Vintage. Mullen, Harryette (1987) ‘The psychoanalysis of Little Black Sambo’, Santa Cruz, California: Occasional Papers, Group for the Critical Study of Colonial Discourse, University of California at Santa Cruz. Omi, Michael and Winant, Howard (1986) Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1980s, New York: Routledge. Outwrite. Pratt, Mary Louise (1985) ‘Scratches on the face of the country; or what Mr Barrows saw in the land of the Bushmen’, Critical Inquiry, Special Issue on ‘Race’ Writing and Difference Autumn, 12:1, 119–43. Rosaldo, Michele (1980) ‘The use and abuse of anthropology: reflections on feminism and cross cultural understanding’, Signs, 5, 3, 389–417. Rushdie, Salman (1989) Satanic Verses. New York: Viking. ——(1991) Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1982–1991, London: Viking. Said, Edward (1979) Orientalism, New York: Vintage. ——(1986) ‘Intellectuals in the post-colonial world’, Salmagundi 70–1,45–64. Sandoval, Chela (1991) ‘U.S. Third World feminism: the theory and method of oppositional consciousness in the postmodern world’, Genders 10, May, 1–24. Shohat, Ella (1992) ‘Notes on the postcolonial’ Social Text 31/32 Spring, 99–113. Spare Rib. Women Against Fundamentalism (1989) Press Statement, 9 March 1989, Feminist Review 33,Winter, 110. Young, Robert (1990) White Mythologies: Writing History and the West, New York: Routledge. Zavella, Patricia (1988) ‘The problematic relationship of feminism and Chicana Studies’, Women’s Studies 17,123–34.


For as long as there have been lesbians and gay men, representations of the past have played important roles in our daily survival, our collective imaginations, and in defining our politics; in particular, we have sought to make connections between our contemporary experiences and the lives of historical figures. Yet this impulse to claim specific individuals as part of a lesbian and gay tradition raises a number of difficulties related to reconstructions of history. Not the least of these difficulties has been one of the staple and important claims of much, but by no means all, of the recent sociological, historiographical and cultural analyses of lesbian and gay identities; according to this argument, lesbian and gay studies’ very object of study, its place of inquiry, is an historically new social phenomenon with a wide range of emergent and contradictory political and cultural practices. The medical, juridical and political discourses on homosexuality whose form was unprecedented before the late nineteenth century also gave rise, as Michel Foucault argues in what has become the classic statement of this position, to a ‘“reverse” discourse’ in which ‘homosexuality began to speak on its own behalf, to demand that its legitimacy or “naturality” be acknowledged’ (Foucault, 1978: 101). Collectively, this scholarship has exposed, in John D’Emilio’s words, ‘the tensions between gay politics and history’ (1984). By revealing the contingent nature of ‘gay identity’, the very project of lesbian and gay historical research has undermined the epistemological foundations for lesbian and gay social movements’ persistent political claims to an identity that has been ‘hidden from history’ (Duberman, Vicinus and Chauncey, Jr., 1989). Yet even if we hold in abeyance the poststructuralist insistence that lesbian and gay identities are historically brief and geographically localized phenomena, the efforts toward identifying lesbian and gay people from the past frequently depend on scanty and often spurious evidence. This seems to be the case with the speculation about whether Langston Hughes was gay or bisexual as well, a question which persists over twenty years after his death. Because of the rather minimal and indeed equivocal nature of the ‘evidence’ surrounding the issue, the persistence of this concern is rather telling. The issue here, however, seems to be not so much Hughes’s own sexual desire as it is the enactment of different, and perhaps incompatible, political and cultural possibilities by (near) contemporary social actors. If the questions surrounding Hughes’s ostensible sexuality are reframed in this way, we might be better suited to address the different interests at stake in the various replies to this question. While we need to wonder whose curiosity would


be satisfied with a ‘true’ answer or an uncontradicted disclosure on Hughes’s part, we cannot regard any answer to this question outside of the historically shifting context of what Michael Warner has called ‘reprosexuality—the interweaving of heterosexuality, biological reproduction, cultural reproduction, and personal identity’ (1991:9). Indeed, as I’ll go on to show, the normative regulatory practices of ‘reprosexuality’ inform two recent critical analyses of Hughes’s life which have taken up the issue of Hughes’s sexuality. An earlier version of this paper bore the subtitle ‘Whose Hughes, who’s Hughes?’ as a way of calling attention to those sorts of questions which are central to the creation of cultural meaning in the midst of an historically informed political movement. Now, in contrast with the epistemological grounding of the biographers’ claims about Hughes’s sexuality, however, the political stakes of gay activists in naming/claiming someone as ‘one of us’ suggest rather more complex and demanding issues, for they make powerful interventions into the heterosexualization of history. Yet, in spite of the (apparent) urgency of identifying queers from the past, the political effectiveness of these sorts of claims is suspect precisely because they understand identity, history and sexual politics in static terms, often severing them from radically different gender, racial and national contexts. In the case of Langston Hughes, the statement of a final, determinate ‘answer’ to the ‘question’ of his sexuality would still not enable a consideration of how, having assumed a life of their own, various representations of his life animate the present. By way of commencing this discussion of Hughes, biography and queer-(ed) history, I need to make a general observation in anticipation of the argument that follows. Though much of the most important work in lesbian and gay history has been done by communitybased scholars working outside of the academy, the highly rule-governed discipline of academic history has played a central and vital role within the still-emergent field of lesbian and gay studies. At the same time, however, professional historiography—what gets called ‘history proper’—has aggressively attempted to displace important ‘alternative’ or ‘popular’ modes of individual and collective memory—once again, often doing so for reasons of (apparent) political efficacy. A symptomatic as well as constitutive example of this move can be found in John D’Emilio’s ‘Capitalism and gay identity’ in which he calls for ‘a new, more accurate theory of gay history’ to replace the invented mythologies inherited from the early years of lesbian and gay liberation movements in order for us ‘to preserve our gains and move ahead’ (D’Emilio, 1983a: 101). Yet, neither does this notion of accuracy recognize the disciplinary constraints and ideological commitments imposed by a properly historical representation’s claim to the reality of the past, nor does it address the glaring lack of racial and gender specificity in both the historical and the theoretical accounts of gay identity formation. Elsewhere I have used the term ‘the lesbian and gay historical imagination’ (regrettably in the singular) to articulate an open-ended approach to understanding the broad project of lesbian and gay historical self-representations (Bravmann, 1990a). I have been using this term in order to begin the project of a cultural critique of queer historical fictions. This larger project, as I am constructing it, is partially grounded in what Linda Hutcheon has called the postmodern confrontation with ‘the paradoxes fictive/historical representation, the particular/the general, and the present/ the past’ (Hutcheon, 1988:106). But, as


Hutcheon maintains, this ‘post-modernist stand…is itself contradictory’: ‘it refuses to recuperate or dissolve either side of the dichotomy, yet it is more than willing to exploit both’ (106). In this sense, then, while queer history might have as its focus those sexual practices which fall outside of or resist the normative domain of reprosexuality, queered history takes issue with historiography itself, upsetting the ‘truth’ of its codes of representation. Finally, while a cultural critique of reclamations of the lesbian and gay past is substantially new to lesbian and gay studies, such an investigation is not altogether without important precedent. In her exemplary examination of Audre Lorde’s writings and ‘the lesbian bar as a site of literary production’ which begins to interrogate ‘the resources and materials out of which all our histories are made’, Katie King has made suggestive use of Lorde’s neologism ‘biomythography’ to ‘name a variety of generic strategies in the construction of gay and lesbian identity in the USA’ (1988:321,331; see Lorde, 1983). In a lengthy list, King indicates the scope and depth of these works. These generic strategies of the biomythography of lesbian and gay history include historical monograph and book, polemical critique, film and video and slide show, oral history, review essay, introspective analysis, academic/polemical anthology, novel and poem and short story, and undoubtedly others as well. (King, 1988:331) The avenue of inquiry suggested by King’s appropriation of ‘some of the strategies of academic close reading in order to…empower Lorde’s texts’ (1988:322) points toward a place from which to rethink the effects or productivity of history (as past events, inherited social praxis, and representation) in lesbian and gay political practice, in queer studies, and in the always already problematic division between theory and practice. By referring back to Lorde’s biomythography and other writings and by historicizing historical representations of race, gender and class specificity in ‘the production of historical memory and literary identity for feminist and gay movements’ (1988:322), King speaks directly to several themes in the writing of the past which can be discerned in Isaac Julien’s film Looking for Langston: A Meditation (1989) as well. The many concerns addressed by Looking for Langston remain, to this mind at any rate, the most pressing in the emerging field of lesbian and gay studies: the ones that have to do with popular memory, social experience and cultural practice and how these are defined by concrete historical circumstances ‘within’ sexuality such as race, gender and class but also the ‘more abstract’ yet not unrelated questions of ideology and the structuring of knowledge—that is, the ways in which these multiple realities are constructed, represented, evaluated and circulated among us. To set one of the contexts within which—or, rather, against which—Julien’s remarkable reinvention of Langston Hughes must be understood, I need to refer at some length to the two major biographies of Hughes which have appeared in the last decade and which Julien consulted in his research for the film (Hemphill, 1989:14). Both of these texts, Faith Berry’s Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem (1983) and Arnold Rampersad’s more recent two-volume study The Life of Langston Hughes (1986,1988), devote several scattered pages to considerations of Hughes’s sexuality. Although brief, these discussions are fuller


and more candid than that Hughes himself offered in The Big Sea (1940 [1986]) and I Wonder as I Wander (1956 [1986]), the two published volumes of his autobiography. Rather than review Berry’s and Rampersad’s accounts in depth, however, I want to focus on their complicity with hegemonic constructions of sexuality. In different ways, each of these biographical texts, though failing to ‘answer’ the ‘question’ of Hughes’s homosexuality, authorizes and reproduces the homophobic and heterosexist ideology of ‘reprosexuality’. The most recent biography of Hughes, Arnold Rampersad’s two-volume study, offers a relatively extensive interrogation of these rumors. This investigation goes full circle, however, ultimately arguing that there is no conclusive evidence regarding Hughes’s sexuality. In spite of this seeming failure to answer the question, several aspects of Rampersad’s discussion are none the less important, for they betray an allegiance to the categories of the dominant paradigm of sexuality which has informed these sorts of inquiries. Precisely because it reinscribes the normative link between heterosexuality, identity, and (cultural) reproduction under the guise for a quest for the true nature of Hughes’s sexuality, Rampersad’s biography demands careful consideration. While undoubtedly unintentionally, Rampersad ironically reiterates the cultural ‘will to know’ that Michel Foucault (1978) has located as the fundamental dictate within ‘the history of sexuality’, concluding that ‘[t]he truth about Hughes’s sexuality will probably never be discovered’ (Rampersad, 1988:336). Yet Rampersad’s discussion reveals not only a feeling of regret or dissatisfaction that the ‘truth’ about Hughes’s sexuality must remain a mystery but also a certain pop-Freudian condescension toward what he regards as Hughes’s sexual ‘immaturity’. This latter attitude, a homophobic legacy of certain psychoanalytic anxieties toward sexual non-conformity, maintains a pronounced presence in Rampersad’s text. These notions of an essential truth and the telos of maturity, however, are deeply interconnected in hegemonic conceptions of sexuality. Rampersad notes that, after a severe illness and physical collapse at the age of eighteen, Hughes ‘had begun a reconstitution of the self too long delayed.’ This delay—during which Hughes ‘lived in a state of suspended identity’—had trapped him in a childlike sense of wonder and innocence. Since ‘he had allowed himself to be a child too long’, Hughes would remain, ‘to an extraordinary though not always clearly identifiable extent, a child.’ Fully oblivious to his construction of Hughes as a child, Rampersad offers a homophobic gloss on the significance of a prolonged childhood. He concludes that Hughes would continue to possess ‘in an unusually protracted form, certain adult disabilities associated with childhood—sexual reticence, an anxiety to please, a constant need for approval and reinforcement’ (Rampersad, 1986:35, emphasis added). Although he displays a stunning discomfort with the possibility of Hughes’s homosexuality, Rampersad tries to redeem (reluctantly) at least part of the poet’s work. ‘Even if his sexuality remains ambiguous or androgynous,’ Rampersad writes, ‘Hughes as a poetic persona is capable of achieving adulthood in certain moments of poetic creation, when momentarily he assumes full command of his ego’ (1986:45, emphasis added). Now, I don’t want to offer such instances of Rampersad’s ease in adopting a pop-Freudian posture as a way of dismissing his work in its entirety, for as a major biographer of Hughes, his interpretations matter. It is clear, in any event, that Rampersad remains convinced that ‘delayed maturation can be consistent with homosexual feelings.’ For him,


however, the anomalous feature is actually not the possibility of homosexual desire, but rather a ‘psycho-sexual complication of a kind far more rare than homosexuality’ (1986: 46). That Hughes might have been ‘asexual’ provokes even more dis-ease in Rampersad than the apparently prosaic perversion of homosexuality. Echoing his previous claim, Rampersad contends in a later passage that ‘[Hughes] governed his sexual desires to an extent rare in a normal adult male; whether his appetite was normal and adult is impossible to say’ (1986:69, emphasis added). In the second volume, Rampersad’s psychologizing resurfaces in a crucial comment that closely links Hughes’s sexual desire and political commitments. Indeed, [Hughes] never explicitly repudiated the left. Instead, as in the case of his sexuality, he had allowed the expression of his radical political zeal to wither, to atrophy, to evaporate. And yet he could no more genuinely kill his political indignation than he altogether could destroy his sexual drive. Both became sublimated into work and more work. (Rampersad, 1988:220) Trapped in the dominant discourse of Western sexual mythologies that imagine sexuality as a fluid, repressible and developmentally staged quantity, Rampersad cannot conceive of an alternative reading of Hughes’s sexuality. Further, however, Rampersad’s reductionist theory of sublimation demands from ‘mature’ men not only a certain kind of active sexual expression but also a parallel mode of politics, one that would at least ultimately repudiate the left. As Rampersad describes it, Hughes’s political indignation is a ‘red-hot’ ‘magma’ which remained ‘below the placid surface’ (1988:220). Within Rampersad’s frame, this metaphor could just as easily be used to describe the apparent impotence, dissatisfaction, and immaturity of a sexually frustrated man who has endured the same kind of public humiliation that, as Rampersad would have it, characterized Hughes’s feelings after his appearance before the Senate Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations during the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s.2 It is, however, emphatically not my intention to suggest that this is a situation peculiar to Rampersad alone. Rather, I think Rampersad’s confusion and striking homophobia are symptomatic of a more general cultural priority. This hegemonic frame, while partly referenced by Warner’s notion of reprosexuality, is in fact more fully characterized by a general belief that sexuality harbors, in Foucault’s words (1978:69), ‘a fundamental secret’ concerning ‘the deeply buried truth…about ourselves.’ This widely shared cultural grid—complete with its own terminology, analytic devices, hierarchical orderings, and technologies of social control—allows us to say, along with Rampersad, that the ‘truth’ about Hughes is that he might very well not have been gay. Yet, the impulse to locate Hughes’s ‘real’ sexual identity obscures the manner in which this very identification process discursively constructs Hughes’s sexuality. Indeed, the formulation of the question itself suggests that there are real, historically unchanging, prediscursive sexual types existing objectively outside of human invention which the biographer or historian simply identifies. Rampersad argues that Hughes resisted being labelled a homosexual, a claim that is consistent with Hughes’s autobiographical volumes. In the context of reprosexuality,


however, it is a much more interesting point that Hughes resisted identification as a heterosexual as well. Yet, although this resistance is quite provocative, it remains unremarked throughout Rampersad’s analysis. At the end of the longest uninterrupted discussion of sexuality in his study, Rampersad suggests that: In his lifetime, [Hughes] was never called upon to assert or deny that he was a homosexual, but it is clear—whatever the truth—he did not want to be considered gay. Whether this attitude derived from a personal aversion to homosexuality, or only from shame or fear, is impossible to say. (1988:337, emphasis added) This point by itself is, perhaps, unnoteworthy, but given Hughes’s ‘position as the most admired and beloved poet of his race’ it takes on a new urgency. As Rampersad states it, ‘[t]hat position, which [Hughes] saw as a moral trust, and which intimately connected his deepest emotional needs to his function as an artist, may have meant too much for him to risk illicit sex’ (1988:336). But note that the label Hughes would have had to adopt was homosexual. Rampersad deems it unnecessary for Hughes to identify as heterosexual, for it is an axiom of heterosexism that one is by ‘default’ heterosexual unless claimed or proven otherwise. Additionally, Rampersad equates ‘being gay’ with ‘having—or risking —illicit sex’. In spite of what it ultimately might say about his own desire, that Hughes would so deeply sense the urgency of self-denial contrasts markedly with the political critique he offered in his work. In his essays, stories and poetry, Hughes adamantly resisted the denial of racial and cultural differences which takes the form of ethnocentric co-optation, conformist assimilation strategies, and classist arguments for racial uplift. Throughout his life and work, Hughes maintained a critical attitude toward those black artists who would efface ‘low’ culture by striving to produce ‘high’ culture (see Hughes, 1959a, 1959b). Though insistent that, like Walt Whitman before him, ‘[he], too, sing[s] America’ (1959c: 275), Hughes envisioned a radical heterogeneity within that America which is lacking in Whitman’s poetry. By stressing racial themes in his work, Hughes spoke against what he referred to as ‘this urge within the [black] race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible’ (1973:526). Of course, black as well as white audiences and publishers might have dismissed his work had he identified himself as homosexual or explored homoerotic themes more overtly. Further, Rampersad’s hypothesis raises the specter of Hughes’s own internalized sexual self-hatred. If, for a moment, we suppose with Rampersad that Hughes might have privately identified as homosexual, his failure to disclose his desire might well mark a partial submission (through silence) to the dominant sexual order and a participatory role in the (re)production of a raced, classed and gendered compulsory heterosexuality. A presumably well-intentioned reader of an earlier version of this paper in which I offered a fuller reading of Rampersad’s homophobic text referred me to Faith Berry’s (1983) book as one that ‘deals more directly and fairly with Hughes’s sexuality’, a


statement which presumably means that Berry accepts (rather uncritically) the claim that Hughes was, indeed, a self-identified homosexual. Having already set the broader context in which he evaluates male homosexuality as some sort of excess or self-indulgence not unlike alcoholism or once-popular Gurdjieffian mysticism, Berry comments that ‘[a]t age thirty-one, [Hughes] had lost his battle against homosexuality, but it was not easy for him to accept defeat’ (1983:185). Thinly veiled behind a hawkish metaphor of masculinity at its finest, Berry’s hostility toward male homosexuality presumes a failure, inadequacy or cowardice on the part of gay men, for, as the old saw would have it, we are afraid of the ‘opposite’ sex. In Berry’s assessment, ‘Hughes seemed to fear any enduring, emotionally charged relations with women’ (72). And, in a later passage fully consistent with so much dominant ideology, Berry offers the expected, but still stunning, indictment: ‘[t]he blame for [Hughes’s] fear of the opposite sex rightly lay with his mother whose emotional demands had made wounds that his father’s indifference perhaps had deepened’ (186). A certain amount of caution is needed here, however, for even as Berry’s text abuses gay men and our mothers, so too might defending against these abuses invite its own potentially misogynistic responses, unjustly working to place gay men’s personal and political struggles opposite to feminist critiques of compulsory heterosexuality. According to Berry, ‘[Hughes] was ambivalent about women, and his tolerance of those who demanded affectionate attention was low’ (187). Thus, while recognizing the general failure by men to provide women with meaningful emotional support, Berry not only rejects the validity of Hughes’s own needs and desires by subordinating them to the apparently much more significant and presumably ‘intrinsic’ rewards of heterosexual relationships but also discounts what he himself calls ‘[Hughes’s] strongest friendships with women…: those in which he could prove himself a devoted, loyal friend, [but] not a lover’ (73).3 Even if we can somehow bring ourselves to overlook their homophobia and heterosexism, these biographies’ claims to a literal representation of the life of Langston Hughes and their static readings of his desire dismiss the continued salience of ‘Langston Hughes’ as a rich sign in popular memory and cultural practice. As still productive cultural artifacts, representations of Hughes can offer critiques not only of racist and/or homophobic political agendas but also of ‘naturalized’ modes of historical knowledge. Whether successful or not, the persistent efforts—by homophobes and homosexuals alike —to identify Hughes’s sexual orientation are destined to reinscribe Western notions of an essential truth in sexuality. Further, given the scanty and equivocal historical record of Hughes’s sexuality, the failure to document a well-supported ‘gay hypothesis’ seems to be inevitable and thus serves to reproduce, or at least does nothing to contravert, complex historical silences surrounding black male existence. Literalist speculation about Hughes’s sexuality ultimately reinvests proper biographical accounts with the power to assert truths as if neither biography, nor this ‘will to know’, were cultural constructs. Because both heterosexuality and realist representation have been constructed as natural and remain ideologically dominant, they create particularly acute constraints when they operate in combination with each other. Such a doubly reinforced frame prevents us from taking seriously the genealogy of the successive (mis)interpretations of Hughes, their various


roles in contemporary black gay identity formation, and their effects on a number of gay memory practices. In marked contrast to Rampersad’s and Berry’s properly biographical accounts, Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston: A Meditation articulates a black gay male subjectivity by naming historical specificity and reiterating the similarity-in-difference of the African diaspora through the film’s literal geographic dispersal—Hughes in Harlem, Julien in Britain, audiences around the world. In Kobena Mercer’s words, ‘this globalization offers all sorts of pleasures in the new forms of cultural politics created by the “imagined geography” of diaspora, exile, and displacement’ (Mercer, 1990:8). The film’s countermemory project also strikes at the heart of realist historical and biographical representation. Even while emphatically insisting on its fictive representation, Looking for Langston challenges the heterosexist and homophobic tendencies that have thus far surfaced in biographical accounts of Hughes’s life, makes critical interventions into the ideology of literal representation, and troubles the enforced boundaries between proper history and fictional recuperations of the past. Originally aired on the highly successful British series Out on Tuesday, a weekly lesbian and gay news show appearing on commercial television, the unexpurgated version of Looking for Langston weaves the poetry of Hughes and the contemporary US black gay poet Essex Hemphill with pieces of Bruce Nugent’s Harlem Renaissance short story ‘Smoke, Lilies, and Jade’ to effect what Julien describes as a ‘relational shift between the past and the present’ (Hemphill, 1989:15; Nugent, 1983). The film’s discontinuous, non-narrative visual style is a montage of archival footage of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes reciting poetry to a jazz accompaniment, and constructed (that is, ‘non-documentary’) contemporary imagery. Of particular importance is Looking’s temporal play or ‘relational shift between the past and the present’ which authorizes a rethinking of the question of the relationship between the present and historical representation. It is, for example, through the present-tense aspect of these latter portrayals in particular that Looking for Langston challenges its viewers to investigate our own racial histories, histories that are intricately and antagonistically intertwined with histories of (homo)sexuality. These challenges demand accounts of—or accountability to—our differential places within the historical development of racism, racial stratification and racialized cultural representations. The visual and verbal pictures of fleeting, highly charged sexual encounters in parks and porno houses and beautifully erotic moments on the English heath are simultaneously quite pleasurable and, to me as a white gay male viewer, disturbingly overdetermined by the complex histories of racial difference and racism. These histories and their present enactments resonate strongly in the scene in which a white man wanders through projections of Robert Mapplethorpe’s commodified images of black men, reminding the viewer how easily the histories of black-white relations can be altered by context. This scene recalls what, after Jesse Helms’s recent sustained attacks on ‘homoerotic’ art, is now a significantly submerged criticism of Mapplethorpe’s work—namely that the photographs construct and eroticize black men through white male racial imaginations and for white male pleasure; this deflected or ignored criticism teases out several strands of the complex interrelationship of race, gender and sexuality (see Mercer, 1987).4 The


histories of racial formation and antagonism are also enacted in the film’s predominantly black gay bar. While this bar is at once an important locus of gay cultural history and, toward the end of the film, the site of gay resistance to a police raid and skinhead violence, at the same time it is a place from which to indict racist practices within ‘our’ communities. Gay bars, as Audre Lorde urgently insists, have not been free of powerladen racial codes of the straight world (1983:220–6; see also King, 1988). By extension I want to argue that, much like Julien’s fictive gay bar, reconstructions of lesbian and gay pasts offer grounds for cohesion and contestation around our own various locations within the continuous retelling of the inseparable histories of racial formation, gender ideologies, cultural struggles and national politics. In an interview with Hemphill, Julien points to this broader, more complex context of imagining male homosexuality within racially and culturally specified histories. ‘[T]rying to talk about Black gay history becomes very problematic,’ Julien explains, ‘because of all the different sequences and all the hidden nuances in Black American history’ (Hemphill, 1989:14). Because Looking for Langston both acknowledges and refuses to accept the historical silences surrounding black gay male subjectivity, it is precisely these subtleties and complexities which make the film such a productive text. Although Looking is hardly a documentary exploration of the controversy or Hughes’s life in general, that would have been an entirely different project—and, perhaps, a decidedly less interesting one. As Julien puts it, making a documentary would have been ‘too constricting because the idea was to have desire exist in the construction of images and for the story-telling to actually construct a narrative that would enable audiences to meditate and to think, rather than be told’ (Hemphill, 1989:15). Speaking more generally about recent black British cultural production, Mercer argues that ‘[i]t was important that the films [produced by Sankofa, Black Audio Film Collective, and others] made a break with documentary realism, because it was the only way that they could articulate a new problematic around the issue of identity’ (Mercer, 1990:8). Predictably, though, the articulation of this new problematic has not been without its critics, detractors and virtual censors. It is, Mercer has suggested, precisely because Looking for Langston raises questions around the intersection of sexuality, fantasy and racial representation that ‘Julien’s imaginative and transgressive refiguration of Hughes as an emblem of black gay male identity has caused so much upset’ (Mercer, 1990:8). The criticism with the greatest immediate impact, in fact, has come from the Hughes estate itself. The soundtrack of the original (British) version of the film included several of Hughes’s poems, but the executor of the estate would not grant copyright permission for the poems’ inclusion in the US release—ostensibly because the film implied Hughes was a homosexual. (This legal obstacle led to last-minute cancellations of scheduled screenings at the International Film Festival in Washington, DC and the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in 1989, despite the film’s European success.) Yet this censorious move is a misreading of a film which refuses to be ‘about’ Langston Hughes in any sort of literal or realist sense, although its title is neither accidental nor inappropriate. The choice to make a film called Looking for Langston rather than, say, Looking for Jimmy (James Baldwin) exploits, in Julien’s words, ‘the controversy around [Hughes] as a person


in relationship to his sexual identity’ which could have been impossible in the case of a self-identified gay man such as Baldwin (Hemphill, 1989:14). By linking the past to the present through what he calls ‘this relational shift’ provided by the poetry and by meditating on a culturally salient historical figure, Julien’s film also plays with received notions of temporality and the boundary between fact and fiction. This temporal movement first underlines then undermines the differences between past and present, memory and imagination, historical trace and contemporary representation which have consistently been integral to historiography, biography and documentary. Julien’s deployment of representations of the past informs the writing of his own subjectivity in the face of sustained racist and homophobic historical silences which continue to reverberate in the present. In speaking past these silences, however, Looking for Langston also interferes with the ability of hegemonic knowledges to assert their will to know and to present themselves unselfcritically as bearers of the truth. Instead of abandoning notions of truth, however, Looking for Langston redefines them as personally and politically motivated. This film comes out of a quest for truth, a very genuine search for desire, for my own desire, my own voice…. It’s very important to be able to articulate one’s self; if one doesn’t, one dies. (Marks, 1989:31) Although this quest for truth, this search for desire is occasioned by a ‘meditation’ on Langston Hughes, the film is, to quote Julien once again, ‘more about the looking [than it is about Langston]…. [It] is about Black gay desire; it’s an imaginary search for a Black gay identity’ (Marks, 1989:31). Julien’s film insinuates itself into and sutures together a number of diverse prior contexts—the tradition of black male poetry; the historical experience of black lesbians and gay men in Harlem during the late 1920s (see Garber, 1989); the recurrent question of Hughes’s own sexuality; the historical specificity as well as the monotonous predictability of white racism; and the invention of tradition that marks so many gay and lesbian cultural practices (see Bravmann, 1991), to name a few. Because all of these aspects of social practice reflect the provisional, historicized and discursive character of our knowledges of the past, Looking for Langston demands a consideration of how these knowledges inform the many, often contradictory, ways gay identity and community are generated out of the past. It is necessary to bear in mind, however, that these searches for specific histories are also constrained by multiple forms of ignorance and silence. These silences, as bell hooks suggests in her discussion of the film, ‘[do] not mean that one ceases to search. It means that the pain that this gap of unknowing causes must be understood as a crucial dynamic in the formation of black gay identity and sensibility (1990:77). Although it maintains a critical and problematizing distance from the genre of proper historical biography, Looking for Langston also inserts itself into the ongoing, diverse, engaged and engaging debates on identity and history within lesbian and gay communities —queering history in a double sense. On the one hand, it challenges the presumptive silences of heterosexism, while on the other, it carries out the defamiliarizing work of the


best history writing in a particularly queer way by questioning the very idea of proper history. Notes 1 Versions of this paper were originally presented at the Fourth Annual Lesbian, Bisexual and Gay Studies Conference at Harvard University, 26–28 October 1990 and the Eighty-Eighth Annual Meeting of the Philological Association of the Pacific Coast at California State University, San Jose, 9–11 November 1990. Several paragraphs appeared in a somewhat different form under the title ‘A “gay window” Is not a mirror’ (Bravmann, 1990b). I would like to thank George Haggerty, Nathaniel Mackey, Andrew Ross, and several anonymous readers for their helpful comments during the extended period of writing this paper. 2 On the relationship between anti-communism and homophobia in the 1950s, see Bérubé and D’Emilio (1985); D’Emilio (1983b: 41–9); and Faderman (1991:139ff.). 3 In an interesting reversal of Berry’s point, Rampersad argues that Hughes’s poem ‘F.S.’ is really just a tender expression of grief over his friendship with another man. According to Rampersad, only insensitive cads would take the poem as proof of Hughes’s homosexual desire (Rampersad, 1986:62). 4 More recently, Mercer has begun a partial revision of his earlier position (Mercer, 1991).

References Berry, Faith (1983) Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem, Westport, Connecticut: Lawrence Hill & Company. Bérubé, Allan and D’Emilio, John (1985) ‘The military and lesbians during the McCarthy years’, in Freedman, Estelle B,, Gelpi, Barbara C., Johnson, Susan L. and Weston, Kathleen M. (1985) editors, The Lesbian Issue: Essays from Signs, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 279–95. Bravmann, Scott (1990a) ‘Telling (hi)stories: rethinking the lesbian and gay historical imagination’, Outlook: National Lesbian and Gay Quarterly 8, Spring: 68–74. ——(1990b) ‘A “gay window” Is not a mirror: comment on queer history’, San Francisco Bay Area Gay and Lesbian Historical Society Newsletter 5 (4), Summer: 2,8. ——(1991) ‘Invented traditions: take one on the lesbian and gay past’, NWSA Journal 3(1), Winter: 80–92. D’Emilio, John (1983a) ‘Capitalism and gay identity’, in Snitow, Ann, Stansell, Christine and Thompson, Sharon (1983) editors, Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality, New York: Monthly Review Press, 100–13. ——(1983b) Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940–1970, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ——(1984) ‘Making and unmaking minorities: the tensions between gay politics and history’, New York University Review of Law and Social Change 14:915–22. Duberman, Martin Bauml, Vicinus, Martha and Chauncey, Jr., George (1989) editors, Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, New York: New American Library. Faderman, Lillian (1991) Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America, New York: Columbia University Press. Foucault, Michel (1978) The History of Sexuality, Volume One: An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley, New York: Random House.


Garber, Eric (1989) ‘A spectacle in color: the lesbian and gay subculture of jazz age Harlem’, in Duberman, Vicinus and Chauncey, Jr. (1989): 318–31. Hemphill, Essex (1989) ‘Brother to brother: interview with Isaac Julien’, Black Film Review 5(3), Summer: 14–17; repr. in Essex Hemphill (1991) editor, Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men, Boston: Alyson Publications, 174–80. hooks, bell (1990) ‘Looking for Langston’, Zeta Magazine May: 75–7. Hughes, Langston (1940 [1986]) The Big Sea: An Autobiography, New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press. ——(1956 [1986]) I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiographical Journey, New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press. ——(1959a) ‘Low to High’, in Selected Poems, New York: Alfred A.Knopf: 249. ——(1959b) ‘High to Low’, in Selected Poems, New York: Alfred A.Knopf: 250–1. ——(1959c) ‘I, Too’, in Selected Poems, New York: Alfred A.Knopf: 275. ——(1973) ‘The Negro artist and the racial mountain’, in Aptheker, Herbert (1983) editor, A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States, 1910–1932, Volume 3: From the Emergence of the N.A.A.C.P. to the Beginning of the New Deal, Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press, 525–30. Hutcheon, Linda (1988) A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction, New York: Routledge. King, Katie (1988) ‘Audre Lorde’s lacquered layerings: the lesbian bar as a site of literary production’, Cultural Studies 2(3), October: 321–42. Lorde, Audre (1983) Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Trumansburg, NY: The Crossing Press. Marks, Jim (1989) ‘Looking for Isaac’, Outweek 1 October: 30–3. Mercer, Kobena (1987) ‘Imaging the black man’s sex’, in Holland, Patricia, Spence, Jo and Watney, Simon (1987) editors Photography Politics: Two, London: Comedia/Methuen: 61–9. ——(1990) ‘Traveling theory: the cultural politics of race and representation’, interviewed by Lorraine Kenny, Afterimage 18(2), September: 7–9. ——(1991) ‘Skin head sex thing: racial difference and the homoerotic imaginary’, in Bad ObjectChoices (1991) editors, How Do I Look?: Queer Film and Video, Seattle: Bay Press: 169–210. Nugent, Bruce (1983) ‘Smoke, Lilies, and Jade’, in Michael J.Smith (1983) editor, Black Men/White Men: A Gay Anthology, San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press: 17–30. Rampersad, Arnold (1986) The Life of Langston Hughes, Volume 1,1902–1941:1, Too, Sing America, New York: Oxford University Press. ——(1988) The Life of Langston Hughes, Volume II, 1941–1961: I Dream a World, New York: Oxford University Press. Warner, Michael (1991) ‘Introduction: fear of a queer planet’, Social Text 29:3–17.


Every year, usually towards the end of the teaching year, students are shopping around for the most appropriate postgraduate course of study. In Australia there is considerable interest in the cultures of Australia’s indigenous peoples, and these can be studied in Anthropology, Literature, Fine Arts and so on. For Aboriginal people, who have complained about being the most intensely scrutinized people in the world, on a per capita basis, ‘interest’ in them gets factored out, not only in terms of academic disciplines, but also in terms of policy and politics. What does an interdisciplinary area like Cultural Studies have to offer, for instance in terms of political agendas being ‘wired in’ to its calculations? How do Aboriginal knowledges interact with non-Aboriginal ones in an institution like a university via the agency of the formative work of a postgrad? These are some of the things that I’m thinking about as someone knocks… I want to study Aboriginal Culture. Tick the box. Are you of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background? No. Why do you want to study in this particular field? I mean why Aboriginal culture, and why the Cultural Studies Department? Well, it seems to me that this area is crucial for postcolonialism, isn’t that the way the whole country is heading? Culturally? I think that together with feminism, Aboriginal cultural developments are among the most significant in Australia in the last twenty years. True, and overseas perceptions seem to give a high priority to Aboriginal issues. But before we talk about your field, I would start to question one thing, and even incorporate it in your thesis eventually: your desire. In postcolonial theories, psychoanalytical paradigms are often used to interrogate just this situation. Your desire for the other, what form does it take? To begin with there is the lure of the exotic, the other culture as exotic. In this model a centre-periphery ratio is set up, an anthropological model which takes the European as central, but really only makes it visible through the contrast with the exotic. The two cultures tend to be treated as separate systems, with the researcher as a shuttle. If you reject this one, then you might have to start looking at aspects of the other culture as being the same as yours, as being quite ordinary. (And if you


were an Aboriginal student wanting to work in your own community, then I would have a different kind of advice to give.) Or you could take your desire as historically loaded, guilt-ridden. Do you want to study Aboriginal culture to extirpate this guilt, or display it? Would this be a question of reversing the Hegelian Master-Slave dialectic? Are you punishing yourself, or going to find people who will do it to you? Do you want to be a ‘Valet of the Oppressed’ as Lyotard put it? Well, I don’t know… Let’s keep in mind that you are going to embark on a thesis, a piece of writing in a university. We’ll try to work out just what these things are good for in the end. Your desire is located there too, to gain a qualification, eventually a job, to write and to know. Desire in relation to the Other is perfectly OK. You just have to ask yourself how that desire might work for or against your thesis work, or for or against the work of the Other. We all move towards the other in sexual desire and in the desire to know, and the other moves towards us— it’s a two-way street. There is an Aboriginal trading law: things must go both ways. But not necessarily equally; both partners will be altered by any exchange, there will be an excess of desire in dissemination. Levinas says: ‘a work conceived radically is a movement of the same onto the other which never returns to the same’ (in Young, 1990:14). Is that what it means to be in a postcolonial field of work? Well, it might be a good epigraph or a motto. But you might have to start from the beginning, starting to distinguish colonialism, from neocolonialism, and from postcolonialism. For this you can go to classics in the field, like Franz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks. Fanon explains that neocolonialism involves the transfer of power to the Others in the colonial encounter, without changing the structure of domination. Postcolonialism would in principle restore the sovereignty of an indigenous people while at the same time providing an interrogative framework for textual, theoretical or practical operations—depending on your emphasis. You would have to cover the whole field of work, from the British Marxist model of the journal Race & Class, the post-structuralist variations, Said the Foucauldian with Orientalism, the Marxist/feminist deconstructionism of Spivak; the field is huge but one that has to be covered if you are to begin to work in it. Operating out of a Cultural Studies Department you have the advantage of being able to perform a kind of institutional critique of the origins of postcolonial work, particularly in the literary field. There it has functioned as a name which renovates the old Commonwealth Literature sections of the English Departments. Typically it extends and theorizes the problems to those of representation in general, and across media. I was particularly interested in de Certeau, in taking his ‘practices of everyday life’ thesis into an analysis of Aboriginal historiography.


Practicing postcolonialism might be a different thing from studying it, in fact. You have a choice to make for your own everyday practices. Do you ‘go bush’ or into a community, or do you work through the literature? If I were doing community work, I would work through the necessary protocols, like getting oneself introduced and ‘sponsored’ in a particular community. John von Sturmer’s ‘Talking with Aborigines’ (1981) paper continues to be a very useful guide to appropriate ‘manners’ in relation to Aboriginal communities, to be juxtaposed, for the urban scene, to the paper by Sharon Bell (1990) about her attempts to discuss a potential film project with activist Gary Foley in a Glebe coffee shop. In fact, as an aside, I think the most appropriate anthropological model could well be Maussian—the analysis of customs and manners as rhetorical ‘devices for living’ rather than the structuralist model of culture as a version of deep consciousness. The structuralist model would have us believe that the analysis is moving towards versions of epistemology, knowing the culture, and knowing our own culture by contrast and comparison. Mauss would say that the performance of a particular behaviour has no meaning beyond its particular operation, just as Wittgenstein would posit language games as having local application, and thus limiting ‘the world’—or to go even further, Lyotard’s ‘différend’ would point to the incommensurability of different discourses. All of these construct ‘culture’ as unsystematic, as excessive, and disseminated across disciplinary boundaries, but none the less rule-governed—it’s just that the rules have local application. You also have to be prepared for cultural concentrations and dispersals, rapidities and slowings down. When the Elders say, ‘These young fellas have no culture’ you might just have to believe them. As a recent graduate like you I remember being shocked by the proposition appearing in an article written in the seventies by the American ethnolinguist Dell Hymes. He quoted Bloomfield from the twenties saying: ‘White Thunder, a man around forty, speaks less English than Menomini, and that is a strong indictment, for his Menomini is atrocious. His vocabulary is small; his inflections are often barbarous; he constructs sentences of a few threadbare models. He may be said to speak no language tolerably’ (1974:71). An egalitarian ethic had me assuming that the absence of a hegemonic culture meant the presence of an indigenous or popular one, and that in the right settings everyone will find their own culture or language in all its fullness, its infinite richness and variation. Is there something like this in British Cultural Studies? Yes, I think you will find it assumed for the most part that popular culture is just there, waiting in the wings for élitism to have its last gasp. But it may be the case that culture is something to be constantly achieved through Aboriginal-becoming, through Greek-becoming, even Australianbecoming, which, if we adopt this Deleuzoguattarian vocabulary, is non-essentialist: ‘A minority never exists ready-made, it is only formed on lines of flight…’ (Deleuze and Parnet, 1987:43). Or if you go out to encounter the other: ‘each pushes the other, draw it onto its line of flight, in a combined deterritorialisation’ (44).


But I can’t appropriate Aboriginality. Look at Meaghan Morris’s list of all the meanings the verb ‘appropriate’ might have: ‘As reified token of rapacious relations, “appropriation” is a lexical mini-myth of power’ (1987:267). When it’s textual or cultural violence it’s ‘appropriation’, when its part of a postmodernist aesthetic it’s ‘citation’. Deleuze and Guattari seem to be saying it’s OK to study the ‘Eskimos’ if you are Eskimo-becoming and they, the Eskimos, are Europeanbecoming, but both in a process of becoming-minor. An investigation of this socalled mutual becoming could well be an interesting topic for Aboriginal Studies. But isn’t Aboriginality all they have, we have all the material and institutional support? Yes, these people have to stick to a kind of essentialism. Once this is abandoned, they would become fragmented unknowing subjects like the rest of us. Multicultural in a weak sense, if you like. No, the range of discourses that have to be deployed by Aboriginal people across different situations is extraordinary, from the revolutionary discourses of the Mike Mansells and Gary Foleys, which have a field of operation in which they work, to the arguments across the oak tables in the Public Service Board, to the kind of panAboriginality which only a quasi-Christian discourse can sustain (hence the Uniting Church’s role in getting the Bicentennial march going the way it did in 1988). Some will refuse your White liberal ‘help’, others will find it allied to their cause. Where is the essence in all this variation? Aboriginality is nothing more or less than a strategic logocentre. But think how it is defined. As ‘accepted as Aboriginal by a community’ it is infinitely better than any biogenetic model, say Southern Africa, based on skin colour. So what do you do? You are in a university, you work out how the piece of writing you are going to do can be of service to a community, while at the same time staying true to the arguments that need to be put in the limited field of operations of intellectual discourse, what the protocols there can stand without breaking down completely under the strain. What strain? Well, Aboriginal knowledges—and ‘postcolonial’ Aboriginal practices— in the context of the university, are posing a challenge. Sometimes they are incommensurate. But you can’t deny completely the Western episteme in a simple reversal: this would have to be slowly eroded, or rapidly, depending on what is at stake. I would go via education as a social technology. It’s about the formation of subjectivities, and typically Aboriginal people have an engagement with the schools through their children, and so on. If you want to proceed via community work, then your analysis of historiography, how Aboriginal histories have been written or will be written, can play itself out in relation to what the community feels it may need. So you ask them in introducing your topic. OK, here I am, I want to look at the writing of Aboriginal histories, or I want to look at how people are reading Aboriginal novels (like Mudrooroo, or


Sally Morgan) in the communities or in the schools. Then what I say, my critique, should ideally have some sort of impact in those practical situations called classrooms where everyone, at least in the context of the Aboriginal history or the literary text, is more or less Aboriginal-becoming. So it’s not an analysis based on victimization or oppression (what might be called the Recovery of Ideology critique), but a more affirmative one based on becoming, dissemination and exchange. Do you think that, in a sense, I can legitimately take an interest in things to do with Aboriginal culture if I tell my own story, don’t pretend to tell theirs? Yes, I think that is an appropriate procedure, but bear in mind how easily that story can be told by you while the Other continues to be unable to speak, unable to enter into theory, and unable to find a place for authentic speech to be inserted in the hegemonic regimes of discourse. Find the place where your discourse is only made possible by its relation to the Other. This would be the orientalist procedure: Eurocentric discourse has always been predicated on otherness. So one way is to juxtapose incommensurate texts so that their representations are seen to clash. This is a thing I tried once. Another way is just to argue the problems through as Robert Young does very well, I think, in White Mythologies. In that case I would be doing a genealogy of knowledges about Aborigines, without presuming to assess their value for Aborigines. Yes. But you think that lacks the edge of a study that is mediated by a crucial social institution like an education department. Yes. And I also think there is a place for the old-fashioned anthropological participant observation, cultural immersion, now only possible really in the bush, or if you have Aboriginal friends who are ironically selfreflexive. It’s also been said that literalism is the lot of the other, at least literalism is attributed to otherness—you wouldn’t want your object to be too elusive would you? I thought that subject/object relations were to be broken down through mutual becomings? I thought I was being ironic. But yes, writing is the deconstructive ‘hinge’ between subject and object. You’ve had a look at Clifford? Cultural Studies can handle a whole lot more ‘thick descriptions’ and it can avoid what Noel King (1991) is calling the ‘anxiety of the cultural critic’ the feeling that the description will never be of any use to the Surfers or Punks one is describing, that the academicism is a betrayal of their cause. I think the academic situation is too precarious at the moment to suffer global attacks on its very being. It has to assert its limited regimes of truth and see how they match up to challenges…


References Bell, Sharon (1990) ‘Filming Radio Redfern: “Riding to success on the backs of blacks”’, Media Information Australia 56, May. Deleuze, Gilles and Parnet, Claire (1987) Dialogues, trans. H.Tomlinson and B. Habberjam, New York: Columbia University Press. Hymes, Dell (1974) Foundations in Sociolinguistics, University of Pennsylvania Press. King, Noel (1991) ‘Mapping Hebdige’, Southern Review 24(1). Morris, Meaghan (1987) ‘Tooth and claw: tales of survival, and Crocodile Dundee’, Art & Text 25, June-August. von Sturmer, John (1981) ‘Talking with Aborigines’, A.I.A.S. Newsletter March. Young, Robert (1990) White Mythologies, New York and London: Routledge.




• Stuart Cunningham, Framing Culture: Criticism and Policy in Australia (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1992), 204pp, $19.95 Paperback. The starting point of Framing Culture is a view that cultural studies ought to be outwardly concerned with its future. Within this argument it is presumed that cultural studies need not risk marginality and exclusion because it can offer strategic discourse beyond cultural critique and into the seemingly bland world of policy-making. There is a gulf between these two worlds which is capable of being bridged. Cunningham asks the question: Why leave important issues of cultural policy to the econocrats, financial hardheads or can-do communications engineers? The structured corollary is that an open orientation to other ‘blander’ knowledges will facilitate cultural studies’ ongoing input to public policy. In fact, Cunningham’s book is valuable on two main counts. Firstly, he has suggested ways in which the dual terrains of criticism and policy might be merged, yet he is able to retain both within a responsive cultural studies framework. And secondly, actively pursuing this approach has enabled him to expand on the traditional cultural studies agenda of power and contestation in policy-making contexts. Framing Culture has generated widespread response and controversy in Australia. Reviews have ranged from elaborate enthusiasm to the trenchantly critical. Richard Synnott (1992) writing in the major national business daily the Australian Financial Review felt that the incumbent Federal Communications Minister would be well advised to dip into Framing Culture’s arguments. In Synnott’s view they constitute a primer to the broader social and cultural implications of technocratic planning for major communications infrastructures like Pay TV. Meaghan Morris (1992) thought the book is an exercise in ‘theoretical pragmatism’, but none the less ‘makes useful suggestions about putting policy into our pedagogy’. Hawkins (1992), King, O’Regan (1992) and Rowse, (1992) in separate reviews, thought that Cunningham does not do justice to the relationship between intellectual practice and political change, arguing that his privileging of the cultural policy analyst above the cultural critic is misconceived. Similarly, it was the view of a number of reviewers that Cunningham’s representation of the ‘discipline’ of cultural studies was somewhat selective in not taking into account, as Hawkins notes, the ‘plurality of critical practice, (including) gender and sexuality studies, post-colonialism, studies of popular culture and textual studies’.


I take the import of the debated issues to be a f air indication of not only the intensity of response that Framing Culture has provoked, but also as a measure of the centrality of the issues raised for cultural studies as a pedagogical terrain. Less critical attention has been shown towards the important cultural policy questions themselves, which, in fact, occupy the greater part of the book. The book uses a number of case studies to provide practical examples: ‘A tale of two institutions’ looks at the humanities in Australian tertiary education and its relationship with governmentally framed policy; ‘Nations at the crossroads’ examines the dynamic between national and international cultural production using the policy debate over television content to illustrate strategies for intervention; ‘The unworthy discourse? Advertising and national culture’ considers similar issues in relation to the advertising industry: ‘The future close at hand—pay ‘television in Australia’ analyses the policies of a new media industry; and ‘Shock! Horror! Violence and Television’ reviews the dominant paradigms of research into media violence and their effects on policy and suggests ways in which cultural studies may contribute to these debates. Instead, issues such as the legitimate focus of cultural studies and where it should direct its energies have tended to mark out the site of conflict. No less than the future direction of the humanities and cultural studies have been depicted as the stakes in the debate, which no doubt accounts for their intensity. Indeed, King juxtaposes Framing Culture with essays by Morris and Frow in Beyond the Disciplines: The New Humanities, a recently released collection edited by Ken Ruthen (based on a peak conference of the same title organized by the Australian Academy of the Humanities) which focuses on similar ‘future directions’ matters. By setting up his polemic in terms of a cultural critique/cultural policy opposition, Cunningham has invited these factional alignments. And, as a generalization, those positioned more closely to either critique or policy modes (and I am guilty here of sustaining the ‘othering’ that the book would like to see lessened), will tend to have different responses as regards this project of convergence. For example, Chris Healy (1992) has suggested that the arguments in Framing Culture well illustrate Lyotard’s in The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, which argues that in a ‘postmodern education system the question is no longer, Is it true? but What use is it?: Is it saleable?; Is it efficient?’ However, despite what some reviewers have suggested, a cultural studies approach does underpin the book. This equips Cunningham to analyse a number of key policymaking sites in a contemporary capitalist liberal democracy. And clearly his theoretical assumptions and methods could be usefully applied to any similar analysis of the construction of policies by governments. Regulatory policies in education, commercial television, television content, violence and television and new communications media are critically examined: but the criticism is filtered through an acknowledgement of the realpolitik of the policy-making process. Indeed, there is an inversion of the usual critique of policy position: It has been the approach of this book to view cultural studies from the perspective of the policy process, rather than the more usual standpoint of assessing policy from within academic criticism. In turning this traditional relationship on its head, the


field of cultural and communications policy has been used more as a benchmark than as an object of critical examination. This stance has not left the policy process immune from criticism, but it has maintained that a greater understanding of the internal dynamics of policy development, and of their marked differences from the protocols of criticism, must precede analysis of and participation in them. (181) This means being context-sensitive to, among other things, technical information and political and lobbying games. He founds his position on a view which recognizes limits in the ability of critique to further practical interventions in the construction of public policies. Cunningham argues critical discourses are ill-equipped to provide the totalized exegesis which they will frequently claim. Behind this is a far-sighted appreciation that for cultural studies to ‘add value’, it must adapt its basic strategies towards dealing with cultural policy. In his own words, ‘to treat policy adequately from a critical perspective, it is necessary to appreciate the coordinated impact of economics, administative law, cultural history, entertainment financing, government and parliamentary procedures, and so on, on the development of public policy’. And furthermore, ‘cultural policy research thus requires a wider, rather than narrower, critical understanding than is found in the traditions of cultural criticism developed exclusively within humanities-based disciplines, and a significantly greater sensitivity to the extra-academic contexts within which such research must circulate for it to exercise its potential leavening function.’ This kind of broader orientation has also been advocated by Graham Murdock who, concerned with the direction of cultural studies, argued in 1989: We also need to restore cultural studies’ commitment to making practical as well as academic interventions. This certainly involves arguing with policy makers and contributing to debates on the funding and organisation of cultural activity, but it also means renewing and developing the dialogue with the subjects of our inquiries, through adult and continuing education, public speeches, journalism, and programme making…. If cultural studies is to contribute in a central way to the debates of the 1990s we will need to fight long and hard to defend and extend the spaces and resources that allow intellectual work and political debate to proceed (1989:47). Cunningham’s arguments need to be understood within the context of Australia’s polity. Unlike northern hemisphere, first-world nations, Australia is a second-world nation with what has been characterized as an ‘import culture’. There is a history of positive state involvement in our cultural sphere which tends to be at odds with the role of the state in many first-world nations like the United States. Were it not for this positive intervention of shaping and supporting cultural production, much of this activity would not be otherwise possible in a small and minimally funded market. Cunningham argues that in this situation cultural studies should develop more appropriate accounts of national identity that can support policy development in the face of increasing internationalization. Framing Culture, I would suggest, belongs to a long tradition in the history of the social sciences and humanities where liaisons between critical or generally oppositional and


administrative-cum-dominant knowledges have occurred. Naming two that come to mind, there has been the work of Lasswell in the United States in the 1950s who advocated ‘a policy orientation’ in the social sciences, or more recently, the work of Mattelart et al. (1984) in France in the early 1980s who collaborated with the government on national culturalpolicy strategies. Yet there will always be certain unlikely coalitions of discourses in policy processes which resist existing categories deemed to be officially ‘appropriate’ for particular policy projects. However, these examples tend to be the exceptions rather than the rule. Far from being oblivious to the implications of walking this tight-rope Cunningham notes that: Most people trained in cultural studies would see their role as being critical of the dominant political, economic and social order. When cultural theorists do turn to questions of policy, our command metaphors of resistance and opposition predispose us to view the policy making process as inevitably compromised, incomplete and inadequate, peopled with those inexpert and ungrounded in theory and history or those wielding gross forms of political power for short-term ends. These people and processes are then called to the bar of an abstrusely formulated critical idealism. This critical idealism might well regard my voice as one of neo liberal compromise and cooptation. (9) In general, I consider that these all-too-rare liaisons are to be welcomed when they do emerge. Certainly, the circulation of these ideas in the Australian context is timely. Australia’s media scene is characterized by a lack of critical input to public-policy processes. What kind of strategic interventions does Cunningham actually propose? In his chapter, ‘The unworthy discourse? Advertising and national culture’ he makes the point that cultural studies are markedly unsuited to contributing to current policy debates in Australia. Understandably, the prevailing critical position is one which views advertising as pandering to consumerist and patriarchal mentalities. But such a perspective tends implicitly to aid and abet deregulationist trends which regard the national advertising industry as blatantly protected against foreign content. (The Australian Broadcasting Authority administers regulations on maintenance of ‘Australian content’.) After all, why would you bother intervening in defence of such a damn shabby enterprise? Cunningham suggests that a more strategic cultural studies intervention would be to argue for the positive contribution that advertising makes to national culture and identity. In other words, the experience and competences of those skilled in analysing connections between audiovisual texts and questions of national identity could be usefully drawn on to inform policy positions. As well, persuasive cultural and industrial arguments can be mounted: empirically a strong local advertising industry undergirds local television drama production. In context of globalizing culture, the need for a rapprochement between cultural theory and media policies will continue to remain high on the agenda. There is food for thought in his point that there is a strange convergence between cultural studies criticism, inherently critical of constructed unities like the nation-state, and doctrines of ‘rational’ economic and social restructuring.


It seems to me that Cunningham is in no sense suggesting that the social critique edge of cultural studies be jettisoned. On the contrary, he is arguing that a deeper understanding of how particular public policies of the cultural industries are contested needs to utilize a full range of resources from the social democratic toolkit. For example, the much vaunted notion of ‘citizenship’ adds political value to debates that might otherwise rely on libertarian culturalist arguments, and which tend to run the risk of uncritically echoing ‘internationalist’ cultural and economic rhetorics. From his selfproclaimed social democratic position he argues that developments in cultural studies, like its attention to a notion of citizenship as part of its political vocation, represents the kind of strategic adjustment that is required for the 1990s. The idea of re-thinking the status of cultural studies in policy contexts is to ensure that it can make an ongoing input into spheres where, in the past, it has been marginalized. To this end, Framing Culture has emerged on the Australian media scene at a time when the debates on pay TV are reaching a well-fermented zenith, after more than a decade of policy pirouettes by successive administrations. Cunningham argues in the fourth chapter, on the still-yet-to-materialize pay TV industry, this virtual rather than the actual media future provides the opportunity to ‘test and refine perspectives that should be central to the critical enterprise. Principal amongst these is the relation of cultural to economic and technological precepts…in the formulation of policy’. The point of this kind of exercise is to re-balance debates which nowadays are increasingly dominated by information technologists, engineers and economists.’ His arguments on the discourses of ‘informatisation’ and the implications of these for conceiving audiences in policies provide a much needed counterbalance to prevailing deregulatory ideologies which frame audiences as consumers. In that regard he makes the important observation that these ideologies fit snugly into de rigueur rhetorics of consumer sovereignty—discourses which circulate widely, along with the dubious ‘choice’ offered by new communications media products. In a sense Cunningham’s advocacy of a renewed set of political strategies for cultural studies needs to mobilize concepts like ‘citizenship’. In the context of changing communications and information technologies, it enables an expanded cultural studies mandate to be equated with the advocacy of cultural or information rights. The promotion of equitable access to communications and information in a period of increasingly commoditized and privatized media is, to borrow from the lexicon of ‘machine’ political advisers, a ‘spin’ that makes for a pleasant surprise. References Hawkins, G. (1992) ‘Suiting the critics’, Australian Left Review, September. Healy, C. (1992) ‘It doesn’t matter if its true, is it useful?’, Australian Book Review, July. Mattelart, A., Delcourt, X. and Mattelart, M. (1984) International Image Markets, London: Comedia. Morris, M. (1992) ‘Theorising pragmatism’, Australian Left Review, September. Murdock, G. (1989) ‘Cultural Studies at the crossroads’, Australian Journal of Communication 16, December. O’Regan, T. (1992) ‘Some reflections on the policy moment’, Meanjin, Vol. 51, No. 3.


Rowse, T. (1992) Review of Framing Culture, Media Information Australia,No. 66, November. Synnott, R. (1992) ‘Cultural imperatives’, Australian Financial Review, 22 May.


• Roberto Fernández Retamar, Caliban and Other Essays, trans. Edward Baker (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1 989). One of the most representative and influential figures in Latin American cultural studies, the Cuban intellectual Roberto Fernández Retamar, has recently had some of his fundamental works translated into English as a collection entitled Caliban and Other Essays. The anthology, translated by Edward Baker, consists of five pieces written between 1971 and 1986, a preface by the author, and a foreword by Fredric Jameson. Jameson places Fernández Retamar’s work in a supranational context, insofar as the essays remind Western intellectuals of their political responsibility to the world around them. Not all the works in this volume are unknown to the North American public. A translation of the opening essay, ‘Caliban: notes toward a discussion of culture in our America’, appeared in the Massachusetts Review three years after its publication in Spanish in 1971, and is now republished in this volume. Some of the prompt responses that this polemical essay evoked from Latin American intellectuals were aired in journals such as Diacritics. With this anthology, Fernández Retamar’s readers now have the opportunity to read ‘Caliban’ in light of the author’s later work. Newcomers to the subject will find this collection to be a compelling testimony to the ideological reorientations taking place within the debate about Latin America’s cultural identity since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Fernández Retamar’s work echoes a tradition of cultural Americanism that dates back to the political writings of the fathers of the independence movements, and in particular to the works of the Cuban revolutionary José Martí. It is, in a sense, a response to past and contemporary discussions on this tradition, one that emphasizes the need to reinforce cultural solidarity among all the nations emerging from a colonial situation. The author’s multiple references to Martí’s ‘Our America’, with its concept of ‘mestizaje’ (racial intermingling) as the spiritual force of the New World, place Fernández Retamar in an intellectual trend that restores the cultural heterogeneity of the Americas, in opposition to the monolithic homogeneous view imposed by Western rule. Written some seven years before Edward Said’s Orientalism, Fernández Retamar’s work both anticipates a revision of the relationship between cultural and political authority in Western critical practices, and sharply examines the colonial and post-colonial encounters of the so-called First and Third


Worlds. In particular, Fernández Retamar sets out to discuss the dilemma faced by intellectuals in the postcolonial world who, like Caliban in The Tempest are condemned to express their protest and probe into the uniqueness of their reality with the language and the conceptual tools of the colonizer. Fernández Retamar also alerts us to the linguistic strategies of colonization that manifest themselves in both the native productions and the foreign reception of the Latin American cultural enterprise. ‘Caliban’, says Fernández Retamar, ‘is our Carib.’ The anagram for ‘cannibal’ that Shakespeare popularized in his last play conveys the characteristic vision of the anthropological Other as the monstrous slave, one that terms such as ‘barbaric’, ‘primitive’ or ‘Third World’ convey to us in our day. In the first part of the essay, the author discusses several political readings and literary adaptations of The Tempest that identify the situation enacted in the island as a drama of colonization (Prospero represents the metropolis, Caliban the colonized native, and Ariel the spirit that aids Prospero against the usurpers of his throne). Rejecting previous readings that presented the native’s slavery as an irremediable condition, Fernández Retamar reads Caliban as the symbol of successful revolution in Latin America, inspired by the Cuban example, and standing against cultural, political and economic imperialism. Ariel, in his turn, aids imperialism as the native intellectual who decides to side with the metropolis. In order to affirm the power of his native culture, Fernández Retamar, on the one hand, effectively cites and revives a number of important texts by Latin American intellectuals that have been traditionally neglected in the international academic circuits, such as Alfonso Reyes’ El deslinde. Prolegómenos a una teoría literaria (The Line of Demarcation: Prolegómena to a Literary Theory), or José Carlos Mariategui’s ‘El proceso de la literatura’ (The process of literature). On the other, the author rejects the works of such authors as Jorge Luís Borges or Carlos Fuentes on the basis of their colonized vision of the native reality. The metafictional trend these authors represent, Fernández Retamar explains, implies a reactionary withdrawal from the social and political tensions of the Latin American world, and feeds on a European cultural tradition that cannot meet the needs of a changing and kaleidoscopic reality. The common feature that unites the essays in Caliban is the wide-ranging application of anti-colonial language to literary commentary and to the analysis of particular historical situations. When exploring the relationships between Latin America and Spain (‘Against the black legend’), Fernández Retamar contends that neither the voice of the colonized nor the voice of the metropolis can be viewed as a monolithic stable system of meaning. For example, during the Spanish colonization, many raised their voices against the methods of the Conquista. However, a ‘black legend’ of cruelty promulgated by Spain’s commercial enemies drowned out these voices. In ‘Some theoretical problems of Spanish-American literature’, the author moves on to question the applicability of Western methodologies to literary products that emerge from different socio-economic realities. Fernández Retamar, influenced by the pre-structuralist work of Jurij Tynjanov, attempts to reconcile the formalist method of literary analysis with a historically and politically determined view of literature. Touching on issues that range from the problem of periodization to the advantages of a comparative approach, Fernández Retamar concludes that the critic will arrive at a general and anti-hegemonic theory of world literature only by acknowledging cultural differences.


‘Prologue to Ernesto Cardenal’, written ten years after ‘Caliban’, is an enthusiastic analysis of a Caliban-type intellectual, Ernesto Cardenal. Fernández Retamar notes this Nicaraguan poet’s active participation in the revolutionary process taking place in his country, and his ability to absorb in his work foreign literary influences without erasing the spirit and cultural heritage of his people. This short piece and the title essay ‘Caliban’ frame the anthology. Fernández Retamar throughout the book expands his arguments but does not fundamentally change his viewpoint. ‘Prologue’ is a confirmation of the politicalcultural beliefs that Fernández Retamar has staunchly defended over the past decade. Poet, professor at La Havana University, and president of the prestigious journal Casa de las Americas, Fernández Retamar has been Cuba’s official voice in issues of culture since the triumph of the revolution in 1959. The rhetoric of his work is a reflection and exaltation of the political goals of this revolution. As the author himself explains in ‘Caliban revisited’ (1986), ‘Caliban’ was written in haste under conditions of extreme political tension, and contains a number of inconsistencies that have provoked misreadings. Thus, the pieces in this book must be understood as a necessary response to certain events that have tarnished the image and achievements of the revolution (in particular the so-called ‘Padilla affair’ in which an intellectual was tried for counterrevolutionary activities). In publishing this anthology, Fernández Retamar aims at returning politics to the level of intellectual debate, at a moment of growing depoliticization in the academic life of the Western world. The essays in this collection look for answers that pertain to specific Latin American cultural processes. At the same time, they criticize the ways in which political and cultural power has been exercised by the West. The recent concern with the rhetoric and the ethics of the representation of the Other must be accompanied by a publishing effort that brings to us the others’ own testimony and point of view on their situation. Caliban and Other Essays is a welcome addition to the self/otherness discussion, and should be required reading for anyone who has an interest in Latin American Cultural Studies.



• Kristin Ross, The Emergence of Soclal Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press [Theory and History of Literature, 60], 1 988). Glossed over in most history textbooks, the political, social and cultural landscape of Paris during the strange hiatus from 18 March to 28 May 1871 (between the Second Empire and the Third Republic) is the stuff of popular and cult legend. Kristin Ross has undertaken the task of restoring that brief eruption of popular democracy and its link to Rimbaud’s work by demystifying the event and demythifying the (in)famous adolescence spent in the realm of poetry. She quickly dismisses the tendency to interpret Rimbaud’s poetry as primarily mystical expressions rather than as meditations on his phenomenological present by replacing hermetic exegesis with a phenomenological allinclusiveness that harmonizes with the poet’s aspirations for a hybridized world. As her main title indicates, Ross has chosen not to focus exclusively on Rimbaud, but on a wide selection of elements, conditions and personalities that came together to form the social and political space of the Commune. Interpreting photographs and facsimilies reproduced in her book, as well as a formidable corpus of archives that she has carefully footnoted, Ross traces connections between many of Rimbaud’s poems and, for example, the demolition of the Vendome Column (an ‘attack on verticality’), caricatures of Thiers, Picard, and Favre, and Catulle Mendès’s reactionary assessment of the Commune. Of the many Commune figures that Ross has studied, two stand out as particularly germane to Rimbaud’s project: the anarchist geographer, Elisée Reclus, and the political theorist, Paul Lafargue. Ross offers a rare glimpse at Lafargue’s 1880 pamphlet, Le Droit à la paresse, juxtaposing it with Rimbaud’s Une saison en enfer, written about five years earlier, in order to analyse their common cultivation of a paradoxically productive laziness: in espousing the character traits imputed to the working class by the bourgeoisie, Lafargue and Rimbaud outline, in distinct languages, an entire program for Utopia. In an image that Sartre might have attributed to André Gorz or Jean Genet, Ross likens Rimbaud, Reclus, and Lafargue to cultural bastards since their work springs from a collapsing of the distances between what is conventionally considered sacred and prof ane, high and low. Leaving no lexicographic stone unturned, Ross has delved into a variety of sources from Delvau’s Dictionnaire de la langue verte (1883) to Rimbaud’s native Ardennais vernacular. Her montage/bricolage of the minutiae of daily life in 1870 France enables her to show


how Rimbaud’s supposed proto-surrealistic metaphors are in fact semantically direct references (albeit obscured by time) to class relations, eating, drinking, sexual behavior, etc. This ambitious, transdisciplinary exploration of the French social space at a rare explosive moment lends credibility to Ross’s original analyses of Rimbaud’s well-known verse and prose as well as the more obscure collective work, the ‘Album Zutique’. While Arthur Rimbaud’s precise whereabouts during the Commune will perhaps never be proven, it is certain that he was irresistibly drawn to Paris at that time and that his ephemeral espousal of poetic creation reached meteoric velocity shortly following. Through close readings of erotic movement in Rimbaud’s early lyric poetry, Ross draws connections with Auguste Blanqui’s instructions on how to build street barricades. Spurred by the paranoic ruling-class view that the Commune was the unthinkable uprising of lazy, drunken workers in their countless droves, Ross’s Rimbaud crafted a rich network of images related to what Nietzsche termed ‘the swarm’. Just as hoards of insects relentlessly strive to command their social space, the historical temporality of Rimbaud’s poetry leaps into the future, linking him to his contemporary, Lautréamont, as well as to his twentieth-century descendants, René Char and Aimé Césaire. Rimbaud’s preoccupation with teeming organisms might have been more forcefully linked to the rampant populationist fears of the French bourgeoisie in the late nineteenth century. No matter: the originality of Ross’s intriguing discussion of ‘the swarm’ lies in its affording us access to the macroscopic and microscopic dimensions of Rimbaud’s world view. Rimbaud’s work vindicates Ross’s hypothesis of a writer fleeing literature from the very first moment he put pen to paper. Dejected over the Commune’s bloody failure, Rimbaud only accelerates the process of abandonment in the mature verse, the Illuminations and A Season in Hell, prompting Ross to conclude that he ‘left literature before he even got there’ (19). Ross critically examines the birth of geography as an academic discipline from the womb of history. The dissimulation of colonialist agendas, that would flourish in the 1880s, under government sponsorship of nascent geographical research, is implicitly related here to the canonization of such supposedly ‘avant-garde’ groups as the Parnassian poets. Through his sensitivity to movement in a geo-political space familar at the time only to a handful of specialists and his belief in the relation between eroticism and politics, Rimbaud alone dared to unmask Europe’s insidious colonial program through his wildly promiscuous nominative practices. Ross captures the wealthy simplicity in Rimbaud’s use of place names, slogans and invective, retracing the genealogy of lexical items that evoke guiding ideas and thematics. Ross positions her approach in relation to Lukács, Sartre, Eagleton, Macherey, Rancière and Jameson, and uses to pertinent advantage the theories of a number of other thinkers. She points out parallels between Canetti’s rules of crowd formation and Rimbaud’s prose poems. While not entirely rejecting Todorov’s claim that Rimbaud’s writing is essentially literal, Ross praises the observations of Sartre and Hugo Friedrich pertaining to Rimbaud’s use of metaphors and concludes that Rimbaud’s language is ‘literal and yet not representational…cut off from any extralingual reality’ (127). Detecting a libidinal model underlying Lafargue’s thought (and tying this in with Deleuze and Guattari’s work), Ross claims that the former’s theories on laziness are founded on


something akin to what Lyotard has referred to as the minor narratives of pagan history. While acknowledging feminist interpretation of nineteenth-century poetry, Ross only alludes to Kristeva’s important reading of Lautréamont and Mallarmé, Revolution of Poetic Language (1974). But, vigilant to paradoxes that draw interpretation back toward social reality rather than lapsing into platonic idealism, the principal pillar of this book is the richly suggestive Critique of Everyday Life (1958–81) by the Marxist social philosopher, Henri Lefebvre. Although the Commune that emerges from Ross’s admirable recontextualization is vaguely reminiscent of a 1970s leftist’s chimeric image of Mao’s China, the cultural space delineated by Rimbaud, Reclus and Lafargue would, according to this ‘rescue’ (as Terry Eagleton puts it in his foreword), be a philosophical seeding ground for the cultural space of all post-May-’68 thought to date.


Notes on contributors

PILAR BELLVER teaches in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh…SCOTT BRAVMANN is a Graduate Student in the History of Consciousness Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His dissertation is on The Use and Abuse of Lesbian and Gay History’…TIM DWYER works at Human Rights Australia and teaches in Mass Communications, Macquarie University, Sydney…RUTH FRANKENBERG is Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her book, White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness, is forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press…JOHN FROW teaches in the Department of English at the University of Queensland…ROBERT HARVEY teaches at the State University of New York, Stonybrook…DICK HEBDIGE is Dean of Critical Studies, California Institute of the Arts. His most recent book is Hiding in the Light: On Images and Things (1988)…LATA MANI is Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of California, Davis… STEPHEN MUECKE teaches in the School of Humanities at the University of Technology, Sydney…TONY SCHIRATO teaches in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Central Queensland…JANET WOLFF is Professor of Art History/Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester. Her most recent book is Feminine Sentences: Essays on Women and Culture (1990).


Books received from publishers, Fall 1992

The Culture of Nature: North American Landscape from Disney to the Exxon Valdez, Alexander Wilson, Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992. Ethnography and the Historical Imagination, John and Jean Comaroff, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992. Dreaming Identities: Class, Gender and Generation in the 1980s Hollywood Movies, Elizabeth G.Traube, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992. Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney and America, Stephen M.Fjellman, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992. Divine Violence: Spectacle, Psychosexuality and Radical Christianity in the Argentine ‘Dirty War’, Frank Graziano, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992. Enlightened Racism: The Cosby Show, Audiences, and the Myth of the American Dream, Sut Jhally and Justin Lews, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992. The Production of Culture: Media and the Urban Arts, Diana Crane, Foundations of Popular Culture Vol. 1, Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992. Popular Culture Genres: Theories and Texts, Arthur Asa Berger, Foundations of Popular Culture Vol. 2, Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992. Rock Formations: Music, Technology, and Mass Communication, Steve Jones, Foundations of Popular Culture Vol. 3, Newbury Park. CA: Sage, 1992. Man, Masculinity and the Media, Steve Craig, editor, Research on Men and Masculinities, Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992. Rendering Things Visible: Essays on South African Literary Culture, Martin Trump, editor, Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1990. Regions and Repertoires: Topics in South African Politics and Culture, Stephen Clingman, Braamfontein, South Africa: Ravon Press, 1991 (through Ohio University Press). Politics and Technology, John Street, Guilford Press, 1992. The Power of Maps Denis Wood, Guilford Press, 1992. Cultural Studies, Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, Paula Treichler, editors, London: Routledge, 1992. Culture and Cognition: The Boundaries of Literary and Scientific Inquiry, Ronald Schleifer, Robert Con Davis, Nancy Mergler, Cornell University Press, 1992.


Other journals in the field of cultural studies

There has been a rapid increase in the number of journals operating in the field of cultural studies and in overlapping areas of interest. Cultural Studies wants to keep its readers informed of the work being done by these journals. After all, cultural studies is a collective project. FRONTIERS (The Oxford Literary Review, Wadham College, Oxford OX1 3PN, UK) Issue 14 (1–2) 1992: Edited by Geoffrey Bennington and Barry Stocker Contents: Jacques Derrida Onto-Theology of National-Humanism; Slavoj Zizek Eastern European Liberalism and its Borderlines; Barry Stocker The Return of the Law in Finnegans Wake; Suhail Malik Bordering on Living: Death in Hegel’s Self-Stricture; Margaret Davies Pathfinding: The Way of the Law; Shane Moran Melville, Frontiers, and the Metaphysics of Indian-Hating; John Phillips Aristotle’s Abduction: The Institution of Frontiers; Geoffrey Bennington Frontiers: TWO Seminar Sessions. RETHINKING MARXISM (Department of Economics, Merrimack College, North Andover, MA, 01545, USA) Issue 5(1) Spring l992 Contents: Stuart Hall Race, Culture, and Communications: Looking Backward and Forward at Cultural Studies; Carl Freedman Louisiana ‘Duce’: Notes Toward a Systematic Analysis of Postmodern Fascism in America; Romano Luperini Tendencies of Criticism in Contemporary Italy; Roberto Finelli Production of Commodities and Production of Images: Reflections on Modernism and Postmodernism; Satyananda Gabriel & Michael F.Martin China: The Ancient Road to Communism?; Peter Hitchcock Cultural Studies and the Prospects for a Multicultural Materialism; Sarah White The Great Shift. Remarx: Immanuel Wallerstein Post-America and the Collapse of Leninism; Dragan Klai Riding Noah’s Ark: An Evening in an Eastern European Theater. Review: Howard Engelskirchen Locating the Analysis of Legal Form: E.B. Pashukanis. Issue 5(2) Summer 1992: Marxism After Communism Contents: David F.Ruccio Failure of Socialism, Future of Socialists?; Ronald Aronson After Communism; Alan Hunt Can Marxism Survive?; Stephen Cullenberg Socialism’s Burden: Toward a ‘Thin’ Definition of Socialism; Edward B.Chilcote & Ronald H.Chilcote The Crisis of Marxism: An Appraisal of New Directions; Tuli Kupferberg Don’t Make Trouble. Remarx: Neil Larsen Negation of the Abnegation: Dialectical Criticism in the 1990s; Barbara Foley Class; R.Radhakrishnan Representing the Political.


PUBLIC CULTURE (Bulletin of the Center for Transnational Cultural Studies, The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, 33rd and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19104–6324, USA) Issue 4(2) Spring 1992 Contents: Debates and controversies: Achille Mbembe (Janet Roitman, trans.) The Banality of Power and the Aesthetics of Vulgarity in the Postcolony; Robert J.Foster Take Care of Public Telephones: Moral Education and Nation-State Formation in Papua New Guinea; Dipesh Chakrabarty The Death of History? Historical Consciousness and the Culture of Late Capitalism; Janelle Sue Taylor The Public Fetus and the Family Car: from Abortion Politics to a Volvo Advertisement; Homi Bhabha Race and the Humanities: The ‘Ends’ of Modernity? Engulfment: David Prochaska ‘Disappearing’ Iraqis; Susan Slyomovics Algeria Caricatures the Gulf War; Robert Stam Mobilizing Fictions: The Gulf War, the Media, and the Recruitment of the Spectator; Victor J. Caldarola Time and the Television War. Observations and comment: John F.Sherry, Jr. Unter den Linden, Madison and Mine: Meditation on a Fragment of the Berlin Wall; Ben Gerson Comment on ‘Voices of the Rainforest’; Bill Maurer Striking Out Gender: Getting to First Base with Bill Brown; Bill Brown A Response to Bill Maurer. Public Culture reports and reflects current research on: • the cultural transformations associated with cities, media and consumption. • the cultural flows that draw cities, societies and states into larger transnational relationships and global political economies. Public Culture seeks to: • establish an international network of scholars committed to research on public culture issues and debates, and on such cosmopolitan cultural forms as cinema, sport, television and video, restaurants, domestic tourism, advertising, fiction, architecture, and museums. • explore the cultural implications of such processes as migration, the internationalization of fiction, and the construction of alternative modernities. • situate these forms, flows, and processes in their historical and political contexts. • publish excerpts from ongoing scholarly work (including recent Ph.D. dissertations), news clippings and media material as well as correspondence from our readers. • announce recent publications, and encourage network members to facilitate their acquisition or exchange, particularly across national boundaries, for colleagues who have problems with foreign currency. • encourage contributions from intellectuals both inside and outside the academy. REPRESENTATIONS (University of California Press) (Submissions to 322 Wheeler Hall, The University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA). Issue (38) Spring l992 Contents: Terry Castle Marie Antoinette Obsession; Deborah Poole Figueroa Aznar and the Cusco Indigenistas: Photography and Modernism in Early Twentieth-Century Peru; Kim Ian Michasiw Nine Revisionist Theses on the Picturesque; Susan L.Mizruchi Reproducing Women in The Awkward Age; Stephen Tifft, Drôle de Guerre: Renoir, Farce, and the Fall of France. Issue (39) Summer 1992 Contents: Harriet Ritvo Race, Breed, and Myths of Origin: Chillingham Cattle as Ancient Britons; Eric Lott Love and Theft: The Racial Unconscious of Blackface Minstrelsy; Nathaniel Mackey Other: From Noun to Verb; Frederick Pollack Theses on Intellectuals; Joseph Kerman Representing a Relationship: Notes on a Beethoven Concerto;


Jeffrey Kallberg The Harmony of the Tea Table: Gender and Ideology in the Piano Nocturne. JOURNAL OF COMMUNICATION INQUIRY (School of Journalism and Mass Communication, 205 Communications Center, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA) Issue 16(1) Winter 1992 Contents: Edward Said Peace and the Middle East; Robert Jensen Fighting Objectivity: The Illusion of Journalistic Neutrality in Coverage of the Persian Gulf War; Andrew Calabrese & Silvo Lenart Cultural Diversity and the Perversion of Tolerance; Elli Lester Manufactured Silence and the Politics of Media Research: A Consideration of the ‘Propaganda Model’; Jacqueline Blix A Place to Resist: Reevaluating Women’s Magazines; David Ralph Spencer Rhymes and Reasons: Canadian Victorian Labor Journalism and the Oral Tradition; Michael Bross McLuhan’s Theory of Sensory Functions: A Critique and Analysis. Issue 16(2) Summer 1992 Contents: Bonnie Brennen Essays on Culture as a Practice: An Introduction; Hanno Hardt Social Uses of Radio in Germany: An American Perspective, 1924–30; Barbie Zelizer The Kennedy Assassination Through a Popular Eye: Toward a Politics of Remembering; Michael Saenz Television Viewing as a Cultural Practice; Andrew Calabrese & Barbara Ruth Burke American Identities: Nationalism, the Media, and the Public Sphere; Elli Lester Buying the Exotic ‘Other’: Reading the ‘Banana Republic’ Mail Order Catalog; Christin J.Mamiya Greetings from Paradise: The Representation of Hawaiian Culture in Postcards; Patricia A.Thompson All Faces Are Seen, But Few Are Given Voice: Canonic Generality in Designed Images. DISCOURSE (Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture) Indiana University Press, Center for Twentieth Century Studies, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, POB 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201, USA. Issue 14(3) Summer 1992 Contents: Meaghan Morris Ecstasy and Economics (A Portrait of Paul Keating); Rosemary J.Coombe The Celebrity Image and Cultural Identity: Publicity Rights and the Subaltern Politics of Gender; Susan Lurie The ‘Woman’ (in) Question: Feminist Theory and Cultural Studies; Elizabeth Lowg Textual Interpretation as Collective Action; Gabriele Schwab A Gaze into the Temple of Dawn: Yukio Mishima’s ‘Absence in Presence’; Jane Gallop A Tale of Two Jacques; Photographs by Dick Blau The Psychoanalysis of Water. Book Reviews: Jody Norton, America by Jean Baudrillard; Ackbar Abbas, Cinema 1, the Movement-Image and Cinema 2, the Time-Image by Gilles Deleuze; Jerry D.Leonard, Seeing Films Politically by Mas’ud Zavarzadeh. COLLEGE LITERATURE (Main 544, West Chester University, West Chester,PA 19383, USA) Special issue: Cultural Studies: Theory and Praxis Contents: Kathleen McCormick Teaching, Studying, and Theorizing the Production and Reception of Literary Texts; Alice Templeton Sociology and Literature: Theories for Cultural Criticism; Peter F.Murphy Cultural Studies as Praxis: A Working Paper; Anthony DiMatteo Oedipus in Prison: The Place of Literature in the Rehabilitative Environment;


Garry M. Leonard ‘The Woman is Perfected: Her Dead Body Wears the Smile of Accomplishment’: Sylvia Plath and Mademoiselle Magazine. Notes and Comments: Michael Bennett A Poetics of Divestment/A Politics of Voice; Mark Fortier Cultural Studies and Theatre: From Stanislavski to the Vigil: An Account of a Course; Estella Lauter Feminist Interart Criticism: A Contradiction in Terms?. Review Essays: Carolyn Woodward Power, Gender, and the Teaching of Writing. Review of Jo Anne Pagano, Exiles and Communities: Teaching in the Patriarchal Wilderness; and Susan L.Gabriel and Isaiah Smithson, eds., Gender in the Classroom: Power and Pedagogy, Vincent Leitch Postmodern Culture: The Ambivalence of Fredric Jameson. Review of Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Book Reviews: Rajeswari Mohan Stanley Aronowitz and Henry A.Giroux, Postmodern Education; Enda Duffy David B.Downing and Susan Bazargan, eds., Image and Ideology in Modern/PostModern Discourse, Hilary Holladay Hortense J.Spillers, ed., Comparative American Identities: Race, Sex, and Nationality in the Modern Text; Marc Ratner David Sprague Herreshoff, Labor into Art: The Theme of Work in Nineteenth Century Literature; Elizabeth Larsen Jane Miller, Seductions: Studies in Reading and Culture\Teresa S.Soufas Matthew D.Stroud, Fatal Union: A Pluralistic Approach to the Spanish Wife-Murder Comedias; Linda S.Myrsiades James C.Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts, David S.Gross Bruce Robbins, ed., Intellectuals: Aesthetics, Politics, Academics. Double issue 19(3) October 1992; 20(1) February 1993: Teaching Post-colonial and Commonwealth Literatures Contents: Lalita Pandit Introduction: Local, Global, Postcolonial; Peter L. McLaren Critical Literacy and Postcolonial Praxis: A Freirian Perspective; Rajeswari Mohan Dodging the Crossfire: Questions for Postcolonial Pedagogy; Abiola Irele Dimensions of African Discourse; Ruth Morse Novels of National Identity and Inter-National Interpretation; Patrick Taylor Narrative, Pluralism, and Decolonization: Recent Caribbean Literature; Bruce E.Fleming Brothers Under the Skin: Achebe on Heart of Darkness-, Françoise Lionnet ‘Logiques Métisses’: Cultural Appropriation and Postcolonial Representations; Allen CareyWebb, Heart of Darkness, Tarzan, and the ‘Third World’: Canons and Encounters in World Literature, English 109. Notes and Comments: Ken Goodwin Studying Commonwealth Literature; Stephen Slemon Teaching at the End of Empire; Janet Varner Gunn ‘A Window of Opportunity’: An Ethics of Reading Third World Autobiography; Aron Aji and Kirstin Lynne Ellsworth Ezinma: The Ogbanje Child in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart; Derek Wright Parenting the Nation: Some Observations on Nuruddin Farah’s Maps. Practicum on Teaching Postcolonial Literatures: Keya Ganguly Something Like a Snake: Pedagogy and Postcolonial Literature; Kanishka Chowdhury Teaching the Postcolonial Text: Strategies and Interventions: Lisa McNee Teaching in the Multicultural Tempest; Lalita Pandit Multiculturalism as Text and Context: Teaching Fatima GallaireBourega’s You Have Come Back; Patrick Colm Hogan Paternalism, Ideology, and Ideological Critique: Teaching Cry, the Beloved Country; Tanure Ojaide Teaching Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman to American College Students; Chris Kwame Awuyah Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God: Ezeulu’s Response to Change; Feroza Jussawalla Teaching R.K.Narayan’s Swami and Friends; Padmini Mongia Postcolonial Identity and Gender Boundaries in Amitav


Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines; Gail Tayko Teaching Isabel Allende’s La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits); Susan Gardner ‘And Here I Am, Telling in Winnebago How I Lived My Life’: Teaching Mountain Wolf Woman; Enda Duffy Reading the Japanese Car as a Postcolonial Novel. Book Reviews: Aparajita Sagar Andrew Parker, Mary Russo, Doris Sommer, and Patricia Yeager, eds., Nationalisms and Sexualities-, Paul Stoller Christopher L.Miller, Theories of Africans: Francophone Literature and Anthropology in Africa; James Iffland John Beverley and Marc Zimmerman, Literature and Politics in the Central American Revolutions; Mona Fayad Evelyne Accad, Sexuality and War: Literary Masks of the Middle East; Linda Myrsiades Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, The Post-Colonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues. Ed. Sarah Harasym; Lisa McNee Neil Lazarus, Resistance in Postcolonial African Fiction; Kay Raymond Ariel Dorfman, Some Write to the Future: Essays on Contemporary Latin American Fiction. Trans. George Shivers and Ariel Dorfman; George Lang Josaphat B.Kubayanda, The Poet’s Africa: Africanness in the Poetry of Nicolás Guillén and Aimé Césaire; Lalita Pandit Eric Cheyfitz, The Poetics of Imperialism: Translation and Colonization from The Tempest to Tarzan; Sandra Pouchet Paquet Joyce Jonas, Anancy in the Great House: Ways of Reading West Indian Fiction; Hector A.Torres Ramón Saldivar, Chicano Narrative: The Dialectics of Difference; Oliver Lovesey Chris Bongie, Exotic Memories: Literature, Colonialism, and the Fin de Siècle.