Re: post-structuralism

Christopher Pound (pound@IS.RICE.EDU)
Sun, 10 Apr 1994 23:59:00 -0500

> There are a number of quite legitimate ways the term
> "post-structuralism" has been used in the social sciences over the
> years, not to mention in the arts.

Honestly, I really would love to hear them. I'd be plenty happy with
simple references, especially to those used in art criticism. I mean,
I'm familiar with plenty (not all ;) of the competing ideas about postmodernism
in the arts and social sciences, but post-structuralism? Other than
referring collectively to a variable-length list of French theories,
their foreign exponents, and the features they all seem to have in common,
I've never heard of it and "need to know."

As for what I said about p.-s., I can't accept, even for myself, that it
was "right." I mean, the points I bothered to raise were either somewhat
contentious (e.g. people see the "death of the subject" in a wide variety
of ways, and it is by no means something specific to post-structuralism)
or influenced more by Derrida than any of the other so-called post-
structuralists (e.g. although Derrida and Lyotard both like to talk about
play and gaming, they go about it in dissimilar ways, and I can't think
of any time Foucault talked about it (definitely not certain about that)).

That's why I *didn't put forward* a definition of post-structuralism.

If I had to, it'd include things like the self-referentiality of the sign
(and, accordingly, a mistrust of representation), the death of the subject,
the attack on history and classical epistemology. I'd also bring up the
Tel Quel group, May '68, and maybe the various confrontations with
hermeneutics to give some extra context. However, I'd keep in mind the
degree to which the "post-structuralists" disagree about their being
classifed together by the English-speaking world (oh, I think it's called
"neostructuralism" in Germany; I have no idea about anywhere else and would
love to hear about it). Tracing the influence of these things throughout
the rest of the world would be a *very* difficult task, but if there is some
usage of the term "post-structuralism" that doesn't derive from these ideas
and/or events, I sincerely would like to know.

As for the rest, apology accepted. I'm sure you'd be hard pressed to
find anything as flame-like as "swaggering" or "polluting the commons"
in anything I've posted to this list lately. Also, as in this message,
I've always added new perspectives, references, or information in my
messages to the list. If I were of a mind to just flame anyone (and I'm
not), I'd certainly reserve it for personal e-mail.

Christopher Pound ( | They think they are Parisians, but
Department of Anthropology, Rice U. | they are nothing. -- Pierre Bourdieu