a yankee way of knowledge

Thu, 13 Jan 1994 19:51:20 EST

me, tells you the first clause (pre-semicolonial or better precolonial or
why not precontact) is a joke: Concentrating on the last few pages of the
recent accumulation of laserprintout (50 pp), I noticed at least two
participants whom I esteem very highly, Mike Lieber and Dwight Read, used
"experience" in the naive sense. And what do I mean by naive sense:

[post-facto owl-of-minerva droppings on my own head:]

In my presentation of Haraway's position, I stated that she adopts a
hard-materialist position, to the realist side of Bruno Latour (Laboratory
Life, Science In Action), which she nevertheless deploys to prove, in a
major case study in biology (with other, less conclusive, supporting
studies), that Nature is a *social*, and more specifically social wherein
the *political* is central, product. If so, experience, which is the
*notionally direct* subjective apprehension (that is, ideology is construed
as absent though it is present in, even constitutive of, said apprehension)
of what is taken for Nature, which in turn is taken for Reality [= capital-
ized to indicate "in the ideological sense"]; "experience is the best
teacher"; yet it is all the more a social product, in that it is clearly
derivative from Nature-as-construct.

This position dovetails exactly with that of Haraway's target, MacKinnon,
who says, in Feminism Unlimited, that [the experience of] sex is sexy,
therefore Natural, therefore construed as Real [= again, in the ideological
sense - daf]; yet all this *is constituted as such by gender hierarchy*.
With suppression of sexist-hierarchical gender relations, presumably, sex
would be sexy in a different way; else not sexy at all; and if the latter,
we might all feel better about it: Doubters should be reminded that MacKinnon,
like Haraway a Marxist, finds it in keeping with critical thought to critique
an existing system of social relations with one imagined or posited as
"struggling to be born within the womb of the old."

Experience is certainly historically relative. New social relations come
into existence cataclysmically or gradually have given rise to new experiences,
though the nomenclature of them and the social role allocation of those
legitimated to have them, not to mention those legitimated in the culture,
makes an uncertain fit with the actual experience inventory. Let me cop out:
More research is necessary.

"Driven" ideation, for instance, has been medicalized as Obsessive Compul-
sive Disorder, which is legitimated only for that sort which is conducive to
occuapationally rewarded workaholism, and "love," which is central to the
institutions of marriage, family, kinship, and parenting, under strict
normative regulation: Love is considered to exist where the obsessed-about
reciprocally obsesses about the obsessed; or at least fakes it. Obsession
notwithstanding rejection is a sick fixation, unproductive drain on
occupational performance, grandiosity, or masochism. Even when reciprocated
but evaluated by the community as a poor trade in the marketplace, it becomes

All other "driven" ideation, including religious possession, quests for
Holy Grail or Prester John, the Native American "Vision Quest," and the
like, are suppressed, condemned as Drug Abuse if involving certain mushrooms,
medicalized with supplementary diagnoses such as delusions and hallucinations,
or "religious preoccupations."

Of all the constructed cetainties guiding the *sense of plausibility* in
guiding our navigation of social life, "experience" is the most amenable,
under conditions of modern mass-communications, to manipulation and
suggestion, "Feel the flavor," logocentric evidential testimony for the
existence and Normality (nondeviance) of the experience experienced (in
that the utterance "an experience which cannot be expressed in words"
betokens a speaker who will not shut up), and conformist homogenization.
To repeat myself, "No experience is allowed in any culture which has not
already been standardized."

"Revelation," then, is in the wider society and culture, hence also in
common parlance on this list, a construct derivative from "experience," and
for this reason I have already (Tue 11 Jan) given it a sociology-of-knowledge
interpretation in terms of occupational imperatives intersecting with the
questionalble objective importance or even existence of the Observed, not
to ignore the *importance*, ideological or material, of the Observed for
the wider society or powerful vested interests within it. (*)

Now, that said, the Night Staff of the Nomenclatural Clearing House of
Greater Long Island wishes to ask:

1. What is the difference betwen "revelation" in Anthropology and the century-
old, if it doesn't antedate Max Weber, *Verstehen* in Sociology?

2. What is the difference between "thick description" and "textured analysis"?
(Sample usages from fomer found in Anthro, latter in Soc, literature.) (+)

3. What is the difference between Cultural Studies and Politics of Identity,
where the former is, my impression runs, getting ousted by the latter among

4. Does the person who asked for more circumlocutions specifically restrict
the request to *polite* circumlocutions, where the signified, if unmentionable,
is easily identified? Or would the request also cover *evasive* circumlocu-
tions, such as the formerly notorious "-oriented," "-directed," "-patterned,"
and the ever-popular "values" in Sociology; also, "religion" in Anthropology?

5. And besides circumlocutions, we're currently running an overstock on
redundant synonyms, hyposemics (signifiers whether full of sound and fury
or not signifying nothing), and theoretical analogues of Retreating Glaciation

Daniel A. Foss (with help from Micki Korp, whose fault this is not no way).
(*) In 1973-5, Foss & Larkin, noting like many others at the time, the "rise"
of "New Religions," but observing their unmistakable cultural affinities to
neo-Leninist "communist parties of a new type," lumped them together as
"post-movement groups." One such, the Divine Light Mission, prima facie
appeared to possess all eleven characteristics on Foss's list; whence came
a 2-year unfunded excepting out of our hides, and of occuaptionally disastrous
consequences. (A few sporadic articles; unmarketable book.) By the completion
of the book, "post-movement groups" had become "cultural inversions," defined
as "rearrangements of the the elements of a social-movement culture or
subculture into a repressive and reactionary form." This went over like a
stinkbomb with publishers. The Basic Books person told us, "Parents out there
inna suburbs wanna know, 'Is *my* kid gonna turn into a peapod?'"

(+) We called the study "textured analysis."