Re: discourse

John A. L. Banks wrote:
> At 17:16 10/05/96 +0100, you wrote:
> >
> >A propos of the Judith Butler thread, which is getting a bit warm, I
> >would like to know how people define discourse, a term which everyone
> >throws around but often doesn't get distinguished from 'language'. Does
> >the big F not describe it as a practice?
> >
> >Dave Hugh-Jones
> >'Yes, that's my mother all right, but my mother's the Virgin Mary, you know.'
> >dash2@xxxxxxxxx
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> Finally an interesting question in this thread that i thought set out to
> discuss, and engage with Butler's mobilisation of Foucault's (among others)
> work. I think a problem with much of what has been posted thus far is a
> general failure to discuss in any detail how Butler is using, and i think to
> an extent reworking notions of discursive construction in texts such as
> Gender Trouble; and Bodies That Matter. Instead the same tired old
> oppositions and accusations are wheeled out reducing quite complex issues
> regarding the status of discursive or social construction to discursive or
> linguistic idealism (the same old accusation of reducing the 'real' 'the
> world' to the status of text or discourse). The most compelling aspect of
> Butler's work, for me at any rate, is how she tackles these questions. As
> Butler puts it, by questioning the status of the opposition between
> sex/gender she is simultaneously rethinking 'constructivism' (Bodies 6). She
> refers to the "exasperated debate which many of us have tired of hearing...
> [in which] consteructivism is reduced to a position of linguistic monism,
> whereby linguistic construction is understood to be generative and
> deterministic" (6). Much of the discussion in this thread thus far seems to
> remain caught within such tired old assumptions about what theorists such as
> Butler mean when they talk about discursive construction; and a noted lack
> of any detailed engagement with her work.
> I think a few key points that Butler makes in the introduction to Bodies
> That Matter could open some interesting possibilities for discussion. First,
> she points out that construction operates through a proces of excusion... "a
> set of foreclosures, radical erasures, that are, strictly speaking, refused
> the possibility of cultural articulation" (8). An interesting quote follows:
> "for there is an 'outside' to what is constructed by discourse, but this is
> not an absolute 'outside', an ontological thereness that exceeds or counters
> the boundaries of discourse; as a constitutive 'outside', it is that which
> can only be thought---when it can---in relation to that discourse, at and as
> its most tenuous borders. The debate between constructivism and essentialism
> thus misses the point of deconstruction altogether, for the point has never
> been that 'everything is discursively constructed'; that point, when and
> where it is made, belongs to a kind of discursive monism or linguisticism
> that refuses the constitutive force of exclusion, erasure, violent
> foreclosure, abjection and its disruptive return within the very terms of
> discursive legitimacy". I think this establishes quite well how much of the
> discussion thus far, as Butler puts it "misses the point".
> Against such limited conceptions of construction Butler proposes "a return
> to the notion of matter, not as site or surface, but as a process of
> materialization that stabilizes over time to produce the effect of boundary,
> fixity, and surface we call matter. That matter is always materialzed has, I
> think, to be thought in relation to the productive and, indeed,
> materializing effects of regulatory power in the Foucaultian sense" (10).
> Sorry about the lengthy quotes, but perhaps this can provide something of a
> context against which to consider how Butler is mobilising concepts such as
> discursive construction, whilst avoiding the limiting opposition between
> discursive idealism/the real which thus far seems to be structuring the
> discussion. I am probably simplifying to some extent much of the discussion
> to date, but i have been struck by the generalising tone and a failure to
> engage in any detail with how Butler is mobilising these terms.
> John Banks
> J.Banks@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Dear John Banks,

Yes indeed, discourse is a kind of practice; it is, as Foucault says a
>regulated practice< or a >practice of regulated statements< (Foucault, Archeology of knowledge, 1973 (in German; I don't know when it was
translated into English) or affirmative propositions. And contrary to
language it constructs its object itself. There is no simple
relationsship or bondage between the facts and the words, but between
the things and the words there are rules (which are arosen by a
scientific or regulative >police<; Foucault himself called it >police<
who controls the discourse). These rules define the >domination< of the
object. There is no reality to which a discourse tries to correspond but
the discourse itself constitutes reality. That is to say, the discourses
construct the object which they are talking of, not the other way round!
And this aspect is most important for the discussion about Butler,
because she says that it is by discourses that the body and its
-biological- sex is constituted and that the body materializes
through/by discourses. It's merely an epistemological position which is,
as far as I can see, very often misunderstood.So, theis epistemological
position inplicates that the object talked of by discourses doesn't
exist out of discourse positions. Judith Butler assumes with Foucault
that discourses are historically specific positions/organized forms of
language which produce specific modalities of discourse positions.
This is the meaning of discourse in the poststructuralist discourse
theory (above all,of Foucault). There is still another position, namely
that of Juergen Habermas and the Critical Theory who defines discourse
as an intersubjective way of communication which enables people to
resist or confront themwelves against 'frozen' power relationsships und
power structures and eventually to dissolve those structures.

I hope you can better understand the argues now....

Hannelore Bublitz

  • Re: discourse
    • From: Bublitz
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    Re: discourse, John A. L. Banks
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