A Few Don'ts (And Dos) By A Cultural Phenomenologist

Steven Connor

The Cultural in Cultural Phenomenology

Where the phenomenological tradition, in Husserl, Heidegger, Levinas, and even Sartre, is strangely allergic to the consideration of collective or impersonal life, a cultural phenomenology of the kind I am here attempting to imagine would not be conceived as a mere enlargement of the cogito, via its exculpation of the body, but as a way of stirring reflection on the nature of collectivity and culture. The word `cultural' in `cultural phenomenology' suggests the importance of acknowledging that the ways in which the world presents itself for and is grasped by consciousness is an intersubjective way. To say that something is cultural is to say simultaneously that it is shared and that it is made. Culture means shared conditions of making. It means the experiencing of the world as a way of repeatedly making the world, and making it in common. The aim of cultural phenomenology would not be to raise up the authentic, lived body of experience from the carapace of analysis and explication, because it would not believe there is any such authentic, lived body. This unbelief about the authentic body, or the primordial nature of one's embodied relation to the world, ought to save cultural phenomenology from trying to drench itself in esseity. But this is because, for cultural phenomenology, to explain culture is to bring it about. Culture is neither raw experience on the one hand, nor finished explanation on the other; it is experience becoming explanation, experiencing experienced as a way of explaining. Cultural phenomenology would attempt to grasp, synthesise, transform and be itself seized by the processes of explanation which are always astir within experiences, objects and processes.

| Steve Connor | English and Humanities | Birkbeck College |