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

Steven Connor

Forbidden Words: The Cultural Phenomenology Index

Most alarmingly of all, we in literary and cultural studies, have developed an extraordinarily assured and intimidating meta-critical language to allow us to manipulate these imaginary futures. Against this, I keep trying to nerve myself and anyone who crosses my path professionally to write and talk in less bullying and boring ways. This is partly a matter of lexical vigilance. I am trying to do without all of the following performance-enhancing terms and metaphors:

boundaries, sites (as in `sites of struggle')     contestation       transgression    discourse    hybridity    subject-position     the gaze     identity      alterity       subversion     dominance     resistance      difference      marginality    diaspora       decentring    totalising      performativity      foreclosure       undecidability (especially as in `radical undecidability')      radical (as in `radical anything')      inscription

Farewell, dear friends. Like the recent ex-smoker, I am wont to be unpleasantly zealous in my recommendations of the health-giving benefits of doing without this language. (Yes, I want critical writing to get back its sense of smell.) Lest it be feared that this programme of proscription throws me into bed with those who have been outraged from the start by the monstrosity of such theoretical `jargon', I might say that the nipping out of such terms is a precondition rather for the proliferation of monstrosity than the restoration of plain speaking, purity and good citizenship in critical language. I mean the sort of monstrosity that results from extreme and unswerving attentiveness to one's object, allowing oneself to be invaded and reshaped, rather than merely prompted or propelled by it. I'm even prepared to admit that I'm looking for a return to organic form - providing that term were allowed to mean the form not of the organism, but that of Diderot's independent organ, in its teratological maladjustment.

And another thing.

| Steve Connor | English and Humanities | Birkbeck College |