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

Steven Connor

Culture is Not Representation

Cultural phenomenology would benefit from scepticism about the unexamined contemporary assumption that the way in which collective life gets into or bears upon individual life is through powerful (powerfully seductive, or coercive, or delusive) representations. It would see this as attracting the same kind of criticism as Cartesian accounts of the epistemological self - the self who comes to know the world only through abstract picturings of it. We know `the world' (one of the irritating phenomenological turns of phrase on which a cultural phenomenology would want to avoid becoming dependent), in fact, in the manner in which we live it. Contemporary critical theory has become as clever as it has at describing the kinds of things that representations do to us, at the cost of surrendering curiosity about what we do to representations. Modes of life - collective as well as individual modes - are more important and interesting (to cultural phenomenologists, that is, or to those wittingly or unwittingly engaged at the time in question in being cultural phenomenologists) than styles, texts, images, discourses, and other modes of collective representation, which become interesting and significant in the ways in which they are used, to make up the worldhood of our worlds.

| Steve Connor | English and Humanities | Birkbeck College |