Phenomenology and History
If I am looking for one kind
of enlargement of phenomenology in the attention to the cultural, I am
looking for another in a different form of historical attentiveness. Phenomenology
has never been characterised by a particularly strong historical sense
or curiosity, though it has had a strong and valuable interest in the lived
conditions of temporality. Historians have handsomely repaid the noncompliment
in their indifference to phenomenological perspectives and procedures.
One can understand this reciprocal coolness. History has always operated
in the end in the order of the `they'; with what is public, external, formalised.
History has tended to focus on general, or representative or summarised
experiences, as well as on the actual rather than the implicit. If phenomenology
were to be a resource for me, it would have to be a phenomenology with
a memory, a properly historical phenomenology. One could imagine,
for example, a cultural phenomenology conducted simply in terms of a historicisation
of some of the central categories and motifs of classical or systematic
phenomenology: the experiences of elevation, uprightness, exposure, interiority,
visibility, plurality, magnitude, height and weight. (Imagine it: a history
of weight!) According to me, to historicise these experiences would be
to cleave to rather than to swerve away from the phenomenological effort
to grasp what the world is like (what it would be like to take the world
to be like that) rather than how it is. Grasping what the world is like
involves acknowledging what it is not like, yet or any more.
| Steve Connor | English and Humanities | Birkbeck College |