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

Steven Connor

What Is It That It Is?

What do I mean by cultural phenomenology? Here, at least, is what I think it could do. Cultural phenomenology would aim to enlarge, diversify and particularise the study of culture. Instead of readings of abstract structures, functions and dynamics, cultural phenomenology would home in on substances, habits, organs, rituals, obsessions, pathologies, processes and patterns of feeling. Such interests would be at once philosophical and poetic, explanatory and exploratory, analytic and evocative. Above all, whatever interpreting and explication cultural phenomenology managed to pull off would be achieved in the manner in which it got amid a given subject or problem, not by the degree to which it got on top of it.

`Cultural Phenomenology' strikes me as a good name for the work I have in mind because it would inherit and preserve from the phenomenological tradition an aspiration to articulate the worldliness and embodiedness of experience - the in-the-worldness of all existence. It would aim to sidestep the out-of-body experiences of cultural studies and even cultural materialism, attending instead to the affective, somatic dimensions of cultural experience, numbed and masked as these usually are by our ubiquitous, compulsory talk of `the body'.

(Maxim number one: cultural phenomenology is not corporal punishment.)

|Steve Connor|Birkbeck English|Birkbeck College|