First person, second person, same person: narrative as epistemology.
What else can a historical, philosophical, erudite treatise on linear perspective, and its origin in Italian art (history), have in common with a critical-anthropological study of a proverb and a theatrical performance based on it, in Shaba, Zaire? What could make it worth analyzing the common elements in two so diverse scholarly texts, neither of which is on narrative nor is a narrative in any common-sense definition? Both are products of academic work, of "new art history" and of "critical anthropology" respectively; both, that is, stand in the tradition of contemporary, "progressive" knowledge production.
Let me briefly tell these two stories. One evening at dinner, Fabian heard the expression, probably proverbial, le pouvoir se mange entier (power is eaten whole). Trying to find out what the proverb means in the Shaba culture, he asked people, and one day (second episode) he asked a group of theater actors who were his friends. After an intense session of brainstorming, the group decided to work up their next play around the saying. Fabian was present at preparations, rehearsals, and performance, considering that what happened is the best possible form of modern ethnography: the construction of knowledge about a culture with the people and through collective research and discovery. The real performance of the actors becomes an allegory of the idea of performance as an epistemic model for ethnography.
Damisch's pursuit of knowledge concerns the origin of perspective as well as of the thinking about perspective - perspective as a discourse - and proceeds on an equally "democratic" base. He provides close readings of the treatises on perspectives, the experiments that led to what can only be anachronistically called its "discovery," and of three paintings, constructed as a group, which he studies in relation to one another in order to understand the origin of perspective through the transformations in its use.
Both of these books address up front the basic epistemological problem of their discipline and, I contend, of the humanities and the social sciences in general. For Fabian, that problem is to account not only for knowledge as a product but for its production in an epistemic situation where power inequality has made the discipline's traditional paradigms virtually useless. For Damisch, the problem is the paradox of historical search for an origin. To avoid mythification, origin must be seen through a double predicament. It presupposes a beginning which must be revolutionary in order to be perceived, yet must be absorbed in a tradition in order to measure its revolutionary impact; an absorption which requires that tradition to ignore the event which it acknowledges as its origin (L 79).
The rationale for my choice of discussing these texts is the relevance to them of, and their relevance for, a third text: a philosophical analysis of epistemological problems in relation to feminist theory, Lorraine Code's 1991 What Can She Know?(3) That relevance is best seen when one realizes that both case studies grew out of a search for an epistemology through which the subjective status of the objects the writers sought to understand could be done more justice. Both books grew out of an impatience, as Damisch put it in his first sentence, with the epistemological modes current in their respective areas, anthropology and history; an impatience, also, which gives the books an autobiographical slant.
Johannes Fabian is a well-known critical anthropologist: his Time and the Other(4) is perhaps the single most important text of the movement of anthropologists impatient with and thoroughly suspicious of the colonialist legacy that subtends their field. His recent Power and Performance, the text under discussion in this paper, gives the lie to those who become skeptical of what they consider the overcritical mood of the relentless critique of ethnography; to those who tend to conclude from Fabian's critical work that there is no way one can do it right. Here, the same author who would never be satisfied with the well-meaning attempts at democratic and non-exploitative ethnographies is showing his hand. And whatever else this seminal study may also be, it remains true to the discursive habits of ethnography: it is a narrative text. A complex, multilayered and intricate one indeed, telling the multiple stories of his own discoveries of ethnographic facts as well as of methodology, mixed with those of the discussions and rehearsals, interlarded with stories about each of the participants in the project as well as of popular theater in Shaba. Complex, yes, but a narrative no less. And since it offers an in-depth exploration of ways of pursuing knowledge, the embedding part of the narrative is self-reflexive.
In addition to being a philosopher, Damisch is primarily an art historian, and as such a teller of tales too. His masterful Theorie du nuage(5) (Theory of the Cloud) was as pathbreaking as Fabian's Time and the Other. In that book he took clouds to be, as he formulates it in his later study on perspective, "emblems of what perspective excludes from its order ... while also of the logic on which it is based and which gives it coherence" (L 297). Moreover, his topic is the search for an origin, and states as much in its title, and that topic promises a text that is at least doubly narrative: as story of origin and as story of the search for that origin. His impatience also concerned his fellow historians and their simplistic conception of what kind of narratives history ought to construct.(6) Hence, this study, too, presents a complex narrative with a self-reflexive dimension.
Both studies represent an object lying rigorously outside the subject of inquiry: a discursive habit of a different people in terms of cultural identity and location, the people of Shaba in Zaire, in the one case, a different discursive apparatus in terms of time, in renaissance Italy, in the other. Both are explicitly engaged in overcoming the object status this "third personhood" entails. Fabian's intention "to explore the meanings of |le pouvoir se mange entier' and to do this following a |method' that works as an ethnography with, not of, the Groupe Mufwankolo" (P 55) echoes Damisch's search for "an analysis which would be less about a painting than it would have to reckon with it" (L 240). And there, too, lies their relevance for the kind of inquiry Lorraine Code proposes, into the relationships between subject and object of knowledge whose possibility emerges when the traditional objectivism's self-evidence is suspended.
Thus at first sight, in terms of narratology and seen from the perspective of the object of study, both narratives can be seen as primarily "third-person narratives," including the tensions inherent in that discursive mode. But both authors struggle with precisely that dimension of their professional discourses: the false neutrality sufficiently challenged by contemporary epistemology as it translates into a narrative told in the third person, with an invisible narrator and a nonidentified focalizer. First, they turn their texts around, and the self-reflexive side of the studies involves the first person in their quest. The neutral, distant narrator becomes part of the exploration, so that the embedding narrative is written in the first person.
Where Damisch opens his preface with the statement of his impatience, Fabian espouses the conventions of realist fiction when he opens his first chapter thus: "On the evening of June 17, 1986, in the midst of a relatively short stint of field work in Lubumbashi, the capital of the mining region of Shaba in Zaire, I was writing up the day's events when I made a discovery" (P 3). Placing the events to follow in a specific time frame, himself as the story's narrator in specific circumstances, and the first event of the fabula to come as the potentially spectacular interruption of a durative occupation: it could be practically any novel. His identity as a self-reflexive narrator represented as writing specifies the discourse, as it suggests a modernist aesthetic.
But between a realist, neutral narrator and a modernist first person, the problem of the status of the object of narration remains as yet to be examined. In the case of epistemological narratives, the issue becomes that of the subjective status of the object of inquiry. Both authors make that status an important element in their experimental narrative. Fabian sets up a situation in which the object, cultural knowledge, is not studied but constructed on the spot, by and with and through the cultural group under investigation, as well as conducting that investigation. This is precisely the discovery alluded to: that ethnographic knowledge is not simply a dialogue, let alone a neat and clean third-person narrative, but a performance. Damisch, whose object is not a cultural group but a cultural discourse, sets up a specific enunciation of perspective as his interlocutor: the group of three anonymous, renaissance, "urbinate," perspectival city views, the most famous of which is The Ideal City at Urbino. Both scholars take the second person as the core of their examination, and both make action, process, performance the core of their knowledge. Both perform formal experiments to inscribe this second personhood of their object as well as the performative dynamic into the narrative, which thereby becomes experimental, complex, and theoretically at least, a second-person narrative. Both books, then, are semantically "third-person," syntactically "first-person," and present attempts to achieve pragmatically a "second-person" narrative.
This intrication of a project of critical epistemology, a narrative which inscribes the second person, and the centrality of performance, struck me as significant, and especially so in light of recent developments in epistemological theory as they relate to narrative. To sum these up too briefly: the epistemological notion of objective truth and impersonal knowledge is bound up with the narratological notions of "third-person narrative," external and invisible narrator, and neutral representation. But if we realize that the Cartesian cogito which sustains the objective epistemology is itself a mininarrative in the first person, we don't even need Descartes's personal expressions of anxiety to realize that this conception of knowledge is inherently contradictory.(7) Indeed, the Cartesian principles are all bound up with subjectivity and defined in terms of the individual subject: the basis of knowledge is one indubitable thing to which all other knowledge is systematically related; hence, to which it is relative; "indubitable" presupposes a subject of possible doubt; reason is common to and alike in all knowers; yet the quest for knowledge is undertaken separately by each rational being who is thereby unassisted by the senses and uses the same method. Where the subject of inquiry is so emphatically and contradictorily both fore-grounded and neutralized, one might well associate this epistemological ideal with what Philippe Lejeune analyzes as "autobiography in the third person."(8)
In her fascinating inquiry into the conditions of knowledge and the problem of access to knowledge for some of those rational beings who are apparently a little less fit to be such a subject of inquiry, Lorraine Code challenges, among many other things, the overruling primacy of objectivity and the paradigmatic status of physics as the ideal model of knowledge. The two are, of course, related. The attractions of physics are deceptive: they consist in providing the illusion that knowledge can always be analyzed in observational "simples" (W 139). She proposes instead to give primacy to intersubjectivity ("a conception of cognitive agency for which intersubjectivity is primary and |human nature' is ineluctably social" [W 72]) and to give paradigm status to the difficult and complex epistemological project of knowing other people. Central in her analysis of the knowing subject is Annette Baier's concept of second personhood, and the model for the mode of inquiry she proposes is friendship.
Since the terms offered for reflection are strikingly close to those put to use by Fabian and Damisch, it comes as no surprise that the discursive consequences of Code's theoretical position seem to apply quite specifically to the texts produced by these two field" scholars. And narrativity is the locus of these consequences. In the wake of her critique of physics as paradigm, Code scornfully suggests that there are narrative reasons why epistemology values simplicity: "Clean, uncluttered analyses are valued more highly than rich, multifacted, but messy and ambiguous narratives" (W 169). This remark strongly suggests that there is a relation between narrative form and epistemological competence; between the ability to handle complex knowledge and to tell and read complex stories as much as between cleanliness and simplicity. In other words, if Code is right here, as I think she is, then narrative theory and analysis have a lot to offer in the important area of reflection on what it is and how it is we can know. And since the academic endeavor as a whole is very much invested in those questions, there is an opportunity for humanists to contribute to the foundations of academic, intellectual life that I would hate to miss.
One caveat is already called for, however. Code's remark sounds convincing not only because, on a symbolic-logical level, it is easy to imagine how it can be right, and on the level of indexicality, how nonsimplistic analyses would require complex narratives as their accounts, but also because it suggests a resemblance between complex knowledge and messy narrative modes. In semiotic terms, the symbolic and indexical relationships of signification are reinforced by an iconic one. And although there are very good reasons to believe that complexity and messiness are valuable as well as contiguous, the iconicity in question is not one of them. Indeed, such a coincidence between content and form, such formal congruence, partakes of a profoundly mimetic impulse that makes us tend to think that there is a virtue in such iconicity in itself. I would like to keep distrust toward such iconism along with an interest in the connection itself.
This paper, then, presents an examination of epistemological adventures in the three areas in which I have been particularly interested since I started to work on narrative: anthropology, art history, and feminist theory. This allows me, incidentally, to present the three best books in these three areas I have read in years. Each of them not only discuss paradigms of knowledge, but also constitute these. Hence, if I eventually have some critical remarks to make, the reader is asked to bear in mind that those are quibbles, perhaps inevitable reservations, which stand out the more emphatically as these studies are such exemplary texts which only my unease with the term prevents from calling masterpieces. To speak with Lorraine Code's preferred model: I will engage these paradigms of knowledge according to the mode of friendship, not the adversarial mode.
I will discuss the potential of narrative as epistemology as well as the problems a narrative epistemology might incur by confronting views of narrative in these three studies, eventually in relation to time and "person." These two aspects of narrative, it turns out, have a tremendous impact on the very possibility of reliable and responsible knowledge. The coincidence that both Fabian and Damisch find their inquiries to converge in the notion of performance as an alternative to dominating, exploitative, and asymmetrical modes of knowledge requires an examination of the implications of that concept in relation to the narrative aspects just mentioned. But as I said before, coincidence itself, with its leaning toward mimesis, will benefit from my continuous doubt.
II. Narrative and Epistemology
Let me first explore some incidental and less incidental connections between narrative and epistemology as these studies display them. Code's first concern is to break away from the dichotomy between objectivism and relativism, and given my own inclination to deplore dichotomies, I was already interested right there. As it happens, her view mediates between the two opposites by virtue of narrativity. Here is her definition of relativism: "Broadly speaking, epistemological relativists hold that knowledge, truth, or even |reality' can be understood only in relation to particular sets of cultural or social circumstances, to a theoretical framework, a specifiable range of perspectives, a conceptual scheme, or a form of life" (W 2). While not endorsing a stark construal of relativism, nor the equation of epistemological with conceptual relativism, she mentions as major advantages of a moderate epistemological relativism the fact that it "is one of the more obvious means of avoiding reductive explanations, in terms of drastically simplified paradigms of knowledge, monolithic explanatory, modes, or privileged, decontextualized positions" as well as the "stringent accountability requirements" it entails (W 3). And these remarks nicely sum up the ambitions of both Fabian and, less explicitly, Damisch. Both go out of their way to avoid decontextualized reporting, and they do so by experimenting with narrative structure. One of the aspects of the theoretical framework and the conceptual schemes, as well as, in Fabian's case, the "ways of life" of Code's definition, is later explicated as narrative. Code even makes narrative the core of her "epistemic responsibility."(9) She argues that the moderate relativism she advocates entails an increased relevance of narrative: "once epistemologists recognize the locatedness of all cognitive activity in the projects and constructions of specifically positioned subjects, then the relevance of narrative will be apparent as an epistemological resource" (W 170), and she adds that the model of the Cartesian knower as neutral and not positioned has worked to obscure that significance of narrative.
The importance of narrative because of its capacity to map positioned subjects in relation to knowledge does not entail a facile rejection of all standards of objectivity. On the contrary, as Code rightly argues, while on the one hand, "often, objectivity requires taking subjectivity into account" (W 31), on the other denying that there are objective social realities "would obliterate the purpose of feminist political projects" (W 45). Rather, the subjectivities involved in the interactions that especially humanists and social scientists study are objectifiable precisely because they can be related to, made relative to, and positioned within narrative conceived as a mobile, dynamic, conceptual scheme.
As I mentioned before, Code's competitor for paradigm status to supersede physics is "knowing other people," and although she doesn't name any academic discipline, it seems obvious that anthropology at its best could be the privileged discipline, with narrative as its central mode. That the history of anthropology has not particularly yielded such status stems from the bond between knowledge in the objectivist mode and domination as a political practice. But revised in this direction - and such a revision is well under way, with Fabian as one of its leaders - Fabian's study could then be a paradigm within the paradigm. Knowing other people - which, for Code, is best seen as based on the model of friendship - has features that clearly demonstrate why narrative is such an important resource for it, and all of these features are prominently at work in Fabian's book: such knowledge is not achieved at once, instead it develops; it is open to interpretation at different levels; it admits of degrees; it changes; subject and object positions in the process of knowledge construction are reversible; it is a never-accomplished constant process; "the "more-or-lessness' of this knowledge constantly affirms the need to reserve and revise judgement" (W 37-38). This last feature points at the need for self-reflection as part of the epistemic endeavor itself.
The relevance of narrative as a resource is not limited to its use in documents and reports; the process of knowledge construction, which both Fabian and Damisch like to call performance, is narrative in nature on all scores. The events that constitute the process producing knowledge do not exist outside the narrative accounts of them, which construct the knowledge by representing the events. Moreover, the knowledge-claimants position themselves within a range of what Code calls "discursive possibilities which she may accept, criticize, or challenge" (W 122), thus constructing yet another performative context which does not admit reduction to simples and separation of discovery, justification, and report.
Damisch paradoxically demonstrates the pervasive relevance of narrative in his resistance to it when he writes: "That a painting cannot be narrated is - as you noticed in the beginning - a kind of scandal in a culture so massively informed by philology as ours" (L 239). Later on I will revert to the odd bracketed clause in the second person, but for now I wish to remark that this statement is noticeable by its inherent contradiction: The Origin of Perspective is precisely a narrative of paintings, but of paintings as actions, taking the progressive form literally; "scandal" implies a story and, indeed, Damisch proceeds to devote the rest of his book to the narrative of the three paintings he has selected. A narrative more narrative than those constructed by his fellow historians he so generously despises, for it tells the story of the paintings' performance, including various characters, events, focalizers, and even narrators. His "epistemology of the group" precisely turns three isolated and perhaps static paintings into a set of characters among whom events - essentially relative transformations - take place.(10)
Code's central critique of the traditional Cartesian subject of knowledge challenges the individualism inherent in that tradition. She sharply denounces the blatant tension between the autonomous, pure, and unique subject of objective knowledge and the reduction of people who are "objects" of study to "cases" or "types" (W 21). Distinguishing autonomy from individualism (W 78), she emphasizes the impossibility even to conceive of subjects as individuals independent from the senses, the social structures, and other people. In an argument strikingly convergent with that put forward by linguist Emile Benveniste, she convincingly suggests that "persons essentially are second persons" (W 82), meaning that the dependency on caretakers and other people makes personhood in isolation impossible. Language alone, the very language knowledge is so heavily contingent upon, proves it. Similarly, Benveniste claimed that the first-person pronoun that produces linguistic subjectivity can only be semantically filled by a second person acknowledging and eventually reversing it. And that is the very reason why for him the pronoun, not the concrete noun, is the essence of language; deixis, not reference. It is this dependency on others that constitutes the scandal, the stumbling block, of orthodox epistemology; and hence it is the traces of that grafted status of the knowing subject that must be erased (W 172). Thus formulated, the problems and tensions within this epistemology resemble that of "third-person" narrative in the realist tradition, where subjective traces of narratorial intervention must often be erased, but must at any rate not be explicitly responding to an implied second person thanks to whose curiosity, antagonism, or interest the narratorial "I" can constitute itself. Solicitation by the second person crucially defines first personhood; and therefore the latter must hide behind impossible third personhood; just as in visual representation, the allusion to perspective rather than the full embodiment of it - though an inconspicuous allusion - works to both stage and hide the subject.((11)
Fabian and Damisch are quite outspoken in their "second personhood" and thereby constitute themselves as ironic, self-aware, perhaps postmodern narrators. They do that in several manners, of which more shortly, one of which is to struggle with the very textuality they need in order to perform their knowledge. I have already quoted Damisch's resistance to narrative, and Fabian's chapter title "Interlude: The Missing Text" points to a similar problem. In it he discusses the different conceptions and genres of textuality currently debated in anthropology, such as the equation of culture and text,(12) or the experimental practice of literary genres in ethnography,(13) or the literary analysis of ethnographic texts.(14) But these are conceptions of textuality that do not affect his work, his performance, in writing this book. Then he begins to explore the predicament of the texts on which ethnographers base their writing: field work notes, documents, recordings, protocols. The tremendous problem of making text to which the chapter's title negatively alludes ends up being the text we are reading, which enables Fabian to come up with the following irony: "Never before did I have the chance to witness and document text production in such detail. But there is no hope ever to come up with a definitive text of the play" (P 91). The irony bites itself in the tail when we realize that it is precisely the story of that irony that we are reading. For Fabian does narrate not so much the production of the text as his documentation of that production. Narrative as a mode entails that inevitably metanarrative position: Fabian cannot perform (his role in) the collective construction of knowledge by a number of different subjects/characters without being the narrator-focalizer of the story of that construction. As a consequence, in spite of the above quotation, what he comes up with is neither the text of the play nor the text of the text production but, first, a wonderfully clever structural representation of his focalization of the production of the former through the latter: the transitions from discussion to plot design to play-making on the one hand, and the gradual reversal of the respective amounts of talking and of acting on the other.(15)
To understand how this paradox is bound up with narrative on more than an anecdotal level, it can be compared to Damisch's analysis of linear perspective in terms reminiscent of narratological typologies of narrative situations. Formulating the hypothesis that perspective provided painters with a network of indexical signs equivalent to the system of enunciation in language, he demonstrates various possibilities of relating to the "law" of perspective, each of them equally narrative. Either one obeys or ignores the law, in which cases two narrative situations are unambiguously represented. Or one only puts in a sign or two of it, not necessarily coherent among themselves, just enough to make the "law" work: to make it appear to be assumed, endorsed by the viewer. This is how perspective, even within the practice of painting, is a discourse: it can be intertextually signified without being obeyed and yet it will be read. This would be as close as one gets to "third-person" narrative with an invisible narrator. Or a painting can refer to the model, but only to deny it. Damisch demonstrates this with Raphael's Extasis of Saint Cecilia, where perspective is heavily signified yet not obeyed. Such a denial can work like a self-ironical statement. Damisch rightly adds that, rather than undermining or invalidating it, such a denial reaffirms the system.
This latter situation can be compared to Fabian's predicament of irony upon irony, when his denial of his narrative competence in fact affirms it, and my guess is that he knows it. The struggle with text-making is a struggle for the ability to answer Damisch's very pointed question, "S'il y a histoire, de quoi est-elle I'histoire?" (L 12; If there is history, of what is it the history?). And this question is, I like to think, the meeting-point of narrative and epistemology.
But this is so precisely because that question does not bear a simple answer. For Fabian's predicament is precisely that the production of the knowledge he wants to narrate is a performance in which he is an actor, and as I will argue later, in some way he is its hero. His is, as I said before, a "first-person" narrative, autobiographical from the beginning. He needs to act in the text which he therefore cannot write up, for performance precludes narrative in the "third person." Of what is he writing the history? Of himself writing the history of himself writing the history of.... Instead of providing a simple answer to his own question, Damisch's whole book develops the complex answer which, in the case of the origin of perspective, doubles up the subject of inquiry. He writes much later in the book a sentence that displays the difficulty in its very structure: "But there are various ways of conducting a narrative ... which does not necessarily imply the a priori construction of a scene, and even less the production - even if strictly for the sake of demonstration - of an apparatus (dispositif) where representation, in the modern sense of the word, would be asked to reflect itself in its operation, and simultaneously in its constitutive reference to the position of the subject" (L 364). If the discourse here seems to become hopelessly entangled in its subordinate clauses and double negatives, it is, I think, because Damisch is describing as well as demonstrating here how difficult it is to be entangled in the "first-person" narrator's position of a performance that stages that narrator. The days of Brecht and the epic theater are long gone, and so is Freud's mystic writing pad; and what remains is the impossibility of answering the question "Of what is it the history?" upon the scene of writing.(17) The acceptance and handling of that contradictory entanglement may well be, at the same time, the crucial relevance of narrative for epistemology.
III. Facing Domination
Earlier on in this paper I quoted a statement from Code which suggested that cleanliness, or at least neatness, had a lot to do with the preference for physics as the paradigm of knowledge, together with the resistance to narrative, subjectivity and, as some epistemological texts suggest, women as subjects of knowledge. Indeed, Wilheim Von Humboldt's judgment that "their [women's] nature also contains a lack or a failing of analytic capacity which draws a strict line of demarcation between ego and world; therefore, they will not come as close to the ultimate investigation of truth as man"(18) may have been replaced with more sophisticated versions of the same, and I wouldn't wish to suggest that women have always and everywhere been excluded from knowledge. But the particular interest of this text remains in the reason alleged for that exclusion, and to which the word "messy" in Code's statement responds. Indeed, feminists have amply demonstrated the vested interest of a "malestream" view in the securing of boundaries, of countries as well as bodies and intellectual territories. And the projection of the violation of those cherished boundaries onto those subjects who, according to a biological iconism, are subject to it speaks of the conceptual and emotional confusion underlying gynophobia. The confusion of subject and object, only too well known, which underlies this phobia happens to be a powerful ideologeme, or even an ideological code, serving many purposes, and we will encounter it once more in the present inquiry.(19) This is one reason why a subject-oriented narratology can be helpful.((20)
The investment in boundaries - here you have a subjective, emotional motivation for objectivity - Code suggested, enhances the need for observational simples as the basic unit of knowledge. General epistemology thus partakes of another specific ideological code, that of the accumulative principle in the name of which many scholars claim that objects consist of the sum of their parts. This principle hampered the development of semantics until the advent of discourse analysis, for example. As a third participant in this ideological cluster, we might count dualism, not only the most basic structure of Western thought but also the all-but-exclusive mode of academic argumentation. Here yet again the structure lives off the artificial and often unwarranted isolation of well-delimited (boundaries!) claims and arguments. The mode produces less than maximally good reasoning, as Janice Moulton, who came up with the concept of adversarial mode of argumentation, argues, since it excludes both complications of the issue when taken in context and plural approaches to it.(21) Given the need for sharp opposition and delimitation that the mode demonstrates, it is structurally complicitous with objectivism, which depends on equally strong distinctions. In other words, the subject-object distinction of objectivism is structurally similar to, and contiguous with, the self-other distinction of the adversarial mode. And since it uses the model of war for the peaceful activity of intellectual work, what it also betrays is the intricate relationship between knowledge, aggression, and domination.
Indeed, it has been sufficiently demonstrated, by Evelyn Fox Keller and others, that the sharp division between subject and object which encourages adversarial attitudes is predicated upon the implicit notion that the goal of knowledge is "to produce the ability to control, manipulate, and predict the behavior of its objects" (W 139).(22) The obvious question, then, becomes, What are the stakes, and why are these so high as to entice well-meaning, serious, and self-confident scholars to cling to a model so contaminated by objectionable impulses? Keller looks at psychoanalytic theory for an answer, and she makes her case with much force. But within the present inquiry such answers tend to beg the question. If strong boundaries provide emotional comfort, and if that is so especially for subjects who need that comfort most, the cultural, representational forms that scheme takes remain to be interpreted.
Damisch provides an element for an answer in his analysis of perspective as just such a device for demarcation. He has a keen sense of the issue when he writes: "In order for the things in this world to become objects for perception, the subject must take distance from itself.... But that movement, even in its slight theatricality, remains subjected to the law which is the law of representation: the distance the subject takes in relation to the object...allows him to escape to the immediately lived experience; but he can only discover that he is implicated, irremediably so, in the spectacle which takes its truth from that very implication" (L 345). This implicatedness which is the very essence of the system of perspective as well as its motivation helps Damisch to understand the "difference within" perspective as illusion, bound up with realism but not with reality, a provider of the illusion, precisely, of original subjectivity. Ironically, the subject who needs to see its origin mirrored in the system of perspective, "that subject which is considered |dominating' since it appears to be established in a position of domination is tenuously established [ne tient qu'a un fil]" (L 354).
Domination, then, is not a political background of representational realism but its product. Yet at the same time that product is illusionary, imaginary. Much earlier, Damisch had quoted Merleau-Ponty, who equated such a mode of vision with domination, illusion ("the invention of a dominated world" [L 46]), and adulthood, and then he had continued: "A vision in the first person, coherent, mastered, and which would imply as its condition the position of a subject who can eventually claim it as his, as his property, as his representation" (L 46). In addition to the ideological problematic this statement implies, there is one confusing epistemological detail here, which is related to one we saw earlier without stopping to consider it. The juxtaposition of "his property" and "his representation" points again to a confusion of subject and object, if not to a mechanism of projection. If the visual field encourages subjects-adults, according to Merleau-Ponty - to take hold of the objects in that field, to deploy the gaze, if we think of Norman Bryson's distinction between gaze and glance,(23) they might tend to consider it their property. This would place an urgency on the debate about pornography, for example. But what about the ambiguous phrase "his representation" (sa representation): Does it mean the representation of which he is the object or the representation he performs, through the illusionary mirroring provided by the deceptive optical structure of perspective? If so, the fantasy of adult vision as a first-person narrative foregrounds the ambiguity of precisely that notion. For we have seen that perspective, with its smooth if illusionary effect of the real, works precisely because it both inscribes and effaces the subject of vision.
But the fundamental confusion that underlies the equation of speech and the look in a speech-act-oriented theory of vision is precisely that same illusionary origin Damisch's entire book works to explain, yet reaffirms in this theoretical moment. For the subject of vision is not the subject of painting but its addressee. First person, second person? Are these, in effect, the same person, and what would the consequences of such a conflation be for epistemology in general, for Damisch's writing style, and for Fabian's project of a critical, communicative, dialogic, performative anthropology? The question is relevant in the light of the obvious struggle both writers are engaged in, which is a struggle explicitly to do away with domination by doing justice to the second person.
IV. Second Person?
The concept of second personhood has, then, a triple allegiance. First, as presented by Code, it indicates the derivative status of personhood; the fundamental impossibility to be, both psychologically and socially, a person without the traces of the person's grafted being. Second, as presented by Benveniste and subsequent theorists in his vein, it indicates the reversible relationship of complementarity between first and second-person pronouns whose use produces subjectivity and constitutes the essence of language precisely, Benveniste says, because the pronouns do not refer.(24) Note that both these allegiances are defined negatively, undermining the humanist individual who ruled over objective knowledge, the knowledge that effectively had an "object." Third, then, it indicates the partner of the ethnographer and the historian, those persons, subjects, or discourses formerly referred to as the "object" but now engaged in the dialogue of the performance. To these second persons, the scholars have a strong allegiance that is both epistemological and political. But to avoid the traps of ethics in the overextended use of the political, I will just use the former term. Narrative, as a structural form and as a discursive posture, presents a unique place to study the intertwinements of these three allegiances. In such an analysis lies perhaps the most valuable epistemological contribution of narratology.
Narratology is the theory of narrative, and it provides tools for analyzing narrative texts. A working definition of narrative may be in order here, to avoid both overextending and needlessly restricting the concept. A narrative is an account, in any semiotic system, of a subjectivized and often entirely or partly fictionalized series of events. It involves a narrator - whether explicitly or implicitly self-referential, always a "first person" - a focalizer - the implied subject who "colors" the story - and a number of actors or agents of the events. Narrative thus conceived is not confined to literary or, indeed, verbal narrative. It is a mode of semiotic behavior rather than a finite set of objects. One aspect of that semiotic behavior is the one under scrutiny here: the use of first, second, or third-person discourse.
This psychosocial, linguistic, and epistemological second personhood affects both parties, the "first person," subject of inquiry and writing, as much as the second person, the interlocutors and fellow inquirers in Fabian's case, and the historical "other" discourses in Damisch's case. First and second-person positions are by definition reversible, and one way to measure the success of this epistemic style is precisely to examine the actual reversibility. From now on, I will treat these texts as literary narratives, worthy in themselves of detailed analysis. And as happens in such cases, the analyst can only point at a few exemplary features and details, not be comprehensive at all. In Fabian's case, the structural property of the text I will focus on is the narrative structure of embedding and of the representation of "characters." For Damisch, I will look at the microstylistic feature of the use of grammatical "person," especially in the second part of the book. Throughout this analysis I will keep connecting narrative structure and epistemic meaning.
Fabian's beginning has been quoted already. It sets him up as a first-person narrator-character, engaged in reporting events that can be summarized as "his discovery." The story of the discovery is gripping: at the punctual moment of the evening in 1986, the narrator realized that the interpretive events around the proverb "power is eaten whole" constitute what he names "a new ethnography." Thus the anecdote of the discovery attributed to the "I" appears as a frame narrative, embedding a second narrative which elaborates the circumstances of the discovery, the narrative of the anecdote of being told the saying.
The structure of embedding is important here. In the first-level narrative, the narrator is the first person, and appropriately, he is on his own. In the second-level narrative, the embedded one - but the structure will not remain so neat - the narrator appears as a second person, being told, by his Shaba interlocutors, something in plain words that he does not understand, but upon which he needs to act culturally "correctly." Like in Gide's Faux Monnayeurs (The Counterfeiters), the modernist quest for meaning begins here.
The second-level narrative of the quest for meaning of the saying overflows into the first level when its provisional denouement represents the shared ignorance of Shabans and expatriate ethnographer, resulting in the brainstorming session that is the starting point of the experiment. Given the delicacy of the exchange, the inequality of knowledge - even if they cannot interpret the saying, the interlocutors "know" it better than Fabian - the problem that it is the first-person narrator who is telling both tales, and the intricate narrative structure of the overall text, it is relevant to ask in which direction that overflow ends up streaming.
But there is yet another level. Woven through this narration are reflections on ethnography. At first sight these are discursive interludes, argumentative in mode, articulating an argument as distinct from a narrative which represents a story. Yet they are in turn narrativized as Fabian's personal quest for the best method during the past ten years. His cherished dialogic, communicative method had given him pause already, he tells us, first because of its false ethical suggestion of equality, hence its illusive righteousness, and second because, epistemologically speaking, it does not enable one to account for the production of knowledge. Since the dialogic model assumes that knowledge is shared, conveyed by those who have it - the members of the culture being studied - to those who desire it - the ethnographer - it begs the question of how the knowledge comes about.(25)
Thus we have three levels so far: the punctual, first-person story of the discovery; the story of the evening of the proverb dinner, continued during, say, a few weeks of search for meaning, ending in the group of actors who stage the saying, told in a first-second-person dialogue with reversible positions; and the story, again in the first person but with an implied second person - Fabian himself, at an earlier moment, as well as his fellow anthropologists - running through ten years but interspersed with many "achronies."(26)
Fabian is an engaging narrator, and his text is so explicit in its epistemic position, as well as overt in acting that position out, that it takes a second look at the overall structure of the text to realize a potential problem. A problem that, it is only fair to say, he could hardly have avoided, and which by no means undermines his tremendous accomplishment. Yet the problem is major: by virtue of the very narrative form, the second person cannot but be subordinated to an extremely self-centered first person.
Indeed the text as a whole mirrors the structure I just outlined for the first few pages. Chapters 1 through 5 are primarily a first-person narration, embedding the multiple narratives characterized as second-level-embedded, second-person narrative, and a laterally connected, partly also second-level, first-person argumentative narrative with a strongly implied second person identical to the first person. Fabian deploys many strategies, some of which are extremely effective, to empower the embedded second persons. Thus, for example, in the third chapter he provides a short history of theater in Shaba, and of the Mufwankolo group in particular, in which he is careful to furnish, in footnotes, individualized life-histories for all characters mentioned. While this would be a troublesome kind of individualistic historiography in a Western context, here it serves the emancipatory purpose of individualizing people so far mostly seen as ahistorical "folk."
Chapters 6 through 13 constitute the ethnography proper. Here, the second persons - the group of Shaba actors - are the principal speakers. Fabian is meticulous in doing his utmost to enable these speakers. This part has, again, three forms. First, the text is transcribed in Shaba Swahili. Second, the English translation follows, symbolically in the second place. Third, both versions are provided with helpful footnotes, clearly meant to be subservient to the enterprise of opening up the main, second-person text. This text is "second person" in two senses: it is the text produced by the second persons, Fabian's interlocutors, and it is dialogical in kind itself, since it transcribes the dialogues that took place in the construction of the play. In this part, the second persons remain in first position; in spite of the fact that the bulk of the transcribed recordings might seem in need of an explanatory, interpretive, academic commentary, relegating this commentary to footnotes is a rhetorical means of effectively preserving the primary position for the Shabeans.
The concluding chapter is, again, written in the first person. This text has a metaposition in relation to the second part as well as the first, while it is also a continuation of the argumentative interludes in the beginning. The second person of this third part is clearly the "Western" anthropologist. Thus a formulation like the following strikes me as out of tune with the careful narrative-epistemological strategies of the first and second parts: "First, it is wrong to assume that the Zairean |folk' ... live only in the present and, as folk are said to do, only worry about forms of power and oppression as they exist now" (P 286). Whereas this passage pointedly opposes mistaken and yet tenacious prejudices, and therefore is obviously very useful, it cannot help but state the "truth" about Shaba Zaireans who are thus relegated to third personhood. And this happens in the terms, albeit bracketed, of the Western oppressive heritage. And I don't mean just the use of the term "folk" but, more insidiously, the very fact that the passage responds to a judgment couched in the categories of Western philosophy: time, present, history.
From the vantage point of this final part, then, the text can be seen in the light of Lejeune's analysis of autobiography in the third person: "Dialogue. Now the aim is not to construct but to destroy a point of view toward oneself. The dialogue is presented as a response to a discourse already expressed but which must be reconstituted for purposes of refutation. This earlier discourse will be reenacted so that it can be answered. In the framework of an autobiographical text presented as such, a fictive trial is therefore reproduced; prosecution and defense are set up and allowed to speak. Of course, the discussion soon favors the autobiographer, who gradually allows his true image to emerge victorious."((27)
And indeed as a consequence of the tripartite structure of this book, one may want to look again at the ways the second person has been staged in this complex narrative. Embedded in a masterful and masterly first-person narrative, the Shaba actors end up serving the interest of substantiating Fabian's discovery. This discovery, moreover, concerned less the knowledge produced about the Shaba insights into power, than Fabian's insights into his discipline. Self-reflection, however indispensable, sometimes courts self-centeredness. And whether this danger becomes a serious threat depends on the interplay between first and second personhood. In this case, the narrative structure of the text, both globally and in detail as analyzed for the beginning, suggests that the second person has been subsumed under the first, thereby losing if not its alterity at least its power to put that alterity first. And as we will see shortly, this subsumption is reinforced because it also takes another form - that of mimeticism, already alluded to in the beginning of this paper a propos of Code's messy narratives fit for complex ideas. But let me turn to Damisch's narrative first.
The dubious status of the second person becomes far more blatant in Damisch's case. Whereas he theorizes second personhood throughout his book as part of the problem (the "object") he is analyzing, epistemologically he limits it to a rhetorical strategy which he imitates from the ancient treatises he studies. This book is explicitly divided into three sections. While the entire book carries along, in parallel and intertwinement, the epistemological debate addressed to the writer's fellow historians with the analysis of the history of perspective, this discussion receives primary focus in the first part, following up on the initially stated "impatience." This first part elaborates Damisch's challenging view that perspective is a discursive apparatus of enunciation (L 38) based not on the fit but on the mismatch between geometrical and symbolic point of origin (L 56). It is that mismatch that produces visual subjectivity.
The second part engages the ancient treatises and their writers as the second person. These second persons become first persons in a real sense in the long, often full, quotations - equivalent to Fabian's second part with the full Shabean texts. These fragments are quite thoroughly interpreted and addressed, from the point of view of the modern scholar, who thereby acts as the second person responding to first persons.
It is the third part which is both the most important and presents the most problematic version of second personhood. It contains the actual analyses of the three perspectival paintings in relation to one another. Here the author elaborates the epistemology of the group a la Levi-Strauss, but then historicized through further comparisons, most notably with Van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding and Velaquez's Las Meninas, up to Picasso's response to the latter.
Much to this reader's surprise, this third part opens with the use of the second grammatical person, which we already saw in an earlier quote. The tone changes, the narrator seems to raise his sleeves to go really to work, and here is how he justifies the rhetorical shift: "And now, this painting. This painting that you know better than anyone: which forces me, at this juncture, to call upon your testimony and to shift - according to a device frequently used in the old treatises - from I to you, and from one discursive regime to another, to an explicitly dialogic one" (L 157). The "you" comes up at the moment that the narrator begins to tell the story of his own engagement with this painting. The rest of the paragraph further explains the point of this device. Not only does the narrator wish to pay homage by imitating them to the discursive habits of the ancient writers, his previous second persons. Also, he intends the pronominal form to signal that "one cannot just put such a painting at one's disposal as one wishes, and like a random object or document" (L 157). This paragraph is followed by a page and a half of description, in the third person, of the painting presumably as I/you see it. As he will warn us later, in the passage I quoted at the beginning, description is always already narrative, and in fact this description of a still painting without any figures or movement is a masterpiece of narrativized description. What it narrativizes is precisely perspective: "an urban site fixed within a perspective which unfolds before the eye the symmetrical fan of its vanishing lines" (L 157; my emphasis).
If we take the use of the second person at the letter, the "you" is called upon as a witness who is thereby authorized as an expert: "this painting you know better than anyone." This expert is then the focalizer of the description to follow, so that the description not only narrativizes perspective and the eye before which it unfolds, but first and foremost - on a higher narrative level - the expert witness focalizing it. And this second-person expert is Damisch, dissociated from the first-person narrator to gain more authority.
The use of the second person varies greatly, to the point of inconsistency. Sometimes the status of "you" as the expert directing the writing subject "I" is made more explicit, as in "If you insisted that we exposed this thesis in some detail, it is because it has been so badly received" (L 180). At other times the identity of "I" and "you" is emphasized on an emotional basis: "the only question which matters to us, after all, to you as to myself " (L 182). But if the split between first and second person can be thought to signify the different functions of narrator and focalizer/expert witness, at other moments these two functions are conflated so as to evacuate the point of the linguistic game: "There is still a problem you have already mentioned once or twice" (L 249), where "you" incongruously is the writing subject/narrator. In the end, it seems "you" and "I" overlap completely: they have not only the same identity - the same person in the psychosocial sense - but also the same function, the same linguistic person. What, then, is the point of the game, one may well ask?
The connotative effects of this rhetorical strategy are varied, and do not always overlap with the narrator's stated intention. To assess these it is imperative to take into account the other part of the device, which is the use of a third person. This third person is not the painting/"object" but the contradicteurs. By this term the narrator sets up as diegetic characters in the wake of the rhetorical tradition of which he is writing both the analysis and a pastiche, the implied opponents who were present from the beginning, namely his fellow historians. These characters appear rather late in the day, as Damisch frankly admits (L 385). But what interests me in that appearance is the rationale they are in charge of offering for the pronominal game as a whole. For Damisch introduces an explicit "third person" with an epistemological aim. No more than Fabian, but for altogether different reasons, is he content with the mere dialogical form of writing: "As if dialogue did not suffice to give the debate its true dimension, and one had to appeal to a third person to put it in perspective" (L 385).
In an explanation presented on the mode of fictionality ("as if") and in a strongly visual vocabulary, the narrator justifies his use of pronouns in a combination of a truth claim ("true dimension"), a move of distancing (now the third person is called upon as a witness), and a mimetic act (perspective on perspective).
The effect of the pronominal game stands out most strongly when the three grammatical characters appear on stage together, as happens, for example, on page 386: "But one/I [on] can respond differently to the objection attributed to the contradicteur (an objection you are far from taking lightly." The structure is clearly mobilized for a defensive purpose. The depersonalized first person (on) is going to refute an objection he came up with in the first place but which he attributes to his third person; the second person, the expert/authority, is said to take the objection extremely seriously so that the third person has to be satisfied. But since the first person comes up with the objection, we must conclude that the third person too is identical to him.
Damisch needs three persons, he claims, because the debate needs to be put into perspective. Perspective, on the other hand, is precisely characterized by the deceptive illusions of true, neutral, objective - in other words, "third-person" - representation of the world. Yet it works so effectively because at the same time it provides the viewer with a position as the first person who "owns" that world. As Damisch brilliantly points out, perspective sets up the elision of the subject - tenuously inscribed already - in the viewpoint which is seen as the origin of subjectivity. And that elision is signified as apostrophe (L 402), enforcing a second person subsumed within the first person who otherwise would remain unsustained.
Thus the rhetoric of this third part resembles, mimes, its cognitive content. This is never spoken out but alluded to, tongue-in-cheek, if only by the juxtaposition of passages about the one and the other. But another congruence is more explicitly stated. Toward the end of the book Damisch seems deeply gratified when he is able to suggest that the three points involved in perspective - the viewpoint, the vanishing point, and the distance point - correspond to three locations: here, there, and yonder. A bit later he then writes that perspective as a paradigm, as a model that projects, does more than pose the other in front of the subject as always already there before him; it also introduces a "third person" (un tiers). What emanates is a triangular visual regime that corresponds to the Lacanian (law of the) father who comes to break the untenable duality of mother and child, wherein the mother cannot be the other because the third person is needed. This is, it sometimes appears, also the law of the excluded middle, the principle of dualism.
V. The Seduction of Mimeticism
Why is it that this argument is more than persuasive - almost irresistible? I have already alluded to one troublesome feature in both these books, also present here and there in Code's: the occurrence of congruence, of a mimeticism. This happens on many levels, and first of all on the level of overall structure. Fabian proposes performance as a method of ethnography "with" the people described, and as if by chance the object, occasion, event to be studied is a performance, in a sense that makes the method appear more "real" than the narrative structure suggests it is. Damisch uses a triangular rhetoric which substantiates, and is substantiated by, his theory of triangular perspective, and only if taken seriously - as "not a game" - does the rhetoric alert us to the potential collapse of third and second person into first - just like in perspective. The mimetic impulse, once noticed, is pervasive in both texts. Fabian writes, for example: "It occurred to me that the group's work - giving form to everyday experience in the urban-industrial world of Shaba and thereby making it possible to reflect and comment on it - was not in essence different from my own groping for an ethnography of work and language" (P 42). And these coincidences also happen within the actors' own lives: "their own progress from childhood to mature age coincides with the emergence of popular theater as a childrens' entertainment and its development to present levels of virtuosity and mass appeal" (P 43). Formulations to this effect are many: "It is also an interesting document about |documentation'" (P 50n. 24): the Zaireans talk like Europeans about Zaireans (P 69); within the play, "the idea of mediation and the risk of corruption were expressed dramatically by locating the most serious threat to the chief's power in the corruptness of the notables, his intermediaries" (P 282).
Once one is alerted to this tendency to present analogies, and to present them as positive in and of themselves, it becomes clear that coincidences of histories may well be an added attraction of coevalness, so strongly argued for in Time and the Other. Sometimes it even seems as though the performance circles around one great epistemological goal: to become an allegory of "good" scholarship. The terms of scholarship are used to describe the play: "the more direct threat ... caused by partiality and distortion when it comes to interpreting" (P 282), whereas "power must be based on true knowledge and supported by people of integrity" (P 282). Hence not only is the group's performance an allegory of the ethnographer's argument for performance as method, but the very content of the play allegorizes the scholar whose discovery, after all, it is called to illustrate.
Damisch's mimeticisms have been pointed out already. He too suggests an allegorical identification when he defines painting, his "second person" par excellence, as something "qui donne a penser" (which makes you stop and think) (P 289) - just like philosophers. In remarks like these, he forgets the difference of painting his whole book tries to found, and makes painting be a bit too much like language. This is, I contend, why he is unable to see, in this otherwise extraordinarily clever argument, that the speech act theory of painting is ultimately a language-centered analogy; a product of the mimetic impulse.
Since this analogy is extremely common in the semiotic analysis of visual art in the line of Benveniste, especially in the work of Louis Marin, it seems useful to spell the problem out.(28) In its simplest form, this analogy is untenable for two reasons. It conflates different modes of perception without examining the implications of that conflation - thinking and seeing; speaking is hardly an act of perception - and it conflates different subject positions in relation to acts. Visually representing, not seeing, would be the act parallel to speaking.(29) Because of this problem, that confusion ruins Damisch's argument and doubles up his rhetorical mixture of persons under his own identity. For the point (pun intended) of perspective is precisely that very confusion, but then in the other direction. If it elides the subject under apostrophe, the second person wins out. And rightly so: if enunciation can be a model for perspectival painting, then the viewer acts, but as addressee. Far from "speaking" - the painting does that - the viewer acts, possibly but not necessarily actively, as second person. And that might well be intolerable for the "you," that fake second but in fact authorized first person, who knows the Urbinate painting better than anyone.
But Fabian also writes a propos of theater in Shaba that "mimesis had opened a battle ground" (P 56), and if that is so, then it may also be one within these texts. A battleground, that is, where a struggle is fought between two contradictory impulses: to construct knowledge in an engagement with the other, and to subordinate that other once more. That battleground can host fierce struggles when the issue is "knowledge of other people" on the model of friendship yet narrativized in a first/third person narrative, albeit sophisticated and dynamic. For narrative as well as epistemology is overdetermined by its traditions and histories, one of which is the central position of the knower/narrator.
The analysis presented here is not meant as a review of the respective merits and flaws of these studies. If it came to evaluating, the apparently greater success of Fabian over Damisch could simply be attributed to the difference between contemporary and historical objects of inquiry, and between linguistically accessible and mute interlocutors. Damisch ultimately does not have a second person, one could object to my criticism. Yes he does, I would argue: himself. Precisely because his narrative game enables him to deny his own secondariness in the face of the paintings as well as the treatises, he can get away with ignoring the paintings' first personhood. Conversely, Fabian's dialogue, more "real" because he can really talk with the Zairean actors, is, epistemologically speaking, no less a sham. From his positionality as a narrator, he struggles with his ignorance, and that positionality enables him to ask questions in order to alleviate that ignorance. That is not necessarily the same as producing (his) knowledge with them. To put the cards on the table with still more explicitness: if you look to blame, I am not sure I would blame either Damisch or Fabian. As White, Kellner, and Ankersmit have argued for history writing, the shape of the story you tell determines what knowledge you produce. The result of the above analysis partly converges with this notion, but partly also complicates it. For the shape - the dialogue, the performance - could not overrule the mode: narrative.
In the face of the narrative mode, "friendship" may be a good model only to the extent that it elaborates and refines what the antagonistic mode of argumentation simplifies and obscures. Taken too literally, or at face value, to use Damisch's visual vocabulary, it obscures the dissymmetry that allows the second person to "be disappeared" yet again. Damisch's beautiful analogy between the three points involved in perspective and the three grammatical persons involved in narrative, and the three locations involved in spatial organization, could do, by way of caution, with yet another triangle. I am referring to Gayatri Spivak's distinction between self, self-consolidating other, and absolute other, translated by John Barrell as "this, that, and the other."(30) This absolute other seems implied, feared, and then cast out by Damisch's dramatization of the "third person" as a projection of an opposition he is still able to master.
Second personhood, in all three senses distinguished above and integrated as they are in narrative, can easily become self-consolidating ("that" helping the first person along). This cautionary note leaves unchallenged the need for self-reflection. A self-reflection which partakes of a project that is political as much as epistemological requires a sharp analysis, not only of intentions and methods, but, more importantly given the pragmatic nature of language, of narrative. Narrative, as it turns out, not surprisingly, is telling.
(1) Johannes Fabian, Power and Performance: Ethnographic Explorations through Proverbial Wisdom and Theater in Shaba, Zaire (Madison, Wis., 1990), p. 110; hereafter cited in text as P. (2) Hubert Damisch, L'origine de la perspective (Paris, 1987), p. 239; hereafter cited in text as L. Here and elsewhere, unless stated otherwise, translations are my own. (3) Lorraine Code, What Can She Know? Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge (Ithaca, N.Y., 1991), p. 139; hereafter cited in text as W. (4) Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology, Makes its Object (New York, 1983). (5) Hubert Damisch, Theorie du nuage: Pour une nouvelle histoire de l'art (Paris, 1972). (6) The narrative nature of historiography has been the object of analysis for a long time now, since Hayden White began to explore the rhetoric of history writing (see Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe [Baltimore, 1973]). Recent analyses of interest in this area include Hans Kellner, Language and Historical Representation: Getting the Story Crooked (Madison, Wis., 1990) and F. R. Ankersmit, Narrative Logic: A Semantic Analysis of the Historian's Language (The Hague, 1983). While these studies offer useful insights into the problematics of representation in history, they pursue a goal altogether different from mine. From my perspective it is problematic that they tend to lack a specific conception of narrative as well as an epistemology against which to measure the consequences of their findings. (7) For an analysis of Descartes's anxieties and the way these informed his epistemology, see Annette Baier, "Cartesian Persons," in her Postures of the Mind: Essays on Mind and Morals (Minneapolis, 1985), pp. 74-92. On the influence of language on Descartes's thought, see Alasdair MacIntyre, "Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative, and the Philosophy of Science," The Monist, 60 (1977), 453-72. For the feminist implications of this typical mode of thinking, see Susan Bordo, The Flight to Objectivity: Essays in Cartesianism and Culture (Albany, N.Y., 1987) and "The Cartesian Masculinization of Thought," Sign, 11 (1986), 439-56. (8) Philippe Lejeune, "Autobiography in the Third Person," tr. Annette and Edward Tomarken, New Literary History, 9 (1977), 27-50. Lejeune writes of Rousseau, that exemplary first-person writer's autobiography in the third person, "He gives us a lesson in objectivity" (45). (9) The allusion is to Lorraine Code, Epistemic Responsibility (Hanover, N.H., 1987). (10) The "epistemology of the group" clearly shows structuralist tendencies, and sometimes even the formulations recall Claude Levi-Strauss, especially The Raw and the Cooked: Introduction to a Science of Mythology I, tr. John and Doreen Weightman (New York, 1969). For an analysis of Levi-Strauss's concepts and method used there, see Jacques Derrida, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," in Writing and Difference, tr. Alan Bass (Chicago, 1978), pp. 278-93. (11) I hesitate to propose this analogy, for reasons I will later expose. I do not believe it is right to equate the subject of speech with the subject of the look, but this is as yet another problem of second personhood. (12) See Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York, 1973). (13) See George Marcus and Dick Cushman, "Ethnographies as Texts," Annual Review of Anthropology, 11 (1982), 25-69. (14) See Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, ed. James Clifford and George E. Marcus (Berkeley, 1986). (15) See Fabian, Power and Performance, tables on pp. 93 and 94. ((16) Raphael, The Extasis of Saint Cecilia, ca. 1515-16; Bologna, Pinacoteca nazionale. See L, pp. 38-40. (17) The allusions are to Sigmund Freud's short text "A Note Upon a Mystic Writing-Pad" (1924), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. and tr. James Strachey (London, 1953-74), XIX, 227-32, and Derrida's commentary "Freud and the Scene of Writing," in Writing and Difference, pp. 196-32. These allusions are not just playful; both texts deal with the difficulty of writing and reading that Fabian is contending with. (18) Humanist without Portfolio: An Anthology of the Writings of Wilhelm von Humboldt, ed. Marianne Cowan (Detroit, 1963), p. 349, quoted by Code, What Can She Know?, P. 10. (19) The term ideologeme is borrowed from Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca, N.Y., 1981). Ernst van Alphen has theorized ideology as a code rather than a semantic unit (Ernst van Alphen, Bang voor schennis? Inleiding in de ideologiekritiek [Utrecht, 1987]). (20) See Mieke Bal, Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative, tr. Christine van Boheemen (Toronto, 1985), for a textbook version of such a theory, and "Narrative Subjectivity," in On Story-Telling: Essays in Narratology, ed. David Jobling (Sonoma, Calif., 1991), pp. 146-70, for a discussion of the importance of the subjectivity network. (21) See Janice Moulton, "A Paradigm of Philosophy: The Adversary Method," in Sandra Harding and Merrill B. Hintikka, Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science (The Netherlands, 1983), pp. 149-64. (22) See Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflections on Gender and Science (New Haven, 1985). (23) Norman Bryson, Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze (London, 1983); further theorized in Mieke Bal, Reading "Rembrandt": Beyond the Word-Image Opposition (New York, 1991), ch. 4. (24) Emile Benveniste, "Subjectivity in Language," tr. Mary Elizabeth Meek, in Critical Theory Since 1965, ed. Hazard Adams and Leroy Searle (Tallahassee, Fla., 1986), p. 730. (25) This problem is connected to that, addressed by Geertz, in his distinction between experience-near and experience-distance concepts (Clifford Geertz, "From the Native's Point of View: On the Nature of Anthropological Understanding" in his Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology [New York, 1983], pp. 55-70) as well as to that, discussed by Turner, of the question when and to what extent the members of the culture are the most adequate informants (Victor Turner, The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual [Ithaca, N.Y. 1967], p. 38). In Time and the Other, ch. 2 ("Our Time, Their Time, No Time: Coevalness Denied," pp. 37-69), Fabian adds a third problem, the illusion of coevalness dialogism implies, whereas the writing of ethnographics undermines that coevalness. (26) Genette's term for bits of narrative that cannot be placed chronologically. See Gerard Genette, Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method, tr. Jane E. Lewin (Ithaca, N.Y., 1980), pp. 40, 84. (27) Lejeune, "Autobiography in the Third Person," p. 44. (28) See Louis Marin, "The Iconic Text and the Theory of Enunciation: Luca Signorelli at Loreto (Circa 1479-1484)," tr. Lionel Duisit, New Literayy History, 14 (1983), 553-96, and his "Towards a Theory of Reading in the Visual Arts: Poussin's The Arcadian Shepherds," in Calligram: Essays in the New Art History from France, ed. Norman Bryson (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 63-90. (29) For a more detailed critique of the analogy, see my Reading "Rembrandt," pp. 270-72. (30) Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Overdeterminations of Imperialism: David Ochterlony and the Rance of Sirmoor," Europe and Its Others, 1 (1985), 131, quoted in John Barrell, The Infection of Thomas de Quincy: A Psychopathology of the Empire (New Haven, 1991), p. 10. I am grateful to Norman Bryson, Robert Caserio, Dominick Lacapra, and Ellen Spolsky for critical remarks on an earlier version of this paper.
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|Publication:||New Literary History|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1993|
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