Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dirty Difference, or, The Secret Agenda of Diversity

It's time to (re)assess the subjects of reading and knowledge. In particular, I was drawn to the subject as historical being; I was drawn to the subject as virtual self (presumably non-identical), by curiously perusing the archives of this blog. And not without certain bashfulness. Recall ACJC, when Naazli returned, bounding with energy, from her first year of studies in the United Kingdom. "Was I really that vacuous?" she snorted, and proceeded to lambast the memory of her earlier self. At that time, I could not have believed how she could have ever fathomed such a historical distinction of the divided self. And now, for various reasons, it had to be my turn. Perhaps the horizon where culture and the fashioning of self has changed,or claims-to-parole indeed have certain articulated age-groups. Whatever the reason, I found myself scowling at my earlier entries thinking: "How on earth could I have written something like that!"

Of course, this is the soon-to-be-23 Hansel lamenting, laboriously knotted out of nearly half a decade's worth of critical inquiry. This does not presume critical autonomy, oh no. Sometimes it means shuffling the deck, sometimes it means playing with someone else's stack, but the deck of cards, however diverse, have to be manufactured. Today, the winning hand is generally granted by talk of "diversity", but if we allow ourselves to put a Foucauldian spin on the issue, very soon we might just as much slay our teleological inclinations. I think "Diversity" packs the same illusionistic punch as "humanity", spanning a trajectory right out of Aristotle's "Ethics". And so multiculturalism, the birth of the rights-to-diversity cannot be seen as so much a paradigmatic evolution, but a disconnected leap in epistemes.

If we amplify the Marxist quality of Foucault, we may wish to claim that the decentralization of capitalism, the liberation of knowledge, the claims to diversity and the radical retheorizing of the other can be pinned down to certain historical ruptures and breakthroughs, namely that of the "globalizing phenomenon" and the notorious sphere of the blame-it-all, the internet. But as Edelman reminds us, the insoluble (and traumatic) kernal of the Real, indeed the symptom [sinthome] of every successful metanarrative (or the point de capiton of several) must necessarily paradoxically embody a Derridean "center" that "is elsewhere", and hence unintelligable. And so Diversity can only come at a price that, at the present moment can never be fulfilled.

Why is this so? Because the Foucauldian formal premise rests on a successful internalization, founded upon the strictures of institutions and agencies (in an Althusserian way) that radically remodel and reconceive the subject. What, therefore, are subjects of diversity? If subjects of discipline are subjected to discipline, then perhaps subjects of diversity are subject to diversity. Hence the problem - the subject of diversity, for one to truly embrace fracturedness and the dicta of this torch-flaming philosophy, have to account for an intrinsically fractured interior. This is the Lacanian paradox; the subject (which is already elsewhere), the subject of the drive (which already is diversity and yet deconstructs diversity) cannot function without the stable knitting together of implicit divisions in the Imaginary matrix of the Ego-Ideal.

The problem with diversity is also that it can only work as a script of power from the point of difference, although it portends to eradicate difference through feigned tolerance. As Feminism studies have already shown us, Difference is not an essential category, but what Locke would call a "nominal" essence; indeed as Jonathan Culler has ingeniously argued, Difference is produced by differing. And there is no reason why Spivak's heavy-handed critique of the Subaltern Studies group should not apply to the wiring of individual difference. In her polemics (which calls for a thorough rethinking of ethnography), Spivak argues that in order for the inquisitor to so-call 'liberate' the marginalized and to allow them to speak, the voice from which the marginalized speaks can only gain authority through the lungs of the inquisitor by first aceding to its fundamental difference (and marginality), a difference that is usually produced by the inquisitor. For Spivak, this is a necessary "temporal" evil that must be tolerated in order to allow the margins to infiltrate.

If we subject this entire equation to a mirror-reflection, there is no reason to see why the inquiring subject posits himself different prior to the conceptualization of otherness. This, I think, is a crucial move on several accounts. Firstly, it reconsiders diversity from the vantage of the split subject, who has to first radically embody difference before finding footing on the banks opposite the Other. Secondly, it reveals how "sameness" or the gaps between the lines of Diversity (since diversity presumes difference), as a category of subscription still falls prey to the creation of otherness. Thirdly, if the refashioning of vantage is key to the resignification of sameness and difference in Diversity, then the encounter with 'alien' knowledge equally has a potent stake in refashioning the subject of the drive: who is first driven to 'kill' himself, so to speak, in order to resurrect a new 'other' of the self.

No comments: