Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 416.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 07:06:47 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: powerful ethnocentricity of the disciplines
"Surrenders to conventionality are what disciplines are. The disciplines
are social systems that raise their partial 'as if' perspectives from mere
conventionality to mythic proportions. In the language of semiotics, their
models move from being symbols to being signs. They move from metaphor to
metonymy. From being known to be conventional and partial, they are
understood to be real and whole. All the boundary-making rituals of
everyday life in which the conventionalities of class and sex and race and
sect are transformed into social realities are the same rituals that make
for powerful ethnocentricity of the disciplines.
"We will flnd them all, these rites de passages, in examinations, in
selection, promotion, and establishment, in the residence rules of
departments and schools, in the special languages, in the professional
taboos. These are ways of making a blinkered view of the world seem
mythically true. No matter that every science properly protests its
rationality, the mood and sentiment created by each science's social
relations make the artificiality of its perspective as natural as good and
bad manners. As social and cultural systems, disciplines move from their
sense of the conventional and metaphoric quality of their models to a sense
of their naturalness and reality. Their models become signs of the whole of
reality, not just symbols of its parts.
"With the rise and fall of their political and social power, disciplines
transfer their own models to their culture's mythic understanding of the
environment. 'Supply and demand', 'id and ego', 'survival of the fittest'
move from being recognised analytical contrivances to being objective
descriptions of what actually happens, and reliable predictions of what
will happen as the models gain the strength to have an undeniable and
cosmological value in the culture at large."
Greg Dening, Performances (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996): 41-2
Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
7848-2784 fax: -2980 || email@example.com
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