Re: CFP: Space & Culture (new journal)

Beth W. Baldwin (bobaldwi@HAMLET.UNCG.EDU)
Mon, 7 Oct 1996 10:04:15 -0400

On Mon, 7 Oct 1996, Bob King wrote:

> Annie, I think this journal is attempting to get at the theory that is
> inevitably (via habit) embedded in daily, taken for granted practices.
> Sometimes unusual language is needed to get at the embedded theory because
> usual language is what keeps it embedded.

I have to disagree about this particular use of language, *especially*
in light of its subject.

"Unusual language" is being used to promote the image of the intellectual
elite. John Swales would say that this is typical of discourse
communities; language is used to "exclude" those who do not belong to the
inner circle of scholarly elite who are versed in this kind of language.
Unfortunately, their skill is questionable in this case because I still
contend that there is no emperor under these clothes. At least in the
sentence in question, the writer/s have gotten so carried away with
language that meaning is lost.

> While I sometimes feel frustrated by what seems to me initially as
> unnecessarily ornate language, I think there is also the need for at
> least some people to write in ways which use language as a tool for
> exploration rather than a means of reportage, and this exploratory
> language can make an easy target if it's judged according to the standards
> of reportage.

This more more than unnecssarily ornate. What's "embedded" is the need to
promote the users of this language rather than the topic. Why can't one
explore topics in less ornate language. The reason is that less ornate
language would open the exploration to a wider audience rather than this
exlusive one. In other words, the very "folks" whose ordinary lives and
places and practices that are the subject of this exploration are excluded
from the process of self-discovery. Why? Because they're too mundane.

> This project of teasing the theory out of everyday stuff -- like the home,
> etc. -- is not original to postmodern theory, I don't think. It's a
> project of anyone seeking to take a critical look at institutions that
> aren't working for them!

The project is worthy. People should be able to explore institutions like
home, school, work, etc. (everyday stuff) in order to look critically at
what's not working for them and why. Unfortunately, this language
excludes the very people whose lives it claims to explores. Everyday
folks can't look at everyday stuff with tools so sophisticated that they
are useless (they're even useless for the skilled users!).

One needs to look at what's embedded in the practice of such language
use. That's everyday stuff, too.


Beth Baldwin, Ph.D. *
Office of Continuing Education *
University of North Carolina at Greensboro *
Greensboro, NC 27412-5001 *
910-334-5301, ext. 44 * *