Re: unusual language [postmodernism]

Jeffrey R Galin (galin+@PITT.EDU)
Fri, 11 Oct 1996 10:20:18 -0400

On Thu, 10 Oct 1996, Bob King wrote:
> I think many people born before the 1950's (thoughtful modernists, I'd
> call them) would object to a characterization of them as people "who did
> not stop to notice there is such a thing" as a regime of truth!" and there
> are perhaps people who consider themselves to be dyed in the wool pomos
> who nonetheless don't seem to notice that every regime of truth has its
> blind spots.

Perhaps you are right Bob about this point. It is difficult for anyone to
ignore the concept of regime of truth after the past twenty years of
heated poststructuralist discourse stemming from Foucault and others. To
be an academic in the postmodern era is to be aware of what goes on in the
field, even if it does not happen to suit one's personal interests. I
guess I was thinking of a time when postmodernism had not yet been
theorized. Modernists understood the world as a natural place, orderly,
structured, and progressing toward a more perfect future.

Ultimately, it would seem that there is no longer such a thing as
a modernist nor a postmodernist. such absolute terms do not describe
reality. The current regime of truth is too anchored in organizing
principles to claim escape from modernist ideology in any pure way.

But, I'd argue that those who aspire to assume the mantel of
postmodern principles would recognize the contradiction in the
organizational structures we claim are fundamental. If you understand
questioning of this sort as a center then fine. You see a center. It is
easier to stand on stable ground. One of the ironies of postmodern
theory, as it is currently practiced in English departments, is that it is
centered in a certain set of texts that many recognize immedately.
Another irony of postmodern theory is that it tends to alienate those who
do not read or understand it. The discourse is so often too dense for
even participants to follow. If the primary texts that Beth names are in
fact the center of postmodernism rather than the cultural artifacts that
we have been listing over the past few days, and if folks will only ever
understand postmodernism if they read the print products of theorists,
then the society that is supposedly postmodern is likely never to
understand itself. This means that the elite academics who write this
theory end up defining society and thereby dominating it. (nice paradox

Wahneema Lubiano explains that domination is so successful
because" it sets the terrain upon which struggle occurs at vectors where
we would resist . . . but also by having already written the script that
we have to argue within and against." If postmodernists in elite
universities are writing the script, then we are the ones who are
dominating. I think this has everything to do with the vitriolic
reactions that the Blooms, Kimballs, D'Sousas, and popular press picked up
on in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And I think this perception of
domination is also driving the anti-theory rhetoric that True and vvictor
have referred to in their posts.

> For me, a regime of truth implies some notion of centrality, however
> flexible and complex. The notion of decenteredness is paradoxical as an
> organizing principle, but that doesn't make it any less central, imo.
> Enjoying the exchange. . .

Bob, here is where I get confused. You imply that the regime of truth is
somehow postmodern itself. Lets not confuse the "ensemble of rules
according to which the true and the false are separated and the specific
effects of power are attached to the true" (Foucault) with a postmodern
critique of Western culture. The regime of truth is certainly a shifting
center. It serves as a basis for the claims to truth that all of us make
on a daily basis. Postmodernism asserts, however, that this regime is not
stable over time, that there are not immutable truths. Foucault argues
further that there are short spans of time (20 years or so) during which
the regime of truth can shift dramatically. Some have argued that we are
currently in such an age and that computer technology is driving the
shift. If this is the case (and I am not yet sure it is but think it may
be), we should be all that much more vigilant about questioning truths,
canons, centers, etc.

All of this is to say that Beth's orginal statement got me
thinking about the contradictions we academics create with our theories
and our practices. And this last point speaks directly to Ian's wonderful
explanation of the call for papers. Seems to me his journal is calling
for an understanding of how the everday world reveals itself as the
primary post modern text.

Sorry so long winded.

\ Jeffrey R. Galin
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