Monday, November 07, 2005

home at last

It is so great to arrive home to such a great set of engaging comments (see my post from October 12th, and the comments there in particular). Thanks to all of you. Weirsdo, I take your point, and have done some of the anti-hegemony reading, but I still feel that it is a useful concept. Rather than taking it to imply that we are all "mindless dupes", though, I prefer to think that it explains why good, intelligent people land up subject to systems that often don't make any sense. If there wasn't power in hegemony, if there wasn't something really difficult to see through, we wouldn't all be tricked for as long as we are, or as frequently. Perhaps you could comment further, but I really think that the concept of agency, as it modifies the hegemony issue, is the most satisfactory, as it takes into account the power of hegemony, but also the greater power of human intelligence to recognize and resist hegemony.
Thanks for the suggested reading. I am working through the Bernstein at present. I always had a problem with the cognitive psychology perspective, bit it always seemed to me to miss the point that hegemony implies extreme coersion. It's a coersion that's masked, admittedly, but that's what makes it so powerful. And as for the Comaroffs, I love their work, and have read quite a lot of it. Do you refer here to Of Revelation and Revolution? I read it so long ago, that I don't really recall their perspective on hegemony (I was reading it for other reasons then, and may have missed it altogether), but will certainly return to them. Have you read their "Ethnography on an awkward scale" in Ethnography. 2003; 4: 147-179? its available online, but unless your institution has access, you'll have to subscribe to the journal to read it. It's well worth it, though. John Comaroff's "NOTES ON ANTHROPOLOGICAL METHOD, mainly in the key of e"is available freely, and is also a worthwhile read.

Allan, thanks for the heads up. I loved Asimov's "I Robot", but got into trouble in grade school for bringing a book that "wasn't suitable for children to school", and so never actually got around to finishing it... Perhaps over Christmas break.

Ah, it's good to be back! I will still get around to posting photos etc from both trips, so look out for them, but in the mean time, keep reading and posting comments. I love the feedback. I am turning my paper from the Cape Town conference in August into a publishable article, so will probably be posting on blogging mostly the next while, but that doesn't mean the other conversations need to be put on hold.

1 comment:

weirsdo said...

My husband is much more of a scholar than I am, so here is a summary of his response. He is sticking to Gramsci's use of hegemony, as it is a slippery term. According to him, the problem with hegemony in Gramsci is twofold. First, it assumes coercion, and therefore may underestimate the uncoerced rationale for a given class's behavior. The example Dr. Weirsdo gave was the American religious Right being coerced to vote conservative. Yes, some hegemonic coercion is involved, but this discounts the critique of trash culture and over-commercialization that motivates the Right. [I would point out that your own defense here indicates confusion about the extent to which agency is possible in hegemonic systems.]
Relatedly, as a justification for the Revolution never having come to pass, Gramsci's use of hegemony cuts off argument about whether, if hegemony could be overcome, the Revolution could or should come off.
Dr. Weirsdo characteristically has more reading to recommend: Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato [he can't remember the title], MIT Press, 1992; also Sue Goldman, someone whose last name is Fontana, all on Gramsci. Dr. W. says there is a section in the Comaroff Revolution book on hegemony--not entirely negative, but cautious.
Thanks for visiting my novella. I will link to the crazier, even less academic site this time, in case you need a break from your research. Although I don't blog about it, Dr. Weirsdo and I would be interested to continue following your research and see where you end up.
[One more thought: The most oppressive systems seem to me to be quite transparent and overt in their coercion (South Africa under Apartheid springs to mind), which makes me intuitively doubt that we are all secretly oppressed by some obscure system, rather than suffering the consequences of collective and individual misjudgment.]