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on November 28, 2005 at 9:42:55 pm

Quick links: Adorno Future reading Working bibliography

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  • __Postmodernism and the Ethical Subject__:
"Towards a Postmodern Ethics of Memory"This essay looks at the postmodern way thinking about history (namely, as something fragmented to which we are "foreign" (in other words, as something distant from us)) and claims that the roots of this way of thinking lie (at least partly) in technology since the beginning of the 19th Century and the way that it has changed, and continues to change, the way we think about time and space.

"The contemporary preoccupation with history and memory can be seen as operating in direct reaction to the amnesiac tendency of our era, the inscription of newly imagined communities and locations a response to the loss of shared ritual and national identities in a West increasingly characterized by shifting zones of cultural hybridization. However, it would be misleading to frame these gestures against forgetting as merely nostalgic and compensatory. New modes of theorizing questions of knowledge and the subject within the postmodern also mark important re-framings of the past - and in ways that work to expand rather than to diminish our ethical horizons" (8).
The study of history has not only become broader, but more self-conscious, such that people now talk about history less as an epistemological study (after truth) and more of "an ethical and political practice" (10, quoting Lynn Hunt (pg 103?), "History as a Gesture; or The Scandal of History"), In other words, as we realize that history is intersubjective and not objective, we also realize that it must be social (governed by who is allowed into the intersubjective discourse), so social questions (questions of value and politics) enter into discussions about the study of history. Looking at history as intersubjective also opens up questions of revisionism in which we think of history as memory at the level of a nation-state, like the example of the French denial of Vichy as Paris was liberated (see, pg. 11), and of the existence of the Other as an essential component of language.

Once we associate history with memory, we see that the growing historical awareness in literature, literary theory, philosophy, etc. is partly a push to remember (Holocaust Remembrance, AIDS quilts, the return of historical considerations in theory, etc.) and partly - because human consciousness is not infinite - a push to forget. Remembering - according to Derrida (where?!) - is an ethical act.

  • And then...

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