Monday, 18 May 2009

Contact Zones

Reviewing the "Toshiya Ueno" post, it dawned on me that what he had written in Aliens R Us contradicted his assessments of communitas, Victor Turner etc, to some extent. For in that essay he describes the mediating "shamanistic" ritualistic role of the DJ at rave parties in almost identical terms to Durkheim's explanation of aboriginal corroboree in Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. So I would say that in the subcultures text I also linked to, he manages to qualify Turner, but certainly doesn't prove that communitas is theoretically somewhat "banal", as stated in his interview. Quite the opposite in fact.

What I got out of the subcultures book was the importance of Mary Louise Pratt's concept of "contact zones". I haven't followed the music blogosphere closely enough in recent times to check if the debates about a British "hardcore continuum" referred to Pratt. But if they didn't, it strikes me as unfortunate because another conference recently made use of her work in a way that appears mutually beneficial. A lot of similar questions were asked, and one can even find terms such as "centrifugal" and "centripetal" approximating Simon Reynolds' response to critics on his Energy Flash blog. Moreover, the Contact Zones in Modern British Culture conference specifically refers to musicians to flesh out its arguments!!

Just in case anyone happens to read this who was a participant, or has already read about both events, my apologies if what I have to say here is not exactly news. Part of the problem for me is that I find wading through the Continental philosophy and/or musical blogosphere too offputting. To be more precise, whenever I read such a blog dutifully reporting the details of the latest esoteric subject, [to cite an actual example from Infinite Thought], as per a seminar on the problem of time in Hegel, "moving towards an historical ontology of the social", my first instinctive reaction is usually a series of vivid hallucinations akin to Francis Bacon's depiction of the Pope frying in agony on the electric chair. The telling difference from Bacon's original though is that I've taken the Pope's place and the electric chair is in the seminar room. So unless there is adequate scope for such a reading method to dialogue with a social epistemology, I generally won't feel the stakes are sufficiently high enough to warrant the risks to my mental and physical health, which would surely follow from a more protracted encounter (i.e. I'm only attracted to those debates that are able to also encompass issues of epistemic justice. An example of a precedent would be unpacking how and why the Hegelian Alexandre Kojeve became a neocon guru).......OK, I admit the severity of my reactions as described here were somewhat exaggerated for comical effect, but you still catch my basic drift, right?

For now then I'm inclined to await publication of conference proceedings to gain a firmer conceptual grasp on "contact zones". I believe Pratt's considerable endeavours are potentially complementary to the theory and method of articulation, as originally developed by Stuart Hall: for researchers interested in musical genres and scenes, it brings into alignment (i.e. contact) the elements that constitute something like the analytical program known as the sociology of rock, in a manner that will [of course] change on a case by case basis.

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