Feb 3, 2010

When the critique self-critiques

There's a moment when the critique is turned against itself. It becomes reflexive and the critique critiques the critique. This is often where people get frustrated with theory. For me, though, the discovery of the tool of Derrida's idea of "always-already" was amazing. The moment of self-reflexivity actually worked, I thought, to show with incredible clarity how the critiqued thing, e.g. violence or ideology, actually functioned. The critique of the critique allowed for a Pauline or Augustine-like move of confession and awareness. The "always-already" gave deconstruction its particular ethical force.

I don't find that same clarity when the critique of sexism or racism becomes self-reflexive. The "cultural turn" leaves me mostly confused, any point after the claim that racisim, sexism, etc., are important and should be paid attention. The critique turned against itself, though, doesn't seem to show how the critiqued thing functions. When I find the sexism in critiques of sexism or the racisim in racism (e.g. the sexism implicit in "the possibility of a specific female mode of writing," or the racism in "multicultural literature is good because it's a source of energy"), instead of understanding how it works always-already and having this available critical-confessional response, I find I'm stuck in endless loops of static. I feel like these theories are just repeatedly telling me I'm wrong, bad, and my thinking is trapped, and I want to say, "I know I am, but how?"