Friday, November 20, 2009

Idological Partisanship v. Totalizing Logic

Priscilla Wald's answer to my question about her language connecting narrative diversity + development with evolution reflected a larger tension I've been thinking about lately. To recap, my question was whether Wald believed that discussing narrative in evolutionary terms gives it a "naturalness" which helps obfuscate the role of active power structures in producing dominant narratives. Wald responded by saying that her definition of "natural" encompasses not just the incidental, passive world (the common view of nature) but also the intentional, active, and technological (the common view of culture/technology)-- Wald stated that things such as biotechnology are, in her mind, a continuation of natural selection and that these forces can be understood as continuous rather than oppositional.

This was interesting to me because:

1) I usually hear arguments that there is no such thing as "natural," that naturalization is a methodological tool used to create ideology (in the Althusserian sense)-- (that the "natural" is the way in which power masquerades as something other than active). This logic/fear is from where my question arose. Wald, however, seemed to reverse this analysis in her response, folding culture into nature rather than vice-versa.

2) I question how productive her definition of "natural" is because of how totalizing it is.

3) I raised my inquiry because I felt that her paper/speech demanded an ethics of narrative management (ie. her statement that nothing is more fluid than narrative, and that nothing is more foundational [in people's lives].) and I fear that her approach to culture/tech as natural, while deliberately allowing room for autonomy/activism, nevertheless creates a causal trope and produces an observational, almost anthropological role for us, through which a critical interaction with narrative production becomes more difficult. If narrative demands an ethics of activism, is Wald's naturalization of its production the most compelling formuation to use towards that end?

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