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Disciplines as cultural forms

I want to introduce a claim about knowledge (. .) in that its various forms are cultural productions arising from specific forms of culture. I want to suggest that from this it follows that a form of knowledge culture comes with, indeed is constituted in, a form of language, a custom of practice, an economy of means, a structure of power, a rule of justice, an archive of narratives of identity and tradition. And at all these levels -

language, practice, means, rewards, power, justice, constantly ensues.

identity,

tradition

  • -

    change

The interaction among disciplines (. .) does not involve simply an exchange of concepts, a sharing of information, a rustle of eager and enquiring conversation; it only takes place within an engagement, and very likely conflict, between cultures.

There is always the necessity to engage in interdisciplinary

translation,

and it is

almost inevitable that there will be attempts to establish the dominance of a particular language game. The characteristic of a cultural form, any cultural form, which I want to emphasize is its possession of a distinctive language, with all that that implies in terms of the shared and the different, the familiar and the alien, the domestic and the exotic (. .).

The postmodern critique

The view of nature and interactions of contemporary forms of knowledge, which

holds most of the attention in philosophic

and culture-theoretic

discourses, is the

post-structuralist and post-modernist one. Briefly, this is that forms of knowledge are submitted to relentless processes of fragmentation to produce an ongoing, confusing but ultimately liberating and empowering diversity of knowledges and opinions - the bringing down of long oppressive forces of centralised authority and meaning (. .).

Lyotard

has

French,

who

been

one

followed

of

the

most

articulate

of

those

postmodern

writers

the explorations

by the earlier

structuralists,

,

largely

such as

Levi-Strauss, Piaget, Lacan, of the idea set out by Saussure that all languages are arbitrary systems of different signs. That is, there is no necessary connection in a language between the sign and the referent (the object in the world to which it refers).

The post-structuralist

and post-modernist

went further

connection between the sign and the signifier unstable and indeterminate, an overlay upon (...).

(loosely, overlay of

and emphasised that the its meaning), is necessarily ambiguity and redundancy

But above all, Lyotard and the post-modernists celebrated the splintering of meaning and the generation of new languages (. .). And, importantly for our subject here, the fact that nobody speaks all those languages, that there is (can be?) no universal metalanguage, that there is constant competition (. .) in this new era of the search for instabilities and contradictions of meaning (. ).

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