On Performing Deconstruction: Postmodern Pedagogy

Linda Kintz’ article whose title I have appropriated here reminds me with 20/20 clarity why we read Derrida, what we did not like, how important the phrase locus of enunciation is, where it came from, and how people like Paulo Freire really do help to break the colonial mirror. Here are some excerpts from Kintz’ piece in Cultural Critique 16 (1990): 87-107.

Deconstruction has been very important to feminist theory concerned with dissecting the supposed coherence of the sovereign Western masculine Subject–self-present, fully self-conscious, and in control. The relationship, hohwever, between this deconstructed Subject and the historicity of subject-positions produced within various discourses continues to prove troublesome. The term subject is often used as if subject and Subject were the same thing, as context and historical differences drop out.

…[I]n theorizing difference, Derrida overlooks key historical differences in the relationship to symbolization, to discourse in its sociohistorical sense.

[According to Derrida] feminism is “a form of phallogocentrism among others.” … [He posits a symmetry] between anti-feminism and anti-phallogocentrism and, by extension, between feminism and phallogocentrism.

Within the academic institution and within language in general, women have an asymmetrical relationship to power and to a culturally privileged model of subjectivity; they do not participate in the symmetrical, humanist, universal relation to language that paradoxically has worked its way back onstage.

Freire … retheorizes the position of the slave in the master/slave dialectic in order to disrupt its functioning. …The essence of teaching, Freire says, is to affirm people as subjects; it works from the bottom up. … The fear of the freedom of the oppressed, says Freire, may produce falsely generous “Masters,” who “truly desire to transform the unjust order, but … believe that they must be the executors of the transformation…”. Discovering onself to be an oppressor may “cause considerable anguish, but it does not necessarily lead to solidarity with the oppressed. The convert who approaches the people but feels alarm at each step they take … remains nostalgic towards his origins.” [Emphasis added]

Freire’s methodology for listening to our students in the place from which they speak intersects with Derrida’s reminder that we, too, must always deconstruct the place from which we speak, an insight that we, in turn, apply to his own site of enunciation. The Subject to be deconstructed proves to require far more refinement. […]

Axé.

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