Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Friday, February 19, 2016

We We'd Up

When I was starting to do a lot of hyperobjects lectures, there was a respondent, I can't remember his name exactly, but he was at a university that is kinda famous for being a particularly WW1-type of a place. (Aka seething with envy energy.)

And I remember him saying, with a flourish as if this was a clincher as to my badness, “Who is the we in Morton's discourse?”

Well, in normal-ish world, we is a pretty useful pronoun. We all use it knowing (see, I just did it) that it's interpellative. You can identify with it or not.

But all pronouns are this way. What's better about “one” or “I” or “you” or some awkward attempt to circumvent awkwardness by trying not to use pronouns at all? And wouldn't that also be interpellative?

How come cynical reason got so stuck on trying to be so pure? And how come this has become such an easy way to cause complex and necessary thought (for instance in the feminist prose of this book I'm reporting on right now) to get really scarily jammed up so it can hardly say anything?

How come we spend all this time fighting our near thought neighbors? I've heard it called the narcissism of small differences and maybe this is correct.

Luckily for “you” and “me” (I think) the respondent didn't kill me. He made me feel a bit like crying, for maybe five minutes.

I'm going to keep saying we. And I encourage you or us or one or the reader to do the same.


therourke said...

I think "we" is ok to use as long as its limits are registered in some fashion, ala Haraway's 'situated knowledge'. True, it is difficult to speak without pronouning at all, but if that position is considered neutral it can definitely cause problems, especially when spoken by a white cis-male (of which I am also one). "We" as a proposal of collectivity, rather than an assumption of.

D. E.M. said...

I love the power that pronouns wield. How authors use them to be intentionally indistinct, where (say) in a modernist novel, the I and the you and the we never land where we expect them to. And then force us back over the page. And what it means to call an animal an it.
And the near tears? Because of the hostility masked as a question. Because of the hostility masking fear and masked as a question.

D. E.M. said...

My Linguistics-professor friend studies these weird moments in the language when we agree to agree on the nature of what we mean: ie. when we say "my coat is in the car" ... It's understood that "the" car is "my" car, without me having to state it as such. It's not just any car.
So when you are called out for "we" when you don't mean it as anything but a way to communicate the larger, more significant (the planet is dying, say), then to be called out on it is enormously frustrating.