Julian and I are clearly going mad. We sit in the pub after work for a pint and instead of watching football or something normal, we plan a response to the new Arts and Humanities Research Council plan to fund research on the theme ‘Beyond Text’. Our troubles with beyond text have to do with its narrow textualist framing even when it mentions sound and objects – the framing seems to be largely in terms of language, reading, vision and grammar. I am not so silly as to quote Nietzsche to the Government (‘you believe in Grammar – you believe in God’), and clearly this first draft is not the one we will want to send either. Good thing this is a weblog unread by the enemy, huh. Still, got to put it somewhere or it will burn.
Hey AHRC folks:
We welcome the opportunity to contribute some thoughts to the formulation of the research programme Beyond Text.
We are especially interested to pursue the idea of ‘literacy and competence associated with media other than written text’ because we recognise in this an implication that engages with our research on the possibilities and potentials of different conceptualisations of the formation of knowledge and meaning. In particular we would stress the reconfiguration of thinking about the senses as something we would want to push to be genuinely innovative. We agree that Beyond Text offers many opportunities for this, and we suggest the following concerns be taken into account
- the privilege of the visual concept of knowledge. We suggest that in the second part of subdivision on Text and Image in the Framework document, the question seems too narrowly framed within the visual when it asserts that ‘we read texts: it is a practice of vision’. Certainly this is the conventional conception of texts, but if the aural or other senses are taken as reference, perhaps another tone might be heard. Where the question is framed as ‘how does this visual practice differ from, and relate to, the ‘reading’ of drawings, images, objects and the world itself?’ we would want to ask if there are other conceptions of reading Beyond Text and different to the way the visual structures knowledge (deferring in time, utility, sounding acoustomatics [thanks Brian]) . For example, a critical combative model of knowledge might be asserted, questioning tone, the timbre or tenor of argument, investments in affect etc. This is perhaps to be asserted as different to the register of pointing, indicating and underscoring knowledge, and the visual-geographical division of knowledges into fields etc.
- the privilege of structure. Following on from the above, a literalist model of Beyond text could imply also a geography of knowledge. Starting here, we want to travel ‘Beyond’. We think this can be usefully complicated by thinking of Beyond Text as also implying pre- and outer-, sub- hyper and non-text.
- a privilege of inscription. We are particularly interested to note the reference in some of the documentation to silence. Text includes gaps – these gaps need not be thought of as physical or visual (space between words is time and conceptual difference, as well as a fact of typography). Amplifying the idea of silence and the un-known (known knowns, unknown unknowns etc…) we are interested in the unnameable. We are interested in projects (or abjects) that attempt to find expression for, and address, the unnameable, or the process of articulation of naming the unnameable.
- the privilege of one model of process. Instead of a given order of knowledge, we are keen to assess conceptions of knowledge, memory, performance, (interpretation, reception, witnessing) which do not begin or end with the unquestioned object. Affect, embodiment (embodied knowledges) excess, audiospherics, abstraction, obstruction and deferral (in time, in emotional impact, as decay) are also important. What kind of questions are possible if we reverse the privileges of linearity, order words, ordering grammar, structures of disciplining thought? Is it possible to transmute grammar into registers other than language? We are interested in a grammar of motives (Burke), a grammar of metaphor (Miller), a grammar of excess (Bataille). We are interested in the structuring of knowing bodies (a grammar of embodiment – Ingold, Grassini), and we are interested in the possibility of thinking knowledge as affective, emotive, moving, multiply registered, critical, dialectical, triangulated, post-visual, wild, echoing, algebraic; and we are keen to evaluate resonance, dynamism, proximation, and contrapuntal or atonal notions of knowing. We want to imagine thinking of knowledge through other than the usual ideas about memory, vision, utility, and to reconfigure knowledge as sensuous in relation to music and sound, to touch, fear, cause, consequence, import and consideration. We are interested in the potential of a challenge to things as they are seen to be. We welcome the opportunity to raise these issues.
Our research on creativity, diaspora, hybridity, communication and transmission of cultural topi, is governed by our investigation of these themes. We believe a distinct contribution is possible as consequence of rethinking Beyond Text in a radical, critical mode. Our past research investigates how sonic dimensions of migrant and diasporic culture differ from visual and written texts in the expression of subjectivity, affect and identity; and we particularly explore how the ‘embodied’ and ‘performative’ aspects of sonic cultural production register markers of (regional, ethnic, class and gender) identity, which other media are less able to do or must do in different ways. We believe such research challenges the conservative implications of essentialist ideas about migrant identity, and certain current versions of globalisation, creolisation, hybridity and multiculturalism. The innovative character of sonic research enables more productive understandings of the power relations between dominant and diasporic communities, and perhaps enables the creation of new theoretical and conceptual tools with progressive implications for other areas of investigation (e.g., how sonic rather than visual culture informs and constructs other cultural fields and social formations).
blah de blah blah bla… and this isn’t even for the money. More an indication of how anything worthwhile gets twisted when you try to write it into the formulas and forms of research council funding frameworks. Still, underneath the paving stones… the research we want to do… what we do… see the what;s on pages soon for some of it. Now, Wolves v West Bromwich Albion.
The AHRC framework consultation document is here.