For example: Nowhere in his work is there anything other than a polar model of domination, according to which sovereign power is exercised by a ruling class or, more often, by an 'elite'; or else by a technocracy or a technocratic rationality defined without reference to class over a mass of oppressed popular subjects who lack all power.
It is true that these subject groups exercise an art of the weak which modifies or deflects the power of the dominant order, but the flow of power is nevertheless all in one direction and from a singular source. He takes great pains to show that such representations of society are products of particular theories, and are not necessarily representative of what actually occurs in society.
The very concepts, strategy and tactics, taken from The Practice of Everyday Life, make impossible any suggestion that de Certeau regards power as emanating from a single source only. They are designed to counter precisely this kind of portrayal of power. Briefly, strategic power is ascribed to institutions, and operates in places which are environments circumscribed to facilitate the control of the distribution of meaning. Foucault's concept of the panopticon is perhaps the most clear-cut example.
The prison is, in de Certeau's terms, an example par excellence of place. Tactics on the other hand does not have a place of its own, it is the power of the people caught in the web of institutions.
Moreover, curbing this power, this mode of operating, is the raison d'etre of strategy: tactics produce strategy to the same extent that strategy produces tactics. The fact of the prison and its rules makes possible their circumvention.
For de Certeau the dominant order is limited in its exercise of power by the very fact that it operates strategically; the dominated order however, exercises its power anywhere it chooses because it operates tactically. To the extent that strategic power manifests itself in symbolic terms only - all power is tactical and therefore has no single source. And if the procedures of science are not innocent, if their objectives depend upon a political structure, then the discourse of science itself should acknowledge the function allotted it by society: to conceal what it claims to show.
Colonisation is a presiding metaphor in his books; it is what is meant by the practice of writing: This is writing that conquers. It will use the New World as if it were a blank, 'savage' page on which Western desire will be written. It will transform the space of the other into a field of expansion for a system of production.
From the moment of a rupture between a subject and an object of the operation, between a will to write and a written body or a body to be written , this writing fabricates Western History. History is not a faithful record. It is writing. Therefore, in de Certeau's terms there can be no such thing as post colonial writing, or post colonialism, as all writing as praxis is already a colonisation of a terrain not its own.
Writing is, for de Certeau, the very symbol of rationality - an imposed rationality - and is rationalities' symbol. Writing orders the world, composes it in terms of its own grammar, making itself the only means through which the world can be made intelligible. It is a practice of othering. Those peoples not possessing writing are understood only by writers in terms of writing: without discourse they are without power. The project entailed by de Certeau's concept of heterology is to illuminate the discourse of the other.
To illustrate that writing's authority is by no means absolute, that always there is a space a hole through which the repressed can return, a gap in the blanket of power which enable the repressed to remain, to evade without exit.
The return of the repressed means precisely this: shining lights on the fissures within the fabric of power in order to demonstrate that despite appearances to the contrary the exercise of power is never absolute. Thus, he claims, the indigenous people of South America were never completely dominated. They metaphorized the dominant order: they made it function in another register. They remained other within the system which they assimilated and which assimilated them externally.
They diverted it without leaving it. Brilliant and rewarding. Voice Literary Supplement The crowing work of the late Michel de Certeau is this volume of essays on historiography Tom Conley has now translated the text into English, with lovely fidelity to de Certeau's mellifluous Gallic idiom. The book is a brilliant, disjointed, baffling work, brimming with complex metaphors, Franco-German metaphysics and a post-modern sensibility.
And Benjamins' "Theses" when he starts to wax poetic about death and such. But I'm curious about what someone more interested in a the Early Modern pd in France and b History of Religions of 20th c. France might get out of this book. The book, predictably enough, is written at both a high level of abstraction and firmly rooted in the concrete details of 17th c. There is always a play between history the product; historie; the thing narrated and history the practice; geschichte; the narration.
There are few accusations of opponents' shoddy historical work - in a strange way, the second part of the book seems to take on the role of History writing itself, trying to catch a glimpse of its own tale. I like that he stands between naive historicism and the relativism of postmodern abandon surely a fable.
Yes, the present is not the past, and our historical situation forces us other historians, unconscious of the ideologies working through them to see the past in certain circumscribed ways.
What can I say? History written in the present pretends to operate in the domain of the past, but in reality it fabricates that past in its own present. Although his writing is not principally concerned with literary analysis, it does theorise texts and textuality, and for that reason it is significant. The book, predictably enough, is written at both a high level of abstraction and firmly rooted in the concrete details of 17th c.
Even if this injustice disturbs him, the facts remain unchanged. History, sociology, economics, literature and literary criticism, philosophy and anthropology all come within de Certeau's ken. This new cultural distribution is the first task. This however, does not mean that he regards it as possible to speak the silence of the repressed as Foucault presumes to do in Madness and Civilization. Brilliant and rewarding.
Like Derrida in "White Mythology",14 de Certeau removes the grounds upon which an absolute notion of the literal, and hence truth, might stand. The day-to-day procedures of the repressed transform the place of the dominant into a habitable space for the dominated. There is always a play between history the product; historie; the thing narrated and history the practice; geschichte; the narration.
And if the procedures of science are not innocent, if their objectives depend upon a political structure, then the discourse of science itself should acknowledge the function allotted it by society: to conceal what it claims to show. This new cultural distribution is the first task. There is always a play between history the product; historie; the thing narrated and history the practice; geschichte; the narration. Van Den Abbeels Diacritics, 14, 3 , 4 -
He's writing just before Said, and a great many of his observations are on the verge of the soon to blossom postcolonialism inaugurated by Said. Aug 11, Wu Weiying rated it really liked it It's a difficult book to read due to translation mostly but definitely worth the trouble. And on the other, there's the romanticization of Medieval France, before the Light came, as a wholesome self-reproducing totality before "religion" and "politics" and "the masses" and "the elite" ran off in different directions. How they have made do, escaped without leaving, how they have in fact resisted repression, deflected and deformed it by operating within it. I like that he stands between naive historicism and the relativism of postmodern abandon surely a fable.
Exhaustively researched and stunningly innovative, The Writing of History is a crucial introduction to de Certeau's work and is destined to become a classic of modern thought.
In history everything begins with the gesture of setting aside, of putting together, of transforming certain classified objects into 'documents'. In de Certeau's terms, poaching is the means by which we all survive, it is our way of operating, in short it is his term for consumption. Yes, the present is not the past, and our historical situation forces us other historians, unconscious of the ideologies working through them to see the past in certain circumscribed ways. Certeau is lucid and basic at the same time to everyone who wants to investigate the historical or is doing hostorical research: read and find yourself or the absence in finding tout court - oh yes, this Certeau is about abscence i. The Practice of Everyday Life is devoted to uncovering the various 'ways of making do' that people employ in their everyday lives, the other two are concerned with unveiling the 'ways of making a theory' that historians employ - and by extension the ways in which all analyses are prefigured by their theoretical models.