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Editorial

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Gregory B. LEE
p. 5-7

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1The rationale for this journal lies in a boundary-breaking tendency whose origins stretches back thirty years or so in our segment of the social totality known as the “academic world”. The boundaries in question relate to the entrenched isolationism of most academic disciplines that even now are still anchored in nineteenth-century ideologies. But, spatially- and geopolitically-fixed bounds are equally repressive. Some of these metaphorical, and not so metaphorical, boundaries are inscribed in the outmoded epistemological cartography/imaginary of the academic world, or yet simply the world. As Saïd has classically underlined in his critique of Orientalism, this unbalanced organisation and narration of knowledge excludes swathes of the planet’s cultures, histories and peoples; their extreme difference, their lack of recognisable discipline, standing as the reasoning for their excision from Western, and thus universal, discipline(s) such as history or philosophy. This is particularly still the case in France where the system of civil service teachers’ examinations - all secondary and tertiary tenured teaching personnel are civil servants in France - programmatically prolongs the life of this outmoded, visionless world-vision. Apart from the spectre of the, as ever invented, “tradition”, the other more immediate, constraining influence lies in the post-World War II interference of government in the prioritization and hierarchization of knowledge. Since the first wave of Cold War, the sponsoring and privileging of the social sciences and, in particular, of the oxymoronically named field of “political science”, has twisted and determined the way we study, and finance the study, of the rest of the world.

2The reaction against such disciplinary construction and policing of academic activities, dates back to the 1960s, when the absence of spaces, texts and contexts for unanointed knowledge and reflection, led to demands for women’s studies, for the acknowledgment of the study of the culture of the popular and the everyday, and more generally for the issues of race and class and gender to be addressed specifically. While early on these tendencies were often located in “sociology of” courses and writings, they soon developed in to non- and anti-disciplines and eventually led to the creation of related departments and programmes. In much of the anglophone world, principally, Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, these tendencies stemmed from the work of Raymond Williams in the domain of what was then the sociology of literature and would become Cultural Studies. In the postcolonial moment the impetus would be provided by Césaire and Fanon and Memmi and would develop into Postcolonial Studies. Western Marxism (Gramsci, Adorno, Benjamin) and French Post-structuralism would constitute part of this post-disciplinary matrix. All of these tendencies stemmed from an anxiety with the real conditions of everyday life and with its (mis)representation in academic and non-academic discourse. Thus, the critical contribution of Lefebvre (within the ivory tower) and Debord (without) cannot be overemphasized. And yet in France, such innovative changes in the epistemological architecture of education did not take place. The grand French academic paradox is that while so many of its intellectual figures (Castoriadis, Lefebvre, Derrida, Foucault, Fanon, Memmi, Irigaray) have had a major iconoclastic impact on disciplinary topography and academic production in the world beyond the hexagon, in France itself their effect, or the recognition of their effect, has been minimal and marginal.

3This journal does not set out to define, or re-define a field, although those contributing to it may see themselves as so doing or not. Its more modest and general ambitions are to take stock of the contribution of theoretically-inspired writers and academics throughout the global community, yet also to provide a forum for the imagining to new frameworks of accounting for and representing the world. Thus there is no desire to impose a new transdisciplinary mould, neither is there a will to force a Cultural Studies epistemological or methodological framework onto those zones of academe, such as those found in France, as yet unmarked by its new hegemony. The point is to provide a space in which different disciplinary approaches, and anti-disciplinary methods, may jostle for the reader’s attention.

4The complexity of the totality that is our world, and the telling of the (hi)story of that complexity, renders meaningless any attempt to insist on an adherence to would-be global theoretical frameworks; the spectacular representation of globalization hardly hides the fact that the fragmentation with which we are daily faced renders it almost impossible to reassemble an imaginary that can re-present the wholeness we need to be able to grasp before theoretical reflection is again possible. All we hope for is to facilitate exchanges amongst those who already think in boundless ways beyond boundaries, whose own subject position, or the position of the subjects in whose skins they have put themselves, has made obvious and necessary to them a means of communicating that goes beyond the conformity of established disciplines and their organs of authority. This means that the journal’s project may be read as contestatory, or even regarded with suspicion; however, our only desire is that should succeed in being unsanctimonious. It is understandable, therefore, that other monodisciplinary constitutencies may feel threatened by our endeavour. We may even seem to clash directly with those “traditional” disciplines currently engaged in re-inventing themselves, or at least groping towards a justification for their continued, tenuous and unwarranted hegemony.

5Another particularity of this journal that needs to be addressed is its utopian trilingualism. To comfort those who fear the dominance of the language of the “Anglo-saxons” - an awsomely inappropriate term if one is a non-European, non-white user of the English language - and also to do some small justice to the world’s most spoken language, the reader will find texts in Chinese, French and English. Verbal language, as much as the visual, is currently flagrantly mangled, strangled and orphaned by the march of spectacular consumption, a process within which culture becomes no more than merchandise and language its sales patter. In inviting the participation of poets in this journal’s steering committee our aim is to eschew the representational banality of superficial critique of the socio-cultural reality, while at the same time renouncing the ahistorical and dehistoricized apology for the spectacle articulated by established academic discourse. We hope that we can contribute to the contestation of past critical conclusions that are now frozen into pillars of respectable truth. While striving to challenge contemporary, yet longstanding shibboleths we wish also to provide the reader with the possibility of diversion: the opposite of quotation.

6Finally, we esteem that culture can no longer be simply “cultural”, while eschewing disciplinary hegemonies our critique of culture is a unified critique in that it concerns the whole of culture, its knowledge as well as its poetry, and is unseparated from the critique of the social totality. The ultimate aim of this publication is to become obsolete. In other words, that the need to provide a special and specific space for what we describe as the “transcultural” will be transcended. The point therefore is not to establish yet another disciplinary prison house, but rather to render such establishments unnecessary.

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Référence papier

Gregory B. LEE, « Editorial », Transtext(e)s Transcultures 跨文本跨文化, 1 | 2006, 5-7.

Référence électronique

Gregory B. LEE, « Editorial », Transtext(e)s Transcultures 跨文本跨文化 [En ligne], 1 | 2006, mis en ligne le 13 septembre 2009, consulté le 21 août 2017. URL : http://transtexts.revues.org/155

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Auteur

Gregory B. LEE

Gregory B. Lee is Professor of Chinese and Transcultural Studies at the University of Lyon 3. He is a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London and of Peking University. He previously taught at the universities of Cambridge, London, Chicago and Hong Kong. His research interests include cultural and intellectual history, Chineseness, the postcolonial, ‘minor’ and ‘marginal’ culture, diasporic memory and the impact of globalization on all of these. His most recent book is Chinas Unlimited: Making the Imaginaries of China and Chineseness. He is currently completing a manuscript on the culture and politics of China’s Long Decade: 1979-1990.

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