Derrida & the Gang, or why TeaChat is Awesome.

Miscellaneous Discussion. Any topics that don't fit in other areas of the forum.

User avatar
Apr 24th 08 1:21 pm
Posts: 320
Joined: Jan 31st 08 2:33 pm

by Aphroditea » Apr 24th 08 1:21 pm

I will start by noting that I do not suscribe to any one particular paradigm of thought....but I wanted to step in to defend what I think to be the big selling point of post-modernist thought.....that meaning is a very tricky thing to deal with.

I have to work with this A LOT in my field of work AND study - I am a museum studies grad student. We have to look at objects that come from different times and places (many not our own time nor place) and assess meanings. To do this we need CONTEXT - this is why museums speak so forcefully about prevanance and provenience. This is because understanding those cultural thought processes which brought the object into existence are also the ones that gave it the meaning...which isn't necessarily the meaning *I* would give it, looking at it from the POV of another place and time.

For instance.....How many fine art museums display ritual objects or even mundane objects as fine art although they were never intended in their time and place to be fine art - eg a Greek amphora. So, which meaning is the RIGHT meaning? The one where it is a functional device in which to carry olive oil or wine or as an object to be admired for its form and history? I would argue that both are valid.

For anyone confused on the concepts of post-modernist thought, a fantastic thing to watch to help explain it is an episode of Firefly called "Objects in Space".

"It is just an object. It doesn't mean what you think it means." This said by a characters who is seeing a gun like a tree branch (just a part of nature) to her crewmates who are seeing it as a deadly weapon.

The antagonist of the episode, a bounty hunter, asks of a characters room "Is it still her room when she's not in it?"

For instance, on my desk is a square peice of wood and in its center is a peice of glass. Obstensibly this is a picture frame - but right now it holds a piece of decorative paper and a fortune from a cookie - so is it STILL a picture frame?

This is not to say that things are meaningLESS. Just that there is more to a meaning than meets the eye :)

Oh - and I LOVE TEA! (see, we're still on topic!)

User avatar
Apr 24th 08 2:05 pm
Posts: 5190
Joined: Dec 21st 06 4:33 am
Scrolling: scrolling
Location: Gainesville, Florida

by Salsero » Apr 24th 08 2:05 pm

Image I love it when you talk form and function! I had never thought of the museum context, but it explains so much. This even works for literature or music, if you think of them as museum pieces in a different culture.

And I KNOW you have won over Wesli, young as he is, with your reference to Firefly!

User avatar
Apr 24th 08 3:03 pm
Posts: 1635
Joined: Jan 11th 07 9:13 pm
Scrolling: scrolling
Location: SF Bay Area, CA

by scruffmcgruff » Apr 24th 08 3:03 pm

Salsero wrote:
scruffmcgruff wrote:Orientalist scholarship
Have you read Said's Orientalism?
No (hence why I don't really know what I'm talking about), but it is referenced a fair amount in my religious studies courses, particularly those on Islam. I guess I just want to be part of the postmodern theory crowd like the rest of the cool kids. 8)

Thanks for the book link, Mary! I'll have to check it out sometime.

User avatar
Apr 24th 08 3:57 pm
Posts: 1143
Joined: Dec 2nd 07 10:53 pm
Location: New York

by joelbct » Apr 24th 08 3:57 pm

Salsero wrote:
scruffmcgruff wrote:Orientalist scholarship
Have you read Said's Orientalism?
Pardon if this got long-winded, and I respect anyone who disagrees with me. But here are some thoughts :)

Said was angry at imperialism and ethnocentrism, with good reason, but in lambasting the people (real scholars) who actually cared deeply about "Eastern" cultures, he was lashing out at entirely the wrong target. In Orientalism, Said leaves out the authentic Orientalist scholars, and instead parades out a hodgepodge of random examples of ethnocentrism from popular literature, and wrongly concludes that all Orientalists are therefore tainted. By claiming that "Western" scholarship of "Other" cultures is entirely invalid, he creates the exact same kind of polemical over-generalizations that he seeks to condemn.

Said claims that “every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.”

To say that every European is a racist ethnocentric imperialist is nuts, and it is thus difficult to take Said seriously.

To quote myself, 'while scholarly work is to some degree subjective and by nature exists in a historical context, Said condemns “Western” study of the “East” outright and fails to provide any substantial alternative method of which he would approve. Moreover, his rationale for making such a condemnation is selective, unclear, and often illogical. He is careful to apologize for not making a more thorough survey of Orientalist scholars, perhaps because those he leaves out or mentions tangentially would effectively negate his arguments.'

There were many Orientalists who possessed deep appreciation for the cultures they studied and made priceless contributions to human knowledge, usually working without remuneration, in the period prior to research universities with large endowments.

Yes, context is important, and postmodernism and structuralism, etc can be useful analytic theories. But taken to the nihilistic extreme, they yield nonsense. "If the only substantial value of Orientalism is its political context and ethnocentric subjectivity, similarly the chief value of Said’s study is not his conclusions themselves, but his own bias and particular sociopolitical context. Such anti-epistemological exercises tend to invalidate any claims to knowledge."

That's enough out of me.... Here is the wiki on an example of one of the best and most brilliant "Orientalist" scholars, Sir William Jones, if anyone is interested.

User avatar
Apr 24th 08 4:33 pm
Posts: 5190
Joined: Dec 21st 06 4:33 am
Scrolling: scrolling
Location: Gainesville, Florida

by Salsero » Apr 24th 08 4:33 pm

joelbct wrote: Such anti-epistemological exercises tend to invalidate any claims to knowledge.
I still thought he was good in Firefly. :wink:

Great review though I didn't note quite as much astringency as you did. :lol:

Seriously, I really enjoyed this review. I'll bet the mods wish they had never set up this thread! Thanks. It was a treat, Joel.

User avatar
Apr 24th 08 4:44 pm
Posts: 1143
Joined: Dec 2nd 07 10:53 pm
Location: New York

by joelbct » Apr 24th 08 4:44 pm

Salsero wrote:Great review though I didn't note quite as much astringency as you did. :lol:
Product results for: Postmodernist Tea ;)

User avatar
Apr 24th 08 10:07 pm
Posts: 320
Joined: Jan 31st 08 2:33 pm

by Aphroditea » Apr 24th 08 10:07 pm

Salsero wrote:Image I love it when you talk form and function! I had never thought of the museum context, but it explains so much. This even works for literature or music, if you think of them as museum pieces in a different culture.

And I KNOW you have won over Wesli, young as he is, with your reference to Firefly!
You big 'ole flirt!! I knew as soon as I posted that that you'd be smitten with my brain again :P

you know I could go on all day about how it applies to museum settings :) But, yes, remember that all this was birthed out of semiotics which began as a study of languages (signs and symbols). Namely because what meanings we give are based on the words we use for it. Naming is power.

We could talk about the differences in the names TEA, CHA, CHAI, TEH, etc - does the fact that these names are different mean that the cultures who use the names see the same product differently? If so, why? What feelings and concepts surround just the WORD referring to the object?

Right now the word TEA means some green tea to help me settle into the right frame of mind for finishing my paper!! Gotta finish tonight....

Oh - and I DID make a blend called Firefly (It's #1 this month) - you could check it out :)

User avatar
Apr 24th 08 10:54 pm
Posts: 5190
Joined: Dec 21st 06 4:33 am
Scrolling: scrolling
Location: Gainesville, Florida

by Salsero » Apr 24th 08 10:54 pm

Aphroditea wrote:You big 'ole flirt!! I knew as soon as I posted that that you'd be smitten with my brain again...birthed out of semiotics ...
I am so tempted. /me bites tongue.

Really, I am loving this wacko, out of place thread. I guess we can thank lit crit Mary for protecting us from the doom we deserve.

Anyone who googles Foucault and Pu are likely to be directed to TeaChat, that bastion of tough guys.

*Waves* to Chip.

User avatar
Apr 24th 08 11:25 pm
Posts: 320
Joined: Jan 31st 08 2:33 pm

by Aphroditea » Apr 24th 08 11:25 pm

Well.....googling Foucault tea I did find our thread, but I also found another interesting site - it is a review of two books all about tea ceremonies and the meanings of tea.

I read both reviews and now I want to read the books (one is a PhD dissertation, though)!

http://artificialia.org/?p=6 is the site if you are interested. Not being a 'tea initiate' I don't know that I would understand all of it, but I find the fact that tea sits at the middle of the confluence of politics, religion, identity, sexism, and general social structures to be fascinating.

I wonder what little ceremonies we have in the West and what they say about us both as Westerners and as individuals. For instance, my morning tea routine is very different from my evening tea routine. I spoon black tea into a bag and steep it in a thermos in the morning, but in the evening I pay more attention to temperature and I tend to choose green, white, rooibos or tisane and I put it in a little porcelain pot and typically forgo the matching Japanese style cup in favor of my oversized Alice in Wonderland cup. And I always go find a quiet place to drink it.

So, I am a slave to the 9-5 until I get home and then I make my own space and recenter my universe and my self within it - using TEA :)

User avatar
Apr 25th 08 4:22 am
Posts: 34
Joined: Feb 25th 08 4:06 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

by scotty X » Apr 25th 08 4:22 am

this thread has re-inspired me to pursue my long-running desire to undertake a study of tea using a deconstructionist paradigm to illuminate the power of the experience of tea in front of the backdrop of its (often sordid) role in history, but i'm afraid Aphroditea has beaten me to it.

i think that if sartre was a tea, he'd have to be a tea whose origin and essence has been obfuscated to the point of absurdity by the semiotics of a vast array of people and worldviews, but which, in spite of the fact that it has no real referent, retains some sort of imaginative and insightful spark, kind of like sartre's writings. maybe the erstwhile orange pekoe??