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Title: Enculturation and its critiques
Author: Quinn, Malcolm J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2729 7887
Awarding Body: Royal College of Art
Current Institution: Royal College of Art
Date of Award: 2000
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This thesis uses specific crises and problems of radical institutional critique which have arisen over the last decade, as the starting point for an investigation of what is unconscious for academic labour. My central focus is on the failures of 'enculturalist' critiques of academic knowledge. These critiques advocate forms of epistemological progressivism, in which discrete disciplines are redefined as knowledge practices situated within social and cultural fields. In this regard, my central research question is 'why doesn't epistemological progressivism progress?' Enculturalism has proposed that the decentralisation of disciplinary knowledge will produce an interdisciplinary outcome which, in turn, will result in more culturally situated knowledge. It describes academic disciplines as regimes of knowledge, and itself as a form of resistance to these regimes. This resistance purportedly mediates between the university and the unconscious, elided subject of cultural practice. Against enculturalism, I claim that its failures and crises disclose what is unconscious for what Jacques Lacan has termed the 'discourse of the university'. This unconscious can be defined by the 'determinate absence' of the fallacious fantasy of plenitude intrinsic to academia, within the circulation of commodities. This absence is determinate insofar as the fantasy of plenitude is itself produced from the reduction of academic reason within commodity exchange. The fantasy of plenitude is, I claim, the site where the future of academia is currently being fought out. Enculturation itself then becomes the subject of critiques in which 'competing universalisms' struggle over the membra disjecta of the academic subject. My investigation of 'enculturation and its critiques' as a single problematic, has required the development of specific analytical techniques. My core methodology in this thesis employs a form of negation as just such an analytical tool. The 'specific impossibility' of knowledge as mastery and agency in psychoanalysis, is used as a means to identify those points of fracture at which an academic 'reflection on culture' fails to become an 'encultured' academic reflection. Psychoanalysis is not employed as one element of an interdisciplinary dialogue, but as a form of knowledge which is incommensurable with academic thought, and which can, for that very reason, be used to define criteria for what is unconscious for that form of thought, rather than what is unconscious 'within' it. The thesis begins with an investigation of how the notion of an 'epistemic unconscious' has been deployed by both enculturation and its critiques. It then goes on to investigate the struggles of competing universalisms in The Sokal Affair', in which an American scientist hoaxed the cultural studies journal Social Text in 1996. This account of the failures of enculturalist epistemology is followed by a more ambitious attempt, in Section Three, to model a work of institutional critique in which the institution appears as a point of incompletion or absence within the terms of its critique. In the light of my central research question as to why epistemological progressivism does not progress, I claim that a critique 'in the institution's absence' can not only answer this question for the self-reflexive subject of academic knowledge, but can also isolate the point at which enculturalist universalism will necessarily fail. This model is advanced with reference to work which I have done with an 'enculturalist' fraction of academic archaeology.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available