Wednesday, December 31, 2008

סיכת בלון


כאשר התגייסתי שלחו אותי לבסיס צבאי מרוחק, אי שם ברצועת עזה, בגבול בקתות החמר של מחנה הפליטים חאן יונס, בימים הטובים ההם של טרם פרוץ האינתיפאדה הראשונה. שירתתי בחיל המודיעין כך שאינני יוכל להיות גראפי או פלסטי באשר למה שעשיתי ומה ראיתי או שמעתי, אבל אומר שאת עיקר השירות הצבאי, כמעט שלוש שנים, העברתי בשמירה על בלון. כן, כן. אין כאן טעויות. בלון. שוב, אינני יוכל להיות מדוייק מדי בפרטים שאני מוסר, אבל זה היה בלון גדול, גדול מאוד, ולבן, לבן מלוכלך כזה עם כתמי שמן וטלאים ותיקונים. זה היה בלון אמריקאי אני חושב, אבל אני יודע שהיה בו הרבה מאוד הליום. מה שקוראים היום "אוויר חם", ולכן הוא צף לו בשלווה עגומה במשך כל השנים שבהן שמרתי עליו, ועוד שנים לפני-כן ואחרי-כן, בגובה די אחיד של כמה מטרים מעל האדמה. לא רק אני שמרתי עליו, כמובן. אני הייתי חלק מכוח סודי שמנה מאות, ולאורך התקופה האמורה אף אלפי חיילים מסורים, שתפקידם היה לתחזק את הבלון: לטפל בבעיות המיכאניות של הבלון ושל המתקן הקושר אותו לאדמה, לשטוף אותו, וכמובן גם לשמור עליו.
בעצם אינני יודע מפני מי או מפני מה שמרנו עליו אז. אני מניח כי שמרנו עליו מפני הפלסטינים העזתים או אולי מפני בנדיטים או פיראטים אחרים שהשתעשעו ברעיון של לגנוב את הבלון ואולי למכור אותו (למשל חזרה לארה"ב או למדינה אחרת באפריקה), או לעשות משהו עם חלקיו הענקיים (כי הכל בבלון הזה היה ענקי, והוא נראה כמו יונק ימי עצום, שאפשר להבחין בלובנו הבוהק ממרחק של עשרות קילומטרים), או לחילופין אולי להפריח אותו ולעוף עמו כמו עם בלון פורח, ולעשות איתו איזה מטס מעל מדינות האזור וימיו (למשל "מטס שלום"). אולם ברור שבמשך כל שנות שירותי לצידו ובצילו של הבלון לא עלתה בדעתי השאלה מפני מי-מה שומרים על-את הבלון. הייתי חייל ממושמע ועשיתי את תפקידי על הצד הטוב ביותר.
בתקופה ההיא ששמרתי עליו, הקפתי אותו מאות ואלפי פעמים במעגלים מונוטוניים עם רדיוס קבוע, בעיקר בשל שעמום וקור. בשמירות שהיו בשעות היום הייתי מקיף את הבלון עם כיוון השעון, תוך שאני מנסה לעשות תרגילי כושר, או לחילופין הייתי מביט, נוגה, בים של עזה (כשם הספר). הנוף – החול, הדקלים והים היו מדהימים. בלילות הייתי מקיף את הבלון נגד כיוון השעון, וגם אז הייתי מנסה לעשות תרגילי כושר, אולם פחות בשביל הכושר ויותר בשביל להתחמם. בלילות גם הייתי חולק את תא השמירה עם מילואימניקים שהיו מספרים על בתי זונות בתאילנד שם מקבלים כרטיסייה שמנקבים בה כל פעם שמישהו גומר, וזאת תוך שהם רוקקים גרעינים על תחתית התא. החלק המעניין של השמירות היה עבורי בבוקר, בזריחות, עת עקבות הלילה היו מתגלות. או אז אפשר היה לראות על פני החול היפה סימנים של דרמות ליליות של ציד ומנוסה. למשל, עקבות רגליה של חוגלה המוליכות לנתחי גופה של חומט, או עקבות תנועה של נחש המובילות למקום מסתור של גרביל חולי. כך שברור שאהבתי את עת הזריחה על-פני משך הלילה בעת שהקפתי את הבלון שוב ושוב. ברור שבכל מקרה לא נרדמתי מעולם בשמירה. אני מניח שאורח שבא ממארס היה תמה לנוכח התנהגויות הללו שלי ושל החיילים הרבים האחרים בבסיס, והיה סבור, בשומרנו על הבלון. ההיגיון עם האורח ממארס, שבוודאי היה חושב שזו מצווה פגנית שבה מקיפים הילידים בלון שנראה כמו אל מנופח וקשור, המתקיים מעל האדמה החולית של עזה.
אולם רציתי לכתוב על כך שלבלון לא היה לב. מטאפורית כמובן. זאת אומרת הבלון היה ריק. נכון, היה בו הרבה הליום, ואני בוודאי לא מתכוון לזלזל בהליום, אבל לא היה עליו או בו או בתוכו או משהו כזה, שום דבר חוץ מהאוויר הקל הזה. הבלון אמנם היה בלון מודיעיני, אבל חייו היו למגרי נטולי משמעות מודיעינית או אחרת, ולא היה רגע אחד בו הוא מילא תפקיד מודיעיני כלשהו. במילים אחרות, הבלון הגדול לא העביר ביטים ייעודיים כלשהם משומקום לשומקומאחר, הוא לא שימש תחנת ממסר או ממשק אווירית או קרקעית, לא העביר אינפורמציה ולא פרנס ערב רב של מקצועות מודיעיניים, החל בפשוטים בהם המצוטטים לקולות ולשיחות של אחרים, וכלה בחכמים בהם המנתחים את מה שהפשוטים תמללו, וגוזרים מדברים פעוטים לכאורה אלה השערות, מסקנות, נטיות, דפוסים, כוונות, מגמות, מניעים, וכיוצא באלה. הבלון הגדול והריק אמנם עלה ופרח מדי פעם באוויר, בעוד כבל עבה במיוחד ושחור שומר עליו פן יאבד או יברח (והיו דברים מעולם: שמענו כי פעם בלון דומה "ברח" לסיני ומטוסי קרב של חיל האוויר שלנו נאלצו ליירט אותו). קראנו לזה אז הפרחות, ומכל האזור היו אז מגיעים קצינים כדי לחזות בהן. זו הייתה הפעלה חגיגית וכלל לא פשוטה וכל החיילים—בעיקר הטכנאים, המכונאים וגם המטאורולוגים ששימשו את הבלון—נשארו בבסיס או הוקפצו מביתם. אבל כאמור, הפרחות אלה היו אלה מעין תרגילי כושר לבלון, ואולי אפילו מה שפרשנים קוראים היום "איתותים לצד השני" (וגם, בעצם, לצד הראשון). אבל הבלון לא היה, איך נאמר, סוכנותי מבחינה מודיעינית, ופוקו או לאטור לאחריו לא היו אומרים עליו-או-בגינו שומדבר הקשור בהטרוטופיה או בתפקידו בארגון המחודש של הטכנו-חברתי.
אגב, אינני יודע מדוע היה זה מצב הדברים אז, ומדוע מעולם לא התקינו בו/עליו טכנולוגיות ריגול. יתכן שהיו אלה עניינים תקציביים. כנראה שכך. באמת צריך לברר זאת. אך העובדה לאשורה הנה שהבלון היה תמיד יתום מתכלית ומידע, וזולת הצבעה על כיוון הרוח (הבלון תמיד פנה אל כיוון הרוח) הוא היה חף מפעילות. ואכן, יתכן כי שמרנו עליו וטיפלנו בו כל העת—מה שהיה קורה בעיקר בלילות, שאז הייתה הרוח חלשה ואיוושתית ואפשר היה לעשות לבלון פינוקים: גירוזים, תיקונים, בדיקות של בריחת הליום, הטלאות, ועוד (ר' "ארבע מארבע א', ארבע מארבע א', האם שומע, עבור")—כדי לנחם אותו על כך. כאמור, אינני יודע.
בכל אופן, מתישהו בא משב רוח חזק. אבל באמת חזק. חזק כמו משבי הרוח שהיו בארץ בתקופה של הנביאים המאוחרים. זה לא שלא היו שם משבים הרסניים לפני כן. פעם משב רוח העיף איזה צריף או שניים, ואת סוכת העץ הצעצועית בה היו כלי המדידה של הגשם ושל הרוח של המטאורולוגים. כלים אלה הקסימו אותי. אבל חוץ ממני אף אחד לא ראה במשב ההוא סימן מבשר רעות. משבים אלה לא היו בריזות חזקות מן הים התיכון, אלא עלעולים מקומיים עם פערים ברומטריים שהיו גורמים לכל חזאי מזג אויר מקצועי לאבד כמה פעימות לב בהנאה. באחד מפרצי הרוח האלה, שהיו הוריקניים מחד, אך נקודתיים מאידך, הבלון הגדול והמלא בהליום, אותה חיית טכנולוגיה משומנת שנתיישנה מרגע לרגע, נקרע לרסיסים. בעצם נקרע לקרעים. אני לא הייתי שם אבל מי שהיה סיפר שברגע לא נשאר דבר מן הבלון. כאילו את הכל בלעו הדיונות היפות של חאן-יונס, ואי אפשר היה למצוא אפילו קרעים או טלאים למזכרת. אינני מאמין לכך, כמובן, ובוודאי שנשארו בשטח פה ושם כמה קרעים של הסגסוגת הלבנה והמלוכלכת שהיתה כסותו. ואולי חיילים עוד יותר סודיים מאיתנו ניקו את השטח משאריות. אבל מן הבלון נשאר חלון נוף יפיפה אל הים, אל רצועת חוף זהובה. זמן מה לאחר מכן שלחו אותנו לשרת בבסיסי הארץ, ואת הבסיס ההוא מכרו לחיל חימוש. כך שמעתי. כן הפיקו סיכת בלון כסופה ונוצצת, המחזיקה תבליט לבן של בלון עם זוג כנפיים קטנות כמו סנפירים, שהיתה נענדת בגאווה על דש כיס החולצה הצבאית.
שנים רבות אחר-כך עוד החזקתי בדעה שהדיכאון הקליני שירשתי בעת שירותי בצבא נבע מכך שבתקופת הבלון גם נפרדה ממני רחל כנרות, מי שהייתה בעצם האהבה הגדולה הראשונה שלי (או כך חשבתי אז, מה ידעתי). זה היה בדיוק אז, ערב רה"ש של שנה שאינה זכורה לי, שהפסקתי להתגלח, ואני זוכר בבירור איך סבתי הביעה בעיקשות את מורת רוחה מכך שאני מצמיח זקן. גם אמי לא אהבה את זה. אבל זה מה שהיה. רק לאחרונה נוכחתי—במהלך שנקרא לו בעברית צחה דה-רומנטיזציה רפלקסיבית—שהענין אינו קשור כלל לרחל, או לסבתא חיה, או לכך שלא היה לי חשק להתגלח בבקרים, ושהזקן אינו ביטוי של אבל שאני חש על אהבה שהייתה והלכה (כך סיפרתי לעצמי ולכולם). אלא שהדיכאון בא מהדיכאון. משם ירשתיו. ישירות מהבלון המנופח הצבאי ההוא, ממנו ינקתי שלוש שנים תמימות חלב צהלי שחור, כמו מהשד הענק בסרט של וודי אלן.

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הדברים נדדו מליבי לקצות אצבעותיי ומשם למקלדת, כי לאחרונה נפלטתי משירות מילואים. פקידה ששמה לי או ליאת צלצלה ושאלה ללא התראה מוקדמת האם אני מעונין להופיע לכנס הפטור שייערך בקריה בתל-אביב (אם כן תשלח לי הזמנה), או שמה אני מבקש כי תשלח לי את תעודת הפטור לביתי. אכתוב רק שצלצול זה ועמו תעודת הפטור הנכספת שטרם הגיעה אלי, היוו סיום של שלוש השנים שעל מעט שבמעט שבהן כתבתי למעלה, ועוד עשרים שנות מילואים שנחלקו לעשור של שמירות, ולעשור של שירות בענף מדעי ההתנהגות (לאחר שסיימתי לימודי תואר שני ושלישי בפסיכולוגיה קלינית).

EXPERTISE draft

Tracing ethnography: A performance approach to the ethnographer’s dis/appearance.

Tracing ethnography
In this article I am informed by the epistemology of “traces,” which, according to Jacques Derrida (1978; , 1988) and Susan Stewart (1991), function as material links that connect contexts and allow situated meanings to be performed and grasped. I employ reflexive methods with the aim of critically examining the production of academic knowledge, with particular reference to ethnographic practices. Specifically, I use this space to rethink an ethnographic research I conducted during Autumn, 2006, at the Ammunition Hill National Commemoration Complex (Giv'at Hatachmoshet), in Jerusalem, Israel (see Noy, 2008a,b??). I offer a performative rending of ethnographic practices, which rests on reflexive insights: I try to employ a type of theorizing of my ethnographic stint there, which is similar to the type of theorizing I employed while account for the visitors actions and meanings at the site. In this sense I use reflexivity critically, as I try to put visitors' visits and researcher's ethnography on the same footing.
I problematize my ethnography by viewing my observations in the museum not (solely) in terms of "academic research" but also in terms of "museum visits". By doing so, I acknowledge the power and authority (sovereignty) of the modern institution of the museum, which leads to suggesting that what is commonly viewed as (ethnographic or situated) research, might be, under various circumstances—such as ideological contexts and institutional semiotics—framed differently (Goffman, 1974). In other words, alternative framing possibilities are always available, and pursuing them can lead to both reflexive insights into the construction of academic knowledge (i.e. epistemology) and to enriching the practices of ethnography itself (i.e. methodology). Thus the research is steeped in explorations of reflexive ethnographies (Bochner & Ellis, 2002; Marcus & Fischer, 1999) and new museum studies (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 1998; Macdonald, 2006)??, with sensibilities from performance studies as the connecting thread (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 1998; Noy, 2007??).
Being There
The expression "Being There" nicely captures the performative rendering of the ethnographic research I have conducted at the Ammunition Hill Museum. This expression's twofold designation indicates the complexities of museum ethnography. The term "being" touches on an existential notion of presence; a Heideggerian being-in-the-world or Dasein. This type of being-in-ethnographic-research concerns the meanings and implications of being some-where; being within physical and semiotic confines of various places, in the present case of a highly symbolic and institutional commemorative space.
The term "there" compliments the notion of Being and suggests a particular site—a sitedness—in which "being" takes place (Dasein literally meaning "being there"). This is true for all being-ins the world, and specifically complicated for ethnographic inquiry, which is by definition a situated inquiry, which has a distinct "field" or "site." Ethnographic is a research of being—observing, recording, interviewing, participating, etc.—"there," wherever "there" may be. In situated research practices there are always spatial references to specific places and locations, achieved by indexical references that reveal the spatial relations between the researcher and the field. "Here" or "there" are common indexical terms used to describe the distance between the field and the homeplace, whether distant (there), or proximate (here).
As suggested earlier, I pursue my "ethnographic visits" to the Ammunition Hill Musuem in a manner that is similar to and that parallels the way I researched and conceptualized performative entries in the VB. Indeed, the indexical deictics "here" and "there" relate to how visitors who inscribe the visitor book accomplish the task of producing entries performatively. Accomplishing a meaningful and effective statement of presence necessitates an anchoring of the performance in the space/on the stage whereat it is revealed as a meaningful social action (Noy, in press-a)??. For visitors at the site, at least for those who chose to inscribe in the VB, the matter of their actual (corporeal, "authentic") presence is crucially important, and it is vital for the effectiveness of their performances in the VB. The visitors made this clear by repeatedly indicating that their performances are performed in situ, and that they are anchored to the "here" of the site. A typical commemorative entry includes the words "I was here." Visitors' notion of "here," however, varies, and extends from the literal pages of the VB, through the space of the Ammunition Hill Complex, all the way to the (the Holy City of) Jerusalem, and the Land of Israel (Noy, forthcoming).
While ethnographers commonly view the field as being "there"—a requirement of the discipline—at a distance from both homeplace and workplace (academia), if I am to render anew my ethnographic excursions to the AH museum, and assume the responsibilities and the obligations implied in my research, I should acknowledge and consider the hereness of the research conduct. Doing so removes one of the veils that hide the similarities, or that creates the differences between other visitors and other visits and my own.
Tracing ethnographic presence
In works on visitors and visits at the AHNMS I argued that the VB is used precisely to capture in-situ traces of these visitors and of their visits. As these traces are aesthetisized ideological productions that are publically accessible, they amount to performances. Specifically, these are performances of participation in the national(ist) narrative unfolded at the site. I will now suggest three short instances that illustrate how I can observe my own presence and my own traces in the site, which much of contemporary social sciences (still) try to remove. This presence is captured (perhaps paradoxically) by my own capturing devices (i.e. still photography and video) and by the visitors themselves.
First, the presence of my video installation (two cameras, a tripod, and some additional technical equipment) inside the museum was interpreted by some of the visitors as a display. (Re)viewing the video recordings, which were initially intended to capture visitors' actions and movements throughout the museum and particularly near the VB, reveals how visitors show interest in the camera: they approach it, look directly into its lends, and discuss its meaning with fellow visitors. While I did not remember this from my fieldwork, the video tape captured a number of instances where I had to actually approach visitors asking them kindly to avoid manipulating the tripod or cameras. This is of course and execution of authority on my behalf, discerning myself from other visitors and situating myself above them in terms of the range of situated actions that are available to me.
Second, in addition to the technical installation of the cameras, my presence also drew visitors' attention. Here, again, with the help of video recordings I can see how visitors negotiate my role in situ. They do so subtly, but the whispers they exchanged and the glances they sneak (unseen by me then) indicate that they try to decipher my (institutional) role. One occasion took place as I was fixing the camera unto the tripod and searching for the best angle for video shooting. Absorbed in these technical operation, I did not realize that some youths (high school students from the city of Natania) had actually approached the nearby hall. Since the video camera was shooting, the tape clearly discerns the utterly surprised call of the first of these youths to have noticed me, exclaiming, "Woow! I thought it's a sculpture!" ("Yuuh! hashavti sheze pesel!"). Indeed, why should the figure of me, bent over the tripod in an empty, darkly lighten museum hall, not be taken to be a statue, which is to say why should I not be taken in the context of a museum to be a display of sorts. If in this context I am not a visitor, what else might I be? What else might my actions there embody? What are the other viable interpretative possibilities available for visitors who encounter the ethnographer? In any case, in this case the video clearly records the momentarily surprise—actually a horrific moment—when what seemed to the youth walking a head of his friends as a commemorative sculpture suddenly starts moving. This moment of animation amounts to no less than an act of resurrection, which—I should stress—lies squarely within the commemorative ideology of the Ammunition Hill Museum, which tries to "bring to life" those commemorated.


Collector: Totalizer
-- Stewart (1993, p.161), "It is the museum, not the library, which must serve as the central metaphor of the collection … [because it is there that] closure of all space and temporality within the context at hand" occurs.


In this section I shall briefly argue for another parallel or in terms of power relations another competition, between the semiotics of the museum and those of the ethnography. This parallel is evinced in the intuitions'—museums on the one hand and ethnography on the other, to sample and collect artifacts (broadly defined), and by and by also to re/de-contextualize their meanings.


Techno-Ideologies of Representation
Finally, in scene number three I wish to complete the circle that describes the power (inter)relations between museumal and ethnographic semiotics, by arguing that both agencies essentially employ means of representation, and that these means convey ideologies of representation which have both similarities and differences.

* * *

As a concluding note I would like to push further the semiotic notion that an ethnographer in a museum is (also) a visitor to a museum. If indeed, as I have very partially addressed above, I am a visitor, what does this mean? The lead to this answer lies within the realm of the visitors, and specifically with the socioeconomic and socioethnic attributes those visiting this particular site. As I have recently indicted (Noy, in press-b), the Ammunition Hill's days of glory have long passed. This fact is clearly marked by the demography of the local (Israeli) visitors: these are predominantly Israelis of low class, from peripheral settlements and towns (such as Tiberius and Sderot) or peripheral neighborhoods in Jerusalem (such as Giva'at Ze'ev), and of Mizrahi background. These characteristics stand in stark contradiction with the site's management, which is Ashkenazi, and relates to a military elite (specifically to the Paratrooper Brigade which is the predominate category of masculine heroes being celebrated and commemorated at the site). Visitors' characteristics also present a contradiction with my background, which is of an upper-middle class, relating to a social elite relating to academia. Indeed, what I do at the site is precisely engage in that elite practice of modernity, embodying the role of the generator of knowledge or "researcher."
Notwithstanding my

References

Noy, C. (In press). 'I WAS HERE!': Addressivity structures and inscribing practices as indexical resources. Discourse Studies.



Bochner, A. P., & Ellis, C. (Eds.). (2002). Ethnographically Speaking: Autoethnography, Literature, and Aesthetics. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
Derrida, J. (1978). Writing and difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Derrida, J. (1988). Limited Inc. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
Goffman, E. (1974). Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Boston: Northeastern University Press.
Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, B. (1998). Destination Cultures: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Macdonald, S. (Ed.). (2006). A companion to museum studies. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.
Marcus, G. E., & Fischer, M. M. J. (1999). Anthropology as cultural critique: an experimental moment in the human sciences (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Stewart, S. (1991). Crimes of writing: problems in the containment of representation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

ArticleExpertise


Tracing ethnography: A
performance approach to the ethnographer’s dis/appearance.





This lecture is
informed by the epistemology of “traces,” which,
according to Jacques Derrida and Susan Stewart, function as material
links that connect contexts and allow situated meanings to be
performed and grasped. The lecture employs reflexive methods with the
aim of critically examining the production of academic knowledge.
Empirically, the focus is on an ethnography conducted in a national
memorial museum located in Jerusalem. The ethnography explored
commemorative discourse and representations thereof, as these are
embodied in the museum’s visitor book and in the writing
practices that it enables. In the ethnography, the visitor book was
conceptualized performatively, suggesting it is not a linguistic or
thematic corpus that should be analyzed, but a situated stage on
which multimodal performances are accomplished by the visitors (Noy,
2008a, 2008b).


But within the economy
of museums’ exhibits and performances, research itself is
implicated by the semiotics of performance and commemoration. While
the ethnography sought visitors’ and tourists’ traces on
the pages of the visitor book, its material—observable and
public—presence at the site, had created it own effects; its
own traces. Ethnographic practice is thus deconstructed with the aim
of shedding light on how in-situ research is itself an ideological
and aesthetic move. Ethnography is n the put on the same footing as
museum visitorship, i.e. as situated, performative accomplishments.
In line with the conference’s Deleuzian
theme, the lecture concludes by suggesting that performance
(experimentation) and not interpretation is the leading semiotic
resource is late-modernity.











Notes 1


Tracing ethnography 3


Being There 3


Collector: Totalizer 4


Techno-Ideologies of Representation 5


References 5







Notes


--Upon
requests from some participants, the organization committee had
decided to postpone the submission of the full length paper. Please,
submit a roughly 2,000 words paper by Monday, February 23, 2009.
Papers should be sent in a word doc or pdf format to
xpertise@post.tau.ac.il
 Please, keep double space between lines and normal margins from
the paper's edge (2.54 cm from paper's top and bottom and 3.18 cm
from paper's sides).In case, you are including images, please, make
sure to reduce their qualities. Papers should not exceed 2MB.


--can I not be seen as
an exemplar of a population visiting the site?


מה
שאני מנסה פה
לעשות זה, שוב,
לנסות ולהתייחס
אל עצמי לא (רק)
כאל "חוקר",
אלא גם כאל
"מבקר".
ואכן, אני
דומה מאוד בפרמטר
המרכזי לקבוצות
האחרות של מבקרים
באתר, אותן
ציינתי קודם
לכן, בעיקר
בהתייחס לעבודה
שאני יהודי.
אולם נראה
כי מנקודת מבט
ביקורתית השוני
הוא דווקא ברקע
התרבותי והסוציו-אקונומי.
בניגוד לרוב
המבקרים היהודיים-ישראליים
באתר, שהרקע
האתנו-מעמדי
שלהם נמוך ופריפריאלי
(כאן הפנייה
למאמרים על זה,
למשל בפרק
של קימרלינג),
מוצאי שלי
הנו מן האליטה,
והרקע התרבותי
שלי הוא אשכנזי
מן המעמד הבינוני-גבוה.
כך אפשר להבין
אותי לא רק כבעל
התפקיד של חוקר
אלא גם כבעל
התפקיד של מבקר,
אולם מסוג
מסויים.


--כדאי
לבטא את העמודה
שלי לגבי פרפורמנס
בהקשר זה כבר
בהתחלה (ולהכניס
פה עניין אסתטי):


להגיש
למעלה שאני
מושפע בגישות
שלי על הפרפורמנס
מן העבודות של
גופמן ואחרים
של "תפקידים
חברתיים", להם
אני מוסיף היבטים
הקשורים בצורת
להיות/להיראות
מעל במות חברתיות,
ובעובדה
כי נראות או
היראות זו הנן
קשורות ביחסי
כוח, באפשרויות
ומשאבים מוגבלים
ואקסקלוסיביים,
באידיאולוגיה
ובתנאים מוסדיים,
וכי, לבסוף,
הופעות-מותנות-ביחסי-כוח
אלה הנן תנאי
לקיום ולקול
חברתיים.
















Tracing
ethnography


--כדאי
לבטא את העמודה
שלי לגבי פרפורמנס
בהקשר זה כבר
בהתחלה (ולהכניס
פה עניין אסתטי):


להגיש
למעלה שאני
מושפע בגישות
שלי על הפרפורמנס
מן העבודות של
גופמן ואחרים
של "תפקידים
חברתיים", להם
אני מוסיף היבטים
הקשורים בצורת
להיות/להיראות
מעל במות חברתיות,
ובעובדה
כי נראות או
היראות זו הנן
קשורות ביחסי
כוח, באפשרויות
ומשאבים מוגבלים
ואקסקלוסיביים,
באידיאולוגיה
ובתנאים מוסדיים,
וכי, לבסוף,
הופעות-מותנות-ביחסי-כוח
אלה הנן תנאי
לקיום ולקול
חברתיים.





This article is
informed by the epistemology of “traces,” which,
according to Jacques Derrida and Susan Stewart , function as
material links that connect contexts and allow situated meanings to
be performed and grasped. The article employs reflexive methods with
the aim of critically examining the production of academic knowledge,
with specific reference to ethnographic practices. I use the space
available here to rethink an ethnographic research conducted during
Autumn, 2006, at the Ammunition Hill National Commemoration Complex
(Giv'at Hatachmoshet), in Jerusalem, Israel. I offer a
performative rending of museum ethnography, which rests on two
reflexive (and hindsight) insights: first, I try to employ a type of
theorizing of my ethnographic stint there, which is similar to the
type of theorizing I employed when trying the account for the
visitors performances at the site. In this sense I use reflexivity
critically, as I try to put visitors' visits and my work there on the
same footing.


Second, regardless of
the conceptualization of visitors' performances, I wish to
problematize my ethnographic study at the national commemorative
complex and specifically at the museum therein, by viewing my
observations there as "museum visits". By doing this I
acknowledge the power and authority (sovereignty) of the modern
institution of the museum, which leads to suggesting that what is
commonly viewed as (ethnographic) "research", might be,
under different circumstances—such as ideological contexts and
institutional semiotics—viewed or "framed"
differently ; in this case, as a museum visit (albeit particular). In
other words, altennative framing are (always?) possible, and pursuing
them might lean to both a reflexive insight into the construction of
academic knowledge and with it to bettering and enriching the
ethnography itself. The research is thus steeped mainly in
explorations into reflexive ethnographies and new museum studies .











Being
There


The expression "Being
There" nicely captures the performative rendering of the
ethnographic research I have conducted at the Ammunition Hill Museum.
This expression's twofold designation indicates the complexities of
my approach to museum ethnography. The term "being" touches
on an existential notion of presence; a Heideggerian
being-in-the-world or Dasein. This type of
being-in-ethnographic-research concerns the meanings and implications
of being some-where; being within physical and semiotic confines of
various places, in the present case of a commemorative site and
museum.


The term "there"
compliments the notion of being-in and suggests a particular site in
which being-in take place (in fact, Dasein literally means "being
there"). This is true for all being-ins-the-world, and
specifically complicated for ethnographic inquiry, which is always
situated and always has a "field" or "site" of
research. This is in fact the very definition of ethnographic
research, a research of being—observing, recording,
interviewing, participating and other social activities that take
place—"there," wherever that this "there"
may be. Note that in situated research practices such as ethnography,
there are always references to specific places and locales, and with
them always indexical references that reveal the relationship between
the researcher and the field/site. "Here" or "there"
are common indexical terms used to describe the distance between the
field and the homeplace, whether distant (there), or proximate
(here). As suggested earlier, in this article I pursue my
ethnographic visits to the site in a manner that is similar and that
parallels the way I researched and conceptualized performative
entries in the VB. The indexical deictics "here" and
"there" relate to how visitors who inscribe the visitor
book accomplish the task of producing entries performatively.
Accomplishing a meaningful and effective performance necessitates a
deictic anchoring of the performance in the space/on the stage
whereat it is revealed as a meaningful and aesthetisized social
action (Noy, forthcoming).





--where does this go?
Maybe here?


For the many visitors
at the site (at least for those who chose to inscribe in the VB), the
matter of their actual (corporeal, "authentic") presence at
the site is crucially important, and it is vital for the
effectiveness of their performances in the VB. The visitors made this
clear by repeatedly indicating that their performances are performed
in situ, and that they are anchored to the "here" of
the site. And so a typical entry would include the words "I was
here." After all, what good (meaning) would it do if someone
would have indicated having "been here," where the latter
word indicates an insignificant location. The visitors were "here,"
and that space-place meant variously the AHNMS, (the Holy City of)
Jerusalem, and the Land of Israel (see Noy, forthcoming).


In ethnographic
research, however, the field is commonly located "there,"
at a distance from both homeplace and workplace. Yet if I wish to
re-frame and re-render my ethnographic excursions to the AHNMS
museum, I should consider the "here" of the researched. If
I am to critically assume the responsibilities and the moral
obligations of the research conducted "there," then I must
acknowledge the hereness (rather than the "thereness") of
the research and attend to it. When I do so I remove one of the veils
that hides the similarities—or that constitutes the
differences—between other visitors and other visits and my own.
By looking at the here, rather than there of my research, …











Collector:
Totalizer


-- Stewart (1993,
p.161), "It is the museum, not the library, which must serve as
the central metaphor of the collection … [because it is there
that] closure of all space and temporality within the context at
hand" occurs.








In this section I shall
briefly argue for another parallel or in terms of power relations
another competition, between the semiotics of the museum and those of
the ethnography. This parallel is evinced in the intuitions'—museums
on the one hand and ethnography on the other, to sample and collect
artifacts (broadly defined), and by and by also to
re/de-contextualize their meanings.








Techno-Ideologies
of Representation


Finally, in scene
number three I wish to complete the circle that describes the power
(inter)relations between museumal and ethnographic semiotics, by
arguing that both agencies essentially employ means of
representation, and that these means convey ideologies of
representation which have both similarities and differences.








References





Noy, C. (In press). 'I
WAS HERE!': Addressivity structures and inscribing practices as
indexical resources. Discourse Studies.















Friday, December 26, 2008

ArticleExpertise


Tracing ethnography: A
performance approach to the ethnographer’s dis/appearance.








This lecture is
informed by the epistemology of “traces,” which,
according to Jacques Derrida and Susan Stewart, function as material
links that connect contexts and allow situated meanings to be
performed and grasped. The lecture employs reflexive methods with the
aim of critically examining the production of academic knowledge.
Empirically, the focus is on an ethnography conducted in a national
memorial museum located in Jerusalem. The ethnography explored
commemorative discourse and representations thereof, as these are
embodied in the museum’s visitor book and in the writing
practices that it enables. In the ethnography, the visitor book was
conceptualized performatively, suggesting it is not a linguistic or
thematic corpus that should be analyzed, but a situated stage on
which multimodal performances are accomplished by the visitors (Noy,
2008a, 2008b).


But within the economy
of museums’ exhibits and performances, research itself is
implicated by the semiotics of performance and commemoration. While
the ethnography sought visitors’ and tourists’ traces on
the pages of the visitor book, its material—observable and
public—presence at the site, had created it own effects; its
own traces. Ethnographic practice is thus deconstructed with the aim
of shedding light on how in-situ research is itself an ideological
and aesthetic move. Ethnography is n the put on the same footing as
museum visitorship, i.e. as situated, performative accomplishments.
In line with the conference’s Deleuzian
theme, the lecture concludes by suggesting that performance
(experimentation) and not interpretation is the leading semiotic
resource is late-modernity.









Noy, C. (2008a). 'Mediation Materialized: The Semiotics of a Visitor
Book at an Israeli Commemoration Site', Critical Studies in Media
Communication, 25
(2), 175-195.



----. (2008b). 'Pages as Stages: A Performance Approach to Visitor
Books', Annals of Tourism Research, 35(2), 509-528.










Tracing
ethnography








Scene
one: Being There


The expression Being
There conveys a performative rendering of my ethnographic research in
the Ammunition Hill museum. This the expression accomplishes via its
twofold designation. The term "being" touches on an
existential notion of existence and presence; a Heideggerian being in
the world or Dasein. This being in ethnographic research concerns the
meanings and implications of being some-where, being within physical
and semiotic confines of places, in the present case of a
commemorative museum.


The term "there"
compliments the notion of being and suggests a particular site in
which being occurs (literally dasein means "being there").
This is true for all beings in the world, and specifically
complicated fro ethnographic inquiry, which is always situated and
always has a field" or "site" of research. This is in
fact the very definition of ethnographic research, a research of
being—observing, recording, interviewing, participating and
other social activities that take place—"there,"
wherever that this "there" may be. Note that in situated
research practices such as ethnography, there are always references
to specific places, and with them always indexical references that
reveal the relationship between the researcher and the field or the
site. "Here" or "there" are common indexical
terms used to describe the distance between the field and the
homeplace (there), or alternatively proximity (here). As I suggested
earlier, in this article I pursue my ethnography in a similar and
parallel manner to that which I pursued performative entries in the
VB. The indexical deictics "here" and "there"
relate to how visitors who inscribe the visitor book accomplish the
task of producing entries performatively. This is necessarily done
through a deictic anchoring of the performance in the space/on the
stage whereat it is revealed as a meaningful and aesthetisized social
action.





Scene
Two: Collector: Totalizer


-- Stewart (1993,
p.161), "It is the museum, not the library, which must serve as
the central metaphor of the collection … [because it is there
that] closure of all space and temporality within the context at
hand" occurs.








In this section I shall
briefly argue for another parallel or in terms of power relations
another competition, between the semiotics of the museum and those of
the ethnography. This parallel is evinced in the intuitions'—museums
on the one hand and ethnography on the other, to sample and collect
artifacts (broadly defined), and by and by also to
re/de-contextualize their meanings.








Scene
Three: Ideologies of representation


Finally, in scene
number three I wish to complete the circle that describes the power
(inter)relations between museumal and ethnographic semiotics, by
arguing that both agencies essentially employ means of
representation, and that these means convey ideologies of
representation which have both similarities and differences.






אקדמאים ממוסדים

• אקדמאים ממוסדים הנם עצמאים מבחינה כלכלית (גם אם הם מקבלים תלוש משכורת חודשי), והם (אינם) נהנים לעבוד בשעות הפנאי. במילים אחרות, אקדמאיים אוהבים לצטט את מישל פוקו משום שבמקרים רבים הם מהווים המחשה טובה לשעבוד (הפנמת השליטה) עליו כותב פוקו.

• הדבר הכי טוב הוא להיזכר. לפני זמן קראתי או שמעתי ראיון עם יאיר הורביץ בו אמר כי מאז איבד את הוריו, מוקדשים חייו (הפואטיים) לחיפוש אחריהם. הנה מישהו שאני מקנא בו.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Recent thoughts...

  • Perhaps I (mis)took Goffman too seriously.

מתי היתה זו הפעם האחרונה שבדקתי את הערך 'פול סימון' במאגרי המידע של מדעי החברה והרוח?
אינני זוכר, זמן רב.
חשבתי, ועודני בטוח בכך, שהאזנה לשיריו תבהיר כמה אמיתות של הלייט-מודרניטי.

ואמי? גם החלום האחרון דהה--חלום ארוך ורב פרטים כסרט של פרדריקו/חלום רפלקסיבי ככל חלומותיי בהם עובדת החלום נוכחת--ואף אתר האינטרנט שלי - אין ביכולתו להשיבו

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Way to Being an Independent Scholar

Independent Scholar is the title I have been presenting myself by in the last few years. I guess that this become the title/my title once I've realized its time to stop presenting myself as a "postdoctoral student" (some 3 years after the completion of the PhD), and of course once I wasn't able to become a member in a local university. I know that as an IS I'm in good company, because some of the other ISs I know of, such as Katherine Young, Smadar Lavie and perhaps also Rela Mazali, are scholars whose works I admire. Also, one of my mentors (Erik Cohen) repeatedly tells me that I remind him of Georg Simmel, and that Simmel too was a wondering, uninstitutional intellectual.

Even so, I should admit that I use or that I used to use this titled somewhat euphemistically, covering up for a different title—less attractive and romantic, that of an Unemployed Scholar. The truth must be laid out: from the completion of the PhD dissertation throughout three postdoctoral fellowships right up to this very moment, I haven't been successful in what they call "securing a tenure (track) academic position" (primarily in Israel but also abroad). It's not that I'm literally unemployed. In fact, because I'm not employed in an academic position, I actually have to employ myself rather intensively in order to be able to be as prolific as are my colleagues who are working, researching and publishing from within academic institutions, backed with all that this factory can do in order to make its workers as productive as possible. Of course, I'm also a breadwinner (one of two), and there are therefore no "budgets" of "funds" that are mine personally, and on the yearly occasion of traveling abroad for an academic conference (I don’t travel abroad on any other circumstance), I'm well aware of the fact that these are family resources that I enjoy.

It took me quite some time to redefine my position in or in relation to the institutional world of academia, from "unemployed" to "independent." There where quite a number of job talks I had given and interviews conducted in different social science departments in Israeli universities. Unusually, the result of the "job talk" show were set in advance, and I simply didn’t know of this or was not aware of the fact that this is how it works (here, and perhaps elsewhere too): backstage politics around the positions determine much of the chances candidates have in getting the wanted job (about my naïveté and romanticism of academia see below). This did not prevent those professors who interviewed and examined my academic expertise from putting me down and placing the fault with me, suggesting one time that I "do not know anything" and other such accusations (all conducted during job talks and other public events). All this generally made me feel horrible and shameful for about three to four years. During this period there were also many promises made, some of them with austere seriousness and intentness on behalf of those who I must presume meant only good for me. All these promises eventually crashed against the institutions'—academic--bureaucracy. Some of them were simply manipulative maneuvers which were aimed at luring me to stay for another year or two in the exploitative position of "untenured lecturer" (locally called "outside teachers"). That is, someone who gets paid for per hour, with no additional rights whatsoever (this meant I got fired every year so I wouldn't be able to secure any rights, I had no funds for any academic or other activities, and no funds were directed at any kind of retirement or sabbatical program, etc.). What I really didn’t like in this specific matter was that if it wasn't me that was bad and ill-skilled, it was always agents whose identity was very vague, such as a "general recession," the "condition of Israeli academia," an anonymous (sometimes explicitly secretive) "faculty committee," and other such rhetoric. I realize that the academia as I know it is one of the places that excels at deferring responsibly, and I came to wonder what kind of knowledge can be created within an institution of this type.

So you can imagine that there were a few years with emotional implications for the author, usually in the form of melancholia. Bleak feelings of worthlessness that had a granite texture to them: they seem like they'll stay within me forever (I'm not saying this is not the case).

It's hard for me to point out when and therefore also why did the emotional barometer's needle started moving in a different direction. I guess that at one point I realized what my wife had been telling me all along (seeing how I suffer from up-close), which is that I was paying too dear of a personal price anyhow; and that regardless of what it was—what my dream was which I was pursuing, it wasn't worth it. What came in helpful was the fact that I was actually very prolific in my work, particularly with publications concerning the Commemorative Visitor Book Project. I also got some outstanding reviews and appraisals on other submissions and publications (book reviews and the like), and conference presentations. Also, my colleagues—the few I had managed to make and keep—were forthcoming (mefargenim, in Hebrew). So at some point, and in a gradual manner, I decided it’s the institution's blame and problem, and not my own. Very simple. Just like they said it was in those learned helplessness experiments in social psychology, where there's a question about responsibility and agency. I said (to myself and to anyone who would listen): SCREW THEM! And I decided that I'm not going to apply anymore to academic positions.

As this realization sunk in my feelings become lighter and more mobile. I realized that academia, at least Israeli universities and departments with which I am familiar, are very conservative and highly disciplined. While there's much talk about interdisciplinarity, when it comes to the moneys that lie in the deep pockets, i.e. moneys concerning tenure positions, every discipline, and I mean every single discipline, sniffs the candidate well to see if s/he is "from our kin or not": In anthropology they said I didn’t spend a number of years oversees somewhere; in sociology they argued that I was too qualitative; in communication they didn't like my "marginal interests" (i.e. not dealing with "mass media"); and in cultural studies I was boldly informed that "this is an academic field and not a wastebasket of cultural observations and observers"! So there you have it/I had it.

But I also acknowledge the fact that there are other reasons that can interestingly account for the repeated lack of success I had endured in this matter. There are other reasons that also played a role in the story of not being permitted a ticket to the inside of the institution. These points have, so some been, to some degree, already hinted at above.

First, I'm a lousy schmoozer. But I mean seriously, on an existential level. I don’t know to talk the (little) talk. I'm bad at it on particular social occasions, and more generally and more importantly, in all matters of socialization. Having to admit to this social fact is weird for me, because my self-image, at least up to a few years ago, was that of someone very cheerful and talkative, who really likes to socialize; a buddy, or as we say in Hebrew, "one of the guys" (ehad meha'hevre). In high school I had a close circle of really good friends and we used to give our teachers at school a headache and have a lot of fun together. So all was (socially at least) in place. So it took me a long time to realize that things are different in the forth decade of my life. When I look at it now, I cannot miss the fact that it's really hard for me to socialize. It is often that I feel very shy and alienated and that I find it extremely hard to "make a conversation" (as they say in American) or to maintain one. On almost every public occasion, even with my closest friends and family, you'll find me to be one of the quietest persons around the table. It's as though I don’t have much to say, and indeed, if people ask me directly as to what I think or why am I quite, I would reply the same: I have nothing in particular to say. I really don’t. I usually don’t have anything to say or don’t know what to say. I feel that I really need extremely comfortable conditions to be able to engage freely in interaction, and that these beneficial conditions rarely exist on natural everyday interactions. I've been laying all of this down simply to say that all kinds ("orders") of schmoozing are difficult for me and that in academia, and in Israeli academia in particular, schmoosing is a necessity. Schmoosing here is a different word for making connections and social ties (those famous "weak social ties" that are said to be so helpful in getting jobs), and that it's hard for me to flatter people or tell them I like what they are doing when in fact I don’t know what they are doing and don’t care either.

So now for the third (and last) explanation I can—and must—supply. I mentioned that my friends and I would give our teachers hard time in school. This is true but an understatement, a tip of an iceberg. We were indeed "yeladim shovavim" (mischievous kids), but if look back at it, this tells me something about how I got along with and in institutions, and with figures of institutional authority even back then in elementary school, and later in high school (and later during my military service). From elementary school I remember endless and painful disagreements with my teachers, wherein I took the position of the "defender of the weak" in my class. I am actually not sure whether these "weak" students of lower socioeconomic background liked what I'm doing, but I surely didn't like the kind of attitude they were getting. Once, one kid (Shlomi Shrieky), told me, after yet another bitter argument with the teacher, "Chaim, your right (ata tsodek), but there's no one who would acknowledge you (lehatsdik otcha)". I found it revealing that a fifth grader would already have humor (an ironical and sad type of humor) at the understanding that if you are right and there's no institutional power to back you up on what you say, it eventually means very little.

In high school things were worse, and I got thrown out of the esteemed Gymnasia High School at the end of the tenth grade. There were no warnings given to me or to my family in advance as to my condition, and actually they kicked me out at the party at the end of the year, when my parents were abroad. You can imagine how many stories lie behind (and I guess that also in front) of this traumatic event—most of which are actually hilarious stories, and some are disturbing because I really took the institution's decision to my heart. As one of my teachers later told me (her name was Edna Poles, and she was my Hebrew grammar teacher, which I relatively liked), after I returned to school with many promises, tears, and a lot of pressure exerted by my parents: "school is shitty but it [therefore] prepares you for real life"!

I'm indicating all this just to say that rather earlier on, we—institutions and myself—weren't reacting really well: I was very critical and I misbehaved, and they—well they kicked me out (or didn’t let me in if I had already infiltrated their lines).

And so I'm nearing the end now, and I think that I've managed to exhaust the accounts I can supply for being an Independent Scholar and for not being inside—an "insider" in the Promised Land of institutional (Israeli) Academia. I grew up in a house where my father—Dov Noy—was an academic: a renowned folklore professor. So you see wherefrom I got ("inherited") my interests in academia and worse, wherefrom I got my (wrong) ideas of how the institution works. I guess I had in mind romanticist images that were relevant to the seventies (if not to an earlier decades, my father having got his PhD in Indiana, USA, in 1952).


  • Here to return to my webpage
  • There are plenty of references to ISs and organization of ISs on the web

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Against Automobility - review1


Against
Automobility. Böhm, S., Jones, C., Land, C., & Paterson, M.
(Eds.) Blackwell Publishing: Malden, MA. 2006. 259 pp includes
bibliographical references and index. ISBN paperback 14051152709;
hardback 9781405152709.









Keywords:
Mobility, technology, paradigm, capitalism, liberalism





Review


The
edited volume Against Automobility is an important and timely
contribution to the expanding book shelf dealing with Automobility
and its consequences. Before offering a review of the book and of its
chapters, a succinct sketch of the outlines of this immensely
innovating body of knowledge, which concerns Automobility and its
consequences, and with which this volume corresponds, is needed.
Under the title of "Automobility," hides a development
which amounts to a (Khunian) paradigm shift in the social sciences.
At stake is an immensely vibrant, interdisciplinary locus of research
and theorizing, which is vast in scope and revolutionary in the
cutting edge influences it both absorbs and inspires. The basic idea
is that sociology and related disciplines (primarily, but not
exclusively within the social sciences) have hardly addressed thus
far the organization of the system or the culture of automobility,
and the consequences it carries on modern ways of living.
Explorations essentially stretch from the material artifact
(emblematically embodied by the automobile), to a much broader view
that addresses automobility. Essays on automobility employ conceptual
developments from material culture, studies in technology and
society, mobility studies and more, thus creating a most stimulating
field of thought and research; a truly vibrant intellectual quarter
in social sciences. While it is early to judge what will be this
field's core (canonic) essays, it is clear that the edited volume
Automobilities, edited in 2005 by Featherstone, Thrift and
Urry, should be included, as well as a number of other publications
having to do with the works of John Urry (for instance, Sociology
beyond societies
[2000] and [2008]?? his last work - mobilities).
It is now that we may turn to the preset edited publication, and see
the ways it corresponds with and ads to what has thus far been
accomplished.



The volume Against Automobility brings us the fruits of a conference
that took place in Keele University in September, 2002. The volume
consists of thirteen chapters arranged in four sections, which
jointly aim at improving the state of knowledge in the field depicted
above, by systematically adopting a critical approach to automobility
and by highlighting the limitations, contradictions and (as the
editors nicely phrase it) impossibilities of automobility.



The first section, titled Conceptualizing Automobility, includes
three introductory chapters that supply two types of background to
the essays that follow. First, the editors argue for a need for a
critical approach to the field of automobility, an approach which
will transcend theoretical definitions that have been suggested thus
far (notably, Urry's notion of the "system of automobility").
In the Introduction chapter, the editors thus argue, and I tend to
agree with them, that previous approaches and definitions do not put
enough accent on the alarming, unavoidable and coercive consequences
of the exponential growth of the automobile industry and of the
objects and technologies it has produced over the last century; also,
and at the same time, the editors point at the far reaching
consequences of these developments in terms of the social practices
and the implications of embodying automobility. The editors here
argue for and indeed accomplish a politicization of automobility and
also an examination of how automobility has been managed and
regulated and how it has been naturalized and de-politicized so
effectively over the last century.



The second introductory aspect of this section concerns supplying the
basic building stones of the emerging field of automobility. While
some of the material is well-known to those familiar with the
sociological literature on automobility, it is nonetheless
interesting to read Urry's new take on issues he has tackled before
(in a chapter titled, "Inhabiting the Car"). Specifically,
the notion Urry has recently promoted—that of inhabiting the
car and the habitable (mobile) space of the automobile, emerge as
intriguing and productive. The third chapter, titled "Driving
the Social" (by Joanna Latimer and Rolland Munro), works against
a common reductive and purist attitude, which tends to focus on the
automobile itself and to restrict the system or culture around it to
the fetishized object. Instead, the authors argue that "driving
as a form of incorporation, elicits particular kinds of relations and
ways of being in the world" (p.49), and from here the way is
shirt to assert that "the car has become the contemporary
carrier of the social, much as conversation could once have been said
to define the social" (p.49).



The book's second and third sections, respectively titled Governing
Automobility and Representing Automobility, offer new perspectives,
data and analyses that expose, criticize and politicize automobility,
broadly defined. These sections include seven critical essays of
multidisciplinary theoretical backgrounds (with a particular flavor
for political science), which together depict in interesting ways the
"regime of automobility." The book's purposes are made
persuasively clear in these chapters, as the focus of the inquiry
shifts from conceptualizing automobility for the sake of social
theory and knowledge, to deconstructing automobility for the sake of
social emancipation, equality and change. Compared with earlier
literature, this represents a change of both content and tone: we
hear less of sociological dynamics and complexities, and more of
ideologies, regulating agents and plans, and advertisements, which
are promoting automobility, and of the bleak consequences of the
almost unprecedented success of this regime.



These sections present works on such issues as the history of the
automobility regime (Merriman on the "British Motorway in the
1950s"), the rhetoric of regulating policies (Forstrop on the
"Zero Tolerance" program in Sweden), and the effects of
liberal ideology on the spread of automobile ideology (Rajan on
Automobility and the Liberal Disposition). While the book's second
section (Governing Automobility) tackles policies and ideologies head
on, its third section (Representing Automobility) inquires of popular
culture and images of automobility in commercials and movies. This
makes the latter section a bit lighter and sometimes downright
amusing, such as with Martin-Jones' chapter, "No Literal
Connection," which discusses commoditization and the oil and
military industry as represented in The Big Lebowski.



The book's forth and concluding section, titled After Automobility,
duly suggests alternative possibilities for automobility. While the
essays in this section are interesting and challenging as are the
book's other chapters, it is here that the project is perhaps a bit
overextended. While throughout the book and throughout the
sociological literature on automobility more generally, a systematic
(and conscious) attempt is made to expose the overwhelming scope of
automobility in late-modern societies, it is nonetheless important to
see what falls within and without the field. It is important to make
sure that automobility, while engrossing, is not a conceptual
waste-basket, but that whatever developments and contributions are
made, they are tied to the field and offer substantial contribution.



To conclude, the volume Against Automobility offers an important
contribution to the field—an emerging field defined by the
distance between the automobile itself (a material product and a
symbolic fetish), and the utterly complex, techno-human, ideological
regime of automobility. The book accomplishes this by first
reiterating the fantastic scope of automobility and its formative
effects on late-modernity, and then by pushing and extending the
limits of this multidisciplinary field in much needed political and
critical directions.



As I look ahead at the future of the research of automobility,
defined as a system, a regime, or both, I would suggest two
directions that reflect this book's inspirations and my own
inclinations. The first proposition concerns tying critical academic
explorations to social and political activities. Nowhere does this
synergy between "high" theory and "low"
groundwork aimed at creating social change seem more in-need and
potentially fruitful than in relation to managing automobility
differently. Of course, understanding the intricacies of the system
of automobility, and de-mystifying and de-naturalizing its regime are
the necessary first steps. I just argue that we are at a point where
this has already been accomplished effectively, and we can and should
proceed.



Second, with regards to research itself I would argue that time is
ripe now for engaging in more creative and evocative ways of
researching, theorizing and representing automobility. Just as the
vast scope of this field is continuously being uncovered and
realized—a theoretical pursuit to which this books
significantly contributes—so should sociological research, and
means through which it is conducted (i.e. methods) and represented,
be innovative and creative: special ambitions require special means.








Chaim
Noy, PhD


Independent
Scholar





1/a
Shalom Yehuda St. apt.#6


Jerusalem,
93395


ISRAEL





chaimnoy@gmail.com


tel./fax.:
972-2-6732188








References
mentioned






Featherstone, M., Thrift, N. J., & Urry, J. (Eds.). (2005).
Automobilities. London: SAGE.



Urry, J. (2000). Sociology beyond societies: mobilities for the
twenty-first century
. London: Routledge.








1







Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Composing entries

This is where it's at now. far, far more difficult for writing than i had expected.
Composing entries

Monday, November 3, 2008

If I was to write a book...

If I were to write a book about bodies or embodiments, I'd call it The something Body, because there are so many titles in this trend that someone really need to point this out.

www.chaimnoy.com

Monday, October 27, 2008