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Heterology: Towards a transcendental empiricist approach to cultural studies

Buchanan, Ian (1995) Heterology: Towards a transcendental empiricist approach to cultural studies. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis begins with a discussion of the question of the possibility of a book like Madness and Civlltzation. It shows that its central problem, a problem I argue it shares with cultural studies generally, namely the philosophical and political problem of the silence of the other - of otherness - is a problem, first of all, of subjectivity not discourse. It does this by demonstrating that its present impossibility as assayed by Derrida is irresolvable within a pan-discursive frame.

Discourse, I argue, is a milieu that the emerging subject constitutes as a terrain. It is not the force that constitutes the subject, or gives it life, but the breath it draws. There is no way the subject can exist in a discursive vacuum, but, by the same token, discourse by itself will not produce a subject. I argue, therefore, that priority must once again be given to the question of the formation of the subject. Not for the purpose of reifying the subject, however, but rather to deconstruct it.

The overall aim of this thesis, then, is to develop a form of understanding of subjectivity alert to the particular imperatives of this crucial problem. My principal claim is that it is Deleuze's notion of transcendental empiricism that is, philosophically, the most capable of sustaining the conditions necessary for its rectification. Within this frame, however, it is de Certeau's notion of heterology - I further argue - that is practically capable of rectifying it. It is this combination, then, that renders possible my main argument, which is that our understanding of culture must commence with an understanding of the formation of the subject. My rationale is that in order to escape the disempowering homogenization of pandiscursivity Without thereby lapsing into historicism, what is required is a form of philosophical constructivism: heterology.

Heterology is the critical apparatus that becomes available when de Certeau's concepts of strategy and tactics are read, as they are here, against the background of Deleuze's notion of transcendental empiricism. Transcendental empiricism is the product of a doubling of empiricist and transcendental philosophies, each with the other, in such a way as to combine the imperatives of both. What this doubling results in is a constructivist understanding of subjectivity - the constructivist subject is at once passively immanent in a discursive milieu and capable of actively transcending it to acquire sovereignty and agency.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Birch, David, Kalaga, Wojciech and Ruthrof, Horst
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