Calibrations: Reading for the Social by Ato Quayson

By Ato Quayson

Ato Quayson explores a convention of interpreting that oscillates quickly among domains-the literary-aesthetic, the social, the cultural, and the political-in order to discover the jointly illuminating nature of those domain names. He does this to not assert the customarily repeated postmodernist view that there's not anything outdoor the textual content, yet to stipulate a style of analyzing he calls calibrations: a kind of shut examining of literature with what lies past it as a fashion of figuring out constructions of transformation, approach, and contradiction that tell either literature and society. Quayson surveys a big selection of texts-ranging from Bob Marley lyrics, Toni Morrison's paintings, Walter Benjamin's Theses at the Philosophy of background, and Althusser's reflections on political economy-and treats a huge diversity of topics: the comparative constructions of alienation in literature and anthropology, cultural heroism as a trope in African society and politics, literary tragedy as a template for interpreting the existence and activism of Ken Saro-Wiwa, trauma and the prestige of citizenship in post-apartheid South Africa, representations of actual incapacity, and the conflict among enchanted and dissatisfied time in postcolonial texts. Ato Quayson is director of the African experiences Centre, lecturer in English, and fellow of Pembroke collage on the college of Cambridge.

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When different subsegments interact with other subsegments, they produce a field of tension that acts as the potential transfer of a field of force beyond the force field determined by the governing logic of the initial binaristic interaction. And the conjoined > (greater than) and < (less than) signs in the dialectically interacting levels of A and B are meant to show the potential negation of hierarchies within such interactions. These interactions can be multiplied across a whole range of phenomena and do not need to be limited solely to the analysis of two interacting polarities.

The girl’s wry smile is not to be seen as a relief from the burden of identity in an exilic universe. On the contrary, that seemingly triumphant smile spreading across two languages is the cipher of a lifelong process of diasporic negotiations between sometimes overlapping but often contradictory conceptual and affective responses to the world codified in particular language and discursive forms. And even the Saussurean recognition that languages have no positive terms but are systems of differential signs does not erase the fact ≈ 1 ≈ that words such as family, love, and death have different evocative potentials in different ennunciatory, linguistic, and discursive contexts.

In cases where the emotional messiness of the ethnographer is incorporated into the description of the evolution of ethnographic knowledge, the emotional difficulties of the anthropologist are used as a means of grasping the emotional complexities that inform interpersonal relations within the culture being observed. This does not mean that anthropologists have not paid any attention to questions of alienation in the fieldwork experience and the problem of knowledge production constituted from this alienation.

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