Saturday, July 25, 2020

Book pairing

Continuing on the theme of books that provoke surprising connections when read together I want to recommend pairing Marilyn Strathern's work on Relations with anything by Henry James (from Daisy Miller onwards). I've always been struck by the Jamesian use of the term 'vulgar' - in part because it resonates with a family joke, (which I won't go into) - but mostly because it's one of those words that surfaces repeatedly in The Awkward Age, The Golden Bowl, The Wings of the Dove and in some ways becomes James's signature theme. Relations, people and behaviours that are below the norms of an idea of respectability all fall into his category of the vulgar. For James the vulgar is a register of social distinction at a time in which it is being tested in New and Old World sociality as well as by shifting generational impulses and family tensions. Purdy's 1968 essay 'Henry James's use of vulgar' in the journal American Speech explores some of this and is particularly good at teasing out the different connotations of the word. Strathern, however, has an entirely different project in mind as she problematises the place of relations in and beyond anthroplogy. Charting the rise of relationality as a way of looking at and ordering the world she is optimistic about new ways of thinking about relations - a re-enchantment through language.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Neurodiversity and after

I was advised not to write about neurodiversity by an expert, a well-respected colleague that I've worked with for a number of years. It was very good advice, there was already too much at stake in writing for Child-Parent Research Re-imagined. The book is an excellent collection and I'm pleased with my contribution. Of course everything has to be re-conceptualised, re-imagined or otherwise re-branded at the moment - but this is only a minor quibble because it is a great piece of scholarship. But neurodiversity doesn't get a look in, which is a shame. Another colleague of mine, Liz Barrett, has used the child-parent relationship in exploring this topic and to good effect, but my family context made this more complex - that, and my driving interest in how idiosyncratic meanings get made, re-made, and re-mixed across media. I had to be close up, intimate even, to read these meanings and to understand how they were forged. Researching en famille bestows these advantages, or at least that's what I argue. I got round some of the ethical issues by making a soft toy the focus of the piece and I really enjoyed playing with that idea. But since the last ten years have been a steep learning curve with respect to neurodiversity there's part of me that wants to come back to the topic. As I followed advice and edited out all the giveaway clues to neurodiversity in my piece of writing something inevitably got lost. It wasn't exactly neurodiversity that got lost, it was more the particularities of a specific relationship. That is a relationship that is coloured by neurodiversity but also one that comes after neurodiversity.