19.2390, Disc: New: Review of 'Narrative Community'

Thu Jul 31 19:06:45 UTC 2008

LINGUIST List: Vol-19-2390. Thu Jul 31 2008. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 19.2390, Disc: New: Review of 'Narrative Community'

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Date: 31-Jul-2008
From: Chaim Noy < chaimnoy at mscc.huji.ac.il >
Subject: New: Review of 'Narrative Community'


-------------------------Message 1 ---------------------------------- 
Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2008 15:05:25
From: Chaim Noy [chaimnoy at mscc.huji.ac.il]
Subject: New: Review of 'Narrative Community'
E-mail this message to a friend:

Read Review: http://linguistlist.org/issues/19/19-1512.html 

First, I wish to thank the editor of this issue, Hannah Morales, for
soliciting the review on A Narrative Community: Voices of Israeli
Backpackers; and of course to Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay for producing such a
thoughtful and thought-provoking (inter)text. Since the Linguist List is
basically a linguistic list-serve, I was naturally quite apprehensive about
the outcome of having my Narrative Community reviewed here. So one can
imagine that I was happy to learn that Bandyopadhyay himself found the book
''a breathing space in linguistics, where this type of self-reflexive
discursive formation is really rare.'' Now, while I can say a thing or two
about what a ''breathing space'' is, I'll let myself proceed and relate to
the review as a whole.

    Reading a review of a piece of work on which one has labored lengthily,
such as an academic monograph, is always complicated. My own perspectives
on my books' reviews, usually center around the question whether I have
learned new things, or was challenged intellectually by the review. After
spending all this time writing the book, it is not so easy to read new and
unexpected things about the project. But this is precisely what
Bandyopadhyay has done. He has recognized a few of the major axes on which
the book pivots. For instance, the modern/post modern tension, guised as
the structural/post-structural tension, which is a founding and creative
tension in terms of the book's performance. That is in terms of what I
expected the work to be and in terms of what it does to/with the reader.

     As the reviewer might have recognized, I am an incurable romanticist.
And I deal with this incurability frequently in my own internal (and
sometimes overt) dialogues. I inherited the romanticist mega-ideology from
both my parents: from my father's Polish romanticism, heavily influenced by
the Origin, i.e. Germen Romanticism, and from my mother's Zionist-Sabra 
(Jews born in Israel) romanticism. So I often weigh the consequences of
being such a romanticist and the ways I can deal with my own romanticism (I
elaborated a bit on this in (Noy, 2003) and intermittently, throughout
Narrative Community).

     Where will/can romanticism take me, and how can the romantic desire be
reflected upon? In the book, and Bandyopadhyay has noted this, I allude to a
state of ''No Transcendence.'' This is where and how I talk about my repeated
frustration and disappointment with romanticist desire as it meets
contemporary academic settings (among other contemporary settings). I am
left without a narrative (a structure), without a crescendo (transcendence).
The romantic desire, which has motivated me to partake in the rituals of
backpacking in Asia, and later in the rituals of academia, has brought a lot
of grief and pain to me. After some years of trying to fit into this or that
discipline (anthropology, communication, sociology, geography, are a few
examples), my romanticism (pre-modern), and my post-modernism (essential
trans-disciplinarity, not to say post-disciplinarity and
non-disciplinarity), have left me outside (alienated) the high
(fortress-like) academic walls; an independent scholar (read: unemployed).
So one can see why it isn't too difficult for me to reflect (masterfully,
as Bandyopadhyay indicated) on these realms. I do not need to really work
hard at estrangement, for I am an outsider! (In conversations with mentors
and colleagues, such as Prof. Erik Cohen of the Hebrew University, I/my
academic wondering have been compared to Georg Simmel's. As flattering as
this comparison is, I ask for action in my regards and not for
reflexive/academic discourse).

     So I try to be wary of the romanticist traps into which I can easily
slip (neo-orientalism, logical positivism and objectificationism, and so
on), but at the same time enjoy the desire and see what good I can bring to
which ever people I come in touch with on daily basis (from my family,
through my academic life, to the segregations and oppressions in the
city/cities in which I live: East/West Jerusalem).

     So the desire lingers on and I look forward to (being able to) write
my next book, where I will surely adopt the reviewer's repeated
recommendations: to step closer to or even over the edge of what he and I
agree to be a ''post-structuralism/modernism'' threshold. As I indicated, I
have nothing really to lose-I've given up on academia, and there's plenty
of creativity to celebrate. Especially, if I take into account
Bandyopadhyay's recommendation for the ''non-method'' way of going about
the empirical research. Here again the reviewer's observation regarding
Foucault and Derrida were accurate. I am not a Foucaultian and I know very
little about Foucault's work (in fact, I don't even know what it means to
write that ''I'm not a Foucaultian''). And indeed, misrepresenting Foucault
in the index of the book is indexical of his absence, and of my struggles
to be a romanticist-critical scholar. (But, more technically, note that the
reference to Foucault is admittedly indirect and does not include date or
publication, and refers to his influence on Judith butler). But Derrida has
undoubtedly been my major intellectual influence (especially some of his
less known works, Derrida, 1990)! This is why the notion of ''no-method''
really strikes a cord with me. Moreover, I had actually published no-method
pieces (Noy, 2007, 2008). But I guess that when it comes to language and
discourse (''linguistics''), my body becomes rigid and I regress; my movement
is relatively restricted and so I produce structural work. This is so
because I think of the genius of Chomsky and other chess players (my
father, the folklorist Dov Noy, included), but I wish to refrain from
elaborating further in this direction now.

     So I will conclude where I must, which is with the very first line of
A Narrative Community: ''I still consider myself a narrativist in the
romantic sense'' (p.vii), a ''still'' which I think the book unfolds.


Derrida, J. (1990). 'Force of law: The mystical foundations of authority.' 
Cardozo Law Review, 11, 921-1045.

Noy, C. (2003). 'The write of passage: Reflections on writing a dissertation
in narrative/qualitative methodology', Forum of Qualitative Social Research
[On-line Journal], 4(2).

Noy, C. (2007). Sampling Knowledge: The Hermeneutics of Snowball Sampling
in Qualitative Research [Electronic Version]. International Journal of
Social Research Methodology, 1-18 from www.informaworld.com/smpp/.

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

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

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