Situatedness, Or, Why We Keep Saying Where We’re Coming From
“Let me tell you where I'm coming from . . .”—so begins many a discussion in contemporary U.S. culture. Pressed by an almost compulsive desire to situate ourselves within a definite matrix of reference points (for example, “as a parent of two children” or “as an engineer” or “as a college graduate”) in both scholarly inquiry and everyday parlance, we seem to reject adamantly the idea of a universal human subject. Yet what does this rhetoric of self-affiliation tell us? What is its history? David Simpson’s Situatedness casts a critical eye on this currently popular form of identification, suggesting that, far from being a simple turn of phrase, it demarcates a whole structure of thinking.
Simpson traces the rhetorical syndrome through its truly interdisciplinary genealogy. Discussing its roles within the fields of legal theory, social science, fiction, philosophy, and ethics, he argues that the discourse of situatedness consists of a volatile fusion of modesty and aggressiveness. It oscillates, in other words, between accepting complete causal predetermination and advocating personal agency and responsibility. Simpson’s study neither fully rejects nor endorses the present-day language of self-specification. Rather it calls attention to the limitations and opportunities of situatedness—a notion whose ideological slippage it ultimately sees as allowing late-capitalist liberal democracies to function.
Given its wide scope and lively rendering, Situatedness will attract a range of scholars in the humanities and legal studies. It will also interest all those for whom the politics of subjectivity pose real problems of authority, identity, and belief.
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affirmative Alain Touraine antinomies aporetic aporia appear argued arguments from situatedness atedness become behavior Bentham called Cambridge Charles Horton Cooley Chicago choice circumstances claim Clarence Darrow coming common complete compulsive condition contemporary critical critique culture Darrow decisions democracy Descartes described desituated determination effort epistemology ethical example experience Flaubert Fredric Jameson freedom function gesture Heidegger human situatedness I. A. Richards Ian Hacking identity ideology imagined individual invoked Jean-Paul Sartre Karl Jaspers Kenneth Burke kinds of situatedness knowledge language limits literary literature ment modern moral nature ness Nietzsche Nineteen Eighty-Four novel objectivist one's oneself ourselves perhaps philosophy political position postmodern predictable problems punishment question radical rational response rhetoric of situatedness Sartre Sartre's self-affiliation sense sentence situation social science society sort sphere syndrome theory things tion tive traditional trans understanding University Press words York