Wandering Thoughts

June 7, 2009

The Positionality Meme

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 9:09 am
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Quite possibly the smallest meme on the entire Internet. Simon started it, Harvest Bird picked it up, and I can’t resist. (The other two didn’t actually call it a meme, but when a third person picks it up that’s surely what it becomes.)

Anyhow, the rough idea is to write down your positionality in 10 points or less.  Positionality being something like the intellectual baggage you bring into research. You’re not actually writing chapter two of your masters thesis but rather a blog post, so personal rambling is encouraged, detailed digressions into Foucault, not so much.

1. …honestly though, while I’m open to thinking about knowledge production and belief in in a way that endogenises these things into a broader set of structures of power, I think the doing so is more useful as a tool for augmenting other ways of thinking rather than a helpful starting point in itself. And that post-structuralists take it all way too far, often using it as an excuse to cover their own woolly thinking. Anyhow, look what it does to your prose.

2. That leave’s me a analytical-liberal of sorts. The frame for my thinking is rationality and the starting point is the choices of individuals set amongst the world they live, bearing in mind this needs to be augmented by an understanding of the messy fuzziness of human existence.

3. I think Utilitarianism is the least worst political philosophy, and so the purpose of politics and development should be to maximise well-being.

4. I’m a left-liberal insomuch as that I think that some collective action is required to achieve (3). But that there are limits to what collective action can achieve and risks associated with it.

5. Or, to put it all another way, if you were to ask me what utopia would look like, it would be a radically different place from the one we inhabit. But – like Simon – I’m conservative in a way: cautious (or pessimistic) about what humans can really achieve.

6. I’m white, male and from a well-off family. Perhaps this explains 1-5 above?

7. I was raised by agnostics. My closest religious relative was my Anglican Minister maternal grandfather. So, other than a couple of years at an Anglican intermediate school, my upbringing was remarkably free of religion. This hasn’t stopped me wondering, wondering and wondering about religion. The end result: I’m an agnostic, like my parents.

And yet, exposed to the sublime in nature I can definitely lapse into a kind of ‘surely there must be a point to this all’ Pantheism. And I have an odd sneaking sympathy for Anglicanism. Oh, and I really enjoy listening to Hymns on Sunday on National Radio.

8. I’m a quicker thinker than learner, and my relative strength is synthesising – pulling ideas and theories from information. I’m not as good with details. And, like Harvest Bird, I pick things up much quicker if they connect to things I already know or debates I’m already having.

9. I can write pretty well but always wish I did it better.

10. I am plagued by rogue commas, typos and poor spelling.

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1 Comment »

  1. Hey Terence, just spotted this – thanks for an interesting contribution to the “meme”. Your 8 also sounds like me.

    I haven’t been on line much over the past few weeks, but am just sitting at a friend’s computer in Arequipa copying scrawled ‘field notes’ into electronic format, and noting anew how they’ve been limited by various personal and academic blind spots. Not sure if all the prior navel-gazing helped — maybe a little bit…

    Comment by Simon — July 2, 2009 @ 4:00 pm


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