Specters of the West and the Politics of Translation

Specters of the West and the Politics of Translation

Specters of the West and the Politics of Translation

Specters of the West and the Politics of Translation

Excerpt

Until recently the global circulation of academic and intellectual information has customarily been imagined to follow cartographic visions which map two distinct flows. The first is a centripetal flow of “raw” and particularistic factual data from peripheral sites to various metropolitan centers “in the West.” The second is a centrifugal flow of information about how to classify domains of knowledge, how to evaluate given empirical data, how to negotiate with the variety and incommensurability which is inherent in the body of empirical data from the peripheries, and how to render intelligible the details and trivia coming from particular peripheral sites to “a Western audience.” Academic information of this second kind is generally called “theory” and, in contrast to the particularistic nature of the first kind, it is believed to be universalistic and hostile to the presumption that only those who are involved in the locale can tell what it is that they are concerned with. This is to say, the second kind of knowledge, “theory,” does not seek its authorization in the assumption of the immediate comprehensibility of the raw datum in the original context at a particular locus. Instead, it claims to mediate the datum with general forms in such a way that it can be comprehensible to those who are outside the locus.

The production of such knowledge has largely occurred according to a historically specific division of intellectual labor in which “theory” is associated with that historical construct, “the West,” and moves from there to the Rest of the world. It goes without saying that . . .

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