Very brief and unfair notes on: Shotwell, A. (2011) Knowing otherwise: race, gender and implicit understanding. The Pennsylvania State University Press: Pennsylvania

Dave Harris

[Ostensibly about implicit knowledge, which, through a US feminist lens {sic} becomes a rambling discussion about affect, embodied knowledge, and the Unconscious/habitual. This section {Part One} is pretty well impossible to read and to summarize. The horrendous style is largely to blame, with its various 'calls' for this that and the other, its imaginary dialogues where X 'speaks to' Y, and its evasive metaphorical language where arguments are 'torqued', 'imbricated' or 'braided ' together,all in the name of taking stands against various injustices -- mostly matters of identity politics. The basic structure is provided by humanist marxism -- young Marx, Marcuse, and S Hall/Gramsci -- with some more recent femininst or black activist stuff. Even that stuff is not summarized that well, and we are invited to admire it instead or feel good about some of the phrases used. Everyone is introduced in a series of name-checks,  using full names ( sometimes 3 of them) in the American style, or with student-like sections like 'Geographer Emily Zimbalist Golightly...' or 'In her wonderful book M
usings Hermione Wahabi  Lee Rae Ponsonby refers to the torquing of sensuality and sensuousness...'

Basically, we gather that common-sense is ideological but also contradictory, and that key parts of it are held implicitly.

Part 2 is a bit better but long-winded and often repetitive. A good copy editor would have done wonders for this 'stream of consciousness' stuff

I hope it is not too rude to pick out a {very} few quotes]

'For common-sense to be non-consecutively incoherent is for it to contain, in some sense, the possibility of contradiction.  The commonsensical can hold both P and not-P and not to be particularly bothered - perhaps not even notice.  For common-sense to be uncritically absorbed is for it to enter our consciousness uninterrogated, at a level beneath notice [see what I mean about repetition]…  The very nature of common sense resists a critical view which is at base an articulate, propositional understanding.  For something to be coherent and voiced is for it to no longer be commonsensical' (33).  The piece goes on to argue that it is not just a matter of making the implicit explicit, and that there are certain elements, the 'somatic and affective' (43) that resist, and it is these elements that are also addressed by ideology.  'David Lionel Smith's discussion of common sense in relation to racial formation and culture is useful on this count'(35).  The chapter goes on to argue about different kinds of ignorance.

Chapter three on aesthetics makes the point that aesthetics is a realm of common understanding and potential critique, mostly following Marcuse, lacking Ranciere or Bourdieu.

Chapter four argues that shame is crucial to understanding the reactions of white people to displays of racism against black people.  Guilt is also involved, but shame is a more productive relationship, because it implies some proper relation to others and some notion that it's possible to behave in a better way.  This is referred very briefly to Bourdieu, although I think he puts it much better: it's only possible to experience shame, the basic emotion,  once you've also experienced and internalised the major forms of morality and social judgments.  Shotwell does point out the political implications rather better, though, that shame provides some potential to discuss racism, by appealing to people's better natures and contradictory beliefs about how to behave.  There is also this:

'Shame is hard to enunciate because there is some shame attached to  feeling shame, because it is an affect, and because it is broad, amorphous, and not clearly defined.  There is an internal obstruction to expressing the feeling of shame, perhaps even to one's self, because to do so involves admitting that one has proceeded through the world in a way that oneself [SIC] perceives as somehow wrong' (90).  There have been successful attempt to develop identity politics based on recapturing shameful terms like queer or crip.

'As a motivator of racialized redefinition, it is important that shame is also polymorphous.  It attaches itself variously to the self and to things in the world.  One can feel shame for or towards oneself, on behalf of or toward someone else, and for something as broad as the actions of the nation one lives in…  Relations of scale break down: shame for one's nation can collapse into a seamless application to the self, and shame about the self can expand into an affect with effects on one's family network.  The shame one feels individually can have a similarly unsettled topography and a similarly protean relation of causes to effects—seemingly small events can produce pervasive shame.  It may be difficult to delineate the bounds of shame; the effort to define what makes one feel shame may cause the feeling to expand and contract in ways that make it hard to "see" clearly' (93).

Chapter five addresses solidarity, again in  the curious world of the American feminist philosopher, where we have to work with others in the struggle, which usually means trying to formulate some thoughts about solidarity.  It is reasonably interesting.  It says that empathy is not adequate, any more than guilt is.  Empathy generates only a sentimental identification with the others, which actually still privileges whiteness - in other words it fails to acknowledge difference.  She then discusses a curious organization called Race Traitor which says that white people have to disavow their whiteness and their privileges.  A couple of examples are offered, for example when white people video the beating of black people by the police, or a white athlete stands in respect as his two colleagues on the podium give a black salute.  However, this group is inadequate as well because she wonders whether you can just disavow your whiteness, especially if there are all sorts of implicit dimensions to it [so that connects with the general themes].

Her own perspective works towards [SIC] trying to understand others as different, and yet to think of a form of solidarity based on difference.  Durkheim springs to mind, but Shotwell doesn't seem to mention him, and no doubt he would appear to be conservative to those who want to build a solidarity working towards a struggle with injustice [which never seems to be defined].  At times, it almost reads like Bourdieu on understanding - that we have to realise that people are different and to try and explain why they might be, but again this would be too rational, involve too much propositional knowledge.  Somehow, we have to use our implicit knowledge to realise this.  At times, including this one, a kind of lingering Christianity seems to inform the whole discussion, where we recognise that we all have different identities, some of these involve privilege and others do not, we should accept this for ourselves and for others. We have to admit this perspective into our lives and commit ourselves to living a better life. [It badly needs a focus on calculative interests, something that identifies a real interest in overcoming inequalities, not just an imaginary moral one. Something like a STAMOCAP analysis on how we are all victims of monopoly capitalism, that its stupidity will kill us all, something like Empire ].

Chapter six returns to the political importance of sensuousness, discussing mostly 'trans folks', through the usual device of citing all sorts of people who say things with which she agrees or does not.  This chapter in particular as a series of name checks. You do learn something about the bewildering identities available to the trans.  The point seems to be to struggle to involve increasing your possibilities for flourishing, and maintaining a dignity.  In practice it looks like pretty much the old identity politics, not wishing to be stereotyped and having a lot more choice about how you live your life: its Californian, strictly for affluent people.

There is a great deal of talking up involved, and I focused on the way Bourdieu is developed in this piece.  On page 126 we are urged to 'Recall Bourdieu is interested in the revolutionary possibilities of bodily hexis'.  Understandably puzzled by this, I went back to look at the discussion of Bourdieu in chapter one.  Shotwell runs through the notion of the habitus as a kind of embodied memory, and suggests that this indicates 'that the habitus is also productive and expressive of the knowledge the body holds'.  No doubt, but of course these are largely conservative lumps of knowledge, moral values in the Durkheim sense, and Bourdieu is quoted to remind us that these are arbitrary in the sense which he means it.  Getting on to bodily hexis, Shotwell reminds us that small details indicate 'a whole cosmology' for Bourdieu, instilled through an implicit pedagogy without ever getting into discourse or consciousness.  The habitus is a key for memory, and it also reproduces our understandings, enacting the past.  Shotwell wants to say that this is tacit knowledge, that it is a way of expressing something which propositions cannot manage, something forgotten in history.  However, while Bourdieu sees this as something taken for granted or doxic, Shotwell sees it as something more radical, something that will escape explicit culture.  It is all based on what Bourdieu says about language as practical consciousness, and that there is a boundary around orthodox discourse: true, this also implies unorthodox discourse, so that crossing it would awaken political consciousness.  But that is not to suggest, as Shotwell argues, that we all possess some 'inarticulate knowledge that may be moving into explicitness…  The fact of recognizing a lack in the field implies the possibility of its speaking' (15).  It is only that Shotwell assumes that everything that is implicit is potentially critical of everything that is explicit, which simply ignores all the manifold ideological ways in which the implicit is dominated and its results explained away or rationalised.  It also seems to imply that there is some simple path between the implicit and a radical political consciousness, that all you have to do is examine your own implicit knowledge.  What we are really being told to do is to think out what we really want to know and avoid any choices that stop this from flourishing, we should feel good in our bodies, feel at home.

It's really a kind of FreudoChristianity.

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