Rationality And The Lived World

Linked with Durre Sameen Ahmed – Pakistan.

Published on Zmag.org, by Frederick Marglin, not dated, but older.

(scroll down): … The knowledge concerning generative processes was universalized and rationalized in the discourse of gynaecology. This disembedded form of knowledge was until fairly recently almost exclusively a male domain. Women are the passive site of unknowing biological processes which require the management and control of male expert knowledge. But this type of knowledge transformed and replaced another kind of knowledge possessed by women themselves about their own bodies (Duden 1991). This knowledge, like that of craftspeople, was an embodied form of knowledge. To keep women safely in the domestic sphere and protect men’s claims to their bodies and their bodies’ “products,” this embodied type of knowledge was appropriated and transformed in a manner similar to the appropriation of workers’ knowledge by managers and experts.

For women to develop their minds and to achieve in the public sphere is to liberate themselves from one of the repressive entailments of modernity, namely the ideology and reality of domesticity. But that liberating movement buys into the terms of the debate as they are set by commoditized logic. It does not put into question the internalized repression in the form of a panopticized rationality. The white middle class woman achiever, liberated from the bondage of domesticity has shown herself to reproduce the dominating discourses of dominant (mostly white) men, as the critiques of mainstream feminism by minority women in the U.S. has shown (bell hooks 1981; Minh-Ha 1989; Mohanty 1988; Mani 1989; Ahmed 1992). The imperialism, racism, and classism of much middle class anglo-american feminism is an inevitable outcome of the colonizing form of rationality lodged at the heart of the modern dominant system of knowledge.

Reembedding Rationality In The Lived World:


Panopticized rationality generates a colonizing form of knowledge by separating rationality out from the body, and from any particular lived context and by placing itself over and above the body and the world thereby objectifying these. “Arrogant absolutist reason” does not belong to any particular lived world. (The expression “lived world,” in contrast to reified notions of “tradition” or “culture” recognizes the dynamic, changing, shifting and contradictory nature of reality.) When panopticized rationality focuses its gaze on any lived world, this world becomes objectified, that is frozen, dead, robbed of its agency. Since panopticized rationality is constructed by being disembedded and disembodied, it does not belong either to the lived world of the knower nor to that of the known. This is what supposedly enables the knower to stand on neutral ground, in other words to be objective. The disembodied and disembedded nature of panopticized rationality makes claims to objectivity possible. At the same time it veils the fact that this disembodied and disembedded quality is achieved at the price of relegating embodied life to a realm of dark and unruly passions or instincts–Freud’s id-devoid of rationality which must be controlled and harnessed toward productive and civilized ends. It veils the fact that this dynamic internal to the modern rational individual is necessarily also an external dynamic whereby the price of exercising this form of rationality is to reify or objectify what is to be known. By disembedding itself from the lived world of both the knower and the known, this form of rationality thinks itself free from the body and the world, dispassionate, objective and universally valid. Its claims to truth do not rest on particular values, embedded in a particular lived world. This is a most powerful claim to privileged knowledge in the name of which all particular claims to truth must surrender. In Minh-Ha’s words, this form of knowing is “God’s grasp of totality” … (full long text).

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