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Speaking about others and speaking personally: reflections after Elspeth Probyn's 'Sexing the self'

Couldry, Nick ORCID: 0000-0001-8233-3287 (1996) Speaking about others and speaking personally: reflections after Elspeth Probyn's 'Sexing the self'. Cultural Studies, 10 (2). pp. 315-333. ISSN 0950-2386

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Identification Number: 10.1080/09502389600490191


This article (Section I) suggests a reformulation of cultural studies' practice in terms of certain general discursive skills rather than particular objects of enquiry. This is offered as the best way of answering the epistemological and ethical doubts that have afflicted all social enquiry in recent decades (especially ethnography) and of reimagining the place of cultural studies in social practice in a way that goes beyond the ‘long dominative mode’ of thinking about culture (Raymond Williams, 1961). The reformulation crucially involves the personal position of the analyst. I draw here (Section II) on the work of Elspeth Probyn (Sexing the Self) which requires cultural studies to explore not just culture ‘beyond’ itself but its own social embeddedness as a voice: ‘self-reflexivity’ is not a licence for autobiographical writing but a theoretically informed examination of the conditions for emergence of ‘selves’. But Probyn's argument needs to be expanded (Section III) by an account of how cultural studies' intellectual practice fits into social practice generally: I suggest that cultural studies is best seen as one ‘survival strategy’ (among many) which generates new voices in the shadow of wider forces of cultural definition, while interrogating the nature of those forces. As a practice committed to ‘truth-telling’, it should be guided by a scepticism in speaking about others that is loyal to the uncertainties each analyst recognizes in the formulations of her or his own identity. This reformulation has implications (Section IV) for the objects and practices which we study and the descriptive language we use. The voice of cultural studies is based on a sense of individual ‘incompleteness’ (Section V) which requires a community of questioning (within and beyond the ‘Academy’) if it is to find any sense of completion.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 1996 Routledge
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2013 09:09
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2024 23:10

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