Link to jeanne's Birdie Calendar Stuart Henry's Response to Robert Binford on Constitutive Theory

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Henry and Milovanovic

Henry and Milovanovic Index

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: March 28, 2001
Latest update: March 28, 2001

Constitutive Theory

On Wednesday, March 28, Stuart Henry wrote:


Sorry to have taken longer than I'd anticipated. I have contacted both Lisa and Dragan and am awaiting their reply. By the way I do not have Robert's email so assume you can forward this to him. I will answer the question but this will have my reading rather than Lisa's, so these may differ!

My reading of Lisa Sanchez's passage in CC@Work is that she is questioning the extent to which human agents exist independently of the discourse and actions into which they invest energy. Rather than an "I" existing outside of the medium of its expression, the human agent is constituted through the energy of its expression as discourse/action. Thus, there is no linear separation in time between the I and that which follows, but that the "I" or human subject is produced through that discursive action.

The question of how conscious we are of such a process is difficult, since most humans fram discussions of this issue in terms of a n "I" existing independently of talking/acting. I'd suggest that human subjects can be more or less reflexive of how their discourse is shaping their subjective being, but that in many realms (eg. information technology), we use the medium without recognizing how we are changed by using it.

Further, that humans construct images of themselves as agents acting, does not mean that the images they construct reflect the process of their action, but rather that becomes part of the production of ourselves. So this adds to the difficulty of their consciousness of the process. I think the discursive separation of I/action/discourse obscures the process.

On Butler's point, about being constituted through discourse, as Lisa says, this is more about the coming together of the energy and discourse in ways that the latter brings into being the former, but does not determine what it is. It is more a mutuality of interrelatedness; a channeling of energy through the discourse that itself becomes part of the agency rather than existing separate from it.

Hope this adds to the discussion rather than obscures the concept further!



Notes from jeanne, Wednesday, March 28, 2001:

Our thanks to Stuart Henry for his willingness to help us understand. We'll talk about this on Wednesday in class. And I'll put up notes from our discussion.

love and peace, jeanne