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Anne Dalke's picture

Context is boundless, redux

"social imaginaries" function as a trace of specificity, historicity, and therefore non-universality....

decontextualization...we get anyway by virtue of existing in a web-dominated information environment

David--When we first started talking, months ago, I cited one of my favorite/most used-because-most-useful quotes, from Jonathan Culler's "Very Short Introduction" to Literary Theory: "Meaning is context-bound....context is boundless; there is no determining in advance what might count as relevant."

Now that we're looping back to the matter of context--could you talk some more about how you understand the difference between "de -" and "re-contextualization"? Aren't both gestures towards finding a different context for what we think we know? With perhaps the first being more universalizing, the second more specificizing? But both are moves that help us to see something different than what we thought we knew?

I'm thinking, for example, of the by-now-standard re-readings of classic texts that were achieved by shifting the reader's point of view to that of the marginalized: Chinua Achebe's critique of Conrad's Heart of Darkness for its racist objectifications of Africans, or Gayatri Spivak's similar critique of the "unfortunate reproduction," in Jane Eyre, of the "axioms of imperialism." In both these cases, conventional and widely accepted Anglo-centric readings were de-contextualized (moved beyond England, made increasingly global) in order to be re-contextualized (made differently specific and insistently historic). And so we came to see the novels, and the worlds on which they relied and which they represented, differently. In each case, one (wo)man's de-contextualization was another one's re-contextualization; the two gestures seemed part of a linked process: clearing one ground to lay another.

Within that historical backdrop, I'd like us to think some more together about the current de-or-re-contextualization that is the increasing use of video on the web, this adding visuals to what had been "only words." Where do you see de-contextualization in such visualizations? When we can see others @ work, rather than simply read what they've written....?

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