I'll go ahead and (un)wrap the symposium here. Obviously, this shouldn't prevent anyone else from contributing further thoughts on "Scattered Speculations," on Spivak, or on any of the issues that have arisen during this symposium. I'll add any new contributions to the aggregated "Carnival of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak". But our intensive week of reading and discussion is now over. What remains is to unwrap, unravel...
As several people have noted, the idea for this symposium on Spivak arose during a discussion at the eponymous Weblog, in response to Adam Kotsko's "Theses on the 'Higher Eclecticism'". In other words, it arose in the context of what is by now a long-running debate on "Theory" that has been represented in terms of an antagonism between the two "sides": John Holbo's Valve on the one hand; and this blog, Long Sunday, in particular, on the other.
I won't go into the details of that debate, in part because I myself am a latecomer to it, and have never been a full participant. Reading Adam's post and the subsequent discussion should, however, give a sense of some of the arguments. In that discussion, it was John Holbo who brought up an idea that had apparently surfaced elsewhere, earlier: to take a text, to be chosen by "theory's defenders," that would be the object of a close, joint reading by both parties to this dispute, and particularly a test case for the thesis of a "higher eclectism."
Though Judith Butler was the author originally suggested, it was at this point that Matt suggested Spivak, and I myself jumped at the idea, because, well, because I liked the idea of reading some Spivak. Her work also seemed a good enough test case for any argument around theory, especially one whose premise turned around "eclecticism," as I noted in my subsequent open call for participants for such a collective reading.
This proposal for what az swiftly dubbed a "Carnival of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak" rapidly generated a fair degree of enthusiasm, and easily more than enough volunteers. More on this in a moment. It also, however, generated quite a bit of discomfort, as became clear to me, personally, only slowly. The fear was that the symposium, born in the heat rather than the light of a long-running, sometimes over-antagonistic and personal, debate, would merely exacerbate the worst features of that debate rather than lead to any clarity or productive discussion. One commenter even suggested that the symposium had been "engineered" to "devolve into pointless jabbering about so-called Theory and so-called Higher Eclecticism."
As Adam has noted, however, these melancholy predictions have not been borne out. Which is not to say that there hasn't been some fractiousness, of course. But the feared, tired to-and-fro between "Theory" and "Higher Eclecticism" hasn't dominated. That's partly because John decided he couldn't "force himself" to "setting everyone straight about [his] use of 'Higher Eclecticism.'" And fair enough: nobody should feel forced, as I also commented to both Amish and Scott.
But in that the anticipated to-and-fro (in either its proposed or its feared form) didn't arise, something rather more interesting took its place. The range of contributions and the range of concerns proved much more varied, much more diverse and unpredictable. Among the volunteers who answered the call to participate were bloggers unaffiliated with either the Valve or Long Sunday, including some who brought attention to blogs I didn't know existed, such as the naked gaze and Mountain*7. Moreover, thanks in part to the looser aggregation mechanisms with which we've been experimenting, when voices such as those of Eric and Steven Shaviro added their own thoughts, we were quite quickly able to add them into the mix, maintaining an ever more open series of conversations and dialogues.
Now, this new set of participants, what I've called a third "out"side, uninvested in the logic of "your" and "our" sides of Theory vs. Higher Eclecticism, broke with the rather stale confrontation of "Friend vs. Enemy" that had previously set the agenda. In other words, the solution to whatever impasse that had existed turned out to be not some kind of consensus, a search for agreement or to set others "straight" in reading the same text. Rather, what has been most interesting has been the ways what's been dynamic and productive about the symposium has been its heterogeneity, the fact that we might be rather unexpectedly faced with arguments about matters culinary at one moment, cat-blogging the next; bicycles at speed colliding with observations on heteronormativity; libidinal speculation alongside anecdotage.
I'm not even going to try to summarize or draw conclusions about the multiple readings and approaches that have been offered in the last week or so, let alone the range of comments and clarifications that have followed on. Partly because there's just too much. Partly because I couldn't even begin to offer any sense of resolution or conclusion. Nor would I want to impose some false totalization. All I can suggest is go read, browse, skim, idle through, return to what are now some twenty-five posts dedicated to or inspired by, turning around or taking off from, this one (twenty year old!) text of Gayatri Spivak's. There's some good stuff in there. And certainly, to echo but also reappropriate some of Spivak's own conceptualization, its value emerges precisely from the fact that it is in excess of any attempted summary, in the discontinuity between not only the prior plan and the event, but also the event and its representation.
But finally, if the most vibrant elements of this symposium have come through this openness to an outside, through a willingness to go beyond any tired dialogues, is this not a principle of eclecticism at work? Perhaps not a "higher" eclecticism, but a low-down and dirty, unexpected and unanticipated, savagely hybrid eclecticism. One that could be summed up by my friend Brian's motto, as he works to put together, with duct tape and a gang of keen young coders, technical fixes to facilitate this para-institutional thought seeking "autonomy of writing, reading and research from the university": it's an eclecticism that's "fast, cheap, and out of control".
My thanks to everyone who took part: posting, commenting, or indeed reading and lurking. Special thanks to Craig for locating, scanning, and hosting the texts, and to Brian and Enej for web design and other technical assistance.