cultural narrative (discourse)

In the context of poststructuralism (as I understand and use it in this dissertation), discourses are socially constituted belief systems inscribed in bodies and thought, through everyday language, action, and physical spaces. They produce subjectivities (ability to enact particular ways of being, speaking and acting), and affect individual agency (a person's ability to act independently). Discourse determines what is thinkable and unthinkable (Britzman, 1995), possible and impossible (Ellsworth, 1989; Kumashiro, 2004). As St. Pierre (2000) states, and many others note, speaking, thinking (or acting) beyond available discourses "remain[s] unintelligible, outside the realm of possibility" (p. 485; Britzman, 1995; Davies, 2000a; Weedon, 2004).

The limitations of discourse are particularly powerful when they are deeply (and sometimes continuously) (re)inscribed, either through the dominant cultural narratives or through one's individual history(ies). The value in feminist, poststructuralist deconstruction is in its ability to make visible discursive productions that might be assumed normal or taken-for-granted. It is also particularly helpful at making visible the processes which (re)inscribe dominance. For instance, it is feminist poststructural analysis that has made it possible for me to see the almost constant reinscription of discourses, through daily speech, action, and physical places, of the socially constructed human/nature divide.

Attending to the productive power of discourse, has also made the following utterance possible:

As long as I continue to write about the human/nature divide and the need to include other-than-human voices, I reinscribe words and all that human (English) language and linear explanatory text makes accessible as the privileged, (and perhaps only) ways of knowing and communicating. In other words, as I write about connection, I reinscribe disconnection. (journal entry, January 2006).

Yet this utterance is possible based on: (1) the discourses and experiences I have had access to in my particular socio-cultural context, and (2) my personal history with sentences. For someone else, writing linear text may provide access to connection with the non-human. What it seldom does, however, is encourage the pauses that are so supportive of spontaneous listening, nor does it offer as much space for the body's knowing (through movement of hand on mouse or tracpad, for instance) to engage with the reading process.