Reading chapter one in Posthegemony was often a frustrating and annoying process. Though sincerely interested in the subjects he wrote about, I was put off by Beasley-Murray’s obscure academic prose. As was discussed in class last week, it’s obvious I’m not alone in thinking this. That’s not to say I shun difficult texts that come my way; I enjoy struggling through new concepts and vocabularies, but I guess there’s a line I draw between challenging/constructive writing and elliptical writing.
Burawoy writes it’s the task of public ethnographers to forge a path between common sense and social science (xiv), implying that information should be clear to the “lay person.” I realize Beasley-Murray is a social/political theorist and may have no interest in appealing to the “common man”, but I say replace “ethnographer” with “academic,” and even if an academic’s intended audience is other academics, it’s clear that a variety of disciplines can make use of the work in Posthegemony, if only he’d let them because why encumber anyone’s access to one’s own work?
There were nuggets of information buried in the layers of topics that I was able to grasp, examine and appreciate, such as his history of cultural studies, populism’s embrace/shifting nature of the left-right spectrum, and hegemony being a process not of coercion; I also appreciated the structure of embedding the case study of Peronism within the rest of the text.
Though it sounds as though the remaining chapters do not obfuscate the readers quite like chapter one, a method I may use for reading the entire book, or at least attempting to read my chapter again, would be to create an erasure poem of it. An erasure poem, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a type of found poem: a person takes a pre-written text and blots out words, phrases, sentences to create a new narrative or other thematic trajectories. Jen Bervin’s Nets, which is a collection of “erased” Shakespeare sonnets, is one example: http://jenbervin.com/html/nets.html. In my MFA program I wrote erasure poems using a paperback titled Muscle Beach; it chronicled the original body builders strutting their stuff in Santa Monica in the ’60s.
This idea came to me yesterday when I was reflecting on my process of reading Posthegemony and what could help me better understand it (or other especially difficult texts), other than simply re-reading it. Rereading and manipulating the words and ideas may be helpful, especially if when “erasing” parts of the text the main concepts emerge more clearly. Perhaps then, too, the book would become a hyper-version of itself and the repeated patterns of words and ideas would clear a path to understanding. Also, and maybe this is too harsh, and maybe rather reflects my abilities as a certain type of reader, Posthegemony is an erasure in the sense of Heidegger and Derrida because for me the way Beasley-Murray presents his theories in ch. 1 is inadequate. However, his writing is also useful because it leaves ideas to struggle with, and many colleagues in the class were not as off-put as I was.
I would love to make an erasure poem using the publisher’s copy of the book, but I can’t see myself spending $25 to embark on such a project. Unless I can round up a used $1-5 copy, I may simply play with a photocopied version of “Argentina 1972″ and see what unfolds.