Making sense of the procedural footprint of the making of and implementation of cultural policies: a methodological contribution from Bakhtin´s literary theory
Instituto de Ciências Sociais Universidade de Lisboa Lisbon, Portugal
As a methodological inspiration the literary theory of Mikhail Bakhtin has been of interest to an array of disciplines. In this paper, I explore its appropriation by sociology focusing on the inherent reflexivity of both sociological research and social processes.
According to Bakhtin the material of human sciences are texts, and their method is interpretation. Their object is not a finite object, but a subject in itself, in constant dialogism with other subjects, amongst these the researcher. The metalanguage establishes thus a dialogical relation to the described language, which is particularly true in a qualitative methodology, where the main tool remains the researcher himself and his own responsive understanding. A reflection on the chosen methodology and its limitations is therefore fundamental.
Heterology remains one of the main characteristics of society and social diversity, reuniting the diversity of languages (heteroglossia) and of voices (heterophony). According to Bakhtin, these are always dialogically arranged in a text. Knowing of each others existence, the different languages, voices, and utterances within a novel are bound to conflict, to negotiate, to agree, to react and change. Accommodating a multiplicity of perspectives and dialogues, it is not a finite object, but an ongoing event.
Dialogism and polyphony seem to be intrinsic to all social processes. Bakhtin?s literary theory can therefore be used to inquiry into different cultural processes. I am particularly interested in the field of cultural policies, and within it in processes that bring together different individuals and institutions, articulating different intentions and expectations to achieve a common goal. The selected example is the construction of cultural facilities - architectonic spaces built to accommodate and institutionalise cultural productions. The building process as a whole is suitable for analysis as a heterophonic process, with centripetal and centrifugal forces. Human actions, texts in potentia as Bakhtin sees them, should be understood according to their primary meaning, and to the meaning they acquire through dialogue. I compare the process of building a cultural facility to a polyphonic novel, an event in becoming, with its multiplicity of perspectives, dialogues and monologues, influenced by both the context and each other.