9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN02 Sociology of the Arts

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Art Theory Building II, C6.07

Disciplinary imperialism or analytical wrestling: Rethinking semiotics, aesthetics and sociology

In his book Structuralist Poetics, Jonathan Culler argues that from a literary point of view, everything can be seen as a "text". The everyday world is a text, culture is a text and literary norms (genres) as well as conventions are texts. From a sociological point of view everything, not the least the literary and artistic worlds are seen as partial empirical realities ("social fields" or "institutions") which are at the same time "social constructions." Now looking on the world as a text which is to be dechiffered by some competent reader or as empirical realities that have already been constructed socially by actors who are themselves endowed with different kinds of habitus and equipped with different degrees of social and symbolic capital and accompanying strategies of distinction, is obviously something different. On the other hand, the two approaches amount to the same thing in the sense that both seek to impose a particular perspective on the world. The question I want to raise in this paper is iif there are some epistemological advantages in trying to replace the usual, "elevated" way disciplines go about trying to make sense of the world (which we could call "disciplinary imperialism") with something more "down to earth" that we could call "analytical wrestling". With the latter I mean that you so to say step down from your imagined throne and try to "grab" the other in a more open-ended contest. You emerge yourself in the perspective of the other, but not completely, you then return to your own perspective but somewhat shaken or changed. What would such a way of approaching the issue of aesthetics and sociology contribute to both? Could something new emerge out of such analytical wrestling, something that contains elements of both perspectives at the same time?