the everyday life turn

I remember talking in college about "The Linguistic Turn" in academic perspectives that had occurred some 30 years before we got to academia.  These articles/chapters all make me think that perhaps there has since been an "Everyday Life Turn" of equal importance (as Sheringham, below, argues).  From the everyday information behavior of children and tweens to the everyday significance of racial micro-aggressions (more coming soon, as I prep for the second Reading Around Race group), it seems to me that there's something to this argument that the everyday has become at least a major rhetorical part of the direction of research in many disparate fields.

First, here's an example of the kind of "everyday life" research that I often read, related to children and libraries:

"Leisure and Work in Library and Community Programs for Very Young Children" by Roz Stooke and Pamela J. McKenzie (Library Trends 57: 4, Spring 2009)
After observing children in multiple Canadian settings, Stooke and McKenzie come to some intriguing conclusions about the differences between programming approaches from library traditions vs. other traditions.  They draw on feminist sociologist Dorothy Smith for a nuanced definition of "work" as the social order which is the product of coordinated (every day life!) activities.  They spend pages 657-664 on their theoretical underpinnings, while, while all great citations, may belie some concern over the validity of purely observational data.  (I myself have mixed feelings about this as a researcher, but I'm willing to go along with it for the sake of the article.)  They did have fifty observations at eight sites to draw from, so not an insignificant pool of data.
     The most salient findings, from my vantage point, were the differences between the value of language play in library activities (books especially) while only one community program leader that they observed used any books.  Library program leaders also used physical artifacts (puppets, books, feltboards) while community programs used interactive toys at informal times but "only words and gestures" during formal programs.
     This, of course, led me to wonder about what they didn't see from their observations, such as:  what role does storytelling or narrative play in the "words and gestures" programs?  What kinds of literacy are children learning in such environments?  
     They also discussed the importance of inclusivity and the need to avoid overly rigid approaches to programming, noting that "a rigid commitment to any mandated program, however research-based, can function as a barrier to inclusive and ethical practice." (p. 667)  This may be part of why program leaders "presented themselves as friendly elders or peers rather than as experts."  (p. 669)  A strong sense of hierarchy in this kind of environment may inhibit the optimal combination of planning and flexibility that a really good program requires (and deserves).  However, they also brought out some flaws, including that leaders worked to "diminish social gaps between themselves and participants, but tended to ignore social and cultural differences among participants." (p. 671)  Differences like who does or does not have a romantic partner, which cultures people come from (no tofu was served--but meat was--as part of a "healthy foods" program despite the presence of Chinese participants).  Overall, this is an intriguing and well-researched set of snapshots of what programming is today.

Here's the scholar who argues that there's an intellectual tradition hiding in all this...

Everyday Life:  Theories and Practices from Surrealism to the Present, by Michael Sheringham (Oxford, 2006)  
This introduction brought me the idea that, at least in French scholarship, investigations of the "quotidien" or everyday have taken on new prominence since the 1980s.  Sheringham goes on to argue throughout the book that there is a "real tradition rooted in cultural and intellectual history, where the period between 1960 and 1980 is a phase of active, if often invisible, invention, and the period from 1980 to 2000 (and beyond) a phase of practice, variation, and dissemination." (p. 6)  He notes that scholars like Lefebvre and Certeau are frequently cited in Cultural Studies venues, from the visual to the ethnographic. (p. 7)  He goes on to argue for various associations in this tradition, from Certeau back to Lefebvre, and from Lefebvre back to humanist Marxism, to Barthes and Structuralism (to post-structuralism and postmodernism), to Perect and the Oulipo group of literary experimentalists...  it's an interesting intellectual path to explore.
     It won't surprise some of you that I wanted to check out the chapter on Barthes, which he introduces on p. 10 with a succinct but fairly accurate overview of Barthes' work, especially its last phase which he describes as "governed by a renewed vision of subjectivity rooted in affects and pleasures at large in the everyday." (p. 10)  And it was worth it for me, as it would be for scholars of historical trends in scholarship, which is really what this book is about.
      *Cited here and worth exploring:  an article by Rita Felski (scholar of feminism and phenomenology) called "The Invention of Everyday Life" in New Formations, 39 (1999-2000), 15-31.

Here's a theoretical piece that connects some aspects of thought of two rarely juxtaposed "everyday" theorists:

"Theorizing White Consciousness for a Post-Empire World:  Barthes, Fanon, and the Rhetoric of Love" by Chela Sandoval, in Displacing Whiteness, ed. by Ruth Frankenberg
     Sandoval does this really interesting project of unpacking some of Barthes' views of "oppositional consciousness" in Mythologies about theorizing the limits of colonialism, from inside a country that was a major colonial power (France), and comparing those to Fanon's views, from a viewpoint within being colonized by an outside power.  Both scholars, Sandoval argues, are involved in "decolonizing" projects, only Barthes' project is lost in loneliness and, ultimately, in a kind of dispersion of effort amidst the distractions (and pleasures) of the society built on colonizing power.  Sandoval also argues that Fanon, on the other hand, escapes through his allegiance to revolutionary forces and his commitment to transforming the world around him.

For later:  I have Certeau's book The Practice of Everyday Life with its chapter on "reading as poaching," first mentioned in the post about the Ross article a month of so ago.  Need more time to read!

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