This post is part of a series from IU Press Journals that takes a closer look at the scholarship in the articles and issues of IU Press journals. Posts may respond to articles, provide background, document the development process, or explain why scholars are excited about the journal, theme, or article and will primarily be written by journal editors and contributors.
By Lauren Kapalka Richerme, author of "To Name or Not to Name? Social Justice, Poststructuralism, and Music Teacher Education" in issue 24.1 of Philosophy of Music Education Review
I have a love-hate relationship with poststructuralist philosophy. My own ordered, thoroughly planned, goal-oriented life does not resemble the free-spirited wandering and imaginative living that writers such as Deleuze and Guattari poetically express. Yet, it is this tension – this challenging of my own thinking, being, and becoming – that continues to draw me to their work. While my own life serves as an acknowledgement about the limits of poststructuralism, I have lived with and within its authors’ discourse for so many years that my writing at times becomes blind to its shortfalls.
In one of her many moments of insightful mentorship, Estelle Jorgensen challenged me to explore a thorough critique of poststructuralist philosophy. The article “To Name or Not to Name? Social Justice, Poststructuralism, and Music Teacher Education” was written as a response to that provocation. The initial draft, however, proved disastrous. I found myself defending poststructuralist authors from criticism that I had not fully grasped; the critiques of poststructuralism became straw men, and my own uncritical beliefs prevailed. The final version grew out of many months of sustained openness to the possibility that poststructuralist philosophers deserved critique as well as the realization that, as Estelle so rightly told me, I need not let poststructuralist thought confine and bound my work.
My own growth from the initial to final versions of the article was itself a transformative educative experience. In admitting the problems of poststructuralist writings, I found two things. First, the fertile ground in philosophy exists not in the middle of a theory or school of thought but at the borders. As Deleuze and Guattari write in A Thousand Plateaus, “The earth does not become deterritorialized in its global and relative movement, but in specific locations, at the spot where the forest recedes, or where the steppe and the desert advance” (pp. 381-2). Likewise, my own philosophical voice and creativity emerge at the limits of and in collisions with others’ thoughts, not in stable centers. Second, I found more meaning in and a better understanding of the aspects of poststructuralist philosophy that survived my best attempt at a critique.
One aspect of poststructuralism that endured in this article was the idea of potentialities and unnamed possibilities. Yet, as I re-read this piece, I still struggle with how to express the depth of such open, imaginative thinking. Do you have suggestions? How would you articulate these or similar ideas?
I find myself most in love with philosophy and philosophizing when it transforms how I perceive everyday life. I recently came across a blank nametag – one that says “Hello my name is” in red followed by a large white space. Its void suddenly felt simultaneously freeing and overwhelming. Here, in such an ordinary item and commonplace action, was a space of power and possibility. For a moment, I thought about writing something provocative like “feminist” or “body without organs” or just wearing a blank nametag. Yet, with the joyful knowledge that I could do otherwise, I simply wrote “Lauren.”
Read Lauren Kapalka Richerme’s essay “To Name or Not to Name? Social Justice, Poststructuralism, and Music Teacher Education” in issue 24.1 of Philosophy of Music Education Review, which is available now on JSTOR and Project MUSE.