Relationships with Theory 2 – Dr. Cathie Pearce

For our second instalment of ‘Relationships with Theory’ (read the explanation and read the first one here) we take another look at how an academic has come to use particular theories and how they understand these decisions.

Dr. Cathie Pearce offers her point of view:

I’m not sure I have ‘chosen’ theories and theorists as such.  It’s not like they are just books on a shelf, words on a page that can be selected or chosen in the way that I might make a choice about what I’m having for dinner.  We use theory all the time – we can’t get out of bed in the morning without having a theory of some kind (well discounting this morning that is because I fell over the dog!) so accidents and everydayness apart, we have to build meanings with words and we have been doing that since time immemorial.  Theorists, philosophers and well known people do not have a monopoly on theory, they just do more of it!

So to come back to the question of choice – what exactly am I choosing?  A person, a book, a set of ideas?  And if for most us, most of the time, we have already made a choice before we choose (if we listen to some neuroscientists and philosophers) then perhaps theory is also about what lurks between the imperceptible and an imperative.  Deleuze is certainly interested in that so I might ‘choose’ to go and read what he has to say.  Theory offers imagination, irony and invention – invention of new forms of experience.  It is not just or even about explanations.  But not any theory will do. It has to be put to work and that depends on what needs to be done and undone.

“As soon as one can no longer think things as one formerly thought them, transformation becomes both very urgent, very difficult and quite possible” Foucault (1988: 154)

“The answer is always the question’s vitality” Blanchot (1982:9)



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