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Showing posts from March 28, 2021

The limits of clarity

  Clarity – or clearness, a word that blemishes the clear, slightly, with the -ness – has an almost universal claque. It is the rare soul who says anything against it. Such applause for something that is at once so direct and so... hard to define, even vague, is a phenomenon that is worth looking at. There are few papers out there entitled: against clarity. Alison Stone wrote a paper entitled the “Politics of Clarity” (2015) which tries to sort out the utilization of clarity concerns by “analytics” to deflate “continentals”. It is a good paper, and it makes good points about how the call for “clearness” is often used to enforce an ultimately patriarchal norm. “Pushing this concern further, we might say that the notion of clarity is itself a myth. "Clear" thinking is merely thinking that fits in with, embodies, and fails to challenge the hegemonic power relations of the surrounding society. Such thinking seems "clear" merely because it is familiar, and this is beca

note on the cold war: the defector

In Sir Thomas Ellyot’s dictionary of English from 1559, there is an entry for defector: “he that so departeth or rebelleth, or goth from one to an other.” It goes back to a group of latin words that mean weakness, lack, or desertion – relating the word to defect. It is, to say the least, interesting that desertion, going from one to an other side, and lack are so conjoined. The word lies there in the general linguistic bank, from Ellyot’s time to the 1940s, when suddenly its time arrives. New words or phrases, I have found, can be plucked from the archives of the New York Times by their quotation marks. They are swaddled in these marks (“defector”) due to the New York Time’s linguistic gentility – they have not yet grown up enough to walk around without quote marks. Other newspapers and magazines will either use the baby word enough that the quotes disappear, or the word itself disappears. In Russian, similarly, there is a word that applies to the set of agents covered by “defector” –