I was drawn to this book some time ago but didn’t connect it to my current research until Angela suggested it to me in connection with my contextual study. The main thread is about how we tend to assume that consumption is a passive activity and that society is neatly organised into producers and consumers. de Certeau proposes that consumption can be and is a creative activity and that academia struggles to understand it as it does not have the tools.
His example at the beginning of the book is how South Americans used the Spanish colonisers products to practice their own outlawed beliefs. As he states the practice of everyday life is rarely documented and when so it is usually studied by a limited single scientific discipline and method. He gives us some examples such as ethnology and sociology. These are seen as inadequate tools and also the results of these studies are not applicable to other communities. From the outset de Certeau claims a desire to establish a science of singularity by connecting everyday pusuits to particular circumstances.
As with Bachelard he is disenchanted by the scientific method as this activity is creative and cultural and therefore rational reasoning is limiting. he looks specifically at oral traditions and walking in the city as examples of how individuals are free to interpret and consume in a non productive and creative way. He also examines the relationship between theory and practice in detail which was extremely useful.
Of most interest to me in all of this:
He is interested in the idea of the social (relational) interactions. He wishes to analyse what the common person does with cultural production in everyday activities. I am interested in the way within the class system the élite produces culture for the masses who use them in their own way adding their own meanings. This reminds me of some research I did into non standard English and how this is no less complex or limiting than accepted forms.
He analyses oral stories, fables and the act of reading and speaking in detail. He also claims (in the 70s) that the marginalised are a silent majority. Obviously some of this is dated, with regards to the internet, but other aspects are not. The act of writing is considered in some depth and oral practice is seen as less inhibited and there is a loss in the writing of it. Especially of interest to me are his ideas about the use of oral narratives in creating practice.
He identifies a difference between tactics and strategies. The dominant culture having relatively explained and limited strategies for operating technological society the less powerful create more complex tactics to circumvent it.
The distinction between place and space. The space as a dynamic event which exists in time, it is a practiced place. The place is defined but multiple functioning. ‘every proper place is altered by the mark others have left on it’. In relation to stories they transform one into the other.
The gaps: the ways in which culture operates between the gaps: in language by saying that which cannot be said when following the rules (Wittgenstein). blurring of work and leisure through la Perruque (using work time for own activities – the wig). The analogy of the picket fence is wonderful. The failure of reason is the blindspot and everyday practices exist in casual time in the situation of acts of thoughts.
The reuse of products being invisible.in the same way as the reinvention of language not being heard. He also examines the invisibility of the sick and dying.
The meaninglessness of statistics also really strikes a chord.
The limitations of epistemology:for example the suggestion of the knowledge of cooking and other everyday activity is not known.To what extent does this apply to unskilled labour? There are also problems of the ways of knowing about science and the necessity of interdisciplinary investigations into culture.