Bakhtin and the Human Sciences: No Last Words


Edited by: Michael Mayerfeld Bell & Michael Gardiner

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  • Theory, Culture & Society

    Theory, Culture & Society caters for the resurgence of interest in culture within contemporary social science and the humanities. Building on the heritage of classical social theory, the book series examines ways in which this tradition has been reshaped by a new generation of theorists. It also publishes theoretically informed analyses of everyday life, popular culture, and new intellectual movements.

    editor: Mike Featherstone, Nottingham Trent University

    series editorial board

    Roy Boyne, University of Durham

    Mike Hepworth, University of Aberdeen

    Scott Lash, Lancaster University

    Roland Robertson, University of Pittsburgh

    Bryan S. Turner, Deakin University

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    The Theory, Culture & Society book series, the journals Theory, Culture & Society and Body & Society, and related conference, seminar and postgraduate programmes operate from the TCS Centre at Nottingham Trent University. For further details of the TCS Centre's activities please contact:

    Centre Administrator, The TCS Centre, Room 175, Faculty of Humanities, Nottingham Trent University, Clifton Lane, Nottingham, NG11 8NS, UK.


    Recent volumes include:

    Deleuze and Guattari

    An Introduction to the Politics of Desire

    Philip Goodchild

    Pierre Bourdieu and Cultural Theory

    Critical Investigations

    Bridget Fowler

    Re-Forming the Body

    Religion, Community and Modernity

    Philip A. Mellor and Chris Shilling

    The Shopping Experience

    edited by Pasi Falk and Colin Campbell

    Undoing Aesthetics

    Wolfgang Welsch

    Simmel on Culture: Selected Writings

    edited by David Frisby and Mike Featherstone

    Contested Natures

    Phil Macnaghten and John Urry

    Nation Formation

    Towards a Theory of Abstract Community

    Paul James

    The Consumer Society

    Myths and Structures

    Jean Baudrillard


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    Michael Mayerfeld Bell teaches social theory and environmental sociology at Iowa State University, USA. He is the author of ‘Deep fecology: Mikhail Bakhtin and the call of nature’, which appeared in Capitalism, Nature, Socialism (1994), and several books, most recently, An Invitation to Environmental Sociology (1998).

    Courtney Bender (Princeton University, Department of Sociology) recently completed her dissertation (1997), entitled ‘Kitchen work: the everyday practice of religion, cooking, and caring for people with AIDS’. In it, she develops ethnographic methods that apply Bakhtian theories of answerability and dialogue to the study of everyday life interaction. Her interests also include US religious and non-profit organizations.

    Michael Bernard-Donals. Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia, USA, is the author of Mikhail Bakhtin: Between Phenomenology and Marxism (1994). The Practice of Theory: Rhetoric, Knowledge, and Pedagogy in the Academy (1997), and co-editor, with Richard Glejzer, of the forthcoming Rhetoric in an Anti foundational World.

    Michael Billig is Professor of Social Sciences at Loughborough University, UK, and a founder member of the Discourse and Rhetoric Group at Loughborough. His interests include social psychological theory, rhetoric, nationalism and psychoanalysis. Amongst his recent books are Arguing and Thinking (1996), Banal Nationalism (1995) and Talking of the Royal Family (1992).

    Ian Burkitt lectures in sociology and social psychology in the Department of Social and Economic Studies at the University of Bradford, UK. He is the author of Social Selves: Theories of the Social Formation of Personality (1993).

    Michael Gardiner is Assistant Professor in Sociology at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He is author of The Dialogics of Critique: M.M. Bakhtin and the Theory of Ideology (1992). as well as numerous articles on Bakhtin, ethics, utopianism and social theory. He is currently working on his second book, to be entitled Critiques of Everyday Life.

    Peter Hitchcock is a professor of literary and cultural studies at Baruch College and at the Graduate School and University Center (GSUC) of the City University of New York, USA. Among his books are Dialogics of the Oppressed (1993) and Oscillate Wildly: Space, Body, and Spirit of Millennial Materialism (forthcoming).

    Hwa Yol Jung teaches political theory at Moravian College, Bethlehem, USA. His academic interests cover phenomenology, hermeneutics, postmodernism, comparative cultural studies, literary criticism, and ecophilosophy. His recent publications include The Question Of Rationality and the Basic Grammar of Intercultural Texts (1990), Rethinking Political Theory (1993), and ‘Phenomenology and body politics’ which appeared in Body and Society in 1996.

    Raymond Morrow is Professor of Sociology and Adjunct Professor of Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta, Canada. Recent publications include Social Theory and Education (with C.A. Torres, 1995) and Critical Theory and Methodology (1994).

    Greg Nielsen is Associate Professor and Director of the Concordia Centre for Broadcasting Studies, Canada. He is on leave from the Sociology Programme at York University's Glendon College in Toronto where he is also a member of the Graduate Programme in Social and Political Thought. His first publications on Bakhtin date from 1984 and his most recent, ‘Bakhtin and Habermas: toward a transcultural ethics’, appeared in Theory and Society in 1995.

    Jennifer de Peuter is completing her doctorate in sociology at Carleton University, Canada. Her dissertation explores the implications of a dialogical perspective for theories of narrative identity. Jennifer lives in Calgary, Alberta, and works as a freelance life historian. She has published in the Journal of Social Psychology.

    Barry Sandywell is Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the Department of Sociology at the University of York, UK. He is the author of Logological Investigations (1996), a multi-volume work on the history of reflexivity: Reflexivity and the Crisis of Western Reason (volume 1), The Beginnings of European Theorizing (volume 2) and Presocratic Reflexivity: The Construction of Philosophical Discourse (volume 3).

    John Shotter is a professor of interpersonal relations in the Department of Communication, University of New Hampshire, USA. His long-term interest is in the social conditions conducive to people having a voice in the development of participatory democracies and civil societies. He is the author of many books, most recently Conversational Realities: The Construction of Life through Language (1993).

    Dorothy E. Smith is in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada, and is the author of Writing the Social (forthcoming), The Conceptual Practices of Power: A Feminist Sociology of Knowledge (1990), Texts, Facts, and Femininity: Exploring the Relations of Ruling (1990) and The Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology (1987).


    We begin this preface on the day after we first met in the flesh, or, to use more Bakhtinian vocabulary, in chronotopic co-presence. Although we had recently sent the first draft of this manuscript off to Sage for review, and had become close colleagues and collaborators over many months of working together, until this point we had met only in cyberspace. Such are the delights of the Internet and the work of Bakhtin that scholars find themselves plunging into intimate and excited conversation despite being thousands of miles and a national border apart – in this case, the distance and the national border between St John's, Newfoundland and Ames, Iowa.

    This meeting consummated a project that had grown out of a correspondence between us on the philosophy of nature in Bakhtin's writings. We both recognized a gap in the literature on alternative appropriations of Bakhtin – in the area of ecology, and in other domains in the social and human sciences as well. Michael Gardiner suggested that we co-edit a volume that would bring together some of the diverse strands of the new scholarship on Bakhtin, drawing not only on established scholars in this area, but also authors who are newly discovering his rich and suggestive writings. We were delighted that our solicitations by letter and by electronic means generated an enormous, perhaps even overwhelming, response – an embarrassment of riches. As the volume took shape, certain thematic configurations of this new scholarship began to suggest themselves. And, in the end, we selected the thirteen chapters that, as we saw it, best reflected the promise of a Bakhtinian legacy for the human sciences.

    But, again, we had never met, nor even spoken on the phone. Our relationship was entirely virtual, and hence curiously decorporealized – yet not undialogical. To be sure, there is a lack of immediacy in a dialogue lacking full co-presence. Some textual and biographical evidence suggests that Bakhtin himself was suspicious of electronically mediated communication, and that, like Martin Buber, he considered the face-to-face encounter to be the most genuine manifestation of dialogue. Certainly, a purely electronic relationship tested the meaning and limits of dialogue, both as a metaphor and in terms of the practicalities of linguistic interchange.

    A series of contingencies, however, has happily brought us together on this hot summer day in July, on an island in the St Lawrence River, where we are jointly composing this preface on a laptop computer in Mike Bell's boathouse. And even this briefest of chronotopic encounters confirms Bakhtin's main insight: that dialogue is not only unfinalizable, but that it always retains an element of surprise, of a loophole in time and space, of something that remains yet to say. This open-endedness is what nourishes the will to dialogue – which, of course, is the central theme of this volume.

    The portion of the book written by us is dedicated to our respective families – Rita Gardiner, Diane Mayerfeld, and Samuel Bell. We would also like to acknowledge in particular Chris Rojek, whom we initially approached with this idea, and Robert Rojek, for being such an exemplary and enthusiastic editor, and for helping to nurture this project from its earliest phases to its eventual completion. We also recognize the work of Pascale Carrington, Teresa Warren and Melissa Dunlop at Sage, and the anonymous external reviewers. And finally, of course, the contributors to the volume are to be congratulated for their patience, attention to detail, and fidelity to various deadlines. To all we offer our thanks and hopes for future communions of, as Bakhtin would have put it, ‘participatory thinking’.



    30 July 1997, Tar Island, Ontario, Canada

    Amended, mid-October, 1997, in Cyberspace

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