Lyotard, Drifting From Power

Just re-reading Lyotard’s Driftworks for my hermeneutics monograph project, and admiring all the more some of his observations. In ‘Adrift’, the preface to the collection, he notes (with regard to criticism, but it applies much more generally) the phenomenon of wayfinding when you’re out of place: ‘…when you enter a foreign city and follow the arrows indicating the Zentrum, the centro citta, until you lose them, the absence of indication indicating that you are at the center…’* So with hermeneutics, right? If you’re doing it the officially approved way, it’s just ‘hermeneutics’, but if you’re Black or a feminist or a Marxist or just somebody who acknowledges divergence in interpretation, you need a modifier, an arrow pointing toward the centre and implicitly indicating ‘This ain’t the centre, we do things differently here’. If you’re an officially normal, acceptable interpreter you can just say what you want (because it comes pre-approved, it speaks from the centre).

Likewise, a bit later, he notes ‘desire baffles knowledge and power’, and again it’s in a context in which he’s making a different point with which I don’t necessarily agree. But he’s surely correct to suggest here that you can’t out-think desire, you can’t out-will desire. If you think you are, if you think you can, then desire is just playing a different game with you than the one you thought it was playing.

If I write this out someday, it should be in a work that takes ‘desire’ as its topic, spells it out as an effect on interpretation (this will probably appear in the future monograph) and then shows the unconquerable wildness of desire as a theme in biblical literature, so as to point out that if anyone were to be an expert about desire, it should be the exegetes — who, in their earnest desire to control interpretation, instead belie their claims to knowledge about desire by enacting in their repudiation just what desire wants them to do.

* He goes on to say ‘and rather that there is no center’, but hashing that out would involve drifting away from my point here.

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