Posted by: kemalo | December 6, 2007

Abstract VS Experiential Theory

    After our conversation in class about abstract theory vs. experiential theory, I gave the topic a great deal of thought. I was troubled by the idea that these are necessarily, or can be considered, mutually exclusive.  While I can see the need for over-arching, abstract theories that sum up a great deal, I see the potential for abstraction to be used to completely avoid contemplating one’s own privileges. I have found the practice of trying to remove oneself from a theory in order to make the theory universal to be somewhat of a reflection of traditional scientific ideas of objectivity; the idea that one can somehow be outside the theory is, as Haraway put it, “a god trick.” (394)  Rather than seeing a dichotomy of abstract vs. experiential, or simply that both are necessary or that some people relate better to one than the other, I think the two must be entirely related.  A good theory for me includes both.  Experiential theory informs abstract theory.

   Donna Haraway and Adrienne Rich have both gotten me thinking a lot about what makes a good theory and a good theorist. I loved Haraway’s idea that “only partial perspectives promise objective vision.” (394) as well as Rich’s thought that the “faceless, classless category of “all women” is a “creation of white Western self-centeredness.” (451) These things really resonated as true to me, and have helped me to recognize why I have enjoyed particular theorists such as Gloria Anzaldua, Elsa Barkley Brown, Elizabeth Martinez, and the Combahee River Collective. These are all theorists who use their particular locations to inform their theories, and document their processes. They find the theories that work best for them and their lives from what they see, know, and learn.

 

 

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Responses

  1. I too was having a hard time in understanding the abstract concept. I think that you are right on when you said you liked the theorists because they relate their work to their own experiences. To write what you know makes you an even more credable source. To relate your theroy, concerns, issues or whatever to your arguement creates a solid and conviencing theory.

  2. I too was having a hard time in understanding the abstract concept. I think that you are right on when you said you liked the theorists because they relate their work to their own experiences. To write what you know makes you an even more credable source. To relate your theroy, concerns, issues or whatever to your arguement creates a solid and conviencing theory. I feel that during our class writings this is what they wanted us to apply to our reactions about the different authors/theories. Trying to make our papers believable and creidable at the same time. And sometimes it is not also easy to be such a good writer.

  3. When reading authors like Johnnie Tillmon and Elizabeth Martinez, that are based on their own experiences, I have a harder time arguing with them because how can you argue with someone’s experiences? I think that it was a good idea that we got to read some articles that were abstract, but i think that I can relate to the personal experience articles more.


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