Monday 7 July 2014

Species of Pride: Postmodern Taxonomy, Moral Ecology, and Pleasure in Work

"Take pride in ...," "pridefulness," "class pride" -- on the occasion of Pride, I have spent the week reflecting on different species of pride. These three forms above that pride might take demonstrate some of the ambivalence associated with pride -- and since I am fascinated by the role that dissonant, ambivalent, and boundary-crossing concepts play in social ecologies, I would like to trace what pride could look like in some situations I see people working to be proud of. 

In fields like literary criticism and cultural geography, this kind of work on something like a taxonomy of pride might seem hopelessly modern. And part of what makes modernity hopeless, from a postmodern perspective, may be overconfident pride in being able to figure things out. So with lessons learned about humility in the face of complexity and relationships, a postmodern taxonomy tries to understand something more like engaging as part of a social ecosystem. Pride is often understood as differentiating from a social norm -- and perhaps just as often is treated with suspicion. But differentiating is hard work -- and a hopefully just as common response is celebration: pride in creative exploration navigated and work well done, and pride in carrying out the various practices that form and maintain relationships. This celebratory reaction is powerfully generative. The things people do to celebrate help people to share meaning making.

This kind of pride is powerful. This seems important to establish, as I am easily frustrated by radical homemaking claims that are easy to interpret as radically constraining domains of agency such that they are easier to improve and feel better about. In this context, maybe we can better sympathize with condemnations of "pridefulness"; you want people to tell their stories of what they've been doing, field questions, and adapt in ways that continue to regenerate their society-environment contexts. But pride seems much more interesting in our culture as a weapon of the weak: a reclaimed satisfaction and identification that often pushes back on attempts to modernize. As cultures of social justice, feminist workerism, hipsterism, and rural renaissance converge around particular practices -- I particularly notice those around food and agriculture -- there are certain ways that people are working to be proud. 

I would detail these kinds of work -- and I doubtless will, over the rest of my project to map food knowledges and epistemologies -- but given my summer's work on the translational field guide, I want to leave this particular taxonomy open to your experience. I notice my friends and colleagues and family navigating which things they can be proud of in their food chain. I notice people figuring out how to arrange time to do the things they find meaningful enough to be proud of. I am curious about what kinds of stories they tell to reproduce and widen their ability to be proud of what they're doing. And I'm curious about what kinds of social and environmental relations support enough pridefulness to enjoy it, and enough power in pride to support a positive read of pride in addition to the power of the resistant kind.

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