Thursday, 6 March 2014

Declarative identity and (processes of) identification

1. Declarative identity: "I am... "

Adam Mars-Jones writes in a review of Claudia Roth Pierpoint's Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books that,
"Philip Roth was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1933, and has characterised his childhood as that of ‘an all-American boy’."
Mars-Jones comments,
"It’s not the obvious way to describe the experience of someone who lived in an almost wholly Jewish enclave of his city, attended Hebrew school three afternoons a week and had grandmothers who spoke only Yiddish"
Being "all-American", Mars-Jones continues, is not a demographic category but a psychological one:
"The contradictions of belonging to two groups, in fact to two exceptionalisms (God’s chosen people and, by some reckonings, his country), were not felt as contradictions."
Taking a habitus-in-habitat approach, the above quote brings to light different kinds of affiliation: to a Jewish identity, which is ethno-religious - nation as community; and to an American identity, which is territorial-cultural - nation as nation-state. At some level, both are imaginary, yet determinate. This points to (at least) two kinds of interlocking habitat, two kinds of environment: the de-territorialised (or worldwide-ised) nation and the territorial nation.

Hyphenisation deals with this double identity to some extent, Jewish-American, but it does not begin to address the two kinds of interpellation involved, the two kinds of enculturation involved, once at the level of the ethno-urban environment and once at the level of media-ideological environment. These are two kinds of construction, both to a degree fictive, in two kinds of 'media', both to a degree material-cultural; one more directly material and embodied, one more abstract and intellectualised.

2. Process of identification: "I identify with... "

Agnes Poirier (2014, 12 January) writes in The Observer,
"I grew up in a country where the president embodied not just the state but also the nation. He may be a man, but he is also an institution. He is France – in other words, he is me and I am him. We may dislike the human being; we inevitably revere the symbol. Hence the deference – or at the very least, the inherent respect – accorded any French president by his compatriots."
This is a very different statement of national identity to that of Roth's "all-American boy". The habitat is always more than the bio-physical environment. It is 'worldly' in an Arendtian sense. A national environment, given both its constructed character and its fictive character, is multiply mediated; and retrospectively, (bio-physical) environments can be understood as media, by means of which the regularity of habitus is rendered more permanent and the conditionality of habitat is rendered engagingly habitual.


Mars-Jones, Adam (2014). In the egosphere. London Review of Books, 36 (2), pp.9-16. Available at Accessed on 2 February 2014.

Poirier, Agnes (2014, 12 January). The president, the film star - and the very British fuss about a French affair. The Observer, 12 January 2014, pp.31. 

Arendtian perspectives in the scholarship of (learning and) teaching

In "Empowering the scholarship of teaching”, Carolin Kreber (2013), firstly, challenges narrow interpretations of the scholarship of teaching as an evidence-based practice; and, secondly, offers a reinterpretation of what ‘making public’, widely accepted as the distinguishing feature of scholarship, might entail in the scholarship of teaching.

A narrow interpretation of the scholarship of teaching as an evidence-based practice, Kreber proposes, tends to pay too little attention to the fact that practitioners are personally invested in that practice through the judgements they make as professionals in specific contexts. Thus, while practice may be evidence-aware or evidence-informed, the evidence produced by research does not determine the decisions that professionals make; it only informs them.

The two serious reservations which have been raised in relation to the notion of evidence-based practice in the context of education are, first, that such discourse is overly concerned with the effectiveness of pre-determined ends to the detriment of questions about the desirability of the ends towards which it is directed and the means of achieving them. Second, a concern for prediction and control underlies certain conceptions of evidence-based practice. While this may be understandable, Kreber notes, it is nevertheless an attempt to escape from the complexities, frailty, contingencies and unpredictability of human action.

In order to develop an approach which is capable of dealing adequately with that complexity and unpredictability, Kreber borrows concepts from Hannah Arendt and Jurgen Habermas. One key concept which Kreber utilises is that of ‘action’ taken from Hannah Arendt, a concept which itself is a re-working of Aristotle’s notion of praxis. Thus, for Kreber, following Arendt, a person takes a stance and discloses who he or she is through action. To act authentically or truthfully in teaching, as well as in the scholarship of teaching, requires an investment of one’s self in one’s actions. The knowledge required in the realm of praxis, or human interaction, is of a different kind to that required for production or making (Aristotle’s poiesis). Aristotle called the knowledge relevant for praxis phronesis.

As Kreber clarifies, to act on the basis of phronesis, which might be characterised as practical wisdom as distinct from pragmatic prudence [1], means to assess a given situation and make an appropriate decision, while abandoning the security offered by a rule-bound and regulation-based approach to such situations. Good judgement, for Aristotle, is informed by theoretical knowledge or systematised knowledge, as well as concrete evidence and an awareness of the situation. One of the roles played by phronesis, indeed, is to facilitate the mediation between the universal and the particular, so that specific moments or instances can be recognised as cases or problems of a particular kind.

The stress upon truthfulness or authenticity in the Arendtian understanding of action as disclosure can be related to the Habermasian differentiation of three kinds of knowledge, based on three kinds of knowledge-constitutive interests:
the technical, which articulates an interest in controlling and predicting the environment; 
the practical, which evinces an interest in arriving at shared understandings and co-operation; and 
the critical, which is interested in developing or becoming empowered (and/or 'liberated' or 'emancipated': freedom from, permitting freedom to).
These interests give rise to certain forms of coming to know (learning), along with corresponding domains of knowledge. A technical interest gives rise to the empirical-analytical sciences, whose concerns is to establish ‘objective truth’. Practical interest gives rise to interpretive science, leading to an understanding of what is considered right in the light of the norms that prevail within a certain social context (ethical and political). Critical interest is associated with a critical social science, leading to emancipation, i.e. freedom from oppression and ideology; or, rather, freedom to challenge deterministic understandings of social interaction and the political, or to challenge the presuppositions embedded in prevailing norms. [2]

Given these differentiations, it would be inappropriate to subject all forms of coming to know and knowledge to one and the same form of rationality and/or knowledge claim. Thus, Kreber, following Habermas, delineates,
theoretical discourse, which is concerned with claims to truth; 
practical discourse, which is concerned with claims to rightness; and 
aesthetic discourse, which is concerned with claims to truthfulness or authenticity. 
Each mode of discourse implies a different kind of validity claim.

To these Habermasian categories, themselves developed through a critical relation to Arendt’s thought, Kreber adds those of labour, work and action taken from Arendt herself. Arendt associates labour, work and action with the spheres of life, world and the political or political society, respectively. Taking this Arendtian approach, Kreber argues that teaching can be seen as a form of labour, as it does to some extent concern learning how to live or how to behave, even if that is not its focus. Arendt defines the sphere of life and labour as being concerned with the human being as ‘animal’ with its animal behaviour - animal laborans.

From Kreber’s perspective, teaching can be seen to concern ‘work’, i.e. the fabrication of the human world, an artefactual and artificial world that is distinct from that of ‘nature’ and animal behaviour, and through which a degree of control over natural phenomena and animal behaviour is achieved. For Arendt, work generates a safe space for humans to live, i.e. to elaborate human behaviour through and beyond animal behaviour and to create a human world. In the context of her tripartite scheme, Arendt (1961: 195) argues that the function of the school, as the place between home and the public world political action, "is to teach children what the world is like and not to instruct them in the art of living.” To the extent that teaching is involved in the making of products that can be used, reused, shared and built upon, it can be viewed as work.

More important than understanding teaching as labour or as work, Kreber argues, is the task of developing an understanding of teaching as action. As already noted, Arendt derives her notion of action from Aristotle’s praxis. In as far as a person discloses themselves through action, this can be understood as a process of ‘making public’. Thus, action involves stating one’s opinions freely and publicly. This also serves, however, as an invitation to others to question the claims to validity embedded in one’s arguments.

Action, as 'making public' through words and deeds, opens up to dialogue, although in a context of agonistic pluralism, not in Habermas’s sense of ideal speech situation. Action is always constrained, the political sphere is always conflicted and its order hegemonised, as Mouffe (2013), differentiating herself from Arendt’s view of pluralistic agonism, argues. Kreber argues that, through action, ‘making public’ is related to questions of social justice and equality, i.e. political and ethical acts, in and through higher education.

Significantly, the validity claims that arise in action are not principally those of ‘objective truth’. Rather, they are concerned with ‘rightness’ and ‘truthfulness’ (or ‘authenticity’). Given this framework, evidence is not just what research has shown to ‘work’ (in whatever sense ‘work’ is taken here). Evidence also includes what is recognised as right and truthful in contexts of dialogue across pluralistic differences.

If this is the case, then the sense of professionalism held by scholars, according to Kreber, is oriented not just to questions of what works (on the basis of what evidence) and to questions of what one is supposed to do (rightness as properness or propriety) but also to questions of why one does it (rightness as purpose or transformation) and who benefits from it (fairness and truthfulness as authenticity).

In sum, if the scholarship of teaching is understood as action, in the Arendtian sense, it can be seen to involve not only formal studies undertaken into matters of pedagogy narrowly conceived, but also includes enquiry-oriented public dialogue among diverse stakeholders, each differentially located, where diverse points of view about educational processes and purposes are disclosed and openly debated.

In this way, the relationship between the scholarship of teaching, as action, and questions of the purpose of education, not just its processes, can be clearly understood.


[1] Zhang (1997) contends that,
"As a result of the rationalization of modern society, however, instrumental rationality, or calculative rationality as Heidegger calls it, has penetrated and dominated all aspects of our life. Benefit, effect and utility become the highest criteria, for evaluating, whereas both for Plato and Aristotle and for Confucius and Mencius the ultimate principles were non-utilitarian. Today, there is ever more pragmatic prudence, but less and less practical wisdom.” (Zhang, 1997)
[2] In the context of education, Mezirow developed these three forms of coming to know and knowledge into a categorisation of forms of learning, which he names instrumental (technical), communicative (practical) and emancipatory (critical). Mezirow has been criticised for placing too much emphasis on transformation as an individual act which does not reflect the sociological emphasis of Habermas’ critical theory. Mazirow contends that in saying this the critics misunderstand transformation theory (Fleming, 2002).

Although far from the traditions in which these distinctions are developed, in an act of creative alignment, these schemes might also be related to Griemas’s actant theory, in which he identifies three axes, that of power, desire and transmission (or communication).

This brings to attention the recognition that a dynamic understanding of forms of coming to know and knowledge is required.


Arendt, H., 1961. The Crisis in education. In Between past and future: six exercises in political thought. New York, NY: Viking Press, pp. 173–196.

Fleming, T., 2002. Habermas on civil society, lifeworld and system: unearthing the social in transformation theory. Teachers College Record, pp.1–10. Available at: Accessed on 1 March 2014.

Kreber, C., 2013. Empowering the scholarship of teaching: an Arendtian and critical perspective. Studies in Higher Education, 38 (6), pp.857–869. Available at: [Accessed February 19, 2014].

Mouffe, C., 2013. Agonistics: thinking the world politically, London: Verso.

Zhang, R., 1997. Is an ethics of economic activity possible? In X. Yu et al., eds. Economic ethics and Chinese culture. Washington, DC: Council for Research in Values & Philosophy, pp. 123–133.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Academic identity and digital agency

In the context of historical scholarship, James Smithies writes that,
“There is simply no way to manage …[the] deluge of electronic information without the kind of skills that digital historians take for granted. Technologies like .sql, .xml, .rdf and GIS are becoming crucial to the development of historical understanding, with programming languages like Python and Ruby needed for scripting and general purpose development, general architectural principles required for contribution to infrastructure projects, and .php, .html, .css and JQuery needed for publishing. Future historians will need a set of skills earlier generations of historians simply didn’t require."
He clarifies that this is not to suggest that,
"... all historians need to develop expertise in all of these computer science-based tools and methods, but that we need some historians to gain some understanding to help us move forward as a community."
Furthermore, he insists,
"The goal is to enhance and enable historical scholarship in the digital age, not to replace historical scholarship with computer science.”
The questions that arise concern the following:

Do historians have to learn .sql, .xml, .rdf and GIS explicitly, or do they have to learn to master software packages in which these technologies are embedded (i.e. learn them implicitly, through what they enable historiographic practice to do)?

Equally, do historians have to learn .php, .html, .css and JQery explicitly in order to publish, or can they simply learn to master software packages in which these technologies are embedded?

Furthermore, can these suggestions about technological competence (however this is understood) be applied to scholars in other humanities disciplines?

Finally, could a list of such technologies be compiled for academic disciplines as a whole; or are such technology lists discipline-specific?

Are there core technologies that are common to all academic disciplines in a digital age?


Smithies, James (2013). Digital history in Canterbury and New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of History, 47 (2), pp.249-263.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

"Why Johnny can't read…"

Part of this text is a contribution to the Higher Education and Theory Reading Group

The Crisis

In "The Crisis in Education", Hannah Arendt identifies a crisis in the US school system. Her argument is not, however, limited to the USA alone. She suggests that the USA, as the most advanced and modern nation in the world [in 1954, when she was writing], is simply the place where the education problems of a mass society have become most acute. This is, in part, she contends, because the USA has accepted progressive education theories so comprehensively and uncritically. Nevertheless, she also contends, while this is true of the USA [in 1954], it may, in the foreseeable future, be equally true of almost any other [modern, Western] country [1].

For Arendt (1961: 195),
"The problem of education in the modern world lies in the fact that by its very nature it cannot forgo either authority or tradition, and yet must proceed in a world that is neither structured by authority nor held together by tradition."
Three Basic Assumptions

Arendt traces the measures which led to this state of affairs back to three basic assumptions.

The first assumption is that there is a child's world and a society formed among children that are autonomous and must be left to children themselves to govern, in as much as this is possible, with adults simply assisting with this government. In short, Arendt concludes, children have been banished from the world of grown-ups. Arendt suggests that this means that children are subjected to a tyranny of a (presumed consensual) majority [2]. Children react to this pressure, Arendt contends, either through conformity or juvenile delinquency, or a mixture of both.

The second basic assumption is that a teacher is a man or woman who can teach anything. His or her training is in teaching, not the mastery of any particular subject discipline. This has led, Arendt argues, to a serious neglect of the training of teachers in their own subjects. In this way, the most legitimate source of the teacher's authority, as the person who knows more than the students, is rendered ineffective. In consequence, Arendt proposes, the non-authoritarian teacher, who would like to abstain from all methods of compulsion because he can rely on his own authority, can no longer exist.

The third basic assumption is that you can know and understand only what you have done yourself. In education, this leads to a substitution of doing for learning, insofar as this is possible. The intention behind this substitution was not to teach knowledge but to inculcate a skill. The result was a transformation of institutions for learning into vocational institutions. It also leads to a substitution of play for work, on the basis that play was considered the liveliest and most appropriate way for the child to behave in the world.

Arendt's Twofold Question

Arendt does not wish to engage in the debate over attempts to reform the US educational system, which are of purely American interest. Rather, what she considers important to the argument that she is developing is a twofold question.

The first part of the question, posed in a Heideggerian mode, relates to which aspects of the modern world and its crisis have revealed themselves in the educational crisis.

The second part of the question concerns what we can learn from this crisis for the "essence" of education by reflecting on the role that education plays in civilization, i.e. on the obligation that the existence of children entails for human society.

Arendt's Responses

In answering her own question, she begins by stating that a crisis in education would give rise to serious concern even if it did not reflect, as she thinks it does in this case, a more general crisis and instability in modern society. For Arendt, education is a central activity in human society. The child, more generally the subject of education, presents a double aspect to the educator. The subject is new in a world that is strange to her/him and s/he is in a process of becoming familiar with (or learning about) that world; and s/he is a new human being in the process of becoming a 'more' human being.

Arendt argues that this double aspect implies a double relationship: to the world, on the one hand; and to life, on the other hand. She continues: the child (the subject of education) shares the state of becoming with all living things, but the child is only new in relation to a world that was there before her/him, and which will continue after her/his death, in which s/he will spend her/his life. This second point, being new in relation to a world, is crucial for Arendt's argument:
"If the child were not a newcomer in this human world but simply a not yet finished living creature, education would be just a function of life and would need to consist in nothing save that concern for the sustenance of life and that training and practice in living that all animals assume in respect to their young." (Arendt, 1961: 185)
The human child is not only summoned into life but is simultaneously introduced into a world. Human parents, as educators, assume responsibility for the life and development of the child and for the continuance of the world, two sets of responsibilities that do not coincide. They may, indeed, come into conflict with each other. The child requires protection and care so that nothing destructive may happen to her/him from the world; but the world, too, needs protection to keep it from being destroyed by the onslaught of the new, undermining the sustenance it provides.

Protecting the child from the world requires the creation of a safe and secure place, whose privacy is maintained against the public aspect of the world. At this point, Arendt makes a crucial distinction. She argues that in the public world common to all, both persons and work count, but life, qua life, does not matter [3]. Furthermore, just as when the glare (uncaring, unflinching attention) of the public realm invades the private space (of the familial home), so that children no longer have a place of security where they can grow and develop, so too this same destruction of the living space occurs when the attempt is made to turn children into a kind of world of their own, as is the case in the first basic assumption outlined above.

Among those peer groups arises a public life of a sort in which children, as human beings in process of becoming but not yet complete, are forcibly exposed to the perception of an unremitting and uncaring public world. Thus, modern education, insofar as it attempts to establish an isolated world of children, destroys the conditions for vital development and growth.

The Crisis of Authority

This outcome, the infringement of the conditions for vital growth, is ironic because the aim of the pedagogical initiatives was to serve the child by doing away with the unsuitable methods of the past, freeing the child from the standards derived from the adult world.

School is the institution, Arendt proposes, that is interposed between the private domain of home and the world, in order to make the transition from the family to the world possible for the child (the educational subject).

Educators stand in relation to the young as representatives of a world for which they must assume responsibility, although they themselves did not make it. In education, this responsibility for the world takes the form of authority. Crucially, the authority of the educator and the qualifications of the teacher are not the same thing.

However, Arendt notes, in present day [i.e. 1954] public and political life, authority either plays no role at all or at most plays a highly contested role. Arendt argues that it is no accident that the place where political authority was first undermined, i.e. the USA, is the place where the modern crisis in education makes itself most keenly felt.

Arendt suggests that such a situation poses problems for educational activity in which conservatism, in the sense of conservation, is of the essence, and whose task is to cherish and protect the child against the world, the world against the child, the new against the old, and the old against the new.

The crisis of Tradition

The real difficulty in modern education, for Arendt, lies in the fact that the minimum of conservation and the conserving attitude [caring attitude? AP], without which education is impossible, is extraordinarily hard to achieve. The crisis of authority in education is closely connected with the crisis of tradition, the crisis in our attitude to the past.

Education, by its very nature, cannot forego authority or tradition. Yet it must make its way in a world that is neither structured by authority nor held together by tradition. Recognising this situation, Arendt proposes that,
"We must decisively divorce the realm of education from the others, most of all from the realm of public, political life, in order to apply to it alone a concept of authority and an attitude toward the past which are appropriate to it but have no general validity and must not claim a general validity in the world of grown-ups." (Arendt, 1961: 195)
The practical consequences of this are that, first, a clear understanding is needed that "the function of the school is to teach children what the world is like and not to instruct them in the art of living". (Arendt, 1961: 195) Second, the distinction between children and adults means that one cannot educate adults nor treat children as thought they were grown up. However, this dividing line must not be allowed to become a wall separating children from the adult community as though they were not living in the same world and as though childhood were an autonomous state.

Education, as distinguished from learning, Arendt states, must have a predictable end; and, furthermore, while one cannot educate without at the same time teaching, one can quite easily teach without educating. Equally, one can go on learning until the end of one's days without, for that reason alone, becoming educated.

The task remains, Arendt concludes, that of renewing a common world.


[1] In passing, Arendt compares the situation in the USA in the immediate post-1945 period with that obtaining in the UK, or, as she calls it, England. As a result of the Education Act 1944, or the Butler Act, secondary education was made available to all classes of the population. The school leaving age was raised to 15 years, while keeping age 11 as the point at which children passed from primary to secondary education.

The new secondary school system consisted of three types of school: grammar schools, secondary technical schools and secondary modern schools. While allowing for the creation of comprehensive schools, which would combine all three pathways, in the initial period only a few comprehensives were founded. Subsequently, the Labour Party conducted an offensive against grammar schools, in favour of comprehensives, but, as Susan Pedersen (2013) points out in a review of Shirley Williams: the Biography, Williams being the education minister at the time, this move, to end selectivity in the state sector while leaving the private sector untouched, may have been politically naive.

To decide which type of school any individual child should attend, all schoolchildren sat the 11+ exam, which, as Arendt notes, determined whether a child was on a path towards higher or tertiary education.

What the 11+ exam aimed at in the UK was a meritocracy. Arendt argues that this is once more the establishment of an oligarchy, based this time on talent rather than, as before, wealth or birth. This means that the UK will continue, as it has been since time immemorial, to be governed as an oligarchy or aristocracy, the latter if one takes the view that the most gifted are also the best, which, as Arendt comments, is by no means a certainty; or indeed, a "poshocracy", intermingling confusedly birth, wealth and talent. As an oligarchy, Arendt points out, the UK is neither a monarchy nor a democracy.

The rigour of the 11+ exam has been disputed since its inception but, as Arendt notes, it would have been impossible in the USA as it offends against the US concept of equality in which a right to education is seen as one of the inalienable civic or civil rights. The almost physical division of children into gifted and ungifted would have been considered intolerable in the USA. Meritocracy, as a variety of oligarchy, contradicts the principle of an egalitarian democracy.
[Questions: To argue thus, that such a division would have been considered intolerable in the USA, would Arendt not have to accept that the US principle of "separate but equal" sustains equality in racial terms, and that US public school segregation was not discrimination, based on physical separation, leading to a de facto inequality?

Was not (and is not) class (in)equality the blind spot in UK education and society, just as racial (in)equality was (and is) the blind spot in US education and society?]
Or is it vice versa, i.e. is race Britain’s blind spot; and is class America’s blind spot? Or, alternatively, are they, to a degree, interchangeable?

These considerations are brought to the fore by an interview given by actor and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah (Adams, 2014, 2 February). He left Britain in 2011 to become artistic director of Baltimore's Center Stage theatre.

In the course of the interview Kwei-Armah comments,

“… Americans like to think of their society as classless, but I think class is just as strong here as in Britain, and sometimes it is conflated more easily with race.”

He continues by saying that occasionally he gets a sense that a certain kind of white American feels slightly inferior to an received pronunciation British accent, such as spoken by Kwei-Armah, but feels slightly superior to the African American, whom, until he speaks, Kwei-Armah might have appeared to be.

For a moment, such interlocutors do not know what to think or how to respond. Kwei-Armah’s speech and vocabulary confounds their sense of hierarchical positionality or intersubjective relation. They feel both inferior and superior at once as they respond to accent in one way and to skin colour in another way.

Kwei-Armah goes on to elaborate how this affects the dynamics of racial politics in the USA. For example, he says he has heard American black actors and directors imply that the reason British black actors are getting jobs in America is that they are "black other" and therefore not as threatening as African Americans might be to those making decisions.

However, for the present discussion, what Kwei-Armah’s interview draws out is the articulation of race and class, or rather the articulation of racial and class markers, such as spoken accent and skin colour, within particular cultural orders.

It also points out that these cultural orders, formed as they are through stereotypes, are continually being confounded by new admixtures of markers, demonstrating the ongoing construction, not so much of ‘identity’, but of relative position and of intersubjective interaction, bringing to attention moments of indecision, when anyone, or any 'body', in responding to the particular arrangement of cultural markers, might feel both inferior and superior in equal measure.

In Britain, while the primary marker system is deemed to be ‘class’, it is clear from Kwei-Armah’s interview that British black actors have to leave the UK in order to progress their careers. As Tim Adams (2014, 2 February), who is conducting the interview with Kwei-Armah, writes,

"Kwei-Armah, the multi-talented playwright and actor and critic and political activist, came to Baltimore having been invited to become artistic director of the state theatre here, Center Stage, the kind of offer he never received in Britain."

In other words, while Britain is ostensibly a class-based society, it clearly interprets racial markers as (active) barriers to social mobility, which overwhelm class markers (spoken accent and vocabulary).

Conversely, in the USA, while the primary marker system is deemed to be ‘race’, it is clear that class markers, such as spoken accent and vocabulary, enable British black actors to overcome certain (‘racial’) barriers to social mobility, barriers that are, in fact, stronger in Britain.

Both ‘race’ and ‘class’, as stereotypical characterisations, become unstable and intertwined depending on the specific articulation of markers deployed by and attributed to any person, or rather any ‘body’, within a particular cultural order, affecting ongoing interaction.

On the other hand, is not the moment of undecidability the moment of opportunity, of opening to the other?
[2] An insight into the way in which this tyranny through presumed consensus might operate in practice can be gained from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's (2003) analysis of the performative utterance "I dare you" in her essay "Around the Performative", discussed in "Periperformatives and Environments".

[3] The distinction which Arendt is making between life and world is elaborated further in her discussion in The Human Condition of the vita activa, a term she uses to designate three fundamental human activities, labour, work and action, which characterise three fundamental aspects of the human condition.

Thus, in "The Crisis in Education", Arendt suggests that what counts in the world is work and relations among persons ('action') but not labour, defined as "the activity which corresponds to the biological process of the human body" (Arendt, 1958: 7). For Arendt, "[t]he human condition of labor is life itself", whereas "[w]ork is the activity which corresponds to the unnaturalness of human existence", which "provides an "artificial" world of "things" such that "[t]he human condition of work is worldliness" (Arendt, 1958: 7).

Arendt argues that action is "the only activity that goes on directly between men without the intermediary of things or matter" (Arendt, 1958: 7). Thus, action "corresponds to the human condition of plurality" (Arendt, 1958: 7); and it is this plurality which is the indispensible condition of all political life and the condition through which all political life takes place.

From the perspective of 2014, sixty years after the publication of Arendt's text, it is more difficult to argue that action takes place directly between men and women without the intermediary of things or matter. This is partly because language itself, as speech, writing and media-tion, are now considered as material forms, albeit a less tangible and fungible materiality than "things". It is also partly because language is now seen to penetrate the material domains of things and material, architectural and geographical environments. Action, it might be argued, is mediated in multiple ways, and is never direct or without intermediary.

Again from the perspective of 2014, it would be difficult to hold that the three conditions of humanity, labour, work and action, are separate from one another. Rather, they would now be seen as interwoven or inter-related, as achieved through one another, even though Arendt's principle of conditionality would be wholeheartedly accepted. To some extent, this is anticipated by Arendt herself when she argues that,
"Men [and women, AP] are conditioned beings because everything they come in contact with turns immediately into a condition of their existence. The world in which the vita activa spends itself consists of things produced by human activities; but the things that owe their existence exclusively to men [and women, AP] nevertheless constantly condition their human makers… Whatever touches or enters into a sustained relationship with human life immediately assumes the character of a condition of human existence." (Arendt, 1958: 9)
This characterisation of reflexive conditionality opens the way to considering labour, work and action as interwoven through the body and its performative capabilities, as techniques of the body (Mauss, 1992; Pirani, 2005), in the realms of the intersubjective, the intercorporeal and the imaginary.
[Questions: Given what Arendt has to say in "The Crisis in Education" about 'work' and 'play', where does 'play' fit within the Arendtian characterisation of the human condition/human conditionality?

Is not 'play' the emergence of an understanding of reflexivity, contextuality and conditionality?

Therefore, is not 'play' a crucial element of 'the Humanities', one of whose tasks to come would be, in Derrida's (2001: 49-50) depiction,
"ad infinitum, to know and to think their own history, at least in the directions that we have just seen open up (the act of professing, the theology and the history of work, of knowledge and of the faith in knowledge, the question of man, of the world, of fiction, of the performative and the "as if", of literature and of oeuvre, etc., and then all the concepts we have just articulated with them)." ?
Bearing in mind that, in the course of this text, Derrida is 'playing' upon and 'playing' with the performative utterance,
"As if the end of work were at the origin of the world."]

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