Art of liberating the ‘works’

Vincent Kundukulam

It was Jean François Lyotard, the founder of postmodern philosophy, who announced the death of master narratives. The rationale of his argument was that the big faith-traditions and ideologies are not able to hold people together at present like in the modern age. I think that this claim of the postmodern thinker needs to be nuanced in the light of the violence and war that take place all over the globe, especially in the Middle East, on behalf of the religious and political narratives. We notice that there exists yet a considerable group of people in different continents who show their allegiance to the totalizing religious and nationalist beliefs.

Having said this, we don’t deny the fact that the influence of grand tradition is slowly decreasing in the world. Today a certain degree of scepticism towards the all-encompassing ideologies has become the mode of elite culture. The acceptance, the concept of relativism gets in various walks of human life is impressive. People have begun to think that the realities they read in the print media and social media, and what they see in visual media are often virtual and relative. The given truths are judgments made by some people from their particular standpoints and perspectives, often with vested interests. All language systems are products of cultural constructs and hence the demand of Jacques Derrida for deconstruction gets more and more appeal among the younger generations.

According to the Derridean view, all words are explained in terms of their relationships to the various systems in which they take part. We can know only what the network of linguistic systems permit us to know about the reality. The meaning of every word depends on the existence of other terms which may be present or absent to us. Consequently, we will have to consent that the human expressions don’t relate to the external reality in the way we expect. Our knowledge of the world is not direct; it undergoes a certain hierarchization. Our experience of the world is organized according to the central categories that are provided by the particular agents in the given contexts. The gradation of truths that is involved in the organization is based on the conceptual oppositions that exist within each society. The concerned authorities have fixed the logic of hierarchization for the management of society and subsequently, for instance, the ‘female’ is thought of inferior to ‘male’ and the ‘white’ is considered superior to the ‘black.’ It means the conceptual systems with which we govern the social life are not the givens, but they are fabricated by some who protect their interests.

The realization that we are caught within a system of relativist conceptual systems prompt the postmodernists to break away from the given dominant ideologies, and Derrida called this process, deconstruction. It is the role of the intellectuals not to allow any society organize its life on the basis of the given texts or the interpretations that are cooked by people with vested interests. The listeners, viewers, participants and the customers at the grass-roots should be given opportunity to act independently of the presuppositions of the authors, producers and authorities. By letting the clients to draw their own interpretations of the texts and visuals, the latter are liberated from the hands of their makers. The works then acquire the capacity to freely swim in the sea of intertextuality giving rise to manifold meanings.

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