From On Diaspora

Sometimes it is simply necessary to let a quote stand without preface or explanation.  This is one of those times.

“For diaspora, the particularizing character of signification is not an obstacle to allegorical universalization, it is rather the material potentiality of interparticularity, of differential composition.”
From Daniel Colucciello Barber’s On Diaspora: Christianity, Religion, and Secularity (p.86).

Coincidentally, AUFS is having a book event on this text from February 6-15.  So if you don’t know what the above means and/or why it is important, you probably want to drop by the event on your way through the blog-sphere.


24 comments on “From On Diaspora

  1. There are many great turns of phrase in there. I am really looking forward to the event and AUFS and trying to figure out my own take on it.

  2. Marc Regier says:

    That quote is absurd. The fellow doesn’t give a tinkers tit about conveying meaning but would rather we all drown in labyrinths of technical adverbs and adjectives; as if we too get hard-ons over them. Sheesh. I have a hunch that Mr. Barber knows much less than he would have us think he knows. Such is the nature of modern academia and all of its loquacious bullshit.

  3. Kampen says:

    Um, if you read the book you get into the nomenclature. Just because you don’t like/don’t understand the vocabulary doesn’t mean nothing is being said.

  4. Lexi says:

    So perhaps the quote does need some preface or explanation after all. I’m afraid I don’t understand it either, although I am intruiged – especially with regard to allegorical universalization. What is that?

  5. “For diaspora, the particularizing character of signification is not an obstacle to allegorical universalization, it is rather the material potentiality of interparticularity, of differential composition.”

    “For diaspora, the way naming pins down is not an obstacle to creating shifting accounts of the whole, it is rather the relations between these pinned-down possibilities that offer ongoing creation accounts.”

    Hmmmm, tried to make that more clear and not ugly. Not sure I succeeded or that I should have tried. I have to say Barber’s nomenclature really does offer a lot of clarity as you work through it. I don’t think it is an ideological move. Anyway I thought I would offer that poor translation to see if I understood the passage having read the book. Criticisms Mel?

  6. . . . other than the criticism of having gone entirely against the spirit of the post!

  7. Kampen says:

    The point of posting the quote on its own was twofold: one, as a nice synthesis of Barber’s thought, and two, as a teaser for the book event coming up. I thought that was fairly clear. I also perfectly understand the so-called ideological move that Marc might be making, and sure, Orwell has a good point. However, my issue with Marc is the way he approaches language that is new to him–belligerently. Lexi’s comment is helpful here and illustrates the kind of approach that I also take to reading, namely, intrigue. For an academic, the “labyrinth of technical adverbs and adjectives” is one that we enter with curiosity; the way to enter into other discourses is by engaging and exploring them not presuming they are bullshit and deriding them. If someone is bullshitting this will reveal itself soon enough upon inquiry.

    • Kampen says:

      And this is the point that Dave makes too: academia involves the task of working through material, through different/foreign discourses. If you don’t like that, there are many other kinds of work outside the academy.

  8. Yah my ‘translation’ was for my own benefit. The point I really wanted to make was that working through the text actually renders that quote surprisingly clear.

  9. Marc Regier says:

    Here here Theo!

    Mel, to assume that my severe lack of appreciation for obfuscation implies a “lack of apprehension” on my part is to engage in the very belligerence you purport to despise in me. Why is calling an author up on his uncharitable manifestations of arrogance a demonstration of ignorance?

    If you are going to appeal to the ivory tower of academia and create some sort of “us vs. them” mentality, allow me to quote in detail a recent blog post from what of the top Pauline academics in the world (Chris Tilling):

    “I have had to read a couple of really obscure papers recently, ones that used specialist terminology in such a way that made them almost impossible to understand. And when I understood the argument being made I realised things could have been put much more simply and in WAY fewer words. And that annoyed me.

    So I have a humble suggestion.

    Let us heard together some of the main culprits. We all know who some of them: they are usually found in linguistic and/or philosophy departments, or engaged in related studies in other areas. Let’s gather, say, 6 of them – probably the older ones who act as role models. Then we place them on a busy golf driving range and strap them to the 150 yard markers. For a day.

    Yes, violence is never a good thing, but I think in this situation a case can be made, at least on utilitarian terms, which would justify a few golf balls in the face to act as a sufficient deterrent, making the rest of us so much happier (greatest happiness for the greatest number etc.)

    Okay, got that one out of my system. Feeling better already. Rant over.”

  10. Marc Regier says:

    Sic sic!! I meant “Hear hear Theo!!!”

    • Kampen says:

      Not ignorance, Marc. This is how I see it: Discourses that you find esoteric, you also find arrogant. And you refuse to enter into and work through such texts. Am I wrong?

  11. Marc Regier says:


    When I first started reading Barth years back I found him a challenge. But I didn’t give up. Same to be said with Sartre, Kant and Hegel.

    But if Barber is what you would call “esoteric,” then Barth is child’s play. Kant seems more straightforward and sincere. Hegel…..I can’t make up my mind on him.

  12. Marc Regier says:

    Even Kant notes obscurity “frequently serving as a mere pretext under which people hide their own indolence or dullness” (Prolegomena To Any Future Metaphyiscs, Intr. pp.23)

    • Kampen says:

      Barber is what you called esoteric: “the nature of modern academia and all of its loquacious bullshit.”
      I still don’t know what your issue with Barber is. Kind of ironic, no?

  13. Marc Regier says:

    I nowhere called Barber esoteric. The quote you just extracted has “loquacious,” not esoteric. You introduced that word. I agree with its introduction as well. Barber is esoteric (a term almost always used pejoratively).

    How have I been unclear to you? I’ve gone out of my way to enumerate the problems I have with the aforementioned style of speech. Read through Chris Tilling’s plow-man-english blog which I have quoted for your convenience. There is no irony here. Only obstinacy.

    • Kampen says:

      From Tilling: “And when I understood the argument being made I realised things could have been put much more simply and in WAY fewer words. And that annoyed me.”
      Is your issue that the argument is worth making but that it’s style makes it inaccessible? Or, is your issue that the argument is bullshit and it’s style is representative of that?

  14. Marc Regier says:

    Reverse the latter and you’ll have hit closest to home. As I said at the very start: “I have a hunch that Mr. Barber knows much less than he would have us think he knows.” It is very commonplace to disguise ignorance with grandiloquence.

    • Kampen says:

      OK, and so your job is then to inquire further whether your “hunch” is correct or also bullshit – which was also my point from the beginning. See Dave’s comment below and my link to AUFS in the original post above.

  15. Marc, the book event is now on at AUFS. Get over there and pose those questions to Dan Barber himself.

  16. Marc Regier says:

    To be perfectly frank, I do not see any reason why I should. My interest is purely correlative to Melanie. We often call each other up on the sources of influence that entangle themselves in our thinking. As for Barber himself….what else would ensue from your suggestion but meaningless word-jousting? Meaningless, not because word-jousting isn’t salutary (we’ve been doing it here), but because Barber isn’t going to cease being Barber simply because a random Marc Regier thinks he ought to.

  17. Kampen says:

    Then you probably shouldn’t read anything anymore.

  18. Marc Regier says:

    I’ll read things from people who care to teach rather than demonstrate how many ways they can attach an uber-syllabic adjective to an uber-syllabic noun.

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