Something I found myself visiting and revisiting continually throughout every one of this week’s readings is the problem of the critic. The position of the critic is a fundamentally destructive (and deconstructive) one. To acknowledge the limitations implicit in one’s own critical position is to imagine (and assume) a grander epistemological position above oneself; this paradoxically requires the same kind of claim to omnipotence the critic initially tried to avoid in acknowledging her position. Put more simply, to know one is not qualified to speak definitively on a subject due to one’s own cultural upbringing and blindnesses is to claim a kind of broader understanding beyond those very blindnesses that makes them visible to oneself. It is the basic problem of trying to look outside of one’s own vision to understand (and ideally critique) the limits of one’s perceptions. The paradox of the critic is an unsolvable one, but it seems wise to continually address it despite (because of) that.
The paradox of the critic becomes especially evident in the context of globalization and postcolonial theories, which persuasively argue the necessity of making power structures visible as possible. As Shanti Kumar further argues, this should include the global power structures of academic study itself. To avoid a kind of “Western-centric” scholarly imperialism (akin to the very real “media imperialism” Michael Curtain so unconvincingly tries to minimize) seems ideal, but is ultimately futile, for not only has this imperialism already come to pass long ago, but our recognition of that fact is complicated by every academic’s position as critic--and the inherent self-reflexive blindness of that position. No one can critique beyond their line of sight, and no one possesses “global” vision. Including myself, which is why I can’t really say what I just said. Impossible irony, here.
Though there is no way out of this circular logic, I will arbitrarily assert that it remains good practice to try. I appreciate Kumar’s discussion of her critical position on page 148: “My critique of the problematic of global convergence in television and television studies…emerges from my understanding of how a particular kind of discipline essentially shapes one’s self and informs representations of others in one’s own discourse.” Though helpful, such full-disclosure efforts are doomed from the start in a sense. The goal of the critic is perhaps to see beyond the personal, but the instrument of criticism—perspective, language, thought, whatever you want to call this rather mysterious thing--is itself based entirely on the personal. The personal is unavoidable, and in a way all criticism is compromised to begin with. I don’t mean to argue this is a bad thing, or that criticism is useless, but I think it’s important to notice.