Making sense of ourselves: reconceptualising reflexivity and experience
Serra Undurraga, Jacqueline Karen Andrea
This is a research project aims to reconceptualise reflexivity and experience to think anew about making sense of ourselves. Methodologically, I think through different traditions to diffract my concepts of interest, arriving at – necessarily temporary – renewed articulations. The traditions that I mostly use are poststructuralism, posthumanism and to a lesser extent, psychoanalysis in a relational strand. The new conceptualisations that I put forward are not only theoretically – abstractly – important, as if theory could be divorced from life. Instead, these new conceptualisations are important because they produce new worlds: different ways of becoming a subject, different ways of articulating affective experience, different questions, different tools, different problems, and so on. In coherence with that, at different points throughout this research, I bring to the page how these reconceptualisations are influenced by my experiences – including my experience as a psychotherapist – and how these reconceptualisations produce me and my experience differently. Based on a relational perspective, we do not pre-exist our relating but are produced through relating – not only in interpersonal terms but in materialdiscursive ones. In coherence with this, my conceptualisation of reflexivity shifts the understanding of it as a discrete activity performed by a bounded subjectivity that captures how things ‘are’ to understand it as an ever-present way of relating to ourselves that is not performed by an already bounded subject but produces a particular kind of subjectivity and a certain world. With this relational, material-discursive and performative understanding of reflexivity, I contend that the possibility of questioning our assumptions is not given by an individual decision but requires yielding to the foreignness of unknown fields that might unwittingly shift our assumptions and hence we are able to see what we were previously taking for granted. Furthermore, I emphasise the need to develop a meta-reflexivity that asks about the ways of relating that we are enacting and what they are producing. Originally, my conceptualisation of reflexivity is made with, not against, diffraction. I contend that we never find pure reflection or pure diffraction but different shades of them, as in a diffraction pattern. Moreover, I propose that when we hold diffraction as the superior term, we unavoidably betray our best intentions and reproduce the representationalism that we were so keen to avoid. I further elaborate the benefits of a diffracted reflexivity and of using meta-reflexivity with diffraction. Throughout the thesis, I argue to regard different concepts and theories as more or less useful for particular contexts because of how they produce these very contexts. I value the theories in their productions rather than in their truthvalue because there is not a world to discover but a production of worlds through practices of knowing. In coherence with this, I read the concept of experience through the lenses of existential phenomenology, poststructuralism and posthumanism. I let myself be taken by each of these traditions, opening up to what they produce. I, intra-actively with the three traditions – and my psychoanalytic background – arrive at an articulation of the concept of experience. I think of experience as an impersonal affect with its own force to produce us as subjectivities. This experience can be elaborated from the felt sense rather than from our cognition to enable a movement in our experience and in our ways of subjectivation. Finally, I assert that we do need to critically consider where this experience/affect is taking us because it can lead to reproduce dynamics that can be detrimental. To conclude, in this thesis I grapple with reflexivity and experience to think differently about the practices of making sense of ourselves. In very broad terms, I would say that I have arrived at the following ideas: 1. In making sense of ourselves we are also producing ourselves. 2. We do not make sense intentionally and separately from our relational, affective, and materialdiscursive engagements. Strictly, it is not that ‘we’ make sense of ‘ourselves’, but a greater intra-active assemblage makes sense and produces ourselves and the world in that movement. 3. There is no way of neutrally judging which ways of making sense and producing ourselves and the world are better or truer. 4. There is not a way to control the way in which we make sense, rather we ‘find ourselves’ making sense. And 5. Given the previous points, the only thing we can do is to be curious about how we are relating to ourselves when making sense and to wonder what that relating is producing.