Michel de Certeau and the Place of the Artist

Rob Van Craenenburg, University of Ghent

[These materials have been adapted, with the permission of the author, from his project about a British officer drummed out of the Victorian Indian army, ostensibly for wearing muslin garb. The author may be contacted at [email protected]. GPL]

Michel de Certeau's Practice of Everyday Life outlines the basic conditions within which cultural activity can be produced by those who are considered non-producers by traditional analysts. One must first distinguish between strategy -- where subjects can be isolated from the environment to achieve apparent objectivity, as in scientific rationality -- and tactics -- where subjects have no "proper," objective place, but insinuate themselves into the object's place in a piecemeal manner, without taking it over entirely. Although de Certeau is speaking of the specific practices of powerless people, such as the perruque, one of the general postmodern repercussions of the idea for art criticism and art theory is that a writer cannot occupy an objective position from which a work's meaning can be seen in full determinacy. A writer, in short, cannot have a strategy, but only fragmentary tactics which depend on time and the constant seizing of opportunities. In many respects, the notion provides an alternative theoretical justification for illustrement.

Postcolonial OV discourseov

Last Modified: 18 March, 2002