Cultivating disconcertment

Law, John and Lin, Wen-yuan (2010). Cultivating disconcertment. Sociological Review, 58(s2) pp. 135–153.



In this paper we explore a moment of intersection between ‘Western’ and Taiwanese social science knowledge that took place in a Taiwanese seminar in 2009. Our interest is post-colonial: we treat this as an encounter between dominant and subordinate knowledge systems, and follow Helen Verran by conceiving of the bodily disconcertment experienced by the participants as an expression of metaphysical difference. We then provide three contexts for that disconcertment: one, the post-1949 story of Taiwanese economic development; two, the syncretism of Taiwanese street Daoism; and three, the history of philosophy where we draw on contrasts between Western and Chinese traditions. We suggest that each of these contexts is embedded in and informs the disconcertment experienced in the exchange. We then argue that rendering the origins of this disconcertment discursively accountable is performative. Our conclusion is that the cultivation and articulation of disconcertment is a crucial tool for interrogating and moving beyond the metaphysics, the subjectivities, and the institutional organisational forms that together help to reproduce hegemonic Western knowledge traditions.

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