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Intellectual Narratives

Theory, History and Self-Characterization of Social Margins in Public Writings

Alex Ching-Shing Chan

This book aims to study the intellectual lives of three Hong Kong intellectuals by narrating their lives as self-reflections on theories related to social margins. Drawing on insights from Paul Ricoeur, Hannah Arendt and Zygmunt Bauman, the author analyses their narratives through in-depth interviews. Their stories point to an interpretative understanding of the works they had cursorily read when creating their historical narrations of Hong Kong from the 1970s to 2003. These stories of individual intellectuals, together with their interpretations of what they have individually read about various western theories, challenge theoretical prescriptions of historical contingent events in their narration. Such narration unfolds self-characterizations of intellectuals the author interviewed, and represents a neglected social marginal which demands that immediate attention in the public through their intellectual writings.

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3. The Narrativist Turn and the Historical Constructionof Intellectual Self 37

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37 CHAPTER 3 The Narrativist Turn and the Historical Construction of Intellectual Self This chapter aims to question and criticize the dominant practices of scientifi c inquiries of history and to focus on my concern, namely the emergence of the intellectual self. Such inquiries distort, obfuscate and even stifl e the precise understanding of history. To recapitulate, Lewis and Sandra Hinchman concluded that narrativist approaches question the status of science as a rigorous establishment and then make science the highest form of knowledge. The kernel of science, episteme, which orig- inated from the purifi cation of thought for certainty, predictability and permanence in the Platonic tradition, has been and is challenged by uncer- tainty, contingency and refl ections on the course of change in history. I therefore challenge the following propositions about science: (1) science may be seen as the unquestionable progress of history and human life towards promises of happy endings; (2) science constrains the exploration of the historical possibilities of human actions and obstructs intellectual imaginaries; and (3) science avoids asking the question of whether his- torical contingency and uncertainty lead to tragic episodes in life. Such invocations of the tragic call upon intellectuals to fulfi l their duty to speak, write and act on behalf of the victims. Zygmunt Bauman’s life project of the ‘stranger’ in exploring the other(s) in history is thereby taken to reinvent the intellectual identity. This calling reveals an intellectual capturing, understanding and empathizing with the victims as other(s) and purporting...

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