The Monologic Imagination: A workshop organised by Monash University and ANU

 Where?   Boardroom, Level 1 Monash University Law Chambers, 555 Lonsdale Street,

When?    August 8, 2014, 09:00-17:00

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 Keynote speaker:  Professor Greg Urban (University of Pennsylvania)

Participants: Professor Alan Rumsey (ANU), Dr Matt Tomlinson (ANU), Dr Zane Goebel (Latrobe), Dr Philip Fountain (NUS), Dr Tammy Kohn (University of Melbourne), Dr Howie Manns (Monash), Dr James Barry (Deakin), Dr Julian Milie (Monash), Sherman Tan (ANU)


Bakhtin’s writings on dialogism have profoundly influenced anthropology during the past three decades, reorienting theory and ethnography in productive ways. Yet many scholars have neglected his related discussions of monologue. Bakhtin suggested that monologic projects gained force especially during the Enlightenment, when nationalist projects aimed to
unify all meaningful elements in “one consciousness” represented by “one accent.” Although in Bakhtinian terms pure monologue is impossible (except, he noted, for Adam speaking in Eden), many religious and political speakers do attempt to harness discourse’s “centripetal force,” its “unifying, centralizing” tendencies which counterpose the “centrifugal force” of stratification and decentralization. In doing so, such speakers present their utterances as single-authored, single-voiced, and context-transcendent statements which preclude meaningful response. In short, they present their utterances as monologues. The papers in this workshop pose the questions of how anthropologists should study monologues, how audiences do or do not replicate them or attempt to turn them into new dialogues, and what the political implications are of such projects’ success or failure.

This panel investigates “the monologic imagination” in case studies of diverse mediating forms from a wide range of cultural contexts. Papers include analyses of: how the Singapore government attempts (perhaps in a futile way) to use monologic strategies of textual production and ideological dissemination by emphasizing the dialogism of
political discussion in the public sphere; how the Fijian government draws on different aspects of monologue in its coercive efforts to draw up a “Peoples Charter” legitimating its rule; prophecy as a form of divine monologue based on “internalized alterity” for American evangelical Christians; public displays of unanimous agreement in Algerian theater; the effect of cross-sex co-presence on interpretation of gender-specific norms by Islamic preachers in west Java, Indonesia; and the relationship between monologism and dialogism in sung narratives in Highland Papua New Guinea. Taken together, these contributions address diverse but related topics including: monologue and ideologies of immediation; how contexts of performance shape expectations of what counts as monologue; relationships between monologue and censorship; the mechanics of monological design, including pronominal strategies of authoritative speaking; monologue as a fantasy of pure entextualization; and the possibilities of monological discourse in a heavily mediated