Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

There are No Schools of Thought: Steps Toward an Ecology of Practice

Allen Chun.

Those of us in the “social sciences” who take theory “seriously” have been taught to treat ideas as ideas. The history of theory is thus the history of ideas as they have evolved from or in contradistinction to other ideas. Some disciplines even have “classical” theory, a wellspring of concepts and frames of mind that have served to produce more contemporary ones. Theory may be seen as a special form of discourse in the sense that most authors appear to attach a certain degree of belief in the factual content of theory or theoretical explanation. At least, I do not know anyone who takes his theory seriously who would at the same time admit that it is a deliberate fiction or imagined narrative. On the contrary, I wish to argue that theories in the first instance are precisely that: imagined relations that are grounded in mindsets and experiences, which are socially and historically constituted. Moreover, I argue that these mindsets and experiences are unconsciously constituted in the context of changing institutions that have directly conditioned the subjectivity of theorists as agents. Academics in particular like to think that their writing is “free” from strictures that define its form or content. I think this is an illusion that has ramifications, most of all for “theory”.


Allen Chun  (Taiwan)
Research Fellow
Institute of Ethnology
Academia Sinica

Allen Chun's research interests include socio-cultural theory, national identity and (post)colonial formations. Most of his empirical work has dealt with Chinese speaking societies, comtemporary and late traditional and has written Unstructuring Chinese Society: The Fictions of Colonial Practice and the Changing Realities of 'Land' in the New Territories of Hong Kong, he has edited a special double issue in Cultural Studies 14(3-4)entitled "(Post)colonialism and Its Discontents" and co-edited a forthcoming book entitled Refashioning Pop Music in Asia: Cosmopolitan Flows, Political Tempos and Aesthetic Industries.

  • social theory
  • disciplines

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)