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  • Getting LostFeminist Efforts toward a Double(d) Science
  • Patti Lather (bio)

I chose my critics well. All of their comments are helpful. From Lenore Langsdorf, I get a clearer sense of what I did. From Rachel Falmagne, I get a sense of where I might go next in terms of questions that remain. And especially from Adele Clarke, perhaps most difficultly, I get a sense of what I might have done differently to make this book stronger.

What I Think I Did in the Book

Getting Lost is an experiment in and of method against the normative critical framework of much feminist methodology in order to ask: if it is what it does, in a nominalist vein, what then is feminist methodology? The answers the book puts forward include: effaced, abjected, uncertain, engaged, reflex-ive (perhaps to a fault), and deeply invested in a sustained ethical engagement with those we study, particularly those with less power, while troubling what Adele terms “confession, testimonial and the intrusiveness of much research.” Situated as an index of more general tensions in the human sciences, I focus on how feminist methodology engages with a problematic of loss in taking fuller account of the fall into language and the loss of pure presence.

The book’s sensibility is toward that which shakes any assured ontology of the “real,” of presence and absence, a post-critical logic of haunting and undecidables. In this, it is important to remember that my methodological musings collected in the book are grounded in Troubling the Angels: Women Living with HIV/AIDS,1 a study that preceded the “new” anti-retroviral treatments of the mid-1990s. Hence this was, in many senses, a study of living with dying. Not-knowing was not difficult in such a space and I felt keenly how not wanting to not know is a violence that subsumes the Other into the Same. Abstracting a philosophy of inquiry from an archive of such work set me up well to explore the enablements that might be imagined from loss. [End Page 222]

The genealogical period of Getting Lost, the questions that permeate it, its location in a political history of truth, is surely part of broader and deeper shifts in the doing of science, informed by arguments across a host of disciplines and interdisciplines, including my own position in educational research with its repositivization.2 Here many “qualitative researchers” are caught in paradigm wars we had dared to dream long over.

Getting Lost is informed also by the fieldwork of Troubling the Angels and the responsibility of being invited in to tell other people’s stories. Perhaps too clever by far in refusing to tell the “tidy tale” of these women’s struggles, I was in over my head. “This work is beyond me” was my mantra throughout the writing of Troubling the Angels.3

Part of this dizziness in writing Getting Lost was that it is of the future pluperfect tense of “what will have been said.”4 In one of the endless books on Nietzsche, I read of his “striking discovery” that in Sunrise and The Gay Science he may have “‘already provided the commentary [to Zarathustra]—before writing the text.’”5 Nietzsche viewed it as both a masterstroke and an act of folly on his part to compose the commentaries before the actual text. And so it was with the somewhat strange time of Getting Lost. Written before, during, and after Troubling the Angels, a sort of “folding forward” into a-book-that-was-not-yet inhabited the first text, Troubling the Angels. This strange time resulted in a poly-temporal dialogue across texts, time, and researching selves where I functioned as both author and (auto)critic of books that did not yet exist. Getting Lost, then, is a palimpsest where primary and secondary texts collapse into trace structures of one another that fold both backward and forward into books full of concealments and not knowings in an uncanny time of what “will always have already taken place.”

In sum, putting what Spivak terms an “identification crisis” around decol-onization front and center,6 Getting Lost situates feminist ethnography as a seismograph of cultural...


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pp. 222-230
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