2. Dialogue and the dialogic


To account for the symbolic juxtaposition of the various logics of the cultural element with the logics of the ethnographic element, I turn to the notions of “dialogue” and “the dialogic”[4]. By “dialogue” I mean “a juxtaposition of logics.” Thus defined, dialogue differs radically from conversation. As a result of this definition, conversation may be considered as a particular kind of dialogue, a verbal juxtaposition of the logics of two or more interlocutors. Conversation is a dialogue that takes place at a specific time and space, among specific individuals and involves a specific text --the object of the verbal exchange. On the other hand, dialogue in its general sense is neither defined nor bound by any concrete and definite expression of the dialogical element as in a conversational relation. It constitutes both the symbolic possibility and the symbolic manifestation of a subjectivity’s encounter with the temporality and spatiality of any juxtaposition resulting to the unification of various logics and, eventually, realities.


The notion of dialogue helps to define the symbolic coexistence and interaction of diverse experiences and communications as hybrid expressions of subjectivity. The subjective element in dialogue is of great significance for an understanding of its dynamics. By “subjective” I do not mean “the qualities or attributes pertaining to the subjects of either a conversation or the referential dimension of dialogue itself.” Rather, it is the perception of the dialogical perspective that defines the subjectivity of dialogue. In other words, it is the subjectivity of the person who gives (or finds in) a dialogue its dialogical quality, and not the subjectivities of the characters engaged in the dialogical exchange. Dialogical subjectivity is essential to understanding the juxtaposition of temporality and spatiality as multiple realities. In this vein of thought, dialogue is less a conversation than a narrative, in the sense that it unfolds through the subjectivity of the perception of the author (of the dialogical narrative) and emerges as a symbolic modality that helps to bridge the generic gap between conversation and narrative. A narrative may be multi-logical, that is dia-logical, whether it contains conversational elements or not. Moreover, the chronotopic universe of a dialogical narrative is always a heterogeneous reality, as opposed to the actual homogeneity of any real or imagined conversation.


My purpose of inquiring into the usages of dialogue is to explore the dynamics of the dialogic in particular cultures and then discuss the possibility of addressing a dialogical ethnography as an emergent form of writing about culture –emergent, in the sense of it being the product of transformation of a juxtaposed collage of cultural dialogics. My approach to “dialogue” and “the dialogic” concerns logos in its double capacity as a symbolic modality. Logos is both the vehicle for the expression of a reality and reality itself. This perspective applies to the logos of both culture and ethnography, as well as to the logos of their symbolic juxtaposition. Since language is a particular manifestation of logos, anything argued about logos applies also to language. Language is a significant kind of logos, but there is more to logos as symbolic modality than what language can account for. With this distinction in mind, it is no doubt important to inquire into the vast literature on the symbolic aspects of language use to locate theoretical arguments and methodological reflections that could be useful in view of our discussion on dialogue and the dialogic. Two such approaches stand out as important for what is being endeavored here: a) Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of “dialogism” [5] and b) a whole set of hybrid fusions of various anthropological perspectives concerning the status of language both in culture and ethnography. In the latter case, epistemological, ontological and ethical issues have emerged in regards with the dynamics of language as culture and the dynamics of language as ethnography. One particular instance of such a systematic consideration of language in the context of cultural and ethnographic dialogue is “dialogical anthropology” [6].

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