The unstated

Johnson, Laurie (2006) The unstated. In: UnAustralia: Cultural Studies Association of Australasia Annual Conference, 6-8 Dec 2006, Canberra, Australia.


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To say that the phrase ‘X is unaustralian’ is an unethical statement would seem to be stating the obvious. Yet we must delve beyond the obvious nature of this observation by examining whether an ethical framework could indeed accommodate this phrase. With reference to the work of Emmanuel Levinas and others, this paper will argue in the first instance that the epithet ‘unaustralian’ is indeed an unethical attribution since it denies the subject of the phrase any possibility of entering into a responsive relation with the speaker. In the second instance, however, I will go further to argue that not only is this an unethical statement, ‘X is unaustralian’ is in fact no kind of statement at all: it is an unstatement. Levinas’s distinction between the time of the Saying and the time of the Said enables us to show that the phrase ‘X is unaustralian’ forecloses on the possibility of respondence by consigning the subject of the statement to the category of the Said, but the word ‘unaustralian’ remains sufficient only so long as it renders its universe of possible meanings concealed: its plenitude inheres in that which must be left unsaid. In a Levinasian sense, then, the word ‘unaustralian’ will always be untimely, belonging neither to the time of the Saying nor to the time of the Said, and relegates its speaker to a space outside any possible ethical relation but also, I suggest, to the realm of the unintelligible: the unstated.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: No evidence of copyright restrictions.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Arts - Department of Humanities and International Studies
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 00:49
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 22:39
Uncontrolled Keywords: unaustralian, language, Levinas, Australia, Australian, discourse, rhetoric, ethics, politics
Fields of Research : 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200204 Cultural Theory
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220305 Ethical Theory
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220313 Philosophy of Language

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