Wednesday, July 08, 2020

The illusion of an inclusive "we" in the Harper's letter

The Harper's "Letter on Justice and Open Debate" begins with what is presumably intended to be an inclusive "we": "Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial." This "we" includes whoever it's addressed to: "you (the addressee), I (the speaker), and others". It thus urges others to defend "cultural institutions" from those who threaten them. But that makes this "we" not inclusive but exclusive: it may include addressees who identify with those institutions, but it excludes those who do not as "threats". The figure of "trial" confirms the opposition established by that opening phrase while also turning challenges to the letter into confirmation of the danger of such anti-institutional threats. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 8 July)


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