This roundtable is about “Theories of mediation in intercultural contact.” In my contribution, I am not going to offer an eighteenth-century “theory of mediation” or of “intercultural contact,” but rather an eighteenth-century reframing of the problematics that the notions of “mediation” and of “culture” imply. In brief, I’m going to sketch out an eighteenth-century way of thinking about contact—not as a moment of mediation but rather as an alternative to “mediation”; and not as a medium of interculturalism but rather as an alternative to “culture.”
I hope that will seem a little silly: after all, “contact” performs none of the mediating work of “culture” (which is what separates modern people from what we call “nature,” and in its plural form, cultures, separates our kind of people from other kinds). Still less does “contact” perform the cultural work of “mediation” (which is how modern people generate difference in general). But that is why “contact” matters: not because it lets us mediate intercultural difference, but rather because it makes that sort of difference unintelligible. In the eighteenth-century story I am going to tell, “contact” provides an ethically valuable alternative to “mediation” and “culture” by insisting on im-mediacy, by refusing to admit the ontological priority of mediation itself.
What I hope to suggest, in short, is that “contact” is the touchstone of a particular kind of eighteenth-century ecology—ecology for Yahoos.
Neil Chudgar. "Yahoo Ecology" American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Vancouver, B.C.. Mar. 2011.
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