Speaking from Elsewhere

A New Contextualist Perspective on Meaning, Identity, and Discursive Agency

By José Medina

Subjects: Critical Theory
Paperback : 9780791469163, 246 pages, June 2007
Hardcover : 9780791469156, 246 pages, October 2006

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Table of contents

1. Contextualizing Meaning

1. 1 The Indeterminacy of Meaning: “Unnatural Doubts” and “Theoretical Diagnosis”
1. 2 Wittgenstein as a Theoretical Diagnostician: Overcoming the Temptations of Reification and Decontextualization
1. 3 Contextual Determinacy: Wittgenstein and Dewey on Meaning and Agreement
1. 4 Meaning in Context: Semantic Stability and Semantic Change
1. 5 Sustaining Agreement in Action: Normalcy and Eccentricity
1. 6 A View from Elsewhere

2. Contextualizing Identity

2. 1 The Hegelian Connection: Identity, Difference, and Polyphony
2. 1.a The Dialectics of Recognition
2. 1.b To Be and Not to Be: This Mess Called My Identity
2. 2 The Flourishing of Voices and Their Domestication

3. Contextualizing Agency

3. 1 Fighting Philosophical Myths about Discursive Agency
3. 2 On Having a Voice: Uncontrollability, Polyphony, and a Hybrid View of Agency and Responsibility
3. 3 The Scandal of Our Agency: Agency without Sovereignty and the Possibility of Transgression

4. Speaking from Elsewhere: Silence, Exclusion, and Marginality

4. 1 Contextualism and the Hermeneutics of Silence
4. 2 Making Sense of Radical Silences and Exclusions: A Polyphonic Perspective
4. 3 Spaces of Intelligibility and Marginality
4. 4 Speaking from the Margins


Develops a contextualist view of identity, agency, and discursive practices.


In Speaking from Elsewhere, author JoseΠMedina argues for the critical and transformative power of speech from marginalized locations by articulating a contextualist view of meaning, identity, and agency. This contextualism draws from different philosophical traditions (Wittgenstein, pragmatism, and feminist theory) and crosses disciplinary boundaries (philosophy, cultural studies, women's studies, and sociology) to underscore both the diversity of voices and viewpoints and the openness of discursive contexts and practices. Expressing a robust notion of discursive responsibility, Medina contends that, as speakers and members of linguistic communities, we cannot elude the obligation to open up discursive spaces for new voices and to facilitate new dialogues that break silences and empower marginalized voices.

José Medina is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and the author of The Unity of Wittgenstein's Philosophy: Necessity, Intelligibility, and Normativity, also published by SUNY Press, and Language: Key Concepts in Philosophy, and the coeditor (with David Wood) of Truth: Engagements Across Philosophical Traditions.