argot and the justification of prestige

In archtiectural theory (as in any professional field) there exists a specialized vocabulary: incomprehensible to the uninitiated. Jeff Kipnis berated our theory class for using words like “deconstruction” without completely understanding their meaning. His justification seemed to be that the use of an argot implies membership of a certain group, and that misuse of terminology devaules both the speaker’s imagined cachet and the pretige of the group in question. Where proper usage has a territorializing/stabilizing effect on the group identity and legitimacy, misuse has a deterritorializing/destabilizing effect.

While I don’t doubt that this occurs, viewed objectively, in order for an individual to gain access to the argot of a specialized group, they must misuse words before using them properly, gradually gaining insights into meaning, gradually refining their subjective definition of the term. In “1000 Plateaus,” Deleuze & Guattari seem to be purposefully engaged in this process, establishing much of their vocabulary solely through contextual clues, never explicitly defining terms, and in fact using one context to destabilize the meaning established in another. This anexact vocabulary allows subtle fluxuations in meaning, and gives the work a linguistic depth not possible with explicit definitions.

I don’t claim to be an expert, but I wholeheartedly believe that if one is to become an expert in any field it is neccessary to “fake it before you make it” – and in my case this means blogging about topics I barely understand, using vocabulary I haven’t quite got pinned down – using this platform as a kind of scientific experiment, hoping to learn more from failures than successes.

[Edit: of course, the use of the word “argot” to refer to architectural theory reveals my own slight distrust of the discourse. To label archispeak this way – as the slang of vagabonds and theives – may be my own pitiful attempt to devaule that which I don’t understand. Everything becomes a little clearer when you realize that every choice, every action is political. Tracing biases becomes more important than agreement or argument.]

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