SammendragThe main theme of this article is the controversial relation between phenomenology, agency and social constructivism (including some forms of poststructuralism) within the disciplines of cultural studies and cultural history. Whereas some researchers are of the opinion that phenomenology and constructivism are incompatible positions, the article puts forward the argument that these theoretical traditions do not necessarily exclude each other. It is also argues in favour of the thesis that Edmund Husserl's phenomenology and Michel Foucault's theories of discourse and power/knowledge share a general theory of constitution. Since constitution is the central theme of phenomenology, Foucault can be said to be some kind of 'phenomenologist'.
The article also provides an analysis of why the principles of subjectivity and intentionality are of so paramount importance to social and cultural sciences. The actor's understanding of the situation is the difference that really makes a difference compared to 'external' explanations. It is argued, though, that the methodological approaches of phenomenology - epoché and phenomenological reduction - are not very helpful for empirical research, even if the critical motive of epoché is highly relevant. The article is also highly critical of phenomenology's move towards essentialism.
The 'lifeworld' is obviously an important concept in recent ethnological research. But the Husserlian approach to the lifeworld was never meant to be empirical ethnology. It should rather uncover the essential structures of the lifeworld, and not its contingent and variable features. Even though the author is critical of certain arguments and claims in classical phenomenology, he still argues that certain phenomenological motives are of lasting value in cultural studies.
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