Emile Durkheim: the narrative of a liminal subject

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Flannery, Sophia
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University College Cork
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Since 1939, Anglo-American biographers have presented a non-political narrative of Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) that has rendered subordinate the political assessments of Edward Tiryakian (1979) and Robert Alun Jones (1986). This is despite evidence existing that corroborates these latter researchers understanding. To elucidate the circumstances behind this disparity this thesis examines these biographies to discover if they display an engagement with rhetorical literary practices. This is to consider if these have caused them to make discursive statements that preclude the valuations of Tiryakian and Alun Jones in the same location from being given full recognition with the effect they limit knowledge formation around Durkheim’s identity. Additionally, it is to explore the situation whereby Tiryakian’s particular offering triggered Durkheim’s identity and this narrative to incur a state of liminality (Van Gennep, Turner) while more modern western biographies on Durkheim activated these to experience a state of permanent liminality (Szakolczai, 2009). To support these efforts, the concepts of liminality and permanent liminality are employed as a conceptual framework while Marie-Laure Ryan’s (2007) view of narrative and Judith Butler’s (1997) understanding of textual silences in conjunction with Foucault’s archaeological method and Derrida’s Theory of Deconstruction are utilised as an analytical framework. The objective is to locate points of agreement within Anglo-American biographies on Durkheim that can be analysed to confirm if the statements they make are exclusionary in form. To additionally enable this process these statements are analysed against others presented by more historically directed researchers. The intent is to unveil points of reference within these texts that connect Durkheim with French politics between 1858 and 1917. To broaden this research scope even further an examination of the level of reflexivity (Bourdieu) that underlies the above situations occurs. The aim is to affirm which of the above interpretations of Durkheim holds legitimacy in the contemporary context (Van Leeuwen, 2007). Moreover, it is to establish if beyond the observations of Tiryakian and Alun Jones, the information that biographies on Durkheim present has the capacity to confirm Durkheim as political in the republican sense and a ‘subject’ (Foucault) of the French Third Republic.
Narrative , Rhetoric , Archaeological method , Deconstruction , Legitimacy , Subject , Liminality/permanent liminality
Flannery, S. C. J. 2021. Emile Durkheim: the narrative of a liminal subject. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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