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Cultural Studies: Identity and Representation
Michel de Certeau:
The Practice of Everyday Life
Buck Lee
November 27, 2001
To clarify the obscurity of the everyday life, in this general introduction of The Practice of Everyday Life Michel de Certeau emphasizes the particular status of ways of using or ways of operating in the social practice or "everyday practice." Ways of operating are necessary to be explicated in the process of representation as well as "consumption," a hidden production by its users.Besides, de Certeau analyzes and revises Foucault's concept of social practices in Disciplines and Punish and Bordieu's concept habitus as his preliminaries to the procedures of everyday creativity (or practices). Furthermore, de Certeau elaborates the scheme of "the relations between consumers and the mechanism of production" and distinguishes two uses of practices: strategy and tactics. 

I. Starting Points/ Preliminaries

II. Consumer Production

a.Usage, or Consumption

b. The Procedures of Everyday Creativity

c. The Marginality of a Majority

III. The Tactics of Practice

a. (Trajectories, Tactics, and Rhetorics)

b.(Reading, Talking, Dwelling, Cooking, etc ) 

 Starting Points/ Preliminaries

I. Michel de Certeau proposes that everyday practice is the "investigation of ways in which users operate," or "ways of operating," or doing things. (474)(Making Do)

A. de Certeau points out that everyday practice should not be concealed "as merely the obscure background of social activity," but it is necessary to "penetrate this obscurity" and to "articulate" everyday life.

B. This practice doesn't directly concern "individuality" or "the subjects," but it concerns "modes of operation or schemata of action" or precisely "an operational logic."

C. de Certeau states that the purpose of everyday practice is to "make explicit the system of operational combination, which also compose a 'culture,' and to bring to light the models of action characteristic of users whose status as the dominated element in society," or in disguise of the term 'consumer.' (474-5).

Consumer Production

II. Continuing with studies of popular culture or marginal groups, de Certeau further draws outpreliminary principles or determinations of the investigation of everyday practice.

(Usage, or Consumption)

A. With understanding of "the representation of a society" and "its mode of behavior," Michel de Certeau considers that everyday practice is possible and necessary to include the determined component "the use" of groups or individuals.

1. ex. "the analysis of the images" on television--"representation"
the analysis of "the time spent watching television--"behavior"

2. The action of "making" is considered as a 'hidden' production, or a poiesis, and as well as so-called "consumption, " corresponding to predominated systems of production. --"quasi-invisibility " (31) (note1

3. The consumption, which is "devious, dispersed and insinuates itself everywhere," with certain impositions of a dominant economic order, "does not manifest itself through its own products, but rather through its ways of using the products" (475).

4. ex: the Spanish colonizers and the Indians 

5. Again, de Certeau emphasizes that at first everyday practice is need to "analyze" the manipulation of the consumption by users.(476)

6. Furthermore, this practice of consumption is gauged by "the difference or similarity between the production of the image and the secondary production hidden in the process of its utilization" (476).

7. de Certeau points out four characteristics of speech act or speaking, which also could be found in many other modes of practice(476)(note 2)

a. "speaking operates within the field of a linguistic system"
b. speaking "affects an appropriation, or reappropriation, of language by its speaker"
c. speaking "establishes a present relative to a time and place."
d. speaking "posits a contract with the other in a network of places and relations."

8. The objective of these four characteristics "presumes that users make innumerable and infinitesimal transformations of and within the dominant cultural economy in order to adopt it to their own interests and their own rules," which de Certeau posits determinants of this "collective activity."

(The Procedures of Everyday Creativity)

B. Applying with Michel Foucault's analytical concept of "minuscule technical procedures" in the discursive space, the practice concerns: (476). Reference: "Focuault and Bourdieu"(Part II Theories of the Art of Practice) in The Practice of Everyday Life (45-60)

C. In order to convey "the formal structure of these practices," de Certeau points out two sorts ofinvestigations:(The Formal Structure of Practice)

1.The first sort of investigation, "descriptive in nature," concerns "certain ways of making" selected with "the value for the strategy of the  analysis" and with "a view obtaining fairly differentiated variants" (477)

a."to trace the intricate forms of the operations proper to the recomposition of a space by familial practices"
b. "to the tactics of the art of cooking which simultaneously organizes a network of relations, poetic ways of 'making do' and a re-use of marketing structure"

2. The second sort of investigation concerns "the scientific literature," allowing "the logic of unselfconscious thought" and includes three special interests: (477-8)

a. sociologist, anthropologist and historian¡Xtheory of practices, mixtures of rituals andmakeshifts, manipulations of spaces, operators of the networks.
b. the enthomethodological and socio-linguistic investigations¡Xthe procedures of everyday
interactions relative to struggles of expectation, negotiations and improvisation proper to ordinary language.
c. the analytical philosophy¡Xthe domains of action, time, modalization¡Korchestral combination of logical elements (temporalization, modalization, injunction, predicates of action)

(The Marginality of a Majority)

E. Action, time, and modalization, these three determinations makes possible an exploration of the cultural field, which is defined by an investigative problematics, seeking "to situate the types of operations:"(478)

--# consumption in the framework of an economy
--# to discern in these practices of appropriation indexes of the creativity 

1."Marginality is no longer limited to minority groups but is rather massive and pervasive," and becoming universal.Marginal group   becomes a silent majority (479).

2. "The procedures allowing the re-use of product are linked together in a kind of obligatory language, and their functioning is related to social relations and power relationships"(479).

3. "The necessity of differentiating both the 'actions' or 'engagements' that system of products effects within the consumer grid and the various kinds of room to maneuver left for consumers¡K¡¨

4. "The relation of procedures to the fields of force in which they act must therefore lead to a polemological analysis of culture"

a. culture articulates conflicts
b. culture legitimizes, displaces, or controls the superior force. 
c. culture develops in an atmosphere of tensions, and often of violence, for which provides symbolic balances, contracts of compatibility and compromises.

The Tactics of Practice

III. The scheme of the relations between consumers and the mechanisms of production has been diversified in relation to three kinds of concerns:(479)

# 1. the search for a problematic that could articulate the material collected
#2. the description of a limited number of practices considered to be particularly significant
#3. the extension of the analysis of these everyday operations to scientific fields¡K

(Trajectories, Tactics, and Rhetorics)

A."In the technocratically constructed, written, and functionalized space in which the consumers move about, their trajectories form into unforeseeable sentences, partly unreadable paths across a space."(479-80)

1.  "the trajectories trace out the ruses of the other interests and desires that are neither determined nor captured by the systems"(480).

2."Trajectory suggests a movement, but it also involves a plane projection¡Ka transcription, a graph is substituted for an operation¡¨(note3)

3.  Strategy is "the calculus of force-relationships¡Kwhen a subject of will and power can be isolated from an environment," and assuming "a place that can be circumscribed as proper and ¡Kserve as the basis for generating relations with an exterior distinct¡K "(480) (note4)

4.Tactic is "a calculus which cannot count on a proper, nor thus on a borderline distinguishing the other as a visible totality," rather insinuating itself into "the other's place." A tactic depends on time and "must constantly manipulate events in order to turn them into opportunities." (480) (note5)

a. Ex: the particular condition which the housewife confronting heterogeneous and mobile data in the supermarket (480-1)
b. Many everyday practices as well as ways of operating are tactical in character and "victories of the weak over the strong." (481)
c. "Tactics wander out of orbit, making consumer into immigrants in a system too vast to be their own, too tightly woven for them toescape from it," and also "show the extent to which intelligence is inseparable from the everyday struggles and pleasure¡K"

5."The discipline of rhetoric offers models for differentiating among the types of tactics."

a. the rhetoric describes "the turns or tropes of which language can be both the site and the object ; these manipulations are related to the ways of changing the will of another."
b. The rhetoric, the science of speaking, offers an array of figure-types for the analysis of everyday ways of acting.
c. The tactical and the strategic, two logics of action, raise from these two facets of practicing language.
d. In the space of language, a society makes more explicit the formal rules of action and the operations¡K 

(Reading, Talking, Dwelling, Cooking, etc ) 

B. With the exorbitant focus of contemporary culture and its consumption (such as reading), de Certeau mentions, our society is   characterized by vision. "Reading seems to constitute the maximal development of the passivity assumed to characterize the consumer, who is conceived of as a voyeur in a show-biz society "(482).

1. The condition of "cancerous growth of vision" becomes "a sort of epic of the eye and of the impulse to read" (482).

2. Consumers, forced and encouraged a "hyper-trophic development of reading," would "substitute" a general equivalent for consumption, binary set production, such as writing¡Xreading.(482) 

3. The activity of reading has all the characteristics of a silent production:
(Reading in a economy of writing)
a. "the drift across the page"
b."the metamorphosis of the text effected by the wandering eyes of the reader"
c. "the improvisation and expectation of meanings inferred from a few words, leaps over written spaces in an ephemeral dance"

4.. The activity of reading, with appropriating procedure, ruse, metaphor, is also "an invention of the memory," and "the readable transforms itself into the memorable"¡X"reading as a distinctive space of appropriation which is never reducible simply to what is read" (Ahearne 166-7)

5. Reading, the mutation of the text as the "habitable," "transforms another person's property into a space borrowed for a moment by a transient."

a. Ex: Readers like renters "make comparable changes in an apartment they furnish withtheir acts and memories"
b. Ex. Speakers "inserts both the messages of their native tongue, and through their accent, through their own 'turns of phrase,' their own   history.

6. Imposed by the generation of a productivist technocracy, the text is no longer "a referential book, but a whole society made into a book, into the writing of the anonymous law of production" (483).


1.de Certeau thinks that "the ways of using" is "invisible in the universe of codification and generalized transparency." 

Only the effect (the quantity and locus of the consumed products) of these waves that flow in everywhere remain perceptible. They  circulate without being seen, discernible only through the objects that they move about and erode. The practices of consumption are the ghosts of the society that carries their name. Like the "spirits" of the former times, they constitute the multiform and occult postulate of productive activity (35). 

2. In his essay "'Making Do': Uses and Tactics," Michel de Certeau further elaborates what he has mentioned in the introduction to The Practice of Everyday Life, and situates the act or everyday practice in relation to its circumstances, 
[C]ontexts of use draw attention to the traits that specify the act of speaking (or practiceof language) and are its effects.Enunciation furnishes a model of these characteristics, but they can also be discovered in the relation that other practices (walking, residing, etc) entertain with no-linguistic system. Enunciation presupposes:(1) a realization of the linguistic system through a speech act that actualizes some of its potential (language is real only in the act of speaking); (2) an appropriation of language by the speaker who uses it; (3) the postulation of an interlocutor (real or fictive) and thus the constitution of a relational contract or allocation (one speaks to someone); (4) the establishment of a present through the act of the "I" who speaks, and conjointly, since "the present is properly the source of time," the organization of a temporality (the present creates a before and an after) and existence of a "now" which is the presence to the world.(33)
3. Trajectory "was intended to suggest a temporal movement through space¡Kthe unity of a diachronic succession of points through which it passes, and not the figure that these points form on a space that is supposed to be synchronic or achronic"(35)

4. de Certeau notes three important effects which is correlated with the strategy:

(1) The "proper" is a triumph of place over time.It allows one to capitalize acquired advantages, to prepare future expansion, and thus to give oneself a certain independence with respect to the variability of circumstances.It is a mastery of time through the foundation of an autonomous place. 

(2) It is also a mastery of places through sight.The division of space makes possible a panoptic practice proceeding from a place whence the eye can transform foreign forces into objects that can be observed and measured, and thus control and "include" them within its scope of vision.To be able to see (far into the distance) is also to be able to predict, to run ahead of time by reading a space.

(3) It would be legitimate to define the power of knowledge by this ability to transform the uncertainties of history into readable spaces. But it would be more correct to recognize in these "strategies" a specific type of knowledge, one sustained and determined by the power to provide oneself with one's place.(36)

5. For the definition of "tactics," de Certeau explains:
A tactic is a calculated action, determined by the absence of a proper locus.No delimitation of an exteriority, then provides it with the condition necessary for autonomy. The space of a tactic is the space of the other.Thus it must play on and with a terrain imposed on it and organized by the law of a foreign power...(36-7)
Later on, de Certeau elaborates that:
Tactics are procedures that gain validity in relation to the pertinence they lend to time--to the circumstances which the precise instant of an intervention transforms into a favorable situation, to the rapidity of the movements that change the organization of a space, to the relations among successive moments in an action, to the possible intersections of durations and heterogeneous rhythms, etc.(38) 

Works Cited and Consulted Reference

Ahearne, Jeremy.Michel de Certeau: Interpretation and Its Other.Cambridge: Polity, 1995. 

de Certeau, Michel."The Practice of Everyday Life."Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader.Ed. John Storey.NY: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994.474-85.

---."General Introduction." The Practice of Everyday Life.Trans. Steven F. Rendail.Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.xi-xxiv. 

--."'Making Do':Uses and Tactics."The Practice of Everyday Life.Trans. Steven F. Rendail.Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.29-42.