Failure Is Always An Option: The Necessity, Promise & Peril Of Radical Contextualism

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Andrew Davis, Assistant Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:

Abstract: This essay pays tribute to Lawrence Grossberg and his influence through a consideration of radical contextualism – an analytical process that: (1) understands reality as contingently relational, complex, and always open to alteration; and (2) attempts to narratively represent the messiness and complexity of empirical reality as rigorously as possible (with an explicit recognition of the limits of our ability to do so). The piece opens by reflecting briefly on these principles with respect to the genre of intellectual tribute – that is, to contextualize what it means to talk about Larry and his work within the framework of the advisor/advisee relationship. How do you combine the care of engagement with the ethics of argumentation to make a statement that is as personal as it is intellectual? From there, I situate radical contextualism within Cultural Studies as both an ethical-intellectual commitment and an analytical practice. The goal here is to discuss both the positive and negative potential of this process. I end by reflecting on how Larry’s intellectual commitment to radical contextualism also works as a personal form of radical contextuality.

Additional Information

Andrew Davis (2019). Failure is always an option: the necessity, promise & peril of radical contextualism, Cultural Studies, 33:1, 46-56, DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2018.1544264. Publisher version of record available at:
Language: English
Date: 2019
Radical contextualism, conjunctural analysis, power, tribute, advisor/advisee relationship, cultural studies

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