Your paper engages key issues in the debate regarding questions of agency and advocacy in our postmodern cultural context. There are, it must be added, very few ways out of the ‘dilemma’ of textuality, interpolated human subjects and their consequences. The option you choose—to believe our myths for the purposes of a greater good (i.e., the empowerment of civil society, placing the world in the custodianship of researcher/activists and subverting both centralized power and globalization)—is probably a feasible resolution to a philosophical impasse. In our context of such desperate short-term measures, we do indeed need ways ‘out of’ a resigned discursivity that simply accedes to the demands and configurations of the panopticon we clearly inhabit.
I must add, though, that you are far more optimistic than I am about the potential of participant observation. I fear that the notion of broad alliances (such as the euphoric model of anti-globalization that dominated the WSSD ‘resistance’) perpetuates a philosophical fuzziness that both Foucault and Habermas would have opposed. If agency is nothing more than acknowledging that ‘objectivity’ is dead, and then carrying on regardless, one wonders about the blurred boundary between subversion, self-interest and play. For there are old-fashioned questions about the assumption that one can extricate oneself from a knowledge system sufficiently to characterize it and then act as though one has achieved a measure of ironic distance from its centripetal pull. I suspect that knowledge systems are more tenacious, more far-reaching and far less easily discerned than your argument assumes. We are dragged towards conformity and compliance in far more subtle ways than this, I fear.
This aside, though, your argument is interesting and well argued. Has anyone suggested, though, that the TAC is really a virtual organization, a public myth that has been intelligently and carefully contrived with very significant effects? Perhaps it is a true example of postmodern politics and advocacy in ways you do not discuss in that, in some fundamental way, it does not (actually) exist except as a loose group of ideological affiliates. I would be interested to hear your observations on this matter.
All the best