WORDS AN’ THINGS

Just as there are no words with determinate meanings lying in wait as so many candidates for an appropriate representational moment, neither are there things with determinate boundaries and properties whirling aimlessly in the void, bereft of agency, historicity, or meaning, which are only to be bestowed from the outside, as when the agency of Man pronounces the name that attaches to specific beings in the making of word-thing pairs. “Things” don’t preexist; they are agentially enacted and become determinately bounded and propertied within phenomena. Outside of particular agential intra-actions, “words” and “things” are indeterminate. Matter is therefore not to be understood as a property of things but, like discursive practices, must be understood in more dynamic and productive terms-in terms of intra-activity.

Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning.

I WANT MY SKIN TO BREATHE

NB what follows is (compressed further) from An Excerpt of Bayo Akomolafe’s, These Wilds Beyond our Fences: Letters to my Daughter on Humanity’s Search for Home.

The issue of race is a vexing thing, escaping full articulation. In a time of tearful losses and oppression suffered because one is not the “right” color, much rides on the particular ways and particular thoughts we employ to think about blackness. Continue reading “I WANT MY SKIN TO BREATHE”

TAKING MATTER SERIOUSLY

It is hard to deny that the power of language has been substantial. One might argue that it has been too substantial, or perhaps more to the point, too substantializing. Neither an exaggerated faith in the power of language nor the expressed apprehension that language is being granted too much power is a novel feature of the late twentieth century and the early twentyfirst. For example, during the nineteenth century, Nietzsche warned against the mistaken tendency to take grammar too seriously: allowing linguistic structure to shape or determine our understanding of the world, believing that the subject-and-predicate structure of language reflects a prior ontological reality of substance and attribute. The belief that grammatical categories reflect the underlying structure of the world is a continuing seductive habit of mind worth questioning. Continue reading “TAKING MATTER SERIOUSLY”

THE CONSPIRACY MYTH

After two months of obsessively searching for one, I have not yet found a satisfactory narrative that can account for every data point. That doesn’t mean to take no action because after all, knowledge is never certain. But in the whirlwind of competing narratives and the disjoint mythologies beneath them, we can look for action that makes sense no matter which side is right. We can look for truths that the smoke and clamor of the battle obscures. We can question assumptions both sides take for granted, and ask questions neither side is asking. Not identified with either side, we can gather knowledge from both. Generalizing to society, by bringing in all the voices, including the marginalized ones, we can build a broader social consensus and begin to heal the polarization that is rending and paralyzing our society.

Charles Eisenstein, The Conspiracy Myth.
Read the whole essay here.

BAUDOLINO

God is Unique, and he is so perfect that he does not resemble any of the things that exist or any of the things that do not; you cannot describe him using your human intelligence, as if he were someone who becomes angry if you are bad or who worries about you out of goodness, someone who has a mouth, ears, face, wings, or that is spirit, father, or son, not even of himself.  Of the Unique you cannot say he is or is not, he embraces all but is nothing; you can name him only through dissimilarity, because it is futile to call him Goodness, Beauty, Wisdom, Amiability, Power, Justice, it would be like calling him Bear, Panther, Serpent, Dragon, or Gryphon, because whatever you say of him you will never express him.  God is not body, is not figure, is not form; he does not have quantity, quality, weight, or lightness; he does not see, does not hear, does not know disorder and perturbation; he is not soul, intelligence, imagination, opinion, thought, word, number, order, size; he is not equality and is not inequality, is not time and is not eternity; he is a will without purpose.  Try to understand: God is a lamp without flame, a flame without fire, a fire without heat, a dark light, a silent rumble, a blind flash, a luminous soot, a ray of his own darkness, a circle that expands concentrating on its own centre, a solitary multiplicity; he is… is…

Umberto Eco, Baudolino.

THE CORONATION

The Gift of Loss | Charles Eisenstein

For years, normality has been stretched nearly to its breaking point, a rope pulled tighter and tighter, waiting for a nip of the black swan’s beak to snap it in two. Now that the rope has snapped, do we tie its ends back together, or shall we undo its dangling braids still further, to see what we might weave from them?

Charles Eisenstein, The Coronation.
Listen to/or read the full essay Here.

HUGGING MONSTERS

The anthropocentrism that looks out on the world and says “we did this!” – including the more tolerable kind that looks out on the so-called Anthropocene and sadly mutters “we did this” – denies the significance of the other-than human in the world’s emergence.  The closer we look, the more we find that we never act alone: every small gesture is a generation of the collective.  Every small gesture is already cooked in a cauldron of many spoons, stirred by things whose names we can pronounce, and other things that are not quite nameable.  Every small gesture is already a compost heap of a million critters.  The “human” is a carnival of nonhuman doings; it is, to use Karen Barad’s term, a posthumanist performativity that shapes the world, allocates agency, and troubles boundaries.  Like dust.

We are fundamentally porous and promiscuous.  This is the world we live in – a carnival of the unexpected, of the irregular, the grotesque, or monstrous bodies – where the hard and cold lines that distinguish you from me, us from trees, trees from economics, and economics from whale shit are blurry, leaky and wet.  our own bodies are populated by trillions of other bacterial cells in their own becomings, but these cells do not live “on” you, or with you, or through you.  They are you: they are necessary to your body’s ongoing survival.  You couldn’t be human without these alien entanglements that breach the fences between you and your environment.  These overlapping bodies, pressed together in this strange material world characterised by a “horrifying kind of intimacy,” make it impossible to make a once-and-for-all cut between where I stop and where you begin, or where life stops and death triumphs, or where matter gallops forward and mind allegedly tugs on the reins.  It is in this sense we are monsters.  We are one and many.  You are only yourself through others.

Is this a way of easing oneself out of responsibility for, say, the impact of industrial activity on climate and environmental well-being? No, it is a way of deepening it – because to so summarily assign blame and pin an entire upholstery of multiple events to a single factor, or an essential substrate working behind the scenes, is to further distance ourselves from the world’s happenings and – intentions notwithstanding – reduce the world to separable parts where our technological mastery is its main driver.  It is to strip matter of its own desire, will, intention, and movement so that it doesn’t present an impediment to our concerns.

Bayo Akomolafe, These Wilds Beyond Our Fences.

POSTACTIVISM

Image result for Bayo Akomolafe

The world that the climate activist hopes to save kills him. Dismantles him. Tears him apart. Diffracts him so that what was once quintessential is now spread abroad. Things fall apart and the centre cannot hold.

Instead of an independent agent – the vaunted unit of social change whose intentions and motivations and exhaustions are the engine room of world change – surrounded by the paraphernalia of her vocation, we must now turn our attention to the whole assemblage and what this organization of bodies is doing. The climate activist is no longer the human separate from the furniture of activism, but the ‘human’ and the materials: the computer screens, the concepts, the classifications, the categories of thought, and the city in its subjectivizing effects. As such, the classical self is decentred as the focus of our attention and prayers; social change is not predicated on the unilateral moves of the human self, but on assemblages breaking through (deterritorializing and reterritorializing) other assemblages. Continue reading “POSTACTIVISM”