Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Speculative Realism in the Humanities: My Essay in the LA Review of Books

“UNLESS YOU’VE been hiding under a rock, you know that saying things about rocks is now something humanists are allowing themselves to do with increasing frequency. After 60 or so years of talking about how you can’t talk (directly) about reality, only about how to access (or indeed how to access how to access) reality, humanities scholars are talking about rocks, and not just (human) representations of rocks either. Indeed, you might find some of them talking about rocks’ representations of humans.” --read on

Monday, July 27, 2015

CFP for graduate conference my place


You email

I'm helping the students organize this. Should be excellent with excellent food and drink and an amazing keynote.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

...and for My Next Trick

“Consider the case of milk. Greeks enjoy their fresh milk, produced locally and delivered quickly. But Dutch and other European milk producers would like to increase sales by having their milk, transported over long distances and far less fresh, appear to be just as fresh as the local product. In 2014 the troika forced Greece to drop the label “fresh” on its truly fresh milk and extend allowable shelf life. Now it is demanding the removal of the five-day shelf-life rule for pasteurized milk altogether. Under these conditions, large-scale producers believe they can trounce Greece’s small-scale producers.” --Joseph Stiglitz

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Queer Green Sex Toys: Another Dark Ecology Snip

...that's the title of an essay I'm writing for a religion journal, haha--but it's also part of my argument in Dark Ecology:

“In a sense, all toys are sex toys to the extent that they enable links between beings and between a being. The threatening corniness of James Cameron’s Avatar reaches a peak in the living devices that connect the Navi to the biospheric Internet, as when they plug their tails into the skulls of flying lizards. Is it anything other than needless to point out the eroticism? The erotic wiring together of beings suggests the wiring between a being: the ultimate gnosis in Avatar would be to plug the tail into oneself . . . In The Joy there is an excess of links between a being over links between different beings. Is it too ungrammatical to say between the same being? Between the being that is oneself, even between thinking and itself. Although cloning is chronologically prior to sex, perhaps sex is logically prior to cloning. We consider here certainly not a heteronormative sex, but sex for its own sake whose prototype is denigrated as narcissistic. Buddhist Tantra provides a template: ultimate reality is seen as emptiness (the radical inaccessibility of things) in sexual union with appearance (their shimmering givenness), different but the same.”

Friday, July 24, 2015

Now You Can Read My Dialogue with Björk

Thanks to Ashleigh Kane at Dazed and Confused magazine. We both decided it would be awesome to share the emails.

When you read them, you get to see sentences that intertwine a bit like tendrils, putting out little experimental shoots. It was incredibly easy to work together, because I think we're both attuners rather than demagogues.

What I mean by “attuners” is like what Heidegger says when he argues that listening is the basis of rhetoric. Listening, “quietness” is also the basis of music. Writing is a mode of reading. Improvisation is kinda like reading too, more than just splurging out any old thing, out of yourself and yourself alone. You are attending to the others playing with you.

Unafraid of making mistakes and being vulnerable in front of others.

Maybe the key word to sum all that up is wonderment, which is the basic philosophical tuning (Plato, Theaetetus) and, to me, the basic flavor of Björk's art.

Exploring the Excluded Middle zone between categorical statements and just doodling. Between saying a lemon pie is a lemon pie, and saying a lemon pie is the Pope. I think that's great because Björk likes to explore Excluded Middle zones in her writing too. She likes to show you the wiring under the board of an emotion, sort of like how Kristeva talks about the semiotic versus the thetic. I feel x versus Every day I walk towards the edge and throw little things off like car parts, bottles and cutlery...I imagine what my body would sound like, slammin against those rocks, and when it lands will my eyes be closed or open?

And erring on the lemon pie = Pope side of the equation, hahaha. It also doesn't hurt that we have the same whimsical slightly out-of-control sense of humor.

Two introverts growing little shoots in the undergrowth of wonderment...and preserving them for others. The more I think about it the more I think that was a really really good idea.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Another Dark Ecological Amuse-Bouche

Anatomy of ecognosis. Ecological awareness is like a chocolate with concentric layers. In the spirit of René Wellek I have mapped these layers in an absurdly New Critical way like some kind of cross between a Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master and Northrop Frye. Like Donna Haraway, I believe in the affective power of old-fashioned kitschy theory objects like the Greimasian logic square she dusts off. I’m calling ecological awareness a chocolate in part to provoke the standard reactions: chocolate, sugar, addiction, bad! And to blend that chocolate with ecology (saintly, good, just) in a perverse way.

Each descending layer of the chocolate is a more accurate attunement to the basic anxiety inherent in sentient attunement to things, itself a symptom of the inner inconsistency that marks existence (and coexistence). Machination ruins Earth and its lifeforms, yet it supplies the equipment necessary for human seeing at geotemporal scales sufficient for ecological awareness. We reach for the chocolate because we already attune to the anxiety provoked by this ironic loop of revealing. Something is wrong; our normal machinations (mental and physical) are interrupted or disturbed. We need a piece of chocolate. This is special chocolate, however, that doesn’t block anxiety. The basic mode of ecological awareness is anxiety, the feeling that things have lost their seemingly original significance, the feeling that something creepy is happening, close to home. Through anxiety reason itself begins to glimpse what indigenous—that is, pre-agricultural—societies have known all along: that humans coexist with a host of nonhumans. For reason itself reveals itself to be at least a little bit nonhuman. In turn, reason discovers global warming, the miasma for which humans are responsible. Through reason we find ourselves not floating blissfully in outer space, but caught like Jonah in the whale of a gigantic object, the biosphere. Such an object is not reducible to its members, nor its members to it; it is a set whose members are not strictly coterminous with itself.

How to Play Bass

...courtesy of Jeff Berlin.

Say "I'm not happy with the Anthropos of the Anthropocene" One More Time: More Dark Ecology

Fourthly, some of us are anxious that Anthropocene is hubristic, elevating the human species by assuming it has godlike powers to shape the planet. This is, on the face of it, infuriating—unfortunately not all humanists feel infuriated, trained as they are to suspect anything with “human” in it (in particular the Greek for man) and anything that seems like upstart straightforwardness, like using “we” in a lecture just because you think it might draw people together (wait a minute). But consider how it would sound as a rather eyebrow-raising defense. Say I caused a car accident that killed your parents and your best friend. In court, I argue that it would be hubristic to blame myself. It wasn't really me, it was my right arm, it was the bad part of my personality, it was my car. Eyebrow-raising, and perfectly isomorphic with one mode of reactionary global warming denial: how dare we assume that much power over Nature! Now imagine that I represent the human species in a court in which many lifeforms are deciding who caused global warming. Imagine the “hubris” defense: “It would be hubristic of me to take full responsibility—after all, it's mostly the fault of this bad aspect of me, it was just an accident, I wouldn't have done it if I'd been riding a bike rather then using an engine…”

The fact that humans really have become a geophysical force on a planetary scale doesn't seem to prevent the anxious spirits from accusing the term of hubris. Quibbling over terminology is a sad symptom of the extremes to which correlationism has been taken. Upwardly reducing things to effects of history or discourse or whatever has resulted in a fixation on labels, so that using Anthropocene means you haven't done the right kind of reducing. But what if you are not in the upward reduction business? Scientists would be perfectly happy to call the era Eustacia or Ramen, as long as we agreed it meant humans became a geological force on a planetary scale. Don't like the word Anthropocene? Fine. Don't like the idea that humans are a geophysical force? Not so fine. But the two are confused in critiques of “the anthropos of the Anthropocene.” Consider that the term deploys the concept species as something unconscious, never totally explicit. No one decided in 1790 to wreck the planet by emitting carbon dioxide and related gases. Moreover, what is called human is more like a clump or assemblage of things that are not strictly humans—without human DNA for instance—and things that are—things that do have human DNA. Humans did it, not jellyfish and not computers. But humans did it with the aid of beings that they treated as prostheses: nonhumans such as engines, factories, cows, and computers—let alone viral ideas about agricultural logistics living rent-free in minds. The reduction of lifeforms to prosthesis and the machination of agricultural logistics is hubristic, and tragedy (from which the term hubris derives) is at least the initial mode of ecological awareness. But this doesn't mean we are arrogant to think so.

Marx Brothers Upside Down: Another Dark Ecology Snip

But what if appearance were inextricable from essence? If such an entwining were thinkable, one could reverse the joke often cited by Slavoj Žižek. Žižek likes to point out how existing or being—or whatever that is—is strangely supplementary to appearing. The Marx Brothers joke serves well to point this out: Chicolini may look like an idiot and act like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you—he really is an idiot. But what if it were also possible to make the joke upside down? Chicolini may actually be an idiot, but don’t let that fool you—he looks like an idiot and acts like an idiot. If you think that is funny—and that the reversal is funny—you might be ready to allow for appearing to be looped with being in the way dark ecology wants it to be.

Why Aren't You Here Doing This?

Namely, at the Whitechapel Gallery (great gallery) looking at the Hollow Earth by Emilija Škarnulytė and Tanya Busse. It's got the Arctic, it's got drills, it's got crystals. It's got ecological violence. It's got the absence of propaganda. In short, it's got dark ecology. And it's incredibly beautifully made. Lapidary is a word that comes to mind. Geological. What on earth else could one wish for?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Here Comes a Dark Ecology Snippet about Capitalism

“Capitalist economics is also an anthropocentric practice that has no easy way to factor in the very things that ecological thought and politics require: nonhuman beings and unfamiliar timescales. Considering public policy at timescales sufficient to include global warming, economic theory tends to throw up its hands and say, “This doesn’t fit our science”—well duh. What is really meant here is “This doesn’t effect our interpretation of data given that, unlike a physicist, we are unwilling to notice that we may suffer from confirmation bias.” Or consider the argument within economics that depression about ecological issues is dangerous or absurd or impossible—how it can be all three without being a politicized pseudotarget eludes me, but the idea is again that “the science” doesn’t justify it: why on Earth would anyone want to impose a tax on goods entering or leaving the country unless one were some kind of “authoritarian” hostile to “free trade?” Such reasoning is deaf to the nonhumans whose inclusion in thought compels one to think about, for example, minimizing or changing one’s energy use, perhaps by taxing things that have to travel a long way. Psychology and economics, “sciences” closest to humans, are, not surprisingly, deeply anthropocentric and unwilling to consider that they may be caught in hermeneutical loops.”

More Peeks at Dark Ecology

“There are some substitutes for the term Anthropocene. For instance, I have been advised to call it Homogenocene. But this is just a euphemism. Homogenocene is true: humans have stamped their impression on things they consider as ductile as wax, even if those things cry. Yet, in a more urgent sense, the concept is false and anthropocentric. The iron deposits in Earth’s crust made by bacteria are also homogeneous. Oxygen, caused by an unintended consequence of bacterial respiration, is a homogeneous part of the air. Humans are not the only homogenizers. Likewise, Latour’s suggestion that we call it the Capitalocene misses the mark. Capital and capitalism are symptoms of the problem, not its direct causes. If the cause were capitalism, then Soviet and Chinese carbon emissions would have added nothing to global warming. Even the champion of distributed agency balks at calling a distributed spade a distributed spade.”

Are You a Witch?

I hope you are. If you are, then you're going to enjoy Dark Ecology. A lot.

My New Idea

A new idea a day keeps the doctor away!

This is a beginning exploration from Dark Ecology:

“The holism in which the whole is greater than sum of its parts depends on some (false) concept of smooth, homogeneous universality or space or infinity. It depends, in short, on a Euclidean anthropocentric geometry. Since they do not fit into the quaint category of space, what hyperobjects reveal to us humans is that the whole is always weirdly less than the sum of its parts. Take the new cities springing up, megacities such as Houston. For architects and urban planners, megacities are hard to conceptualize: where do they start and stop? Can one even point to them in a straightforward way? And isn’t it strange that entities so obviously gigantic and so colossally influential on their surroundings and economies worldwide should be so hard to point to? The fact that we can’t point to megacities is deeply because we’ve been looking in the wrong place for wholes. We keep wondering when the pieces will add up to something much greater. But now that we are truly aware of the global (as in global warming), we know that a megacity is a place among places, that is to say a finitude that contains all kinds of other finitudes, fragile and contingent. Like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, it's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Places contain multitudes.”

Tilting and Dragging

“Labour could have tilted to the center, but in fact they are being dragged to the left.” Said on the BBC radio 4 Today show this morning.

If you aren't sure this is biased imagine changing the verbs:

“Labour could have been dragged to the center, but in fact they are tilting to the left.”

This together with four uses of the adjective “hard” to describe “left.”

In the early 80s “hard” would be next to “right,” just a couple of years into Thatcherism.

Austerity would easily have been seen as hard right.

Total 180 of BBC opinion/propaganda in my lifetime.