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Arts of the Contact Zone: Towards Day 10 (Thurs, 2/19/15)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping

okay! so do you want to visit someone else’s site by Friday @ midnight,
and post about this?? (is this premature?
visit your own site once more before we do this?
if not: how to structure it??)

Leaves of Grass symposium on Sunday @ Haverford,
w/ mid-day keynote by Michael Maniates, whose essay on
"Teaching for Turbulence" we read and discussed...

also two-week visit from Friends in Residence Spee and Jens Braun

for class on Tuesday, read to p. 83 of Amitah Ghosh’s novel, The Hungry Tide
(first ½ of Part I; for starters, compare the story told by the map
@ the front of the book, and the story in the first two chapters…)

we'll read about 1/4 of the book for each of the next four classes;
this will take us up to spring break. Your second web-event
is due in two weeks (plus), before you leave on Friday, March 6:
same length as the last one, but with a much more open prompt,
to reflect on the movement you've made, in this second section
of the course, into the world beyond yourself. 

In the first section of the course, I was asking you to think about
what difference identity makes in our reaction to the environment:
how our particular raced/classed/gendered/cultured positions
affect our relationship to the natural world. In your first web-event,
I asked you  to think about how you might teach these ideas to
some particularly raced/classed/gendered/cultured group of students.

In this second section of the course, I've been trying turn this around,
actually to explode the whole notion of a discrete identity,
to replace a raced/classed/gendered self who encounters the world,
with a much less binary, much more entangled sense of
co-shaping intra-actions, in which "we make each other up."
So: what can you do/where can you go with these ideas?

You might write in response to Coetzee, Haraway, Ghosh;
you might analyze their texts; you might place yourself in them,
as a character, or commentor, or co-conspiritor. You might
get them talking with one another (Haraway uses Smuts to
her own ends; how might they/others push back against one another?)
You might place them in conversation with current events.
I'm not requiring writing conferences, as I did for the last paper;
I'm also happy to schedule them if you'd like.

As warm-up, by Monday @ midnight, do another webby post;
this can go backwards (further reflections on Haraway),
forwards (recording your initial reactions to The Hungry Tide),
or linking the two, or linking to work elsewhere, or to related experiences.
Whichever: link to one another!

The shape of our webby posts (show these) mirrors Darwin's "tree"--
branching, linear, enforcing attention to "filiation"; as Liz noted,
preventing "divergent thinking" and "free lines of thought...."--
as well as re-connecting, affilitating among the branches...

II. Tell Nkechi, Amala, Marian, Ariel what they missed on Tuesday...
1) exercise of greeting--really encountering--one another;
2) talking through the "four wounds" to our self-certain, narcisstic selves;
3) and exploring 3 metaphors for how knowledge might be constructed:
as "turtles all the way down" (fundamentalist, linear),
as trees (branching, emergent),
as rhizomes (open to nonhierarchical becomings, alliances, contagions…).

III. Let's back up and talk about the form Haraway's argument takes:
re-start today with questions of language and audience,
with excerpts from your webby posts:

Tosin: She throws around so many ideas and stories, it's difficult to keep track of it all. [why do this?]

Caleb: ironic that focusing on intimate everyday exchange is entangled here in pretty dense academic language [why is this ironic? because such language shuts you out??]

Abby: Despite her obfuscation, I certainly felt implicated…things are complicated and connected… who is she addressing that seems unaware of this fact?... I still don’t understand what she wants…. it doesn't take much to begin to imagine that 'the Great Divide' is an illusion… we demonstrate selective attention on a day-to-day basis…for a reason…. to get through the day I must ignore pieces of the constant influx of information…[these were also your questions @ the end of class on Tuesday...]

Ariel: as humans become more and more aware of our small role within the complex systems of the world, we desperately aim to assert our importance; our significance

Teresa: I felt irritated while reading this chapter…. I read about one thing, yet I'm living in another text…. The whole idea is very abstract… we all need care and tenderness, so why is there still a giant gap in our ecosystem?

whose work and ideas do you need to know (about), to understand Haraway's arguments?
[Maddie: definitely not my favorite reading because it combined probably my two least favorite topics, biology and philosophy]
the great paradigm-shifters: Copernius, Darwin, Freud
20th c. French philosophers: Derrida, Deleuze and Guatarri (and English one: utilitarian Jeremy Betham)
biologists: Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan, Scott Gilbert
sociologist: Bruno Latour; anthropologist: Anna Tsing...
and many others!

does this make you feel shut out? like you're arriving late to a
conversation where everybody already knows everyone else??
why does Haraway write this way....? why obfuscate?

In  The Philosophy of Literary Form, Kenneth Burke describes "the 'unending conversation' that is going on at the point in history when we are born. Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress."

how about on the level of the sentence? how does she write--and why?

IV. extracting/sounding Haraway's keynote (in today's chapter):
"contact zones"-->
what are these? whose idea is this?
and what does she do with it??

In Imperial Eyes, Mary Pratt coined the term contact zone, which she adapted “from its use in linguistics…to foreground the interactive, improvisational dimensions of colonial encounters … and emphasize how subjects are constituted in and by their relations to each other…It treats the relations…in terms of co-presence, interaction, interlocking understandings and practices, often within radically asymmetrical relations of power” (216).

Jim Clifford: “Contact approaches presuppose…systems already constituted relationally, entering new relations through historical processes of displacement.” I merely add naturalcultural and multispecies matters to Clifford’s open net bag. I learned much of what I know about contact zones from science fiction, in which aliens meet up…and redo one another  (216-217).

I remembered that contact zones called ecotones, with their edge effects, are where assemblages of biological species form outside their comfort zones. These interdigitating edges are the richest places to look for ecological, evolutionary, and historical diversity (217).

Grace Chung, a student in the ESem where we read this:
on each of us as a contact zone, in unsettled relationship with/to our culture....
linguistics--> cultural studies--> post-colonialist studies--> environmental studies...
how about in your lives??

V. writing stories:
have you ever entered a contact zone?
have you ever played with animals?
would you say that you have ever become-with one?

My story: grew up in small town, farming family, kept my distance
from animals (self protection: we grew, then ate them; there were hunters)

Go 'round and read these...

VI. other keynotes
* Maddie:
interested by comment about whether people prefer predictable sheep or spontaneous ones… If I am making a livelihood off of them, I would prefer if my income was as stable as possible.  How this relates to animal rights, I am not really sure yet. …

* laptops and lapdogs—and us as their environment?

Celeste: the likeness between the lapdogs and the laptops in this pun is that, from the human perspective,
they both occupy space on one’s lap….it suggests a sort of combative coexistence… that we don’t connect in a cohesive way

Tosin: I really liked how Abby pointed out that it was indeed "possible to balance both a lapcat and a laptop at the same time."

Marian: everything is interconnected… we cannot be "objective observers" but all of our actions
affect the ecosystem around us, and … our human-centric view of the ecosystem is not always right….

* play (and its relationship to "training"?)

* queerness
Reading notes, from Part II: Notes of a Sportswriter’s Daughter
Chapter 8: Training in the Contact Zone:
Power, Play, and Invention in the Sport of Agility
a historically located, multispecies, subject-shaping encounter in a contact zone fraught with power, knowledge and technique, moral questions—and the chance for joint, cross-species invention that is simultaneously work and play (205).

cf. “domestication of other sentient organisms as an ancient historical disaster” with practices in which animals and people become available to each other, become attuned to each other, etc (207)

The question here is, Who are you? And so, Who are we?...who refers to partners-in the-making through the active relations of co-shaping (208)

[the sport of agility, using positive training methods, offspring of behaviorist operant conditioning: marking desired actions and delivering appropriate rewards…timing is all]

essential to understand that one’s partner is a…member of another species, with his or her own exacting species interests and individual quirks …

provokes strong and unexpected emotions and preconception-breaking thinking (213-214).

conservation projects have become important zones of encounter and contact…full of the complexities of different kindss of unequal power…[from] Anna Tsing’s chapter on ‘weediness’…”species interdependence is a well known fact…Human exceptionalism blinds us”…people so blinkered assume that human nature…is ...constant…”What if we imagined a human nature that shifted historically together with varied webs of interspecies dependence?... unruly edges…Human nature is an interspecies relationship” (218).

[Eduardo Kohn in Ecuador’s Upper Amazon region]

Scott Gilbert on reciprocal induction, through which organism are structured by the mutual coshaping of the fates of cells…contact zones are where the action is (219)

[Karen Barad’s framework of agential realism and intra-action]

relations of authority in reciprocal inductions of training…for a rule-bound, skilled, comparatively evaluated performance (220)

training with an animal…can be part of disengaging form the semiotics and technologies of compulsory reproductive biopolitics (222)

queer politics…are at the heart of agility training; the coming into being of something unexpected….something outside the rules of function and calculation…That, I believe, is one of the meanings of natural…training is for opening up what is not known to be possible….Training ..can be about differences not tamed by taxonomy (223).

[not handlers; partners]

….we are not the ‘self’ or ‘transparently present to the self’….Disarmed of the fantasy of…getting the full story…we can make some multispecies semiotic progress. To claim not to be able to communicate with and to know one another…however imperfectly, is a denial of mortal entanglements (the open) for which we are responsible and in which we respond (226).

Consequences, that sledge hammer of behaviorism, were the point (228).

..animals and human beings who train together become ‘available to events’…isopraxis…attuned to each other….cause and effect of each other’s movements (229)

Playing with Strangers: the great leap to risk an off-category friendship (233).

Noam Chomsky: “the available data suggest a much stronger continuity between aniamls and humans with respect to speech than previously believed”…continuity easily implies that just one continuum is replacing one chasm of difference…comparative cognitive scientist and neurologists…have thoroughly demolished that lame figure of difference…people…are in a rich and largely uncharted, material-semiotic, flesh-to-flesh and face-to-face connection with a host of significant others (235).

“dogs do seem to understand that other creatures have their own points of view and mental processes”…it seems appropriate to acknowledge this capacity in many others species…to recognize different points of view and also intellectually anorexic, indicating extreme epistemological fasting and narrative regurgitation, to assume the opposite (236).

“Minds” are not all of the human sort…That such acute work largely remains to be done gives a pretty good idea about how abstemious, if not frightened of otherness, researching and philosophizing humans in Western traditions have been (236).

…copresence “is something we taste…we sense that inside this other body, there is ‘someone home,’ someone so like ourselves that we can co-create a shared reality as equals” (236).

The power of language is purported to be it potentially infinite inventiveness…however, the inventive potency of play redoes beings in ways that…deserve their own names…joy (237).

Games have rules….Play breaks rules to make something else happen. Play needs rules but is not rule-defined…making mistakes interesting is what makes the world new (238).

metacommunication…the sine qua non of play…gestural, never literal, always implicit, corporeal invitation to risk copresence…”messages we exchange in gestures are really not the same as any translations of these gestures into words” (239)

Play can occur only among those willing to risk letting go of the literal (239). bows and feints usher us over the threshold into the world of meanings that do not mean what they seem to means…loosed from their functions…not reproducing the sacred image of the same, this game is nonmimetic and full of difference (240)

play encompasses “all motor activity performed postnatlaly that appears to be purposeless”….But play also requires…joy in the sheer doing…Play makes an opening. Play proposes (240).

The taste of “becoming with” in play lures its apprentice stoics of both species back into the open of a vivid sensory present (242).

The event of this coming into existence marks the opening of a full range of new diverging possibilities for becoming, and as such generally signifies…a social upheaval…”meaning cannot be elucidated right away…you need some slowing down and learning….to play with strangers” (243).

the open beckons…the world is not finished; the mind-body is…a risk in play…becoming is always a becoming with—in a contact zone where the outcome…is at stake (244).

God is definitely not queer….a little overfocused on keeping kinds distinct…the sixth day is where…human exceptionalism is sharply posed…Everything is food for man…There is…only licensed cultivation and husbandry of all the earth as stock for human use (245).