(Re)configuring violence. Karen Barad's metaphysics of entanglement and the issue of exclusion
Abstract Karen Barad, while reflecting on the philosophical threads present in Niels Bohr's physical theory, formulates metaphysics, whose founding category does not rely on existence or even being, but rather on a certain fundamental type of a relationship: entanglement. This gesture is to lead to deep (re)configuration of all terms involved in philosophical thinking or thinking per se. There is a transformation in the understanding of such categories as: substance, matter, existence, thing, discourse and discourse practices, as well as the term of metaphysics itself. The consequence of (re)configuration of meaning of these terms is a modification in their mutual arrangement, which aims at freeing thinking from the discussion on multiple stalemate theoretical situations such as: essentialism or anti-essentialism, determinism or constructivism, nature or culture. What is particularly important to me personally is whether the said (re)configuration secures against a return to the ontological hierarchization that is implicated in the violence connected with exclusion? In other words, whether the original character of the relationship exterts a significant impact in connection with the critical blame of metaphysics for violence? As, if truth be told, such a (re)configuration would need to deal with the constitutiveness of exclusion, i.e. with the mechanism of differentiation at the very basic level of thinking, addressing the issue of theoretical responsibility for oppression. By posing the above questions I want to take a close look at the category which is particularly vital in Barad's reasoning, as well as fundamental for the discussed issue, namely the category of agential cut. First of all, I wish to reflect on the difference between the agential cut and Cartesian censorship between the object and the subject, which according to Barad constitutes its exact reversal.
Institute of Philosophy and Sociology Polish Academy of Sciences
Maria del Mar Alonso-Almeida
Exploring New Materialism Politics and Economics Materialization
Abstract Regarding material culture new materialism is post-humanist and non representationalist. Thus, material thighs lose importance in the current complex and volatile environment where they are considered as simply objects to be used as not an objective in life. Thus, this vision claims that new materialism provide a way to rethinking the nature of realities under a new paradigm. A response to the power that has dominated the world during the past decades. Likewise new economics, politics and feminist systems are emerged as part of this response. These systems are changing the game´s rules with not clear consequences yet. This paper is an attempt to put on the table what these systems are and how they are contributing to build new materialism realities.
Universidad Autonoma de Madrid
Performing (with) Lichen as Situated Practice
Abstract Prompted by the invitation to revisit Donna Haraway's Situated Knowledges from 1988, this presentation will focus particularly on her claim that the object of knowledge be pictured as an actor and agent, not as a screen or a ground or a resource (Haraway 1988, 592). The presentation suggests that her notion 'material-semiotic actor', the object of knowledge as a meaning-generating part of the apparatus of bodily production (Haraway 1988, 595), which is related to the material-discursive practices discussed by Barad (2007), could be useful in terms of aesthetic production. Two attempts at performing landscape on the northern shore of Bornholm during Easter 2016, "Lichen at Allinge 1 and 2" will serve as examples of experimenting with alternating the focus between various contributing actors, like the position of the human figure and the colonies of lichen inhabiting the rocks. Moreover, by looking at the mode of production used and the entanglements involved in these two video works in relation to previous experiments further north, the question of transposing or translating methods used in one location and situation into another, for instance from a familiar site to an unfamiliar one, will be discussed. At previous conferences I have explored ideas by Teresa Brennan, Jane Bennett, Laura U. Marks, and especially Karen Barad, in relation to the practice of performing landscape. Now, with the help of Haraway, I will approach the notions of site and situation, with their strong legacy within contemporary art, through a situated practice of artistic research.
University of the Arts Helsinki
The situated knowledges of Anzaldúa’s borderlands
Abstract Borderlands literature mostly engages with narratives of people who, because of their citizenship, ethnicity, gender, race and/or sexuality are hardly scraping by in the economic and legal grey zone at the periphery of society. The conflation of women and other minorities with nature relegates them to a lower ontological status, which then serves as a justification for their, and their environment’s, maltreatment. Still, in spite of these theoretical recognitions, the Cartesian detachment of the human agentic 'self' from inactively conceived matter as well as from a reified natural world was present as a quiescent certitude in most approaches to literatures of the borderlands. In this paper through a close, slow reading of Gloria Anzaldúa’s seminal Borderlands/La Frontera I explore the connections between knowledge production and local(ized) practice. Anzaldúa not only speaks to the material effects of race and gender, to the illnesses brought on the body by the miseries of subaltern life, but according to her the borderlands is a space and consciousness continuously effected by “racial, ideological, cultural and biological cross-pollinization” (99), in other words: created via material-discursive entanglements between the human and non-human environment. My question is: what kind of methodological insights can be gained from the way Anzaldúa produced situated knowledges rooted both in her artistic practice as well as in the very materiality of the land she co-evolved with?
Brigitte Bargetz and Sandrine Sanos
"The Quantum is Queer": Diffraction, Materialism and (Feminist) Critique
Abstract In a talk some years ago in Berlin, Karen Barad adopted a decidedly hopeful and almost triumphant tone when she declared that, “The Quantum is queer.” Barad’s invocation pointed to the genealogy of feminist and queer theory that revisit the question of matter and being in order to offer a different feminist epistemology. Her declaration was symptomatic of the material turn in feminist theory, where scholars have voiced their desire for a turn away from critique, paranoid readings, deconstruction, and ideology critique. They have urged us to leave language behind and turn to matter, embrace reparative or surface readings, in the hope for an ultimately more positive engagement that promises to lead us out of our current political impasse. While we are sympathetic with these aspirations, we also suggest that the turn away from critique to a more positive and constructive political ethos embodies a potentially troubling remapping organized around certain kinds of repression and amnesia whose aftereffects yield a politics without politics. We argue that this move requires a forgetting of the powerful genealogy of critique that has infused feminist scholarship over the last decades, now deemed too paranoid, sterile, and circular. It is a forgetting that risks a disavowal of the operation of power in the constitution of the intelligibility of the social. In our paper, we will not reject new materialists’ desires and aspirations but engage with its premises, preconditions, and implications and the manner in which these suggest an abandonment of some earlier archives of (feminist) critique. Against this proclaimed disarticulation we do not consider these models of feminist critique—namely post-structuralism, deconstruction, and ideology critique—exhausted. Taking up new materialisms’ claim for diffracting knowledge we argue for re-visiting what has been left out, thus showing how the remembering of such critical feminist genealogies may help better understand the material conditions of our historical present.
University of Vienna; Texas A & M University – Corpus Christi
Mapping material-discursive ‘researcher-data-research’ entanglements with spoken word poems: reconfiguring the possibilities for researcher and counsellor-in-training bodies-in-the-making
Abstract This paper will present some of the entangled material-discursive practices of one researcher’s ethico-onto-epistemological (Barad, 2007) becoming in relation to the process of conducting PhD research. In it I will draw on research data generated from individual interviews and collective biography groups which took place over the period of one year with a small group of counsellors-in-training in Christchurch, New Zealand. This research data was originally generated with feminist, post-structural aims of exploring and mapping the embodied encounters of counsellors-in-training as “subjects-in-relation, subjects-in-process” and of making visible the processes of subjection, (Davies, 2009), in order to think differently (to predominantly humanistic views) about counselling, counsellor education and pedagogy. The paper presented here maps an entangled and intra-active process of coming to think myself and my data with feminist posthumanist theory. In doing this I encounter and grapple with practices of vulnerability, respect, responsibility and accountability, generating, for example, questions such as ‘how can I enact practices of respect for my participants, for the moments told, and lived, and for the traces of their entangled selves they have left in trust to me?’ In line with Lenz Taguchi (2013), I ask how I can re-install myself into the data-researcher-research entanglement and ‘become thought’ rather than enacting the separate, autonomous, humanist thinker and knower. I ask questions such as these in order that I might produce knowledge differently and thus produce different, situated knowledges, which might enable richer and better accounts of, both researcher and counsellor-in-training, bodies-in-the-making (Haraway, 1988). Spoken word poems are offered as diffractive patterns of spacetimemattering, which enact situated knowledges generated throughout this researcher-data-research entanglement, and offer their own possibilities to be generative. Finally, ethico-political implications for rethinking pedagogy in counsellor education, and counselling as a material-discursive entanglement, are considered.
University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Disorientation and Mutation: A Critical Posthumanist Reading of Hydra Decapita and The Radiant by The Otolith Group
Abstract Kodwo Eshun of The Otolith Group has stated that he and collaborator Anjalika Sagar are “interested in taking disorientation seriously” and “have a continuous interest in mutation.” In their essay films, disorientation and mutation emerge as filmic tropes through the confusion of the historical with the imaginary, the adoption of fictional roles, the traversal through multiple temporalities and disparate locales, and an interest in the changing contours of the human within a posthuman paradigm. Far from being evasive or affected however, these approaches are politically grounded in their embodied and embedded selves as author-subjects. I aim to show how such an approach accords with feminist new materialist philosopher Rosi Braidotti’s description of a critical posthuman subject, one that is decentred, partial and nomadic, working within and across differences of both the human and the non-human, but remaining accountable for their position. Analysing two Otolith Group works, Hydra Decapita (2010) and The Radiant (2012), I argue Eshun’s and Sagar’s authorship is invested in disorientation and mutation in order to complicate customary narratives around past and present catastrophes, and extend outwards from the self to collective experiences of loss and anxiety. In these two films, they oscillate between the self and the other, the here and the elsewhere, the evidential and the imaginative, the past and the future, the human and the non-human, and the scientific and the science-fictional. In these continual shifts and displacements, they prioritise disorientation and mutation as key strategies in their project of challenging the limits of the self and the world and the narratives with which we constitute it.
 Rosi Braidotti, Posthumanism, Cambridge, UK and Malden, MA, USA: Polity Press, 2013: 49.
University of New South Wales, Sydney
What matters: art, form, and environment
Abstract Over the past forty years, the relationship between “art” and “environment” has attracted growing attention, reminding us that the term “environment” had already emerged in the 1960’s on the Pop Art scene. Via its embrace of recycled everyday objects or waste, artists such as Warhol, Oldenburg, Raushenberg, and Johns, Oppenheim, Polke, and the lesser known women artists like Lee Bontecou, Carolee Scheneemann[i], Nancy Rubins, or even Collette, would already in a very interesting way position the environment as both a resource tank or a treasure trove and as something which, much like an artwork, could be recreated, inhabited and transformed.
In an echo to the not so well-known origins of the term, in a time of ecological crisis, the main question therefore reads as follows: how do current or in-the-making artists not only harness their skills to build representations of environments, their histories and their destructions in a mimetic way - but also engage more profoundly to help empower societies to reinvent themselves, and how do these involvements transform and reframe what is understood as being an artist and his or her positioning within a given society? How do the aesthetic dimensions of currently reorganizing micro-societies articulate themselves with what was known so far as “art”, and how does this renegotiate the frontiers, not only between varied understandings of art but between a diversity of aesthetic regimes?
Indeed, we are no longer talking of artistic representation, nor even one that is subversive, because art has moved beyond the “mimetic regime of art”, or a “representative regime of art”. This corresponds roughly with French “classicism,” known as the Belles Lettres and the Beaux Arts - where the question about the relationship between art and life is settled in advance by the idea that art is a representation - to establish what has been now theorized as an “aesthetic regime”. Displacing the focus on the interface where art and life mingle, this new regime is characterized by its directly producing new worlds of value, where artistic products in particular find themselves redefined by “a sensible mode of being” considered as specific to them (Rancière, 2013, p.18).
While we undeniably find ourselves confronted here with a double-edged movement, with on the one end new collective aesthetic and artistic dimensions emerging in grassroots social experiments and on the other end transformed social and community missions and conditions of production for recognized artists, we chose to try and embrace this twofold dynamic while anchoring ourselves at one end of the spectrum, using the works of current artists as a basis for reflection as well as a stepping stone to get an understanding of the broader phenomenon.
[i] Levin, Kim. “Where are all the Great Women Pop Artists?” ArtNews, 11/01/10.
Université Paris Diderot 7
Matter Theory Fiction: A DeLandian Approach to Art Practice
Abstract This paper will demonstrate expanded capacities for artistic research with a new materialist methodology termed 'Matter-Theory-Fiction'. This method facilitates the exploration of materiality through the combination of various practice based iterations, theoretical observations, and speculative fiction utterances to produce a spectrum of artistic knowledge. My paper takes up the challenge of following knowledge from and through matter itself as it is both revealed, inevitably transformed and consequently obscured into theoretical and fictional forms. While ‘matter-theory-fiction’ infers distinct categories of exploration, in application they are always entangled, always fluctuating, always in degrees of materiality, always transforming from matter itself, to theoretical explanation and fictional lines of flight. This approach acknowledges an inbuilt vulnerability in which access to such knowledge’s move in trajectories away from matter and towards theoretical and fictions accounts. I use Manuel DeLanda's Deleuzian new materialism, employing his three 'reasoning styles', population thinking (evolutionary theory), intensive thinking (thermodynamics) and topological (mathematical) thinking. Each reasoning style is reformulated from its particular scientific background and redeployed to track iterations of materiality, their theoretical intensities and fictional virtualities. I draw on my art practice and academic research to demonstrate how matter-theory-fiction is deployed in practical terms. My presentation will entail visual and written documentation, theoretical explorations of Delandian concepts such the ‘non-organic life’ and fictional speculations in a performative and experimental narrative.
Dieuwke Boersma (KOKO Lunar)
Mad for (a) Reason
Abstract I will show in an auto-ethnographic performance that to be accountable for the place where one comes from demands in academia a self-presence that shows in speaking the capacity of speaking. In that moment, such as now, I loose the world of complex feelings, which I – as anybody else - am part of. Here, we speak erratically, not because we do not understand our own subjugated identity, or are to weak to comprehend, but because speaking erratically gives form to the complexity and intensity of the feeling of life. In other words, I will speak about the trouble in which I might reconfigure within this prescriptive way of situating myself the means of subjectivity, but I inform again self-evidence and value to my own subjugated identity as knowable.1 I stick to that trouble and voice how for example a simultaneous expression of our complex feelings of hope and despair within the experience of fragility does not fit in a language that embodies the expression of sequential ideas.2 As a result, a subjective unity of a vulnerable experience becomes in the descriptive moment a simplification of an intense and complex feeling of being in this world. Moreover, I explain that making art is a necessity in pushing and rethinking “situating knowledges” because discursive language although it can point out the coordinates of the topos from which I speak, it cannot give form to my experience of madness. Therefore, I will render my “then and theres” into a “now and here” reality through a lecture performance.
Academy of Media Arts School, Cologne
Between Science and Fiction
Abstract The theory of wormholes, which has been widely discussed by cosmologists as a hypothetical account of interstellar travels, provides an excellent example of how a scientific knowledge is forged at the crossroads of science and fiction. The paper investigates two fictional accounts of that theory which have been co-created by scientists, who claimed that the insights they gained from the work on fiction largely contributed to their theoretical scientific work. The novel Contact (1985), written by a renowned astrophysicist Carl Sagan, has established a paradigm of the fictional representation of wormholes and their possible application to travelling through space and time and was turned into a film by Robert Zemeckis in 1997. In 2014 Christopher Nolan’s film Interstellar wormholes have found another materialisation due to the innovative cinematic and editing technology. The film’s co-producer and scientific consultant, theoretical astrophysicist Kip Thorne, collaborated on the screenplay and had a major role in production design. Moreover, he documented his work on the film in the book The Science of Interstellar (2014) in which he demonstrated the impact of the movie production on his work as a scientist. These two examples not only provide an opportunity to demonstrate how science and fiction cooperate to produce knowledge, but also show in what way the process of knowledge production is contingent upon specific historical context of the development of new media. Following the historians of science who analysed the mutual influences between modern astrophysics and the development of media (Adam Frank, Peter Galison), demonstrating that the scientific development was intertwined with other disciplines and discourses, I would like to demonstrate in what ways science-fictional genres provide significant materializations of theoretical hypothesis and thus partakes of the process of the production of situated knowledges.
Vivienne Bozalek and Michalinos Zembylas
Diffractive Pedagogies in South African Higher Education: Pedagogical Encounters and the Production of New Collectivities
Abstract In this presentation, we theorize an interinstitutional collaborative course among three disciplines across two differently positioned universities and consider how this process might be an instance of developing ‘diffractive pedagogies’ (Hickey-Moody et al., 2016) in a southern context. In particular, we describe how we facilitated intra- action (in contrast to the usual’ interaction’ which presumes the prior existence of independent entities/agencies, see Barad, 2007) across forms of difference pertinent to the South African context. The process-oriented transdisciplinary course focused on exploring notions of ‘community, self and identity’ through drawings and intra-actions with critical literature on these topics. Students had the visceral, embodied experience of physically coming-together on each others’ campuses in workshops and working online together between the face-to- face meetings. Through using different arts-based pedagogical tools (Hickey-Moody & Page, 2016) such as participatory action and learning (PLA) techniques (e.g. community maps, the river of life) for self-expression and interweaving across disciplinary areas, we examine the potential to embody new forms of collectivity and the challenges that arise in the process. ‘Diffractive pedagogies’ then in this context are theorized as relational processes through which sociomaterial entanglements (students, drawings, discourses, comings-together) become important constituents of pedagogical encounters that could make a difference. The PLA techniques allowed for different productive forms of expression and affective engagement, where the inappropriate/d other (the social work students, who were mainly black and working class from the historically disadvantaged institution) became the knowing subject, thus contesting the ‘unmarked positions of Man and White, one of the many nasty tones of the word ‘objectivity’ to feminist ears in scientific and technological, militarized, racist, and male-dominated societies…’ such as South Africa (Haraway, 1988, p. 581). Through this vital and embodied work, some transformation began to arise affecting students’ ways of ‘becoming’ in higher education.
University of the Western Cape, South Africa; Open University of Cyprus
SISYPHUS. HIS PRISMATIC COMMUNICATION AND HIS DEALINGS WITH WHAT IS PUZZLING
Abstract „From the darkness of times, out of the hollows of the underworld, from an abyss of pain, a report recurs that some thing will keep returning here—and all we do is talk about the man who keeps taking it away from there, we Narcisses’.“ (Michel Serres) My paper will relate Serres’ personification of Sisyphus to the naive and intuitive notion that the role of „information“ be a kind of „elementary patch“—not really an element and not really a particle either, more like a mixture of both, pieces of an enormous puzzle perhaps—patches which one can expect to fit together neatly and smoothly and with no need to apply force, if only enough care is invested in figuring out how the patches must be arranged so as to continue and complement each other. These patches of information are to show the way things fall into place „just as they ought to,“ naturally. It is the very vulnerability of this intuitive idea that Serres’ re-reading of Sisyphus is capable of appreciating. All existentialist praise of Sisyphus has neglected, Serres maintains, that there can be no reckoning about Sisyphus without his host; and his host, so Serres tells us, is the stone. The object that determines Sisyphus as a subject. Sisyphus is not the modern hero, a hero whitewashed, and emancipated, from power and ambition. He is not the hero who, stripped from the burden of ever effecting anything at all, exists face-to-face with pure necessity and can therefore guard, in the manner of a bureaucrat, a notion of righteousness that rests in the sheer repetition of routine. The myth’s character does not become a modern hero because he has been punished and corrected by the Gods for the cunning, ruse and mischief, with which Sisyphus had challenged them in ever new attempts to reconcile transcendence and immanence; he is not a post-Christian crucified, without resurrection, he is not a modern savior. To Serres, Sisyphus is the personification of someone who values the object as the reception of news, neither good nor corrupt, simply as the appearance of something extrinsic to the heretofore manifest wholeness of the web of relations. Sisyphus plays a central role in Serres’ novel humanism, because he renders novelty communicable. This communication is the contribution of the excluded third to the bipolar idea of communication between sender and receiver, between origin and destination, between source and reception.
Synne Tollerud Bull and Dragan Miletic
Processing Aerial Volumes: From Land Art to Earth Listening in the Age of the Anthropocene
Abstract The current proliferation of new aerial imaging technologies has prompted scholarly debate on the emergence of a new visual paradigm. By extending networked and remote sensing intelligence to the sky, these perception machines and memory technologies instantiate new forms of spatial relations. The aerial view operates on the principle of mapping and navigation, where patterns of recognition stratify dynamic singularities of space into metastable figurations. This presentation of paper and moving image art brings into question the entangled histories of moving images and spatial perception, while addressing the imaginative and emotional capacities increasingly colonized by remote sensing aerial technologies. Approaching this from the perspective of contemporary art, we first develop the concept of “the airborne volume image” in works by László Moholy-Nagy, Robert Smithson and Michelangelo Antonioni, before we move on to consider airborne volume images in more recent art practices, including our own. These works, we argue redirect our sense of space from areas into volumes and underscores the temporal and process- based ontology of perception. With recent theoretical concerns of deep time in media archeology and agential realism, we will examine both the technical operation and the bodily address of this immersive spatial practice foregrounding the affective state between perception and reaction. As the French philosopher Gilbert Simondon has noted, the ontological force of technology serves to set both the notion of the “human” and “nature” into motion. With this media ecological approach, we offer an alternative way to address the topic of aerial view, remote sensing, machine-vision and hence expand on and contribute to a more sophisticated understanding of the space and power currently concentrating in this field.
University of Oslo; Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Embodied Eccentricity and Matters of Resistance: Magic(al) Realism as a Mode of Reading
Abstract Embodied Eccentricity and Matters of Resistance: Magic(al) Realism as a Mode of Reading Sionainn Byrnes University of Canterbury Christchurch, New Zealand Sionainn Byrnes is a doctoral student in English Literature at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. She is a socialist-feminist activist and poet, and her formal research looks at magic(al) realism, historical materialism, and intergenerational memory. As an artistic and literary tradition, magic(al) realism has sought historically to defamiliarize and displace hegemonic structures of knowledge and power by making strange otherwise mundane matter. From the object-oriented experiments of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s and 30s, to Latin American geopolitics and the development of a distinctly New World literary aesthetic in the 1940s and 50s, to contemporary postmodern fiction and film, magic(al) realist conventions have invariably been deployed in order to carve out imaginative spaces for new, vibrant ontologies and subjectivities – always liminal, partial, embodied, and situated. Through vocabularies of exile and eccentricity, magic(al) realism constructs material landscapes of resistance – extraordinary objects, architectures of otherness, and marvellous nonhuman natural environments – that simultaneously defy the parameters of realism, whilst reifying the experiences and existences of marginalized communities and cosmologies. As a literary practice, and as an epistemological framework, magic(al) realism exemplifies the types of knowledges produced and reworked dialogically by vulnerable bodies in precarious (semiotic) economies and geographies. In this paper, and with reference to magic(al) realist texts – Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum (1959), Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits (1982), and Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon (2014) – I intend to use literary magic(al) realism as a lens through which to explore and develop the concept of situated knowledges. In undertaking this comparative reading, I aim also to interrogate the discourses of utopianism that underpin magic(al) realist writing, which is itself fundamentally concerned with identifying points of intervention under and in existing material conditions. Focusing on the object-oriented dimensions of the magic(al) realist project, I intend, moreover, to discuss emerging forms of speculative realism, and to demonstrate the ways in which magic(al) realism, by redefining rather than rejecting realism entirely, opens up new possibilities for activism and emancipatory or radical democratic praxis.
University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Participatory theory and the discursive-material knot
Abstract While in the field of media and communication studies the notion of participation is still often used indiscriminately, there has simultaneously been a development towards a more refined theorisation of the concept, which in turn has fed the more theory-based research projects into these participatory processes. This paper aims to contribute to this latter development by linking the power-based definition of participation (where participation is defined as the equalisation of power relations between privileged and non-privileged actors in formal or informal decision-making processes) to the ongoing theoretical debate about the relationship between the discursive and the material. New materialist philosophies (De Landa, 1996; Barad, 2007; Dolphijn and van der Tuin, 2012) have gained a strong presence in academia, but have also provoked critiques for the lack of attention for the discursive component of social reality. This theoretical paper will first argue that the discursive and the material interact – or, in other words, that they form a discursive-material knot. Starting point will be a discourse theoretical position, which will then be enriched by materialist theories. More specifically, the paper will outline a theoretical framework that allows articulating participatory processes as engulfed in an assemblage of discourses and materialities. Starting from the discourse-theoretical perspective (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985; Carpentier and Spinoy, 2008), a series of structuring discourses and subject positions (the citizen, leader, owner and expert), crucial to participatory processes, will be discussed. This discourse-theoretical approach to participation will then be enriched by a (new) materialist approach, which scrutinizes the role of materiality at the level of access, interaction and participation.
Between Art and Lab
Abstract The aim of this paper is to discuss situated knowledges emerging at the intersection of contemporary artistic and scientific practices. For, such hybrid genres as bio art, techno art and digital art radically challenge the hitherto accepted binaries of nature/culture, human/non- human and virtual/material. This calls into question not only the 19 th century model of the objective researcher but also the model of the researcher as an engaged “participant-observer” deeply rooted in 20 th -century ethnography and anthropology. As an American performance scholar and artist Chris Salter points out, contemporary research practices should focus on organizing “conditions for experimental, performative assemblages to form and catalyze other ways of knowing and being in the world.” (2015: xiii) In order to investigate the research paradigm put forward by Salter, this paper discusses contemporary and historical science-fictional accounts of the laboratory as a site of knowledge production that is both experimental and experiential. My focus here is particularly on the laboratory of Robert Hooke as depicted in Neal Stephenson’s novel Quicksilver (2004) and parodied in Thomas Shadwell’s 1676 Restoration comedy Virtuoso. The former testifies to the multisensory and affective character of knowledge production. The latter indicates deep interrelations between research practice and broader socio-political and cultural contexts. From the perspective of the two examples, the paper discusses specific research problems I struggle with in my own performance scholar laboratory. In particular, I focus on the category of mimesis which becomes highly problematic in contemporary culture populated by simulants, avatars and automata. In this context, drawing on performance theory (Kara Reilly) and the theory of representation (Michael Hunter), I will attempt to show that both artistic and research practices are never about mirroring nature but rather about “changing a person’s way of knowing, and by extension their way of being” (Reilly 2011: 7).
Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Methods and Materials for Engaging Futures: Collaging Girls’ Presents and Futures
Abstract This paper sits at the intersection of three distinct but inter-related developments in the contemporary social sciences, arts and humanities: (i) the emergence of new materialist approaches to understand the entanglement of bodies and technologies; (ii); a proliferation of interest in temporality, and especially presents and futures; (iii) a revived focus on methodology and method that attends to the process of research, and that mobilises practice-research. Its starting points are that one strand of the new materialisms is its emphasis on the openness of futurity, and that methodologies are required to be developed in order to examine the materials through which the future is and may be materialised. The paper discusses image-making exercises held in the UK in 2003 and 2016 where girls’ collaged experiences of their bodies in the present and future. It explores collaging as a means of assembling multiple, and potentially diverse, temporalities on one surface. It discusses collaging as methodology and method, focusing in particular on its accessibility as an artistic method, its approach of gathering together materials from different sources, and the potentiality for resources to be transformed. It then considers the materials that participate in collaging workshops, examining how, for example, paper drawn from different sources, scissors, and glue, and techniques including cutting, tearing, juxtaposing, moving and sticking, become methods for imagining the future. In this way, it seeks to examine how the future is and might be imagined, engaged and materialized through specific materials. The paper discusses some of the themes that emerge out of the collages/collaging, including how relationships between different temporalities (present, past and future) are established through images, and whether and how particular relationships with the future emerge through this research method. It also reflects on the methodological rationale for selecting this particular age of young women to be involved in collaging.
Goldsmiths, University of London
Privileging the hues of red, green, and ultraviolet”: Haraway’s Creative Code
Abstract Many commentators have sought to classify Donna Haraway’s work across and into a range of disciplinary fields. The political value of her work is claimed by feminist science studies interested in interdisciplinary methodologies for education (eg. Hughes & Lury 2013), by those working towards a multispecies feminist socialism (Grebowicz & Merrick 2013), and in new materialist feminist studies (Barad 2003). This paper begins with an Historical Marxist Feminist critique against Haraway’s position, which argues that her work “erases the very real material conditions of science and technology” (Ebert 1996). Mistaking Haraway’s semiotic-coding of Feminicity for what she derisively calls “the site of a recycled obviousness in ludic theory” (Ebert 1996), Teresa Ebert’s accusatory reading of Haraway’s “misreading,” in fact highlights the necessity for materialist positions (of all genealogies) to situate the context of Haraway’s creative and strategic use of an informatics aesthetic. The paper details what that aesthetic involves, and seeks to recover Haraway’s creative code as a framework for consideration of the active, coherent, and self-organising matter of the human condition. Key words: aesthetic, code, creativity, Haraway, Historical Materialism, informatics, Situated Knowledge References: Barad, K. 2003. “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter.” SIGNS: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28 (30): 801–829. doi: 10.1086/345321 [CrossRef], [Web of Science ®] Ebert, T. L. 1996. Ludic Feminism and After: Postmodernism, Desire, and Labour in Late Capitalism. Michigan: The University of Michigan Press. Grebowicz, M. and Merrick, H. 2013. Beyond the Cyborg: Adventures with Donna Haraway. New York: Columbia University Press. Haraway, D. 1988. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies 14 (3): 575–599. doi: 10.2307/3178066 [CrossRef], [Web of Science ®], [CSA] Haraway, D.  1990. “Gender for a Marxist Dictionary: The Sexual Politics of a Word”: 127- 148. In Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge. Hughes, C. and Lury, C. 2013. “Re-turning feminist methodologies: from a social to an ecological epistemology.” In Gender and Education, 25:6, 786-799, DOI:10.1080/09540253.2013.829910
Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom
Comfort, Bodies and Immune Systems: Emancipation and Vulnerability
Abstract Writing about bodies, boundaries and the idea of comfort sits uncomfortably within the academic world. To incorporate experience and embodied thinking into academic writing seems to imply an element of vulnerability in itself, where situated knowledge occupies a space between the body as subject and body as object, and between personal narrative and theoretical thinking. This paper seeks to challenge the definition of comfort as a form of protection, arguing that scientific thinking around closed systems has contributed to defining comfort as passive and static, and argues that thinking around open systems can lead to re-defining the term as active and intensive. Examining the idea of immunity via Donna Haraway, Ed Cohen and Peter Sloterdijk, it acknowledges that the fringes and thresholds that constitute the semi-permeable body and self do not define comfort in terms of immunity as a form of ‘border war’; an inside protected by an outer boundary. Instead comfort contains ‘a window of vulnerability’ 1 as well as an element of security, and the comfort zone becomes a zone of vulnerability, incorporating the unknown as well as the familiar. In addition, immune systems, in Bruno Latour’s terms, tell a story of both attachment and emancipation. If comfort, informed by ideas from New Materialisms, can be defined in terms of both vulnerability and emancipation, what implications could this have for both New Materialisms and the idea of situated knowledge? How can vulnerability emancipate knowledge?
Map-making as material world-building. Towards an ecological understanding of cartography in Speculative Realism
Abstract This paper aims to examine the expanded understanding of cartography emerging in the field of Speculative Realism, a new, robust movement in 21st-century philosophy. Taking cue from Quentin Meillassoux’s idea that we need to step beyond overly anthropocentric philosophies and restore the “Great Outdoors” as a serious subject in the humanities, Levi R. Bryant proposes to engage in a specifically understood “geophilosophy.” Adopting and transforming the term developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Bryant offers a vision of cartography as “a mapping of assemblages of machines or worlds.” This kind of map-making does not limit itself to topography, but also includes the production of genetic, vector and modal maps. This augmented concept of a map would thus facilitate a new kind of engagement with the world, one that involves a key idea developed by Deleuze, who “equates being with unlimited creativity.” Moreover, it resonates with the central tenets of ecopoetics: exercising imagination and, as Brenda Hillman claims, “coming into contact with the impossible oddness of everything.” In this light, cartography acquires an expanded meaning: by making imaginative, metaphor-based, speculative maps that are essentially poetic we become – as Bryant puts it – better equipped to “constructively intervene in worlds so as to produce better ecologies or assemblages.” Paradoxically, it is the fictitious, metaphoric dimension of cartography that allows it to be successful in charting a world that we can no longer claim to be “naturally given to us.” Ultimately, creative map-making becomes concurrent with world-building, or home-making, i.e. eco-poetics (from Greek “oikos” – home; “poiesis” – making). At the same time, however, this approach redresses excessive anthropocentrism and allows for a reconsideration of humanism and human agency in the era of the anthropocene.
Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin
CHARTING THE NEW MATERIALISM IN FILM STUDIES
Abstract The paper seeks to draw the new cartography of Film Studies - singled as the particular domain of knowledge - as focused on identifying points of influence of New Materialism. The remapping of the Film studies charts the line and territory of the (theoretical) resonance of the terms and currents of New Materialism – such as, post humanism, post feminism, vulnerability, theories of body and bodily, performance etc. - testifying about its global and dominant formative influence in the new millennium. The mapped out genealogy argues immanent inter-, trans-, cross- and multidisciplinary nature of Film Studies as densely intertwined with Media, Theatre or Literary Studies; as developing in the intersection of Film Art/Film practice and Film Theory; as encompassing histories of technology, but also related to philosophical and aesthetic concepts. (The same complex nature is the argument of the intrinsic vulnerability of Film Studies engaged in permanent fight for proving own sovereignty and authenticity). It traces both the dynamic conversion and diversion - from the point of bifurcation in the twenties to the fusion in the eighties – of the European and American “version” as well as the immersion of Film Theory and Film Studies into the advancing field of Cultural Studies. The side-line development in the countries “outside the North Atlantic Cultural space” follows the postcolonial and cultural imperial models when minor language and theories are subject to the implacable influence of both the dominant concepts of metropolis and of their “big doctrines”. The insights derived from the preliminary charted history is the basis for the key cartography of the development – as assimilation and rearticulation – of the ideas and the theories of New Materialism within the Film Studies justifying the metatheoretical and metahistorical character of the research.
University of Belgrade
Habitual bodies: the injecting body-environment
Abstract This paper draws on my doctoral research with people who inject drugs, to think about injecting bodies as body-environments. This research (conducted in London, UK) included interviews with people who inject heroin and/or crack cocaine, interviews with drug service providers and participant observation in a central drug service. During the course of this research, the ‘injecting body’ and the drug environment became increasingly entangled and indivisible. ‘The body’ began to make less sense as participants described the active role of multiple bodies, including drugs, in enacting the body as One. Here, I consider this dynamic in terms of the injecting body-environment, and more specifically, think about the assemblages of bodies that were said to come together out of habit.
Drawing on participants’ accounts of injecting drug use as habitual, and using the work of Suzanne Fraser, who has recently proposed ‘habit’ as an otherwise to addiction, I push this proposition further, towards understanding particular arrangements of injecting bodies as habitual modalities of becoming. ‘Habit’ (rather than an essentialised ‘addicted injecting-body’, or even more reductively ‘the brain’) allows a greater awareness of drug use as collaborative – involving human and nonhuman bodies – which can include addiction (as one set of connections) but is not limited to it. This perspective allows us to take seriously injecting habits as particular territorialisations of bodies, appreciating the restrictive qualities that people describe. But unlike ‘addiction’, which suggests a fixed state, this assemblage is also open to change: as bodies come together they can also fall away or deterritorialise. This suggests a more productive and flexible way of engaging with these practices.
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Scientific Knowledge, Responsibility and Philosophical Hunger. New Feminist Materialism in the Context of Science and Technology Studies
Abstract Karen Barad’s ideas and theories can be taken as a paradigmatic example of the new feminist materialist approach which constructs the complicate body of philosophical views. To put it simply they can be described by the following categories: antiessentialism, antirelativism, antirepresentationalism, realism without representation, posthumanist views of performativity, dynamic relational ontology of phenomena which are constituted in intra-actions, indeterminacy of ontology, denial of social constructivism. I enthusiastically share the rejection of the social constructivism, the persistence in doing the research of material, situated, dynamic scientific practices and the defence of the properly understood realism. My theoretical purpose is to problematize the relation between feminism and biology (biological studies) in the context of Barad’s understanding of materiality, concentrating mainly on the problems of feminist philosophy of science and science and technology studies (STS). I take humanities to be a special form of the laboratory of thinking where we can experiment on new modes of grasping and conceptualizing the scientific knowledge in a philosophical and feminist way. Following Michel Foucault’s suggestion from his History of sexuality I deliberate if we can think about them differently than we think, perceive differently than we perceive in order to see and think again. Barad encourages us to use the potential of physics-philosophy of Niels Bohr with the metaphors which describe puzzling phenomena of quantum mechanics. Donna Haraway suggests that knowledge has to be situated, partial and contextual in a responsible way. I am going to ask to which extent we can successfully introduce the idea of (scientific) knowledge revised by the above feminist, new materialist and STS approach into contemporary commercialized and commoditised technoscience.
Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun, Poland; Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
Knowledge and Power: Empowering by Consciousness
Abstract The modern science paradigm identified knowledge and power in its strive to dominate over the Nature. Its mechanistic approach proved to be dangerous because it systematically depletes both natural and social environment. It produces a kind of knowledge incapable of embracing ecologically balanced values to the benefit of the wholeness of being in a perspective. During many decades, numerous scientific researches, in line with the historical experience of postmodernism, feminism and postcolonial studies, indicated the necessity for different philosophy of science that is critical to power-structured classifications and consequent negation of all sorts of otherness. Now, the old worldview is captured in a process of dialectical change in which the struggle for power relates to unconscious fear of weaknesses and vulnerability. On the other hand, in an ever changing world, being conscious of vulnerability could be empowering and helpful in realizing that far more subtle and complex relations and processes exist in the world, emerge and influence each other. That kind of conscious knowledge is needed in reaching the humility as a condition for changing the meaning of knowledge, which is required to avoid the issues produced by the supremacy of old approach. New perspectives in philosophy of science have risen on the ground of questioning the achievability of “objectivity" and "neutrality" imperatives in epistemology. Instead, they consider context and power as the traces that lead to the most needed parts of knowledge about knowledge. The epistemology paradigm change should include particular perspectives of the subject and add these perspectives to knowledge. This entails practicing “situated knowledge” which enables us to be more realistic in the process of acquiring and also employing the knowledge. The “realism” would comprise then our conscious responsibility for the participation in the “regime of truth” in which the knowledge is produced.
The Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade
Pirjo Elovaara and Peter Giger
Temporary Islands and Liminal Spaces
Abstract In this paper we like to bring together our everyday practices from a university undergraduate program within the subject field of media technology together with threads from contemporary feminist technoscientific epistemologies, such as Donna Haraway´s situated knowledges and Lucy Suchman´s accountability. We will also find inspiration from Karen Barad´s agential realism. Initially we will tell a story from one of our courses from autumn semester 2015, a course situated in a realm somewhere between the ordinary, mundane and imaginatory. We move then to the second part of story where the students travel to different locations and things start to get messy and troublesome in the Harawayian meaning. How did we envision situated knowledges and accountability as intriguing possibilities for students to re-explore their understandings and practices of media technology? We are not keen on looking for final answers but hoping for temporary landings and visits in liminal spaces where only partial translations and messy mistakes are possible. Why and how invite the complexity provided by our epistemological guides into our work with students? How can creative education, in our case media technology, work from a perspective of somewhere, without falling in the trap of relativism (or subjectivity or...)? How can 2 map coordinates, 10 000 steps and 100 plywood panels work as material agents? How and why to travel from safe spaces to uncertainties? We will finish our paper by drawing an agora consisting of three circles of media technology as a figuration for futures in making/becoming.
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Department of Technology and Aesthetics, Sweden
The controversy on nanomaterials – a re-unfolding of situated knowledges
Abstract In the debates about potential health and environmental risks of nanomaterials which are built into various consumer products, a heterogeneous range of different political, scientific, media, citizen, industrial actors take up their stance and bring in their situated knowledges which are highly partial, incomplete and bound to their particular location. Being based on these situated knowledges, e.g. on different rationalities of arguing, on different epistemologies and ontological premises, the discourse converges into an intractable conflict of what a nanomaterial is or how it is to be defined and classified. An onto-epistemological re-reading and re-framing of this case could offer, firstly, a better understanding of this controversy and, secondly, a re-unfolding of the situatedness of knowledges. Based on the new materialist framework of agential realism and the notion of situated knowledges (Haraway 1988), the issue of risks of nanomaterials can be elaborated beyond a mere discourse-analytical account. Material-discursive practices of nanotechnologies, especially their re/configurings and enactments, their entanglements of materiality and discourses, can be grasped as congealing in the discourses on risks of nanomaterials as their actors, situated knowledges and materials. In the paper it will be explored in an agential realist perspective how nano-objects and their actors come into being through the phenomena of manufacturing, producing, defining, classifying and regulating them. It will be asked how the material-discoursive intra-actions of nano-objects, political bodies, media, citizens could be described. Last not least it will be discussed why some of these phenomena of coming-into-nano-objects seem to be more successful, more influential in the controversy than others and inasmuch this corresponds to particular situated knowledges.
Technical University Kaiserslautern
Re-positionings: New materialist cooperations
Abstract Haraway sets the ground for new feminist materialisms as developed from the older ones and feminist theory, informed by the movement(s) of women of colour. She developed the concept of ‘embodied objectivity’ in her famous paper “Situated Knowledges” (1988/1991). There she developed an understanding of bodies as objects of knowledge as material-semiotic knots, where boundaries are materialized in social interaction. Even more crucial, also subjects of knowledge are embodied in this account. This means, that knowledge claims are related to particular – material – positionings of those bringing them in. This results in the partiality of every viewpoint on the world and the necessity of an initiation of conversations with others in webs of connections. In contrast to positivist (rationalist or materialist) modernist Eurocentric, anthropocentric and androcentric accounts of epistemology, objectivity cannot be reached by a single researcher (or ‘everyone’) following a strict heuristic pattern, but is defined here as “the joining of partial views and halting voices into a collective subject position” (Haraway, 1988/1991, p. 196). This is interesting for a new materialist stance on epistemology as it points to the relevance of the material, yet possibly shifting, condition of knowledge production, whereas no position and viewpoint is either innocent or worthless, but open for discussion. Barad’s definition of objectivity thus connects clearly to Haraway’s notion of objective knowledge as situated knowledge. With the emphasis on the performative dimension of the research apparatus, agential realism goes one step further: scientific knowledge production is part of a constantly shifting performative constitution of reality – as one powerful reality producing agent among others. The paper asks how this grounding of new materialist feminist epistemologies can open future spaces to reflect one’s own politics of location as a researcher and invest in cooperation and collaboration beyond academia with NGOs to develop onto-epistemology as ethico-politics.
Johannes Kepler University Linz
Žilvinė Gaižutytė Filipavičienė
Embodied Memory of Historical Traumas: Practices and Deformations of Human Body
Abstract With reference to the new materialistic perspective this presentation deals with traumatic experience of body, bodily memory and embodiment of memory. Memory is the active reinvention of a self (Rosi Braidotti), memory is not a matter of the past, but recreates the past each time it is invoked (Karen Barad). Embodied habits (Marcel Mauss) or habitual patterns of behaviour can be defined as social habit-memory, which is inherently social performative and related to incorporating and inscribing bodily practices (Paul Connerton). Culturally specific postural performances provide us with mnemonics of body. As noted Rosi Braidotti, body is ultimately an embodied memory. Analysis of physical bodily or long lasting psychological trauma from cultural (embodied) memory perspective enables us to name trauma not only as condition of broken bodies (as body in pain) and shattered minds (as psychological distress), but also and primarily as a cultural object. It can be distinguished many categories of trauma. This presentation focuses on political traumas which are caused mostly by wars, occupations, genocides, forced migration etc. Long lasting living in the conditions of different political regimes can be named as slow traumas, caused by tension between everyday and the extreme, between individual identity and collective experience, between history and the present, between facts and memory. Presentation focuses on the aspects of trans-generational traumas, traumatic bodily memory and its materialization in contemporary art practices. Traumas caused by Nazism and Communism, that Central and Eastern European nations experienced in the 20 th century, are highly reflected in photography, video, and performance art as transformations, specific postures or practices of human body. Material storytelling – musealization and visual representation of traumatic experience – enables us to analyse deformations of body as a result of both – physical and psychological traumas. Demonstrating different examples analysis also reveals ethical and aesthetical aspects of trauma’s representations in media and art.
Lithuanian Culture Research Institute, Vilnius, Lithuania
THE URBAN SENSORIUM AS A SENSUOUS ARCHIVE: GENTRIFICATION, MULTICULTURE AND THE SEDIMENTED HISTORIALITIES OF COLONIALISM AND CAPITALISM IN ROME’S “BANGLATOWN"
Abstract Gentrification of big cities is gaining momentum in many European capitals as a result of rapid economic development. Such embourgeoisement is often directed at their multicultural areas, revealing a perception of multicultural society as dangerously unbridled and unregulated, or as a metaphor of the social decay that the ethnicized or racialized Other might cause to the established order. Regeneration processes are often put into practice through the suppression and control of the sensorial to conform to the dominant cultural order. This paper develops a multisensory ethnography of race and class in Rome’s “Banglatown,” a multicultural area that recently gained the reputation of ‘failed’ neighborhood in need of physical, commercial and demographic restructuration. Located at the intersection of sensory studies and feminist new materialism, the present paper constitutes an attempt to think about the urban sensorium as a sensuous archive of the sedimented historialities of colonialism and capitalism. By highlighting the contribution of the non-human to the materialization of identities with and through the senses, this paper proposes the notion of the sensuous archive to understand what forms of dialogue are established with the colonial and capitalist past, so as to understand how such historialities are iteratively reconfigured with and through materiality. In particular, the study case of kitchen odors in Rome’s “Banglatown” will be discussed. Taking as a starting point the unbridled-ness of smells, the paper shows how kitchen odors traveling across the boundary of the home co-participate in the racialization of the Bangladeshi body through their intra-action with the trope of the racialized/classed body as an unruly body.
Echo and Narcissus: re-conceptualising situated knowledges between art and engineering research
Abstract What happens when the work of art comes into dialogue with the work of science and technology? What material relations emerge? What situated knowledges begin to process? What concepts and myths become active, re-active and/or intra-active? These questions depend upon the specificity of context. With this in mind, this paper takes as its point of departure an instance of performative artistic research undertaken within the context of a telecommunications engineering research centre, CTVR/CONNECT between 2010-2015. The intention in this paper is to help manifest contemporary forms of collectivity and collaboration by telling the situated research story of a dialogic relationship between art and engineering. The paper is framed by the concepts of time and vulnerability, with a topical focus on translation, appropriation, collaboration, feminist community, and interruptive knowledges. This research story tells of an extended process of translation and interruption between an artist (the author) and an engineer (anonymous), as they worked together to produce an exhibit for a high-stakes technology research showcase. In the paper, the research story toggles between the making of the concrete exhibit Green-graphs & Iris and a queer translation of the mythological figures of Echo and Narcissus. The paper proposes Echo & Narcissus as an undercurrent yet potent mythology in contemporary socio-technological research life, and seeks to show how it is urgent that we re-conceptualise this mythology in order to establish conditions for re-thinking and enacting healthier material relations in inter-disciplinary research contexts.
Trinity College Dublin, CONNECT
Nick J. Fox and Pam Alldred
Abstract Contemporary responses to ‘sexualisation’ of children and teenagers provide an opportunity for a materialist and embodied re-assessment of the realist/constructionist divide noted by Haraway (1988: 576). Access by young people to internet pornography and other media sexual content, and their consequent ‘precocious’ sexualisation has been the basis for an activist coalition between religious organisations, conservative parent groups and some feminists that shares a view of sexualisation as a social problem to be addressed by policy initiatives and/or activism. By contrast, many academic analyses have argued that anxieties and activism around sexualisation of children (particularly girls) are underpinned by foundational, essentialist models of childhood and adulthood, and do not address sexism, racism, classism and homophobia in popular culture.
Material analysis of body-environments supplies a means to cut across this debate, and establish a situated perspective on sexualisation. Based on empirical research, we suggest that sexualisation is a relational process involving multiple physical, psychological, social and cultural affects and materialities. Young people’s capacities to do, think and feel emerge and recede according to the mix at any one moment in time and space. Rather than being singularly pervasive and corrosive influences, media and pornography are relations in a much broader, fluctuating affect-economy of bodies, things and ideas. This assemblage produces a multiplicity of sexual and non-sexual capacities in young people, and not the monstrous ‘sexualised’ teenager of some contemporary accounts. One conclusion of such a materialist and situated analysis is that rather than regarding pornography as good for some (consenting adults) and bad for others (children), it is part of an environment-body that has circumscribed what is culturally understood as ‘sexual’. This affects us all – adults as well as children.
University of Sheffield; Brunel University London, UK
Elizabeth de Freitas (presenting author), Anna Palmer, Nina Arwidson
Mobility, Directionality and Threshold: The water-children of Stockholm
Abstract Water is all intensity. All flow and fluidity, continuously morphing between solid, liquid and gaseous state. In this presentation, we explore water as an urban medium, a highly supple matter that circulates throughout the city and through the lives of urban dwellers. We focus on its potentiality and shape-shifting capacity, studying its elastic malleability and fluid engagement with/in the built environment. We focus on how water saturates the city of Stockholm and destabilizes the ‘frozen’ static image of the built environment. We draw on Deleuze (1994) and Delanda (2002, 2011) to theorize water in terms of gradients and differentials, as mobile sections of an actualized duration (Bergson, 1994), tapping the virtual dynamism inherent in all matter, while being, at the human scale, imbibed and absorbed and visibly circulated in sewers and sinks. This paper examines how children in Stockholm learn with water and how they develop theories about fluidity and flow. Learning in this case entails a knowledge that is ‘situated’ in dynamism and flow. We discuss children’s encounters with water using video data from an ongoing research project called ‘Children’s relations to the city’, which follows fifteen children, age 2-3 years, and two preschool teachers from a communal pre-school in Stockholm. The videos document children exploring the perplexity of water’s capacities for change, both in direction of flow and in actual metamorphosis of state. For these young children, water is vibrant formless matter. Water can be hard (frozen beneath a bridge), or still with depth (puddles that are potential holes in the built environment) or it can be muscular (under pressure) or disorienting (as mist), in each case mutating what it means to be a body. These encounters with water raise the question: When is embodied movement intensive rather than extensive? Water is the first and perhaps most forceful lesson regarding the unknown capacity of a body, injecting affect into the learning event. These children show us how the movement of water in the city taps into the humour and affect circulating invisibly in the built environment.
Manchester Metropolitan University
«Micropractice. Re-counting the Rice»
Abstract The pharmacological perspective as it appears in lines of thought that reach from Platon through Derrida and Stiegler to Fuest along with the figure of «situated knowledge» invited me to think about practices, especially knowledge practices as «entangled». Entangled practices are shaped by pharmacological tonalities of synchronous poisoning-curing-intoxicating and express their inherent potential for change as well as contingency. Starting from the experience of Abramovics «Counting the Rice» Workshop in Geneva in May 2014 and building on the concept of artwork as instruments, as proposed by Sam Skinner in this Panel, I will explore the dimension of measuring time. In contrast to routines of the everyday the setting of the workshop allowed altered ways of sensing time and thinking-feeling temporality to emerge. By re-counting the rice, that I will perform in advance to the conference, I would like to investigate further not only the specific temporalities of the procedure but also its «affective infrastructure», understood as a relational field in/through material constellations that forms processes of subjectivation. The term «affective infrastructure» will be developed also in its reference to the alchemist notion of matter with its transmutational force. At the same time the practice of re-ing, sounding difference through repetition – anew and again – is clue to my artistic, theoretic and existential work in progress on micropractice, that was developed together with Sebastian Dieterich.
Institute for Critical Theory, Zurich University of the Arts
Visualising ‘health’ through the modification of environment-body relations in scientific practice
Abstract This paper is based on ethnographic research of data practices in an environmental health project on the relationship between air pollution and health. I considered data practices as informational and material processes that enact air pollution and health in multiple ways. Following data in this way provided a means to foreground the messy and entangled nature of environment-bodies in everyday scientific practice.
I pay particular attention here to the role of visualised data as agential forms which contribute to the construction, manipulation and reconfiguration of environments-bodies – specifically as graphical mappings of air pollution data (of air pollution concentrations) and health data (hospital statistics of mortality). Rather than differentiating an essential ‘human body’ and a ‘physical environment’, the graphs became sites where the mutual constitution of each were articulated, ‘played with’ and re-imagined. As several scientists explained, it is difficult to measure the health effects of air pollution on humans. ‘Air’ became a productive heuristic for considering overflow and containment, as moments where the world ‘kicks back’: there are no ‘insides’ or ‘outsides’ to air-bodies, because air is constitutive of bodies whilst being external to them, thereby transgressing any Cartesian sense of surface-boundaries.
I end by reflecting on digital practices and data visualisation as opportunities to interrogate these often taken for granted dualisms, where the relational and vibrant entanglements of emergent scientific forms are sustained rather than cut away.
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Corpo-Affective Politics of Vulnerability
Abstract Breathing isn’t usually associated with politics, nor are anxieties and panic attacks. The mere possibility of engagement in most conventional forms of political protests can be, however, restricted by vulnerability of the breath. Fighting for breath and for breathable lives is, therefore, a matter of not only acts of and aspirations for change but also recognition of differential forms of political practices. Focusing on the corpomaterial agentiality of breathing and vulnerable becoming it enacts in moments of panic attacks and durations of anxiety, the paper argues for a necessity to understand quotidian bodily and affective actions as political.
The academic knowledge production through an engaged ethnographic research: reflections on fieldwork among LGBT Christians in Poland
Abstract The paper focuses on my interactions with those researched within my project on LGBT Christians in Poland (2011-2014). It shows situatedness as a specific self-reflexive circumstance embedded in my field research and informed by both my theoretical (methodological, epistemological) assumptions and my specific position within the research field, resulting from my age, gender, religious (non-)affiliation, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. Thus, the paper discusses the mutual relationship between situatedness and knowledge production within my ethnographic research. On the one hand, it refers to self-reflexive approach as a necessary component of research on sexualities inspired by queer studies. On the other hand, it shows how the reflection on my interactions with those researched and my position within the researched field resulted in putting emphases on specific aspects of the social reality within the analysis of the fieldwork data. For instance, my socio-economic status converged with the socio-economic status of the majority of my interviewees, which produced specific silences in the interviews; these silences became visible in the context of interviews with those whose status differed from mine; the difference in the dynamics of interviews that I noticed resulted in organizing research findings in line with the intersectional approach. Furthermore, in various contexts of the research, the difference between me and the research participants as regards to the religious affiliation or the declared sexual orientation was activated and made visible; this triggered my sensitivity to various forms of exclusion exercised within the group of LGBT Christians; at the level of analysis, this resulted in my critique of identity politics employed by the group, a critique supported by intersectional and queer studies.
Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Nanna Hlín Halldórsdóttir
Feeling vulnerable in the job interview
Abstract In recent years the notion of (ethics of) vulnerability has gained momentum in feminist philosophy. In Judith Butler's more recent work vulnerability (along with precarity) plays a prominent role in thinking about the relationship between ethics and politics. This paper will explore this "turn" to vulnerability as a response to the hyper-individuality of the neoliberal period and as a desire to realize a space for difference and multiple subjectivities in social terms. However, why is it not happening? What is it that makes is it so difficult to present us as vulnerable, to acknowledge vulnerability? In this paper it will be argued that any account of (ethics of) vulnerability would profit from understanding how the need to exchange (and keep exchanging) one's labour-power – to promise an employer that one is an able worker – affects one's possibilities of being vulnerable. By complimenting Butler's analysis of vulnerability and political ontology with a Marxist analyst of labour-power, the aim is to historize her account of vulnerability. You cannot "come out" as a person with chronic illness in a job interview. Even in the case where an employer is likely to hire you, you would not take the risk of exposing such vulnerability, decreasing the likelihood of getting a job. 'Feeling like shit in a job-interview' will thus be presented as an illustrative example of this present-day dilemma of being vulnerable, being "different" but presenting oneself as a desirable and able worker.
University of Iceland
Vulnerable Aesthetics: Queering the Onto-epistemologies of Peripheral Embodiment
Abstract In this presentation I explore the relationship between Donna Haraway’s conceptualization of “situated knowledges” and the concept of vulnerability. In particular, I engage with Peta Hinton’s critique of Haraway’s article on situated knowledges, in which she exposes a tension between a localizable situatedness and an abstract universality, arguing that Haraway left the status of the universal intact. I build on Hinton’s analysis using Judith Butler’s notion of vulnerability. Butler is careful in suggesting that vulnerability can form the basis of politics and instead proposes to use the concept to rethink individual sovereignty, potentially compounding the tension between a universal apparatus of corporeal vulnerability and the situatedness of individual bodies.
In order to dissect how we might leave behind the binary between situated subjects and universality, I turn to Wu Tsang’s video performance “The Shape of a Right Statement”, in which she mimetically re-performs the statement “In My Language” of autism activist Amanda Baggs. Through analyzing Tsang’s work, I ask: how do these aesthetics of peripheral embodiment shed light on how insights from situated knowledges can travel, and what kind of politics of collectivity can we imagine based on this?
Central European University
Peta Hinton and Xin Liu
Situated Abandonment: The Paradoxical and Murderous Desire of Vulnerability
Abstract How might we understand situated knowledge as situated abandonment? What might abandonment in these terms entail? In this paper we consider this configuration of situated knowledge as abandonment via the notion of vulnerability that Donna Haraway claims is at the heart of location. The partial perspective, promising objective vision that is at once contingent, disturbs the ‘whole’ or totality of the objectifying gaze and, at the same time, the coherence of a located subject. So where, or what, or whom, or when, then, is location, or rather, vulnerability? How might vulnerability be recast not to resist, but to affirm and reconfigure those ideas of whole and origin that partial vision calls into question? Drawing upon upon our earlier work on the dynamics of abandonment, we engage with Haraway’s assertion that “location is about vulnerability” (1988: 590) through the desire and demand of situated abandonment in a new materialist vein. Complicating the whole/part distinction that undergirds Haraway’s theorisation of vulnerability, we examine the ways in which which the figure of coyote - the non-innocent and resistant world as nodes of intersection – performs the uncalculated intentionality of “mother/matter/mutter” (596). Raising questions about the directionality of an eco-logics and the possibility of sustainability in these terms, we build upon Haraway’s observation of our “permanently mortal” (596) condition to consider the paradoxical and murderous desire of vulnerability as situated abandonment that poses challenges for a modality of politics which, to paraphrase Linda Zerilli (2005), is overwhelmingly defined by a hope for the betterment of life.
Utrecht University; Åbo Akademi University, Finland
Abstract This paper makes two claims regarding what I call the ‘postimage’. First, since the image (and the forced convergence of vision and representation) is at the core of the humanist ideology, its dissolution in machine vision can only be addressed in the frame of posthuman(ist) theory: If the photographic image has been a central element in the consolidation of the humanist episteme of ‛Man’ as the center and operator of the world, the algorithmic image plays an important role in the posthumanist episteme where humans, technologies, and nature are no longer seen as separate (or even antagonistic) but as co-evolving and collaborating. Second, the development of autonomous robots towards collaboration leads us towards the hypothesis that the postimage is not an objective (photographic) or subjective (human-centred) image, but a collaborative image that is not the result but the very process of a collaborative vision across species: the gathering, processing and exchange of (visual and non-visual) data between humans/animals, and, increasingly, autonomous machines.
City University of Hong Kong
Vulnerability and Moral Patiency of Artifacts
Abstract Posthumanists are right in claiming that denying agency of artifacts supports human sense of superiority, which results in treating beings other than humans in arrogant way. To reject this scheme posthumanists emphasize the ability of artifacts to act and affect other beings, which justifies ascribing them moral status as moral agents. Yet, at the same time, posthumanism neglects the perspective of moral patiency (the capacity to be a target of right or wrong) of artifacts, which seems equally important for building nonanthropcentric ethics. The aim of my paper is to present possible grounds for this approach. The starting point of my inquiry will be the discussion with environmental philosophy which holds that artifacts do not deserve moral considerability due to their anthropocentric and anthropogenic character (being created by humans to satisfy human needs). I will show that the fact that artifacts are (mass) produced doesn’t change that they are a full-fledged concrete individuals (singular entities with material identity) and as such they are vulnerable (susceptible to be damaged which eventually may lead to loss of integral identity), what includes them in the ethical domain. The key phenomenon, which I will analyze in this regard, is using. It is using that causes deterioration of the condition of the thing. Yet, on the other hand, using creates opportunities for the thing to realize itself or, speaking Heideggerian, to reveal itself. This fundamental tension also concerns relations between beings: on the one hand, a thing is used (up) by other beings, but on the other thanks to them the thing can fulfill its potential. A comprehensive analysis of this phenomenon will make it possible to revise a problem of (non-)instrumentality in the context of the network nature of reality and it will allow rethinking the status of material beings. The fundamental issue here is whether we can determine the conditions of balance between enabling things to fulfill their potential and to protect them from decay.
Jagiellonian University, Krakow
Body, Bricks, Slate and Lime: Site-Dance and the Performance of (Un) Situated Knowledge
Abstract Through considerations of corporeal porosity, auto/biographies and situated knowledge this paper explores material histories, embodied memories and the materials of ‘home’ in the development of the author’s site-specific dance work ‘The Abbots Dances’(2014). Performed at the 400 year-old George Abbot Almshouse hospital in Guildford, Surrey, by five dancers and two Almshouse residents, it explored individual place associations and memories, the site’s history, materials and architecture, wove together historical site details and personal narratives, and celebrated the stories and associations of those who live there. Informed by an interdisciplinary theoretical framework from Human Geography (Massey, Tuan,) New Materialism (Bennet, Barad) Phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty, Tilley) and Spatial and Archival theory (Perec, Millar) the paper considers how the dance work articulated embodiments of memory, sentiment and material processes incorporated within the residents’ acts of dwelling in the site. Responding to the conference themes, these auto/biographical processes are explored through reflections on how material elements (i.e. bricks, slate, lime and tunnels) activated historical and personal narratives of both the physical construction of the building and associated themes of home, belonging, presence and dwelling. The paper draws on Laura Millar’s (2006) conception of archival materials as ‘touchstones to memory’ through which the potentiality of materials and objects to invoke specific embodied recollections of ‘home’ and ‘dwelling’ emerges. Through this approach the significance of the materialities of ‘home’ comprising elements of touch, taste, smell and texture and the archival / material resonance of geological and scenic features expressed by the Almshouse residents in interviews and discussions are revealed. Drawing on corporeal and visceral experiences the paper articulates processes of knowing-through-the-body and questions where this knowledge might be situated in relation to the ‘minded-body’ subject (Fraleigh 1987) and how this form of embodied knowledge becomes activated and mobilised through human-material-world ‘conversations’ (Haraway 1988). The notion of a bounded ‘body-self’ in this context is problematized and alternatively conceived as a plurality – a temporally and materially unbounded and fractalized construction encompassing body as remembered, as contemporaneously experienced and as a projected, future self. Thereby positioning notions of corporeal vulnerability as prodigious and liberating, as the unbounded body-self ‘seeps forth’ (Longhurst 1997) into and with the material world in a process of enmeshment and engagement.
University of Chichester, West Sussex, UK
Situating Medical Knowledges of Risk: A Trans/Feminist Assessment of Hormone Treatments
Abstract Hormone treatment is conventionally understood to consist of matters such as pills, patches or injections that have chemical effects in bodies. From this perspective, the materiality of risk is regarded as confined to potential adverse effects of pharmaceuticals within individual bodies. By discussing Finnish trans persons’ experiences of hormone treatments this paper contributes to a rethinking of both the materiality of risk and how gender figures as part of the effects and risks of hormone treatments. The majority of this study’s trans participants perceived the risks of hormone treatment as related to the healthcare system rather than to the pharmaceuticals’ effects per se. Based on this result, and drawing from trans/feminist studies and material feminisms, this paper argues that hormone treatment risks can be seen as phenomena that materialise contextually within particular “treatment apparatuses” and the power relations that saturate them – and that seeing adverse effects merely as chemical effects within individual bodies amounts to an “agential cut” (Barad 2007) that effaces from medical risk assessments the knowledges of those who wish to use hormone products for body transformation.