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

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bare Life and the Deodand

Deodand is a medieval legal term. It's now defunct but outbreaks of deodand-ism persist. The famous case, I think Elaine Scarry writes about it, is the one of the US soldiers shooting a tree for injuring one of their colleagues.

Then there was the case of the train, one of the first trains, that killed the mayor of the southern English town in which it was first run. The townspeople tried the train and whipped it, as punishment, if memory serves. 

On Twitter I've been discussing how animals such as polar bears (Norway) and sharks (Seychelles, here) are singled out for special punishment if they injure humans.

Is there not some object-oriented way of thinking about bare life buried in this phenomenon? Deodand means given to God—objectum sacrum? Like homo sacer?

1 comment:

Henry Warwick said...

Tell you a story about my Grandpa. He lived in Bakersfield and was a Chrysler mechanic for decades. When I was old enough to remember him (in the mid 1970s) he was still driving his 49 Plymouth. It pretty much looked exactly like this:
He worked on it all the time.

I watched him work on it from a window one afternoon. I remember it was parked near a fig tree which provided a modicum of shade for his labour. As you can see in the photo, it has these large round fenders. He had a wrench on the fender as he dug around inside the engine compartment. As he worked on the motor, the car would shake a wiggle a bit and the wrench would slowly slide off and fall to the ground. So he'd stand up - you could practically hear all the bones in his back click into place - and he'd shuffle over the wrench, pick it up and put it back on the fender, and then hebend back over into the engine compartment and continue his repairs, until the wrench fell off again, and he'd, again, slowly stand up, shuffle over and pick up the wrench and put it back on the fender, and then go around and bend back over into the engine compartment...

After he did this little routine about four or five times, the wrench, again, slowly slid off the fender and went clankity clank on the ground. At that point, he again, slowly stood up, shuffled over the to wrench, and yelled,


True fact.