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

Saturday, September 15, 2012

After Queer, After Humanism Liveblog 2

I'm here on the “Power” panel. Larry Butz and Sophia Hsu, my Ph.D. students, are here.

Hives as sovereignty. Actual bees! John W. Ellis-Etchison, “Charles Butler's Apiary Femtopia: Towards a Poetics of Posthuman Sovereignty.”
Queen bee as monarch. Feminine monarchy: more benevolent and more vindictive. Awe and terror.
Machiavelli: fear of punishment. Fear and love intertwined. Bee has fangs and a spear. Containment of the minority.

Larry Butz, “Posthuman Dialectics and Foucault's Power.”
Hayles lacks a theory of ideology. Foucault might supply the answer, though Hayles has issues with Foucault's idea of embodiment.
Foucault's attempts to clarify resistance. Uses the plural “resistances.”
Stephen Lukes. Alternative to Foucault's ultra-radical view. A way of investigating the power of ideology in action. Like Gregory Bateson's cybernetics: we consider what alternative possibilities could have occurred, then ask why they were not followed.
Lukes doesn't propose a systems model, and is thus susceptible to Hayles's embodiment critique.

Ticklish Subject: Zizek shows how that kind of resistance doesn't work very well. Power from outside; resistance power (productive power). Later Foucault tries to reinstall the self constituting autonomous subject, to resist the idea that resistance is always coopted in advance.
Of course Foucault should have used Hegelian dialectics.

Foucault committed to a notion of cognitively directed intentional self fashioning, transcending its constitutive circumstances.
Armstrong and Lukes observe that Foucault is incoherent and pessimistic. Allows for a dismissal of his work.

Hayles: “we jettison corporeality for an informational view of ourselves.”
Importance of the particular and the material.
The problem is substitution of abstraction for reality. One doesn't consider embodied agents but the abstraction. Grosz: “There is no body as such, there are only bodies.”

[Larry is going to be a fun student, I can tell]

The solution: to reassert the importance of embodiment. Models are not the problem rather the substitution of the model for reality that is the problem.

Body not nature or the natural. The body causes embodiment to seem naturalized.

Hayles uses Merleau Ponty: inscription and incorporation. Typing as an example.
What does “bimodalities” mean?
But it seems to work like a dialectic.

Foucault: Productive power does not mean that resistance is only a reaction. Resistance is more similar to bodies than to the body. Hayles is a little mistaken. Bodies are always capable of a multiplicity of practices.

Sophia Hsu, “Moving On: National Inheritance and the Displaced Child in Bleak House.”

Bleak House touches all corners of the British nation. Fantasy of total objective knowledge.
But when we read it we still know nothing.
Jarndyce and Jarndyce: so complicated that no man alive knows what it means.
Fog.
How does a liberal society manage things without sacrificing its ideal?
Shepherd's intensive care for her flock.
Goodlad and Berlant. The relation between the shepherd and sheep.
Nation figures its citizens as childlike.  Taught only to know without understanding.
Politically unconscious citizens with complete faith in the nation.
Readers and characters as children. Figure of the child as citizen in training.

Legitimate citizen child. Illegitimate child citizen.
Nation purports to be nurturing, but it instrumentalizes the child. Caroline Levander.
State's reliance on the idea of a self on whose behalf the state advocates.
Child displaced as symbol of the future, or a reminder of the past from which politics departs.
Bleak House offers a third picture: child as subject of the present perfect progressive.
The child must grow up.
Novel recognizes simultaneous existence of multiple presents.
Nation's promised heir. Living for the future. No room for him in the present.

Richard Carstone. His obsession with his inheritance. Sabotages his immediate life.
Or the child who has no future. Who compels us to live only in the present.
Terror of Joe: frightening thought of him. He is “scarcely human”—thus recidivism is possible. Primordial mud imagery at the beginning.
By killing Joe, the novel acts a degree of resisting the child: the future must stop here (Edelman).

Edelman seems to think that liberation is available if we only live in the present. But the present is total inanity in this novel. Stupidity of the -oodles (Dickens's play on names).
So either >> future or >> defer future to expediency.
These are false choices.

Instead we need a third option: remembering the past and recognizing the future in the present.
Present perfect progressive: already begun but not yet completed. “I have been giving this presentation.”
Bleak House relies on this right at the start. Image of the megalosaurus. Drizzle.
Biblical time <> Juassic <> capitalism etc.
Everything slips around. The world goes on. Connotes the future death of the sun, son, and so on.

Palimpsestic present with an eye to future and deep historical awareness. By jove Sophia I think you've got it.

Domestic ideals restrained. Novel doesn't confront the deadlocks such as Joe. Averting its eyes.
But in the present perfect progressive the aversion is impossible. Joe refuses to be displaced temporally. “Where can I move to?” The desire to dispose of Joe or clean the street undercut by the return of the mud. “The unfortunate are dying thus around us every day.”

Esther (the protagonist): “Even supposing.”

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