“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, October 19, 2012

Biopolitics Liveblog 7

Gregg and Sara now giving very interesting summaries of what we did. Sara Guyer, versed in deconstruction, is providing a very nicely hermeneutical analysis of our rhetorical styles.

Ecotone: tone as tension that resonates.
My style as ventriloquism, sort of associative.

We keep encountering questions of freedom, decidability, paralysis, intervention, regulation, subtraction. How we face the impossible.

Biopolitics looks like it's being abandoned as a prop to think through questions. 

Q: Idea of seven generations sounds curious and quaint, but... The Clock of the Long Now. Our idea of now has become very distorted. Hard to imagine the future. We are talking something outside our moment of time.

A: Tim. I gave my "there is no present spiel."
A: Joshua. Poetry has a double temporality. Lacan on the psychoses. A sentence takes on meaning in reverse. We understand retroactively. The line break in a poem emphasizes this fact: is the end marking a syntactic unit or not? This is also a useful way to describe value. It's floating and indistinct until it becomes price. That is the structure of debt. Deleuze: man indebted. That indebtedness is a temporality. Zizek talks about it as future anterior; not quite right--the value was present, it just wasn't fixed. This gets very interesting when structures of indebtedness is a way we experience reality politically right now.
A: Becky. Why do we always think we are in crisis? Because now is a time that direction can change. Anything can happen supposedly from now. Biopolitics is future thinking. What are the possibilities? Is today a moment of progress or a moment of decline?
A: Kim. Ethnographically it's hard to get people to specify time or the future. It marks a discursive gap that is a concern. A student of Kim's working on nuclear waste, and trying to find intergenerational ethics.

Q: Let's interject some biology into this. Modes of engaging time that are internal to us. Pulse, hunger cycle, lifespan. But when we compare those clocks to the Long Now, they really have great difficulty in computing this. Three billion years in the future the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda galaxy. That is phenomenal. But it doesn't mean anything to us. But it is a form of Earth biopolitics.

So one problem we have the scale of time that we are talking about. We need to think about that as we think about interventions. (BTW this chap is an awesome scientist who has dared to enter the den of scientism.)

Sense of loss of epic poetry that gives us a greater sense of long time.

Q: One question that we all disagree on today is the idea of time scale. Tim's paper is the odd one out. Biopolitical arguments frustrate political action in some sense, because of this time scale issue.

Q: There is temporal scale but there are other kinds of calculation. What is a movement? What is a place? Angus Fletcher's work on American poetry is about how one perceives scale. Is there a scale question when thinking about displacement eg in Jamaica where it radically changes because forms of development etc. uproot those who live there.

Q: Gregg. Kim's comment on the difficulty of ethnography points to a cultural work that is being done. Seven generations. In the US we can't look past a year. How do these different scales of time resonate meaning in different modes of production?

Q: Isn't this a place for storytelling to fill that cognitive gap.

A: Joshua, the call for the epic is fascinating. Time is just a phase of space and vice versa. Epic is about what transfers between empires. Capturing global transformation is the issue.

Q: What I (Lewis) wanted to say is that the epic enables us to understand a scale of time that is different from our biological clocks. Telling us why we are here is also on the table. Zarathustra on the gothas. Circular forms that give structure.

Q: Mortgage as a metaphor of the present: we can still put things on credit for an infinite amount of time. Forcing us to live in an eternal present. A systemic arrangement. A false present that we might want to abandon. Lynn's article in PMLA spoke against alarmist novels. But for me, this is also a form of art that might be useful.

Q: What about pleasure?

A: Becky. We use our own pleasure to beat others over the head. We get pleasure from obeying the strictures on bad food etc. We get pleasure in foodyism. Michael Pollan. You need to have his pleasures in order to be a good person. There is pleasure and then there is care. It doesn't have to be connection in a box. It can be many things.

Q: Juliana. The question of crisis is the question of care? She isn't sure. How do we hold on to things like the disappearing islands. I'm trying to put you in distinction with Tim.

A: Becky. I care about the Pacific islands. But who wins and loses? Who gets to decide what winning and what is losing?

Q: Pleasure pain. Pleasures that involve pain. Compost. Toxic Waste Is Good for You.

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