Friday, September 17, 2010

shock: making the contours of distress as vivid as possible

Tuesday, 21 September –
Tsing, Friction: Chaps 4-7, Coda

Freewheeling stories meld activist courage, solidarity and agency growing, the uses of alliance. Using scholarly skills such as “the ability to tell a story that both acknowledges imperial power and leaves room for the possible….” Passion taking us out of “the shadow of inevitability….”

122: "Even the most out-of-the-way cultural niches are formed in world-crossing dialogues. Cultures are always both wide-ranging and situated, whether participants imagine them as global or local, modern or traditional, futuristic or backward looking. The challenge of cultural analysis is to address both the spreading interconnections and the locatedness of culture."

124: cosmopolitan specificity: "ways widely circulating knowledges become local," stereotypes of the global north and global south. 
126-7: "node of articulation of varied historical trajectories"; lineages: "shards of genealogies through which present forms have emerged." "...some haphazard combination of varied and contradictory planning, unpredictable negotiation, rebellious refusal, and unavoidable confusion."  

155: "Knowledge grows through multiple layers of collaboration -- as both empathy and betrayal."  

161: of "crucial critical perspectives": "Yet, taken together, they offer a historical metanarrative of imperial modernization in which nothing can happen -- good or bad -- but more of the same.... This work usefully brings culture and politics together in understanding environmental conflicts; but there are other ways, too, to look at politics and culture. Much less attention has been paid to collaborative relationships through which environmental campaigns have been mounted. Collaboration is not necessarily good for all parties; to study it is not to pretend that easy solutions abound. Collaboration does, however, draw attention to the formation of new cultural and political configurations that change the arena of conflict, rather than just repeating old contests." 

honey bee tree: Mengaris
172: "Those readers used to concentrating on humans may feel tempted to skip this chapter, which requires you to attend to nonhuman species. Ironically, this would introduce you to the chapter's chief conceptual tool. Our categories and discriminations always produce zones of 'boredom' and unreadability; powerful projects of categorization, including development and conservation (as well as your scholarly reading practices, whatever they may be), produce persistently uninteresting, invisible, and sometimes illegitimate zones -- what I call 'gaps.' Universal knowledge projects cannot be understood without attention to gaps. Of course, I would like to entice you to go on despite this warning...."

Sunday morning class prep
What is at stake in the section "A hair in the flour"? (pp. 205-212):
205: "How does one speak out against injustice and the destruction of life on earth? Words and concepts betray us. The concept of freedom is much abused, and yet the idea of freedom is still as important a tool as any for the disenfranchised. Movements split and change. What seems at first empowerment can come to seem an oppressive discipline or an empty rhetoric. To pick among the causes presented to us -- as well as those hidden from our view -- is a constant work of passion and judgment. It changes who we are. We imagine we find our 'voice' for that moment when a way we have learned to speak seems to fit a critical purpose. We tap into a legacy of speaking to articulate our situation within a general complaint."

227ff: Tracking traveling stories: 
stories of solidarity; charisma and allegorical packages

<= this picture itself is an example of the confluence of contradictory goals in the travel, commodification, and impure uses of the Chipko tree-hugging movement. Click on the image to see some discussion of what constitutes legal and/or ethical use of the picture itself, as well as to follow links to one description of the movement and external links to uses commercial and governmental.

236: "In these globally inflected discussions of new political possibilities, the issue of gender stood out because of its ability to speak not only to the proper behavior of men and women but also to the interplay of their transnational and local allegiances. The dialogue between Islamic and secular Left models of politics was conducted, quietly, through negotiating gender. Without explicit reference, gender filtered into the considerations through which environmental activists weighed political options. Traveling stories of political mobilization caught the attention of local activists in part because of their gender valences. ¶ The story of the Chipko women hugging trees -- and ecofeminism more generally -- sparked local attention in this context. Chipko encouraged a cosmopolitan appreciation of indigenous knowledge. It supported the notion that women could have a plurality of bases for spirituality and struggle. It offered a platform for a new kind of activism in South Kalimantan, including a happy collaboration between Muslim advocates and non-Muslim Meratus Dayaks. I don't know how to judge whether modernist Islam or spiritual pluralism offers more for Muslim women. Instead, I point to the local debates in which these varied forms of transnational inputs become charismatic. Islamic modernists and indigenous advocates respectively grasp at traveling packages to make it possible for them to do something in Kalimantan that they might not otherwise be able to accomplish. The packages offer them tools and frameworks to be political actors."

237-8: "My female companions in the LPMA called attention to their own stakes as women activists by reference to the term gender. This was a new term, adopted from English, and they were excited about it. They wanted me to tell them more about gender. When I asked them about this, they spoke of their ability to move and travel in public despite criticisms.... Gender referred to a political stance, a subject position in which women could operate with secular authority. ¶ Gender, too, formed part of a traveling package. Packages travel when they are translated in such a way as to form a significant intervention in a local scene. They are used in local debates, within which they may introduce // new objects and subjects of politics. They make it possible to act within the cultural-political scenarios they promote, and they mobilize people for particular kinds of political agency."

238: "Activist packages are allegories of political subjectivity. Packages are created in a process of unmooring in which powerful carriers reformulate the stories they spread transnationally. Unmooring is easy to condemn, but it is not always a terrible thing. Traveling packages are translated to become interventions in new scenes where they gather local meanings and find their place as distinctive political interventions. Gender has proven especially plastic as the term has been variously adopted. Yet its packages, too, carry travel histories, and particularly the histories of collaboration that engender activism. Their deployment adds new layers, revising these histories: thus the contradictory variety of international feminism. To move beyond imperial models of gender and feminism, it is important to appreciate how activists borrow traveling feminisms for their own uses."

246-7: "Difference within common cause. Perhaps this is more important than we ordinarily think. In this chapter I propose this kind of overlapping, linking difference as a model of the most culturally productive kinds of collaboration...collaboration with friction at its heart.... // collaborators may or may not have any understanding of each other's agendas. Such collaborations bring misunderstandings into the core of alliance. In the process, they make wide-ranging links possible: they are the stuff of global ties. They are also the stuff of emergent politics: they make new objects and agents possible.... Collaboration was not consensus making but rather an opening for productive confusion. Productive confusion is sometimes the most creative and successful form of the collaborative production of natural and social objects -- whatever their political status." 

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