….the actinobacteria! Another example of modern enchantment, or who says science and modernity killed all the magic?
Via The Crafty Chemist and AsapSCIENCE
A chapter of Michel Foucault’s famous 1977 Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975, Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la Prison) is titled “The Carceral.” In a few brief notes, I reconsider the chapter in light of contemporary discussions and literature.
As with so much of Foucault’s work, the chapter starts with a rich, seemingly (but not really) unorthodox example, in this case, the official opening of Mettray, a location where “disciplinary form at its most extreme” was born. Utilizing nearly every form of traditional organizational forms — the family, the army, the workshop, the classroom, and juridical ordering techniques – such that those “young delinquents condemned by the courts” (as well as, I will note, boys charged, but acquitted, and yet were imprisoned as an alternative to “parental correction”) were to be overseen by “technicians of behavior; engineers of conduct, orthopaedists of individuality.”
As you can see from the quotes, Foucault’s language holds nicely to this day, even if post-foucauldians in governmentality studies have “cleaned-up” the ideas so much so that now we rattle-off “voluntary self-regulation through myriad disciplinary techniques,” it is worth remembering that, earlier on, we used to have to learn what Foucault meant from writing that did not give way to bullet-point-like writing or textbook-like bold terms sitting like warts in our prose. That said, some of the prose does not really hold over time as well as his language choices. When I first read Foucault, I recall his work being mind-blowing and yet, at some level, impenetrable. My colleagues would say something like “this is not sociology as usual,” and while I agreed with them back then (perhaps out of fear — Foucault readers often loved him dearly and not “getting it” was something you would not normally want to reveal in public, which I think now Foucault would have laughed about), now that I have some distance from my initial readings, it is easy to see why Foucault was not sociology as usual: it is not sociology. I do not mean it does not belong among the sociology canons; I mean that it was never “just” sociology; his work always struck me as historical, political, social, etc. but that it was simply not possible to reduce it to any of them. At any rate, I return to the retrospective.
Of course, the penal systems were famous for meticulous notes; “a body of knowledge was being constantly built up from the everyday behaviour of the inmates,” such that in the toughest of prisons, at the hardest of times, surveillance always implied: “I shall note the slightest irregularity in your conduct.” These two quotes, juxtaposed in the above sentence, give you also a sense of Foucault that I only notice now. I used to think that he was a dynamic writer, for a historian (I used to think of him this way); however, now, having done some professional writing, I see that Foucault is a master of shifting registers. He switches effortlessly between gigantic abstractions that seem to swallow-up the entire carceral world, for example with a quote like, “a body of knowledge was being constantly built up from the everyday behaviour of the inmates”; however, moments later, he reduces his voice to a nearly personal tone, as if whispering to the reader (without breaking eye contact, I imagine in my mind’s eye) shifts registers to tell you, the reader, what an person might have heard, as a prisoner, and in these moments, you are both, for example, “I shall note the slightest irregularity in your conduct.” You get the feeling Foucault might have, upon uttering this line, paused for effect. As a matter of style, I will take this form of writing over the bullet-points and bolded-terms, but the executive summarizing of texts into carefully constructed abstracts and sound blurbs (like those that post-foucauldian governmentality studies scholars have reduced Foucault to) seem to win the day in our times.
While all the discussion of discipline, training, and then self-discipline is positively lovely to read, I was stopped dead in my book at this line: in a discussion of supervision and being supervised, “[a] subtle, graduated carceral net,” Foucault writes, “with compact institutions, but also separate and diffused methods, assumed responsibility for the arbitrary, widespread, badly integrated confinement of the classical age.” I have no recollection of reading that line before; however, reading it now, its like a curio box of how the work has been up-taken into contemporary sociology: the emphasis on “[a] subtle, graduated carceral net” feels like the precursor for discussions of networked stateness; having the net replete “with compact institutions, but also separate and diffused methods” serves to underscore that Foucault was not an anti-institutionalist, but that institutions were “separate” (or distanced both practically and analytically) from the “diffused methods” upon which much (if not most) discipline is rendered; from there, we get a feel for jurisdiction as a key mechanism for control and knowledge production (which, for example, Andy Abbott’s work is a cool off-shoot as well as Tom Gieryn’s) when we read the net of institutions carefully divorced from the methods of everyday discipline, “assumed responsibility for the arbitrary, widespread, badly integrated confinement of the classical age.” The sentence, as it were, and for me only in retrospect, twinkles like a curio box of Foucault’s lasting legacy.
Another matter warranting some re-consideration is how sloppy Foucault is and how this general sloppiness is neatly pasted-over by his vivid word choices. For example, in an incredibly sloppy historical gloss of the origins of the prison, we get a paint-by-numbers tour of yesteryear, seeing “colonies of poor, abandoned vagrant children,” those boarded-up “almshouses for young female offenders” whose mothers exposed them one too many perversities, backbreaking “penal colonies” for young men often acquitted but condemned to reform through labor, “the institutions for abandoned or indigent children” as well as “orphanages,” what was left of the institution of “apprentices,” or those “factory-convents” where young girls would tally-away under circumstances of voluntary confinement, and if all of those beautiful and tragic pictures of yesteryear were not yet enough to bully the reader into agreeing not to disagree with the fine points raised by Foucault, we now get bombarded by “charitable societies, moral improvement associations, organizations that handed out assistance and also practised surveillance,” and now I am too exhausted to continue this German machine-gun of corollaric examples. Still, a point is to be made here, because we have all seen this technique before (some of us, in our own writing), this “exhaust the reader with colorful examples” technique (I am, myself, routinely guilty of this); however, until reviewing Foucault again for my students in social theory today, I had no idea that I was doing this, as if a scholarly mimeograph machine, in the tradition laid-out by Foucault (although, and it would be fitting, perhaps Foucault was copying somebody else that either I don’t know about or whom has been lost in time).
Those are just a few thoughts, having returned to Foucault’s D&P after a number of years.
Stef’s piece on “seeing” targets of drone strikes (as well as the metaphorical infrastructure that holds some of those practices together), along with some other posts are about seeing like a military, I cannot resist but to share this piece on google glass failing miserably. Marcus Wohlsome writes about it for WIRED magazine; also, if you recall, Mat Honan wrote a great piece before the end of last year, “I, Glasshole: My Year With Google Glass, which was a fun read too; still, some of you will remember Stef’s post about wearable technology and empathy for the other, if only because of its attention on “Glance,” which is an app for google glass (or smart phones) to observe you having sex with other people while they observe themselves having sex with you.
On the topic of google glass and its public sales: CBS reports that reception from the public was “cool” at best (and not the cool kind of “cool” either); the spin at USA today is that google glass “sold out” (so long as you only count the sales of white rimmed google glass, although there is a nice irony in using “sold out” there); and, of course, chief of overstaters these days (what has happened to this previously decent news source!) CNN reports that this is the dawn of a new age in wearable technology, hallelujah! (although, admittedly, it is on the opinion page … how couldn’t it be.) Still, the CNN piece is more interesting that it might appear at first blush. For example, it reports on a dress that becomes transparent when the “user” is aroused … using this might be a tough reality check for some folks.
A recent art installation is trying to disrupt the dehumanizing effects of drone technology and the metaphor of the “bugsplat” when talking about the “targets” of drone strikes. The images can be found at http://notabugsplat.com/
The installation is a huge picture of child that the drone operator can see and is meant to disrupt the pilot’s ability to dehumanize the victims of the strikes.
From the blog:
In military slang, Predator drone operators often refer to kills as ‘bug splats’, since viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed.
To challenge this insensitivity as well as raise awareness of civilian casualties, an artist collective installed a massive portrait facing up in the heavily bombed Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan, where drone attacks regularly occur. Now, when viewed by a drone camera, what an operator sees on his screen is not an anonymous dot on the landscape, but an innocent child victim’s face.
I have written on a similar subject: the use of medicine and surgical metaphors in warfare. The rhetoric and feeling of this use of language is the same. For example
To [John] Brennan the people of north-west Pakistan are neither insects nor grass: his targets are a ‘cancerous tumour’, the rest of society ‘the tissue around it’”.
To highlight war, metaphor, and their relationship George Lakoff writes that
there is a common metaphor in which military control by the enemy is seen as a cancer that can spread. In this metaphor, military “operations” are seen as hygienic, to “clean out” enemy fortifications. Bombing raids are portrayed as “surgical strikes” to “take out” anything that can serve a military purpose. The metaphor is supported by imagery of shiny metallic instruments of war, especially jets (Lakoff 1991).
In the case of humanitarian intervention, the language used often frames the interventionist actions creating metaphors from the field of medicine. We offer humanitarian “relief, “injections” of foreign aid, and “prescriptions” for ameliorating unrest. These metaphorical frames show that bodies must behave in certain ways, thereby implicitly arguing that certain ideas about healthy bodies and lives must serve as a template for unhealthy ones. Humanitarian intervention is then about healing these “unhealthy” bodies.
In medicine, “germs” are spoken of as “enemies” to good health. We are in “wars” against cancer. New research in AIDS helps us “conquer” the virus. In fact “militaristic language pops up in almost every scientific domain: conservation biology (‘invasive species,’ ‘biosecurity’); global warming (‘global war on global warming’); and biomedicine (‘killer cells,’ ‘hitting multiple targets’)” (Wenner 2007).
How does this language affect how we speak of enemies and opponents? I offer these examples of this from various news sources:
This is from the Guardian’s News Blog, March 21, 2011: “8.13am: Yesterday we heard that supporters of Gaddafi had formed a human shield around his compound in Tripoli, with men, women and children singing songs against the rebel “germs” (Blog 2011).
From the Israeli News website: National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari, while speaking at an SOS Israel conference in Jerusalem is quoted as referring to members of leftist organizations as “traitors who must be persecuted at any cost” (Sofi). He called the leftists “germs” and “enemies of Israel” and added “If we’ll have to enact a law in the Knesset to eradicate this dangerous enemy, that is what we’ll do. Such a germ can destroy Israeli society. This enemy threatens the state’s existence” (Sofi)
In the Sunday Times, Mark Franchetti interviews a soldier who says “The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy,” said Corporal Ryan Dupre. “I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin’ Iraqi. No, I won’t get hold of one. I’ll just kill him.” (Franchetti 2003).
What does this circulation do? A crucial point is that “[A]nalogies and metaphors are the often hidden devices that serve to rationalize choices of conceptual variants and to render plausible the narrative in which our political concepts are embedded” (Whitehead 2011, 293). In other words, by perceiving war and intervention as a “treatment” for sickness, we are blinded to other responses that may address the situation more effectively. These “hidden devices” can also invite and justify violent responses as shown above. Which metaphorical constructions make this circulation a possibility? What makes all these ways of speaking about intervention, states, and war, so compelling, so facile? How can it be made less facile?
This art installation is an amazing attempt to inject (to use the metaphor against itself) this sterile understanding with ethics and morals. To make these inhuman ways of relating to others less facile.
The victims aren’t bug splats or tumors, but children, men, women, wedding guests, and yes, sometimes even “terrorists,” but targeted killings are an ugly, immoral, and, more often than not, illegal business. It isn’t collateral damage, it’s murder.
It behooves us all to put a human face on civilian deaths. Go to this site and read the names of the dead. Click on the above site and look at their pictures.
Seeing like military and machine
Originally posted on geographical imaginations:
‘Seeing machines is an expansive definition of photography. It is intended to encompass the myriad ways that not only humans use technology to “see” the world, but the ways machines see the world for other machines. Seeing machines includes familiar photographic devices and categories like viewfinder cameras and photosensitive films and papers, but quickly moves far beyond that. It embraces everything from iPhones to airport security backscatter-imaging devices, from electro-optical reconnaissance satellites in low-earth orbit, to QR code readers at supermarket checkouts, from border checkpoint facial-recognition surveillance cameras to privatized networks of Automated License Plate Recognition systems, and from military wide-area-airborne-surveillance systems, to the roving cameras…
View original 450 more words
Are there 15 ways to be unhappy? Surfing Bruno Latour’s ‘An Inquiry into Modes of Existence’
Originally posted on Pop Theory:
I have had Bruno Latour’s An Inquiry in Modes of Existence (AIME) kicking around my desk since last summer, thinking it’s the sort of book one should probably read in case it turns out to be mind-blowingly important. I finally got round to reading it, in a certain manner, recently, encouraged by the setting up of a reading group by the NAMBIO research group in the Geography here at Exeter, which I have actually not been able to attend until this week. I might not be able to go to the next one meeting either, so in the spirit of stretched-out, online thinking that this book is meant to exemplify, I thought I’d try to articulate some of the thoughts that it has provoked in me. (The book is just one element of a more ambitious ‘digital humanities’ project – a website, basically…
View original 4,379 more words
12 PhD Positions on Regional Power Studies
12 Early Stage Researcher (ESR) positions are available in the PRIMO Marie Curie Initial Training Network. PRIMO – Power and Region in a Multipolar Order – is a European Commission funded doctoral training network that involves universities in Germany, the UK, Turkey, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Russia and Portugal, as well as non-academic institutional participants. It develops innovative research training in the field of International Relations, in particular with respect to the growing importance of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa in international politics and the global economy. The programme combines theoretical approaches, a rigorous mixed research methodology, practical training, and the acquisition of substantial empirical expertise on regional and emerging powers with career opportunities in academia or the private sector. We invite candidates to apply for the following PhD positions.
Project references and titles:
ESR 1: Climate governance in a multipolar world order
Host: University of Hamburg, Germany
ESR 2: Comparative analysis of the role of identity in Indian, Turkish and Russian foreign security policies
Host: Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey
ESR 3: The BRICS and south-south development cooperation
Host: Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
ESR 4: Public–private relations and the promotion of global social standards
Host: Jaguar Land Rover / University of Oxford, UK
ESR 5: The consequences of limited material capacity for Brazil’s foreign policy
Host: Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
ESR 6: Emerging powers in the IMF and the WTO: group hegemony, multilateral cooperation or Westphalian reassertion?
Host: Saint Petersburg State University, Russia
ESR 7: Regional powers and the changing character of global governance
Host: University of Oxford, UK
ESR 8: International organizations, the global poverty debate and the role of emerging powers
Host: Stellenbosch University, South Africa
ESR 9: China, the EU, and international crisis management
Host: Fudan University, Shanghai, China
ESR 10: Brazil and Africa: security cooperation within the South Atlantic
Host: Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
ESR 11: American and European perceptions of the rise of regional powers
Host: German Institute for Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, Germany
ESR 12: Old powers’ reactions and responses to the rise of India
Host: Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
Candidates must be, at the time of recruitment by the host organisation, in the first four years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers and have not yet been awarded a doctoral degree. This is measured from the date when they obtained the degree which would formally entitle them to embark on a doctorate.
Eligible candidates may be of any nationality but must not, at the time of recruitment have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc) in the country of their host organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 last years immediately prior to the reference date. Short stays such as holidays and/or compulsory national service are not taken into account.
Candidates can apply for up to three positions (clearly indicate preference and/or ESR numbers).
Envisaged Job Starting Date
From 01/04/2014 till 01/10/2014
First deadline: 10/01/2014; second deadline: 15/06/2014
Foucault vs. Chomsky … be ready.
Originally posted on Foucault News:
In 1971, a Dutch initiative called the International Philosophers Project brought together the leading thinkers of the day for a series of one-on-one debates. The participants included intellectual superstars Alfred Ayer and Arne Naess, Karl Popper and John Eccles, Leszek Kolakowski and Henri Lefèbvre, and – most notably, in a now justifiably famous exchange – Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault.
This two-disc set collects all four remarkable conversations, along with introductions and commentary by Dutch philosopher and writer Fons Elders. Elders moderated the original debates – hand-picking each of the participants after spending…
View original 297 more words
Odd, but interesting.
Originally posted on Om Malik:
Elizabeth Weil, one of Twitter’s early employees told me about her passion for letterpress and the fading art of printing. Over the years we talked often about our love for paper and pens and ink. And then a couple of years ago, I ordered some stationary from her tiny letterpress print studio, PaperWheel Press. It isn’t anything fancy — simple cards and plain envelopes — just to write simple, short notes to people who have contributed meaningfully to my life.
The more I use Email, iMessage, Twitter, Facebook, MessageMe, or whatever new tool of communication — the more I feel disconnected from the actual act of writing. I appreciate the sentiments and the communication itself, but I don’t feel that vital tug of the heart. That was, perhaps behind my love for writing notes. (And that also I get to use my big and heavy Montblanc 149 fountain pen…
View original 130 more words
Originally posted on orgtheory.net:
Of course, no single study can strive for replication in the same way and some folks do a good job addressing these issues. But still, the anti-positivist framing of much ethnography probably prevents ethnographers from developing intuitive and sensible things to create standards that would move the field away from the solo practitioner model of unique and non-replicable studies.
50+ chapters of grad…
View original 11 more words
It seems that every time you turn around, especially with me living in Pennsylvania, I heard about our grand future with natural gas. USA TODAY heralds “U.S. forecasts natural gas boom through 2040” or the Economist asking about natural gas “Difference Engine: Fuel for the future?” to which the obvious answer is: “Two things are clear, though: there is a lot of natural gas out there; and it is extremely cheap. In both electricity generation and road transport, it will be a hard act to beat.” I could document more and more examples, but it is hardly necessary because my main point is not about natural gas. It is about natural gas pipes.
The New York Times has put out, in the last month or so, a number of pieces about failing gas pipe infrastructure in our nation’s major cities. The piece readers are probably the most familiar with is the March 23rd piece “Beneath Cities, a Decaying Tangle of Gas Pipes,” a terrific piece by .
Underneath the bustling streets of New York, “6,302 miles of pipes transporting natural gas” and they are crumbling; chief concern, of course, have to do with leaks, and “Leaks, like the one that is believed to have led to the explosion that killed eight people in East Harlem this month, are startlingly common, numbering in the thousands every year, federal records show.”
Thus, as we grow more dependent on our plentiful natural gas reserves, danger will follow: “The chief culprit, according to experts, is the perilous state of New York City’s underground network, one of the oldest in the country and a glaring example of America’s crumbling infrastructure.” There is a super-cool graphic available here:
New York, though, is replacing their pipes as quickly as any city in America, but other cities are not; “Baltimore is on track to replace its pipes in 140 years, while Philadelphia will not be done for 80 years.”
What’s interesting and alarming about these sorts of issues has to do with the wide distribution and sheer scope of the problem; leaks are bound to happen, so they are predictable; however, the location of a leak is simply unanticipatable. The solution: these companies rely on users! “Utility companies now largely rely on the noses of their customers to alert them to danger. The gas that flows through the network of pipes under the streets is naturally odorless, so a compound known as mercaptan that smells somewhat like rotten eggs is added.”
Another piece comes from the editorial page and falls under “opinion”; “Warning: Gas Leaks and Aging Pipes.“
The first comments come from ARMOND COHEN, Exec. Director, Clean Air Task Force, and mainly frames the issue as one of national security: “This is a matter of national public safety, a priority for protecting the climate and an opportunity to create jobs, and must be immediately addressed at all levels — by state utility regulators, by the Environmental Protection Agency and by other federal agencies.” The second comments are even more interesting, COURTNEY CARROLL, a resident of New York, tells the average resident what to expect if there is a leak. “One way to increase vigilance in spotting gas leaks is to look for damaged vegetation like dead trees, dead grass and dead shrubs.” I like this idea of enrolling the missing masses to monitor infrastructure; maybe we need an app for that! Seems like an obvious university project for students or something that communities, if they want access to upgraded piping, could commit to … of course, the ironies hurt: as soon as residents get new infrastructure, that is precisely when we start to “forget about it”.
The final piece “Under the Streets, a Lurking Danger” adds some balance and redirects the discussion toward government. Aging pipes have NOT yet been identified as the cause of the East Harlem gas explosions, they remind us. Also, the real battle is on the hill: “Congress can give momentum to two Senate bills sponsored by Senator Edward Markey, a Democrat of Massachusetts, which seek to hasten the replacement of old, leaking natural-gas pipelines nationwide.” Let’s see if the combination of government action and local citizen action get us through to the future with natural gas…
Originally posted on Progressive Geographies:
My interview with Gastón for Society and Space is almost complete, and his responses are very interesting. The interview mainly discusses his forthcoming book Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction, but also his earlier book Landscape of Devils, the terrain project and his blog. I’ll post a link here as soon as it’s published.
Ethnography work on software in Vietnam; interesting updates from the field.
Originally posted on Ethnography Matters:
Editor’s Note: Lilly U. Nguyen (@deuxlits) tells us how in her own work on the ethnography of software in Vietnam, she both studies and embodies “diaspora” – and she shares the insights that diaspora has given her. She is a postdoctoral scholar at the ISTC-Social at UC Irvine. She studies race, labor politics, and information technology in Vietnam and among the Vietnamese diaspora.
Lilly’s post continues the March-April edition focusing on ethnographies of makers, hackers, and engineers.
In my work, ethnography takes on diasporic dimensions.
These qualities touch on several of the questions raised in previous posts in this blog series, such as the distinction between self and other and the Cartesian coordinates of studying up and down in Nick Seaver’s post and the disciplinary shifts as described in Austin Toomb’s post. For those of us who study decidedly contemporary phenomena like algorithms, hackers…
View original 1,114 more words
The Internet is Here!
Originally posted on ANTHEM:
The term ‘social’ in ‘social media’ is embedded in positive connotations regarding community spirit and participation and is moreover rhetorically used as a given. Within the popular discourse social media are often portrayed as important tools for generating and preserving social interaction within the community, which would supposedly lead to a more engaged and involved society. But to what extent are these media actually social as opposed to commercial when we consider how ‘the social’ is being recreated and exploited for commercial success. By working around the utopian discourse we will further explore this phenomena within this session in order to define the ‘social’ in social media.
I just returned from the International Studies Association annual conference. It’s a large professional conference–a 250 page book of panels, a plurality of approaches to the study of international relations, and hundreds of academics presenting and discussing their research. This means it takes a lot of space: two hotels for the conference itself and then 2-3 additional hotels for participants. And this doesn’t include all the people that venture farther out for hotels in non-conference space.
I started going to ISA in 2008 during my third year of graduate school. It was in San Francisco that year and I remember being overwhelmed by the amount of panels and the amount of people. I am not sure what my insight for this post is, but it seems worthwhile to think through how we organize ourselves in relation to space and place during that once-a-year conference. Most disciplines have them, right? And it seems that these conferences do discipline us in many ways. This is not a rant about how terrible conferences can be–in fact, far from it. I am intrigued that they seem to work so well for so many things. Seeing old friends, hashing out the finer points of theory with like-minded geeks, placing your body in various vectors for various reasons: potential employment connections, publication deals, professional contacts, new ideas.
There is also the politics of which city is chosen over another and how this affects the conference. In New York, fewer panels were accepted due to less room at the conference hotel. The first year ISA went to NOLA, there was a heated debate about the state’s stance on gay marriage and LGBTQ rights. Many called for a boycott of the conference and others countered that the economic boon of a big conference would be welcome in a post-Katrina economy. San Diego, in an informal bad social science poll done by yours truly, was a favorite. Lots of space to stand and talk, a decent and roomy bar in the main hotel, and a Starbuck’s right near the center. All these things are necessary as most people are jet lagged and exhausted from writing their paper on the way to the conference. New York was abysmal–nowhere to stand, the elevators were slow and terrifying, and there was nowhere grab a quick bite in Times Square. I discovered this year in Toronto that the best place to people watch and wait for friends/contacts/people you should meet to advance your career is at the top of an escalator that leads to the meeting rooms. Future ISAs for me will be deemed a success if they have a well placed escalator or two.
Finally, ISA is profoundly un-international in its choice of conference venues. The most international US ISA members have to get is to cross the border to Canada. It might have been in Brazil one year, but that was way before my time and I may be remembering incorrectly. Maybe we just talked about wishing it were somewhere other than US. This gives the US and Canadian members a distinct advantage. I watch Aussie, European and UK friends stumble around jet lagged for days and feel better just in time to board a plane for home. This choice of North American space only seems quite strange. Why is the International Studies Association not international?
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the 4S conference this year, but it was in San Diego, and maybe even in the same hotel as the ISA awarded with the best venue award (at least in my opinion). Anyone want to chime in on what the space of the conference does for their discipline?
Seeing like a military
Originally posted on geographical imaginations:
So I’ve been interested to read a report over at rhizome on Forensis, an exhibition and installation curated by Anselm Franke and Eyal Weizman at the Haus der Kulteren der Welt in Berlin, on ‘Constructions of Truth in a Drone Age’:
Any act of looking or being looked at is mediated by technology. This is true of any scientific process too, where each tool or method of looking is developed with a purpose in mind which influences the data that it produces. This is precisely what forensic investigation reveals: not only the reality of an event…
View original 204 more words
Call for papers: Enacting Futures – extended deadline for abstracts is April 4
This year’s DASTS conference wants to highlight and display the political, conceptual and practical consequences of the ontological turn. Rather than continuing with the Modern belief in grand narratives and a singular ontology, researchers within the field of STS outline an alternative history with several modes of existence and thus a plurality of truth conditions. But what are the implications of multiple modes of existence? How are diplomatic encounters and politics performed across modes? And what does the plurality of truth conditions mean for the institution of Academia? How can we envision new forms of posthumanities in socio-technical worlds? With these questions, the theme of the conference will be enactments of futures.
At the location of Roskilde University this theme is particularly fitting. Since its origin in 1972 Roskilde University has been propagating action research and problem-based group-work to not only criticize but also engage in practices for example through participatory design and research processes. When DASTS is for the first time held at Roskilde University, we find it appropriate to reflect upon a new utopian agenda for researchers. Also, as STS is growing and moves beyond its original fields of science and technology studies, contributions are invited to consider different fields of research as different modes of existence, considering the spreading of STS across disciplines as a transdisciplinary approach. Last but not least, the theme of the conference is inspired by the AIME project: An Inquiry into Modes of Existence, which contributors could reflect upon concerning its theoretical foundation and its online platform.
To address the theme of enacting futures, contributions could focus on identifying characteristics of specific modes of existence, addressing connections between different domains, comparing domains, and/or discussing diplomacy, negotiations over values, and the (re-)invention of subjectivities/posthumanities and institutions. In doing so, contributors could turn attention to research methods and practices, looking at connections to politics, private companies, and/or artistic approaches. DASTS also invite artistic contributions that can be set on display and/or shown at the conference. It is also a possibility to couple traditional conference paper presentations in dialogue with an artistic oeuvre.
The call for papers is meant as inspirational. More than inviting papers relating to the announced theme, we also welcome papers and oeuvres discussing and/or performing other STS subject matters. The DASTS annual conference is open for all and the committee welcomes entries from all areas of science and technology studies. Especially junior researchers wanting to present and discuss their research are invited to present their work. The main purpose of the conference is to fertilize STS research broadly by providing an occasion for researchers working with STS in Denmark to exchange their current works and thoughts, and of course to stimulate networking across STS-inspired environments. For this latter reason the conference fee also includes conference dinner. The main language is Danish, but presentations in English are welcome, and a few sessions as well as the key note presentations will be held in English. The conference aims to be a friendly and encouraging scientific environment in which not only well-established scholars, but also Ph.D. and master students should feel confident to present and discuss their work with colleagues.
Keynotes at DASTS 2014: Adrian MacKenzie and Kristoffer Ørum.
Registration is now open: http://ruconf.ruc.dk/index.php/DASTS2014/DASTS2014
Dates: June 12 – 13, 2014
Place: Roskilde University, Universitetsvej 1, DK-4000 Roskilde
Deadline for submission of abstracts (max app. 300 words): April 4, 2014 (extended).
Please state in your abstract your preferred language of presentation, and if English is a possibility for you.
Abstracts should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes things juxtapose themselves. Dmfant wrote a reply about a terrific piece now available on-line, free, as an mp3. Backdoor Broadcasting Company’s academic broadcasts currently host access to the file, which is from:
The Political Life of Things: A One Day Workshop at The Imperial War Museum, London, UK; Nick Vaughan-Williams (Warwick) & Tom Lundborg (Swedish Institute of International Affairs): There’s More to Life than Biopolitics: Critical Infrastructure, Resilience Planning, and Molecular Security
The piece is about critical, self-healing infrastructure, and, of course, require this discussion requires significant use of the “human/non-human” distinction, if only to dash them to bits. Well, while this piece is years old, Dmfant just posted it in response to a previous post about an upcoming event.
There is a piece in the New York Times today about the third time that world scientists united in order to provide a broad response to the public about the realities of climate change. How these two pieces appear to be linked together so nicely is a claim made Tom LUndborg about how the linguistic turn in political philosophy has distracted us, on the whole, from the “social” concern over materiality and a full-fledged research base of studies on infrastructure. Tom goes further, though, claiming that the linguistic turn has made it much more difficult to be fully critical as theorists or, conceivably, as government agencies or even public citizens to take the next step … although, that is where the radio show ends.
The overall aim of the conference is to take stock of and support the exchange on TA capacities throughout Europe. Following the successful meeting of researchers, TA practitioners, policy makers and civil society organizations at the 1st European TA Conference in Prague in March 2013 we look forward to continuing the fruitful discussions and networking at the 2nd European TA Conference in Berlin. The Conference is organized within the framework of the four-year FP7 project PACITA (“Parliaments and Civil Society in Technology Assessment”). Generally, the PACITA project and the Conference define “Technology Assessment” in a broad sense. TA comprises methods, practices and institutions for knowledge based policy making on issues involving science, technology and innovation, including TA-related fields such as Foresight, Science and Technology Studies (STS) and research on Ethical, Legal and Societal Aspects (ELSA) of science and technology.
We submitted and we’ll let you know if we get a spot (along with some invitations).
Here is our submission:
Session Title: The State as a Concept In Practice
If it is necessary to reflect upon concepts that support democratic problem solving and decision making, then no concept is more important or central to this aim than “the state.” Over the last decade, scholars in science and technology studies (STS) have developed an innovative and useful model for understanding the state. In particular, they show how the state is an academic concept — a theory, to be specific — that is used routinely in the everyday practices of contemporary Continue reading
Proofs are back for an upcoming book review of Bogost’s work; check it out here (some corrections may be made, but the review is pretty stabilized now).
Geographical Imagination … interesting blog if you don’t know them (I didn’t until a colleague mentioned them to me today). Check it out.
Originally posted on geographical imaginations:
The still-incomplete database (it has several “dark” periods) reveals that from October 4, 1965, to August 15, 1973, the United States dropped far more ordnance on Cambodia than was previously believed: 2,756,941 tons’ worth, dropped in 230,516 sorties on 113,716 sites. Just over 10 percent of this bombing was indiscriminate, with 3,580 of the sites listed as having “unknown” targets and another 8,238 sites having no target listed at all. The database also shows that the bombing began four years earlier than is widely believed—not under Nixon, but under Lyndon Johnson. The impact of this bombing, the subject of much debate for the past three…
View original 546 more words
Originally posted on synthetic_zero:
via http://newbooksintechnology.com: We tend to take for granted that much of the innovation in the technology that we use today, in particular the communication technology, is made possible because of standards. In his book Open Standards and the Digital Age: History, Ideology, and Networks (Cambridge University Press, 2014), Dr. Andrew L. Russell examines standards and the standardization process in technology with an emphasis on standards in information networks. In particular, Russell examines the interdisciplinary historical foundations of openness and open standards by exploring the movement toward standardization in engineering, as well as the communication industry. Paying careful attention to the politics of standardization, Russell’s book considers the ideological foundations of openness, as well as the rhetoric surrounding this ideology. Notable also is the consideration of standardization as a critique of previous ideology and a rejection of centralized control.
Originally posted on Read Write Think... Social Thought:
Call for Papers
Knowledge: Power and Production
What is knowledge? Who defines it? Who and what determines the ownership of knowledge? What is the relationship between the production and dissemination of knowledge? What are the power dynamics of knowledge in contemporary society? How does the constriction and control of knowledge influence politics? How is our conceptualization of knowledge changing with technology?
We would like to facilitate a discussion of the changing conceptualization and commodification of knowledge in a world in which a library can occupy both a multi-story building and a computer’s hard drive. Perspectives…
View original 142 more words
Jan and I recently gave a talk at the School for International Affairs in the Law School at The Pennsylvania State University, which is available HERE.
The presentation, “The Possibilities and Contours of State Multiplicity: Preliminary Findings”, featured Jan-Hendrik Passoth (Technische Universität Berlin), Nicholas Rowland (Penn State University) presenting their latest research work on state theory, and Larry Catá Backer (Penn State) as discussant. The conference was recorded and all are welcome to watch and comment, engage.
Description of the talk:
For at least 100 years, scholars in law, political science, philosophy, international relations, and various branches of sociology have asked: What is the state? And, for at least as long, answers to that question have commonly taken the form of a petty and seemingly endless game of conceptual one-upsmanship. An alternative direction exists from the small world of science and technology studies. State multiplicity. The shift toward seeing “the state” as multiple implies that we understand the state to be, convincingly, both one thing and many things simultaneously. In this talk we draw on more than 100 years of research on the state to document the possibility state multiplicity and then we hazard a few tentative and counter-intuitive conclusions based on our preliminary findings.
The Passoth-Rowland Presentation and Roundtable may be viewed HERE (via mediasite) or on Penn State Law’s Multimedia Page. It may also be accessed through the Coalition for Peace & Ethics Website: HERE.
Henri Lefebvre on city infrastructure
Originally posted on Progressive Geographies:
Henri Lefebvre is undoubtedly one of the most influential thinkers in the field of urban space and its organization; his theories offer reflections still valid for analyzing social relations in urban areas affected by the crisis of the neoliberal economic system. Lefebvre’s ideal of the “right to the city” is now more widely accepted given today’s current cultural and social situation. Most current research on Henri Lefebvre refers solely to his ideas and their theoretical discussion, without focusing on the empirical transcription of the philosopher. This book fills this gap, and proposes examples about the empirical use of Henri Lefebvre’s sociology from the perspective of different cities and researchers in order to understand the city and its evolutions in the context of neoliberal globalization. The book’s main purpose is to revisit Lefebvre’s still-relevant key…
View original 97 more words
Both this post and the post it references are fascinating for seeing an interesting intersection of “practical politics” and “academic models” … if you go to the original post on “Monkey Cage” you’ll notice that survey responses to question 3 are about state entitivity.
Originally posted on Critical Geopolitics:
The well-known Political Science blog The Monkey Cage, now owned by the Washington Post (now owned by Jeff Bezos; we all work for Amazon now) posted earlier today a concise 3 graph summary of what our De Facto State Research Survey reveals about likely attitudes amongst different ethnic groups in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria (we left out our research results from Nagorny Karabakh since it is not directly supported by the Russian Federation and has its own unique features). We want to thank The Washington Post and particularly Erik Voeten of Georgetown for his assistance in swinging open the door of the Monkey Cage sufficiently to let two Irish political geographers propel some hopefully useful place-based knowledge into the maelstrom of debate that engulfs us post-Crimea. It is painful to summarize years of research into a few paragraphs but at least we didn’t have to write…
View original 6 more words
Thanks a lot to Philip for pointing us to Klye McGee´s new book, and especially to the three pieces on the AIME website:
I am so looking forward to checking the book out. Or maybe i just wait for a review on: Circling Squares: Kyle McGee’s ‘Bruno Latour: The Normativity of Networks’.
Teaching ANT to students at the undergraduate level can be a difficult endeavor; however, I have come across a viable solution.
But not to keep students awake during boring lectures about Bruno so much as a case study. The rise of gourmet-style coffee in the United States via the mass producer and distributor Starbucks.
The lecture is here; if you’ll use it, drop me a line (njr12 <at> psu.edu).
Many thanks, Nicholas, for the kind introduction – it’s great to be back as a guest blogger! Last time I was here, I wrote a series of posts about the material practices of democratic politics, and the ways in which they were being coordinated and distributed by the Hungarian Parliament as a complex political technology. That was in late 2011. Since then I’ve become a postdoc researcher at the Department of Sociology at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, and got involved in the setting up of an Open Access book publisher called Mattering Press.
Last week I participated in a very interesting symposium, organised by the Centre of Disruptive Media at Coventry University (more precisely, by Janneke Adema and Gary Hall). It was the first of a series of events called Disrupting the Humanities, and I was asked to talk about Mattering Press as an initiative that aims to rethink scholarly publishing. While preparing for the event, I remembered an older project of mine, which was about the technologies and techniques of illegal publishing in communist Hungary, and decided to use that as a case to articulate what might be called the politics of self-publishing. What follows is a shortened version of my talk – hope you’ll find it interesting.
Mattering Press and STS
Mattering Press started in early 2012 as a publishing initiative of the Flows, Doings, Edges collective: a peer-support group of young scholars interested in relational research. Sensitive to the politics of knowledge production we began to explore the possibilities of alternative modes of engaging with works we find interesting and important. (Our first books are due to appear in the end of 2014.)
The term ‘mattering’ comes from science and technology studies (more precisely from Karen Barad’s 2003 paper). Since the appearance of the first lab studies in the late 1970s and 1980s, STS scholars have been busy extending their gaze to a wide range of sites, from hospitals through high-tech innovation centres to stock exchange trading rooms, in order to explore how scientific knowledge is being produced and distributed through seemingly trivial material practices – and how it could be produced and distributed differently. Ironically, what’s been largely missing from the list of the usual sites in STS-inspired works are the institutions that play one of the most important roles in shaping the academic world STS scholars themselves operate in, namely publishers.
We invite one-page proposals for an edited volume on “digitalSTS” that advance our understanding of digital objects, phenomena, processes, and methods in Science and Technology Studies. Proposals will be solicited and adjudicated in one of three categories: (1) Theory and Cases, (2) Methods, and (3) Making. To best tailor your proposed submission, we outline the three categories and their expectations below. For more information please see http://www.digitalsts.net or email the digitalSTS editorial team at digitalSTS@zoho.com.
Strong contributions will draw direct connections to topics, literatures, and inquiries of central importance to STS. They may also engage contributions from intersecting fields such as anthropology, communications, media studies, computer-supported cooperative work, and human-computer interaction. We encourage the broadest possible participation from individuals and groups working across Science and Technology Studies and its constitutive or intersecting domains.
In line with the principles and practices of the growing digitalSTS community, this Call for Proposals (and Things!) was generated by community members at the digitalSTS Workshop at 4S in October 2013. Submissions will be discussed and adjudicated in an open, online peer review format before the Editorial Team will select and solicit papers. We welcome all members of the STS community to participate in the process of reviewing proposals.
1. Theory and Cases (a.k.a. “The Handbook”): Submissions to the “Theory and Cases” section should explore or propose a significant or novel contribution to STS theory through an empirical case study focused on digital environments, objects, or practices. Through such studies, we aim tobuild a corpus of theory around the digital within STS, and also contribute to larger debates and established topics within the field (for example: social shaping, actor-networks, ontologies, expertise, feminist STS, science and technology policy, etc.).
2. Methods (a.k.a. “The Field-guide”): We seek submissions that address methods and methodologies for studies of the digital, broadly construed, as well as novel approaches that draw on the enabling capacities of digital approaches for investigations of STS topics. The digital presents many novel phenomena and also provokes a reexamination of existing objects of analysis for STS. The styles for submission are broad: we seek exemplary studies that demonstrate methods, or reflexive papers that explore high level methodologies and hands-on approaches.
3. Making (a.k.a. “The Scrapbook”): This section of the Handbook issues a “Call for Things” targeted at an audience of scholars, designers and makers as well as hybrid identities such as scholar/makers. The call is intended to bring together texts as well as visual materials (such as diagrams, images, prototypes, videos) that use design/making to engage with themes and theories about STS (such as power, materiality), design/making for STS (such as how visual materials and hands-on methods can be incorporated into STS) and design with STS (such as collaborations between scholars and makers).
* Note: We recognize that submissions may cross categories; these are provisional and it may be the case that the final handbook is organized otherwise.
Deadlines: Online Submission System will open in early April, 2014 Submissions Due May 15, 2014 Review period: May 16, 2014 – June 15, 2014
Sometimes you find out about these things on facebook!
At any rate, our session about STS, infrastructure, and the state is secured for EASST — please consider submitting an abstract.
STS and “the state”
For “Situating Solidarities,” let’s return to classic issues of science, technology and politics. Normative answer exist: of how science, technology and politics should be related. However, we have seen a rising interest on how the practices of governing and “the state” are interwoven with science and technology. We would like to see:
1. Empirical cases of “the state” as manifest in infrastructure and everyday life: Recent work on
infrastructural developments offers cases to reconsider theoretical approaches to understanding what the state is. “The state in everyday life” offers a perspective that gets at mundane experiences and routine activities that either bring us closer to the state or fend us off from it.
2. Empirical cases of “the state” as manifest materially in institutional arrangements: State formation has been a perennial question in state theory. However, as scholarship develops, the old theories of the state, which emphasize war-making and international treaties, have given way to new research on the practical aspects of state formation and transformation.
3. Where is the state and where is not the state? State absense/state presence: This topic emerged organically from the last 4S meeting in San Diego, and while it is new to us and is far more experimental than the above themes, we consider it of vast potential.
Chair: Jan-H. Passoth, Nicholas J. Rowland
March 15, 2014 is the deadline for graduate students papers for the Hacker-Mullins Student Paper Award, 2014. So if you know a grad student that published a decent paper in the last two or so years, nominate them … or, graduate students, nominate yourselves!
Hacker-Mullins Student Paper Award, 2014
The Science, Knowledge and Technology Section invites submissions for the 2014 Hacker-Mullins Graduate Student Paper Award. The winner will be honored at the ASA meetings in San Francisco (August 16-19, 2014) and will receive a plaque. The award also comes with a $350 prize. The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2014. Self-nominations are welcome. To be eligible, an author must be a student at the time of submission. Published and unpublished papers are accepted; if published, the article must have been published no earlier than 2012. This year’s committee members are Daniel Breslau (Chair), Erin Leahy, Dan Morrison, Elizabeth Sweeney, and Steven Epstein (ex officio). Please send the nominated paper and a brief nominating statement in one PDF document, via email, to Daniel Breslau at email@example.com.
Here are some past winners of the award published in SSS.
Long time blog readers, you may recall that Endre was a guest blogger for us doing a great, great series on Parliaments (6 parts in all, count them, one, two, three, four, five, and six!). Looking back, the six posts make a nice collection.
He will join us again for a blog post specifically about mattering press and perhaps tell us a little about a talk he recently did about open-access and samizdat.
As Endre told me:
The term ‘samizdat’, coined by the Russian poet Nikolai Glazkov in the early 1950s, means self-publishing and refers to both the various processes of producing texts unauthorised by the state, and the outcomes of those processes: mostly literary and political writings that could not have appeared in official periodicals.
Image from: http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BiIbVQSIYAAICQb.jpg
New York Times has a nice retrospective video on the “collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis in 2007 killed 13 people and focused attention on the state of bridges across the nation.” As a native Minnesotan, this event is one of the moments I look back and can easily pinpoint my growing interest in infrastructure, especially, infrastructural decay as a major present and future concern in the US and beyond.
This weeklong summer school is intended for graduate students and early postdocs in science and technology studies, history, philosophy, sociology, and anthropology of science, legal studies or related fields. We also invite applications from students in the biomedical sciences, life sciences and bioengineering who can demonstrate strong commitment to investigating the interconnections between science and society. Graduate students must have completed at least one year of study at the doctoral level.
Developments in the biosciences in the last half-century have posed novel challenges for governance. These have emerged as biological knowledge becomes more central to matters of safety, health and welfare; as biology is called upon to address moral uncertainty around ideas of human nature, identity and dignity; and as biology plays an increasingly central role in the technological alteration of human bodies, non-human entities and environments. Governance challenges have unfolded across several domains: internally within the research enterprise itself; externally where the biosciences are called upon to address social problems; and in moments of ethical doubt, for example, when institutions of governance are called upon to distinguish bioengineered artifacts from entities with human dignity. Scholarship in Science and Technology Studies (STS) has developed varied approaches and techniques for examining such phenomena, and drawing theoretically grounded generalizations from site-specific studies. This summer school will introduce participants to major approaches, and explore new research frontiers and possible directions for synthesis and innovation. It will emphasize engagement with theoretical issues in STS, with particular attention to moments of friction between science and institutions of democratic governance.
Through a mix of lectures, group workshops and discussions of individual projects, participants will be exposed to contemporary STS research frontiers. The main emphasis of the summer school will be on discussion and exchange of ideas and insights across different research topics, methodologies and theoretical frameworks. Each day during the workshop faculty participants will give overview presentations addressing different themes. These will be accompanied by interactive, in-depth discussion sessions. Students in the summer school are expected to be present and actively involved throughout the course.
The summer school will be held at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, July 27 to August 2, 2014. Room and board will be provided. Students are responsible for their own travel expenses and for their visa status, if relevant. Modest subventions may be available upon request, based on a demonstration of need.
The course is limited to 20 participants and the application deadline is April 4, 2014. Please complete the application form at http://sts.hks.harvard.edu/events/sts-summer-school-application-form/. The form includes a place to upload a statement of interest (300 words) and a short professional CV (maximum 2 pages), as well as space to enter the name and email address of a nominating faculty member. The statement of interest should describe the applicant’s background and qualifications and describe their current research and its relevance to the aims of the summer school. The nominating letter should be from a faculty member in the applicant’s program who is familiar with the applicant’s work and interests. The letter should be sent by the nominating faculty member to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conveners: Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard University), Krishanu Saha (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Benjamin Hurlbut (Arizona State University)
· Ulrike Felt (University of Vienna)
· Jeremy Greene (Johns Hopkins University)
· Steve Hilgartner (Cornell University)
· Benjamin Hurlbut (Arizona State University)
· Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard University)
· Pierre-Benoit Joly (INRA and IFRIS)
· Shobita Parthasarathy (University of Michigan)
· Joanna Radin (Yale University)
· Jenny Reardon (University of California, Santa Cruz)
· Krishanu Saha (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
· Giuseppe Testa (University of Milan, European School for Molecular Medicine)
· David Winickoff (University of California, Berkeley)
Speaking of “things” and “speaking for”–here is a video sent by friend in response to my last post on possibilities for Dingpolitik.
Bristol, UK has talking things!
Fascinating discussion of economics and abandonment.
Originally posted on Society and Space - Environment and Planning D:
Elizabeth Povinelli is Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University. Her writing has focused on developing a critical theory of late liberalism that would support an anthropology of the otherwise. Most recently, Povinelli is the author of Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism (Duke University Press, 2011), The Empire of Love: Toward a Theory of Intimacy, Geneology, and Carnality (Duke University Press, 2006), and she is currently working on Geontologies: Indigenous Worlds in the New Media and Late Liberalism, the third and last volume of Dwelling in Late Liberalism. In this series of monographs she is interested in the ways that liberal discourses about alternative social worlds deflect ethical and social…
View original 468 more words
As weird as it sounds, that’s what “The Watchers” is, but it is also written by Shane Harris who has something of an academic/journalistic background, which the subtitle “The rise of the American surveillance state” clarifies.
The concept developed, the surveillance state, is not really developed for use in theory, but it does seem to have applications for the general public as a (new) way to think about these issues (that Foucault cued us to long ago). Likewise, the book is written in a novelistic style even though it is based largely (if not entirely) on first-hand accounts from people Harris has interviewed. Makes for an interesting discussion: is it worth using the novel format to learn empirical truths about the state, or does the style/format reduce the “weight” of the argument?
I don’t know, but the more our ideas here get in congress with dmfant’s, I wonder if “more useful” is not always better provided “still true” is the baseline.
CFP: New Materialist Methodologies: Gender, Politics, and the Digital
25-26th September 2014
Deadline for abstracts is the 1st of May.
The Birth of Territory wins the 2013 Association of American Geographers Meridian Book Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work in Geography
Originally posted on Progressive Geographies:
I’m obviously delighted by the news, but also surprised, in part because Terror and Territory won their other major book award just a few years ago. I will receive the award at the AAG meeting in Tampa in April, where there will also be an ‘author meets critics’ session on the book.
The time has come to talk of many things:
Of Oysters–and Windfarms–
Of hurricanes–and oil spills–
And why politics needs these things–
and whether bacteria eats oil
In Making Things Public, Latour sets forth to “designate a risky and tentative set of experiments in probing just what it could mean for political thought to turn ‘things’ around, or ‘What would an object-oriented politics look like?” (p.14). It was this chapter–”From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik or How to Make Things Public”–that prompted much of my thought about what a “thing” oriented International Relations might look like. My research is focused on bacteria and microbiomes and bodies and parasites, but sometimes other things make themselves known. This is the most magical part of a “thing” oriented politics: those objects demanding attention, making themselves known, pushing us to respond to the world and everything in it.
I have a forthcoming chapter in a book taking objects in IR as its subject entitled Making Things International. This book is something new and exciting from a disciplinary standpoint, and my chapter on microbes joins others on corpses, passports, viruses, drones, dirt, bodies, and barbed wire, to name just a few from the collection. Now, hanging out with STS folks makes this seem easy, but IR has chosen its objects of study from a rather short list. We talk about the State with a capital S, sometimes NGOs, admittedly, more and more attention is focused on the individual, but it is generally bounded by international law or rationalist assumptions of individuality over sociality. The International Criminal Court has brought individual accountability to a system of sovereign immunity, but progress is slow and fitful and markedly anthropocentric. Even with global climate change, decline in biodiversity globally, and the countless number of extinctions, IR doesn’t really talk about “nature” as much as it should given the climate crisis as the acme of politics now immanent to the globe.
That said, a good place to start with objects in politics is with disasters, or “What can things do for us?” Let’s look at a recent study proposing wind turbine “farms” off the coast and then one about oysters and their role in curbing superstorms off the US Atlantic coast.
Admittedly, this is still looking at objects anthropocentrically, but it’s a start. Also, I know that recognizing “things” as crucial to survival, safety, or health, or happiness doesn’t translate to a democracy that incorporates them explicitly, but even finding these actants on the radar can open a dialogue about the role humans and others play in complex eco(social)systems.
A recent study by Stanford, published in Nature Climate Change, has concluded that wind turbines can aid in lessening the damage from superstorms like Sandy and Katrina. Unlike seawalls, they can also generate electricity. Using a climate-weather model, the study found that “large turbine arrays” of 300+ would significantly reduce windspeed, rarely suffer damage during high wind storms, and that the net cost is estimated to be less (“capital plus operation cost less cost reduction from electricity generation and from health, climate, and hurricane damage avoidance) than the net cost of fossil fuel electricity generation. Unfortunately, the number of turbines to take the edge off of Katrina would be 78,000 wind turbines placed offshore. Currently, there is political resistance to any wind turbines in many areas of the US and many question whether this would be worth the cost. The two largest wind farms in the works in New England and Texas have only 200 turbines.
Futurity writes that the cost of Sandy totaled $82 billion, and there is the added bonus of electricity generation to sweeten the financial deal. A further question would be the ecological impact to the ocean. This was not addressed in the articles I found.
This article on the role oysters in taming superstorms is a wonderful example of an object oriented look at the world. In October 2012, Paul Greenberg wrote about the destruction of the indigenous oyster in New York, Crassostrea virginica, and the effects their underwater reefs have had on stabilizing the shoreline previous to over-harvesting by humans. To quote from the article:
“Just as corals protect tropical islands, these oyster beds created undulation and contour on the harbor bottom that broke up wave action before it could pound the shore with its full force. Beds closer to shore clarified the water through their assiduous filtration (a single oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day); this allowed marsh grasses to grow, which in turn held the shores together with their extensive root structure.”
Of course, as Greenberg points out, our protection is at an end due to our “poor behavior”. Like the Walrus and the Carpenter from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, we ate them all up.
“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.
Then we started farming oyster beds, but that didn’t go so well after dumping raw sewage in the ocean.
In conclusion, he points out that storms like Sandy will both increase in savagery and frequency, and that we need the oysters back in the bays to protect us (and they taste good, too). This is made difficult because of poaching and pollution, but human-run programs have tried to get reefs started again. From the perspective of an object oriented democracy, oysters need NY reps, right? And wind turbines should have their say against those arguing against them– “ugly” skylines or electricity?
Check it out here; thanks dmfant.
In this post from Andrzej, we ask the question: can we switch-off war?
I am from Poland. These days, we are a little over-sensitive about Ukraine, and now even more so about Crimea crisis. I would like to show you very interesting article, which I found here: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2014/03/vladimir_putin_s_crimean_mistake_the_russian_president_is_miscalculating.html.
The author is analyzing the possibility of war and future existence of puppet pro-Russian Yanukovith Crimea state from an “infrastructure perspective”. It reads:
The Crimea could explode into bloodshed. To prevent if from happening, maybe turning off the power for 15 minutes will force a reboot in Putin’s aggressive, misguided, and ultimately doomed scheme.
The main idea is quite simple: most of the electric power, water supplies, and 70% of food is from the Ukraine mainland, and, as a result, peninsula is not self-sustainable. The author’s idea, copied form Ukrainian internet, is that Ukrainian government should make this fact visible to Putin and the world by switching power for 15 minutes:
The Crimea’s dependence on Ukraine for nearly all of it electricity makes it equally vulnerable to nonviolent retaliation. One suggestion making the rounds of the Ukrainian Internet is that the mainland, with warning, shut off the power for 15 minutes. It may not normalize the situation, but it could give Moscow pause. Of course, Russia could retaliate by cutting off Ukrainian gas supplies, but that would mean cutting off much of Europe as well. Besides, Ukrainians proved this winter that they aren’t afraid of the cold, and spring is coming.
Do You think is possible to use infrastructure to defend in the way that an army does? Is possible to switch off war?
The dodo-community has a blog that utilizes some concepts we are generally interested in on the blog, for example, non-human. Check it out.
Some of the links are pretty incredible, like dolphin stampedes and so on. At any rate, it is an interesting source that I was not aware of. Might be more exciting or interesting if there was a more academic focus (that is, specifically interesting to me as an academic), but some of these issues, like the protection of animals, would suffer from a pedantic streak …
I was in Anapolis, MD, last weekend and saw something that I thought was a bit odd (above): disaster art. At first, I was stunned; how could a place celebrate (but potentially profit) from local disasters? How would that appeal to tourists? In this case, of course, its an image of flooding after a hurricane where the infrastructure of the harbor is damaged and, in may cases, submerged.
“Why would folks want pictures of broken infrastructure?” I thought. And that’s when my art history training came in and I had a “duh” moment. Disaster art — fictional and non-fictional — has been common for centuries. See, for example, this blog post about sunken ships or this one featuring a number of examples of fictional disaster art.This pintrest board sums it up nicely, saying disaster begets creativity, and includes a number of other obvious pieces of this puzzle like disaster memorials and post-disaster reassembly work like art from tsunami rubble in Japan. I’d also be remiss not to include the massive amount of disaster art in video games, for example, post-apocalyptic games like the Fallout (below), Gears of War, or Halo series.
Still, people’s love for depicting ruins is far older than all that. I’m thinking, in particular, of the many depictions — often with a romantic feel — of derelict Greek temples or statues like this image (contemporary, lame, background wallpaper) or this painting of the Colosseum (from the second half of 17th century).
Seems we love our ruins, after all.