As we apprehend the nature of politics in the 21st Century, we are faced with questions about what it means to do politics? How might we develop new modes of thinking to counter the exercise of a haunting coloniality that has embedded its hold through a politics of the carceral and practices of denial and degradation? In what manner is it possible to engage with a situation of intensified overt and insidious forms of violence, in order to make a felt difference to the lives and futures of those whose historical belonging is refuted by the exercise of military power and the rhetoric employed to sustain and extend its reach? In this one-day seminar we embark on a project of experimenting with what might constitute an art of politics, a creative experimental endeavor of thinking with those whose futures remain intimately connected to our own in a global and globalizing world.
11.00 Welcome and Introduction.
Professor Marsha Rosengarten and Dr Annie Pfingst CISP, Goldsmiths, University of London
11.05 – 12.30 ‘The aesthetic of violence and the Israeli necropenological regime’
Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian Lawrence D. Biele Chair in Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Chair in Global Law, Queen Mary University, London
1.30 – 2.45 ‘Law, the State and the Question of Palestine’
Salma Karmi-Ayyoub British-Palestinian Barrister
3.00 – 4.15 ‘An ethics of critical activism’
Dr Fiona Wright, Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
4.30 – 5.30 ‘Incarcerated Childhood and the Politics of Unchilding’ by Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian (Cambridge University Press 2019)
Discussants: Professor Penny Green, Law, Queen Mary University, London and Professor Nur Masalha, SOAS, University of London
‘On Palestine in conversation with Mathare’ photographs by Annie Pfingst
Hannah Landecker is a historian and sociologist of the life sciences. She holds a joint appointment in the life and social sciences at UCLA as professor in the department of sociology and director of the institute for society and genetics, an interdisciplinary unit committed to cultivating research and pedagogy at the interface of the life and human sciences. Landecker is the author of Culturing life: How cells became technologies (harvard up, 2007) and writes on biotechnology and the intersection of biology and film. Her recent work concerns antibiotic resistance, and the history and sociology of metabolism and epigenetics.
CISP talk by Professor Turo-Kimmo Lehtonen (Sociology, Tampere University)
30th May 4.30-6.30 pm
Richard Hoggart Building room 137a, Goldsmiths, University of London
While Michel Serres’ work has become relatively well-known among social theoreticians in recent years, his explicit thematization of the foundations of human collectives has gained surprisingly little attention. This article claims that Serres’ approach to the theme of foundations can be clarified by scrutinizing the way in which he poses and answers the following three questions: How are we together? What and whom do we exclude from our togetherness and how? Who are we today? Instead of starting with a ready-made order, be it on the scale and form of individuals or society, Serres pushes social research to take up the challenge of examining the point at which order is about to emerge out of noise and chaos, but where the outcome of the process remains uncertain. Especially relevant to the discussion are Serres’ books Rome, Statues and Geometry, all three of which bear the subtitle Book of Foundations.
On 9th April, CISP Salon members met to discuss texts by Giraud & Hollin (2016) and Despret & Meuret (2016) in order to reflect on care in the context of human-animal relations. Below, Dr. Fay Dennis shares her thoughts on the session.
So far in the series, care has proved a productive and lively concept to think with that has taken us from historical forms of injustice and the possibilities of another science to the ethics of gay partying and queer politics, and this week, to human-animal relations. For me, one thing that has become clearer in light of these most recent discussions is the extent to which care – as a practice of knowing and doing – is always already politically, socially and materially entangled. Care has a past and an inherited politics that makes some ways of being and knowing more possible than others. For this session, there is an assumed and powerful hierarchy between humans and animals that is difficult to shift.
Following care as a reciprocal act of maintenance in more-than-human worlds (Puig de la Bellacasa, 2017), and taking up the articles by Giraud and Hollin (2016) on laboratory beagles and Despret and Meuret (2016) on sheep herding, we ask: How can we care for animals if they are instrumental in our scientific experiments (in the case of beagle handling) or food production (in the case of sheep herding)? Without this reciprocity, can this kind of reliance ever be care, which raises the questions again of what care is. Both papers, in different ways, attempt to move beyond the problematization of care as an ethical practice in opposition to its instrumentalization. So then, we ask: Can care be instrumentalised and ethically-materially productive?
For Giraud and Hollin, this relationship is at the very heart of the problem with care – ‘in certain contexts care is precisely what enables the instrumentalization of life, in being used to gain knowledge about entities that can be exploited for the purpose of control’ (pg. 31). Although posed negatively, an instrumentalized care that is also ethical seems oddly more possible in Giraud and Hollin’s case of the beagle-experimenters than in Despret and Meuret’s case of the sheep-herders. One might imagine a more caring beagle laboratory under a mantra in which the dogs are better exercised, fed, socialized etc., but could the same kind of care be applied to Despret and Meuret’s sheep-herders?
Care, in Despret and Meuret’s case, is a mode of intervention where both human and animal have learnt from, and, crucially, I would say (echoing Bryan Lim’s thoughts on ‘being invested’ from the last session), are interested in, learning from each other. So, could the kind of care that Despret and Meuret are identifying as a becoming-together or ‘composition’ of humans and animals ever exist if those sheep were brought back into their sheds? We think not.
Perhaps because I am a daughter of a sheep farmer (before sheep, in this region of the UK, became too expensive to rear), I find this particularly compelling as I have witnessed these human-animal attachments and losses to selves and community in these detachments from livestock. Despret and Meuret write in a way to aid these compositions. Like the shepherds, they take on first person language in becoming with the sheep. This difference in writing style provoked heated debates on whether we can ascribe intention to animals, how to talk/write about animals without projecting human qualities, how to think and feel with animals without assuming a hierarchy of sentient beings (e.g. would we feel so bad for the beagles if they were mice or ants or mosquitos?).
Towards the end of the session, we looked again at the different modes of care being paid attention to and tried to imagine what the care in the sheep-herding would look like if extended to the beagle-handling – Would we let the beagles go free? Could they survive? Is there such a thing as freedom from human contact? With this, we reflected on notions of responsibility, non-intervention as intervention, and how ‘needs’ become enacted in practice.
Entangled historically (as the beagles’ cages disturbingly reminded us) and enacted in the moment (through attuning or ‘tinkering’), both papers helped us to imagine care as a navigational tool for moving through inequitable worlds. This is what Anna Tsing calls the ‘arts of living on a damaged planet’, which is exactly what the next Salon hopes to explore further through embodied art and film.
CISP Salon Readings:
Giraud, E., & Hollin, G. (2016). Care, Laboratory Beagles and Affective Utopia. Theory, Culture & Society, 33(4), 27–49.
Despret, V., & Meuret, M. (2016). Cosmoecological Sheep and the Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet. Environmental Humanities, 8(1), 24–36.
On 26th February, CISP Salon members met to discuss texts by Kane Race and Karen Barad in order to reflect on what it might mean to queer care in our own practices as scholars of science and technology. Following the session, participants were invited to share an element of the discussion that they had found particularly interesting or provocative. Below, Bryan Lim and Adam Christianson share their thoughts on the session:
The CISP salon asked us to reflect on Kane Race’s empirical account of “queer chemistry” and Barad’s invitation to take seriously the experimental nature of the world we inhabit, in the context of thinking through care critically. Reading both papers together, I cannot help but wonder about how care is never a given, which consequently generated a litany of questions which I am still mulling over. Can I care, or do I even know how to care, when I want to care? In caring for something, what changes does it undergo in the process and if so, might care end up inflicting harm on an (always) transformed subject? To this end, I am inspired to conceive of care as a gamble, an extension of one’s hand to other(s) in the hope that they might reach back. Relatedly, if care is a selective mode of attention, where certain assemblages are valorised and cherished, and others are inevitably excluded and ignored altogether, how might we address the violence, exclusion and neglect that acts of care enact, while still recognising the vital role it plays in maintaining the fabric of our social and biological existence? The CISP salon was a platform for the exploring of how our practices are always already intimately knotted together with different circumscriptions of which in/non/human lives will flourish/wither, acting as a lure through which we are reminded of the need to always contend with larger questions of how we might all live better.
To understand enacting care, we have been thinking through the notion of haptics, or touch as a way of relating. Hapticity refers to all ways through which we touch and are touched. Puig de la Bellacasa and Barad, for example, see the haptic ways of thinking as a highly productive fashion conducive to reading multi-critter environments; useful for understanding the ways embodied persons explore rich and variegated spaces. Also working on the topic of hapticity, Mel Chen argues that practices of queer care are nested in how we read internality, harm and how we then position that amalgam toward the rest of our environment. For those of us interested in questions of drug use, intimacy and emerging questions of biopolitics this way of thinking helps us understand the ambivalences of drug use.
Kane Race brings this ambivalence to light in his chapter on ‘gay chemistry.’ Gay spaces are well known loci of drug use. In this environment touch, intimacy and chemicals are exposed clearly for us to examine how care is enacted. In this case it is unclear how to think about touch; what is a bad, a good or a caring touch? Race draws our attention to the, ‘Jeeze was I drunk last night’ phenomenon. Though by no means exclusive to gay men, Race notes early 20th century Western gay men would use alcohol to feign ‘blacking out’ and forgetting about the intimate experimentation of the night before. Though perhaps a necessity at the time, this practice effectively erased the reality of those experiences, despite both men remembering the deed in its entirety. This process allowed men to attend to their sexual experimentation without facing the new reality that sobriety would undoubtedly force upon them. The lasting effects of this phenomenon have fascinating implications for how gay men understand consent and drug use, which are ill-fitted to hegemonic notions of consent, care and sexual assault.
CISP Salon Readings:
Race, Kane. 2018. “Queer chemistry: Gay partying and collective innovations in care.” In K. Race. The gay science: Intimate experiments with the problem of HIV. London: Routledge.
Barad, Karen. 2015. “Transmaterialities: Trans*/matter/realities and queer political imaginings.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 21(2-3): 387–422.