Thursday, December 6, 2012

December Meeting (Bubbles)

Bubbles: Spheres I
by Peter Sloterdijk

The third meeting of MATCH was held at the beginning of December to accommodate the tight schedules of those presenting and attending the meeting who were busy traveling, writing, and grading papers at the end of term. Peter Sloterdijk's book Bubbles, the first in a three-part series, was chosen on the recommendation of peers and the promotion of actor-network and science studies theorist, Bruno Latour, whose blurb for the book reads:

"It's about time that the English-speaking world begin to appreciate what is, without question, the most important work in philosophy of nature to appear since the irruption of the ecological crisis at the forefront of our consciousness and political order. Many naturalists, activists, political scientists, and ecologists have been nibbling at the notion of nature. But Peter Sloterdijk, in this first volume of his giant trilogy, goes much further and deeper since he renews what it is to be thrown 'in' the world by totally renewing what it means to talk about the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities. It is only if we profit from Sloterdijk's infectious concept of 'envelopes' and 'spheres' that we might at last begin to prepare ourselves for living with and in Gaia instead of against and out of her."

With a work covering so many different veins of the group's interests, it is reasonable that one dominant vein that connected them all for us was his literary style of writing. Sloterdijk freely employs metaphor, mythology and affective anecdotes which he creates as much as deploys towards creating a sense as well as a sensibility through his work. The conceit of much German phenomenology was been though through in this work and perhaps come out the other-side, looking via but also beyond the scope of human sensations to understand a broad and mysterious ecology that folds in, out, and across us.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October Meeting (Cyborg Theory)

"Cyborg Manifesto"
by Donna Haraway
"The Computer Reprograms Me"
Michael Chorost

The second meeting of MATCH centered around what was dubbed "Cyborg Theory" inspired by a lecture and workshop advertised over the summer around Michael Chorost's recent books Rebuilt & World Wide Mind. Leigha McReynolds and Erin Vander Wall lead the discussion, including an excerpt from Chorost's first book and Donna Haraway's foundational essay, "the Cyborg Manifesto." 

The conversation functioned across a variety of interlocking topics. On one level, all members were interested and comfortable with the invitation to think along with "Post-Humanism" to imagining bodies (including the human body) not as a discrete subject, but as an array of changing, exchanging, and permeable systems of objects (which may possess different degrees of subjectivity). On a second level, we parsed Chorost's attempts to draw strict distinctions between things such as Cyborgs, Androids, Robots, and Humans. We developed our own working understanding of the terms (apart from Chorost) but generally agreed that such beings in life and literature often seen to cross or straddle these categories despite our attempts to pin them down. On a third level, we contemplated Chrosost's attitudes towards gender, sexuality, and disability which appeared strikingly to work hard to assert hierarchical and defined differences in bodies, despite his concentration on how his own body and identity is deconstructed by his hearing-aid; this attitude was then compared with Haraway's proposals for an inter-penetrating material feminism.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

September Meeting (Low Theory)

The Queer Art of Failure
by J. Jack Halberstam

As the inaugural meeting of MATCH (Mobilizing an Active Theory Community in the Humanities) it is perhaps pointed that we began by reading the chapter on "Low Theory" from J. Jack Halberstam's book the Queer Art of Failure. There was the added benefit to all that Halberstam would be joining George Washington on a week-long residency, coinciding with the release of his new book GaGa Feminism. This gave us all a chance to familiarize ourselves with his work before his visit.

Attention circulated around the invitation to make what we read, write, and discuss personal and not to be afraid to fail in the process. Critiques were levied however around the difficulties that the open risk-taking and counter establishment methodologies called for by Halberstam have for those in vulnerably positions within the academy, especially graduate students. Embracing failure and snubbing the ivory tower may be all and well for a professor well tenured and secure in public opinion, but may be the death-blow for those that are just trying to break into the field. All in all, however, the book's invitation and lively style was exciting and we certainly took the invitation to be open and radical to heart, at very least in communities such as MATCH were we can be more free to fail. This is not a working group for masters, but peers, who are willing to take on such fellowship, wherever their current profession, station, or discipline.