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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rumi or Sue Me

The nafs is a sea of calm until it roars. The nafs is a Hell that radiates little heat. The nafs is an ankle-deep river you drown in. Better to be ignorant of worldly concerns, better to be mad and flee from self-interest, better to drink poison and spill the water of life, better to revile those who praise you, and lend both the capital and the interest to the poor, forgo safety and make a home in danger. Sacrifice your reputation and become notorious. I have tried caution and forethought; from now on I will make myself mad.

The nafs is to be understood in a similar light as Cartesian ego cogito, the transcendental subject of reason,  or the immature, bounded subject of the Enlightenment. For Rumi the uncanny contradictions of faith in concepts rendered mythical breeds a forgotten and forlorn mood; externalizing self-reflexivity onto the certainty of identity of the self with its conceptual apparatus deflates and depletes being of its creative capacity for poesis.

Yet, the situation isn't completely overdetermined by the drudges of despair; one may always flee from the imposed order of an alien selfhood, take a topsy-turvy turn, deciding without judgment between madness disclosed as melancholy or the mayhem delivered as a melody. A melody completely unknown to the Athenian flute player of Aristotelian teleology, or the Corp of Drums when the sun refused to set on the British Empire and composed of barely beyond boyhood drummers, learning and giving the orders of warfare, where comprehension of the threshold of play, when the drum beat's dance between wooden member and raw hide head ceases to play but becomes an unthought extension of a heart stuck in the violent oscillations of a warrior resonance.

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Friday, December 2, 2011



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Crisis, Chaos & Kairos

Jodi Dean wrote an insightful piece for Al Jazeera a couple of days ago that describes the shifting field of global capitalism in the face of crises, chaos, and what some might call the kairos of the multitude. She outlines several broad theses that describe just how fragile the situation has become. These changes are distinct yet interrelated.

 These include but do not exhaust such fundamental realignments such as; the limits of capital's totalization, processes of de-ruralization thru economic expansionism have proven just how totalizing neoliberalism has become.

The vast numbers of people dwelling in the slums has made a system which organizes the direct dispossession of entire populations explicit and increasingly visible, the crises at home and aborad in the Eurozone have rendered impotent the abilities of Nation-States or Supranational entities to control the many headed hyrda of an economic system churning, spiraling and oscillating according to its own laws, like the sorceror who can no longer control the spells he has cast. And in the final analysis:

[P]opular forces worldwide have moved quicker than anyone could imagine from the defensive to the offensive. The initiative clearly passed this year, 2011, from the transnational elite to popular forces from below. 

The entire terrain of global politics has reached a point of Manichean extremes, yet each of these decisive moments occurs within seemingly hybrid, zones of indifference. New, increasingly dynamic and undeniable publics are emerging, converging and coalescing. True, they may not be as articulate those in '68 or '89 in terms of theoretical or hermeneutic frames for interpreting their resistance. Yet, one thing has become clear. People would now rather opt for an alternative, no matter how uncertain, ineffable and enigmatic it remains, then re-weld the links of enchainment to the status quo. 

Dean herself puts it best at the penultimate point of the post: 
Now all this has changed. The global revolt underway has shifted the whole political landscape and the terms of the discourse. Global elites are confused, reactive, and sinking into the quagmire of their own making. It is noteworthy that those struggling around the world have been shown a strong sense of solidarity and are in communications across whole continents. Just as the Egyptian uprising inspired the US Occupy movement, the latter has been an inspiration for a new round of mass struggle in Egypt. What remains is to extend transnational coordination and move towards transnationally-coordinated programmes. On the other hand, the "empire of global capital" is definitely not a "paper tiger". As global elites regroup and assess the new conjuncture and the threat of mass global revolution, they will - and have already begun to - organise coordinated mass repression, new wars and interventions, and mechanisms and projects of co-optation in their efforts to restore hegemony.

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Prosthetically, Poetically, Post-Humanly - Supplementing the End of History

On the University of Chicago's Theories of Media online glossary Sarah Coffey offers an interesting genealogical mapping of the concept of prosthesis. The glossary and Coffey's essay itself performs the concept itself. 
Combining the Latin pro (forward) with thesis (stressed syllable), prosthetics denotes addition or extension. The OED defines "prosthetics" in its plural form as "the branch of surgery concerned with the replacement of defective or absent parts of the body by artificial substitutes." "Prosthetic" derives from the word "prosthesis," which can refer to the addition of a syllable or letter at the beginning of a word, or to surgical prosthesis. The shift from the literal connotation of grammatical prosthesis to the figurative connotation of surgical prosthetics took place in the 16th century, when "prosthesis" was adopted by medical terminology to denote the substitution of an artificial body part for missing limbs or teeth (Jain 32). This article will examine prosthetics in reference to both the actual extension of the body by artificial means, and the virtual extension of the body by various forms of media.

Media theory examines the double meaning of prosthetics, as simultaneously supplementing a deficiency and signaling deficiency in the object to which it is supplied. In Marshall McLuhan's seminal text, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, he uses the concept of prosthesis to explain media's function as "any extension of ourselves" (7). Stressing the physicality of media extensions, McLuhan describes the wheel as an extension of the foot, clothing as an extension of the skin, and electric technology as an extension of the central nervous system. Yet as media extends, it also amputates. Although electric technology extends the central nervous system, "such amplification is bearable by the nervous system only through numbness or blocking of perception" (McLuhan 43). Thus McLuhan asserts that a process he terms "autoamputation" accompanies any extension of media.

Prosthesis is a doing, a making, and a placing of the supplement. The addition to bodies includes something previously existing outside itself. Prosthesis ruptures the relations between man’s tripartite divisions, psyche, soma and soul. Yet in modern times, it has become not simply an addition but a replacement. Prosthesis begins to work by removing the previously deviant aspects of man’s existence. A reconstitution of ability inaugurated in the shadow of man’s uncanny wounded self. 
Does posthistorical man create the edifices like birds build nests, as Kojeve posits? Out of the question itself emerges the definitive characteristic of man, defined not in terms of attributes but an imperative, to know thyself through experimental investigation. Whereas disability, disease and madness previously were seen as a source of disclosing truths hitherto unknown to average man, in modernity, disability is exhausted of its vital force “by way of investment in believing that disability makes a person available for excessive experiment” (Snyder & Mitchell, 37). Man’s “speculation parading as empiricism” is most intense and uncertain at the limits of the anomalous body. “cultures thrive on solving the riddle of disability’s rhyme and reason” (25). 

In this sense Agamben’s work offers a promising site for investigating the disabled body. Politics in modern times has been depoliticized, emptied of its life force, by reducing the question of politics, history and ethics to a preordained reaction, not response, to the injunction to end suffering, cure the pathology, or fulfill the abstract containers of ‘human’ rights. The inability to reconcile the disabled body with the defining characteristics of man’s constitution performs an “interruptive labor” (53). The internal divisions of man are exposed as the conditions of possibility for any limit to be drawn between the human and non-human, as the fuel for the anthropological machine’s fire.

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The Ends of Man, Derrida & The Animal That Therefore I Am

I remember being thoroughly perplexed when I first read this work last spring when Dr. Diane Davis gifted me a copy of it. I didn’t know what was a pretense from a feigned feint, a joke from a wit, science from myth. These limits, "that is to say, indivisible threshold[s]" (133)  are still very difficult, if not impossible, to locate, but fixing them is not my main concern upon my return and re-tracing of the text.  I still am confused, but I have since ceased to view this wounded state of unknowing in a negative light. 

     In a sense the desire for self-certainty in thinking turns the home into a citadel. Does the House or Truth of Being require a Guardian? What if one “awakens and leaves, without turning back to what he leaves behind him[?]. He burns his text and erases the traces of his steps. His laughter then will burst out, directed toward a return which no longer will have the form of the metaphysical repetition of humanism, nor, doubtless, “beyond” metaphysics, the form of a memorial or a guarding of the meaning of Being, the form of the house and of the truth of Being. He will dance, outside the house, the active Vergesslichkeit, the “active forgetting and the cruel (grausam) feast of which the Genealogy of Morals speaks. No doubt that Nietzsche called for an active forgetting of Being: it would not have the metaphysical form imputed to it by Heidegger” (136). This quote comes from a lecture Derrida gave in October of ’68 in New York. The lecture was later published under the title, “The Ends of Man.” In this younger Derrida one sees the beginnings and/or the ends of The Animal That Therefore I am.

     In a footnote to “The Ends of Man” Derrida writes, “The deconstruction of the end and of man takes place on the margins of philosophy: in titles and footnotes” (Note 15). The title of the essay reveals the playful possibilities of the limits and question of man. “In the thinking and the language of Being, the end of man has been prescribed since always, and this prescription has never done anything but modulate the equivocality of the end, in the play of telos and death. In the reading of this play, one may take the following sequence in all its senses: the end of man is the thinking of Being, man is the end of the thinking of Being, the end of man is the end of the thinking of Being. Man, since always, is his proper end, that is, the end of his proper. Being, since always, is its proper end, that is, the end of its proper”(134).

Where to being in teasing out such a statement? I’m not sure, “naturally I am going to skip a lot, I am going to walk by skipping, we don’t have time to follow things in a continuous way” (142). Derrida puts the trace of ‘man’ under erasure.

     In the Essay “And Say the Animal Responded” Derrida reframes the question of the critique of humanism in a way that opens up new avenues for thinking ‘the animal’ and ‘the human.’ In a way it resuscitates a more ancient meaning but also breathes a new life into the meaning of ‘the animal,’ etymologically derived from the PIE *ane- "to blow, to breathe" and related to the Greek anemos meaning "wind.”

It is not just a matter of asking whether one has the right to refuse the animal such and such a power (speech, reason, experience of death, mourning, culture, institutions, technics, clothing, lying, pretense of pretense, covering of tracks, gifts, laughter, crying, respect, etc.-the list is necessarily without limit, and the most powerful philosophical tradition in which we live has refused the “animal” all of that). It also means asking whether what calls itself human as the right rigorously to attribute to man, which means therefore to attribute to himself, what he refuses the animal, and whether he can ever posses the pure, rigorous, indivisible concept, as such, of that attribution. 

     Man has not been able to cover the tracks of its “wounded reaction not to humanity’s first trauma, the Copernican (the earth revolves around the sun), not irs third trauma, the Freudian (the decentering of consciousness under the gaze of the unconscious), but rather to its second trauma, the Darwinian” (136). Lacan was not able to cover his anthropocentric tracks, even though he roots man’s superiority over the animal as based in a lack, defect, or fault. And neither am I, but I can erase them, or should I say...

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