Ecology and Time

September 17, 2013 § 3 Comments

macro-reef-dwellers-a-retrospective

Image: Felix Salazar

Cognitive ethology is the study of animal minds, and it provides essential insights into the ontology of ecosystems—most recently in regards to the relation between ecology and time. Throughout history, human beings have been captivated by animal minds. We have, for example, writings from Plutarch, Hippocrates, and Pythagoras musing on the nature and status of animals. In the case of Pythagoras, many of these writings date back to c. 530 BCE; however, given that we know humans have lived in deliberate multispecies societies for at least 100,000 years (as is the case with human-canine relations, which have existed for almost as long as the human species itself has), it is uncontroversial to claim that humans have been speculating on the nature of nonhumans for at least as long, and certainly much longer than the philosophers of ancient Greece. « Read the rest of this entry »

Ontologies of Knowing: Mediations and Intra-actions

August 9, 2013 § 4 Comments

I’ve just completed my contribution to the Rhizomes issue dedicated to Karen Barad that I’ve been working on throughout the summer. My original intention for the piece was to do a comparison between Barad’s agential realism and Tim Morton’s recent work in object-oriented ontology. I had hoped that either Realist Magic, Hyperobjectsor both would have become available in between the time that I wrote my initial abstract for Rhizomes, and the deadline for submitting drafts. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, so I had to switch gears and bring in someone else for the dialogue. The paper now centers a discussion between Barad and Bruno Latour, though it’s really a conversation between Barad, Latour, and Neils Bohr and Alfred North Whitehead—the key philosophical predecessors for both philosophers, respectively. I still have every intention of writing about Morton’s new books, but that will have to wait for another day. Below I am posting the introduction to my essay, which I believe should be published sometime this winter.

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Proposal Summary for Volume on Vulnerability and Ontology

May 6, 2013 § 16 Comments

A few weeks ago, Jeremy Trombley brought up the idea of publishing an edited volume on vulnerability. The idea generated a lot of interest, and, since then, Jeremy and I have been working in the background to write up an abstract to submit to Punctum Books, and to share with others who might be interested. Our aim in this project is of an interdisciplinary nature, and therefore we welcome constructive suggestions from people working in the humanities, social sciences, ecology, and more. As we continue to improve upon and finalize our manuscript proposal we welcome feedback in the form of comments or emails. Your suggestions will help us to deepen and complexify the final form of this volume. « Read the rest of this entry »

Making the Geologic Now

February 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

In the 1870s Italian geologist Antonio Stoppani made a radical argument: we can no longer justifiably call our geological age the Holocene. Instead, Stoppani argued, geologists must concede that human behavior had caused enough radical change in the functioning of the Earth to warrant the naming of a new era. He suggested the term “Anthropozoic” to describe this new world. The name did not stick. But in the year 2000 something similar happened with quite different results. Dutch Chemist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen began to publicly admonish his colleagues use of the word “Holocene.” Again, Crutzen argued that humans had caused enough change to the Earth’s geological systems to warrant a new epoch. He called it the “Anthropocene.” This time the notion struck the scientific community with greater weight, and Cutzen published a paper on the idea in a 2002 issue of the journal Nature. Where Stoppani’s colleagues had found the idea of the “Anthropozoic” unscientific Crutzen’s were willing to investigate. Since then the Anthropocene has become an increasingly used term to describe the intersection of human behavior with the deep structures of the Earth’s evolving dynamics.

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More Info on the Rhizomes Issue on Karen Barad

February 2, 2013 § 2 Comments

This special issue of Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge takes as its focus positive and critical engagements with the work of Karen Barad, drawing together a number of voices to offer a nuanced and current response to her emerging theories of ontology and materiality. Barad’s reading of quantum phenomena has gained considerable popularity in the past few years, not least with Slavoj Žižek’s attention to it in his most recent book Less Than Nothing. As a result of this increasing and significant engagement, something of a critical mass has developed within cultural, feminist, and science studies. In foregrounding matter’s dynamic entanglement with/in conceptual work and forms of representation, Barad radically shifts the anthropocentric stronghold on meaning making by conjuring a posthumanist performative agency that demands attention to the materially constitutive processes and practices that participate in, and as, inquiry. If, for Barad, identity only emerges in mutually constitutive relation, these quantum levels of engagement raise significant and counter-intuitive suggestions for how political and ethical accountability materialises and stabilises. « Read the rest of this entry »

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