Re: [-empyre-] not-so-final thoughts...
I realize the time difference might throw this mail into the next
month so my apologies if this happens.
As the discussion wraps-up, or threads-out, depending on how you look
at it, I want to say thanks to all the list members who contributed
to the discussion (and listeners too). Also, thanks to Tracey and
the other moderators who invited us. Although this month has at
times been intense and difficult, I’ve gained a great deal from
participating in the discussion. De Geuzen has been talking a lot
together about the many issues raised, and that spillage into offline
conversations is exactly what makes a space like Empyre vital.
Also, Ryan, I have appreciated your focus and critical
inquisitiveness in steering the discussion. When I look back
through your posts, there are many points you (as well as others)
raised that didn’t get the time or depth they fully deserved. But
as I said in my previous post, there are many trails to follow now.
And to come back to the issue of what the stakes are, like you, I/we
haven’t fully mapped that out, but are using our practice and this
kind of exchange to do so.
Parallel to this discussion, I’ve been reading Blanchot’s, The Space
of Literature, and last night I came across a paragraph which might
talk about at least *one* of the significant stakes raised through
this months exchange. He writes:
“A sound response puts down roots in the question. The question is
its sustenance. Common sense believes that it does away with the
question. Indeed, in the so-called happy eras, only the answers seem
alive. But this affirmative contentment soon dies off. The
authentic answer is always the question’s vitality. It can close in
around the question, but it does so in order to preserve the question
by keeping it open. (P.211)”
Although the language is slightly antiquated, and I’m uneasy with
words like “authentic” , for me, Blanchot points to something
crucial, especially in a time when fundamentalisms of every kind seek
to close-off , polarize and render silent. What’s at stake might be
the preservation of the question or questions. Keeping them open, is
not about escape, but through their existence or persistence, they
may catalyze ongoing critical reflection and debate, and generate
useable, but not instrumentalized, theories and practices.
These are just a few of the things this October's soft_skinned_ space
has given. Thanks again to everyone on Empyre and all the very best,
Renee (who is a "we" with Femke and Riek ;-)
On 30 Oct 2006, at 23:24, Ryan Griffis wrote:
As Tracey just reminded me, it is the end of the month, so this
will most likely be the last post from me. But i'd like to thank
Tracey and deGeuzen for the invitation to participate as well as
everyone who sent in their thoughts, which have generated a queue
of things for me to consider.
i recently attended a talk at a conference that was quite engaging
and has offered me some new details for my consideration of "facts"
One of the speakers, Laura Liu presented her research with some
Chinatown activists from NY (Chinese Staff Workers, i think). She
started out by describing an interaction with an organizer, where
she asked the organizer how they organized, what tools and tactics
they used. The organizer responded by saying that Laura was asking
these questions in the wrong order - to understand HOW they
organized, one must try to understand WHY they organize and FOR
WHOM. This seemed very relevant to discussions i'd been involved
in, like the ones here, because of the ease with which we talk
about tactics (in both the militaristic and deCerteuian sense,
which aren't mutually exclusive anyway) and gloss over strategies
and goals. Putting "facts" in front of "concerns."
So what was the concern of the panelists? Chair and presenter of
the panel, Ruth Gilmore explained fairly well that the question
with which they were struggling was no less than premature
(preventable) death resulting from what they called "organized
abandonment" - the condition in the US exemplified by the growing
prison industry, infrastructural racism and the machinations of the
* an interview with Prof Gilmore that is quite good
Danny B's quotation from Judith Butler, i think gets at one way of
understanding why i think deGeuzen's work is interesting to look at
"In this sense, we must be undone in order to do ourselves: we
must be part of a larger social fabric of existence in order to
create who we are. This is surely the paradox of autonomy [...]
Until those social conditions are radically changed, freedom will
require unfreedom, and autonomy is implicated in subjection. If
the social world... must change in order for autonomy to become
possible, then individual choice will prove to be dependent from
the start on conditions that none of us author at will, and no
individual will be able to choose outside the context of a
radically altered social world. That alteration comes from an
increment of acts, collective and diffuse, belonging to no single
subject, and yet one effect of these alterations is to make acting
like a subject possible."
following that, Femke replied to my comment about their work
performing an "opening up of space to allow politics to slip into
our experience, and vice versa":
...this kind of slippage never happens automatically, however
'natural' it sounds. You need to set yourself up for it, and I
think much of our work is an attempt to make that happen.
Maybe it's about practicing what "usable theory" (thanks Brian!) we
have access to.
i certainly haven't been able to clarify any "stakes" despite my
own questions. i know for myself that those described by Gilmore
and Butler above are certainly ones to embrace, and provide
somewhat of a guide to asking WHY and FOR WHOM to better frame the
questions of HOW.
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