[-empyre-] November -empyre- discussion, DURATION: PASSAGE, PERSISTENCE, SURVIVAL
hans at hbaumann.com
Sat Nov 24 08:45:30 AEDT 2018
Brian - I greatly appreciate the focus on reconciliation in your final
paragraph - I think it is where all of "us" need to be thinking right
now. The long distance you describe is very real and I have found that
my work requires great patience as I traverse that space in search of
a connection with my collaborators. Often, this means years of work
before things truly begin to coalesce - before real and meaningful
exchanges are made. It also often requires being physically present
and proactively giving - whether that is in the form of a skill
exchange, respectful payment for people's time or helping with
something as mundane as cleaning up after an event. Something was
taken and acknowledgement is merely the first step in the process of
reconciliation. New possibilities must be created, but never with the
goal of erasing past transgressions. I cannot imagine another way
This may be a reflection of our current political climate, but, for
me, indigeneity brings the failings of liberalism into strong relief,
and I suspect this is where indigeneity becomes most inconvenient and
most powerful. Like Marxism, it reveals the Imperialist nature of the
American experiment and exposes it to a critique that - if taken
seriously - requires us not to merely resist ("The Resistance") but
acknowledge that this system is inherently flawed and must be
replaced. This is not a moral issue so much as it is a matter of our
survival. A global ecological crisis has been underway for decades and
many truly believe that Western culture will reform itself in time to
avert what seems to have become inevitable. To return to Jolene's
work, she rightly points out that we struggle to envision and
implement models for sustainable living in the American landscape when
Indigenous peoples have been able to do so (almost without exception)
since time immemorial.
On Fri, Nov 23, 2018 at 9:13 AM Brian Holmes
<bhcontinentaldrift at gmail.com> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hans, I think you are probably well aware of what I am about to say. The concept of indigeneity is difficult for Americans because, sadly, in the history of the US up to the 1970s at least, the avowed official aim of our government and indeed of our society was to suppress any practice of Indigenous culture whatsoever, and to let the remaining individuals melt away into the general population. The terrible phrase that passed for Christian charity was "Kill the Indian, and save the man." This went on far longer than most would like to admit, through laws that made it possible for reservation land to be sold off bit by bit, destroying native sovereignty, and then through a concerted effort to cancel federal recognition for many bands and tribes, thus dissolving all remaining treaty obligations. At the same time, mainstream US culture retained all the Indian signifiers of local identity that had been so heavily exploited around the time of national independence, in order to make Americans legitimately distinct from Europeans, as though we natively came from the so-called "new world." In the US, Indians are everywhere visible (as mascots, place names, sports teams, historical markers, pageantry etc) and nowhere to be seen, because we have been trained to look away from the actual human beings. Yet they are still here, now more than ever.
> Similarly but with a completely different focus, the concept of "settler colonialism" is difficult or almost impossible for USians, because that makes us all settler colonists, which is a condition of ontological injustice, by which I mean an injustice that inheres to one's very being. How can one live on this land with any sense of moral assurance when you know that your quality as a citizen or even just as an inhabitant is founded on a violent takeover that has never been remediated? Well, denial of any need to even think about it is one viable option, and it's a convenient one for all practices of domination, such as the expropriation of the earth's so-called resources, or the exploitation of another's labor, or the devastation of an environment which can be carelessly supercharged with the waste products of not-even-guilty pleasures - and this list could go on.
> Yet the impossible concept of settler colonialism could do something else for we the colonists, something very beneficial to my way of thinking. It could rend our subjectivity in two and help us to ask, What about my own self and society is irreconcilable with the fact or even the possibility of a real encounter with a native American? I say "even the possibility" because a real encounter with oppressed people is not so easy for those people to offer, not when you, the asker, have a white skin and the privileges that go with it. You, or let me more honestly say I, would like to be reconciled with all humanity, and yet often the most generous thing two estranged people can do for each other is to acknowledge the long distance we would have to travel, as individuals and as societies, before any such reconciliation could be founded in reality. To be split in two is to open yourself to a tragic experience. It's hard to share, for sure, but it does change the way one understands the landscape.
> On thanksgiving, Brian
> On Thu, Nov 22, 2018 at 12:54 PM Hans Baumann <hans at hbaumann.com> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Thank you Brian - I greatly appreciate your insight and bringing up
>> the oft-overlooked importance of simply "feeling" something. For me,
>> this has been a crucial aspect of decolonizing my thinking and has
>> helped inform the political transformation to which you refer. Perhaps
>> the most compelling aspect of my collaborations with the Navajo and
>> other Indigenous peoples has been realizing how inconvenient this
>> concept of "Indigeneity" is to most Americans - regardless of their
>> political affiliation. It asks very uncomfortable questions of those
>> who benefit from imperial exploitation (all of us) and it implicates
>> them (us) in something that has never been resolved in any meaningful
>> way. Jolene Rickard spoke about this at the CCA Biennial conference in
>> very compelling terms, and I think her work with the Cayuga is so
>> enticing because it will fundamentally alter how citizens of upstate
>> New York understand the landscape that they inhabit.
>> On Tue, Nov 20, 2018 at 8:34 AM Brian Holmes
>> <bhcontinentaldrift at gmail.com> wrote:
>> > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> > This is a beautiful and meaningful reflection, Hans, thank you.
>> > One thing about empires, such as the global neoliberal empire which is now peaking and passing, is that their vast destructiveness provokes a spiritual response. Religions are born from such tragedies. And in a less codified way, feelings of awe before the inner workings of deep time reverberate from the end of one civilization, to the twilight of another.
>> > We have not invented any messianic religion as of yet, and our tragedy may go too fast for any such thing to happen. But when I travel outside cities seeking what can only be found in the land, I constantly encounter the profound indigenous awareness of what moderns call ecology. I don't think this is so rare for sensitive people right now. Nor has it been so rare since the 1960s at the very latest.
>> > One important thing is to turn that encounter into a politics that can actually do some good. Another thing is to just feel it.
>> > all the best on your journeys, Brian Holmes
>> > On Mon, Nov 19, 2018 at 6:16 PM Hans Baumann <hans at hbaumann.com> wrote:
>> >> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> >> Thank you for the introduction Tim. The exchange that has occurred
>> >> over the past several weeks has been exceptionally rewarding to follow
>> >> and I would like to extend this discussion. I am specifically
>> >> interested in the following question raised by Kate Brettkelly:
>> >> "When we celebrate the deep time of earth, do we actively overlook the
>> >> durations and experiences of indigenous peoples?"
>> >> My contribution to the CCA Biennial, "The Crystalline Basement", was -
>> >> in short - an examination of geothermal energy extraction from a
>> >> humanist perspective. All of the themes that Kate mentions in her post
>> >> - deep time, earth history, universalist frameworks - are embedded in
>> >> the science and practice of geothermal engineering. Regardless of its
>> >> "green" credentials, geothermal energy extraction is guided by
>> >> utilitarian concerns: how much can the system produce, is it
>> >> economically viable, et cetera. Within this paradigm of extraction,
>> >> "deep time" and other geological concerns have the capacity to enact
>> >> the sort of erasure that Kate refers to in the above quote. At
>> >> Standing Rock, Black Mesa and countless other sites, indigeneity has
>> >> come into direct conflict with the desire to exploit the material
>> >> remains of deep time.
>> >> Over the past year, I have led a series of storytelling projects with
>> >> members of the Navajo community. Early in the genesis of this project,
>> >> I was introduced to the Navajo concept (and I am paraphrasing here)
>> >> that narrative, identity and geography are mutualistic concepts. As
>> >> one storyteller - a man named Ron Maldonado - explained it:
>> >> “As people lose their stories, they lose a sense of their own being.
>> >> You can’t tie yourself back to the landscape anymore … In order to
>> >> know who you are, you have to know where you came from … It's a
>> >> different way of seeing the world … and it’s a history that goes back
>> >> to the beginning of time”
>> >> Over the course of working with Ron, I came to understand "deep time"
>> >> as something that grounded him and that acted as a source of his
>> >> identity. Is this the same universalist concept to which Kate refers?
>> >> I would argue that it is not, and I would like to suggest that
>> >> concepts of deep time, earth history and the geological realm are
>> >> inherently benign. Their generative capacity and their potential to
>> >> erase, suppress or silence ultimately reflect the spectrum of our
>> >> relationships to the nonhuman world, whether this is as a source of
>> >> difference or one of connection.
>> >> Best,
>> >> Hans Baumann
>> >> --
>> >> H. Baumann
>> >> 310.980.4165
>> >> www.hbaumann.com
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>> H. Baumann
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