[-empyre-] Introducing Special Guest Joan Haran -- On Cyborgs and Goddesses: the work of Haraway and Starhawk

joanharan at gmail.com joanharan at gmail.com
Mon Nov 11 08:30:46 AEDT 2019

One last point provoked by the last week's topic which I think will lead in
to my discussion of Haraway and Starhawk. I was invited to give a talk at a
Science Fiction Research Conference at the end of the summer. The conference
was called Productive Futures: The Political Economy of Science Fiction. I
had to give a title in advance so I offered "Flourishing amongst the ruins:
the productive pastpresentfutures of science fiction feminisms". I wasn't
thinking particularly about plants at the time -- although the idea of
flourishing amongst the ruins always does call to mind Fireweed for me, both
the plant but also one of the participants in Clayoquot Summer -- but it now
seems to me that there is a ruderal quality to my title. 

However, when I gave my talk, I spoke about my desire to step back from the
first part of my title because I was concerned that it evoked a monolithic
ruins, a kind of apocalyptic telos that either evacuates the possibility of
meaningful change or demands an urgent, heroic intervention when, as
adrienne maree brown points out: "there is such urgency in the multitude of
crises we face, it can make it hard to remember that in fact it is urgency
thinking (urgent constant unsustainable growth) that got us to this point,
and that our potential success lies in doing deep, slow, intentional work."

It seems to me that feminists like Starhawk and Donna Haraway have been
doing deep, slow, intentional work for decades and by their example drawing
together international networked communities who are inspired by their
knowledge-making practices. Although both of them have moved away from the
religious traditions in which they were raised, they were both engaged and
scholarly practitioners in their young adulthood and it seems to me that
shared training in close reading and argumentation has stood them both in
great stead in their later work. In the conversation we had in Santa Cruz in
October 2017, Donna said that she remained allergic to the language of the
sacred but that her belief "that the living and dying and flourishing with
each other is worth living and dying for" fundamentally converges with what
Starhawk would call the sacred. I'm really curious about Donna's resistance
to re-claiming or re-visioning the language of the sacred, which I don't
share despite being a cradle catholic.  I think both Star and Donna work
with and engender an interesting tension between the devout and the
blasphemous which I find creatively discomfiting. I love Starhawk's
acknowledgement in _The Earth Path_ that she self-consciously embraces a
"woo woo" subject position that allows her to think about anything. In Santa
Cruz Donna also talked about how she hoped that her work would give people
permission to take risks in her thinking, so this attention to the
liberation of the imagination is something they have in common even though I
think it has manifested differently because of their different institutional

In my talk at Productive Futures and elsewhere I (have) worked extensively
with the figure of the spiral or perhaps more accurately the quality of
spiralling because it seems to me that a trait that Starhawk and Donna share
- evidenced in the title of Donna's most recent book _Staying With the
Trouble_ is a commitment to continually revisiting what they think they know
and how they think they know it and to sharing that practice / process with
their immediate and mediated interlocutors. I think it's a practice into
which they enrol their readers and as I write this I'm imagining being swept
into a spiral dance with them.  I'm reminded of an essay by Marge Piercy
called "Active in Time and History" when I think about what I appreciate
about Donna and Starhawk - and adrienne maree and Walidah - and that is
their critical attention to history and historiography at the same time as
they act in the present in the service of a more just future. Donna's figure
of the cat's cradle is one that I also find very fruitful in envisaging my
own work as a small contribution to a much larger conversation in time and
space. Donna talks about cat's cradle as one of a number of string figures
that she thinks with and I've suggested that the spiral dances that Starhawk
leads to raise energy to serve an intention might be understood as embodied
string figures.

The "Cyborg Manifesto", probably Haraway's most widely cited work, is
indubitably a call to action. Even as she was explicit about her blasphemy
and her rejection of creation myths, the manifesto functioned as an
incantation. It certainly has raised a great deal of energy and gathered
people up to work together, as cyberfeminists or / and as feminist scholars
of science and technology. And as many of you will know, Starhawk uses Dion
Fortune's definition of magic as "the art of changing consciousness at will"
and much of Donna's attention to language seems to me to be targeted at just
that purpose. 

I'm really excited by Margaretha's curation of this conversation because I
have found that people who are moved by both Donna and Starhawk are the most
pleasurable people to think with and hang out with. Beyond the contributors
to the list, I've mentioned Michelle Bastian already, and I would add Niamh
Moore who has written about Clayoquot Summer in _The Changing Nature of
Eco/Feminism_ and Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, author of _Matters of Care_
whose current research revolves around care of the soil.

I've got lots more to say about what Star and Donna have in common as well
as the frictions, but I would like to hear from others who are called by
their work ...

-----Original Message-----
From: empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
<empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au> On Behalf Of margaretha
Sent: 10 November 2019 07:58
To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au>
Subject: [-empyre-] Introducing Special Guest Joan Haran -- On Cyborgs and
Goddesses: the work of Haraway and Starhawk

----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------

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