Week 27 — the desire to survive

A week feels so long. I hope you are all ok.

I keep yoyo-ing between a range of emotions, but I had vegan banana bread for breakfast and half-way through writing this I got up to practice with my fav teacher so for now it’s ok. A bit lighter on the cv-19 reading as well, I guess I’m yoyo-ing that too.

This week on animals was one of those where the reading just barely gives a taste of the amazing lecture. Octopodes + plants + Deleuze & Guattari + mind-blowing philosophical takes… I’m here for it. Mariam, and this module, are unbelievably class. It was also the last lecture, which is sad, but … BUT! we are going to start a reading group.


Deep Intellect
by Sy Montgomery

A gorgeous read on octopuses. Octopodes. Did you know that octopi is incorrect? Sy also wrote a book which my mate Jon highly recommends but gave it to charity before lending it to me. Anyway, back to gorgeous article about gorgeous octopodes of which the point could maybe be summarised as

challenging our understanding of consciousness itself

The article cycles through a lot of the ways in which we humans try and measure intelligence or consciousness or subjectivity or ‘Dasein’ or ‘lights on’ or whatever else we call it. It then shows the ways that those measures are inadequate purely through the octopus.

“I think consciousness comes in different flavors,” agrees Mather. “Some may have consciousness in a way we may not be able to imagine.”

The whole “What Is It Like to Be a Bat” is really turned on its head when you take an octopus. I mean, just get a load of this

… researchers found that the skin of the cuttlefish Sepia officinalis, a color-changing cousin of octopuses, contains gene sequences usually expressed only in the lightsensing retina of the eye. In other words, cephalopods — octopuses, cuttlefish, and squid — may be able to see with their skin. (emphasis mine)

Ok as you can probably tell, I’m very enamored with octopodes. There are some bits in the paper which I found uncomfortable to read, esp the parts where the octopodes are resisting captivity and study. As much as I’m delighted to discover all the amazing things that the octopus can be, I also feel bad that we don’t just leave them alone.

Emoji summary: 🧠 🐙 😍

The mind of plants: Thinking the unthinkable
by Monica Gagliano

What do plants have to do with animals? Well, if the premise is “challenging our understanding of consciousness itself” then it turns out, quite a lot. This short paper describes some experiments in applying classical conditioning to the vegetal world. Show that

plants are able to encode both temporal and spatial information and modify their behavior flexibly.

in plants too, associative learning has a range of ecological purposes from foraging to danger avoidance to social interactions above and below ground.

The conclusion certainly raises a whole host more questions.

… questions about the cognitive capacities of animals and specifically, animal consciousness often play a role in discussions about animal welfare and moral status. This debate has been recently extended to include plants and as experimental evidence for the cognitive capacities of plants accrues, the controversial (or even taboo) topic regarding their welfare and moral standing and our ethical responsibility toward them can no longer be ignored.

Emoji summary: 🍃 🏞 👨🏻‍🌾

What Is It Like to Be a Bee?
by Natasha Frost

I like that folks randomly send me animal articles now. Long may that continue.

This article is a bit of a riff on the famous Nagel paper, and it’s kind of ok but also kind of basic/meh. For example, yes to the hot potato, no to the ‘in general’.

But what consciousness means more generally, for other people and other creatures, is a hot potato tossed between philosophers, biologists, psychologists, and anyone who’s ever wondered whether it feels the same to be a dog as it does to be an octopus. In general, we think that if you have some kind of unique, subjective experience of the world, you’re conscious to some extent.

Frost actually mentions the experiment by Monica Gagliano above, dropping plants, but says about the plants

But few suggest they possess consciousness.

Which is kind of missing the point of Gagliano’s work. I guess the point being that our ‘subjective experience’ consciousness might not be the best measure.

Emoji summary: 🐝 🤨 🌱

The Pandemic Epicenter: Pointing from Viruses to China’s Wildlife Trade by Lyle Fearnley and Should Wild Meat Markets be Shut Down? by Tamara Giles-Vernick

Both deal with animal questions about CV-19, but firmly from a speciesist position. How can we protect humans. The Fearnley text is better, imo, and at least questions the domestic/wild divide (the Swanson paper from wk 23 is brilliant on that). Neither discuss animal welfare, which was disappointing.

I’m actively looking for texts on cv-19 and animals or ecologies or eco-fascism. Please send.

Emoji summary: 🐝 🤨 🌱


1. New Moon
by sarah mccarry

Sarah, whose work is heartbreakingly wonderful, starter a newsletter. She’s the kind of writer that lines things up so well it’s like tiny little bombs in your soul. Which means pulling quotes can kind of ruin the affective quality but I’m doing it anyway.

—and what I am trying to say is that we already know how to take care of each other in a crisis, friends and strangers alike; we have been doing it all of our lives. … You know how to be the best version of yourself when you have to be, which is almost certainly now.

Kinda to encourage you to clickity click but also I guess because this newsletter is to share what speaks to me. I think it’s interesting to see what bit of the text jumps out to different people.

A lot of bad things are going to happen and a lot of this is going to be hard. You already know that, too. It’s okay to be afraid. Take a deep breath and hold that fear tight in your heart and think: The other side of fear is the desire to survive. Now exhale.

We have never lived through anything like this but we have lived through hard bad things before. The word apocalypse comes from the Greek apokalupsis: to uncover or reveal. An unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling. Another world is possible; another world is almost here.

Emoji summary: 💛 🌑 🚲

My Father the Druid, My Mother the Tree
by Robin Sloan

By now, you’ll have heard me talk about Robin Sloan a lot, all the way back from the very first of these when I had 0 (zero) subscribers. I think about his book Sourdough a lot these days, esp when my starter overflows its jar.

This is a little, fictional short story that is just tremendous. Which should be obvious by the title but just in case …

I learned that the trees were… how else can I say this? They were shouting. They had been shouting for years, and they had more recently settled on a strategy, and now, thanks to the tree service, its strange invention, they had spokespeople.

… a tree patterned with a mind that had, apparently, always harbored a dream of insurrection, because it too was shouting:

Liberation!
Liberation!
Liberation!

Emoji summary: 💛 🌑 🚲

Quarantine Part 1
by The White Pube (GLP)

Ooof. This is an oof text. I recommend the audio version.

I get so angry thinking about how much I hate the rich, especially celebrities; how we made them that money and now they won’t help us in return. One minute i’m fine and then I remember summer is coming and we are all locked inside running out of money and trying not to die.

Ban, and I cannot stress this enough, billionaires.

Emoji summary: 💔 🥺 👩🏾‍⚕️

Also…

Book review by of a book I haven’t read yet but have on my bookshelf. It’s a good review, regardless of the book. Great website it’s published on as well.

Lana Del Rey by Shon Faye. One of those I read because of the author, who is ace, even with no interest in the subject. Read it if you care about Lana or boyfriends, I guess. (Ugh, Dazed web design is awful. What is that tiny text and those long ass lines?)

A couple corona ones because, of course, one can’t get away from it.

The best one is It Wasn’t Just Trump Who Got It Wrong by Zeynep Tufekci. Zeynep has been writing about the virus since way back in February (January?) and is consistently informative and critical.

Eugenics Isn’t Going to Get Us Out of This Mess by Sarah Jones I agree with the title but NEITHER IS RACISM and it annoys me that the cover/social photo for this article is an asian person in a mask. Interesting comparison to ‘let old people die’ and abortion rights.

It’s All Just Beginning by Justin E. H. Smith for a very tone-deaf piece by a very privileged person. Small redeeming critique of human exceptionalism at the end.


While I was writing this, the aforementioned Jon sent this photo to our group chat. I’m sure you can imagine some of the excellent memes that it generated. Tag me with yours.


Credit:

Emoji summary is 100% nicked off my favourite art critics The White Pube. They said they don’t mind.

Week 26 — cross the unknowable distance

But not the physical one.

I’m on day 9 of social distancing. I suspect some of you are more and some maybe less and some maybe still out providing essential services.

Unlike last week, I can’t not include coronavirus content because it’s been quite all-consuming. I will dispense with any advice giving or exhortations because that’s 90% of the internet right now. Just some links and a couple of the things I’m doing to keep me sane. It’s frontloaded, so if you’d rather not with any more of this, you can skip down to the other stuff.


Covid-19 🦠

First, action.

Find your local group with Corvid-19 Mutual Aid. Give help, get help. If you have digital skills you may be interested in volunteering some time as well. Non-uk readers, sorry about the parochialism.

Everyone is different, but some things that have been making me feel better are spending money saved from staying home in good ways, and making sourdough bread for my friends (delivered at distance). I have two more deliveries today. I’m also cycling way more, never been so happy to have a bike.

A couple other newsletters, if that’s your bag

Robin Sloan, always. He’s also blogging more. His writing is beautiful, and it’s always full of good things to read or watch or listen to.

Night Heron is not strictly about CV but the last one was. It kind of sums up the simultaneous ‘best and worse of humanity’ feels.

An Abundance of Potions is a new one I just subscribed to. Whatever it was before, now it’s a daily email with one thing to do. So far they’ve been good things.

Doing our jobs from home

I’ve skimmed over about 10 million lists of remote working tips. If you are one of the privileged to be able to do your job from home, I’m sure you have too, so I’ll spare you. I’ve seen a little less about how to do research remotely, and even less about how to do research remotely with respect and care. If you’ve got anything on these topics, please send them over. Hit reply, it gets to me. (also psa from me)

Doing Fieldwork in a Pandemic. Academic focused. I’m sure there are useful things in there if you feel like wading through it. I will be wading through it over the coming weeks so you could also just wait for that.

Care-based approaches to remote work by Una Lee. Good tips, some will be familiar to many of you but the emphasis is on care. The main one I want to highlight is

7. Think deeply about disability and accessibility.

It’s a beautiful section, and ends with thinking ‘beyond access’. (Also, the closing section yes yes yes).

Learning about ableism

Cover the Coronavirus without Being an Ableist Asshole by Caroline Reilly. So many people have called out the ways that this pandemic has highlighted how ableist society is, both structurally (all of a sudden universities are offering distance learning) but also in our mindsets and attitudes.

Coronavirus and the disability community is a small collection of

online conversations about the coronavirus by disabled, chronically ill, immunosuppressed, homebound, and neurodivergent people

The response to the pandemic

All this was on purpose by Eleanor Penny is a rousingly angry piece that I can’t comment on due to my political impartiality, which is tenuous at best anyway. The last line though.

The best vengeance is a new and better world.

Coronavirus and the Politics of Care by Amy Kapczynski. The date on this, and how little it’s been done, is appalling.

Most of the public conversation to date about pandemic response has been about coercive measures – the travel bans and quarantines that policymakers fixate on. (With a nod to Cedric Robinson, racism and the carceral state precede pandemics, and infect them from the beginning.). But the most urgent need is for a new politics of care in this pandemic, one that embodies the same vision that animates Medicare for All, our revived and increasingly feminized labor movement, and other claims for new universal care programs.

this virus by Anne Boyer shared by Night Heron. While being generally horrified

…we also must prepare for an amplification of evil’s evil.

I’m also amazed by how communities and people have come together. And I hope that this time is a massive push in the right direction for a society that’s less shit.

We can shout at the top of our lungs and demonstrate in our every action that the lives of the vulnerable matter, that the deaths of the sick and the elderly and the poor and imprisoned from this virus are unacceptable. The prisoners must be freed. The elderly must be cared for. Everyone must have safe housing. The sick must be supported without fear of losing jobs or being bankrupt by medical costs. The cleaners, health care workers, and other carers on the front line must have everything they need to stay safe.  This virus makes what has always been the case even more emphatically so.

I Am In Government Quarantine Now. This Is What It's Like for a different kind of response than we in the UK have experienced. An anonymous account from Beijing.

Random

Dispatches from the pandemic is a list of academic papers about Coronavirus. Some of them look extremely interesting! Once again, I’ll be wading through it in the next few weeks so you’ll probably see some of them here.

To close on something lovely, a comic by Laura Gao The Wuhan I Know.


Hope 💚

These aren’t about cv, but I find them very relevant and hopeful.

We Were Made For These Times
by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I can’t find the date when this was written so I have no idea what ‘these times’ she is referring to. Still, very relevant to ‘these times’ that are now.

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

I kind of have to believe better worlds are possible, or what’s the point?

Emoji summary: 💞 ⚖️ ⛵️

the rant
by M. John Harrison

This was published in October last year. It could have been written yesterday. It’s fantastic.

Try to understand the science. Try to tell the truth. Try to find a medium in which to tell the truth. Try to extend the envelope in which you will be permitted to tell the truth. Prophecy is over. Persuasion is over. Action is the last thing left. Rebellion is the last thing left. Stay steady in the face of it all. Do what you can. Write that. Record that. Try to pass helpful messages between practical, determined people.

Emoji summary: ✍ 🎙 💌

Service Design in Gov talk
by Cassie Robinson

I was at this talk and then read the write up. Being there in person was a magical experience, but reading is the next best thing.

And to imagine this.

What does it mean and how does it feel to place our lives in each others hands.

Emoji summary: 💭 🤲 🌱

Society Centered Design
by lots of people

A set of principles for society-centered design

All around us we see signs that patriarchal capitalism and exploitative business models place profit over privacy, and efficiency over agency. They pit individuals against the collective. At their core, they are hierarchical and exclusionary. We demand better. Better design approaches and tools, better measures of success, better data protection standards.

Emoji summary: 👥 🌐 🤝


Animals 🐈 ⠀

It has been almost impossible to concentrate on academic work, the readings for this week took me ages. But having a remote seminar with my animals cohort was so lovely and wonderful.

The Animal That Therefore I Am
by Jacques Derrida

This took me about a million years to read. Though I think Derrida is difficult even before concentration is shot to shit.

It’s an account of Derrida meeting his cat in the bathroom when he’s naked, and his subsequent embarrassment. This was originally a lecture and was published posthumously. I just love the idea of this respected philosopher standing in front of a crowded room, inviting everyone to think of him naked.

We covered lots more themes in the lecture and seminar, but a couple stood out to me in my first reading

the animal as singular creature, not a homogenous category (a common theme throughout this module)

I must make it clear from the start, the cat I am talking about is a real cat, truly, believe me, a little cat. It isn’t the figure of a cat. It doesn’t silently enter the room as an allegory for all the cats on the earth, the felines that traverse myths and religions, literature and fables.

the cat looks back, is an absolute other.

This threw me a first because I come from a feminist perspective where ‘the other’ means something different. However, Derrida is speaking to Levinas and his concept of ‘face’ or Heidegger’s ‘Dasein’, which for both is something unique to humans.

The animal looks at us, and we are naked before it. Thinking perhaps begins there.

shared vulnerability

Mortality resides there, as the most radical means of thinking the finitude that we share with animals, the mortality that belongs to the very finitude of life, to the experience of compassion, to the possibility of sharing the possibility of this nonpower, the possibility of this impossibility, the anguish of this vulnerability and the vulnerability of this anguish.

and the violence we inflict. Apparently, Derrida is one of the few in his tradition to call this violence ‘genocidal’ and the tutor emphasied how unusual and powerful that is.

No one can deny seriously, or for very long, that men do all they can in order to dissimulate this cruelty or to hide it from themselves, in order to organize on a global scale the forgetting or misunderstanding of this violence that some would compare to the worst cases of genocide (there are also animal genocides: the number of species endangered because of man takes one’s breath away).

Emoji summary: 🛀 🐱 😳

‘And say the philosopher responded? When animals look back.’ in When Species Meet
by Donna Haraway

A critique of Derrida’s article

shame is not an adequate response to our inheritance of multispecies histories, even at their most brutal. … What if work and play, and not just pity, open up when the possibility of mutual response, without names, is taken seriously as an everyday practice available to philosophy and to science?

tbh, I appreciate both arguments and I think one builds on the other.

Haraway goes on to talk of someone who did recognise ‘that she was looked at’, Barbara Smuts. If you haven’t come across Smuts’ work, I particularly love this story about having a wee in front of baboons (C is for Corporeal chapter).

We don’t know what rich inner lives animals have, but Haraway gives us an invitation to cross that unknowable difference.

Emoji summary: 🐒 💦 🐶

Surviving a Crocodile Attack
by Val Plumwood

This is an amazing story about Plumwood, an anthropologist, being attacked by a crocodile. In that anthropological fashion, it’s richly descriptive and it’s short and not paywalled so… clickity click. It is an excellent read.

Thus the story of the crocodile encounter now has, for me, a significance quite the opposite of that conveyed in the master/monster narrative. It is a humbling and cautionary tale about our relationship with the earth, about the need to acknowledge our own animality and ecological vulnerability.

Emoji summary: 🐊 🕵️‍♀️ 🏞

OP-ED: Listen up, Problematic White Vegans, Stop Comparing Black Oppression To Meat Eating
by Afro-Punk

Two weeks ago, I made a comment ‘if we’ll look back on this time and the way we treat living things with the same horror that we look back on the trans-Atlantic slave trade.’ Afterward, someone shared this article with me.

I did write about this in a previous newsletter, but also I realise that most of you weren’t here then, and might not have read the links anyway. I shouldn’t have made that comment without context and I apologise.

This article explains why it’s problematic

What these people fail to recognize is that black people are still fighting to be recognized as fully our own species. As equally human. What does it mean when these white vegans argue against our demand to be viewed and represented as fully human, rather than as props in their version of nonhuman liberation?

And goes on to argue against using the human/animal comparison as an argument for veganism

I am a vegan who is against the use and abuse of animals, especially in terms of the contemporary animal agriculture industry. However, never have I needed to explain the unethical use of animals by comparing it to the treatment of my ancestors, to the genocide of Jews, or to the suffering of any other human persons. I believe that, as human beings who are capable of abstract thought, reason, logic, and subsisting without unnecessarily taking life, veganism is the morally correct choice.

I think this is where I part with the article. For one thing, the argument about ‘abstract thought, reason, logic’ plays exactly into arguments about human exceptionalism. And there are theorist who have seriously taken on these questions, rather than just avoiding what Marjorie Spiegel calls the ‘dreaded comparison’.

I find work like Afro-dog: Blackness and the animal question by Benedicte Boisseron helpful here. Boisseron also criticises animal studies using race as a platform in a tokenistic way, but goes deeper into an intersectional analysis of animal studies and racism. Also, the other readings from that week.

The dreaded comparison is the disavowed comparison, a resemblance whose legitimacy we affirm even as we deny it.

Emoji summary: 🤦‍♀️ 🐾 🙅‍♀️


Also…

The Will to Knowledge (HoS1) by Michel Foucault for dissertation research. Haha I am not writing a summary of this. Sorry, what could I possibly say?

If you got this far, I have to say that I’m impressed. Love and solidarity from my messy, sun-soaked kitchen table that I’ve appropriated into a desk. We eat on the floor now.


Credit:

Emoji summary is 100% nicked off my favourite art critics The White Pube. They said they don’t mind.

Week 25 — life wants to live

Well, that escalated quickly.

My online feed has gone from being primarily about the US primaries, which was getting extremely tiresome, to being entirely about coronavirus. Irl is now also entirely about coronavirus.

The whole thing really freaks me out. Not so much that I’ll get it, I’m fortunate to have good health, but that I might transmit it to someone else. More than that, I’m worried that it will result in more racism (already happening) and closed borders and increased selfish individualism. When really it should be an overwhelming argument for free healthcare, UBI, not keeping people in prison because they can’t afford bail, sharing resources, and collectivism. For socialism.

If you are in the UK, Corvid-19 Mutua Aid might be a useful resource. And this is a really good thread about ableism ‘on a national scale’. Let’s all not be selfish and not be racist.

And dw, this entire email isn’t going to be about the virus. There’s only one article and then you can have a break reading about literally everything else. It’s a mixed bag.


After the Quarantine, the Flood
Natasha Lennard

Ngl, I find the people still posting photos of themselves out socialising and partying to be pretty selfish. I’m one of the lucky ones that can do my job from home so I’m prepared to settle in for a bit. Not everyone is so lucky, let’s not make it worse for them.

When rushed, if not forced, into so-called “social distancing,” we should reflect on the standard proceedings of social proximity. At which junctions, through which quotidian flows, do our breaths and spits mingle and our individual bodies reveal their porousness? The subway, the airport, the office, the meeting, the classroom, the dance party, the restaurant, the conference and, at best, the protest. These are my answers, and they are the answers of a person who has been granted—by the vagaries of nationhood and capital distribution—the choice of distance and safe isolation.

The shelter, the overburdened hospital, the workplace with no sick leave, the no-option but public transit, the crowded housing project, the prison and the concentration camp–wherever bodies are reduced by force to just bodies, their porousness cannot be escaped.

But after this is over…

Solidarity in the pandemic, for those in my position, is situated in not making things worse; this we can choose. When this particular crisis has passed, we will once again convene in our numbers... But there is only power in being numerous if we choose it. If we know where to avoid each other, we know where to find each other, too.

That’s it for your corvid readings. On to the climate.

Emoji summary: 🦠 🏠 ✊

Letter to a Young Climate Activist on the First Day of the New Decade
by Rebecca Solnit

Anna shared this in her weeknotes. Solnit for hope, again. I searched how many times I’ve said something made me cry in these, and it was only 4 (lol, only) so I can say, this made me cry.

We need to love the earth as it is now and to see how worthy it is, now, of our greatest efforts. To look for that beauty and to treasure it is perhaps a crucial part of the work we have to do. This is what reminds us that the world is still full of things we love and want to protect and the effort is worth it.

Life wants to live.

The natural world is strong and resilient. This does not mean that everything is fine. It does mean that given half a chance some of the natural world will survive, and giving that chance depends on us. Life wants to live. …

We owe it to the whales, to every songbird in every tree, to frogs and trout and fireflies.

Emoji summary: 🌱 🌍 🙏

Design and the Green New Deal
by Billy Fleming

This is more of a critique and history of landscape architects, but calls for them to imagine

alternative visions for how to use them in ways that further the social and spatial ambitions of the Green New Deal

Whatever form the Green New Deal eventually takes, it will be realized and understood through buildings, landscapes, and other public works. Landscape architects have knowledge and skills — from ecological management to systems analysis to mapping and visualization — that are essential to that project. Now is our chance to re-institutionalize design expertise in government and, at the same time, to break the stranglehold of neoliberalism that has long undermined the ambitions of landscape architecture.

Emoji summary: 🏞 👩‍🌾 ♻️

The Crumple and the Scrape
by Lucas Crawford

Two Places articles this week, though this one is remarkably different.

This is like a queer reading of architecture via texture. When I started it, I was thinking ‘ok you are over-reading this’ but actually if you really critically think about the heteronormative examples they provide (and which are provided by literally almost everything), it’s just kind of turning it on its head. Also, there are some wonderful turns of phrase and it’s quite poetic at times.

Texture is the condition of possibility through which our bodies meet our environments. Texture is an activity, not a state of being.

If that doesn’t convince you, what about this line about Corbusier which made me lol

Yes, I am saying that, in the very act of rejecting feyness, Corbusier is pleasured by cis-male-butch buildings.

At the end tho, it’s a call for

… a higher standard of writerly self-awareness. When you turn to a metaphor … or to hyperbolic diction (theatrical, gymnastic), ask yourself: what do I really want to say? Moreover, why do I want to say it without quite saying it? What conflations or refusals am I permitting myself with this … coyness?

Emoji summary: 🌈 🧱 ✍️


Animals might not be top billing this week (strike action canceled lectures) but we still got it.

Knowing cows
by Eimear McLoughlin

Ethnography of slaughterhouses. As an ethnography, the paper is rich with descriptions and interviews. I’m glad this was the lecture we missed out of everything because even the reading was a lot. But also super interesting

this emotionography of a cattle slaughterhouse will chart where and how emotions are expressed and repressed by the slaughterhouse workers, where ‘doing gender’ (West & Zimmerman, 1987) dissipates the stigma of killing animals.

And hegemonic masculinity. And disempowered workers.

An emotionography of the slaughterhouse unearths the emotions that permeate through the company‐defined unemotional work of slaughter and reveals how these are experienced and expressed or in fact, repressed. The commodification of cows mobilizes not only a transformation of the knowing non‐human animal into an objectified and killable being but instantiates a material transformation of the human into the ideal slaughter worker; replaceable, unaffected and disempowered.

Emoji summary: 🐄 🔪 🥩

Cows and Sovereignty: Biopower and Animal Life
by Dinesh Joseph Wadiwel

Second reading by Wadiwel this term. He is great. His application of Foucault to animals is so fresh and interesting and also makes Foucault easier to understand.

He doesn’t take it easy on anyone, comparing factory farms to the camp

The horror of such a life is only imaginable when one considers the human equivalents of such shrewd and calculating management of life, which of course can be found most clearly in the camp. It is therefore not without significance that Isaac Bashevis Singer states that in “relation to them [animals], all people are Nazis: for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka” (qtd. in Wynne-Tyson, 1985: 335).

I appreciate that he takes these theories to understand the conditions, but then pushes them further to propose another way

whilst Agamben’s analysis of bare life, and Foucault’s theory of bio-power, provide a means by which to assess the condition of non-human life with respect to sovereign power, the political project must reach beyond these terms, and embrace an intertwining of the human and the non-human: an intersection which may be found in the animal life shared by both entities.

Can a “new biopolitics” positively renegotiate the gap between the human and the non-human animal? One wonders, if it were actually possible to seize control of bare life — perhaps even democratise its formation — whether such a new struggle over life will be expansive enough to finally rid the threat of the animal from human life, or alternatively, exorcise the terror of the human from the life of animals: two projects which, as this paper asserts, may amount to much the same thing.

Emoji summary: 🥺 ⛓ ❌


Also…

Absolute heroes Lola Olufemi writing about Victoria Sin.

Emily reminding us that You’re still a valuable person when you’re in isolation or quarantine. I know I said only one pandemic post but really this is applicable beyond cv.

Wolfgang Tillmans on lots of things, but I’m interested in the archive thing.

I had a sense of wanting to get involved because I understood the political nature of picture-making from the start. It is record keeping, which is never neutral. What is recorded and what isn’t recorded and what‘s kept and isn’t kept is always political.

The White Pube (also heroes) making me rethink what I think about exhibitions.

i want it all to be secret or incidental; for the art to feel like it has landed here without ego, before organisation and before ‘we are a registered charity.’

And to close, I leave you with this thread of very round animals which has completely made my week.


Credit:

Emoji summary is 100% nicked off my favourite art critics The White Pube. They said they don’t mind.

Week 24 — find small spaces for forbidden joy

I’m writing this on a train from Edinburgh to London. I adore Edinbugh.

I also love trains. I love sitting backwards and watching the landscape fade away from me. By far, the superior method of distance transportation. This wee train article about the Amtrak in America kinda encapsulates some of the many things I love about trains.

By train, every place is surprising, every place is worth seeing — as, in fact, it is in real life. You see the country on a human scale, each glade and wood a different delight. You see it from the same vantage point as its residents. And you often see the places that do not appeal to travel websites or Instagram: junctions, depots, industrial quarters, working neighborhoods, back alleys.

I am not a train-watcher.


Cat Culture, Human Culture: An Ethnographic Study of a Cat Shelter
by Alger and Alger

Animals this week covered multi-species ethnography, animals as research participants. Ethnography is so rich in detail. I find it makes it both easy to read and really interesting. This paper is adorable. I love how much they love these cats. Not just the researchers but also, very evidently, the volunteers at the shelter.

It also absolutely slaps on the anthropomorphism debate

We believe that anthropomorphism is best understood as a distancing concept intended to obscure the real intersubjectivity that exists between human and non-human animals.

… the elimination of speciesism would leave no aspect of our culture or institutions untouched. … In short, our belief that anthropomorphism must be avoided at all costs is central to our very way of life. It allows us socially to construct beings, who can be used, unimpeded by moral considerations.

Emoji summary: 🐈🐱🧑

Naturalcultural Encounters in Bali
by Agustín Fuentes

Monkeys instead of cats. Actually that’s not quite right, the two articles are quite different. This one has much more of a focus on how the animal and human change each other in shared ecologies.

We need to reject domesticated versus wild, natural versus unnatural, and engagement versus detachment dichotomies …. We should move past the notion of definitive discrete distinctions in favor of fluid and reciprocating interfaces that change over time creating spaces, bodies, and niches of relevance to our understanding of human animal and other animal experiences.

Emoji summary: 🐒 🏞 🔗

Conventional science will not do justice to nonhuman interests: A fresh approach is required
by Becca Franks, Chistine Webb, Monica Gagliano, Barbara Smuts

A very short paper that calls for the need to prioritise nonhuman interests and outlines approaches to do so.

To meet the modern crises of climate change, environmental pollution and degradation, and mass species extinction, animal interests (including the interests of the particular animals involved in the research) must be given priority over external considerations.

Emoji summary: 🕵️‍♀️ 🌏 🐾


UNITE etc
by The White Pube

You might have heard that universities across the country are striking. This writeup is one of the best I’ve read on the reasons and its importance. Even though it is strongly from an ‘art school’ perspective, the main points apply across the academy.

This strike is a last resort to protect the standards of higher education, and the issues under dispute affect both students and staff – they affect us all in wider but still tangible ways. This is important, we cannot lose this fight. … With current working conditions the way they are, things are lowkey highkey dire. Pls, let us have one smol smol win.

Emoji summary: 🎓 🖌 👨🏻‍🎓

The Archival Turn in Feminism: Outrage in Order
by Kate Eichhorn

Research into the archiving of feminist artifacts, particularly riot grrrl and zine culture. What happens when radical, anti-establishment material becomes part of an archive in an institution? How do you protect and collect these objects without them becoming assimilated and codified into normative categories? What is the purpose of an archive, to protect or something else?

I liked this book a lot.

…the archival turn in feminism is as much about shoring up a younger generation’s legacy and honoring elders as it is about imagining and working to build possible worlds in the present and for the future.

Emoji summary: ️‍🗃 🚺 🏫

Life As Nan Goldin Knows It
interview by Thora Siemsen

Both Nan Goldin and her work are amazing. There was an exhibition at the Tate a little bit ago. People were crying in it.

This interview is just gorgeous, I can’t get enough of it.

David [Armstrong] was my best friend of my life. He introduced me to myself. When I met him, I spoke in a whisper, I was painfully shy. He basically gave me a personality, or showed me that I had one. He taught me how to laugh. I think after he died, I lost my personality again, to some extent. That's what a friend can do. They can be a reflection of you, the best you can't see. My friendships are the major relationships of my life. They were the family that I had in my life.

She also talks a little about her activism. If you haven’t seen it, read the interview and then look up the interventions she’s organised because they are great. Better than the art in the museums.

Emoji summary: 💊 📸 👥

No Boots Without Leather
by James Wham

I feel like the beginning of this needs a content warning. The description of what happens to the cow is explicit. If you are anything like me, it might bother you. Humans really are a scourge. Sometimes I wonder if we’ll look back on this time and the way we treat living things with the same horror that we look back on the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

…the prolonged spectacle of Nick’s butchery aptly captures the vulgar disparity of the man-cow relationship—and, moreover, the extent to which we subjugate, dominate, and destroy certain species in the pursuit of human betterment.

Emoji summary: 🔪 🐄 😰

Also…

An article that shows how incredible rats are but still somehow ends with calling them ‘vermin’. It’s us, we, the human-animal that are the vermin.

A newsletter about the future revived for Coronavirus

5IT won’t be about coronavirus, but what coronavirus shows us about the moment we’re living in.

Our entry to the So(cial) Good Design Awards by Una Lee. Una started the design studio And Also Too, which is pretty amazing. Years ahead in design discourse around power and justice.

Too often, designers are lauded for work that has little connection to the communities they are impacting and too rarely does the graphic design industry hold itself accountable for its harmful impacts.

It’s International Women’s Day. I’m starting to become a little embarrassed by the whole feminism thing. Mostly because of white women continuing to prioritise their experience over that of other oppressed and marginalised people. Anyway, my job published a blog about The women who shaped our service which is both nice and not all white, thank god.

Some tweets. First, a cool story about library data. And a sad story about an internet archive being shut down.


Credit:

Emoji summary is 100% nicked off my favourite art critics The White Pube. They said they don’t mind.

Week 23 — wolves, foxes, salmon, babies, you, me

I’ve been thinkging a lot about how entangled we all are.

I enjoyed this lovely video How Wolves Change Rivers, about what happened when wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park. The narrator is a bit annoying, it has that over-excited, wow tone the whole way through. Sounds like he’s patronising a child. Nevertheless, cool video.

Another fun thing that isn’t a reading is The Big Here. It asks a bunch of questions about where you live in relationship to the larger whole. I could barely answer any of the questions except for the sun and moon ones (astrology is the queer’s religion, after all).

You live in the big here. Wherever you live, your tiny spot is deeply intertwined within a larger place, imbedded fractal-like into a whole system called a watershed, which is itself integrated with other watersheds into a tightly interdependent biome.

More about environments as systems below.


Ch 4 ‘Fire: Fox’ in Being a beast
by Charles Foster

This is a magical chapter. It’s super weird and wonderful. It also made me realise that I carried this (unfair) fear of foxes. Some time when I was new to London, a fox hurt these babies that were left in a garden unattended and were subsequently maligned by the media. I think I adopted this fear of them then and it never left me, until I read this chapter. On Friday night I want for a walk to try and meet some foxes and see them with new eyes. Unsuccessful, this time.

We have acutely sensitive hands but handle the world with thick gloves and then, bored, blame it for lacking shape.

Foxes seem to enjoy being outrageous. The flaunt their thriving in conditions that are objectively wretched. … They are true citizens of the world.

Emoji summary: 🦊 🏙 🍃

Ch 6 ‘Domestication Gone Wild: Pacific Salmon and the Disruption of the Domus’ in Domestication Gone Wild
by Heather Anne Swanson

Another foray into the terrifying world that is industrial fishing. This one, differently, focuses on domestication, asking

How do we engage “domestication” in a time when we can no longer clearly recognize the boundaries of the domus?

The chapter explains the history of salmon fishing and hatchery and its global impact.

Scientists themselves rapidly became unsure about the edges of the domus: although they had previously relied on a categorical split between “wild” and “hatchery” fish, reality seemed too slippery for such a binary. … Yet even these fish at the edge of the world, scientists soon realized, have gotten caught up in the rippling effects of domestication projects.

And suggests a new way to think about domestication, from and with landscapes

But what if we place landscape changes at the heart of domestication stories, exploring how domestication itself is best understood not as a new relation between humans and a single kind of plant or animal but as a reconfiguration of multispecies assemblages?

Emoji summary: 🐟 🎣 🏞

The Environment is not a System
by Tega Brain

Not systems, but

open ended assemblages of non-humans, living and nonliving, entangled in ways of life

Fairly short, but interesting article about the limits of computation in environmental efforts. Tech alone will not save us.

If we are to believe the hype, and seriously consider if and how these technologies can reshape our relationship with environments, we must thoroughly examine what they amplify and what they edit out.

Emoji summary: 🦠 📊 🆘

Is it OK to have a child?
Meehan Crist

Magnificent essay on ‘who bears the moral responsibility for climate catastrophe & the need for radical imagination & structural change’ –sarah

Listen closely to rights-based strategies to reduce carbon emissions through increased access to contraception and family planning. These strategies almost always involve black and brown women in developing countries having fewer babies. There is, of course, an unmet need for reproductive care and birth control in these countries, but we should be deeply skeptical of climate solutions that place the burden of solving the problem on women’s bodies, particularly the bodies of poor black and brown women, while demanding very little of those who actually caused the problem.

I rather think the point is that no one should tell anyone else whether or not they should procreate.

Emoji summary: 🤱🏾 🌳 ⛽️


Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity
by José Esteban Muñoz

I adored this book. Quite in spite of myself. For one, utopia chat usually bothers me and then in the introduction, he talks about using Heidegger.

Fortunately, our lad H features only marginally and the idea of utopia Muñoz presents is something I can get behind.

Utopia is always about the not-quite-here or the notion that something is missing. … Queer utopian practice is about “building” and “doing” in response to that status of nothing assigned to us by the heteronormative world.

…it is a call to think about our lives and times differently, to look beyond a narrow version of the here and now on which so many around us who are bent on the normative count. Utopia in this book has been about an insistence on something else, something better, something dawning. … From shared critical dissatisfaction we arrive at collective potentiality.

Emoji summary: 🏳️‍🌈 ✨ 👭

When Bodies Think
by Martin Savransky

I’ve got that dissertation coming up. Queer bodies, etc. Martin is my tutor, and he recommended this article because we were talking about biopower. While the actual ideas discussed in the paper are not directly relevant – I’m not looking at medical humanities – the way of playing with ideas is useful. Also, Martin’s approach to language is quite something.

What is at stake in these questions is the need to craft and experiment with a speculative proposition, a gesture that proposes a generative and experimental response to the biopolitical problematic, allowing us to envisage other ways of encountering and relating to bodies and their health, as well as other ways of understanding what might be at stake in the question of what means to participate, how, and in the name of what.

Emoji summary: ⛓ 🩺 🖕

Preparing for Coronavirus to Strike the U.S.
by Zeynep Tufekci

Having experienced Y2K with ‘Doomsday Preppers’, the entire idea of stocking food or whatever elicits a visceral rejection in me. This article got me over that. It’s a good, short summary of what youngun’ healthy folk like myself should do as civic duty. I’ve been washing my hands fourteenhundredmoretimes than usual.

Also, smol reminder: don’t be racist.

Emoji summary: 🤧 😷 🧼

Mother Country
by Catherine Hall

This country was built on racism and god it’s pervasive. Unless we (I) are actively anti-racists, we (I) will just continue to be quite racist. It’s an unlearning that will take my whole life, probably.

Black people knew that ‘we are here because you were there,’ but very few Britons had any idea of the long history of colonialism.

Freed men and women were denied their rights as British subjects to economic opportunity, self-determination and justice. They claimed those rights over generations, fashioning their own meanings of freedom and black citizenship. They fought as imperial subjects in two world wars and, faced with continuing economic hardship, came to the ‘mother country’ with hopes of a better life, hopes that in many cases were bitterly disappointed. As the reparations activist Bert Samuels puts it, ‘it is widely accepted in Jamaica that Britain has used us and refused us.’

Emoji summary: ☠️ 🎋 🇯🇲

Teaching to transgress: education as the practice of freedom
by bell hooks

I only read the introduction and scanned a few sections of this book, as someone recommended it as relevant to some of my other research. This quote jumped out and slapped me in the face.

I came to theory because I was hurting – the pain within me was so intense that I could not go on living. I came to theory desperate, wanting to comprehend – to grasp what as happening around me and within me. Most importantly, I wanted to make the hurt go away. I saw in theory then a location for healing.

I kind of said a related thing in my first newsletter about Lowborn and Educated. I remember when I first started my undergrad and the door opened to theory and all the things I never knew I never knew. It was truly magic and I still feel its tingle.

Emoji summary: 📚 👩🏻‍🎓 💝

Also…

Resisting surveillance through face paint / makeup or sculptural jewelery. There is something about the pluralist potentialities that can come from this trashfire world.

A newsletter that is short and pretty and sometimes heartbreaking. boundless by Night Heron

you are here and i am here. the world is boundless; there is room for all of us to exist within it.

On expat vs migrant by Fuck Theory. I support him on Patreon and you have to pay $1 to access. Some free stuff there to see if you like it, but I find it well worth my contribution. And unlike corporate publishing, I won’t share for free because this is literally paying for someone’s precarious life. You can have a little quote, as a treat.

We should definitely find another word than “expat.” Americans with money don't live abroad because they have somehow lost their innate and self-evident patriotism. They’re living abroad because their own country is a fucking mess and they don't want to live in the conditions that their fellow citizens and their own institutions have created. But we’ll come back to that. Nonetheless, there are in fact differences between what we’ll call “immigrants” and what we’ll call “expats.”

The simplest way I can define the difference is this: unlike immigrants, expats don’t suffer hardship, deprivation, or violence because of their immigration or documentation status. 

A review of a book I have on my shelf and have yet to read (Lewis) and an elaboration of the ideas in a book that I have on my shelf and have read (Haraway). It’s got nothing on the Crist article, in terms of theoretical exploration of the over-population thing.


Another LRB arrived on Friday night, giving me a push to finish the one I had in progress. I’m very behind.

I have accepted that I am not an LRB person. I don’t understand how people have time to read them and read books.


Credit:

Emoji summary is 100% nicked off my favourite art critics The White Pube. They said they don’t mind.

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