Post-anthropocentric aesthetics/some notes on Braidotti and Rancière (ongoing)

Ongoing notes here, will be updated…any thoughts are appreciated.

Finishing up a draft of an essay on Kerry Tribe’s documentary Exquisite Corpse, in which I’m working with an idea I’m calling post-anthropocentric aesthetics. It has been an interesting experiment, which I started w/ the tension between Sianne Ngai’s excellent Our Aesthetic Categories and what I experienced showing Tribe’s film to several of my classes last year. I came to the notion of post-anthropocentrism via Rosi Braidotti, when I was writing about Seattle’s new salmon-friendly seawall, but Ngai and Tribe really helped me see it more clearly. I will post more when the essay is complete, but this is mainly just a place for some notes on links between Braidotti and Rancière, specifically her notion of a “zoe-centered egalitarianism” and his ongoing thoughts about the politics of aesthetics:

Braidotti:

Zoe-centered egalitarianism is, for me, the core of post-anthropocentric turn: it is a materialist, secular, grounded, and unsentimental response to the opportunistic trans-species commodification of Life that is the logic of advanced capitalism. It is also an affirmative reaction of social and cultural theory to the great advances made by the other culture, that of the sciences” (Braidotti 2013, 60).

No mention of aesthetics in her book The Posthuman…(?)

But Egalitarianism – link to Rancière on politics being the struggle for equality, a struggle that is linked to aesthetics b/c it is also over the image of society. But Braidotti’s focus on zoe de-centers the human and, in doing so, expands the scope of Rancière’s vision. (Tribe as a concrete example of this: depicting an image of “society” — probably not the best word, something like “life-world” would be better — in which humans, nonhuman species, built/natural environment are existing/interacting with fewer power differentials. It sometimes looks messy (possum walking over trash on a nature trail) but it is a realistic modernism (?) — a portrayal of what our past modernisms (?) have left us with.)

Looking back at The Politics of Aesthetics (starting w/ glossary):
Three regimes: ethical regime of images, representative regime of art, aesthetic regime of art

Ethical regime: Plato’s distro of images in relation to ethos of community; true arts educate citizens in accordance w/ distro of occupations in community.

Representative regime: emerges from Aristotle’s crit of P, liberates art from moral, religious, and social criteria of Ethical regime, and separates arts from other modes of prod. Establishes axioms for each of the arts’ proper forms.

Aesthetic regime: becomes dominant over last 2 centuries; abolishes Rep regime’s hierarchical distribution of the sensible (speech > image, subject matter, genres) and promotes equality of represented subjects, indifference of style w/r/t content, and immanent meaning. “Art” = unity of logos and pathos, but at the same time, this endangers art’s specificity b/c it erases distinction btwn art and other activities. (?)

JR’s definition of aesthetics is helpful too: “the distribution of the sensible that determines the mode of articulation between forms of action, production, perception, and art” (82).

Distribution of the sensible. I’ve had this idea in my head since MP talked about it in BP, but I’m just now realizing how pertinent it is to what I’m thinking about: “the implicit law governing the sensible order that parcels out places and forms of participation in a common world by first establishing the modes of perception within which these are inscribed” (85). It produces a “system of self-evident facts of perception based on the set of horizons and modalities of what is visible and audible as well as what can be said” (Ibid.). If I’m thinking literally and about SLU rather than Tribe, this is exactly what I’ve been trying to use the word “aesthetics” for: organizing perceptual experience of space via nested levels of regulation: regional planning, county-level growth management, municipal GM, neighborhood planning, architectural guidelines, etc. It produces shit environments b/c everything is so clear (Kaiser essay on Baumgarten’s Leibnizian orientation, continuum btwn aesthethic and rationality…these environments are too much toward rationality, and this is why they are so bland). But back to the definition: the sensible refers to the aistheton (what can be apprehended by the senses, the objects of aisthesis). No reason they have to be only visual and aural (look back at De Anima).

Question: does JR’s equality extend beyond humans? (cf Aisthesis to see the scenes from Aesthetic regime…). Does it just apply to political subjects (the peasants who come to the polis, braying like sheep?) or does it mean producing equality (for all life-forms, zoe)? How does EC fit in with the scenes in Aisthesis?

Equality: undetermined in content, a presupposition for reconfiguration distro of sensible. It’s essence is not a distro of rights/representation, but is found in subjectivization that undoes/reconfigs distro of sensible. Political subjects emerge through subjectivization (they are not parties or individuals) that challenges society’s ‘natural order of bodies’ in name of equality (see Politics definition) (90).

Margus Vihalem’s “Everyday aesthetics and Jacques Rancière: reconfiguring the common field of aesthetics and politics”

“Rather, critical literature and art in general always function as micro-politics that undermine the prevailing consensus (as Rancière claims, it “means precisely that the sensory is given as univocal” (Dissensus, 149)), disintegrating the consensus, bringing along new perceptions, new visibilities… Aesthetic intervention takes the form here of acting on the conditions of perception, instead of acting immediately on the object of perception” (3).

“The whole realm of the aesthetic (extending from particular artistic practices to the most commonplace day-to-day aesthetic experiences) may be accounted in this sense as the locus of the exercise of politics. This politics, instead of deploying on a grand scale, unfolds as micro-politics that secretly hollows out the established distribution of the sensible” (5).

Dissensus

“The politics of literature thus means that literature as literature is involved in this partition of the visible and the sayable, in this intertwining of being, doing, and saying that frames a polemical common world” (152). Film undoubtedly functions in the same way (cf. Conley article?).

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Read/watched in August

Took a contract job to subsidize my exploitative “career” at UW, so I haven’t been reading/watching as much. Making my way through My Struggle 6 and Capital, hung up on China Miéville’s Last Days of New Paris and The House of Mirth.

Read

Nico Walker, Cherry

via Marvel Unlimited app:

Lee & Kirby, The Incredible Hulk #3

Lee & Kirby, Fantastic Four #6

 

Watched

Russo & Russo, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War

 Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2

Tremé – most of Season 3

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Read/watched in July

Read

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens

Jackie Wang, Carceral Capitalism

Fredric Jameson, Raymond Chandler: The Detection of Totality

Sianne Ngai, Our Aesthetic Categories

Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon

I’ve been watching a lot of Marvel movies w/ my son (see below), and we recently discovered the Marvel Unlimited app. I was never really big into superheroes comics, but we’re having fun going back and reading:

Lee & Ditko, Amazing Fantasy #15 (first Spider-Man appearance), The Amazing Spider-Man #1, 2

Lee & Kirby, The Fantastic Four #1-5

Lee & Kirby, The Incredible Hulk #1, 2

Goodwin & Colan, Iron Man #1

Simon & Kirby, Captain America #1

Burgos, “The Human Torch,” in Marvel Comics #1

 

Watched

Whedon, Avengers: Age of Ultron

Tremé, Seasons 1 & 2

Coogler, Black Panther

Boden & Fleck, Captain Marvel

Reed, Ant-Man

Taylor, Thor: The Dark World

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Question

UW admin has combined my 5 adjunct contracts into a Full Time Lecturer position and is offering it back to me as such: teach 9 courses a year (probably on 2 campuses) for $60,000. Is there a dignified way to respond to this?

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Read/watched in June

Read

Aristotle, De Anima

Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye, Playback

Nnedi Okarafor, Lagoon

Watched:

Johnston, Captain America: The First Avenger

The Wire, Seasons 4 & 5

Branagh, Thor

Talbot, The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Whedon, Avengers

Watts, Spiderman: Homecoming

 

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Stream 1: Disempowerment

What does the word “disempowerment” even mean for someone who fits into all the majoritarian identity categories (white, cisgender, heterosexual, married, father, etc.)? Can I even use it in earnest? Or, since I have not experienced the structural biases that others have continuously experienced, am I just complaining? I grew up in a house with two parents (most of the time), in a safe suburban neighborhood; I had access to enrichment activities at school and earned two engineering degrees without taking on student debt; I bought a condo when I was 24 and settled into a shit career in engineering, which I left because it was, well, shitty. (Technically I got laid off from a fancy engineering firm, but I had already applied to my doctoral program and was planning on doing both at the same time).

I earned a PhD in 2016 which is evidently worthless, at the cost of $300k, if you count my student loan debt, the 401k that I cashed out from my engineering life, and the spoils on the sale of the aforementioned condo. I’ve taught 26 classes since graduating (a full time faculty member would have taught about 15 in the same time span), I have advised students and served on committees, and I have moved various writing projects into various stages of the publication pipeline. The only employment prospect I have for next year is pretty much what I’ve been doing for three years: 8, maybe 9, maybe 10 classes, in various departments on multiple campuses.

But I am exhausted. I am angry and bitter and frustrated…but I know I don’t have it as bad as others. I was just talking a friend a few nights ago who had been involuntarily committed to a psych ward last year, and who was expressing his anger at how he was treated as a black man. I have another friend with multiple higher education degrees who is trapped living with a family member and working in retail because she can’t find teaching positions. I’m in a better spot than them, I know. I learned from Harney and Moten that the way to relate to people in these positions is to never try to see myself in their shoes, but to say, “I hear you — things are fucked up for me and I see they are fucked up for you. I’ll never know what you’re going through though.” I’m paraphrasing, but I hope this is enough for them to know that I genuinely do care. Can I do more? Am I obliged to do more? If so, is part of it because of my own position in the world? How do I relate my own becoming-poor, becoming-minoritarian to theirs? I feel alone, I feel abandoned, I feel ignored, I feel lost too. Is this even harder — that’s not the right word…is this even more intense because things have generally come easy for me, in that I’ve never been looked at suspiciously for having dark skin or that I’ve never been ignored or dismissed or held to a different standard for being a woman. I’m sure it’s more difficult and more painful to have never had the privilege that I’ve had, but I will never know. What I do know, however, is that falling deeper into debt, into self-doubt, into disempowerment, into frustration, into bitterness, into confusion, is horrible. Is my experience just one of white fragility? No, I haven’t read that book yet but, yes, it’s near the top of my list. I’m drowning in ressentiment and I’m looking to throw everything away.

 

 

 

 

 

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Read/Watched in May

Read:

McKenzie Wark, The Beach Beneath the Street

Samuel Stein, Capital City: gentrification and the real estate state

Stefano Harney & Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study

Watched:

The Wire, Season 2, Season 3

Andersen, Los Angeles Plays Itself

Favreau, Iron Man, Iron Man 2

Black, Iron Man 3

Kerry Tribe, Exquisite Corpse (3 times, with classes, thinking I might write something about it)

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