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Archive for the 'Critical Life Studies' Category

Friday, August 18th, 2017

It Is an Entire World That Has Disappeared

Extinction Studies

“Did they have an intuition of what was and what will have been? That the sky had become a desert? That to be ten, or even a hundred, means to be alone when you are a Passenger Pigeon? Did they know, from their ancestors’ memories, that the land, forests, and fields, seen by few eyes, no longer resembled anything, and that their patterns and colors, so familiar and recognizable when the eyes are many, had become incomprehensibly foreign and senseless for theirs—like a painting by an artist gone mad?” — Vinciane Despret

This week, our featured book is Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death, and Generations, edited by Deborah Bird Rose, Thom van Dooren, and Matthew Chrulew, with a foreword by Cary Wolfe. For the final post of the feature, we are happy to present Vinciane Despret’s afterword to the book, translated by Matthew Chrulew.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Extinction Studies!

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Telling Extinction Stories

Extinction Studies

“And yet, despite this central responsibility, people are involved in extinction in varied and ambivalent ways. We eat animals, log their forests for housing, cull their numbers for convenience, destroy and transform their homes and lives through unyielding systems of development and security. In this context, many people find themselves overwhelmed with the depressing inevitability and crushing finality of extinction. It is all the more astonishing, therefore, that along with sadness there is hope, along with seeming inevitability there is resistance.” — Rose, van Dooren, and Chrulew

This week, our featured book is Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death, and Generations, edited by Deborah Bird Rose, Thom van Dooren, and Matthew Chrulew, with a foreword by Cary Wolfe. Today, to start the feature, we are happy to present the introduction, cowritten by the book’s three editors.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Extinction Studies!

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Extinction Studies

Extinction Studies

Extinction Studies collects haunting and haunted multivoiced stories that echo together in a vibrant plea for an ethic of care, lucidity, and obstinate, stammering hope. We need such stories to make us feel and think with the unraveling of a world we inherit and share together with innumerable entangled forms and ways of life. We need them also to repopulate our devastated imaginations and to help us escape the twin easy temptations of nihilist despair and blind confidence.” — Isabelle Stengers, author of Cosmopolitics

This week, our featured book is Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death, and Generations, edited by Deborah Bird Rose, Thom van Dooren, and Matthew Chrulew, with a foreword by Cary Wolfe. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Is “Democracy” Nothing More Than a Slogan Now?

Through Vegetal Being

“The time has come to define and demonstrate differently what it means to be a democrat by giving the word to the citizens instead of keeping them hostage to debates between politicians. It is urgent to offer them to vote for points of a program that they really understand and that concern them as human beings, not only as consumers.” — Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder

This week, our featured book is Through Vegetal Being: Two Philosophical Perspectives, by Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder. For the final post of the week, we have excerpted an article, originally published in the NewStatesman, by Irigaray and Marder, in which discuss the uses and misuses of the idea of “democracy in today’s world.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Through Vegetal Being!

Is “Democracy” Nothing More Than a Slogan Now?
By Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder

The current rise of ISIS to prominence in the Middle East occasions, above all, a meditation on democracy, rather than on fundamentalism. Western countries have for some time now compared themselves to the worst political regimes. Despite all the problems with social and economic injustices, they have claimed, the benefits they offer their citizens far outweigh the precarious conditions of living in a fundamentalist dictatorship. Today, ISIS fits in a vast array of such comparisons that allow Western leaders to draw, in the sharpest way possible, demarcation lines between the civilisation they purportedly represent and the barbarism of this new political formation.

What is telling, however, is not that the West can appear as a democratic model compared to the regimes it condemns but that it has to measure itself against such alternatives in the first place. The time of political ideals is long gone, as far as our rulers are concerned, and even the relatively defeatist “doing the best we can” motto sounds quite unbelievable, coming from our Prime Ministers and Presidents. Democracy has become a concept so empty of substance that it needs to be juxtaposed to religious fundamentalism to gain a modicum of meaning. (more…)

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Plant Lessons

Through Vegetal Being

“What is sorely needed is an environmental pedagogy—not one formulated by our fellow humans, but one imparted by parts of the world we inhabit.” — Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder

This week, our featured book is Through Vegetal Being: Two Philosophical Perspectives, by Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder. Today, we are happy to present an article by Michael Marder and Luce Irigaray, in which they discuss the need for an “environmental pedagogy” and explain some of the lessons that plant life can teach us. The post can also be found on Michael Marder’s Los Angeles Review of Books Channel

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Through Vegetal Being!

Plant Lessons
By Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder

One crucial measure of human maturity is the way we treat our environment. A careless and destructive approach toward the world, which is usually conceived as a kind of playground for the enactment of our phantasies, is irresponsible and childish. It shows no respect for other forms of life, a lack of concern with the future, and the inability to think and to grow beyond the demands of sheer physical survival.

Historically, there has been little change in the direction of a more adult behavior toward the environment. Among other living beings, plants have been particularly mistreated as a result of this attitude because they have been thought of as infinitely malleable matter, on which human form could be stamped or imposed, generally to the detriment of their own biological life. Indeed, Aristotle, who was the first to come up with the notion matter in the West, derived it from the common Greek word for “wood.” Like plants, matter was supposed to be a passive receptacle for the form that was, in many cases, alien to vegetal life. Although Aristotle was still attentive to living forms, after him, a tree converted into a table or a bed became the preferred example of formed matter, while the self-formation of the tree itself, amenable to patient cultivation and care, was dismissed.

When it comes to respect for the environment we are still children, or even infants. More than that, we are terrible, unruly children because, for the most part, we are not open to being educated on the subject. Only punishments, in the shape of natural disasters attributable to global warming, have had some effect on human behavior, awakening in us a consciousness of the negative consequences that accompany immature environmental conduct. Still, a genuine change of attitudes is unlikely as a result of threats and punishments alone. What is sorely needed is an environmental pedagogy—not one formulated by our fellow humans, but one imparted by parts of the world we inhabit. (more…)

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Toward an Ecology of Sharing

Through Vegetal Being

“We must return to our natural surroundings and our natural identity, not to fall again into a wild state—as people who do not understand what is at stake here claim ironically—but to discover how we could share in a global and multicultural context without harming our own life or that of other (human or non-human) living beings.” — Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder

This week, our featured book is Through Vegetal Being: Two Philosophical Perspectives, by Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder. Today, we are happy to present “Toward an Ecology of Sharing,” by Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder, an article that originally appeared on The Philosophical Salon, a channel of the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Through Vegetal Being!

Toward an Ecology of Sharing
By Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder

We live in a world which is perpetually on the verge of tightening, or altogether closing, its political and other human-made borders. Threats of terrorism, illegal migrations, and global epidemics are cited as some of the main concerns behind such a move. Indeed, key member states of the European Union have recently expressed the need of reviewing and reconsidering the Schengen Agreement which, with a few exceptions, had abolished passport controls on its territory. Fear of intrusions, fanned out of proportion by certain political factions, turns the world into clusters of sealed ghettoes and makes genuine sharing of it impossible. But a deeper source for these developments is the hegemony of a possessive attitude that regulates our relation to the places, in which we dwell, including our countries, cultures, and natural environments.

“Sharing the world”
There are several ways of understanding the expression “sharing the world.” The first (which, rather, ought to be written as “sharing out”) amounts to dividing up a whole into parts. In reality, our world is already divided up into many parts that form a whole – the lands, the seas, the sky… – and these are also composed of different parts – for instance, the mountains, the plains, the valleys, to speak only of the earth – which themselves contain or are inhabited by various beings, including the vegetal world, the animal kingdom, and humans. Humans have added to these natural distributions other divisions, be they territorial, political, cultural, or linguistic. Now, these divisions do not make up a whole so easily! The numerous conflicts that happen today in the world bear witness to such a problem: each part aims at becoming a whole, instead of partaking in a whole with others. Furthermore, the various partitions do not work together smoothly: a people can claim to be the owner of a country, but not, for all that, to be the owner of a culture, a religion, or a language. Defining and respecting the boundaries of each property has thus become a difficult undertaking because of the varied divisions that humanity has added to the natural partitions composing the world. (more…)

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Introducing “Through Vegetal Being”

Through Vegetal Being

“How can we speak of the vegetal world? Is not one of its teachings to show without saying, or to say without words? I imagine that we will try to display and signify on this side or beyond any discourse. And this will not be an easy undertaking in a book. This will force us to give up the tradition of a language of philosophy. Will we be capable of such a gesture, such a challenge?” — Luce Irigaray

“I agree that this language is still largely absent and that one of our greatest challenges is to assist it in coming into being, to see to it that it could attain its full expression, without, at the same time, violating the silence of plants. Nothing less than a paradigm shift in our current idea of discursivity would do here.” — Michael Marder

This week, our featured book is Through Vegetal Being: Two Philosophical Perspectives, by Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder. To start the week’s feature, we are happy to present the initial correspondence between Irigaray and Marder that gave birth to their book project, with each letter presented as the prologue to the individual author’s section of Through Vegetal Being.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Through Vegetal Being!

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

Book Giveaway! Through Vegetal Being, by Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder

Through Vegetal Being

Through Vegetal Being foregrounds the relations that plants enable between humans and other living things, continuing both Michael Marder’s work on plant existence and Luce Irigaray’s work on sexual difference and the forgetting of the world in the constitution of individual identity. This charming and beautifully written book is a two-person meditation on the philosophy, ontology, and ethics of plant life and our fundamental dependence on it as living beings.” — Elizabeth Grosz

This week, our featured book is Through Vegetal Being: Two Philosophical Perspectives, by Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.