Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I find Sabrina's questioning of the relationship between animal capture and the apparatus to be very productive. Agamben's theorization locates the two states of humanness, the capacity for “boredom” and the “Open, which is the possibility of knowing being as such,” in relation to the suspension of the living being's “disinhibitors” or what he defines in The Open as carriers of significance (16-17).
It would seem then that the “disinhibitor” functions as an apparatus in that it both is the means through which the living being experiences the world and is captivated by it. The distinction between disinhibitors and apparatuses then appears to be along a binary division of nature vs. culture.
I would question then what the limits to the “disinhibitor” is as certain animals such as Crows can pass knowledge among social groups (such as using passing cars on roads to crack nutshells). It is easy to say that the human is capable of producing and being subjected by the abundance of apparatuses, but I feel this is an all too humanizing argument.
In thinking about Avatar I would also question when animals shift from the category of living being and into the category of the apparatus. The domesticated animal or beast of burden in some ways can be seen more as a machine than a being on its own. In this way, through the process of breeding and other manipulations how has mankind itself functioned as an apparatus par excellence upon different species, ecosystems, and even biomes? I will take these questions along with me into my further studies. Thanks everyone for such a great class!
Sunday, May 9, 2010
In his Mimesis and Alterity, Taussig's claim that mimesis has the capacity to transform both mimer and that which is mimed presents intriguing potentials for a means of assuming coevalness between subjects that moves beyond merely "communicating." The mimetic faculty, he argues, enables one not only to "make models, [and] explore differences," tasks which parallel Fabian's critiqued ethnographic method of denying coevalness, but also to "yield into and become Other" (xiii). This 'becoming Other' resembles in my mind the task ethnographers often set out for themselves of assuming an indigenous perspective in order to operate within a cultural framework, and requires an altered subjectivity in the process of communicating. The mimetic faculty, however, involves both objectification ("making models") and the sharing of time (to "become Other"). Taken in this light, the practice of mimesis, as Taussig himself argues, must be undertaken cautiously.
Firstly, one must wonder if the process of sharing time necessarily involves an objectification of some sort. Must one first "make models" of Others before she can become them? Here, Derrida's notion of arche-writing's denial of full presence affects even the least objectifying project of communication. If, in order to become Other, one must first make a model of that Other, then sharing time is at its core a process of making a 'accurate' model, of constructing another culture as an intellectual model, which, if followed well enough, will enable the ethnographer to refine the model by testing its usefulness in communicating. Such a paradox makes one wonder: if this 'sharing of time' is only attainable in so much as it is first denied, why attempt to achieve it?
Secondly, if we accept Taussig's claim that mimesis in fact has the capacity to alter that which is mimed, must we become more weary of the potential for an ethnographic coevalness to be even more successful at transforming ethnographic 'informants' into the ethnographer's imagined Other than merely treating them as objects stuck in a static, earlier Time?
Taking these two concerns together, 'sharing time' appears as a project to be undertaken with a specific, transformative aim in mind. Fabian's call for ethnographers to struggle to grant coevalness to their informants in all stages of studying them appears incomplete. The motivations behind 'giving the gift' of coevalness must be interrogated.
Monday, May 3, 2010
[He] readily does everything that he is asked to do, inasmuch as leaves his everyday gestures and his health, his amusements and his occupations, his diet and his desires, to be commanded and controlled in the smallest detail by apparatuses (23)Is this totalizing "capture" of man similar to the capture of the animal? At what point does this desubjectification and overstimulation of man by apparatuses (which we could say act like "carriers of significance"?) reduce man to acting only on something similar to an instinctive behavior?
A question I had when I watched the movie this time around was what was at stake in that the network in Pandora was far more literal than in ways that many theorized for the class.
What does it mean that a 'skywalker' is nature chosen one? Does it re-inforce the violence which Derrida critiques in Levi-Straus? Or rather does it does it privilege immanence Derrida introduces in the plane of sameness through the sudden contingencies of Jake being in an Avatar, and preferring it.