Thursday, July 1, 2010

RESPONSE to Povinelli/Week 4

In response to Erin’s question about the relationship between the bricoleur, the hunter-gatherer, and the gleaner – I found myself thinking of this question in terms of the individual’s relationship with his/her environment.

As we’ve discussed, Lévi-Strauss posits that since the Bricoleur is forced to make do with whatever is at hand, his universe is “closed.” The Bricoleur’s productivity is thus one of appropriation. By contrast, engineers have the ability (the “transformative power”) to create new tools and materials for specific purposes. Their world is therefore “open.”

For Povinelli, the Belyuen’s interactions with the land around them are not only productive, but world-forming in a broader sense. Though the labor of hunter-gatherers has been often portrayed as “unable to coagulate fully in things or landscapes,” the intentional, appropriative activity of hunting-gathering challenges and ultimately changes the meaning of productive action in Western theories of culture and society. “For Belyuens, hunting gathering is an activity and a discourse; it is a form of production in the fullest cultural and economic sense of this term…”

The gleaners in Varda’s film posit yet another model of productivity from the bricoleur and the hunter-gatherer. I was particularly interested by the characters in the film for whom gleaning was not in any way associated with their survival, but a conscious and intentional choice to reject the world of capitalist production/consumption. The michelin chef, the junkyard artist, the man in the rubber boots (a kind of urban hunter-gatherer) – all intentionally appropriated the waste of others to create new materials and tools that never existed before. In this fashion, they further complicate the bricoleur/engineer distinction by transforming – or ”opening up” -- their worlds according to their own rules of appropriation and reuse.

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