THEORY

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THEORY

Postby INNIT » Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:27 am

i've been wanting to make a dedicated T H E O RY thread for awhile now, where we can all ramble on about society and capitalism without clogging up other topics.

what is theory?

who knows, really. in the broadest sense, it's a way of critiquing society and culture using knowledges produced in the arts and sciences. this definition, however, is so broad as to be almost nebulous, so if anyone has a better way of defining "theory" or "Theory" or "critical theory" i very much encourage you to do so.

theory encompasses a multitude of very different and often contradictory schools of thought. to name a few: marxism, postmodernism/poststructuralism, feminism, black studies, critical race theory, indigenous studies, queer theory, trans theory, affect theory, new materialism, postcolonial theory, etc.* all of these fields, and the numerous others i haven't named, are up for discussion.

*note: none of these "fields" are stable categories: they all variously intersect and diverge. in other words, they all communicate with each other.

unfortunately, accessing theory usually means identifying a specific theoretical field that intrigues you and engaging with its texts directly. fortunately, we live in a time of interweb gadgets that liberate us from meat space and enable us to access a vast array of pdf texts for free. do you want to read butler's "gender troubles"? BOOM. that took me like 5 seconds to find, get on it people.

who does theory?

i would like to say everyone and anyone willing to put in the time. in reality, most theoretical writing is produced by academics within the humanities/social sciences. all of the above listed "fields" are contributed to by scholars writing within disciplines as diverse as philosophy, history, psychology, literature, sociology, political science, economics, physics, etc.

that said, i am a firm believer that it can be socialized beyond the academy, with a little work.

a note on jargon

in the interest of bringing people into the discussion, please socialize words that may be construed as jargon. the onus is on the poster to post something comprehensible (which i often fail to do myself)

so like, what do we talk about

i encourage everyone to use theory to discuss whatever it is that interests them, whether that be comic books, novels, films, fashion, theory itself, internet stuff, robot stuff, the iphone 4, whatever. ask questions, give answers, no one's an expert on this stuff and if i can fool academics into thinking that i am smart, so can you.

in conclusion

i'm just going to post a bunch of pictures of cool-looking theorists. good inspo also

Spoiler:
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Re: THEORY

Postby YoungCanoeist » Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:06 am

theorist list too white

Spoiler:
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george jackson

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WALTER RODNEY

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eve tuck

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kwame nkrumah

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amilcar cabral

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angela davis, obv

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grace lee and james boggs

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MARIA STEWART who produced the ideas articulated by

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david walker

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jose maria sison

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cedric robinson

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fannie lou hamer

ruth simms hamilton, pic not available

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thomas sankara

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kim il sung

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sekou toure

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liu shaoqi

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rhacel salazar parrenas

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catherine ceniza choy

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can't forget grandpa

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nor uncle ho

twitter @ztsamudzi @DecolonialBlack @trannycita @Alysonesque @SaltyLilOjibwe @Andrea_Lakota @tulukaruq @HamsickAndBrush @HalfAtlanta @bell_shakur @queersocialism @AjamuBaraka @ajitxsingh @tsengputterman, more

need more trans, women, queer, chicanx, native, south asian, west asian, caribbean theorists in my knowledge base, let me know!!
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Re: THEORY

Postby norman » Thu Oct 11, 2018 4:45 pm

this is all too smart for me but I'm interested in reading people's contributions
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Re: THEORY

Postby rjbman » Thu Oct 11, 2018 7:11 pm

not sure if this falls under the purpose of this but has anyone here read Non-places by Mark Auge? read it after hearing it mentioned in The Supermodern Wardrobe (great book)... it definitely felt a little academic for uninformed me, but the main point:

over time there's been a large rise in these supermodern transitional "non-places", essentially places that exist only as a way to get from point A to point B without providing anything of value, be that value civic involvement, casual socialization, etc. easy example: subways. is this bad? probably

anywas now that's sort of extending through changes in society, such as smartphones, that lead to less interactions between people with similar geographies. there's also a rise in these psuedopublic spaces that i think are loosely related: places that seem to be public, but are actually private and subject to different laws than say, a real public park.

rambling now so i'll cut it off here, but any thoughts? i think there can probably be two lines of thought tbh, smartphones and their effect on society could be a whole fucking forum on its own
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Re: THEORY

Postby wrong » Thu Oct 11, 2018 9:20 pm

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paulo freire
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Re: THEORY

Postby thephfactor » Fri Oct 12, 2018 2:58 am

my favorite theorists:

mom
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dad
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and the person reading this (love)
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Re: THEORY

Postby kickingthefly » Mon Oct 15, 2018 5:50 am

wait is it ok to rep judith now after avital ronell letter thing
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Re: THEORY

Postby Naka_ » Mon Oct 15, 2018 7:18 am

haven't had that much time for reading recently so I'm gonna try out audiobooks. First up is Anna Tsing's The Mushroom at the End of the World. I really enjoy theory that plays with form so I hope it's a good fit with the format.
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Re: THEORY

Postby eli7 » Mon Oct 15, 2018 6:34 pm

So what does everything think about the Sokal Hoax? If you're unfamiliar you can read a short opinion piece about it here:

https://anthrodendum.org/2018/10/12/sokal-squared-as-satire/

I tend to steer clear of writing in a traditionally academic way (at least whats traditional in the humanities). Although I am a theory-head, I need things I write to be explicable in simple terms because you can really tangled up in jargon when you're formulating theoretical backgrounds for a practical project. I have undergrads that dabble in theory and what they write literally makes no sense and they can't explain their arguments because they depend on a set of vocabulary they've recently learned, not realizing that the words have meanings. Every semester when it comes to teaching about basic theories of time and temporality, I have to have a discussion about the inherent purpose of theory and jargon and why it's not just a convoluted or pleonastic way of saying something simple (even though it absolutely is that sometimes).

That being said, I love Reza Negarestani for how obtuse he can be. Some theory/philosophy I don't even try to read in a linear way, I just sort of look at the page and create word clouds in my mind because it would take me 1,000 years to get through one piece. I think it works sometimes, especially with Deleuze and Guatari but I'm sure most people don't see it this way and just read it and understand every nuance somehow. Not me though.

Here's a good chat between Susan Sontag and John Berger that I enjoy about how to tell a story(she was always criticized for how she densely she expressed herself):
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Re: THEORY

Postby INNIT » Tue Oct 16, 2018 2:20 am

eli7 wrote:So what does everything think about the Sokal Hoax? If you're unfamiliar you can read a short opinion piece about it here:

https://anthrodendum.org/2018/10/12/sokal-squared-as-satire/

I tend to steer clear of writing in a traditionally academic way (at least whats traditional in the humanities). Although I am a theory-head, I need things I write to be explicable in simple terms because you can really tangled up in jargon when you're formulating theoretical backgrounds for a practical project. I have undergrads that dabble in theory and what they write literally makes no sense and they can't explain their arguments because they depend on a set of vocabulary they've recently learned, not realizing that the words have meanings. Every semester when it comes to teaching about basic theories of time and temporality, I have to have a discussion about the inherent purpose of theory and jargon and why it's not just a convoluted or pleonastic way of saying something simple (even though it absolutely is that sometimes).

That being said, I love Reza Negarestani for how obtuse he can be. Some theory/philosophy I don't even try to read in a linear way, I just sort of look at the page and create word clouds in my mind because it would take me 1,000 years to get through one piece. I think it works sometimes, especially with Deleuze and Guatari but I'm sure most people don't see it this way and just read it and understand every nuance somehow. Not me though.



i had never heard of this hoax but agree that it is super fucking funny

a few unorganized thoughts:

i have no idea what "traditional" academic writing is. i think a case could easily be made that the extremely dense writing styles of french post structuralists (i bring them up because they are the theorists most often accused of being arbitrarily obscure) have long been out of fashion within the humanities. sara ahmed's career trajectory is a good a example: compare the way that she writes in "affective economies" (2004) to the way that she writes in any of her later works (e.g. "pursuit of happiness" (2010)). put simply: using simple language, personal anecdotes, examples from popular culture, etc. to contextualize and unfold arguments is trendy right now. experimenting with form in academic writing is especially trendy.

i think that all academic writing is subject to trend and mood and style. if we all just systematically stated our arguments as bluntly and linearly as possible we would be boring and we can leave the burden of writing boring papers to people in STEM fields.

hyper reading (http://nkhayles.com/how_we_read.html). katherine hayles, the person that usually comes before donna haraway in the "posthumanism" section of theory anthologies, talks about how younger generations hyper read (rather than "close read"). the simple fact is that D+G will appear to be a dense web of jargon unless you've gone back and read spinoza and nietzsche and simondon and a bunch of other old white people. this sounds elitist and old and stodgy but holy fuck is it true. but nobody goes backwards anymore; instead, they read theoretical texts laterally alongside webpages that give the "gist" of what the text means, and mine the text for snippets of jargon and quotable material. engaging a complex work for an extended duration to properly grasp what it's trying to say is off the table. many factors contribute to this phenomenon: waning attention spans, shorter periods to complete degrees (and therefore to read shitloads of background material), the fact that reading old stuff is boring while reading new stuff is fun, failing to contextualize theoretical texts within their philosophical lineages, etc.

why is simplicity demanded of the humanities and only the humanities, even at the highest level of scholarship? presumably i wouldn't be able to understand a graduate level paper written by someone studying quantum physics, but that wouldn't lead me to accuse the author of being needlessly obscure or jargonistic. i think that there is an underlying presumption that the knowledges produced in the humanities are, at their core, simple, and only made complex through language, because how could assertions made about culture and society actually be complex??

undergrads do misuse jargon but honestly i'm pretty impressed when i find out that a 19 year old student is tackling lacan or something, even if their argument makes no sense.
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Re: THEORY

Postby eli7 » Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:58 pm

why is simplicity demanded of the humanities and only the humanities, even at the highest level of scholarship? presumably i wouldn't be able to understand a graduate level paper about quantum physics, but that wouldn't lead me to accuse the author of being needlessly obscure or jargonistic. i think that there is an underlying presumption that the knowledges produced in the humanities are, at their core, simple, and only made complex through language, because how could assertions about culture and society actually be complex??


Yea I encounter this a lot, particularly with undergrads. Students will straight up prioritize a STEM exam/assignment over my own. They ask for extensions all the time because they have other work they want to get in on time and they think they can submit any bullshit that completes the page minimum and that will assure them at least a B+. Especially if they use concepts like liminality and anthropocentrism. I always give it to them because it makes no difference to me if things are in on time but I do recognize the asymmetry. Grades are in fact inflated in the humanities, the medium at my university is an A- which is absolutely insane given the quality of the work that is regularly submitted. I think STEM medium is like B+ or something like that (ivys are very generous with grades). Of course there are great students as well, ones who really want to learn and do really quality work.

Ok, back to theory though. I want to make the offer that if people on here are looking for papers/books in particular bodies of theory that they're intrigued by, we can share PDFs and recs here. I do this all the time with friends and students who want to read stuff I'm into like mult-species anthro (hey Donna and hey Derrida's cat), post-humanism, queer theory (Paul B. Preciado's Testo-Junkie is bonkers good, so is Mel Chen's Animacies), things like time/temporality, landscape theory, thing theory, etc. I love sharing stuff especially because I have access to lots of databases.

Another thought: Another thing that comes up a lot is whether a theorist should be recognized purely for their contributions to a given field and have their personal misgivings overlooked. This most recently came up with Judith Butlers defense of Avital Ronell. For me, I will not read Heidegger even though profs in my department assign him constantly and love him dearly, it's my own personal war. What I will do is read other theorists on Heidegger like Graham Harman or something so I'm not lost when seminar discussions turn to him.
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Re: THEORY

Postby Naka_ » Tue Oct 16, 2018 1:21 pm

eli7 wrote:Ok, back to theory though. I want to make the offer that if people on here are looking for papers/books in particular bodies of theory that they're intrigued by, we can share PDFs and recs here. I do this all the time with friends and students who want to read stuff I'm into like mult-species anthro (hey Donna and hey Derrida's cat), post-humanism, queer theory (Paul B. Preciado's Testo-Junkie is bonkers good, so is Mel Chen's Animacies), things like time/temporality, landscape theory, thing theory, etc. I love sharing stuff especially because I have access to lots of databases.

Another thought: Another thing that comes up a lot is whether a theorist should be recognized purely for their contributions to a given field and have their personal misgivings overlooked. This most recently came up with Judith Butlers defense of Avital Ronell. For me, I will not read Heidegger even though profs in my department assign him constantly and love him dearly, it's my own personal war. What I will do is read other theorists on Heidegger like Graham Harman or something so I'm not lost when seminar discussions turn to him.


That's a great idea, much appreciated. I wonder if you have anything about politics or relations with Waste? If anything springs to mind... I'm quite interested in human-waste relationships and it's obvious links with climate change.
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Re: THEORY

Postby soko » Tue Oct 16, 2018 2:50 pm

had a party at mine and someone knocked over the hookah :cool:
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Re: THEORY

Postby JewTurk » Tue Oct 16, 2018 6:03 pm

eli7 wrote:
why is simplicity demanded of the humanities and only the humanities, even at the highest level of scholarship? presumably i wouldn't be able to understand a graduate level paper about quantum physics, but that wouldn't lead me to accuse the author of being needlessly obscure or jargonistic. i think that there is an underlying presumption that the knowledges produced in the humanities are, at their core, simple, and only made complex through language, because how could assertions about culture and society actually be complex??


Yea I encounter this a lot, particularly with undergrads. Students will straight up prioritize a STEM exam/assignment over my own. They ask for extensions all the time because they have other work they want to get in on time and they think they can submit any bullshit that completes the page minimum and that will assure them at least a B+. Especially if they use concepts like liminality and anthropocentrism. I always give it to them because it makes no difference to me if things are in on time but I do recognize the asymmetry. Grades are in fact inflated in the humanities, the medium at my university is an A- which is absolutely insane given the quality of the work that is regularly submitted. I think STEM medium is like B+ or something like that (ivys are very generous with grades). Of course there are great students as well, ones who really want to learn and do really quality work.

Ok, back to theory though. I want to make the offer that if people on here are looking for papers/books in particular bodies of theory that they're intrigued by, we can share PDFs and recs here. I do this all the time with friends and students who want to read stuff I'm into like mult-species anthro (hey Donna and hey Derrida's cat), post-humanism, queer theory (Paul B. Preciado's Testo-Junkie is bonkers good, so is Mel Chen's Animacies), things like time/temporality, landscape theory, thing theory, etc. I love sharing stuff especially because I have access to lots of databases.

Another thought: Another thing that comes up a lot is whether a theorist should be recognized purely for their contributions to a given field and have their personal misgivings overlooked. This most recently came up with Judith Butlers defense of Avital Ronell. For me, I will not read Heidegger even though profs in my department assign him constantly and love him dearly, it's my own personal war. What I will do is read other theorists on Heidegger like Graham Harman or something so I'm not lost when seminar discussions turn to him.


Interesting article (https://medium.com/@soleri/sexual-abuse ... ecb8e99648) about this by Daniela Soleri (daughter of Paolo Soleri). I read Soleri's the bridge between matter and spirit is matter becoming spirit which was just a collection of some of his essays over an extended amount of time, talking about his idea of arcology. Regardless, I kind of lean on the side of it being okay to enjoy/partake in peoples work but you should be willing to accept the fact you're supporting someone with some problematic aspects to them.

I'll have to look for a copy of Testo-Junkie.
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Re: THEORY

Postby INNIT » Tue Oct 16, 2018 6:17 pm

everyone has problematic aspects to them. all of the progressives of yesteryear are now being critiqued ad nauseam for the implicit violences contained within their works. D+G have been ripped apart by theorists within indigenous studies/postcolonial studies/black studies, foucault is a neoliberal, etc. the problem is that many of these authors' ideas have become fundamental to entire strains of thought and their theories have become the baseline assumptions that certain fields proceed from (queer theory w/o foucault? feminism w/o butler?). solutions to this always seem pretty binary: either throw away the author completely or continue to use them (while very tastefully mentioning their shortcomings).

a form of suspicious criticism and reading has taken over in recent years. here's felski on "the hermeneutics of suspicion" (http://journal.media-culture.org.au/ind ... e/view/431). there is a much longer version of this that you can read ("the limits of critique). i find suspicious critiques to be kind of boring, often obvious, and always necessary (though, not necessarily generative).

we'll all be dinosaurs one day, folks
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Re: THEORY

Postby thephfactor » Thu Oct 18, 2018 2:27 pm

The work of the theorist and the insights we can gain from it are always separate from that theorist as an individual. I think we can all agree that it's lame and corny, and stupid, when people attempt to interpret, say, a text, through the individuality of the author, so why would we do the same thing when there's a question about the author of a theoretical text's individual morals? Now, I'm often guilty of doing something similar in reverse, i.e. over-identifying with a theorist as an individual based on how much their theory has enriched my life (what were we doing by posting images of theorists in the thread?), and that's not necessarily excusable, but I think more understandable as a sort of defensive response against a culture that often doesn't seem to value the theoretical traditions these figures, for better or for worse, represent. People love to shit on Althusser for murdering his wife, and it's always a struggle for me because my default impulse is to come to his defense as an individual ("He was tortured by Nazis as a youth and struggled with mental illness throughout his life and was declared mentally irresponsible by the judges..."), when obviously the more reasonable response is to smile serenely at the vulgar person and murmer "ah yes, what a tragedy, good thing I'm not an individualist like you or that would really crush me." Something to keep in mind and work on.
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Re: THEORY

Postby 106-2 » Fri Oct 19, 2018 6:33 am

thephfactor wrote:The work of the theorist and the insights we can gain from it are always separate from that theorist as an individual. I think we can all agree that it's lame and corny, and stupid, when people attempt to interpret, say, a text, through the individuality of the author, so why would we do the same thing when there's a question about the author of a theoretical text's individual morals?


If the text was written from the perspective of an individual, based on research they had themselves conducted, or instructed others to conduct, and concluded from ideas presumably sourced from their brain, I don't really see how it could be considered 'lame and corny' to interpret theory from the perspective of the author's morals. I agree that the culture of outright 'cancelling' theorists for not being able to predict the future is unproductive, but to not frame their ideas through the lens of their personal history or actions they later took is irresponsible imo.

Whilst in the case of Althusser it sounds like his actions could be separated from his theory, its still important to acknowledge his actions - I literally just found out about the whole thing with Althusser two days ago from a lecture, despite having read him fairly regularly over the course of my A-levels + first year of my undergrad. The lecturer didn't go out of his way to tear the guy down or anything, he simply referenced his work and followed it with an aside about 'maybe not relying too heavily' on his theories, describing him as 'one of the 3 wife-murderers that are okay to openly talk about in the department'. In the same way that you're using information external to his theory to exonerate him, surely the inverse is an equally valid part of the transtextual discourse surrounding any theory? Like are we going to say that we should look at Germaine Greer's earlier texts as though she wasn't in all likelihood a massive transphobe throughout?

edit: @INNIT read Barthes' death of the author, whilst I agree with aspects of his argument and think he's right to a degree, I just don't see how a society which is receptive to academics cultivating a similar sort of personality cult to celebrities could ever allow that sort of ego-death to occur, ignoring whether that should happen or not.
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Re: THEORY

Postby INNIT » Sat Oct 20, 2018 4:52 am

106-2 wrote:
edit: @INNIT read Barthes' death of the author, whilst I agree with aspects of his argument and think he's right to a degree, I just don't see how a society which is receptive to academics cultivating a similar sort of personality cult to celebrities could ever allow that sort of ego-death to occur, ignoring whether that should happen or not.


but haven't authors always been elevated to celebrity status? i guess i'm pretty old-fashioned in thinking that the text isn't reducible to the author and actually exists completely outside of the author's control or intent (i.e. texts/words/signs mean things all on their own). are you able to read "bodies that matter" and then extrapolate, from that text, an authorial subjectivity that is problematic (and absolutely the subjectivity of the author, rather than your subjective interpretation of the author's text, inflected by biographical information about the author), thereby revealing an author that may engage in problematic behaviors? you get yourself into a very sticky situation trying to find the "individual" in a collection of signs.

the solution is not so clear as many make it out to be. lets say we forgo using butler because of her recent letter in support of avital ronell. does this mean we simply refrain from using performance theory entirely? keeping in mind that performance theory is now foundational not just to feminism, but to queer theory, black studies, etc. do we leave her name off of citation pages while still using her thought, thereby committing plagiarism/theft? do we advance her career by continuing to cite her work?

(also, butler wrote this in response to the letter thing: https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/letters ... al-ronell/)
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Re: THEORY

Postby kickingthefly » Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:22 am

eli (or anyone else...) can you give an example of what you consider a 'good' theoretical take on a practical archaeology project? or just theory incorporated into an outline.
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Re: THEORY

Postby 106-2 » Sun Oct 21, 2018 1:02 pm

@INNIT

yeah I think its absolutely the case that authors have always been elevated to celebrity status, but for most of history (and obviously still today) there are clear structural reasons why that has occurred given the privilege someone has to have in order to establish themselves in academia. Surely with much more democratised means of communication/distributing information its not inconceivable that authors could lose their exceptional status without authorship being 'killed'? In the case of Greer/Butler/any other problematic author, whilst yeah clearly not all problematic aspects to them will be apparent in every text of theirs but I don't think that makes considering these faults any less important. Any recommendations for reading around this topic?

Also with the Butler thing, I don't think that her acknowledging that she fucked up really does anything to redeem her, given that she's still arguing that Ronell shouldn't be investigated, just imo.
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Re: THEORY

Postby UnwashedMolasses » Mon Oct 22, 2018 8:33 am

INNIT wrote:
i guess i'm pretty old-fashioned in thinking that the text isn't reducible to the author and actually exists completely outside of the author's control or intent (i.e. texts/words/signs mean things all on their own).

This hits me as being an important conflict for this conversation. Forgive me if I lack some of the reading behind linguistics and/or semiotics, but how can language ever exist without context? Given that language is created not by the individual but by society and progressively changes and evolves based on social contexts, it seems weird to me to separate them. An author is writing for a reason, with intent, and that intent must be informed by the social context they exist in, because they have no choice to exist in it or not.
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Re: THEORY

Postby eli7 » Mon Oct 22, 2018 12:40 pm

Naka_ wrote:
eli7 wrote:
That's a great idea, much appreciated. I wonder if you have anything about politics or relations with Waste? If anything springs to mind... I'm quite interested in human-waste relationships and it's obvious links with climate change.


@Naka_

I'd look into the work of Robin Nagel (her book is Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City), she's an anthropologist who works with the Department of Sanitation in NYC. I like Alice Gorman's work, she's a space archaeologist who writes on orbital debris, launch sites, and cultural landscapes.

Another aspect of trash studies is the "Middle East garbage crisis" which studies garbage management in the ME often in situations of armed conflict and environmental apathy. I'm honestly always a bit underwhelmed/bored when I read stuff on what I think has potential to be crazy cool so if people have people they like on this topic, I'd love some recs too.

There are some folks working on the contemporary archaeology of homelessness, which dips into your interest but only kind of peripherally.

kickingthefly wrote:eli (or anyone else...) can you give an example of what you consider a 'good' theoretical take on a practical archaeology project? or just theory incorporated into an outline.


@kickingthefly

Sure, and of course this is all personal preference of what I consider successful application of theory which to me means that it's fun for me to read, makes sense, and enhances the data that one is looking at. I'll just list a few that come to mind: I really enjoy the work of Whitney Battle-Baptiste (UMass-Amherst), she wrote a very approachable book called Black Feminist Archaeology in which she develops a Black Feminist theoretical framework to study plantation archaeology (primarily at The Hermitage and Colonial Williamsburg). It's a mash up of critical race theory, gender studies, landscape studies, among others but it's well written and really makes archaeology interesting (which can be hard...). I have at least one chapter PDFed if that sounds interesting to you.

Another archaeologist who I always assign (and who is the rare egg to make it into the mainstream) is Jason DeLeon. He is a trained archaeologist who moved away from traditional work into more broad anthropology and social justice, he studies undocumented migration in the Sonoran Desert and uses common archaeological techniques (like studying use wear) to solidify his arguments. I have some PDFs of his work too and his book is called The Land of Open Graves.

Yannis Hamilakis does interesting work on sense, memory, affect, and the body. Karina Croucher has a great book called Death and Dying in the Neolithic Near East, which is about exactly that and sounds pretty esoteric but I do work relating to that and found it fascinating. Last one I'll mention is The Archaeology of Time by Gavin Lucas which discusses concepts of time in past societies and how to talk about time in the archaeological record---a chronological approach he calls multi-temporality.
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Re: THEORY

Postby INNIT » Mon Oct 22, 2018 6:14 pm

UnwashedMolasses wrote:
INNIT wrote:
i guess i'm pretty old-fashioned in thinking that the text isn't reducible to the author and actually exists completely outside of the author's control or intent (i.e. texts/words/signs mean things all on their own).

This hits me as being an important conflict for this conversation. Forgive me if I lack some of the reading behind linguistics and/or semiotics, but how can language ever exist without context? Given that language is created not by the individual but by society and progressively changes and evolves based on social contexts, it seems weird to me to separate them.


lol im trying to find the old powerpoint presentation that i made on this, but can't. so, right off the top:

A Quick Lesson on Structuralism and Deconstruction

saussure, the guy that invented semiology, thought of words like this:

Image

meaning that the word "tree" (signifier) produces the mental image or concept of a tree (signified) in a signied/signifier relationship.

derrida critiques this through his concept of différance, which describes how the meaning of words are always deferred (determined by other signs, dependent on the use of more words, which themselves are defined using other words, and so on to infinity).

so in actuality the word tree might produce the concept of a poplar, or a willow, or an oak, or a pine, a genealogical tree, etc, in what isn't a stable relation between signified/signifier, but a signifying chain. all words are polysematic and overdetermined, and as such meaning cannot be controlled by the author, as whatever meaning the author tries to produce is undermined by the very structure of language. this is what i'm getting at when i say that "words mean all on their own". within a single text, an author produces many different (often contradictory) meanings, creating a situation where a single text can have multiple valid interpretations (welcome to the pomozone)

An author is writing for a reason, with intent, and that intent must be informed by the social context they exist in, because they have no choice to exist in it or not.


yes but can you identify the exact degree to which social context informs intent? to do so would be to uncover the exact relationship between society and subjectivity, and would require access to basically a holistic account of the author's entire life and milieu. and even then, you wouldn't escape the problem of signification outlined above; why does authorial intent matter when the meaning of a text is determined by the relation between signifiers?

kinda rattled that off but this is essentially a conversation about deconstruction vs historicism
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Re: THEORY

Postby 106-2 » Tue Oct 23, 2018 7:52 am

@eli7 sorry if i'm just being dumb but what is the difference between semiology and semiotics? from my understanding isn't semiotics just semiology in which the sign is one-removed from the phenomena itself, to acknowledge that the signified object is a not coherent/singular object? if semiotics is just a subsection of semiology, but (surely) no-one would still argue in favour of 'OG' semiology, why is the distinction still useful? (any recc's for babby's first semiology v semiotics would be much much appreciated)
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Re: THEORY

Postby eli7 » Tue Oct 23, 2018 10:25 am

106-2 wrote:@eli7 sorry if i'm just being dumb but what is the difference between semiology and semiotics? from my understanding isn't semiotics just semiology in which the sign is one-removed from the phenomena itself, to acknowledge that the signified object is a not coherent/singular object? if semiotics is just a subsection of semiology, but (surely) no-one would still argue in favour of 'OG' semiology, why is the distinction still useful? (any recc's for babby's first semiology v semiotics would be much much appreciated)



I'll start by saying I should never be put in a position to teach semiotics since I have zero background in using it for my project, but alas grad school teaching assignment. I tend to contextualize Kant/Saussure/Peirce into the post-processualist archaeological technique which is (very broadly) when archaeologists started using more theory and stopped trying to "read" the archaeological record like a text. They argue for a multiplicity of meanings in which reality still exists. Of course tons of archaeologists (most, I'd say) still practice processualism. I won't get too into this here bc it'll be boring if it's not your thing.

Saussure’s view = signifier (representation) and meaning, but there's no thing-in-itself
Kant’s view = thing-in-itself and representation-of-it (signifier), but there's no meaning
Peirce’s view = thing-in-itself + representation-of-it + meaning: as 3 distinct pivots

So I think of Saussurean Semiology as a science that studies the role of signs as part of social life; the nature of signs and their underlying laws. Levi Strauss used and expanded Saussurean semiology in his creation of structuralism (binary oppositions/dualisms in his study of kinship networks). Post-structuralism notes that Saussurean semiology pays no attention to the use of speech in socially structured interactions. So post processualism and post structuralism are critical of using a linguistic model on a study of material culture.

Peircian semiotics is more of a “theory of knowledge”, and is far broader than Saussure’s version of semiotics (the study of the life of signs within society). While semiology and semiotics both pursue a general theory of signs, they differ drastically in their subject matter, their concepts, epistemologies, and ontologies. Saussure probably would acknowledge the thing-in-itself but considers it wrapped up with meaning, not as two distinct pivots. Same with Kant but reversed. So Peirce’s triadic formulation transcends Kant’s subject-object dualism: Peirce writes that "Meaning is thus created and reaffirmed in each instance of signification and interpretation and does not exist as a reality outside the ‘semiotic event’." It's very useful to draw this stuff out imho.

Sometimes people compare Haraway's situated knowledge with a Peircian version of the world in that ‘reality’ does exist, but as an intersubjective regularity between the Interpretant and the Sign-Object relation it is referring to.

I'm not sure if this clarifies anything at all...
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Re: THEORY

Postby kickingthefly » Wed Nov 14, 2018 6:05 am

not theory but made me think of this thread.
https://hyperallergic.com/470795/pseudo ... nt-aliens/

as some here know i work at a gallery in berlin and i'd love to do something exploring this kind of area- like archaeology as speculative future, and what its trying to suppress or deny. connected really to my own sense as a non white person of feeling distinctly 'other' in the city. a friend was telling me that there is no term or recognised collective sense of 'german blackness'. i suppose that despite the colonial background in africa there was no inherited sense of connection (why? did it exist before the war? ).
i havent looked into all this at all yet but stumbled on some original 1896 newspaper articles from a kind of 'worlds fair' expo thing in treptower park which among other mock african pastoral scenes featured 'authentic' hereros in full tribal costume as sort of Rousseau-esque noble savages, the tone is scandalised because there were apparently rumours of german women sneaking into the park to fuck them.
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Re: THEORY

Postby INNIT » Mon Dec 10, 2018 7:30 pm

assuming postmodernism has been on the wane for the past few decades, has anyone attempted to periodize w/e period we are currently in?

major shifts:
critiques of "late/multinational/post-industrial capitalism" replaced by critiques of "neoliberalism"
primacy of discourse/linguistics/language being challenged by a (re)turn to affect/affectivity (accompanied by a simultaneous return to the body/embodiment??)
a breakdown of canon in the realm of genre (what "counts" as a relevant cultural production is being severely reevaluated: things like comic books, song/rap lyrics, twitter essays, fan cultures, formulaic best-selling novels, tv infomercials and advertisements, etc. seem to dominate the attention of critics to the exclusion of what used to be considered "properly" literary novels, poems, "high-art" in general).
emergent forms that captivated the attention of postmoderns like photography and film are probably becoming less interesting, but what replaces them?
art has presumably changed though i cant identify these changes because i know nothing about contemporary art (what new waves in architecture/literature are sweeping the world?)

what is the new cultural dominant and what is its name, and also is anyone writing good stuff about this? hopefully it wont be called post-post-modernism; i want something that sounds cooler and also you cant just keep adding "post-" to things, we're better than that
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Re: THEORY

Postby 106-2 » Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:26 am

@INNIT

recently read 'Notes on Metamodernism' by Timotheus Vermeulen which I found pretty useful in terms of categorising the current condition - especially in explaining how we've seen a resurgence in people buying pretty straightforward narratives/solutions to issues (primarily with the continued success of Corbyn for labour, although I guess also w/ right wing populism)

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10. ... .v2i0.5677

and then when googling for a link found this, although ive literally not read a single article on the site so ymmv

http://www.metamodernism.com
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