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Sunday, December 13
A Review of Dipesh Chakrabarty's "Provincializing Europe" by Amit Chaudhuri (London Review of Books)
by Debashish on December 13, 2009 06:03PM (PST)
(recycled): Dipesh Chakrabarty's book "Provincializing Europe" is an important theoretical study of colonialism and its legacies in India. While [many] works outline the atrocities and dleterious effects of colonialism abound, Chakrabarti, one of the founder-members of the Subaltern Studies movement in Indian (and world) history tells the story from the lesser known side of the strategies used by Indians (in colonial Kolkata) for making an "alternate habitation" of modernity - i.e. adapting it to their own uses. In doing this, he also makes a number of important theoretical points about cultural situatedness and conditions for effective cross-cultural dialog. This review, taken from the London Review of Books is by Amit Chaudhuri, a well-known younger Indian novelist and commentator. more »
Saturday, September 19
Toward a Theory of Phantasmal Media: An Imaginative Cognition- and Computation-Based Approach to Digital Media D. Fox Harrell (C Theory)
by Rich on September 19, 2009 09:53AM (PDT)
The issue of the interface between creative imagination and the regime of computation has been explored several times on SCIY. The difference between imaginito phantasie (fancy or associative imagination) and Imaginito vera (true or creative imagination) was a theme developed by the medieval Alchemist and carried on in the work of such romantics poets as Coleridge who makes the following distinction between Fancy and (creative) Imagination:
The distinction between Fancy and the Imagination rest on the fact that Fancy was concerned with the mechanical operations of the mind, those which are responsible for the passive accumulation of data and the storage of such data in the memory. Imagination, on the other hand, described the "mysterious power," which extracted from such data, "hidden ideas and meaning." It also determined "the various operations of constructive and inventive genius."
What occurs to the eidetic powers of mind when it resides in a mental environment that is ceaselessly bombarded by media images that represent the collective "fancy" of neo-liberal globalization? The question of creating computational platforms to facilitate the interface between the creative imagination of the human subject and the design of software programs will perhaps be an important one for maintaining the integrity of the creative faculties of human consciousness in its future evolution. This article on phantasmal media is a fascinating exploration of the theme. rc.
(Loss, Undersea is a phantasmal media work by the author in which a character dynamically transforms according to undersea metaphors - as in the silhouettes on the right - and poetry is dynamically generated according to affective constraints.)
Rendering this vision of computational expression tangible requires new terminology. The name given to ideal examples of the type of meaning making systems considered in this article is phantasmal media. The term "phantasmal" may summon, for some readers, mental pictures of ghosts, spooks, apparitions, and specters. Yet here it does not refer to those supernatural entities, but rather to the human capacity to construct any other mental images both consciously and unconsciously. The focus is on two related perspectives on the phantasmal. Regarding the first perspective, that phantasmata are conscious mental images, thinkers such as W. J. T. Mitchell have argued that they are closely related to visual images and verbal images as well.  Such mental images comprise a range of meaning phenomena. They are imaginative meanings, but crucially are not restricted to language. They can refer to embodied sensations, cultural contexts, and more abstract ideas. Certainly, all of our engagements with media artifacts are accompanied by the mental work of interpretation. Yet, the focus of the concept of phantasmal media is a type of work that often concentrates (primarily through interactive and generative multimedia) on creating narrative and poetic mental imagery to express artistic and critical statements about the world..... more »
Monday, August 31
by Debashish on August 31, 2009 09:30PM (PDT)
The Critical Art Ensemble is a collective of five artists of various specializations dedicated to exploring the intersections between art, technology, radical politics and critical theory.
Here we carry part of one of their Tactical Projects on "The Therapeutic State." more »
Saturday, August 29
by Rich on August 29, 2009 07:59PM (PDT)
In light of the invectives that were hurled decrying Peter Heehs as "Mr. Objective" due to the academic style of his biography of Sri Aurobindo, it should give us pause to note that the phenomena of "objectivity" did not emerge fully formed from the head of Zeus and that in fact "objectivity" has a Foucauldian history all its own. A history that that is intrinsically coupled to the evolution of the scientific subject and that has undergone several epistimic ruptures over the centuries that has radically changed the meaning of the concept.
Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2008.
"Objectivity has a history, and it is full of surprises. In Objectivity, Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison chart the emergence of objectivity in the mid-nineteenth-century sciences—and show how the concept differs from its alternatives, truth-to-nature and trained judgment. This is a story of lofty epistemic ideals fused with workaday practices in the making of scientific images."
"This richly illustrated book deeply renews the meaning of accurate reproduction by showing how many ways there have been to be 'true to nature.' Art, science, and reproduction techniques are merged to show that 'things in themselves' can be presented with their vast and beautiful company. This splendid book will be for many years the ultimate compendium on the joint history of objectivity and visualization."
—Bruno Latour, author of Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy
As Daston and Galison argue, atlases shape the subjects as well as the objects of science. To pursue objectivity—or truth-to-nature or trained judgment—is simultaneously to cultivate a distinctive scientific self wherein knowing and knower converge. Moreover, the very point at which they visibly converge is in the very act of seeing not as a separate individual but as a member of a particular scientific community. Embedded in the atlas image, therefore, are the traces of consequential choices about knowledge, persona, and collective sight. Objectivity is a book addressed to anyone interested in the elusive and crucial notion of objectivity—and in what it means to peer into the world scientifically.
Objectivity by Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison is not just a fine book, it is that rare thing, a great book. It is almost shockingly original, genuinely profound, and amazingly learned without ever being pedantic. It should force everyone interested in science and its history or in objectivity and its history to think more deeply about what they think they already know. It gives me great satisfaction to learn that thinking and writing of this brilliance and depth are still going on, even in this age of consumerism and mass markets.”
— Hilary Putnam, author of Ethics without Ontology
“Historically brilliant, philosophically profound, and beautifully written, Objectivity will be the focus of discussion for decades to come. At one and the same time a history of scientific objectivity and a history of the scientific self, rarely have rigor and imagination been combined so seamlessly and to such deep effect. No one who opens this book can fail to be engaged and provoked by its energy, ideas, and arguments. One emerges from reading it as if from a series of intellectual earthquakes — sound but no longer safe.”
— Arnold Davidson, author of The Emergence of Sexuality: Historical Epistemology and the Formation of Concepts more »
Tuesday, August 18
The Fundamentalism Project: A series from the University of Chicago Press Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, Editors
by Rich on August 18, 2009 05:15PM (PDT)
The Fundamentalism Project (1991–95), a series of five volumes edited by the American scholars Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby. Marty and Appleby viewed fundamentalism primarily as the militant rejection of secular modernity. The Fundamentalism Project has produced the definitive text on the phenomena of Fundamentalism more »
Sunday, August 9
by Rich on August 9, 2009 03:24PM (PDT)
Riffing off the concept of evolutionary science known as "genetic drift" the Krokers use "code drift" to describe the evolution of the global genome and the technological destining of our species. In the scenario they theorize "code drift" is the evolutionary driver of the post-human body that is tethered to its digital mobility..
In this lecture they conclude with consideration of McLuhan and Teilhard whose prophetic vision of the exteriorizion of consciousness forewarned of a planetary bio-electric nervous system, that functions now as the cultural epigenesis of our post-human bodies . The Krokers claims the originating Nietzschean event of the eclipse of one human species form and the emergence of its networked successor has already occurred.
"Code drift is the spectral destiny of the story of technology. No necessary message, no final meaning, no definite goal: only a digital culture drifting in complex streams of social networking technologies filtered here and there with sudden changes in code frequencies, moving at the speed of random fluctuations, always seeking to make of the question of identity a sampling error, to connect with the broken energy flows of ruptures, conjurations, unintelligibility, bifurcations. When the Book of Genesis gives way to the Book of (Information) Genetics, we are suddenly exited into a culture of epigenesis with code drifts as its primary impulse, all the human anxiety of being tethered to mobility its primary affect, and the novel historical experience of literally being skinned by technology as the body is increasingly wrapped in the new nervous system that is the global data genome" more »
by Debashish on August 9, 2009 01:53PM (PDT)
This book review by William Connolly, one of the most original political philosophers of our times, turns its attention on Stephen White's book Sustaining Affirmation, inflected with the sensibility of contingent and unpredictable becoming borrowed from Don DeLillo's novel White Noise. But much more than a book review, it is an engagement with White's text so as to affirm a number of positions held by Connolly himself, pertaining to his existential faith in immanent naturalism and the ontological condiitons for an evolutionary pluralism in the micropolitcs of contemporarary social life.
Connolly constellates his thought with what he calls the radical Enlightenment of Spinoza and a lineage he draws from this leading through Nietzsche, Bergson, Foucault and Deleuze. What one may see as common among these thinkers is the affirmation of a creative Becoming-without-Being or a Being as Becoming. That there is an infinte abundance to this which exceeds the human power of thought but to which thought can lend itself as an instrument of meaning and a part of its generous creative process, form core aspects of the faith which Connolly calls "immanent naturalism." Among the most pertinent causes driving this geneaolgy of postmodern thinking is the reaction against ontotheology, where a transcendental Being is inscribed with the name of God and assimilated into a fundamentalist metaphysics with an ideology, teleology, theology and normative boundaries to differentiate an inside and outside and institutional strutures to enforce these boundaries. Modernity is characterized by a displacement of the ideology of the Enlightenment onto pre-modern ontotheologies with a totalitarian scope in terms of absolute systemic knowledge and a cosmic-scaled will to power as technology. This ontology of the modern has also transformed mysticisms of the past into ontothelogies.
It will be clear from Connolly's text that he is hardly against the private affirmation of a faith in transcendental Being, but that this needs to be scrupulously rejected from becoming an ideology and needs to be subordinated to a practice of creative Becoming through openness to temporal proceses leading towards ever greater horizons of meaning and experience. -db more »
Friday, August 7
by Debashish on August 7, 2009 06:25AM (PDT)
In this article, Andrew Feenberg, a major thinker on culture and technology (more properly the culture of technology) refelcts on globalization and the contribution of national cultural histories to its increasingly systemic pervasion. The specific non-western nation he takes for his illustration and the exploration of a thesis of alternate modernity is Japan. How is modernity technologically assimilated in Japan and how is world modernity shaped by Japanese culture? Is there any cultural distinction which can be spoken of here? Do cultures change as a result of modern technology or do they remain the same? Or can they influence modernity? Or are they capable of alternate modernities? These are some of the questions Feenberg starts with.
In further developing his refelctions, Feenberg draws on the thought of early modern Japanese thinker, Kitaro Nishida (1870-1945). It is interesting to see how Nishida's ideas of the rise of Asia and the concord of national cultures in an organic globalization resembles Sri Aurobindo's thesis on the ideal of human unity. Neo-Hegelian reflections of this kind were an important staple of early modern thought, on the threshold of a wave of world modernization, and Sri Aurobindo's own contribution to this imagining of the future must be read within this discourse. Feenberg points to the ultra-national distortions in Nishida's text, but also to its continued relevance and fertility. - db more »
Monday, August 3
by Rich on August 3, 2009 11:06AM (PDT)
Continuing with Zizek on Fundamentalism in this excerpt Zizek takes on the Jewish God, Egyptian mysteries, India and British Colonialism Daniel Dennet, the Other, Multicultural Racism, etc:. Also in the post itself is an article on the same subject, here is an excerpt, in which his sometimes overt Lacanian fundamentalism is palpable :
Schelling who wrote: "God is a life, not merely a being. But all life has a fate and is subject to suffering and becoming. /.../ Without the concept of a humanly suffering God /.../ all of history remains incomprehensible." Why? Because God's suffering implies that He is involved in history, affected by it, not just a transcendent Master pulling the strings from above: God's suffering means that human history is not just a theater of shadows, but the place of the real struggle, the struggle in which the Absolute itself is involved and its fate is decided. This is the philosophical background of Dietrich Bonhoffer's deep insight that, after shoah, "only a suffering God can help us now" - a proper supplement to Heidegger's "Only a God can still save us!" from his last interview. One should therefore take the statement that "the unspeakable suffering of the six millions is also the voice of the suffering of God" quite literally: the very excess of this suffering over any "normal" human measure makes it divine. Recently, this paradox was succinctly formulated by Juergen Habermas: "Secular languages which only eliminate the substance once intended leave irritations. When sin was converted to culpability, and the breaking of divine commands to an offense against human laws, something was lost." Which is why the secular-humanist reactions to phenomena like shoah or gulag (AND others) is experienced as insufficient: in order to be at the level of such phenomena, something much stronger is needed, something akin to the old religious topic of a cosmic perversion or catastrophe in which the world itself is "out of joint." Therein resides the paradox of the theological significance of shoah: although it is usually conceived as the ultimate challenge to theology (if there is a God and if he is good, how could he have allowed such a horror to take place?), it is at the same time only theology which can provide the frame enabling us to somehow approach the scope of this catastrophe - the fiasco of God is still the fiasco of GOD. more »
Saturday, August 1
by Rich on August 1, 2009 03:33PM (PDT)
We also explored the many burned houses. How were they burned? I would ask the locals. Back would come the casual reply. ‘They belonged to Hindus and Sikhs. Our fathers and uncles burned them.’ Why? ‘So they could never come back, of course.’ Why? ‘Because we are now Pakistan. Their home is India.’ Why, I persisted, when they had lived here for centuries, just like your families, and spoke the same language, even if they worshipped different gods? The only reply was a shrug. It was strange to think that Hindus and Sikhs had been here, had been killed in the villages in the valleys below. In the tribal areas – the no-man’s-land between Afghanistan and Pakistan – quite a few Hindus stayed on, protected by tribal codes. The same was true in Afghanistan itself (till the mujahedin and the Taliban arrived).....
A good place for a historian of Islam to start would be 629 AD, or Year 8 of the new Muslim calendar, though that had yet to come into being. In that year, 20 armed horsemen, led by Sa’d ibn Zayd, were sent by Muhammad to destroy the statue of Manat, the pagan goddess of fate, at Qudayd, on the road between Mecca and Medina. For eight years Muhammad had tolerated the uneasy coexistence of the pagan male god Allah and his three daughters: al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat. Al-Uzza (the morning star, Venus) was the favourite goddess of the Quraysh, the tribe to which Muhammad belonged, but Manat was the most popular in the region as a whole, and was idolised by three key Meccan tribes that Muhammad had been desperately trying to win over to his new monotheistic religion. By Year 8, however, three important military victories had been won against rival pagan and Jewish forces. The Battle of Badr had seen Muhammad triumph against the Meccan tribes despite the smallness of his army. The tribes had been impressed by the muscularity of the new religion, and Muhammad must have deemed further ideological compromise unnecessary. Sa’d ibn Zayd and his 20 horsemen had arrived to enforce the new monotheism. more »
Thursday, July 30
by Rich on July 30, 2009 11:32AM (PDT)
This is part of (midway through) an excellent lecture by Zizek on Fundamentalism. In this particular part of the lecture he considers the differences in how Derrida and Habermas treat the question of "the other" and how in his view they actually compliment each other. In the other parts of the lecture Zizek gives his insight into why, if Max Weber were writing today, he would call his book, "Taoism and the Spirit of Capitalism", (aka why westernized Buddhism or Taoism is the perfect compliment to neo-liberal globalization). Zizek also addresses the differences in fundamentalism between the type practiced by Tibetean Buddhist and Amish versus moral majority Christianity and radical Islam as well as eurocentric tendencies to exoticize the other
About half way through this part of the lecture are some questions raised (that are difficult to hear) but if one listens to the entire lecture (either the series of nine u tube videos or the mp3) one will be richly rewarded, because Zizek is here, at the top of his game wildly speaking to issues of fundamentalism, eurocentrism, orientalism, and otherness.
The link to the utube page with the entire series of nine videos and the mp3 download of the lecture is given in the body of the post.... more »
Wednesday, July 29
The Other of Derridean Deconstruction: Levinas, Phenomenology and the Question of Responsibility by Jack Reynolds
by Debashish on July 29, 2009 12:13AM (PDT)
Postmodernism destabilizes the determinable construction of the world through its emphasis on the Other. If Jacques Lacan approaches the Other psychologically, there are also phenomenological and theological approaches to the Other. Jacques Derrida was one of the great masters of contemporary thought who enagaged all his life with the various possibilities of the Other. Is the "other" a relative difference or an absolute difference? To what extent can it be assimilated to the subject? Is it closer to the phenomenological Other of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty or to the Other of the exitential theology of Kierkegaard and Levinas? These are the nuances with which Derrida grappled.
In this essay, Jack Reynolds explores Derrida's engagement with the Other and its ambiguities. In the process, he dwells on the late preoccupation of Derrida with the messianic. Reynolds draws the important distinction betwen the messianic and messianism in Derrida's thought; before concluding with the treatment of the Other in the phenomenological non-dualism of Merleau-Ponty. - db more »
Tuesday, July 28
by Rich on July 28, 2009 06:27PM (PDT)
The big Other designates radical alterity, an otherness which transcends the illusory otherness of the imaginary because it cannot be assimilated through identification. Lacan equates the big Other with language and the law, and hence the big Other is inscribed in the symbolic order. Indeed, the big Other is the symbolic insofar as it is particularized for each subject. Thus, the Other is both another subject in its radical alterity and unassimilable uniqueness and also the symbolic order which mediates the relationship with that subject. more »
Thursday, July 23
by Rich on July 23, 2009 09:15AM (PDT)
The analogy between the terms "global" and "universal" is misleading. Universalization has to do with human rights, liberty, culture, and democracy. By contrast, globalization is about technology, the market, tourism, and information. Globalization appears to be irreversible whereas universalization is likely to be on its way out. At least, it appears to be retreating as a value system which developed in the context of Western modernity and was unmatched by any other culture. Any culture that becomes universal loses its singularity and dies. That's what happened to all those cultures we destroyed by forcefully assimilating them. But it is also true of our own culture, despite its claim of being universally valid. The only difference is that other cultures died because of their singularity, which is a beautiful death. We are dying because we are losing our own singularity and exterminating all our values. And this is a much more ugly death....
We are really not talking about a "clash of civilizations" here, but instead about an almost anthropological confrontation between an undifferentiated universal culture and everything else that, in whatever domain, retains a quality of irreducible alterity. From the perspective of global power (as fundamentalist in its beliefs as any religious orthodoxy), any mode of difference and singularity is heresy. Singular forces only have the choice of joining the global system (by will or by force) or perishing. The mission of the West (or rather the former West, since it lost its own values a long time ago) is to use all available means to subjugate every culture to the brutal principle of cultural equivalence. Once a culture has lost its values, it can only seek revenge by attacking those of others. Beyond their political or economic objectives, wars such as the one in Afghanistan  aim at normalizing savagery and aligning all the territories. The goal is to get rid of any reactive zone, and to colonize and domesticate any wild and resisting territory both geographically and mentally. more »
Friday, July 17
by Rich on July 17, 2009 10:34AM (PDT)
Erik Davis is one of the most talented authors writing on the subject of technology, culture, and spirituality. This article from the book prefiguring cyberculture from MIT University Press is representative of the insightful work he has done. The concern of this piece revolves around the construction of subjectivity in an epoch which can perhaps best be called posthuman.rc
Of all the lumbering giants of the Western philosophical tradition, none resembles a punching bag more than René Descartes. He gets it from all sides: cognitive scientists and phenomenologists, post-structuralists and deep ecologists, lefty science critics and New Age holists. The main beef, of course, is the stark divide that Descartes drew between mind and body, a dualism that, by its very claim of rationality, now appears even more obscene than the religious dualisms that stretch back to Zarathustra. Nearly across the board, contemporary thought calls us to defend and affirm the body that Descartes rendered a machine, a soulless automata under our spiritual thumb. It doesn't really matter that the body so affirmed is itself multiple and even contradictory: the materialist object of biology, the phenomenological bed of Being, a feminist site of anti-patriarchal critique, the New Age animal immersed in Gaia's enchanted web. Regardless of the framework, the song remains the same: we are bodyminds deeply embedded in the world. For many thinkers now, the sort of abstract, disengaged soul-pilot pictured by Descartes -- the "I" immortalized in the famous cogito ergo sum -- is not only bad thinking, but, ideologically speaking, bad news.
In many ways I share this urge to trace the networks that embed consciousness in phenomenal reality, and to insist on the extraordinary (though not exclusive) value of causal explanations rooted in the history of matter. But I am no absolutist. The fact that Descartes keeps popping up like a Jack-in-the-box suggests that a splinter of the cogito remains in our minds, some fragmentary intuition or insightful glimpse that we cannot accommodate and so wall off in order to reject. I am not interested in philosophically defending the cogito, or at least the metaphysical cogito we are familiar with: the rational and disengaged instrumentalist manipulating the empty machinery of matter. But I am interesting in probing for that splinter, which I suspect is lodged somewhere in the apparently yawning gap between self-conscious awareness and the phenomenal world -- a gap that, despite some hearty attacks from nondualists East and West, continues to inform subjectivity. .... more »
Tuesday, July 14
by Rich on July 14, 2009 08:25PM (PDT)
So what became of otherness? We are engaged in an orgy of discovery, exploration and “invention” of the Other. An orgy of differences. We are procurers of encounter, pimps of interfacing and interactivity. Once we get beyond the mirror of alienation (beyond the mirror stage that was the joy of our childhood), structural differences multiply ad infinitum – in fashion, in mores, in culture. Crude otherness, hard otherness – the otherness of race, of madness, of poverty – are done with. Otherness, like everything else, has fallen under the law of the market, the law of supply and demand. It has become a rare item – hence its immensely high value on the psychological stock exchange, on the structural stock exchange. Hence too the intensity of the ubiquitous simulation of the Other. This is particularly striking in science fiction, where the chief question is always “What is the Other? Where is the Other?” Of course science fiction is merely a reflection of our everyday universe, which is in thrall to a wild speculation on – almost a black market in – otherness and difference. A veritable obsession with ecology extends from Indian reservations to household pets (otherness degree zero!) – not to mention the other of “the other scene”, or the other of the unconscious (our last symbolic capital, and one we had better look after, because reserves are not limitless). more »
A Review of Dipesh Chakrabarty's "Provincializing Europe" by Amit Chaudhuri (London Review of Books) Debashish
AntiMatters vol 3 no 4 is out koantum
Classicism, post-classicism and Ranjabati Sircar’s work: re-defining the terms of Indian contemporary dance discourses by Alessandra Lopez y Royo Debashish
LACMA 111909 - Debashish Banerji Debashish
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler