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Transcorporeality & Agency


With Stacy Alaimo, Karl Steel, Ashby Kinch, Brandon Jones, Ali Sperling, and Angela Bennett Segler


Topics discussed include: 

  • Matter v. Materiality (v. Materialization)

  • What do we gain by divorcing matter from its past?

  • Material Vectors--have magnitude and direction

  • Is there an ethical danger in the SCALE of the anthropocene?

  • Modular Machines

  • Bear cultures

  • earth/world/planet

  • Scientific Dark Ages (and climate deniers)

  • Science is always already dealing with matters of concern

  • Transcorporeality is about being a political subject on multiple scales

  • Consent v. agency

Stacy Alaimo's

Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self

Meeting One on Bodily Natures

With Eileen Joy, Myra Seaman, Karl Steel, Ashby Kinch, Brandon Jones, Ada Smailbegovic, Emina Musanovic, Ali Sperling, and Angela Bennett Segler

Topics discussed include: 

  • Elizabeth Grosz and Darwinism

  • The "circulating reference" (Latour)

  • Onto-cartography

  • The Linguistic/Material Binary

  • Metaphor

  • Transcorporeality as Topos

  • Karl's gem: the Self as Nature Preserve

  • Building a Materialist Tradition

Meeting Two on Bodily Natures

With Ashby Kinch, Brandon Jones, Ada Smailbegovic, Ali Sperling and Angela Bennett segler

Topics discussed include: 

  • Disease as "corporeal mode of resistance"

  • Transcorporeal agency v. intra-active agency

  • Temporality and/or scale of Transcorporeality and Intra-action

  • Silica v. rock v. mountain v. quartz v. connective tissue v. silicon dioxide etc.

  • Material metonymy

  • Biophilia as a queer affiliation

  • Whitehead and the "fallacy of misplaced concreteness"

Chisholm's essay made me want to share about the chain fruit cholla (cactus) (which screenshare crashed our broadcast).  Chisholm is discussing the "promiscuity" of angiosperms, but also the multiplicity of sexualities inside even just a single flower, that has so many more than just male or female reproductive parts.  

The chain fruit cholla, then is an example of non-sexual, interspecies, rhizomatic reproduction (sort of literally).  The fruits of this cactus hang below the main "branches" and break of easily at the joints. The hook-like spines on the fruits are reputed to "jump" out at passing animals (they don't but some will still claim they do) hook into their skins or coats and get carried to a new location to become new cholla.

And here is a desert paintbrush, just to clarify!

Meeting Three on Bodily Natures

With Brandon Jones, Ali Sperling and Angela Bennett segler

Topics discussed include: 

  • Summary of Hames-Garcia: race can be (physically) real without being biological determinism or socially constructed.  In a very Baradian sense, it's about marks left on bodies.

  • Summary of Agrawal: the distinctions used by neo-indigenistas to valorize indigenous knowledge also reify the same structures that marginalized IK in the first place. 

  • Pluralistic field of knowledge-making practices

  • Knowledge as practice

  • Diffractive knowledge practices

  • Does "Transcorporeality" forget that relata do not preceed relations?

  • "Transparency" and "self-evidence" of evidentiary practices for environmental justice

  • Science for the People!

Topics discussed include: 

  • Recap of last week

  • Summary of Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands' "Landscape, Memory and Forgetting"

  • Summary of Michael Warner's 1991 introduction to a special issue of Social Text on "Fear of a Queer Planet"

  • Reprosexuality

  • Being embedded in episodic (semantic and/or generational) narrative

  • Reproduction and sexuality--do they belong together?

  • The citizen-expert

  • Science for and against the people

  • The Postnatural

  • Risk Society

  • What's giving you cancer this week?

  • Weaponized skepticism

  • Judith Butler: frames not facts--it's really about which lives matter.

Meeting Four on Bodily Natures

With Karl Steel, Brandon Jones, and Angela Bennett segler

Meeting Five on Bodily Natures

With Karl Steel, Ashby Kinch, Brandon Jones, Ali Sperling, and Angela Bennett segler

Topics discussed include: 

  • Queernaturecultures

  • Reality (and materiality!) of the psychosomatic

  • Responses to Art and Literature are PSYCHOSOMATIC

  • The allopathic (medical) apparatus--excludes diagnosis of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

  • The (pre-)history of the Ecological Body

  • The Cosmo-/Eco-logical Universe

  • Fecopoetics

  • Knowability of the allopathic body

  • The body politic

  • Atomism and individuation

  • Chemical Agency

  • Pharmacokinetics

Meeting Six on Bodily Natures

With Karl Steel, Brandon Jones, Ali Sperling, and Angela Bennett segler

From Karl's screenshare during our discussion of the perceived externality of "foreign" substances.  Here Karl points out that "meat" is somehow external, but its very nature as meat implies its incorporation into our own meat.  Thus, this article is really talking about "Five dangerous substances the food industry is pumping into your flesh" by way of meat (amongst other things). 

Topics discussed include: 

  • Sympoeisis and Symbiogenesis

  • The role of the material-discursive in naturecultures

  • Naming and Predictability are the marker's of man's "mastery" over the material

  • Agency is the interruption of (this predicatable) causailty

  • Evolutionary selection as BIOAESTHETICS?

  • What is risk and vulnerability for the non-human?

  • And how about the agency of the non-organic, non-biological, or "inert"?

  • What is the scale of vlunerability?

  • What is the gender of a mountain?--A question for Jeffrey Cohen

  • Is even the idea of the "anthropocene" a form of "humanist technophilic narcissism"?


  • Figuring agency in a non-binary (i.e. non- passive v. aggressive) way is inherently always already an act of sexual politics.

  • ENVIRONMENTAL BLOWBACK is the material agencies of human intervention making alliances with each other and subverting human intentions.

  • What is the use of science fiction for this work?

  • Also, The Diary of a Steak 

  • And, the "fictish"--the fetishization of fiction that allows a reader to feel comfortable in in the non-certainty (or the certainty of non-being) of what he or she is reading. 

  • CAFOs as example of the present "fact" of non-human science fictions. 

  • Karl doesn't like heroes. 


Week 1:

Chapter One "Bodily Natures"

Introduction to Material Feminsims, ed. Alaimo and Hekman

"Circulating Reference: Sampling the Soil in the Amazon Rain Forest," in Bruno Latour, Pandora's Hope and Other Essays


Week 2:

Chapter Two "Eros and X-rays"

"Posthuman Performativity: Towards an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter," Karen Barad in Material Feminisms

"Biophilia, Creative Involution, and the Ecological Future of Queer Desire," Dianne Chisholm in Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics and Desire 


Week 3:

Chapter Three "Invisible Matters"

"How Real Is Race?" by Michael Hames-Garcia in Material Feminsisms 

"Dismantling the Divide Between Indigenous and Scientific Knowledge," by Arun Agrawal Development and Change 26.3 (1995)


Week 4:

Chapter Four "Material Memoirs"

"Fear of a Queer Planet" by Michael Warner, Social Text 9.4 (1991)

"Landscape, Memory and Forgetting: Thinking Through (My Mother's) Body and Place," Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands in Material Feminisms 


Week 5:

Chapter Five "Deviant Agents"

"Organic Empathy: Feminsim, Psychopharmaceuticals and Depression," Elizabeth A. Wilson in Material Feminsims

"Queernaturecultures" by David Bell in Queer Ecologies 


Week 6:

Chapter Six "Genetics, Material Agency, and the Evolution of Posthuman Environmental Politics"

The Companion Species Manifesto, Donna Harraway

Introduction to Whose Science? Whose Knowlege? Thinking from Women's Lives, Sandra Harding


New Materialisms

Ontology, Agency, and Politics

Eds. Diana Coole and Samantha Frost

New Materialisms Convenes


Here we have read only Coole and Frost's introduction, and we make a plan for setting out into the rest of the work.

Participants: Karl Steel, Brandon Jones, and ARBS


Topics discussed include

  • Where do the (post)Humanists go from here? 

  • Dynamism & Matter

  • The feelings of toast (via Ian Bogost)

  • Textualization and Materiality

  • Spontaneous Generation

Materialism, Feminism, Politics, & the Driving Force of Things


Discussing Jane Bennett's "Vitalist Stopover" and Elizabeth Grosz's "Feminism, Materialism, and Freedom" and a lot of Henri Bergson. 

Participants: Karl Steel, Brandon Jones, and ARBS


Topics discussed include:

  • Grosz's Bergson seems missing something

  • Reinscribing Human Exceptionalism

  • What does Bergson's indeterminacy do for "Freedom"? For Feminism?

  • Elan vital and Entelechy

  • The Politics of Onto-Sympathy

  • The Powers of the Hoard  (28:11)

  • Porous Boundaries and the Queer Touch

Politics and Perception


Discussing William Connolly's "Materialities of Experience" and Sara Ahmed's "Orientations Matter."

Participants: Eileen Joy, Karl Steel, Jennifer Feltman, Emina Musanovic, Brandon Jones, and ARBS


Topics discussed include:

  • The View from Everywhere

  • The surplus of the thing

  • Perception and (syn)aesthetics

  • A-humanism (Slow Extinction Movement)

  • Erasure of histories--yay or nay?

  • The human responsibility to the material

  • Killjoys

  • Medieval Memory (a la Mary Carruthers) and modern neurobiology

  • In between sense and perception

The Power to Change


Discussing Rosi Braidotti's "The Politics of 'Life Itself'" and Rey Chow's "The Elusive Material."

Participants: Karl Steel, Emina Musanovic, Brandon Jones, and ARBS


Topics discussed include:

  • Surplus and Freedom

  • Necropolitics

  • Slime Dynamics

  • Limits and Thresholds (spatial and temporal)

  • Materialism and Subjectivity

  • Surplus and Mysticism

  • Group Trajectory

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