Week 12 — Notes

“Our Bodies, ourselves; bodies are maps of power and identity. Cyborgs are no exception.” (Haraway, 1991, 180)

For today’s class we watched Ana Voog’s video she made for us, and two readings that represent  a fairly wide range of re-thinking our contemporary embodied lived experience. They offered us new understandings of city life, of embodiment, and of the production of space and bodies in that life. Elizabeth Wilson says “we need a radically new approach to the city” and Donna Haraway also argues for a radically new approach to bodies and identity.

This is how I wish to end the course — in thinking what is at stake for the future and what sorts of alternatives there are to get our problematic of “which bodies? which spaces?”

Hyperstition is a “neologism that combines the words ‘hyper’ and ‘superstition’ to describe the action of successful ideas in the arena of culture.”

Both readings operate in the spirit of “l’ecriture feminine”, feminine writing, a concept that rejects masculinist histories and instead demands that women “write the truth of their bodies”. Two main proponents of this are French feminists Luce Irigaray and Helene Cixous who by using non-linear, performative and autobiographical language to describe the truth of a new kind of body: that of the cyborg/ the sphinx.

Wilson’s chapter uses many forms of scholarship to make a collage type work — fiction, essays, film, and art, as well as history and sociology, to look at London and  Paris. Wilson wanted to do that to emulate the ways in which she argues we experience and live the city, in a fragmented way with many layers of meaning reacting against the rational masculinist logic. She says there is nothing natural about the city, but we have believed this image. Haraway also undoes ideas about what is ‘natural.’ We will see that explicitly in the concept of the cyborg. 

The course has followed a similar ethos, in which I had you read poetry, epistolary exchanges, articles, and videos and maps to get a more comprehensive way to analyze the environment.

Wilson’s city also contradicts the ways in which the city is supposed to be built to showcase the rational mastery of human on environment, with buildings, towers and neatly circumscribed roads for cars and sidewalks for pedestrians and us to enact it through our spatial practice. But we know that the city is not static object, but rather a constantly changing environment. Wilson argues: “the city is in a constant process of change” so the quest is for you (yes, you!) to try to re-experience a city you know, and re-imagine it!

The city “as experience, environment, concept” which is, in other words, what we have been arguing all along. And by seeing it in this way, we can then frame a phenomenological reading of the city!

In Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway offers us not only a response to the regulatory normative system, but also a response to the gender, body and identity essentialism.

We did not have time to watch Sun Ra’s Space is the Place but it is well worth watching! Afrofuturism is a compelling analysis of the environment and one answer to the question “which bodies? which spaces?”

coms324-12-slides

Questions to Consider

  • What is the cyborg and why is it useful for thinking about bodies and spaces?
  • Haraway argues that the cyborg suggests “a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves.” How so?
  • Haraway  presents a chart of the differences between “comfortable old hierarchical dominations” (p.161) which appear “natural” since they are so ingrained in our Western cultural imaginary, and the “scary new networks”(p.161) which came post-WWII. Name one pair from the chart and explain how the binaries are false and how the ‘natural’ category is false.
  • Why is sexuality such a threat to the social order of spaces and cities? Think with Wilson, Gira Grant, Knopp and Razack.
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