April 20, 2012
Having some sense of some of your intellectual trajectory from your previous work, I really admire the wide-ranging breadth of your analytic rigor in trying to understand late liberal forms of power, interpreting socialities without neglecting to disclose materialities.
Questions for discussion:
What are the material conditions of abandonment?
Do you see anticolonial, new social movements exhausting late liberalism and nonliberal nation-states like China enduring it, in agreement with Arrighi?
With this mode of corporeality, does dispossession not occur regardless of tense?
What makes a quasi-event an event at all, how to relate that to the social reproduction of everyday life?
We had read Levinas, who also tries to rethink ontology, using ethics as foundational justice through “proximity to the other” and, conveniently, “responsibility of the prior to freedom,” and the body as a contraction of ipseity, but since we are concerned with global political futures, it became unclear to us how to deploy that apparatus in our immediate social situation, or as you say: “Focusing on social projects, how might we turn from an ontology of potentiality to a sociology of potentiality in which potentiality is always embodied in specific social worlds?”
When it comes to adjudication or the demand to capacitate, is it possible for us to condition possibilities without Enlightened certainty? Perhaps you could relate these questions to the specific social projects you know so well from 25 years of fieldwork.
You seem to be influenced by nonrational thinkers that question cognitive certainty: late Wittgenstein, Spinoza, Foucault, Deleuze, in addition to Heidegger’s concept of precognitive interpretation. I have also found such thinkers personally very useful and inspiring. But I was struck recently by a critique of the turn to affect theory by historian of science Ruth Leys, pointing out that even though Spinozists oppose dualism in all its guises, there is in fact a classical dualism of mind and body informing the separation between meaning and the body or, say, Deleuze’s representational ideas vs. non-representational affects (p. 8). Does that sharp dichotomy not follow a highly rationalist concept of meaning? Or if they are indeed nonrationalist, are these Western thinkers any better than liberal Enlightenment thinking for understanding difference and abandonment? Leys is critiquing those affect theorists in part for a highly abstract and disembodied picture of reason in order to repudiate it, but it is quite clear that you consistently demonstrate a quite concrete picture of reason, particularly with the land, multiculturalism and sex panic legal disputes in Aboriginal life-worlds and Australia colony. Does belonging and enfleshment in ethical substance behoove us to reject intentional cognition altogether?