Thursday, November 29, 2007

In his review of Friction in the American Journal of Sociology, Michael Goldman
Praises the list of animals and plants in the margins of Tsing’s book:
“The margins of one chapter are filled with her categories
and descriptions of species of snakes, beasts, vegetables, mushrooms, and
‘beings of the water.’ More than a mere list, her insights and descriptions
perform as an animated critique of the orientalizing and infantilizing
categories produced by outsider experts to describe “poor” people such as
herself. The subaltern speaks and acts in ways that have the potential to
undermine the exploitative plans of elites.”
In lecture, Prof. Chun raised the question of gaps created by Tsing’s text, using the (literally) marginalized list as an example. Tsing herself writes that the project of making the list of life-forms was a “self-conscious project of placing a local niche within a global imagining. The list acknowledged and acclaimed a global diversity by conserving a local space within it” (156). She goes on to write that the list itself “offers a vivid image of global friction” and is “self-consciously globalist” as well as “self-consciously localized” (170). Finally, Tsing argues that the list builds a “point of view from which to engage globalism” which is the “very thing scholars need to assess scale making claims and practices” (170).
I think these three interpretations of the list are interesting to look at, especially in the context of the gaps created by knowledge. How does the list function as a point of view to engage globalism? Is it possible that it also potentially serve to undermine elites? Can the list feasibly do both?

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