Thursday, December 6, 2012

an engagement with the text

"What is knowledge?  It would be easier for everyone if rational deliberation always converged in common understandings.  But even those of us who believe that some knowledge claims are better than others have difficulty in denying that even the best ones retain a certain incomprehensibility.  This is because knowledge claims emerge in relation to concrete problems and possibilities for dialogue-- the productive features of friction" (Tsing, 10).
I.  Introduction; perhaps meant to build suspense.
As I was reading "Friction" it became apparent that there were* two simultaneous mysteries unfolding before my eyes: the first with regard to the lack of a definition of the work "friction" within the text, as far as I could tell; and the second with regard to the mysterious prior owner of my "used" book.  
Friction, n.
Pronunciation:  /ˈfrɪkʃən/
Etymology:  < French friction, < Latin frictiōn-em, n. of action from fricāre to rub.
 1. a. The action of chafing or rubbing (the body or limbs). (Formerly much used in medical treatment.

This note, found just inside the cover of the book, is ostensibly from an earlier experience with this same book. 

The terms"mountain climbing" and "advocacy" are the two most aggressively underlined statements between the pages 131-154, if not in the entire book, by the mark of the prior owner.

II. Middle

On a certain level, at least in the manner in which I am hoping to frame this blog post, my experience with Tsing's ethnography of global connection in a manner that is, already, a function of the book itself.  

A story I heard recently: (with more and less embellishment, as seems appropriate)
Between autumn and winter holidays last year Jules decided to go visit some friends in New York.  He and Savannah booked a bus from Providence's Kennedy Plaza to Penn Station and promptly left the next morning.  The trip went alright, though slightly tense (seeing old friends who had graduated from his school, friends in school in New York from his life back in Seattle, etc), for the first twenty-four hours.  However, Saturday night, Jules and Savannah went out to buy a bottle of wine.  Jules became very excited about a bottle of wine from Washington State (something about "we were born this way").  The name of the bottle, however, was "Murphy's Law."  At this point in the story we come to a standstill.  Savannah argues that before finding this bottle of wine, they had already been arguing about whether or not the labeling of a situation (an omen of sorts) could actually effect the course of action -- or a perception of a course of action-- in which the omen appears.  Thus, buying "Murphy's Law" wine was a decision to test this theory.  Jules, on the other hand, insists that the bottle was the impetus for the conversation, which didn't occur until later when they were drinking the wine and thinking about the potential consequences of its name.  In either case, both agree that the 24 hours  following the purchase and consumption of the bottle functioned absolutely according to the logic of Murphy's Law.  

III. End

Hypotheses are often proven correct.

Knowledge works according to its own logic, continually (re)created according to an interplay between new and existing structures of thought.     
- Friction, as a text, necessarily manifests several forms of friction which it discusses.   
- Friction perhaps doesn't need to define "friction" in part because it exists as a definition of it, in full.
- Perhaps my encounter with the note and the words of the unknown previous owner present not just a friction, but the necessary friction for me to properly encounter the book at this time.
- Perhaps the point is not that something had to happen, but that it did, and that we can just except an innumerability in the interplay between the specific and the general; we can accept the conditions which produce the local and the global, not only in tandem, but always also exactly simultaneously. 

"The universal bridge to a global dream space still beckons to us" (Tsing, 85).

*I use "were" specifically, as in, instead of "are," which I might usually use when discussing a piece of writing.  However, for the purposes of this narrative, the specificity of the time and place (the physicality and historicity) of the book itself play a key role, and thus the temporality (in this case, in the past) is a relevant feature of the linear progression.  

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