Monday, December 3, 2012

Narrative Friction

While reading Tsing's text I was most struck by the writing style. Its language oscillates between academic and narrative discourses while making heavy use of natural imagery and metaphor. Particularly in comparison with many of the other texts we have read this semester Tsing's work seems to be a direct address of affect to the reader. Given that her writing concerns itself with problem of mapping and scale, issues which she discusses in terms of friction, it is interesting that her own approach is one that functions to produce friction between writing styles. She alludes to her writing style in the opening pages when she suggests that, "sensory absorption can, with luck, sweep away the 'common sense' of resource exploitation and leave us with the moving force of anger" (28). By bringing the reader to the frontier with her use of "practical and poetical" language she intends to provide the sort of sensory stimuli she describes here as being of affecting and political value. In a sense, she raises the stakes of her writing such that it demands a response by us as readers. After priming us for her text in this way she meanders through narrative and analytic descriptions of Indonesia. She offers detailed descriptions of people and situations without relying on information and technical language. Even when she does offer diagrams or descriptions of bureaucracies she does so in a way that disclaims its simplicity and even comments upon her creative process of imagining the diagram (59). Her writing is deeply concerned with its own production, a quality which begs the reader to a certain kind of affect/action. Overall, my question is to what extent her text is successful in producing affect and how its place within the global marketplace it partially describes might disrupt its ability to achieve its affecting goals?

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