Sunday, December 16, 2012

"organic" "forms"

Making up a post (or two)

Throughout Friction, I kept coming back to the formal moves of the text and how they related to Tsing's discussion of the universal as an undertheorized issue. Tsing's text is not on face theoretical. It is emotive and site-specific; Tsing makes herself a character within it rather than an observer with some degree of critical distance--the criticism comes from within as much as it comes from without. The emotionality and rhetorical beauty of her words are placed on the same register as their argument. In section, I talked about the connections I saw between this approach and Tsing's discussion of biodiversity. A monoculture approach to nature--all one sort of acacia tree, say, or dipterocarp, or more broadly an approach either wholly global or wholly particular, nothing in between--fails to account for the interactivity of ecosystems. In replanting places that have been burned or cut or fallen fallow, approximating nature rather than utility, biodiversity becomes a relevant value. Replanting the things that once were, as they once were, a scientific and approximate approach of Nature; it is "one way of encompassing the local within the globe," Tsing writes, but "It also can be criticized for its imperial gaze. Might it be possible to attend to Nature's collaborative origins without los­ing the advantages of its global reach?" I'm interested in the formal moves forward she takes from this wall, this impasse, and at this particular moment she turns to a long quasi-biographical description of John Muir and his preservation ethic, the religious universalism that belied the Park System and its head-butting with Pinchot's Forest Service. I've worked for both agencies quite extensively all over the country and I've written about the contention between the two branches of government but this was the most articulate positing of the issue in terms of logistics and politics that I've seen. Mind you, this comes in the same narrative text as her descriptions of being assaulted while hitchhiking, the lushness of her prose about the landscape, etc. The tonal register varies so widely. She moves to climate change as an alternate sort of model--a way to navigate the glocal and move inside it. The question here, of course, becomes the risk problem we discussed w/r/t climate change predictive models earlier this semester… There's no upside. They rely on their unfulfillment--if we change our action, and crisis is evaded, then it never shows itself to be true. And if it's correct… then it's too late. I wonder, then, what the analogous mimetic or textual move towards this point might be, if we see Tsing's style as an attempt at linguistic organicism, one she knows will fail but, as Spivak so poignantly puts it, cannot not want.

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